My wife (a Taiwanese, Christian), my four-year-old daughter and I (an American, atheist) live in Taiwan. We were returning home on the subway in Taipei after a very pleasant dinner with my in-laws and began a quiet conversation about how attached my daughter has become to her grandfather. My father-in-law is now in his late seventies and his health is starting fail so I mentioned to my wife how difficult it will be for my daughter when he passes away. To this my wife replied “Yeah, it will be hard for her when Grandpa’s in heaven.”
No sooner had the words left her mouth when an older woman, probably in her sixties, who had been sitting on the seat next to me sprang up and began shouting at my wife “How do you know he will go to heaven? There is no god! It’s common sense! Are you stupid?” This not only brought the eyes and ears of everyone on the train onto us but also frightened my daughter. The lady kept yelling at us in broken English but we said nothing and when the train arrived at the next stop where we hurriedly exited and took the next train home.
What bothers me about this incident is not the rudeness or the verbal assault of the lady, but rather my own inability to argue in favor of religion or at least a respect and tolerance for others religious beliefs from the point of view of an atheist. I would love to hear back from like-minded people who have had similar experiences or have a good approach to the religious tolerance issue from an atheistic point of view.
Don't need to tell you this, but "their" god demanded sacrifices, animal and otherwise. Not exactly an animal rights type imaginary friend.
I have often thought that being a vegan is a natural for an atheist, (although I'm not a vegan). I admire you for your stance.
Clearly our cosmos doesn't care about pain and suffering. But humanity arose from the raw materials of the universe to care for, value, and cherish fellow sentient creatures and to at least conceive of preventing as much suffering as possible. The cosmos doesn't care about us, but we can care about each other and all creatures.
It's beyond me how your Christian "friend" thinks his/her "god" (who presumably created carnivores to devour each other and demanded living sacrifices) is in any way compatible with the sensitivity of a vegan lifestyle.
Of course the secret correspondent will never understand ANY of this and can only be ignored.
Your story reminds me of push-back I've experienced because of a social stance. For the past 50 years, what I've most stridently spoken and worked against is war. Often, those who have joined me held similar values specifically (at least in their minds) because of their deeply held religious beliefs. But almost always, those who opposed us did so because of their deeply held religious beliefs. That's no big surprise -- religion is, after all, basically tribalism codified. It was distressing to see some of my good friends who had stood with me against the war in Vietnam in 1968 advocate for war in the Middle East 35 years later, and downright frightening that they did so for biblical prophesy reasons.
On one hand, religion implies conservative values -- resistance to change. On another hand (there are usually more than two), it justifies in the minds of believers radical action (Jesus, if he existed, seems to have been a political radical). And so religion can be made to fit whatever you want to believe. We atheists are often accused of moral relativism (as if that's a crime), but religion seems to be the ultimate relativism (which, of course, is a oxymoron). Its adherents claim access to absolute Truth while carefully selecting which bits of that truth to embrace. Even a fundamentalist biblical literalist today wouldn't condone stoning to death an adulterer or a neighbor caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath unless they're just insane (also a relative term taken in cultural context). Even courts in Utah have ruled that murder carried out in strict accordance to Mormon doctrine is criminal, and that such inflexible religiosity qualifies as insanity. The part left undefined is the line between insanity and every day religiosity. It can't be defined because there is no clear line. Anyone who is religious is a little bit insane, but you can't just lock them all up. If you did, the US Southeast would be the world's largest gulag.
Those who are most devout, if they can't bring themselves to fly airplanes into buildings or bomb abortion clinics or blow themselves up on buses, elect political representatives who they expect to promote their version of jihad on the world stage -- presidents who will try to convince foreign leaders that they are engaging in a biblical struggle between Gog & Magog -- good and evil in some imagined absolute sense (see G.W. Bush addressing Jaques Chirac in 2002). These are real people who, in the crazy context of today, are seen as religious "moderates" while they incite actions that kill tens of thousands of people.
A plurality of my neighbors and some of my friends make voting decisions based on what their Southern Baptist minister advises or commands. They think that they are being "Godly" when they support Israel even to the extent of causing war that, after all, is fulfillment of biblical prophesy. We may well go to war with Iran if these people persevere in Congress, and they might. They wield the power of the ignorant and devout (as well as cynical profiteers) and hold by the economic short hairs the most awesome military force in the history of humanity. We could start WWIII for no better reason than Lindsey Graham or John McCain needing to survive a primary challenge in their gerrymandered districts by evangelical Tea Partiers or their need for AIPAC support.
So called religious moderates, who we are supposed to tolerate, are the foundation upon which extremism rests and builds. A moderate (in context) Taliban enabled (with US, British and Saudi help) the rise of al Qaeda. Eric Rudolph was a member in good standing with his church, as was Adolph Hitler (who the Catholic Church never excommunicated, though they did one of his lieutenants for the unforgivable sin of marrying a Protestant).
Religion is poison -- a poison that has apparently conferred evolutionary benefit, else it wouldn't be here to such large extent. Some populations carry the sickle cell gene that imbues them with some immunity to malaria where that is common, but leaves them exposed to a fatal blood disorder. My sister died at 19 from that disorder even though she lived in Appalachia where malaria is not a problem. We in the "western world" live where tribalism is no longer seen as a problem, but still we carry the religious meme crafted by evolution, even though it infers susceptibility to societal death when it arises unbidden.
