I Apologize, but I Couldn’t Resist Talking About Religion (Part I)

PART I

Introduction

I’d prefer to limit the religious screeds on this site. Really, I would. Or at least I’d like to think I would. I like to think of myself as a live and let live type, that most people’s opinions would seem reasonable if you could see them through the lenses of their experiences and emotions. But I also live in a part of the country where I have the privilege of hearing blowhards at work spout their religious views all the livelong day, often taking it for granted that their entire audience agrees with them 100% and it’s just those crazy, nasty, drug-addled city dwellers on the coasts that would be crazy, nasty and drug-addled enough to think anything else. Being non-confrontational, I rarely say anything even when I have serious problems with what they say, which is all to say I need to vent this somewhere.

See, I’m an agnostic. What that means is I find the existence of any particular god unproven, although I also consider it likely something out there we might call a “god” exists, but I take no final stance on what it is and would guess that it’s likely as beyond our comprehension as poetry to a butterfly. For people who actually know what an agnostic is (which is depressingly rare), it is a common misconception that an agnostic considers all possibilities regarding the true nature of reality to be equally likely. In other words, that Christianity is as likely to be true as Hinduism, or that ancient Greco-paganism (Zeus and friends) is as likely to be true as Islam. This isn’t my position at all. In fact, though I don’t like being identified as an atheist because it’s a common misconception (even among the non-religious) that atheists are all certain God does not exist (i.e. a hard atheist), I identify with them primarily because we both find the religions of Earth highly improbable.

Now, while I admit that I cannot know for certain that Christianity is false and that the Christian god Jehovah does not exist, I consider the truth of Christianity extremely unlikely. People who criticize my position often ask how I can think that humans don’t know the nature of the Universe but also have an opinion about the nature of the Universe, namely that humans are full of shit. My answer is simple. It’s the same way I can think my foil hat-wearing neighbor with his alien abduction story is full of shit without actually knowing whether or not aliens exist. It’s the same way I can be skeptical of him despite thinking that there probably is something out there but we just don’t know what it is, and further, that the true nature of extraterrestrial life is more incredible than we could ever imagine.

See, a claim itself is no proof of the claim, nor is the inability to completely disprove the claim. My neighbor makes shit up all the time, things I have verifiable proof are false. He’s also schizophrenic and prone to believing crazy theories. Not only that, his family says they were in the same house the whole night in question and saw nothing out of the ordinary. This argument against agnosticism is basically a restatement of the well worn idea that the inability to disprove the existence of God is somehow proof of the existence of God. Lack of evidence against is not evidence for. Just because I can’t tell you for certain the composition of the core of the planet Mercury doesn’t mean I can have no opinion on the subject, nor that I must accept your belief that it is made out of blue cheese as a valid, legitimate opinion.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I have issues with religion, Christianity most of all. This isn’t because I think Christianity is particularly bad or deserves any more criticism than any other major religion on this planet. In fact, I actually admire many aspects of Christianity, or at least I admire the philosophy of kindness, forgiveness, charity and mercy that Jesus Christ supposedly taught. I focus on Christianity only because it’s by far the most common religion in my nation. I was made a Christian as a child. I have identified as a Christian. I have been friends with Christians. I am friends with Christians. I have dated Christians. I have had premarital sex with Christians. I have no such familiarity with any other religion.

And that’s just it: the familiarity. Most people don’t really follow Christianity (or any religion for that matter) as a philosophy of kindness towards others, as it’s ostensibly designed to be. They follow as members of a geographical team, like Red Sox fans. They follow it because they were born in a Christian nation and raised as Christianity fans. This is no reason to believe in a philosophy or a theology. It’s tribalism, pure and simple. It’s us and them, my team and yours. But more on that later.

My issues with the truth of Christianity essentially fall into three categories: (1) the philosophical, (2) the evidentiary and (3) the psychological/anthropological. That is to say I find Christianity improbable because of (1) what it says, (2) the lack of reliable evidence for its claims and (3) the minds, tendencies and histories of human beings in general.

In the interest of keeping these posts to single servings I’m just going to deal with one issue at a time. In any case, most of the time people find this sort of thing is either horribly offensive or preaching to the choir. In the unlikely event you are on the fence about this sort of thing, I salute you. God bless.

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