01
Apr
10

Making the Change

It’s time. Time to bow to the inevitable. It’s been pointed out to me so many ways that faith and reason don’t mix. I’ve been faced with contradictions and challenges in my faith walk.

So I’m hanging it up. Stepping off the path I’ve been walking so long. There’s no proof of God or any higher power, so why keep looking for one?

After all, my moral code doesn’t require a higher power, does it? I can do the right thing without a god watching over my shoulder, much less an invisible one.

My circle of friends will improve. Instead of being surrounded by mindless sheeple, I can cast off those losers and move on to people whose heads are firmly in reality.

I’ll be able to reopen my mind to expand and to grow. No longer anchored by superstitious nonsense, I can stop being held back. Now when I read a book on some social issue or historical situation or intriguing person, I won’t be filtering it through my religion-clouded mind.

I will become a fully actualized human being. I will evolve to the level I was intended to. I will be free…

OK, if the sarcasm is too subtle, and you’ve forgotten that it’s April Fool’s Day, I’m doing none of that. Well, not giving up my spiritual walk, thank you very much. The growth, intellectual ability, and the rest I will pursue, but then again, I’ve always pursued them. Because believing in God and in Jesus has never held me back from any of that.

This wasn’t a post meant to tease my agnostic or atheist readers into thinking they converted me. This wasn’t meant to confused or dismay my readers who believe faith has a place in life. But being April 1, it seemed as good a time, and as good a way, as any to make a point.

The point that faith is not garbage, and it is not some universal “idiot maker.”

I’ve been down this road before in other posts, but there’s a little twist I want to make this time, based on some blowback I got at another blog when I called the blogger on some bullshit. He was making a point about the stupidity of religious folks, in this case those who believe in the Rapture, by using a video of a prank perpetrated on a Christian to make her think the Rapture had happened and she’d been left behind. Problem was that the prank was clearly a fake. Clearly it had been scripted, it was badly acted, and wasn’t a prank at all. This was pretty universally acknowledged by the blogger and the many commenters who were enjoying sticking it to the faithful.

And yet, it was still maintained that making using the video as an example of Christian stupidity, even though it was a scripted/fake situation, was justified.

Moreover, in my criticism of that tactic, and my defense of faith, some interesting comments were being hurled around. Basic themes were:

Religion/faith prevents people from engaging in critical thinking or being progressive socially and politically

Religion/faith are holding back human evolution and progress

Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith

If you believe in a higher power of any kind, you are not intelligent

Those are the biggies.

Except they aren’t true. Sure, there are people who don’t think and are faithful. But you know how many people don’t really practice their presumed religions in any way…or who don’t believe…and are ALSO idiots? Do you truly think that every person who wants their “life doctrine” fed to them is religious? Really? If so, do you get out much? Not many people call President Obama the antichrist, at least not in comparison to the number who call him a socialist or fascist or jihadist.

I have deeply held faith beliefs, and yet I engage in critical thinking all the time; sometimes about my own faith.

I spent most of my life irreligious, and frankly, it’s far easier to not believe in a God. It’s really freaking easy to go through life not thinking about any higher powers and to behave as if the only consequences to our actions are those we reap on this Earth. As to whether faith or lack of faith is more rewarding, I can’t say. I suspect there is no appreciable difference as long as the person feels fulfilled in their journey. But in many ways, a faith walk is far more challenging (when properly pursued) than a non-faith walk. So don’t tell me I’ve taken the easy way.

And finally, how has religion and faith held us back? I keep hearing from so many atheists about how we won’t move forward until we shed religion.

I keep hearing about how too few Christians are “progressive” yet the moment someone like me comes along shattering that image, and talking about friends who likewise shatter that image, we’re branded as apologists who just work in new fantasies to fill the gaps. We go from being socially irresponsible idiot to mostly harmless idiots.

Scientists can make as many fancy theories of unproved and unobserved things as they want to fill in the gaps. But add an intelligence to something unseen and unprovable, and you’re a mindless automaton.

But you see, as much as these things annoy me, in the way they disregard and marginalize people like me, that isn’t the real point of my rant. Yes, once again, as so often happens in this blog, I’ve done something I almost never do in an article about some pharma business deal or information technology trend: I buried the lead.

Here’s what bothers me and what I don’t understand:

Why must the most intellectual and/or pompous atheists insist on a “scorched earth policy” in which the only good world is one without religion, whether formal and institutionalized or a more personalized spirituality?

