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The More You Know 
9th-Aug-2010 12:43 pm
It's been interesting to me to have so many people from different walks of life confide in me that they have had questions about their religious upbringing and doubts about whether or not they followed because it is what they were raised to do or because they genuinely believed of their own accord after careful consideration. I try to be careful to only explain my own views of such things and not come across as too great of an influence to deny or reject anything as this is tantamount to proselytizing if you're not careful and I don't care much for that kind of imposition. Instead I prefer to offer reason and logic that can be reinforced with science, philosophy, academia, and best of all the exposure to the contradictions within scripture that make up a lot of the subtext.

I know that for a lot of people the things I've read that shape my worldview of religion and theology are not only a bit challenging and difficult to swallow, but frightening in that they usually tend to counter a lifetime of firmly held conviction that may or may have not been one's own originally, but is still tethered to all the right guilt buttons within the minds of the religious adherent. If you read something from an atheist, agnostic, or skeptic that makes sense and exposes certain things you've once believed unquestioningly and it resonates with you, there's a whole battle that can take place that seeks to challenge everything you think you know - and you may come to a better understanding either way. For many people such things are sacriligeous and scary if only because it takes you out of your comfort zone and invariably forces you to ask yourself if in fact it IS all a bunch of lies and mythology. Believe me, I understand. This is frightening stuff to consider.

I suppose the responsible thing to do when questioning religion when there is a crisis of faith and an urge to seek answers is to offer information that you can arrive at on your own - read at your leisure and decide for yourself what you think. I was once offered by a close friend and devout Christian a book written by a famous pastor that was on the bestseller's list and was causing people everywhere to live their lives with renewed Purpose in the Christian worldview of this one mega-church leader. I took the book and offered one of my own in return, which was Michel Onfrey's Atheist Manifesto, because after all fair is fair. I was immediately asked by her why she should read it in a defensive, almost offended way to which I replied "Well, fair is fair. You know I'm an atheist and yet you want me to read this book in the hope that it will change me and cause god to speak to me through it, so it is only fair that I give you the same opportunity for the sake of fairness. If your faith is so unshakable then it won't matter, will it? You stand to lose nothing." She grinned at me and tried to politely decline but I told her that I was putting my money where my mouth was and willing to read her book as I had nothing to fear from it. She refused to read the Onfrey book but it showed just how much fear there is in unplugging from the religious Matrix.

There's something about the notion that knowledge is power that really resonates with me. Having grown up in the Deep South where ignorance truly is bliss and where intellectualism is considered dangerous by many and even in some cases is outright shunned, I always stood out a mile from my peers for any number of reasons at face value - mostly because while they were attending church services to repent for all their sinning and bad behavior the previous night, I was sitting there listening intently and thinking to myself What a bunch of completely useless nonsense! How in the world am I supposed to swallow this without question? Why in the world should I buy into any of this when none of it makes any sense whatsoever to me?" For the record, I learned early on that seeking such answers from church leaders would not only prove deeply unsatisfying, it would prove that they were nothing more than snake oil salesmen pushing their own specific brand and the closer you get to holding their feet to the proverbial fire, the more they are likely to write you off as simply needing to 'get right with god'.

In my experience the only thing that keeps ignorant people ignorant is laziness. There is no reason greater than laziness to explain how and why a person who has access to information, knowledge, and the tools required to use these things would choose not to employ them. In my opinion any faith worth having can withstand the weather, and any faith that cannot simply isn't worth having. I don't think that is unreasonable. If reading counterpoints that make more sense and in fact are more reasonable to you, wouldn't it actually be more harmful to continue to dwell in delusion? If you are a person of faith and you believe in the "one true God" - whatever version you prefer - does this mean you dismiss all other possible gods, like Zeus - Vishnu - Ganesh - Bodhisattva - Helios - Gaia - Olorun - Ancamna - Yamantaka? When you understand why you dismiss those gods you will understand why I dismiss yours. In that sense, we are actually both atheists - I simply believe in one fewer god than you do.

Read and learn and decide for yourself what to believe because it makes sense and stands up to scrutiny, not because someone tells you what you should believe under the threat of eternal suffering if you don't. You have to question that, even if you fear the possibility of it, when there is absolutely no proof that it will even happen. If you believe in god, believe that you were given a brain and the ability to reason as part of the free will clause that makes for such allowances. If you have the questions and not the answers, decide if it's time to find them or not. One way or the other, you have nothing to lose by working out your intelligence muscles - in fact, you only stand to gain.

I'm working on a post of eBooks that you can download and read at your leisure that will follow this post. There is sure to be something for everyone - perhaps multiple somethings - that you can read and share and grow from. Look for it later this evening.
9th-Aug-2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
A book you might enjoy, or get something out of is Ethics Without God by Kai Nielson. Brilliant little book.
10th-Aug-2010 01:40 am (UTC)
I will definitely add it to my list, thanks babe!
9th-Aug-2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
I look forward to your list.
10th-Aug-2010 01:40 am (UTC)
I hope there's some stuff there for you!
9th-Aug-2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
My personal theory is that a very significant number of religious people, possibly even the majority, don't actually believe what they claim to.

