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I can accept that most people feel like there is something greater than them at work in the universe. Because you'd be an idiot to deny creation. We exist. Trees exist, frogs exist, little microbes that eat through your flesh if you are unlucky enough to come into contact with them... exist.
God. Its such a loaded word. I tried to explain to a friend one day how one can believe in a concept of a greater power without actually believing in a specific God.
Most people seem content to jump the gap from accepting a spiritual presence in the universe to buying into some pre-fabricated description of God offered up by one of the major world religions.
I used to call my self an atheist because, in my position, you have one of three choices:
I tried saying that I was agnostic. But people have an even less clear idea of agnosticism than they do of atheism. It seems that most people will assume that you're not sure about whether to believe in God or not. Then they take it upon themselves to educate you. But I didn't go through twelve years of Catholic schooling for nothing. I've given the subject lots of thought and I've come to some conclusions.
I consider most religious concepts of God to be hopelessly mired in our own human-ness to be true. Many portray God as some sort of busybody parental figure that wants us all to play a game wherein he'll send us cryptic messages in books for us to decipher so that we can figure out how to win and claim the prize : heaven. To lose means spending an eternity in torment. Very sadistic, and I find that way too depressing.
Religions are man-made institutions. The correlation between where you are born and what you believe are too strong to ignore. Most people never consciously choose their religion. They accept the one that they are raised to believe. If you are raised a Catholic, as I was, then you are taught to be a Catholic and most likely you will choose to be a Catholic when you are an adult, as opposed to say, being a Hindu, Muslim or Raelian.
Most religions seem to be successful because they pander to our basic human tendencies; tribalism and an innate sense of our own "specialness". I suppose a cynic might just say "What's the harm?" and go to church as a way to meet people, be a part of a community and make business contacts. But you do endorse a religion when you participate in it.
I do consider religion to be potentially dangerous. I find it humorous when people point out the millions that died under the tyranny of the Soviet Union as evidence that communism, as an ideal is bankrupt, but ignore the massive swaths of human dead and misery that religion has caused over the course of human history.
(For the record, I do think that communism is a flawed ideology.)
Religious fundamentalism can and has been a major obstacle to human progress. It violently rejects anything that calls into question their version of "The Truth." Hence any new observation that seems to challenge their belief must be denounced, sometimes with violence. Anyone that questions how ugly a world can be under religious fundamentalism need only look at how life was under the Taliban. I make no distinction between religions, fundamentalism in any form is dangerous.
Religion, as an element of human culture can be a beautiful thing. It inspires people to build beautiful buildings and create wonderful traditional ceremonies. It also inspires great works of art as well.
I was saddened when the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, not because I believe in Buddhism but because they were magnificent works of art and a part of human history. (you can see before and after pictures here
I don't want to rid the world of religion. That, in itself is a form of fanaticism. I would like to see the moderate voices of the religious communities gain dominance and I wouldn't mind if all forms of fundamentalism just quietly went away. I'm encouraged when people of different faiths can work together, find common ground and maybe, just maybe... accept that they can co-exist peacefully on this world together.
Religions are institutions designed to control people. This may be for good or ill but that is their purpose, and when viewed in such a way, make lots more sense. Thus it will always be that someone who wishes to control a population of people will try to use religion as their tool. I see no way around this, as long as religions continue to exist people will try to use them as political weapons. You need only take a broad view of current world events to see this in action. I find it ironic that in Iraq we hope that secularism wins out over fundamentalism while at the same time we see the ascendancy of religious fundamentalism in American politics.
There are lots of people out there that I see as being culturally religious. They get married in churches, they'll attend services on holidays and they'll "pray for you" when you're sick. But they're not true believers. They don't condemn people that choose not to follow the same faith and they may secretly find some of the required beliefs to be silly but they go along because its "what people do."
I'm not religious. I don't subscribe to any concept of God outside of a basic acceptance in my own existence and the existence of the world around me. If we are put on this Earth for a purpose, it must be to live our lives and not spend so much time trying to second guess it.
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Dissolve into Evergreens