The Anti-Religion Religion
Dec. 19th, 2008 @ 09:39 am
I was chatting with someone today about how they were "hostile toward religion"... or atheistic, loosely translated. What they (and most people that subscribe to this...perspective...) didn't seem to understand is that they are, in fact, religious... just in a non-traditional way.
How can you be religious when you're against religion? Pretty easily, actually... but we have to be clear about what we define as "religion". From my perspective, I don't define religion as a belief in God or Gods. Rather, I consider it a viewpoint, perspective, or belief that is self reinforcing, self purpetuating, is not founded on demonstratable or provable fact, and is to the immediate discredit of all other beliefs, perspectives, or religions.
Can it be proven, demonstrated, or factually verified?
Does it demand that you think, act, or behave in a certain way?
Does it believe that all others are wrong?
Does it believe that if everyone believed it, the world would be better?
Does it encourage you to encourage others to believe as you do?
Does it maintain a specific viewpoint around a deity and/or afterlife?
If you answered yes to all of the above questions, contratulations... you have yourself a religion.
...but you don't go to church? Doesn't matter... but if you adamantly believe that church is an absolute waste of time, god isn't there, there is no god, you're all fucknuts... you're still religious.
The truth is that, as much as religion can't be proven, we also cannot prove that it is wrong. We have no means of saying for certainty that there is not a god. A lot of athiests will say that because the religious can't prove that there is a god, they must be wrong... but that isn't enough to justify disbelief... you must actively prove that there is NOT a god for you to be correct... and currently, that's impossible.
The real problem I see is the idea that everyone else is wrong and must be corrected or fixed. As long as this exists, there will always be people trying to do the fixing, and people fighting to NOT be fixed. Every war, fight, or disagreement we've had hasn't really been about the beliefs... it was about this simple fact: one person thought they were so right that they either needed to make others believe them or erradicate those that did not. Athiesm is no different in this perspective than any other religion.
The most important thing we can possibly do is to acknowledge that we ALL have a right to freedom of thought... to believe whatever we want to believe, whether we can prove it or not... and though debate should be allowed, we ultimately have to agree to disagree at times... because to remove someone else's right to make that decision for themselves... and to not have an opinion thrust upon them... is to do the exact same thing to ourselves. If you can force your opinion on someone else, someone else can force it upon you just as much.
The right to believe in something is much more important than the belief itself.
I do not know you, and certainly don't mean to offend. A couple of provisos: I'm not what most would consider staunchly religious, thought I was born Jewish, raised Christian (of various sects) and chose paganism. I do, however, believe in a higher power. I don't try to proselytize, though I enjoy a healthy debate as to the nature (or existence) of God. Your choice to believe that God does not exist (or does, but wants us to act as if She doesn't) is perfectly valid and I would fight others in the name of its Truth for you. However, what kuteluvr
is saying, is not that it is or is not okay to have such a debate, I think, but rather that it is not NECESSARY to have that debate. While I enjoy having such a conversation, I would never force someone on it, nor would I try to convince someone I'm right in any way other than trying to fully express my beliefs and any reasons for them.
So, Chris, kudos for the post. I agree with your conclusions, whether or not I agree with your religious precepts.
I think timenchanter
gets my point reasonably well when he says "I would fight others in the name of its Truth for you." because that's really what I'm hitting at.
What I find frustrating is really highlighted by your statement "...challenge people's beliefs when we think they are wrong." What is frustrating and causes so much difficulty is that sense of entitlement... "I think your beliefs are fucked up, so I'm going to fix you, whether you want me to or not."
I'm not saying we shouldn't have debate... but we should have it with people that are actually interested in having the debate. If I don't want or buy into your beliefs, I shouldn't have them crammed down my throat... and if I think you're off your rocker, that doesn't entitle me to force my beliefs down yours.
At some point we need to understand that even if we can't understand where each other are coming from in our belief system, they are entitled to believe it... whether we agree with them or not. It is just as much their right to believe what they want as it is your right to believe in what you want.
Where we see problems... fights... picketing... oppression... war... is when we take our belief and we "challenge" those beliefs because we think they're wrong.... when we take it upon ourselves to decide for someone else that they need to believe something different because we're right.
I 100% believe in your right to think religious people are nuts... and I 100% agree with their right to think you're going to hell (or wherever). What I don't agree with is the idea that either one of you has the right to force your opinion on the other without direct invitation.
I mean... if someone says "I don't understand your religion... can you please explain it to me?" then it's open season... but until that point, I wish we could all just agree to disagree and let it be done.
