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Ignorance of the religious…of their own religion May 24, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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How well do you know your religion? What do you know about its history? I’ll bet not a lot.

Now, I’ve been an atheist all of my life. I’ve never accepted any theology or superstitious baloney, accept for the very early childhood ideas of Santa and possibly the Easter Bunny. I suppose I accepted god as real, but I had no idea what people meant by this thing they referred to. For all I knew it was the mayor of the city.

But at some relatively early age I became quite interested in the history of religion–Christianity in particular–and started to read about various beliefs. I found it fascinating what people believed, how those beliefs came to be, and how they had changed. And I was perpetually surprised, for a while anyway, that most people who accepted these beliefs had no idea about the history of their own religious traditions.

Which day is the Sabbath? Is is Sunday or Saturday? I”ll tell you that, in Spanish, sabado means Saturday and let you make an educated guess. What are the Ten Commandments? Are there really Ten? Which Bible are you using? And, in putting these questions together and if you are a Jew or a Christian, when was the last time you worked on a Saturday?

Ah, but why do I care? These are all made up ideas for me, right? Well, I’ll tell you why. I am bothered by hypocrisy. I’m bothered by people who insist that these stories are real, that belief in them is important to be a good person, to be moral, to avoid eternal Hellfire, or to even be considered a citizen.

I am bothered by people whose lives are shaped by a tradition that they don’t know much about. They believe it, but don’t know much about it. And, as I’ve discovered, atheists know more about religion than most of the religious do. That, in itself, should say something.

What happened in the year 325? Who was Arius? What about Athanasius? When was the Bible compiled and why did they choose the books they did? Why was the Gospel of John almost not included? How many non-canonical gospels are there? Have you ever read one? Why are they non-canonical?

I am picking on the history of Christianity here for two reasons. The first is that I know that history best. The other reason is that I am well aware that most of my readers will have come from a Christian background. But the point is true for all religions I’ve run into; people don’t know the history of their religions and yet they believe them. And for those that might imply that I’m not willing to criticize Islam out of fear or something; Islam is a superstitious and absurd set of beliefs and the Koran is often a violent and misguided book. I’ve read it. BTW, The Bible is violent and disgusting in many parts as well. I’ve read all of it. Twice. Have you ever read any of it?

So I’ll leave you with this; is it reasonable to accept a religious tradition, articles of faith, without at least knowing where they came from? Should every religious person–should every person–investigate the history of whatever they believe? And if they have not, how can it be said that they know what they believe?

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