Saturday, July 26, 2014

Glad I once believed. Kinda.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post where I expressed some sympathy for pastors who are finding that it's tough to get a full-time job in the ministry. If don't know me, and you've never read my blog before, some people might find that surprising because I'm a bit of an outspoken atheist. You don't need to dig too far into my blog to find criticisms of religion and religious belief.

However, and even though I probably don't write about this enough, I do try to distinguish between belief and believer. I don't think that believers are idiots (not any more than any other group of people) and I certainly don't think that they're all malicious (although some people in positions of leadership certainly are).

I didn't get the sense that every atheist feels this way, as I got some of the following comments on Google+:
I don't feel bad. They should've known better than to waste their time on a fairy tale.  
It's like feeling sympathy for a nice confederate soldier or a nice nazi.  
Honestly standing around talking from the text book of religion does not seem that hard.
I'm not in agreement with these sentiments. (Actually, I kinda do feel some sympathy for some Confederate soldiers and a lot of the people who joined the Nazi party - definitely not the higher-ups, but those on the lower levels. Considering that my grandfather was a member, and I probably would have been one too had I been in his shoes, it's not so hard to see why. Anyway, that's a separate point. Click on the link to read my thoughts on that.) I think it's kinda ignorant to reduce what pastors do to "standing around talking" when many of them work for noble, charitable causes, and counsel their church members when they're going through rough times.

And yes, I'm aware that there are pastors out there who are greedy, hypocritical, leeches on society. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the kinds of pastors who find those guys just as appalling as any atheist does.

Basically, after reading those statements, I felt like I should have ended my blog post, where I addressed struggling pastors, as follows (new part in bold):
If, for some reason, you figure that being a pastor just isn't going to happen in this increasingly secular world, I just want you to know that not all of us nonbelievers out there are going to rub salt in your wounds. I'm on your side because you're a fellow human being, and I want to see you use your talents toward making this world a better place. Be warned though that some of us are very eager to kick you in the nuts while you're down in the fetal position.
On the comments section, there was one person who was a bit more charitable and on the same side as me. This person was raised as a Mormon. I don't know about those who were less sympathetic, but I have a feeling that they likely might not have been raised to believe in religion.

While many people go through a bit of an "angry atheist" phase after losing their religious faith, eventually many of us start to settle down and be a little more realistic about our own deconversion. I've said this before, but I don't think that the reason why I deconverted was because I suddenly got smarter. Perhaps I could say that I got a bit more honest about my feelings, and I started to care more about what was true rather than what I wanted to be true, but intelligence had nothing to do with it.

I suppose that this is why I have some sympathy for these struggling pastors. I strongly disagree with the supernatural aspect of what they want to teach, but when I talk to a guy who's working toward stopping child prostitution, I don't feel like this is a guy who's against what I want for the world.

I guess in a strange way I'm happy that I was raised with religious belief because it gives me a bit more empathy toward believers than I might have had originally. I don't think it's such an advantage that I plan on teaching my son to believe in a religious faith just so he can know what it feels like, but I'll try my best to relate to him what it was like for me so he can not feel like religious people are "The Other".

I wrote before about why I don't like tribalism, and I've realized that one of my biggest issues with religion is that it's a form of tribalism. By its nature, it creates an artificial and unnecessary boundary between human beings. Getting away from religious faith was a nice way of getting away from that. Unfortunately, atheists aren't immune to this sort of a thing either.

And just like I wrote in my last post, this is why I find myself gravitating to the idea of humanism. It's kinda the un-tribal tribe, as by its very name it includes all of humanity in what's important. We might have to rethink it if we make contact with an intelligent alien species, but until then it's pretty good.

Being an atheist isn't really much of a thing unto itself, as it just answers one question about one belief. I don't want to see it become its own tribe.

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