It's all about perspective

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Lines in the sand

Should people be allowed to have stupid beliefs?

I am an atheist. Nearly everyone who knows me knows it. While I do not doubt what I know, I do waffle on how exactly to practice this outlook on life. There are those, like P.Z. Myers, J.T. Eberhard, and Richard Dawkins, who think a direct and confrontational approach to anti-scientific beliefs are the way to “win” the culture war between religion and science. On the other hand, there are people like Kenneth Miller and Pamela Gay who, being either of faith or at least willing to believe in such things, think a cooperative approach is necessary.



While driving home from my weekly visit with the family, I was listening to classical music on the radio and trying to fit together several of the sociological concepts I’ve been working with over the last few weeks when this phrase came to mind:

What if the reason we have faith, or believe in things we can not see, or need to escape into a fantasy world; is because we don’t want to take responsibility for our own self-development?

Before you call the mob, sharpen the pitchforks, and light the torches; allow me to explain.

I am a very firm believer in a simple truth. We messed up the message. We were not created in god’s image, god was created in ours. We took the best things about us, what we wanted to exemplify, and created an anthropomorphic deity that takes care of everything for us. In the history of mankind we have done it not once, not twice, but countless times. We created this god and then he “gave” us a specific set of rules that allow us into a paradise after all of this “suffering” on earth. Instead of dealing with the problems that arose to cause this suffering, we took the easy route and put all the responsibility for our “salvation” into the proverbial hands of god.

But think about what this world would be like if every single one of us took responsibility for our own self-development, for our own failings, and for our own arrogance? Instead of throwing our hands up and saying, “god has a plan,” we instead worked on solutions to problems, where would we be as a culture? Is this what blind faith leads us to?

I understand faith because regardless of what people may think of me, I do have faith. I have an extremely strong faith. It just doesn’t lie with religion. My faith does not allow me to fall into a trap wherein I find myself in a situation that looks for answers from some figurehead that has never talked to his people or actually solved any problem. Where every solution to every problem has failed the test of time.

The argument needs more work, but I have faith that it holds more than just a ring of truth to it. Perhaps the greatest achievement of god’s so-called “plan” is the realization that we don’t need it and never did. Perhaps we just need to own up to our own potential.

We are NOT born sinners

One of the cornerstones of the temple that is my rejection of organized religion is this: humankind needs to be saved. This is utter rubbish and should be treated as the refuse it is. The idea that we are born with desires and actions and judgments already heaped upon us makes about as much sense as going skinny dipping in the sea of tranquility on the moon.

Also, I have heard and read the arguments stating because evidence within the animal orders most closely related to humans, (namely other primates and dolphins) suggests that they too, have murderers, rapists, and thieves must mean there is a genetic gene for bad behavior. I may brooch this topic in depth at a later date, but for the purposes of this discussion I will say only this on the matter; anyone who believes the above statement about the animal-human connection is saying that anything my fourth cousin twice removed does I am responsible for because we are genetically similar. I obviously can’t agree with that, can you?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not mother church or God that provides us with directions for our moral compass. According to a recent article in Time magazine, What Makes Us Moral, “Moral judgment is pretty consistent from person to person.” We have a genetic compass that has been bred into our genes over hundreds of thousands of years. Humans know when they do something whether that thing is right or wrong. The problem comes when we have no one around to kick start this moral engine. That, says the article, is where society comes in.

If given a community of people who have never been introduced to Christianity, the Bible, or any other moral code based on religion, those people will still have a moral code to live by. With only the most rudimentary of instruction in language, they should be able to grasp the concept of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is the golden rule. The one that supersedes all others and is one of the defining characteristics of the sympathetic creature. Humans created this rule to put into words what being sympathetic means. It is the ultimate extension of the pack mentality; if you harm the group, you harm yourself.

Humans’ inability to remain completely emotionally stable during long stretches of loneliness spans back to our earliest days as packs of hunter-gatherers. We were around other people every day, all the time, and very rarely did you find yourself alone. So if you caused some kind of harm to the pack, like killing someone, you risked the entire group’s ability to survive. This act could very well have gotten you cast out from the protection of the group. Through selective breeding (why would anyone in the group mate with someone who had been kicked out, let alone had proven to be unstable), packs of humans slowly but surely bred into ourselves the genes for empathy.

Somewhere during human history we were told a lie. We were made to believe our very nature was based in immorality. We are told that the concept of free will, given to us by the gods, has to be given up to live as a moral and decent human. This travesty has been the greatest hoax pulled on the community of humans.

If it is true that we have free will then choose not to be deceived. Choose to remember that we are not born evil. Choose to live within a community of people who do not need the crutch of sin to define them as moral individuals. Choose to believe instead, that we are born moral, that we are born good, and that the only thing we need to keep us that way is other people. Not other good people, not other bad people, not other Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or religious people, but just people.

I was not born a sinner, and neither were any of you.

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