One of my favorite bloggers, Vivienne, recently posted a blog about religion. She saw some atheist propaganda in a subway that inspired her to write. It was the following question;
"Why can we not look at a beautiful garden without putting fairies at the bottom of it?"
I thought it was a great question because the answer to the question is found within the question itself. I will explain what I mean but first a little background.
I was raised in a relatively strict Catholic home. It wasn't until later years that Church became a small part of our lives. As a youth, I had many questions. I firmly believe it was the lack of answers that led me on the path that got me to where I am now.
We allowed Mormon's to enter our home in an attempt to preach their gospel. They quickly became frustrated with me. I couldn't help but express my dissatisfaction with their vague all encompassing answer of "faith." Jehovah's witness members also couldn't satisfy my need for a solid response. Catholicism and Christianity's typically unwavering closed door policy towards doubters only served to push me even farther away from religion.
So I went to college. I studied religion, philosophy, argumentation and debate as well as Astronomy and Physical Anthropology. That really fucked me up. The blinders that religion had placed upon me didn't allow me to properly prepare myself for the mind blowing I was about to receive from cold, hard facts. Ironically, it was in these same courses, taught mostly by proud and angry atheists, where I truly found myself.
At first I was a little scared to be completely honest. I felt inside that reading and discussing these topics was blasphemous. Pointing out "factual mistakes" in religious texts felt like I was doing what the Bible taught as evil. Then I started noticing connections in it all. The similarities in so many religions that couldn't always be attributed to historical connections. The intriguing connections between all sciences and religions. More importantly, the simple miracle that life exists at all in the universe.
The more I read about how life came to be and how life continues to exist, the more captivated I found myself with the unanswered mysteries. Keep in mind that by this time I had long since given up on any idea of an omnipotent, omniscient being. I still saw something in life that made me feel wonder.
After a decade or so of skepticism I again contemplated the possibility that there might be a small chance that there was some sort of design behind it all, and I felt great. I wasn't aware until then that I had felt so bad, bland and empty for so many years.
So why can't we not look at a beautiful garden without putting fairies at the bottom of it? Well, because we can't. There is something in our nature that needs wonder and fantasy. Some desire for protection and/or need for spiritual guidance. This is why I believe so many people that leave their faith and stop believing in some sort of God start looking quickly towards alternatives. Tarot, numerology and other equally fantastical studies. It becomes a faith of convenience.
"My religion tells me that smoking and drinking is bad so I will find a religion that doesn't." Or even worse, these people search for something trendy to follow. It's not cool at all to follow an old boring faith right? Hey, I don't blame or judge them too harshly for leaving. I stopped going to church for different reasons but the point is I stopped too so I can't say much about that.
Many atheists refuse to believe in any form of deity, obviously. That's all fine and dandy. Its a free planet and you are welcome to believe as you wish. I can't help but notice though that many of the atheists I know harbor some kind of animosity towards anyone and anything remotely religious. Why this hatred? Why so much anger? Why so much contempt?
They aren't ALL that way sure but a WHOLE LOT of them are. As logical and intelligent and skeptical as you may think you are, there is one thing that religion could stand to teach you still. That is to be a bit less judgmental and more accepting of people for what they are.
If there is one thing that pisses me off it is when religions fight amongst each other or when religious groups argue with non-religious individuals. It is that reason alone that chases me away from many of those groups. There is no "winning" that argument and the millions who have died bloody deaths fail to have proved their points to this planet full of ignorant savages.
Religions are meant to teach compassion, patience and understanding. Just because religion also teaches about omniscient beings doesn't mean you should disregard everything all religions have to teach. As an atheist, if you consider yourself skeptical and logical then you are familiar with the fallacy of composition right?
I try to make an effort to learn from any text that has a positive message to teach. Whether it is from a book written by a schizophrenic individual that believes he spoke to Jesus Christ himself or a person who completely misinterprets what the original authors of those religious texts intended. They could all teach you valuable lessons. It is important to take from life what most fulfills you.
I can't see myself giving into any sort of group communion wholeheartedly. I can attend the events whenever I need to but when groups start chanting, I can't help but imagine the pagan and tribal traditions that inspired them. I also can't help but giggle at the terrible old lady singers that just don't care.
My point? Some people need religion, some just need faith. Others, feel they don't need anything. I was there for a decade or more then I realized that faith in a specific church was a completely different thing than "faith" by definition. As long as what you believe or don't believe makes you a better person, then more power to you. I'll give you three R's that should be taught in school. Respect yourself, respect others and respect the Earth.
Some people like to feel that there is a plan and some order to the chaos of daily life. Some people choose to revel in that chaos. I can't pretend to know ANYTHING about the way the world works. I know what we humans understand about the history of creation and I know what a lot of us humans understand about the morality behind our purpose. I don't necessarily believe that they conflict with each other.
I sum it up in one sentence.
Bibles and other religious texts try to teach you the moral significance of why, while science tries to explain how.
Religions try hard to explain to us the purpose of our existence as well as justification and vindication for good behavior. The exact history and factual dates and numbers are insignificant to the greater purpose. The sciences try to teach you how all these seemingly miraculous events brought us to where we are now. The moral significance of it all is irrelevant.
I think it all makes more sense together than it does apart.