407 Religion ... to believe or not to believe


I have had some feedback on two blogs that compels me to write about my position in regard to religion. In one case (386) it was assumed I am Islamophobic and would be receptive to crude jokes about the religion of Islam, in the other (395) it was assumed I was intolerant of religion per se. I am not intolerant of religions or religious beliefs or believers … as long as they do not denigrate or harm others.


However, the fact is all dogmatic religious beliefs are delusional; and when stating that delusion in conjunction with religion is fact then there is always the proviso that other facts may come to light that may constitute proof to the contrary (see blog 293 and my Rules of Life: “Maintain Doubt … don’t be certain about anything. Question everything.”) But such proof has not been forthcoming since the beginning of civilisation, hence the non-existence of a God or Creator can be considered factual. My point is, if there was a God, we would know about it. To me and other atheists it is clear: In the beginning, right at the birth of civilisation, at the arrival of consciousness, man created God.


But does this mean religious beliefs are to be discounted and rejected outright? Richard Dawkins  seems to think so, as does  Sam Harris.  My position is somewhat softer … as long as people don’t use their belief to justify harming others, they may believe whatever suits them. But consider this: All religions profess to hold the ‘Truth’; yet, these ‘Truths’ are incompatible … how can even just one of them - anyone - hold the ‘Truth’ over another?


The religious at this point bring in their ‘heavy gun’ argument: Society needs religion to form and articulate its ethical values. They say religion provides us with concepts of forgiveness, compassion and charity. This may be true in many respects, indeed, individuals and organisations may be inclined to those notions due to their religion.


But it is equally true that secular humanism provides the same values … without the indoctrination and delusion inherent in religious beliefs. And this is my stance: By all means conduct your religious rituals, do good because your religion tells you to do so, believe whatever you want to believe … but forgiveness, compassion and charity are not only also available outside of religion, they are prevalent there without the dangers of religious fanaticism and intolerance.

Nevertheless, though on one hand it may seem there is an insurmountable gulf between religion and secularism, on the other hand it is evident that many outwardly religious people have overcome that gulf ... as they simply do not concern themselves with the issue of the validity of religious dogmas. They don't take the bible etc literally and the question whether or not there is a God has lost pertinence and is not anymore a point of contention; they are comfortable with being mere participants in a functioning religious community. On that level - where religion is functioning as a benign social adhesive - religious tolerance by all is paramount ... then competition between religions has indeed become irrelevant.


I have written extensively about  HUMANISM,  BELIEF,  RELIGION  and  GOD  in my book without title, but instead three definitions for the term  en.light.en.ment