I mean, really? These folks claim that religion hampers our progress.

Truly?

How?

Most of our technological and scientific and artistic outpourings have taken place in cultures in which religion was important. Even in these relatively secular days since the late 20th century, we still have an estimated 5 or 6 billion people out of around 7 billion who claim to have some kind of religious or spiritual belief. And yet we have these huge advances in genomics, information technology, energy, conservation, and more. Art continues to be put out, whether purile or thought-provoking, family friendly or aggressively provocative. Social advances continue.

Even with the most egregious example lately of religion and science butting heads, which would be the embryonic stem cell debate, religion stopped nothing. In fact, it hardly even put a dent in stem cell research, even with President George W. Bush backing it. In fact, that debacle, as embarrassing as I may consider it as a progressive Christian, ultimately forced researchers into a much better direction anyway, and one that is more practical long-term: figuring out how to make adult stem cells act more like embryonic ones so that they can be changed into any kind of cell in the body. Huge advances are being made there, and not an embryo in sight.

Where is this fantasy world that so many atheists concoct where they are persecuted and humanity is being held back in some primitive mode?

Because, frankly, science marches on, and so does everything else.

And oh, by the way, how about the large number of scientists who still believe in God? I’ve seen the figure at over 60% as recently as 2005. Just because some of the more notable ones with big book publishing deals like Stephen Hawking don’t believe in God doesn’t make it a universal belief.

Oh, yeah, I saw one guy dismiss that 60%+ figure by citing a survey of “leading scientists,” limiting the pool only to members of the National Academy of Sciences and ignoring the multitude of other scientists out there. (I guess by this guy’s standard, if anyone polls journalists about something, I can’t be included because I didn’t join a professional journalism society. So much for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and more than 20 years of experience…)

Science includes elements of faith. Faith can include elements of reason. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Moreover, if atheists are waiting for that magical utopia wherein there is no faith in higher powers, they are going to be waiting a long time. And when that time comes, if it ever does, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a world with just as much intolerance, just as much violence and just as much ignorance as we have throughout history so far.

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14 Responses to “Making the Change”


  1. April 1, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Just as Christians come in all flavors, atheists have as little in common with each other as do all people who DON’T collect stamps…Therefore, I can only speak for myself when I tell you why I believe the world would be better off without religion.

    It isn’t because religion makes people stupid. It doesn’t. People either are or are not stupid all on their own–and faith or lack thereof is not a prerequisite for stupidity.

    It isn’t even any of the other problems you mentioned that are often cited by atheists–although I agree that many of them are true.

    My problem–and the reason why I feel religion is dangerous–is with the concept of “faith” itself. Contrary to what you said in your post, science does not rely on “faith” in any way. Science depends on evidence. When that evidence is fool-proof and time-tested, science creates “certainty”. When the evidence is favorable, but not certain, science creates “belief”–subject to reversal upon the discovery of better evidence. “Faith”, however, is an entirely different animal. Faith is the higest degree of confidence in a concept with the lowest degree of evidence–that’s just what it is. And religion–ALL RELIGION–requires faith at it’s core. Faith is the surrender of reason. Notice I said reason and not intellgence. You can be smart and CHOOSE to surrender your reason. That is what religion asks of you. I believe that once a person agrees to surrender their reason, anything becomes possible. It is the surrender of reason–combined with the right dogma–that produces suicide bombers, abortion clinic assasins, “God Hates Fags” protests, witch trials, ethnic cleansing, crusades, martyrdom, and honor killings. It is the surrender of reason which causes us to have real arguments over whether evolution or young-earth creationism should be taught in schools. It is the surrender of reason that allows most of the man-made tragedy in the world. Religion doesn’t cause evil–but it teaches us how to create the state of mind that allows evil to creep in unnoticed.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    April 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    “Religion doesn’t cause evil–but it teaches us how to create the state of mind that allows evil to creep in unnoticed”

    And yet, how many other things allow evil to creep either unnoticed…or without undue concern?

    Military service requires discipline and obedience, often contrary to one might do left to one’s own devices. And thus many evil things have happened because of this construct. And yet the military is also capable of very good things.

    Some of the most insidious and abject evil has been in the pursuit of profit. And people under those circumstances often allow evil not only to creep in but throw the door open wide because evil might make them richer. And yet there are many good things about capitalism, too.

