December 24th, 2006
Merry x-mas eve, to all you folks who celebrate it.
And a happy december 24th to the rest of you.
I'm at Meg's house (she's slumbering peacefully beside me with visions of sugarplums dancing in her head) for xmas morning. It's going to be odd not being with my parents. My sister's preggers and so couldn't fly at xmas, and meg and I really want to spend the holidays together (since we're getting married and all) so we figured it was a good year to make it happen. We'll be catching a train to my parents tomorrow 'round 'bout noon to have xmas dinner with them.
The oddest part of how attached to xmas we both are, is that both of our families are decidedly atheistic. We were raised without religion, and yet we both fixate on a religious holiday as our major family tradition and are relatively unwilling to compromise that tradition. Sure you can make an argument that xmas is barely a religious celebration in our culture, but I still find it odd.
*can't sleep, clowns'll eat me*
Meg's dad just got finished reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and I remarked that I'd just put it on my amazon wishlist, so he handed it to me and said "well I'm done with it. Take it!" So I've put down over a hundred pages of it already. It's kind of being preached to as the choir (to use a decidedly inappropriate metaphor), but it's refreshing to see someone laying out all the counter arguments to the intelligent design (ID) concept so concisely and bluntly. But Dawkins isn't just after ID, he's trying to take down god(s).
The Religion commentary/rant that I keep threatening you all with, follows.
While I agree with him on all points, I'm not really comfortable telling other people how to live their lives, and what to believe or not believe in. On the other hand, religion truly is responsible for a huge amount of fucked up shit in our world today. Name a global conflict, genocide, ethnic cleansing, etc., and you can almost always find religious zealotism or differences at the heart of it if you look closely. It's also responsible for a lot of the day to day crap going on: gay-bashing, sexism, and the fear of science in schools.
(And on a more personal note in more ways than one, circumcision. Sorry Liz, you already knew my stance on that one though.)
So I'm having trouble really disagreeing with his drive to destroy religion. As a social force in our world it really does a lot more harm than good.
On the flip side of the coin, I know a few people who are genuinely good people involved in religion in a very positive way, and I know that at least one of them will read this. It can be a powerful agent for good, and I'll not argue against that for a second. On the micro scale it's excellent, but on the macro scale it's perverted and twisted for goals of hatred and destruction.
It's troublesome for me, because my basic instinct is to be come a card-carrying militant atheist and run about disabusing people of their mistaken faith. At the same time I have the utmost respect for some friends who I wouldn't want to attack for their personal beliefs. Dawkins addresses this by suggesting that if you were truly an atheist you'd do your best to disabuse them of their misguided notions. But how is that any better than the zealots who corner you in public and try to convert you? Again Dawkins addresses this, at greater length than I can put down here, but he fundamentally says that it's a logical/rational conversation, not fundamentally different from trying to point out to someone that the ice they're about to skate on is too thin to support their weight. We give religion/faith/beliefs a wide berth, and don't tread on that ground as it's considered sacred/holy. Why is it any different than someone thinking the earth is flat? Why should atheists not inform religious folk that yes, the world is in fact round, and we know this because of x, y, and z?
I concede the point, but I have too much respect for these people as rational beings who have thought at great length about these issues, grappled with them, and come out the other side with the beliefs that they hold. I truly believe that they don't take these beliefs totally literally. I think that when pressed they'd align themselves more with what Dawkins calls the Einsteinean God than a religious god; aka. an awe at the majesty of nature and the cosmos, not a bearded man on a cloud. Also, these are not the people out destroying the world and each other in the name of their god, they're perfectly wonderful people who I'd almost mistake for peace-loving atheists if I didn't know better. ;-)
So believe in whoever and whatever you want.
If you want to sit down with me and discuss the existence of god/God/Zeus I'd be more than happy to, but I'm not going to start the conversation.
Believe whatever you want to believe, as long as you extend the same courtesy to EVERYONE else, and don't cause pain, destruction, or even discomfort as a result of your beliefs.
Current Location: NYC, Roosevelt Island.
music: Leo Kottke - Crow River Waltz
I have myself been thinking along these lines for the past year or so.
Not really sure where I'll eventually head, though I think I'm leaning more toward religiousness.
It's true that religion has seemingly caused more harm than anything else in the history of civilization, but I wouldn't be surprised if most of the same stuff happened without religion--it doesn't seem to be actual religions fighting (the core beliefs, that is), but merely the churches (man-made power centers and structures) vying for power and control.
This sort of religion vs church terminology seems only to be used by me, but I find it to be very handy.
Jesus says "love each other"
Some churches seem to say "This one thing in the bible said not to do this, so we should destroy those who do."
The religion says one thing, the church says something political which may or may not be based on scripture.
I hear there are parallel examples with Islam, but I am completely unfamiliar with it.
Religion as a weapon of war is merely a cover used by those seeking power, so far as I can tell.
I was always of the "debate religious people" school of thought from middle school through the end of college. Eventually I mostly gave up, but then starting IMing a guy I used to go to HS with who quite unexpectedly became a preacher. He actually started making some good points, so I decided I'd look more into the religion thing.
I think the main problem with trying to logically disabuse someone of religion is that they have probably already thought of most of the arguments, and it isn't something that can so easily be swayed by logical thought--plus there are always other explanations that religion can use which can sound sort of like cop outs.
I say believe what you will, don't be violent, and don't twist religious (or scientific, for that matter) beliefs to make them say you can do whatever you want.
How about reading something from the other side? I'd recommend "Mere Christianity" and "The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis. "Mere Christianity" makes some excellent points that are worth considering whether you actually care about religion or not.
Well, that was longer than I thought I'd go on about this. A year ago I wouldn't have thought there would be any way I would take this stance here. Maybe inlaterdays will come back me up. ;-)
I'd absolutely love to follow this up with a good pro-god book. You suggest Mere Christianity?
It's got logic and stuff!
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." -- Gandhi
There is a difference, though, about the ice metaphor. If I'm skating on thin ice, I am posing an immediate threat to myself, and possibly to others, assuming the rescue squad would be called if I fell in. On the other hand, what possible danger am I posing to myself, or you, if I believe in G-d?
economics causes war, pain, suffering, persecution. religion just happens to be a great scapegoat because it's infinitely justifiable, no one can argue with "God" because no one really knows what the hell God is.
i think militant atheism is a faulty choice as i think militant religiousness is one. true, we cannot prove the existance of a force greater than ourselves. but, can we disprove it?
can you prove the feeling of love? can you disprove it?
the world is infinite and grand and so much bigger than our little minds. to think we have all the answers to the universe is arrogant and foolhardy.
the wise man knows that he knows nothing.
i'm not arguing for or against god but true discovery comes from the belief that there is something else we've yet to see.