Monday, 4 September 2006
|2057 - Being an atheist in America isn't easy|
I just got through reading a Newsweek article about three modern scholars who argue that the recurring religious warfare we've had for ages is rooted in religion itself.
I find it hard to argue with one contention that comparing the current wave of Islamist terrorism with the sectarian violence in northern Ireland over the past century or so merely shows that the problem may well be with religion itself.
OTOH, I cannot agree with the idea that we should do away with religion. I don't get mad when someone wishes me a merry Christmas; I take it in the spirit in which it was offered. The same goes for Christians telling me that they're praying for my soul. I appreciate the concern, even if I do not share it. A copy of The Book of Mormon occupies an honored place on my bookshelf, because it was a gift offered in friendship and good faith. If I demand the right to believe, or not, as I choose, then I must grant others that same right.
In the end, I'm not going to try to convert others, just as I believe they should not try to convert me. (There's a difference between that and simply offering information and answering questions, the difference between "I believe" and "You should believe".)
current mood: thoughtful
I once saw someone say that it wasn't religion in general that was the problem, it is religions that say they are the only valid one.
I have also seen it argued that it isn't religion, but genetic hardwiring in humans in general that are the underlying problem. The religions are just a symptom of the problem. This makes sense to me, because in the absence of traditional religions and with people who claim to be atheists, frequently a sort of pseudo-religion with all the same earmarks of end-of-world prophecies and fighting against people who disagree with your viewpoint manifest themselves just as virulently as they do in religions.
Sectarian conflict of other sorts is rather inherent in humanity too. Just look at gang wars or any other similar spontaneously arising conflicts. People like to be a part of something and want to prove their choice to be better than the others. Smart societies redirect these energies into either things that benefit the society (capitalist competition) or into harmless passtimes that burn this energy and also provide entertainment (sports.)
That's an interesting article, and appears to be a lot more even-handed than the works it reviews (which makes sense --it's a review. The works in question are attacks on religion, and admit that.)
This reminds me of a panel at WorldCon which I missed -- I got the report from a friend who was on it. The panel was entitled "Is The Scientific Method the Death of God?" and the majority of the other panelists adopted the "if you believe in God you are stupid because there's no proof" stance. I've spoken with people like this before, who call my own faith unreasonable when they themselves will not listen to the reasons I offer.
The Newsweek article pointed out that sentiment when the author said that "for all his erudition, [Dawkins] seems not to have spent much time among ordinary Christians, who could have told him what God has meant to them."
I believe that science and the scientific method exist to allow us to prove things to each other. God, however, requires that we prove his existence for ourselves. Those who have such proof may encourage others to undertake the experiment themselves, but ultimately they can never prove God's existence for anyone else -- not like science can prove things.
There are those who will not accept this dichotomy, who cannot bring themselves to believe that the scientific method could be anything less than the perfect path to all knowledge. I'm saddened, but no amount of preaching on my part will change them. I would like for others to enjoy the deep and abiding peace I feel. And if they won't, or can't, then I would prefer that they accept that I feel a deep and abiding peace, rather than calling me stupid.
I certainly understand that you get a lot out of being a Mormon, and anyone who tries to take that away from you will have to answer to me, too. That goes for any other believer.
The End of Faith is a fantastic book. I recommend it highly whenever the topic comes up. Ready to jump on the new one day of release...