Friday, June 1, 2007

As God Is My Witness, I Shall Not Bear Witness

Over the past month, the two papers I regularly read have been full of commentary that I can only describe as The Atheists Strike Back.

People like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are getting a lot of ink with their assaults on religion and the belief in God. One column I found really interesting suggested this was a natural response to the rise of fundamentalist religions, particularly islamist behaviour and the evangelical US Christian-style.

Several people whose blogs I regularly visit are also ardent atheists. One of them (baconeating_atheistjew - one of the people I've corresponded with on the internet for years) posted a What Kind of Atheist Are You quiz a couple of weeks ago. Turns out I was 92 per cent Apathetic Atheist and 75 per cent Agnostic.

That sounds about right for me. I've never been convinced there is a God and I've never rejected the concept, either. I grew up in a very secular household with one parent who was an atheist and another who converted to Christianity after I left home and became a minister in one of the more liberal sects. I've always considered myself Jewish but more in the sense of trying to appreciate the culture and history and not so much the God (or should I write G-d) part.

What I most think people should do is leave each other alone. I understand why atheists are getting pissed off but they need to attack the core groups. The vast majority of people who profess a belief in God do so in a benign way.

If it helps them lead better lives, or even decent ones, that's great.

If it gives them comfort in the thought that there is something after death and that their deceased love ones are in a better place, that's terrific.

Even if it just gives them a sense of tradition, that's fine, too.

If they want to chop my head off or replace evolution in school with "intelligent design", well, then I'm with Hitchens. But, there's a lot more at play in geo-politics than religion and it certainly isn't religion that gave rise to the western apathy and accommodation that has landed us in a whack of trouble.

I don't think people who believe in God are wrong or stupid. The reason is: I just don't know. Believing in God is an act of faith. Not believing in God is a matter of extrapolating science; saying that because we've come so far in explaining so many of the universe's mysteries, we will eventually be able to pin it all down to a scientific explanation.

I've known people on both sides who were rational, good human beings. I know that in history, there have been many horrible things done in the name of religion and many others - including probably the greatest human rights violations (start with Communist China, Communist Soviet Union and nazi Germany) - that were not.

At the end of the day, it's very simple: live and let live. Believe what you want to but don't come looking to tell me about it.

I don't give a lot of thought to the spiritual side of the world. Generally, I'm too busy living in the day-to-day one. But, perhaps later in life, when I have time to reflect on what I've done and what I've learned, maybe I will. If so, I promise not to blog about it.


BEAJ said...

Hitler may not have been religious but he was a theist.
The atheist fight right now is separation of church and state, and to try to prevent the dumbing down of America.
My atheism is pretty much a conclusion. We have no evidence that God has ever existed. Science explains most things and continues to fill in the gaps. We do have evidence that man makes up God (since there are over 3400 Gods, at least 3399 have been made up).

southfield_2001 said...

"since there are over 3400 Gods, at least 3399 have been made up"

not necessarily, beaj. Polytheism is as valid as monotheism.
and, about the nazis: my point was they weren't driven by religious conviction to commit their atrocities. I wasn't implying Hitler was personally an atheist.

BEAJ said...

"I'm a polyatheist - there are many gods I don't believe in."

-Dan Fouts

Bar Kochba said...

Not all religions are equal- when's the last time that someone was beheaded by an American Evangelical.
BTW, the whole concept of world peace only came into being from the writings of the Jewish Prophets, you know, 'the wold laying down with lamb', nations not lifting swords against one another neither shall they learn war anymore, and all that stuff...
What could be more uniting than the belief that we all share a common father and should live in peace and harmony, as Judaism teaches? Atheism will never lead to world peace.

BEAJ said...

What could be more uniting than evolution? We all evolved from a common ancestor.
Without religion, world peace would be achievable a lot easier. But you still have left versus right and far left versus far right.

southfield_2001 said...

I don't think we'll ever have world peace.
Man is a volatile creature hardwired for survival and dominance.
War has always been part of human existence; I don't know why anyone believes we'll somehow get rid of a natural instinct.