In browsing several sites and news pages over the past hour or so, I’ve seen four different references to concerns about people who “hate” religion, or about people “hating” religion.
I find that interesting. You see, I’ve also browsed around looking for writers who do claim to “hate” religion, and (apart from obviously deranged bloggers — rather like me) I have yet to find anyone who expressed himself in quite that way.
Personally — although I admit to a certain amount of derangement, or at least unskillful thinking — I certainly don’t fall into the category of religion hater. My attitude is more one of watchful tolerance, for one of the characteristics of religion that I don’t like or approve of is the tendency of its adherents to mess around in the business of others who don’t share their beliefs. To the extent that any group of believers minds its/their own business and doesn’t bother other folks, I get along with religious people just fine (as long as they don’t exploit too badly the people in their flocks, that is).
Therein, I believe, lies the problem. When you are bandying about, and expecting people to accept and believe, ideas that relate to their deepest concerns and fears, you have a lot of power if you’re successful. My problems with religion deal mostly with the way the shamans use that power, and how they encourage their adherents to exercise it by proxy. I have not, after all, gotten a memo informing me that they are in charge of my metaphysical enlightenment. In point of fact, all I have is their word for it — suspect, under the circumstances.
I couldn’t be much less concerned about someone else’s convictions regarding life after death, god, prayer and salvation. It’s no business of mine what they think, or why they live the lives they lead, as long as they fit into the society as a whole. When, however, they try changing that society by dictating how it should be run, they trample wholesale over the rights of those of us who simply want to be left alone to believe what we believe, and live our lives in relative freedom come hell or high water (at least one of which is beginning to seem inevitable).
I put it to you that an atheist or agnostic poses no threat to true believers. Are they (the anointed) not Right? Is God not on their side? Do they not have the Scriptures (however their particular sect interprets them) to back them up? If they choose to inform their lives with ideas several millennia old, what business is that of mine, and what threat do I pose?
If they truly do believe, that is.
As far as I can tell, the only threat that I pose to believers is the possibility that I might be right, which would — prima facie — make them wrong. I have chosen to believe what I can see or otherwise infer through logic and observation of the world around me, as opposed to invisible, intangible and unknowable mysteries that may or may not simply be desperate efforts to become emotionally comfortable with the inevitability of death. How does that threaten them? If they’re right, they’re on the short list for heavenly bliss, and I’m toast. How is that their problem? Indeed, by what stretch of the imagination is it even any of their business?
I wonder, too, why they think an all-powerful, all-knowing god needs their help. If he’s too busy to deal with me himself, why would he delegate the job to them? It seems that they think he can’t take care of business on his own. The only other reason for their throwing his weight about is their own self-aggrandizement — the ability to say, “Hey, we’re right and all you sinners are wrong and you are going to hell, but to help ourselves feel important and superior, we’ll make your lives as uncomfortable as possible while you’re here.”
How god-like. We are so impressed.
Hate religion? No, I just try to ignore it. Try to live a good life? Yes — by trying to stick to the Golden Rule and leave other people alone unless they ask for or obviously need my help in the things of this world. You see, I trust that if there is a god — and I’m not saying there isn’t, but merely that I don’t believe it — I trust that he, she, it or they have things under as much control as they intend. I don’t think they need our help. Frankly, if it were my Creation, I’d be plotting ways to get humans out of it before we mess things up any worse than we have.
Or maybe I’d just sit back and let us take care of it, then scour out the aquarium when we’ve offed ourselves and try it all over again. But I’m pretty sure that, having made everything and everybody, I’d need no help running things, and I’d encourage humans to mind their own business, not mine. I mean, who do they think they are?
Hate religion? No. It has its uses. It provides structure, guidance and hope for billions. But holier-than-thou jackasses? With them, I have a problem.