2/11/2009

Are You an Atheist?

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Someone asked me recently if I was an atheist. That's a fairly complicated question because I am not an "atheist" in the strictest sense of that word meaning that I disavow all spiritual matters in favor of science and reason. But in some sense I do reject the traditional view of God and spirituality even the "New Age" varieties.

So, here are my thoughts on things to help those who read this blog better understand my statements and viewpoints when reading posts touching on religion.

1. I believe that morality is not a function of "religion." Each of us knows, unless we are psychologically damaged, that we should not kill others, steal from others, or harm others. Respect and human dignity are ideas that religion can embody but that religion can also undermine by giving us "loopholes" for our behavior.

2. I do not believe that my personal ideas about relationships should be applied to everyone. Religion allows people to turn personal foibles into universal "truths." For instance, religious people will say that polyamorous relationships are forbidden by "God." I am not a fan of those types of relationships but I know that my reticence has to do with my personal psychology. Because I am self aware, I know I could not be in such a relationship . I know that I would be unable to deal with the stresses because I prefer one on one contact with people. That preference even extends to my friendships. I prefer small gatherings to large parties. I like to focus my love and attention and in return like to have theirs focused on me. It is a personal foible. I do not need to invent a patriarchal "God" to justify it. If such relationships work for others I have no problem with it.

3. I do not believe that my personal spirituality has a place in the public square. Our spiritual lives are reflections of our own personal desires and psychology. Pretending that they are larger than us may be attractive and give us a sense of belonging, but the continual practice of those beliefs in public affairs eventually leads us to believe that our own ideas are superior to others. Once we are comfortable doing this publicly it is a small step to requiring others to follow suit.

4. I believe that spiritual matters are extremely personal. I reject the idea of priests and ministers because it teaches us to be intellectually and spiritually lazy. Rather than looking inward and learning our own desires and motivations we contract that out to others so that we never have to confront uncomfortable or contradictory parts of our own psyches.

5. I believe that reason and intellect are far superior than blind obedience to scripture. I grew up around people who stated flatly that the "Bible is the absolute word of God." They believed every line of it was invioable, unless it was a line that made their life difficult. They would apply the scriptures to others while not often turning it on themselves. The Bible is full of contradictions. People have spent their entire lives trying to square that circle. Reason and intellect allow us to identify those parts of that work that are truly universal truths and which are the personal prejudices and historical framework of ancient people. People who say the "Bible is the word of God" signal to me someone who is intellectually lazy and historically ignorant.

6. Life is full of mysteries. I like to revel in the delicious mysteries of life. I do not need to invent angels or patron saints to explain why things happen. I accept things as they are because I lack the means to investigate them properly. Likewise, I do not know what happens after we die. I do not need to invent a Heaven or a Hell to make myself feel better about my own mortality. I know that one day I will die. It's not a particularly lovely thought. But when you've been as sick as I was, you know that you are living on borrowed time from the moment you are born. What happens after death? I have no idea, but I do know that everyone who has ever lived and who is living will find out at some point. Until then, I'll enjoy the here and now because there is little I can do about that first nanosecond after death.

That in a nutshell is my spirituality. I do not attend churches, I do not attend public prayer meetings and I do not proselytize my own psychology and call it "God's Word."


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