An illlustration, or just pointless?

I was watching ‘Saved!‘ the other evening (it’s quite a nice film) and ended up in an argument.Now, typically, I’m trying to both defend my own position and apologise at the same time…

You see, I’m very sensitive to the stereotype of the hollywood atheist: someone actively engaged in disbelief fueled by negative experiences, who re-converts just as soon as things look up. I sort of resent the idea that I’m only rebelling against something until my life either gets better or else gets so bad that I turn to the supernatural for help. And when things annoy me, I usually say so. At length. To anyone else in the room who’ll listen.

Unfortunately, this can become a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. So I ended up blasting this rather innocuous film over a single moment of ‘yay, this is all so great that god has to be real’ before even hearing the ‘or else its all just happy feelings’ part. My bad, I’m afraid. The subsequent argument did, however, allow me to put my thoughts on things in perspective.

To begin with, I believe fairly strongly in what I always think of as ‘the Truth’; the idea that there are things outside of ourselves which are real and that we can find out what they are if we are careful, honest and lucky. Gravity, for instance, is a Truth. It doesn’t matter what you believe, you will still fall if you step off of a cliff. Religion, which often places Truth a distant second to Faith, irks me for this reason.

The second thing, however, is that I also believe quite strongly in a person’s right and ability to think and choose things for him or herself. Though what we understand and believe is strongly by the beliefs of the people around us, there is always a chance for a person to contemplate something new. Which is one of the reasons why I love arguing with people, even if only over a movie. Ideas are refined by the friction of contact with their peers and competitors, its when you confine your thoughts to a little conflict-free bubble that things go wrong.

The third thing is that my views are, of course, coloured by my experiences. I’ve seen what the dark side Faith can do to people, even if only for a single horrifying instant. I’ve seen the moment when a person surrenders to the will of the group, becomes a part of an angry crowd. I was quite lucky, on that occasion, to escape being beaten to death by a group of people I had known for most of my life.

Faith did’t make this part of humanity, I think. It is a much older thing, linked to a past where hunting and killing and fighting the enemy-who-is-the-same-as-you evolved as just another social aspect of an already social animal.What faith can do, however, is create an easy path for this thing to get out. The levers of group identity and cultured distaste for the ‘other’ are all too easy to push. And when they are pushed, the mob appears.

So, in conclusion: yes, I have a bit of a beef with religion. No, I’m not interesting in de-converting you (though I will often be more than happy to argue with you about it). Nor am I interested in being saved from my own misery. And if I get a bit tetchy over trivial things, like the tone of a movie or slant of a news segment, please accept my humble apologies. I’m just a bit of a pedantic wanker.

If anyone is confused about the whole ‘atheism’ thing, this page should help.


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