Having grown up in an evangelical church, I noticed all the other kids were very much like me in the beginning. As time went on, and we grew up, I started becoming more and more of an outcast at the church as they started acting as though they believed it. I'm reasonably sure that as high school ages approached, they were still just going through the motions because it was what they were supposed to do to fit in.

As adults, every last one of these people I grew up with who I've happened to run across has converted to full on believer, and those who have kids are repeating the cycle by indoctrinating their own children. I very much doubt most of them actually believe what they claim to, but they're so conditioned to doing so that they just keep on Jesusing it up.

There's also very little to gain in ceasing to believe what they do. Sure, you could renounce your faith and take up atheism, but all you get as an atheist is a moral and ethical system that actually makes sense and the knowledge that your theory is correct. Religious people. however, get an entire community. A network of friends, job references, a (heavily flawed) ethical and moral system you can just fall back on when thinking about it rationally might force you to think for yourself. There's a lot of pretty nasty repurcussions for someone to renounce their faith, and the path of least resistance is just to not question your beliefs, and if you do, do so privately while you publicly still pretend to believe.

If they turn their back on their religion, they lose that entire community that they have likely built their life around. Convincing people to give that up isn't going to come from a logical explanation demonstrating they're wrong for any statistically significant number of people. It's not even going to come from their own analyzation of their religion and seeing the flaws for most. I believe it has to come from each and every individual analyzing things and coming to the conclusion that the actions being justified by the dreadful moral and ethical code built into their religion is so harmful that it's worth the loss of their community to stop believing.

The problem is I think most people like not having to think about how their actions are truly affecting other people, and whether or not the morals they live by are truly good. Humans have a long history of taking the easy way out, and in today's society, religion is the easy way out.
10th-Aug-2010 01:06 am (UTC)
You have said a hell of a thing. Several, in fact. I don't really have anything to add except to thank you for posting this comment.
10th-Aug-2010 01:47 am (UTC)
It rarely occurs to me the kind of communal aspect there that would be placed at risk, but it does make perfect sense. I understand how that might be so big as to be a deal breaker within the minds of some, but then again I don't understand because I couldn't belong to something that serious just for the sake of comfort, which I think is what it must come down to.

Yes - that 'easy way out' thing. It invariably gets used way too often as a tool for legitimizing really bad things.

Thanks for this, Ferrell. We miss you by the way, let us know when you want to get together and do something - or just get together and do nothing. I still owe you dinner!!
10th-Aug-2010 06:17 am (UTC)
I'm free any day before Sunday!
10th-Aug-2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
It amazes me that whole communities can exist around a church like this. But then we don't have that type of church here... I'm wondering if Eastern Orthodox Christianity generally doesn't work like this, or it just no longer works like this in my country. Personal connections are very secular here... well, you must have some idea already.

11th-Aug-2010 05:15 am (UTC)
Both of you might be interested in this paper by my favorite philosopher, Daniel Dennett. It's 29 pages (too long for a quick read) without a summary, but it is a bit fascinating some of the details that they discuss.

"Preachers Who Are Not Believers"
9th-Aug-2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this first on facebook. You always write well such intelligent and well-considered posts. One of the ebooks I want to read is the Christopher Hitchens one.
Lately I've been reading 'The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible' by Robin Lane Fox and also good ole Richard Dawkins 'The Selfish Gene' .. both very interesting, but both a bit text-book-y so I usually only read a chapter at a time. Must finish them.
10th-Aug-2010 01:51 am (UTC)
Thanks for the compliments sweetheart, that was very kind of you. You can find a LOT of Hitchens related material at: atheistmovies.blogspot.com/search/label/Christopher%20Hitchens

Dawkins does require a bit of patience to get through - some academia is easy to get overstimulated by if you don't pace yourself!
10th-Aug-2010 07:45 am (UTC)
For me, religion is a deeply personal matter and has no business in the workplace, in the government, in schools, in health care, etc. That is often a combination that works in the best interest of no one at all.

That really sucks that she refused to expand her worldview. I've been made to feel that I'm wrong or stupid for my beliefs by atheists before, so I would've been nervous too, but if it's simply presented as an alternate option, it's interesting to read.
10th-Aug-2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
She doesn't owe me anything, but she does tend to get pissy when she tries to sell me on her religion and I shut her down by quoting scripture that she cannot refute or defend. Then I get to say "Well, sooner or later you'll take some responsibility and stop trying to spar with me on this stuff when I know more about it than you do. Don't blame me because you're lazy and cannot be bothered to read or think critically before trying to sell me a product you've never even really used before."
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