Sunday, September 8, 2013
Arguing about religion
To me the real issue is whether people can construct a way to live ethically sans religion. Absent that, it's easy to see how someone religious would feel like attacks on religion are trying to pull the rug out from under him, leaving him with a meaningless, foundation-less existence if he loses his religion.
This is why an avowed atheist can't get elected President in America, and public opinion polls back this up--atheists are generally despised and distrusted by a big majority of Americans. They see atheism as the negation of all they hold dear.
Of course the very word--"atheist"--conveys negation. All it describes is what one doesn't believe, not what one does believe. So it's easy to see why the average American would think that atheists believe nothing.
Past that it's tough to describe to a religious person how one's life is organized--other than as a sociopath--if one is not religious. Most religious people believe that only religious people have the feelings of care for others, of empathy, of kindness that they and their co-believers claim exclusive possession of.
For me a person's stated beliefs are only meaningful as I see them acted on in our day to day existence. What you do is who you are no matter what you say.
So if someone's a jerk, whether they're a Catholic jerk or a Methodist jerk or a Zoroastrian jerk or an atheistic jerk, what I care about is their being a jerk. Ditto if they're nice guys, if they're interesting to be around, if their word turns out to mean something.
Your beliefs are your business. Your actions are society's business. I will infer your real beliefs from your real actions, and that's what I'll go on.