30 June, 2010

hope there really isn't a hell or i'm pretty screwed!

i have recently begun reading a book called 'the end of faith' by sam harris. it is a continuation of my research into the idea of atheism and how it is connected to the way i feel about the existence of god(s). i have come to the conclusion, that, i in fact don't believe in god. an all knowing, all powerful being who participates in the day-to-day affairs of human beings to me seems ludicrous, but more than anything that such a baseless belief is actually dangerous.

now, before you get your angry typing fingers ready this is what i think. this isn't what i think everyone should think and i'm certainly not so deluded that i posit that i can change a single persons mind about the importance of religion/god to them. that is not the point of this post. all i seek is a conversation on the topic that is civil, thought provoking and honest without it descending into anger and/or fear mongering.

as such, i'm going to tell you a bit about what i think. firstly, i do 'think' as opposed to 'believe' when talking about faith. the only reason is because thoughts can be changed, beliefs seem, to me anyway, more solid and i'm not sure they should be. we as people are forever changing is seems slightly silly to have a belief that can't be altered or even reversed when given further consideration. ok moving on, i was raised catholic and the dogmatic way that such an old church conducts itself never really appealed to me. i suppose, all the poetic revelations spoken about by devout people, in all the iconic literature was never experienced by me and as a result it left me feeling as though i was missing something that everyone singing in church clearly understood. the 'oh. huh. cool.' revelations about the world came to me rather from books. poetry, literature, philosophy, psychology, history helped me understand why i was standing here, now, living the life i lead.

most simply put, i have no faith in god and for a long time was really very angry about that. that was until i realised, you can't be angry at god and then not believe in him/her/it. i'm happy to say i'm no longer angry at god, and haven't been for some time, but rather was just ambivalent. this came from the realisation that the ceo of the universe could never be understood and so i devoted my time to understanding other things.

in most circles that i travel in being an atheist isn't a good thing, not that i habitually share the fact, but rather you instantly get the response, 'oh michelle that's really sad.'. but, it isn't and why should it be? oh, i'm going to hell? well according to the old testament, as i haven't been to church in about 5 years and even then my heart really wasn't in it, i'm going there anyway so i may as well leave the world slightly better off than i found it. so, i go to university, i learn some stuff, i go to work, i hang with friends, be good to my family, vote with a conscious and pay my taxes. that's better than some people and god hasn't even entered into the equation yet.

by the way, i just realised this might be a long post so buckle up kids. next, i have a rather large problem with the thing most religious people (specifically christians, it's what i know so...) habitually and very successfully seek to ignore. the past. i'm not about to go all richard dawkins on your ass' mostly, because he is far too militant in his views. declaring war on organised religion as a fantasy that needs to be extinguished, as an example. not my view, but he does have a point. it is the almost stereotypical point presented by atheists for their lack of belief in god. still, it needs to be said. the crusades, inquisitions, the burning times (witch trials), priests interfering with children, and even the current war on terror have links to organised religion as one, if not their entire, root cause. genocide is a common theme. it is even thought by some historians that the dark ages, that followed the fall of the roman empire and saw about 800 years when all science and critical inquiry were considered religious heresy, had not occurred we today may have ventured outside of our own solar system. this is all academic of course, and entirely my point.

most atheists that i've met merely transfer their faith from god to science. i'm not usually one to follow a crowd but i do agree with this. not that science is our saviour or anything but rather is can be rationally argued. it has a rich history of great thinkers who dared to look past religion and seek for an answer that was tangible. moreover, in our growing secular society this is also more relevant. we all like to think there is something bigger than ourselves, something for us to hitch our wagon to. for some that is god, and for others that is science. it's a social reflex. we are primates, we enjoy the comfort and security that a community provides and if that community believes as you do, then the group is strengthened. so, i guess i hope for the day where, dare i say we become evolved enough. or a future when we don't feel the need to rely on a personal god, to steer us in the right direction and then judge us for our ability (or lack of ability) to follow instructions BUT rather put that faith and trust in ourselves.

this brings me to what i believe in. as the atheist range is large, simply because it is linked with defining 'god' or 'deity', there are many different types of atheism (not even including agnosticism) and i suppose i find myself sitting in the 'practical atheism' corner of the metaphysical boxing ring. individuals live as if there are no gods and explain natural phenomena without resorting to the divine. the existence of gods is not denied, but is designated unnecessary or useless. it is seen that gods neither provide purpose to life, nor influence everyday life. i agree with this and perhaps most strongly think that belief in gods does not motivate moral action but rather that people are innately humane and make decisions about their moral actions according to this code rather than their wish to go to heaven. this isn't to say that the law plays no part. i mean, no one wants to get shived in jail.

i suppose in many ways this makes me a humanist. to me, it is more powerful and meaningful than a belief in god. we shape our own lives. autonomy as opposed to fate. the international humanist and ethical union is an organisation that requires its members to accept one minimum statement about its beliefs and politics. "humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. it stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. it is not theistic, and does not accept supernatural views of reality". i really like this concept. i guess it's everything i always wanted catholicism to be; a pope without prada? scandalous!

so, not all atheists are angry liberal god haters who despise their own rational nature. i hope i have shown that some of us just have chosen to back a different horse in this race. i hope there really isn't a hell though. oh, wouldn't my face be red!
note: the picture that i chose to use is of the eagle nebula's 'pillars of creation' taken by the hubble telescope in 1995. it shows the early formation of a star and thus, is a nice combination of science and things believed to be crafted by god(s).

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