May 13, 2005
Advice for atheists
Dylan Evans (good Welsh name!) in the Guardian:
Atheists who attack religions for painting a false picture of the world are as unsophisticated and immature as religious believers, who mistake the picture for reality. The only mature attitude to religion is to see it for what it is - a kind of art, which only a child could mistake for reality, and which only a child would reject for being false.
Well worth reading.
I have one piece of practical advice for atheists: In the Midwest if they ask what religion you are, say "lapsed Quaker". It's the passive aggressive Midwestern way of saying atheist.
Posted by robe0419 at May 13, 2005 12:16 PM
Good article. But I take exception with the implication that religion and science is a dichotomy or binary existence -- that you're either a believer of religion or a believer of science. I think the two are mutually exclusive. I don't "believe" in science, I use it as a tool to explore and understand. And I know a lot of Catholics and Protestants who use (and love, and support) science in the same way. And as for my religion? Call me a lapsed Quaker.
I thought atheists were famous for pointing out that religion is in fact art -- what alternate meaning do descriptions of the Bible such as "a collection of fairy tales," "a book of moral fables," and "an assortment of myths" convey? (Not all art need be warmly received or free of despicable societal ramifications.)
It's the resistance of religious sorts to the idea that their most ardent beliefs are parables at best and schizophrenic bullshit at worst that incites controversy, not atheists' "attacks" on the eminently fictitious. Were religious believers content to adhere to their ancient 'round-the-campfire ghost stories without using them as a means to marginalize gays and women, muddy the educational system, and interfere with scientific research, few would be inclined to "attack" religion, irrational though its claims inherently are.
I think atheists do acknowledge the value of religion as personal philosophy. That people have an innate need for spirituality and meaning, which religion fulfills, is a pretty well-accepted notion among atheists.
The problem is that most religous people have a less sophisticated view of religion than that presented by Evans in this article. By definition, being religous means believing your religion is true.
Dawkins and others' forceful anti-religious discourse does speak to some-- those who are already questioning their religion and those who are not religious to begin with. Those who are religious and want to stay that way, certainly won't be swayed by forceful argument, but I don't think they need be shielded from it either.
The vast majority of atheists' attacks are not against religion as moral aesthetic, but against religion as social or legal policy, or God help us, as science. Because religion, however much it looks like an aesthetic and ethical endeavor, is not just that, but claims to be a totalizing theory, and acts accordingly. Sometimes you have to attack the roots.
"Atheists who attack religions for painting a false picture of the world are as unsophisticated and immature as religious believers, who mistake the picture for reality. The only mature attitude to religion is to see it for what it is - a kind of art, which only a child could mistake for reality, and which only a child would reject for being false."
I like that. I just summarizes my own beliefs. Religion is not a natural thing. It is culture. It is something that is teached, a code to be mastered. A virus that the believers must spread, according a scientist, whose name I forgot.
Yep, it is art. It is lyrical and beautiful, tho it may be weird stuff also. But that is art, it is about opinion. I understand the context, and admire Picasso's techinique, but actually find his Guernica painting quite ugly. (OK war is ugly anywayz LOL)
I don't hate religions and believers. I just ain't interested in the kind of art they are.