Archives for posts with tag: religion

I have spent the last few days getting increasingly sick, while my fiancee has come to the apex of several months of insomnia. Last night was the first night in who knows how long she has managed to get a night’s sleep. The only reason, given the above facts, that I opened the door was because the person outside insisted on wrapping upon it with the full force of fistly fury feasible, creating the risk of a premature end to her slumber. Watchtower leaflets in hand, he proceeded near immediately to ask me about how optimistic I feel. Being sick, and tired, and running on about four hours sleep while trying to manage every other element of my life, I tried to straightforward and honest with him: I am an atheist, thank you for the effort but I am not interested and I have to get to work in the next fifteen minutes.

I did not need nor did I want or invite a lecture.

Yes, you were very polite. Yes, you are 75 years old and have presumably seen more than my 29 years on this earth has allowed opportunity for. No, this is nothing against Jehovah’s Witnesses or indeed any religion in and of itself. Yes, there is cause for optimism in this world, but you telling me that by not subscribing to belief in a divine entity and intelligent creator I am leading a life without optimism or hope is:

1. Insulting.
2. Condescending.
3. Missing the point of what I believe in.
4. A slap in the face of anyone who is spiritual in addition to and not in spite of being atheist, agnostic or any other such persuasion.
5. Not the fault of Richard Dawkins, whose older genetics work I preferred to recent diatribes, and for whom my atheism significantly predates awareness thereof.*
6. Completely missing the point that I have strawberries.

I love strawberries. In fact I love all sorts of fruit. They are delicious and juicy and sweet and wonderful and every time I take a bite of a good one, I am reminded of how amazing it is to be alive. It’s the same with books, movies, TV, and spending time with my friends and my fiancee and my family and all the little elements that compile the whole that is my life. I write in this blog because I enjoy doing so, I comment on others because I like to discuss and argue and compete. All of these things are amazing – consider that by writing these very words, I am achieving something that was beyond hope hundreds of years ago. With four or five hundred views a month, I am right now read more widely than Shakespeare was back in the day.** Instantaneous communication around the world, sharing ideas for fun and profit and simply because you can. And consider what that is connected to – the sheer odds of existence itself.

In order to write this, Information Communications Technology had to be developed. Brilliant thinkers had to put aside grievances and conflict to work together on this. Countries had to evolve to the point of not warring with each other over various clumps of land and money. Societies had to emerge from smaller clusters of tribes and feuding in order to reach that point. We had to emerge as the superior species by way of intellect against deadlier predators and survive all sorts of environmental changes and catastrophes. In order to reach that point, our genetic forebears had to survive what wiped out entire species. In order to get there, our progenitors had to form out of single cells. In order for those cells to exist, the world had to have the exact conditions that would allow mitachondrial reaction to occur. The world itself had to form and take orbit around the sun at the exact position it is in. In order for the sun to exist where it does, allowing the earth to orbit as it does, the events of the Big Bang had to be so insanely precise as to allow for all of that.

Can you even begin to imagine how many numbers there are in the odds of all those things happening?

Whether you believe in God or not, how can you not marvel at how amazing all of that is?

I am a smart person. I am well-read. I spent many years as a child believing in God, and came to be dissatisfied with both the answers given to my many questions and in time the nature of that belief. I have as a result spent a long time addressing the nature of God for myself – I do not think there is some divine entity that set all of the events described above into being. I do believe in providence and serendipity and beating the odds. I do not believe that science has all the answers, and I realise that it never will. Do we need all of these answers? No, we do not. Do we need to stop looking for them? Never, because searching for truth and cause and purpose is what makes us human. Do I feel the need to have an omnipotent, omniscient deity standing over my shoulder to assure me that all the ills of the world are for a reason, that the just will prosper in the next life and the wicked suffer? No, I do not. I do not believe in the afterlife, reincarnation or any existence beyond our mortal being. When I die, all that I am will decompose and merge with everything around and become a part of something else, but I myself will no longer be. Does that make me sad? A little, in truth. Does that scare me? Only in that I will not be able to do everything I want. Do I believe in souls? Yes, in that a soul is the part of me that thinks and jokes and acts beyond the basic, physical nature of my being, and once I die it will not go anywhere, it will simply cease to be. But would you like to know what I think that means for our lives?

It means that everything we do, here and now, matters and is all the more precious for it.

So no, I do not need people coming to my door, bright and early in the morning when I am sick and have a poorly loved one above that you may wake if you don’t stop knocking, just to tell me that I am without optimism in my life. I have plenty to be optimistic and happy about. I’m getting freaking married in a few months! And I am following it according to humanist principles because I hold religion to be an awful thing which has exploited, hurt and affected in too many negative ways the lives of billions. Yes there is good in religion, but you know what? If I need a priest to tell me to be nice to people, that says a lot more about me than anything else. This does not mean I dislike religious people – most of my friends are religious, to varying degrees, and my family certainly is. People passed in the street are religious and I do not dislike them for it. I will frankly be more likely to dislike someone for having bad taste in a song or a movie than I will their belief in the world. The key difference is they don’t force their beliefs down my throat.

Yet what angers me the most is the sheer dismissiveness of how this man regarded my beliefs. If I went door-to-door asking people to give atheism a chance, I would have every authority imaginable set after me for attacking their life, principles and beliefs. I live in a country that teaches Intelligent Design as a fact in primary education, has given new powers to the Blasphemy Law and will still somehow assure us that Gay Marriage is wrong because because because… Yet somehow it’s perfectly fine to hound me for what I think and feel, telling me what I think and that I believing in nothing, when all I have said is that I don’t believe in a divine creator or God.

At least me and mine don’t have organisations covering up the atrocities we commit and then blame the victims.

* Fun fact: it was comics writer Adam Warren who made me first aware of Dawkins and The Selfish Gene, around 2002 if I recall correctly. I would have been 21 at that point, subscribed to atheism quite some time (I’d like to suggest about 10, since the thoughts were germinating during the many boring hours of primary school, but probably took hold later on: 10 is a nice guess at the median age; a brief resurgence of belief around 16 and the death of a friend did not last long and was more attributable to the accompanying existential ennui and grief rather than any genuine consderation – any funerals attended since have not provoked a similar response).
** Possibly. Presumably. Maybe?

Those crazy French, eh? They do like to pass through the veil of normality and redecorate the house, don’t they?

Facetiousness aside, there is an interesting debate to consider here (with some of the views in opposition to the ban summarised here). While the automatic reaction is to look at how the ban on the burka and niqab affects the religious and human rights of the people targeted by the Bill, it’s not quite so clear-cut as it might seem. France is a country very much concerned, at least superficially, with maintaining a secular tone, particularly in regards to government. My setting a limitation on something often certainly described as religious in motive as the face veil, I could see how to someone not quite so atheistically-minded that it could be an attack on choice and religious freedom.

As I prepare to write the next few paragraphs, I suddenly find myself wishing that I had an Islamic best friend to point to as a defence, but life as a curmudgeonly hermit will always put paid to that.

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