I think there are some distinctions between a religious belief and psychosis. Cars as big friend animals is either clinically insane or some REALLY good drugs. Intervention in that situation is probably a good idea.
Re: cultists... my answer would be... maybe... but probably not. I think the drawing line is (and would probably be from a medical perspective as well) whether or not someone is causing themselves irreparable physical harm. In that situation, intervention is fine.
I disagree with the murdering children... but for the sole reason that killing the kids prevents the kids from being able to make their own decisions about religion or life. (this goes into the whole abortion debate, which I'm too conflicted about my own views to really discuss.)
...but if someone believes they should give 10% of their earnings to the church... even if it will break them... should we stop them? I don't think so... that's their decision.
I think my viewpoint is ultimately libertarian in nature... I think everyone should be able to do whatever they want, so long as it doesn't preclude someone else from doing what they want too. This is where my view on religion and atheism come into play... religious zealots (and atheistic zelots) demand that everyone must believe what they believe... and I believe that's wrong. Confronting someone because of their views when A) they're not asking you to, B) they're not doing anything to you because of those views, and C) they're not causing themselves or anyone else physical harm... is what I'm talking about here.
Yeah... like I said... I'm pretty directly into the libertarian point of view. :)
Slavery is wrong because it removes freedom/liberty/rights from someone else. *MY* religion saying *YOU* can't get married is also wrong. I also believe that Mormons should be able to practice polygamy (though not forced as FLDS frequently does it). If someone wants to marry a dog, I think that's their right.
My perspective is pretty consistent here... a few years ago there was a news article about someone volunteering to be eaten by someone practicing cannibalism. They volunteered, followed through, and were eaten... perfectly willingly. I think this is disgusting, but I don't think it's wrong. I also think assisted suicide should be legal. I'm not saying I'm going to volunteer... and I'm not saying I agree with those that do... but I don't think it's my right to take away their right to make that decision.
I said before that I can frequently feel conflicted about abortion falls to the circumcision argument also... really anything with children does... because the children are incapable of choosing or defending a choice... but my default is almost always to the parent's decision. If they choose to circumsize their kid or have an abortion, is it my responsibility or even right to tell them they're wrong?
...but in your example, if we remove the "infant boys" point and make it a legal, consenting, informed adult that has joined the Jewish faith and now wants to be circumsized... should we have him committed because of his decision?
I agree that there is a huge difference... and I agree that it's wrong for me... and apparently for you... but I can't say that it's absolutely, 100%, without exception, wrong for everyone, everywhere, period.
I'm not saying there shouldn't be discussion about beliefs and freedom (as we are now). I am saying that those conversations shouldn't be forced on people that don't want to have them. If you're advertising your beliefs or thrusting them upon someone else, then you're opening yourself to discussion on them. If you're not, then there's no reason for the discussion to happen. So, I do think that discussions should happen... but happen maturely. I don't think the wars you're describing are started by people disagreeing... we disagree all the time and manage to not kill each other. The wars start because one person demands that the other conform or acquiesce to the perspective of the other. You can like vanilla and I can like chocolate, and we'll get along just fine. If however, I demand that you never have vanilla again and cram chocolate down your throat, we'll likely have a problem. It's not the belief/opinion that causes wars... it's acting as if one person has the right to push that onto others that problems erupt.
Re: evolution vs. creationism... I'll acknowledge that this might be a grey area and a difficult perspective. My viewpoint is that science class should teach matters of science. Evolution has scientific basis, so science class is appropriate for it. However, it is still technically only a theory, no matter how strong we believe the theory to be. If a parent wants to pull their kids out of the evolution portion of class, that's their decision. If you want to focus on the purity of the issues though, while I have a strong belief in evolution, others may not and I think it's their right to disagree with me. I can think they're crazy or idiotic if I want to... but I wouldn't take away their right to disagree with me... and yet I wouldn't demand that they renounce creationism either.
...and to your final point, there's one wonderful irony in my belief system that I am not ignorant of: In order for my belief system to work, it demands that others believe in it too. Interesting contradiction. :) The way around this though is to acknowledge that my belief system works for me and may not work for others... so I don't push it on anyone, despite the fact that I practice it relatively well. However, this doesn't mean debate can't happen. I put my beliefs on my blog, effectively opening the dialog... and you responded, creating the dialog. We've had debate and disagreement, but that's okay, because it was literally INVITED to happen. You've challenged me, and I appreciate the challenge... yet while we've both expressed viewpoints that cause us to think about our beliefs and/or justify them, I don't recall either of us saying the other was wrong. We may have said we disagree... but we haven't forced our beliefs onto the other person. We've conversed without oppressing. In my belief system, this is the right way to have the conversation. :)