    It’s always the negatives of faith that get hyped up in these kinds of discussions. No one talks about unity of purpose toward good works. Nobody talks about the effort to understand one’s place in the universe or among one’s fellow humans. The schools and hospitals founded by religious institutions that to this day are shining lights don’t matter.

    And it’s so often couched as a “surrender” of reason. Like the brain is required to be checked at the door for faith to play a role.

    Science may rely on reason, but the PRODUCTS of science are in many cases things that can be misused terribly. And yet we don’t demonize science.

    But religion, which doesn’t produce any product that can destroy hundreds, thousands or millions at a stoke, is horrible because if its doctrine is misused, people might be mobilized to do harm.

    And I would also argue that the surrender of reason is NOT the source of MOST of the man-made tragedy in the world, as you claim. That is categorically untrue. Even when religion has been thrown over something to “justify” it, it was not the surrender of reason that caused the problems in most cases but the ability of people in power to force those underneath them into action or to drum up anger over the poor situations in which they live. Power and money are at the root of most evil in this world.

    Far more people have died because of fights over pieces of real estate or old grudges than have ever died over actual religious beliefs.

  3. April 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Deacon, I wonder how many of your readers scan quickly and missed, or stopped reading before they saw your dry and sad-sounding intro was an APRIL FOOL’S JOKE.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    April 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    LOL…probably not too many.

    At least not too many of my serious and/or loyal readers.

    Most would have been too curious to find out why the sudden change of heart, methinks.

    In any case, I like to think that even if I were to make sure a drastic change that most would stick around to see what happened to the blog.

    Now, if I had titled the post as I almost did (which very nearly was “This is it” or “The end has come”) it might have been assumed I was hanging up the blog too, and many might have bailed out early.

    But we shall see… 😉

  5. 5 societyvs
    April 3, 2010 at 12:42 am

    I agree with Deacon 100% on this topic. Faith is not the problem with the world. I also agree with the atheists – religion can allow for conduct of human behavior that is unethical. However, religion can also allow for someone poor to make decision to change their life to something absolutely useful for society (I am living proof of that).

    There is nothing wrong with having ‘faith’…everyone does it.

  6. April 3, 2010 at 10:37 am

    As I see it, faith is not the problem. Religion is. Religion is emphatic in stating it knows what the creator is or could be. Faith doesnt have to have that component. I beleive in intelligence at the roots of our world as we see it. I just dont have a religion to tell me what it is. In fact I think science will one day prove to the world what that intelligence is. In this instance I get the feeling that both religionists and atheists missed the boat completely.

  7. 7 Deacon Blue
    April 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I think we may substantially agree on this point, Tit for Tat.

    Not that ALL religion is bad, of course, but that it has a potentially for easily be turned to wrong ends in the wrong hands. Sadly, it often ends up in the wrong hands…or enough times in the wrong hands to be messed up. There are a number of religions that are pretty harmless or positive in terms of social impact, as well as many Christian denominations.

    But when the faith and precepts get too institutionalized, it becomes rigid dogma and that inflexibility is a problem, as well as a potential tool to motivate people wrongly.

    In the same vein, I don’t have a problem with ALL atheists or atheism…but rather the ones who adopt a very pompous, arrogant, dogmatic attitude that mirrors that of die-hard fundie religious types.

    For a variety of reasons I’ve gone into before, I still believe Jesus in the ultimate lynchpin of it all and the connection between the divine and carnal (for the residents of this planet, at least), but I DON’T believe that the Christian or Judaic faiths hold a lock on ALL faith insights and spiritual knowledge.

  8. April 3, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Deacon

    Go check out my latest post. I am curious what your answer will be. 🙂

  9. 9 Deacon Blue
    April 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Read it, and will comment as soon as I have a chance to give it the proper attention. 🙂

  10. 10 thewordofme
    April 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks Deacon

    The Muslim religion is gone…there is no hope for it while its adherents sit quietly by and condone the violence and death they create. So for that particular religion the world would be better off if it were canceled, shot down, outlawed. The world would have a few million more citizens in it if Muslim’s didn’t exist, and America would not have lost many precious sons and daughters. (and the American economy a few trillion dollars) For this religion, I wish that Satan did exist, as he could take all of them to hell and start the fires.

