So here’s the deal.
One of my best friends and I got into a little tussle on another friend’s Facebook page. (Like, how rude is THAT. OHMAHGAAAAWD!!!) It is a tussle regarding Theism versus Atheism. Or rather, and to be (I think) more precise: Superstition versus Science.
I’ve had this discussion many, many times with many, many people.
My friend (it was R:tAG) said that he takes offense when people tell him he ‘should’ or ‘must’ or ‘ought to’ believe in something. Whatever that something is. And I agree with him. He *should* be offended when people do that. I hate that too, and it offends me as well.
One of my points was that I also find it offensive when someone tells me what I must *not* believe in, or when it is assumed that I am less intelligent, less able to think critically, or less able to think logically simply because I choose to believe in something utterly superstitious. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s ghosts. Maybe it’s something mysterious that happens when the moon is full.
I am not a lazy thinker. I hesitate to say I am not irrational, because I know myself *fairly* well, and I do tend to act on emotion rather than logic most of the time. I am not stupid for thinking the things I do.
And my friend R:tAG is not stupid for thinking the things *he* does.
I deeply honour and respect his opinion, and I deeply honour and respect his, in his own words, ‘militant atheism’. I think it’s *wonderful*, to be honest, that he chooses to believe in things that are directly observable, provable, real, and tangible. I deeply honour and respect the fact that he finds most organised religion distasteful, if not utterly damaging, belittling, and, most likely, wrong. (Most? R:tAG, help me out, is there some organised religion you don’t find distasteful?)
I have many friends who are atheists. Militant and otherwise. I do not try to change their minds or proselytise (sp?) because not only is it futile, it’s terribly inconsiderate and offensive. I respect their opinions and the logic and sensible…um…ness of the way they have come to know the truth of things.** And I certainly don’t expect them to understand or want to try to understand why I believe in ghosts and God and the weirdness that comes with the full moon.
I believe in mysteries. I don’t need to know the answers. I always look for clues, and I know I will never know the answers. And I’m okay with that.
And on the other hand, I have a deep respect for (and slight romantic interest in) scientific process and theorems and proofs and observable phenomena and hypothesis and provable (or disprovable, for that matter) theses. In fact, in my previous life, I did relatively well in the sciences (with the exception of Chemistry. STupid math.) in University. I think I had one of the highest marks in my class in physics and genetics.
I’m not the kind of person who wants to believe in fantastic explanations for mundane things. I prefer to observe the known facts (Sherlock Holmes-style), apply the knowledge I have, acquire greater knowledge if possible, put my theories to the test, and find out how things work.
So I think what upset me in that conversation on the Facebook wasn’t that R:tAG is a militant atheist. I’m pleased that he is. And I support his decision and I even agree with much of what he says. What upset me was the suggestion, and he certainly didn’t make it a direct accusation, that simply because I choose to believe in ghosts, God, or how the phases of the moon might affect things, that I am less capable of rational thought. That I have to be one way or the other. That I make judgements about my friends, and indeed about people I’ve never met, based on whether or not they believe in the same things I do.
It wasn’t what R:tAG *said* that upset me. It was the implications in what was left unsaid, I think. I accept that some of the things I believe in make me sound like a fruitcake. I’m okay with that. But does that mean I’m not as capable, intellectually or in my reasoning, as someone who does not have fruitcake tendencies?
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately.
**Just as a point of reference, in my superstitious beliefs, I tend to think that some things are Very Old stories and parables. And that is important. And just because some guy in a pointy hat says that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to hell, doesn’t mean I concur. I don’t even know if I believe in hell. Regardless. This is part of the mystery I believe in – I haven’t got a *clue* what happens when we die, and I don’t even know that it matters. Maybe we just stop. That makes me feel hollow and empty, and so I choose to believe something else, with certain kinds of evidence. GAH. I’m getting side-tracked. The point *is*; IF something happens to us after we die, I certainly don’t believe that atheists or agnostics or different-kinds-of-superstitious people go to “Hell”. In fact, I don’t think it really matters *what* I believe on that front. Really, if anything happens after we die, I sincerely hope it is one of those things where you get a lot of answers, and get to hang out with all your dearest friends and family concurrently with them hanging out with/existing with all of *their* dearest friends and family, without having to worry about things like temporal travel.