The Problem with Blind Faith
In my experience, everyone who identifies themselves as an atheist tends to have some kind of negative experience with organized religion that makes the individual say “Forget it.”
In my case there was no such epiphany. In fact, there was…absolutely nothing. I wasn’t raised wih any kind of religion. My parents, or any member of my family for that matter, never went to church, so I was never really exposed to it. I never gave it thought until kids in third grade found it weird that I didn’t believe in God. Of course, I had no idea who or what God was, and didn’t especially care. I had enough reason to be considered different, so I just let people find it odd and went on with life.
Some atheists I know are militantly against religion. They go out of their way when confronted with people of faith to point out how those people are wrong for believing as they do. In most cases, this attitude doesn’t work for me. While I can be an asshole at times when my lack of religion is challenged, I think that anyone’s beliefs are their own and should be respected.
What I’ve found is that I don’t generally get the same respect from religious folks as I give them once my atheism is known.
I understand the idea of this planet’s societies having several different faiths or interpretations of what a “higher power” is. I’ve had Jewish and Muslim friends with whom I’ve had discussions about the tenets of their faiths, purely for my own self-interest and education. I’ve never felt pressure to convert from any of these people in any way. One of my closest friends at UConn wanted to be a rabbi. My fiance is from a Jewish family and they have no issue with her marrying someone who isn’t Jewish and doesn’t really have a religion.
I follow the Ten Commandmemts, or at least the ones that don’t have to do with worship of God. I don’t lie, steal, kill, lust for other women and I have good relationships with my parents. I do all these things because I believe they are the right things to do. I didn’t have to be told these things were right by some ancient book.
My biggest problem with all religions is the whole “blind faith” idea. You’re just supoosed to accept the existence of a God without ever questioning whether it’d true or not. This bothers me because it promotes intellectual stagnation while it also lets organized religions off the hook for their actions. If the existence of a god can’t be proven and isn’t supposed to be proven, there’s an inherent flaw in there somewhere.
As I went through college, I was approached by missionaries on several occasions with arguments for why I should convert. I have no problem with this as an idea, it was more the approach that is generally taken. Attacking everything in someone’s way of life as wrong when you don’t even know them isn’t going to achieve their goals. I wouldn’t take that kind of treatment from my own friends, why would I accept it from a total stranger with an ulterior motive?
The other thing I’ve found about missionaries in my years is that they don’t like to be challenged. Their views are always right and anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe is completely wrong. If you haven’t noticed, nothing in our society actually functions this way.
I’ve had two memorable encounters with missionary types. I was recently approached by someone in Madison who in the course of a harmless conversation, asked me if I had any”voids” in my life and if I felt I needed Jesus to help me fill in whatever was missing from my life. My response? “Well, unless Jesus can find me a job, no. That’s the only real ‘void’ I have going on right now.”
My favorite missionary approached me with the idea that I would be a good missionary, largely because my disabilty is “a gift from God.”
Me: A gift from God? Really? Maybe I have trouble seeing something that causes me pain 24 hours a day or makes me wonder if every time I stand up is the time I’m going to fall down and break my skull as a gift. If that’s your God’s view of a gift, then he’s a dick.
Mr. Missionary: We all suffer for our gifts
Me: Well, I don’t know about you, but I consider a gift an actual skill, not something you have no choice in.
Mr. Missionary: It’s a gift all the same.
Me: Well, if it’s such a gift, would you want it?
Mr. Missionary: Well….um…uh….no. It’s your gift.
Me: That’s not really an answer. You’re a shitty salesman, you know that?
It may seem like I’m just bashing religion endlessly here, but I hope that I’m illustrating a larger point. Believing in a god or any sort of higher power is fine, and even commendable. Believing in something blindly without thought is fine if that’s really what you want to do.
But having faith and trying to jam it down other people’s throats while concurrently thinking that anyone who doesn’t believe as you do is wrong is the worst kind of closed-minded behavior. If we really want to become an open and accepting society, it has to stop now. Believe whatever you want to, enjoy it, whatever. Just keep it to yourself. Not everyone wants to hear it.