Daily Archives: August 1, 2011

The Belief Schism

This article at New Statesman magazine, in which (mostly) prominent (mostly) British (mostly) atheists explain why they don’t believe in God, is both interesting in itself and causes me to remind myself why I’m an agnostic who presumes there isn’t a God, which is: there’s no evidence for God, or evidence that a god-like entity (or entities) ever crawled around the skin of this world, telling humans what to do with their lives. This is different than humans suggesting that a god (or gods) has spoken to them and told them that bananas are forbidden, or to go slaughter the people in the next town, or to wear day-glo orange pantaloons, or whatever. That process doesn’t actually need the involvement of a god; it just needs someone with a good enough understanding of primate grouping dynamics to sell it.

It also reminds me why I don’t feel particularly antagonistic toward religion as a concept, which is: Hey, if ritual and belief help you get through your life, and doesn’t get in my way, enjoy. The fall down here is not the concept of religion, but the practice of it, in which many people seem to believe that it’s not enough that they have to live as their god tells them to, but I do too, and so does everyone else. I find this annoying and typically speaking not strictly required by the person whom the religion purports to represent, and I regret having to spend the time and effort pointing out such things to the¬†practitioners.

Likewise I dislike it when people proclaim their religious affiliation and then steadfastly ignore the core teachings of it. This is the genesis of my comment that I love Christianity, and wish more Christians practiced it, although to be fair that complaint could be equally applied to¬†practitioners of other religions as well. One of the nice things about being an atheist or agnostic is that when you’re an asshole, you can’t blame your god for it, you just have to own it.

But then there are those who do walk the walk the precepts of their religion require (or at least try really hard) — the deep principles, not the social cruft that has accumulated around them — and I find many of those people gracious, tolerant and admirable in how they live their life. I don’t follow their particular creed, but I find that what they believe their creed requires of them and how I believe people should act toward each other run on parallel tracks, and that’s fine with me.

It’s part and parcel of my belief that the apparent ingrained assumption that religious folks and non-religious folks exist at varying levels of hostility with each other is a bad assumption to have. Many of them on both sides of the belief schism do, of course; but they don’t have to. The fact that they have that hostility is on them personally.