April 2, 2009

To the Religious and the Non Religious: Live and Let Live

Found this after an hour or two of searching for images. I LOL'd.

I've been in a bit of an internal struggle. The more I read articles written by the devout the more I think they're irrational and self righteous. The more I read articles written by atheists the more I think they're rational and logical (if still preachy).

Let me clarify my struggle: I believe in God and feel God's presence in my life; coincidence would be too coincidental. I struggle with the Bible supposedly being the absolute word. This notion is hard for me and rational people everywhere to accept because it was written by several people, edited into books and chapters generations later, then translated dozens and dozens of times over 2000 years (Peter dictated to a writer; he didn't even write his books himself). The work of man is not infallible (that the Pope is infallible is the most hypocritical idea I've ever heard of), and the Bible is a work of man. God may have inspired it, but he did not beam it down on a cloud or chisel it into stone Himself.

I am not sure what to call myself. I believe in God. I don't go to church. I pray sometimes. I read the Bible every now and then (both because it's something interesting to read and to learn). I believe people are born good and learn evil. And if I read the words in red in the Bible (Jesus' quotes) to be the only thing close to absolute truth then I believe Jesus is part of the holy trinity, not simply a prophet. I believe God may have created the universe in seven days, but each day might have been a billion years, not 24 hours.

Better than the Queen's face!

Been reading The Atheist Missionary lately. History has shown us that religion divides people; I don't recall one of the arguments for religion being it creates good in the world. I'm glad to see anyone doing good in the world. Just like religious zealots trying to convert everyone, atheist zealots trying to destroy religion are annoying. For the average non-crazy person, faith can provide a means to deal with hardships. Why take away someone's hope?


  1. Hi LM and thanks for spending a bit of time looking around The Atheist Missionary site.

    You state: "I believe in God and feel God's presence in my life". I am compelled to ask why and how?

    I would be the first to agree that faith can provide a means to deal with hardships. For example, I can't even begin to imagine the sorrow associated with the death of a child and belief in the afterlife would provide enormous comfort in that situation. However, if you were diagnosed with cancer, I am assuming that you would prefer that your doctor tell you the truth instead of lying to you. To prefer the lie is really no different than preferring a religious delusion which has no basis in fact.

    You ask: Why take away someone's hope? My response is that it is a shame for people to waste their time (and in many cases their lives) on a delusion. If religion were nothing more than a personal spiritual experience, I would tend to agree that such beliefs (though still delusional) are probably harmless. However, the problem is that religious beliefs lead to people deciding to live their lives in certain ways and then deciding to force others to do the same. In any event, if you get the chance to read Sam Harris' The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason you will understand why I have arived at the view that moderate religious beliefs are dangerous.

  2. "However, the problem is that religious beliefs lead to people deciding to live their lives in certain ways and then deciding to force others to do the same."

    Wait... what? Using that same logic, is it not safe to say that Atheists are doing the same thing? I'm sorry, I just fail to see the difference between someone who insists there is a god and someone who insists there isn't.

    To me, as long as you aren't hurting anyone/thing, making them uncomfortable, and destroying other cultures, you should believe whatever you want. The key is to live your life flexibly, because anyone who tries too hard to force themselves up against chaos is just going to make their whole experience that much worse.

  3. ps... google does pretty much satisfy all of my searches.

  4. "Everything in moderation." Every extreme has negative consequences.

    To AM: I see God, as I understand Him to be, in the small things, in things you might chalk up to coincidence or luck. Maybe I just prefer to see these things as part of a "master plan" and like to be able to say "thank you" to someone or something when something cool happens. However, I'm a logical person, and faith does not fit in with logic; you rightly said it has no basis in fact. I'm not a very good Christian by most standards: I'm pro choice, don't attend church, am annoyed by evangelicals, believe in evolution, and am happy to play the devil's advocate in religious discussions. But I still believe that there is a God out there watching over me. Thank you for the book suggestion; I'll add it to my list.

    To Jooliak: Hi! Like I said, everything in moderation, and like you said, live your life flexibly. Atheist evangelicals are just as annoying as Christian evangelicals. No one should be forcing others to live any way or the other, regardless of your opinions or beliefs. And google is pretty awesome. I love doing image searches!

  5. Jooliak, atheists (at least most of them) do not insist that there is no God. They simply take the position that it is incredibly improbable that there is a supernatural power and remain ready to critically examine evidence to the contrary. For example, show me clinical evidence of the power of prayer and I might begin to re-examine some of my positions. On the other hand, "religiots" are usually unwilling to be swayed by any evidence and, in fact, faith by definition involves believing something in the absence of evidence. If you feel there is no difference between atheism and theism, you are basically saying there is no difference between reason and irrationality.

    I would tend to agree that beliefs (such as Lindsay Marie's feeling that there is a "God out there watching over me") can be benign. The problem is when these beliefs turn malignant when they fuel wars, prejudices and irrational acts. My point is why waste time on fairy tales when we have such little time to live our lives to the fullest?

  6. AM: Atheists, by Wikipedia definition, do not believe in any god. Your "about me" says you're "dedicated to the peaceful and reasoned eradication of religion" and using words like "silly" and "danger" when referring to religion conveys your position clearly, so though some atheists may not insist the lack of a god don't pretend you're one of them. You are entitled to your belief, just like everyone else, but shouldn't atheists, if their beliefs are founded on logic, be the most rational and honest people on the planet? Do atheists really need to stoop to using fighting words like "silly" when referring to the religious? Can't they simply use logic and reason?

  7. LM, you are correct in observing that, as an atheist, I do not believe in God (at least as that concept is defined by Judeo-Christianity). However, not believing something is a far cry from refusing to admit the possibility that you could be wrong. I believe that life exists elsewhere in the universe but I can't prove it and I could be wrong.

    I don't know how you would describe beliefs such as transubstantiation (i.e. Roman Catholic doctrine that crackers turn into the body of Jesus Christ during communion), the resurrection (a piece of meat comes back to life after being dead for well over 24 hours) or receiving 72 virgins for eternity after incinerating yourself with a body pack of explosives, but I think the term "silly" is far too kind. You see it is not the belief in a supernatural being that concerns me as much as where those beliefs lead. I remain of the view that no good comes from religion that could not be done without religion. In any event, I look forward to hearing how you like Sam Harris' book.

  8. My point, AM, is that regardless of how "silly" some beliefs may be, isn't it the atheists' job to denounce those beliefs with as much logic as possible? If you use logic to point out how particular beliefs are unreasonable you diminish your argument when you use the word "silly." Fight fair, even if no one else is.

    A belief is simply that: something you believe in spite of evidence or lack thereof. I should hope most religious people believe in whatever it is they believe in and don't force it upon others (with the exception of evangelicals, who by nature believe conversion is the "way"), but we hear more about the extremists who protest soldiers' funerals and become suicide bombers than about the everyday person. So, keeping in mind I'm trying to work with a perfect model of everyone being moderate (and somewhat private), lets all live and let live.

  9. Religious faith is the definition of illogical (i.e. believing something without evidence). Let me be clear: from a rational perspective, it makes just as much sense for me to believe that there are little green men on my roof as it does to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. If a belief is irrational and/or inhumane, it is not deserving of respect. "Live and let live" would be fine if people kept their delusions to themselves. But read the news - they don't.