It doesn't sound like this person was condemning you, just trying to propagate their beliefs.
An odd collection of thoughts, Dogly. Reminds me of a person who was schizophrenic I worked with at Eastern State Hospital, a mental psychiatric hospital,. She wrote in a style known as free-flow*, in which many ideas came into her head from many different sources and the mixture had no theme, no point, it just wandered from thought to thought. The ideas connected for her but to the staff, it was called “dyslogic”. I took the few quotes you included in this comment and looked for the theme.
*(not the same “flow” as in Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”)
I took the few quotes you included in this comment and looked for the theme:
"Ever ready for a fight, Smug for the cameras, Pride in her eyes......."
"So I asked myself What would God think"
Followed by a new age christian mix of dogma and woo, from creationist to the "Law of Attraction".
It ends by telling me that any good and useful thing I've done in my life (65 years of it!) is really just God speaking through me, "with my every nod”.
My impression is this writer is a person who has many themes running through his/her head, disjointed, a thought disorder that reveals disorganized thinking as revealed through disorganized speech. In the jargon of psychology, it involves thought disorders including “derailment, poverty of speech, tangentiality, illogicality, perseveration, neologism, and thought blocking.”
~ Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_disorder
There are several possibilities in how to interpret his/her motive for writing this:
*as a free-flow of thought of a person overwhelmed by thoughts, creating dyslogic thinking;
*as a criticism, poorly organized, and which may contain a grain of truth useful to consider;
*as a thought disorder that is a presenting symptom of a psychotic mental illness.
Thank you, Joan! Your writing never has a wasted word, or murky thought.
Now, I know what perseveration means! Psychiatry. the pathological, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act, often associated with brain damage or schizophrenia.
I suspect that the old lady must have become an atheist as a result of some frustration or tragedy. It is unusual even for a hard atheist to be aroused to such anger because some stranger is a believer.
I don’t have my own family anymore. I’m an older guy and my family was all Mennonite . . . German, Volga Deutsch . . .about as distant a group of people as imaginable, and definitely not evangelical.
Never talked religion.
It was assumed, and it was lived in lives of towering decency.
My wife’s family . . .also Kansas Christians (Protestants) don’t talk about religion either. They don’t talk about politics. If they talk at all they talk about their clothes, cars, shopping, eating, TV shows, no music, no art, it’s hard to get a sentence out of them about their jobs. It’s mind numbing. I’m surprised to hear about people who talk about religion, or even bring it up.
It’s not part of my experience.
I don’t know if I’m lucky or the rest of you are.
You are Asa. We have a rule, my siblings and I, they are all fundies, we don't discuss religion or politics.
This is a cut and paste repost of my position on religion and holidays but I hope it helps you out
it sounds to me like your making a very simple mistake. You assume all religions are bad, probably because you have only been exposed to Abrahamic religions. I doubt you will ever get into a fight with a Taoist or a budhist over there beliefs. The belief that there is more out there than man and that we need to explore our spiritual and emotional selves was what led to the golden age of science and reason in 800 BC. It has lead to every major philosophical discovery mankind has ever made, and lead to the creation of every thing from physics, democracy and the scientific method.
Its not religion thats bad, its unnatural religions that most athiests and humanists find disturbing. The difference being that Unnatural religions believe god created the universe and so every thing is a product of his will. natural religions believe that god is a product of the universe. The god of the christians, jews and muslims, is an "unnatural" religion and tells people that they exist to please some supernatural force and that they need to abide by the rules he has set forth. It stymies social and scientific progression of humanity. If you take something like the Hellenic, ancient egyptian, ancient persian religions where there gods are the embodiment of basic characteristics of the universe you get something much different. In religions such as these the quest to understand "God" is the quest to understand the universe. This is why cultures with natural religions where able to make such incredible scientific and social achievements, and why there extermination led to what we now call the dark age of man.
The best and most obvious example I can give is the story of Prometheus, when he gave man fire (IE man discovered fire) the gods where diminished, thats why they got so mad. They didnt punish man for that, it wasnt there place to punish man but they did understand that the more man learned the less they would be needed, and the less influence they would have over man. It was understood by many ancient cultures that the greater man grew the less power the gods would have over them.
This also gave rise to humanism, the idea that it is mans obligation to become as perfect or as close to perfect as he could be so he could help elevate his fellow men. It wasnt a contest between men and gods, it was the natural order of things that men would rise to replace the gods, just as the gods replaced the titans, and the titans replaced the primordial essences of the universe. These were religions that pushed man into exploring the universe and bettering himself rather than tried to control him.
so no, religion is not bad, it is not for every one, but it is not bad. However any religion that tries to control or supress humanity is a bad thing. So some gods are bad, some are not, some are just concepts given human form. To lump all religion together as bad is as silly as lumping all religions together as good.
Another point I want to make is that holidays are good, religious or otherwise, people need a reason to get together with there loved ones and celebrate. As an athiest and a humanist, I dont want to see the end of religion, I understand that some people need religion, not every one is strong enough to face the universe alone, and the thought of an afterlife is a necessary comfort for some people. I would however like to see the end of religions with the goal of controlling mankind.
I think the sense of wonder and the realization that we are part and family of everything - it might be taught by a religion but you can also find it in science, friends, animals, in almost everything we experience.
And I've known many xtians who were terrified of the afterlife, scared to death because their loving god would judge them. It's not much of a comfort.