Religion and tolerance

It seems when people use the term atheist or humanist people are emphasising something about themselves. Atheist that put simply there is no evidence of a god. A humanist that there are values and ethical choices which we can make without resort to the supernatural or superstition. To that end they are both sides of the same coin – it really does depend on what you are emphasising.

 So when someone says their ethical system is superior or their belief system self evident because it is sanctioned by divine writ, that it comes from god almighty and is not up for discussion, debate, reason or evaluation of consequences of ancient belief in the modern age then the passion in me rises. Because what they are saying is that even if it could be demonstrated that the belief when practised adds to human misery, causes untold suffering, has no benefit within this life time and the cost outweighs any, that no one is harmed on earth when someone breaks that belief – it still matters because god is offended, and faith matters over impact in the here and now.

People are entitled to have a religion. I would hope that people would put the inquiry that people do when shopping – scrutinize the alternatives on offer; or when listening to a used car salesman – examine the evidence that this car is not a lemon. If you want to believe that your life is worthless save for the agonising torture of a man 2,000 years ago that through the economy of salvation one man saved billions – good luck to you. I can tolerate that you may have this belief, meet up with people that have that belief and break bread, drink wine. You can even tell me about that belief with a view to saving my immortal soul.

However, in public discourse I will challenge your belief system. This may well hurt you. When saying I am an atheist this is nothing compared to when I phrase it I am not a christian in terms of shock on believers. Semantics no doubt, but I do not believe Jesus was the son of god, maybe he did not exist at all, and as for miracles I sincerely doubt it. Despite radical christianity (not the same as fundamentalist christianity) trying to move away from super naturalism (no god hears your pray etc) but use it as fable and allegory for leading an ethical life and jettisoning that which does not the question to ask is – can there be something better?

For me there is – and thank goodness for most religious people being able to cherry pick from their texts so that love, peace and harmony as goals are not affected by calls for slavery, inferiority of women, and death to the non believer. Yet the idea that ethics may be based not on a god or religious text is called into question. The only excuse I can think of is that people are unaware of the long history of moral philosophical thought, and the developments of law, which demonstrate the evidence that this does not need to be the case. Reason through the ages has been the major factor, religion often the style that the discourse has played its part in the historical narrative.

The thing is that the law is in many ways designed to protect citizens – from each other, even from the state. By this measure do we talk about the freedom that exists within a state. The secular state is seen, by some in the USA, as a threat to religion because when laws are framed, public policy is discussed, what god wants and their beliefs are not automatically given precedence.

But they should not be. Religious views have no more precedence than other political views or economic doctrines. Your religious belief should not hold any other citizen to ransom in their choices and behaviour – because the criteria is not that your sensibilities are harmed, or a god we cannot have a two way conversation with is made angry and his wrath is terrible, but whether the individual concerned is actually causing real harm that threatens the public good and needs to be held accountable for their actions.

It is with that view that humanism tries to work out what is the answer to ethical questions. It does not hold truth to be self evident. It does not accept that thinking is tied down, but through discourse and reason we can discover common values which have helped us live together, and that as a community writ large or small the human condition can be improved, and that change can be a good thing.

Do I wish religion would disappear? I just want people to examine, without prejudice, the world and universe in which we live. We only have a short time on this planet, and we hopefully can do more than just survive – we want to have meaning in our lives. Yet religion is not for me the best way – it certainly is not the only way. It should not be an issue to discuss and evaluate the moral claims we make, your life though is your own.



Filed under atheism, Religion

7 responses to “Religion and tolerance

  1. isaiah30v8

    Actually I am able to tolerate athiests. If atheists did not exist it would be more difficult to believe in the bible. So thanks!

    Oh yes, here is why:



  2. If I had a pound for every-time someone suggested science was like a religion then writing this blog could be a full time occupation.

    You mention original sin but do not actually define it (in your blog) which misses the point a little.

    You do have to separate philosophy and science. Philosophy is about asking the right questions about life. Science is about exploring the natural world. Science does not tell you how you should live your life or base your moral opinions on – nor should anyone seriously suggest it does.

    By reflection and deliberation we may come to an appreciation of what leading a good life is like to that end my blog the way we are may interest you:

    I read the bible. That is why I am an atheist.

  3. isaiah30v8

    “By reflection and deliberation we may come to an appreciation of what leading a good life is like.

    You can be like God knowing Good and Bad.

  4. No I could never live up to a fantasy figure.

    But we can try and figure things out.

  5. isaiah30v8

    In a prophetic end time scripture the Apostle Paul described the success of Satan’s unrighteous deception using words like “POWERFULL” and “WONDER”.

    2 Thessalonians 2
    9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.;&version=50;

    Some bible translations even use the word “MIRACLE” to describe Satan’s success.

    You and many others are a living manifestation of Satans extreme success!

    Your existence provides a large amount of support for my continued belief in the bible, God and Jesus Christ.

    Thank you.

  6. Funny how all religions think non believers are deluded, and in league with the evil one, isn’t it? Almost like religions use it to shield themselves from criticism.

    A circular argument, that is a loop, which never can be wrong because the logic is so flawed that nothing could disprove it. The only purpose it serves is to stop you thinking the unthinkable. The more arguments against yours you read the more it is proof you are right! QED you cannot be wrong even if you are!

    Muslims, Hindus and Christians think this too.

    An honest inquiry into the legitimacy of your belief would be:

    What would it take for me to leave my faith, or think there is no god?

    If believing in Virgin Births, resurrections, and walking on water is what you think it takes to lead a righteous life then you really need to try and understand that thinking about moral problems is not dependent on thinking ancient texts come from god.

    But if you cannot understand that about humanity, then can I at least point out the futility of quoting bible passages at me?

    The bible is proof that men wrote the bible over a period of time. It explains the conflicts, different opinions and is a product of the times. The evidence is there in print. This is the work of men. The significance is what you give it – but it has no more authority over me than the Koran or the Pali Canon.

    We are all atheists about someone else’s god. Some of us just go one god further. The abandonment of god is the leaving behind of an idea. The god concept is not the only thing holding up moral behaviour. If you are only moral and righteousness because you can read a book and think god is watching then your heart is not in the right place. If you could not be moral without god then there is something questionable in your motives.

  7. Pingback: The circular argument - the con artist « Homo economicus’ Weblog

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