Of late, I find myself in very reflective moods. Looking back over past events, present events, my current opinions of the world, and the often contrary opinions of others. The world is an angry place it seems to me. Offence is easily found, frequently given, and deliberately contrived in some circumstances. Extreme ego and over sensitivity in abundance. That is not to say that there isn’t kindness and joy to be found, it just seems a little muted in the noise of everything else.
I am fortunate in that many of my close friendships are largely positive ones, or at the very least, a little distant. I don’t seem to have many extremely angry individuals. Maybe that is a case of judicial subconscious vetting on my part, or that I tend to avoid such environments thus never be in a situation where such connections can occur. So when I make my observations, it is more often than not from an emotional distance from the people involved.
Something that seems to be big news these days, and by big I mean overwhelmingly dominating, is religion and politics; two of the three things you should never argue with, the third being a woman… ever. 😉
Politics is understandable given the circus going on both in my home country, and in America. Religion is also understandable, considering it is currently being blamed as the source of frightening acts of terrorism. Let me state right now that I do not see religion as being the source of terrorism. Terrorism is the act of an individual or group, regardless of their associated faith, political leanings, race, etc that choose to incite terror and harm to others in order to achieve political, ideological or religious based aims. In short, a person is a terrorist, not an ideology.
Now, as I have stated before in a previous blog, I am not religious. Nor am I someone who once was religious and has since “lost faith.” I have never had, nor needed faith of this sort. And to be honest, I have only recently become aware of the pervasiveness of faith in society. It has simply not been a “something” in my life.
To put this in perspective (hopefully), imagine an orchard which has trees of many different kinds. Each produces different fruits and there are lots of them. Some are variations of a single type, other are completely different. All these different fruits represent the many different religions, and their numerous variations in the world today.
Then imagine a person born so far from this orchard as to be unaware of its existence. The fruits that come from this orchard have never been seen by this person. They grow up without knowing of them, or to taste them, but they have seen others who have eaten the fruits of the orchard. Because he is unaware of the fruits, and only sees the people, he learns only that people are different and varied, and their thoughts and actions were often confusing.
Being unaware of the existence of the fruits of religion, they lived their life without any fruit and where therefore unfamiliar with the various flavours, both sweet and bitter. I’ll equate this to morals and ethics. They learnt about morals and ethics by observing others, advice from anonymous figures of authority, and through personal experiences. I say anonymous figures of authority to denote non-ideological associations. Teachers, parents, the law… absent of religious motivations.
This person would be me, essentially, until recently when I began to take a little more notice of the beliefs of others. Unaware and unaffected. I was simply oblivious of the depths that theism went to, and only observed the superficial effects it had. I learned more about being a “good” person by observing the behaviour of others than through any instruction during my youth.
So when I say I don’t believe in God, or Gods, what I’m really saying is that I have never had a need for such ideas. It is the canvas that was never offered, the basket never needed. In computing, there is the concept of the null data set, which means the completely empty set. It is not zero, nor negative. It is simply not anything at all.
And I’ll tell you what I have learnt most of all; kindness, aggression, love, hate, compassion, and insolence are not beholden to any religion, race, gender, or ideological definition. These are all personal attributes. What makes you a good person has very little to do with your faith or outlook on life. It has a lot to do with the choices you make as a person, and the actions that come from those choices.
People are the same no matter what they believe, in that we are all different in what we choose, or not, to believe, and how that belief, or absence of, guides our actions in different ways.
I have met self-confessed religious people whom have demonstrated more scientific appreciation than certain atheists, and atheists that exhibit stronger religious like fervour in their arguments than some strongly religious individuals. I have witnessed the opposite as well. Extreme religious people whose staunch beliefs are unassailable and are quick to aggressively defend their faith, and atheists who are quietly assured in their place in the world.
What I am saying is that a religious belief or lack-there-of cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual. It can be used to “excuse” the choices that people make, where-in lies the danger, on both sides. When faith, or the lack of faith, is wielded as a weapon, as a reason to commit deplorable acts, well that is morally wrong is it not? Anyone can see that.
I once believed that we all need something to believe, have faith, or to trust in because it seemed like everyone around me did, and I occasionally questioned why I did not. These days, I no longer feel that this is entirely true. We are told that we need to believe in something… Except I never was, and don’t feel I need to now. I don’t have faith in anything, believe in anything. I read, question, reason, and trust in the work of many before whom have refined and revised ideas about the universe we exist in. I trust in the repetition of testing, and in the observable interactions.
I’m not sure I am a modern atheist either. I certainly fit the accepted and original definition, but the modern usage seems to have changed. Just like the term feminism started as a call for gender equality, today it is used more to highlight extreme women rights movements. It is used as a term of negativity when its concept was one of neutrality. The modern usage does not match the definition. It seems to me that a modern atheist is one who not only does not have faith, but also opposes faith.
I feel that where I stand is something different. I have no need for faith in a religion and I do not oppose the right for another to choose faith. I do not see faith as a problem, only the people that use it immorally. I see humanity as simply different people finding different ways to get through life. Some choose kinder paths than others, and it is the choices we make that heal or destroy.
I have no name for what I am. I am just me.