    The Jews all they want is to be left alone in their stolen land. That old story that ‘God’ gave them the land is of course bogus…there was just nowhere else to go.

    Ahh, the Christians. They have pretty much let go of the old Biblical lies. They mostly understand now that there are no demons or witches or angels or devils. They don’t try to round them up to execute anymore because secular government controls the theocratic nonsense. They now understand and know that most of the Bible is just mythical stories…to teach lessons of humanity.

    It was pretty close there when Bush II was in power; the right wing religious nuts almost took over the country for Jesus. People like the Bakers, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, Hal Lindsey, Joel Osteen, Orel and Richard Roberts, Pat Robertson, Robert Schuller, and Jimmy Swaggert wanted their brand of Christianity to rule over everyone and us to live by their rules. I know some of them are dead or not in favor anymore, but it is that kind of people who wanted it all, and almost got it.

    So even if the Christians are responsible for untold millions of deaths, those are in the past, and as long as we don’t let them achieve any governmental type powers anymore we should be safe from them. Just remember that in some Bible belt communities the peer pressure from them is ridiculous. 🙂

  11. April 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

    “Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith”

    For me personally, it’s much harder to live life without faith. I say this as someone who has been struggling to have faith, wanting to have faith for many years now. And feeling frustrated by my inability to reason everything out but unable to just believe.

  12. 12 Deacon Blue
    April 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    TWOM,

    I agree that there are strong (and sometimes scary) pockets of Christian fundamentalism. Texas frightens me, for example, in the way it cavalierly seems willing to throw religious content into secular schooling. I’ve never been one for instituting religious doctrine as the basis for laws, which is why I fully support same-sex marriage, among other things.

    I don’t know that I can agree with you about Islam, though. I don’t know that your blanket statement really speaks to the faith as a whole, nor its adherents. I suspect that you are operating from a place of fear of a group that your are observing through a lens that has been handed to you by the media and/or by people who’ve been touched by the negative aspects of Islam.

    Muslims constitute a rather huge bloc of religious people worldwide and if it were true that they truly condoned and supported violence, we would see a great deal more widespread violence than we have thus far. I don’t believe the the base of the adherents are supportive of this. And when you say they don’t speak out about it, I’m not sure where that feeling comes from. I have seen leaders and grassroots believers speak out against Islamic violence. It’s not as if fringe groups can be stopped by collective will…anymore than any fringe group can be stopped by complaints or proclamations, be they religious or political fringe groups.

    Chi-Chi,

    I think the challenge of searching out deeper answers is, while painful at times, one of the biggest indicators to me that it is worthwhile. 😉 I so distrust “answers” that come too easily… 😛

  13. 13 thewordofme
    April 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Deacon, I hope you and family are well.

    Got the following from the Pew Research people.

    All but a small number of scientists accept Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection; according to the 2009 Pew Research Center survey of scientists, 87% of scientists accept evolution through natural processes. But a complementary May 2009 Pew Research Center poll of public attitudes toward science shows that only 32% of the general public fully embraces Darwin’s theory. One-in-five (22%) believe that evolution has occurred but that it has been guided by a supreme being, and 31% contend that humans and other livings things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. (See Public Opinion on Religion and Science in the United States.)

    twom

  14. 14 Deacon Blue
    April 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    twom,

    Plenty of working class folks think that the Republicans in the United States are actually helping them, despite having stripped away almost everything from them.

    People continue to believe that Barack Obama hasn’t shown anyone his birth certificate, that he’s Muslim, that he’s a Socialist AND a Fascist (at the same time, somehow).

    Plenty of people think that gender behavior is all about environment, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

    I could go on.

    Plenty of stupidity.

    Thing is, plenty of Christians DO allow their faith to be hand-fed to them, and they don’t think about things nor challenge authority. So, 31%…doesn’t much surprise me. There are still large pockets of people in the U.S. who still don’t receive adequate (or any) education, which doesn’t help.

    As for the rest, I don’t see much difference between the 32% and the 22%…they both accept evolution. It’s just semantics about how it started.

    Again, I fully admit that organized religion can do some terrible things to people’s heads, especially in the wrong hands. My argument is more than faith itself, and belief in a higher power, is not something that equates to stupidity or ignorance.

    Those 31% who don’t believe in evolution at all are people who likely would believe a lot of other things that they were told by people in authority, even in the absence of religion.

    That’s my take, anyway.


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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