Every once in a while it strikes me that people really believe this god shit. I mean the simple fact that theism exists and that people are actually religious never really escapes me, but occasionally I’m reminded that some people actually have to deal with the fact that they used to really believe it, and that they have friends, family, etc who really do, and that is a thing for them. They think about the concept of identity after that change, how they have a feeling of either being split or otherwise unclear concerning their past self and the self they are trying to reconstruct. They have to re-build their worldview in the context of a mind trained in crazy thinking. I cannot fully sympathize, although I try to empathize.
I never believed in a god. I played with the idea of a “philosopher’s god” for a while, but ultimately found it no more than mental masturbation. People taking religion seriously, especially conservative Christians, was something I discovered towards my adulthood. It was not something I grew out of, it was something I found after most of my cognitive development was done, and so it became a strange curiosity for me. So I spent time around religious groups in college, talking and trying to understand. What I saw was that it was hurting people. They didn’t know it was hurting them, but I did. So I grew to despise it.
As I learned more, I also learned about the history of such ideas, and the philosophical reasons why they were bankrupted–not only in terms of truth, but in terms of morality! I know, some theists out there just read that and scoffed. What could an atheist know about morality, right? Well, frankly I believe that not only does religion not hold the title on morality, in many cases it actually fails at it spectacularly. I’m not going to address that issue right now, because that’s too much content for what I want to keep a short post.
The point is that religion, theism, and especially conservative theologies which seek to rationalize atavistic emotions which hold us back from progressing, learning, and exploring human potential are things which I sometimes forget are real. Or, at least, I am incapable of fully accepting them as real, because they are so absurd. Sometimes, it seems as if they are part of some intricate fantasy or sci-fi plot, part of a narrative which is not real, but only pretend. But when I see recent legislative actions based upon these fantasies, read stories of how real people are actually hurt all over the world based on them, and watch as people close to me struggle with family, friends, and their own self over these narratives, it comes home for me. And then I get annoyed, frustrated, and angry with our culture.
Our species would be better without faith, unjustified metaphysical doctrines, and the unconscious bowing to fear. We would be better without Christianity (even the liberal types), Islam (oh, if only there were more liberal types), etc. The ideas that most people hold, about religion, sex, relationships, politics, etc are, frankly, largely crazy. And while I had to climb out of some of that mire, religion was not really one of the issues for me. What little “indoctrination” I went through, at a Quaker school, was minimally harmful and I never really believed it anyway. This world of religion is often an alien one to me.
I’ve always been an atheist, probably always will be, and I will continue to criticize the values of this culture because this culture, in many ways, is fundamentally broken. We have a legal and political structure which has the potential to be a place for real human growth, and while much of our culture is squandering that right now there is room for improvement. As a cynic, I don’t think we are getting there soon; too many really stupid people with poor fundamental values about truth and personal challenge. But we have an opportunity within the rights we have been granted (they are not, in fact inalienable) by ourselves (some illusions are useful, I suppose) to push forward and make ourselves–and our culture–superior.
Conservatism will not help. Theism will not help.
Skepticism fed by a desire to transcend oneself and grow will help. Science will help. Sound sex education will help. Honesty, to ourselves and those around us, will help.
What else will help?