(This is meant to provoke a philosophical discussion, not a religious one.)
Everyone these days speaks ill of religion, repeating the exact same arguments that were once en vogue in 18th
century France or nineteenth century Russia. We’ve heard it all before, and like any monotony continuously repeating its own song, the results are
tiring. Assuming we are unable to rid humanity of our religious needs, evidenced by the failed attempts of the 20th century, it might be good time to
change religion instead of eradicating it.
Dear atheists, yes, yes, I understand. Your fate has born you into a precarious circumstance—an environment of religion. Though you were much a part
of this environment for some a part of your life, your relation to it was, and perhaps still is, fundamental; this much we know for sure. Wherever
there is a saturation of one religion, the inherent risks both personal and tribal in suddenly contrasting with this environment is lofty, and likely
dangerous—ostracism, loss of faith, mistrust and the blinding discovery that one has lived a lie certainly has serious consequences for anyone.
Since you claim the label, you are still in relation to religion varying only in context and proximity to it, and define yourself as still in relation
to it by asserting your atheism, always quick to provide what that entails and the proper definition, a definition which still no less contains the
very thing you can’t help being atheist about—another’s beliefs, and not your own. And anytime you see or hear even the mention of
religion—for instance in the title of a lowly thread—you come quickly running, ready with indignation and a repertoire of pre-conceived, and not
to mention entirely overplayed, series of arguments. In doing so, you embody and act out the idea of the unbeliever as defined by religion, as an
enemy, and give their doctrines credence, for it was always the religious who condemned others as unbelievers. Anyone who considers herself a
non-believer in this way always does so in relation to what she doesn’t believe, defined not by any one definition, but by a relationship, a
connection; not as its opposite, but as its other end.
Let’s beware of approaching the subject of religion from inside of it. How else can we pick her up, dust her off and carry her to her new
About religion...what is there to not believe in? and to spend precious time not believing in it? A book? A fable? A lullaby? The stories of men? Oh,
“a god”, you say. Well, if only there was a god to not believe in, I might understand your irony. It almost looks as if you need to beat away this
god idea like it was a mosquito, for fear that it might once again come back to bite you. Although I would argue that gods and deities are at least
interesting tropes, maybe you might do away with it altogether one day. Rather, I like books, fables, lullabies and the stories of men. I believe and
have sincere faith in these artifacts and those who build them, not only because of what they are, but because of their possibilities. Religion, too,
is a possibility, and I foresee a time where people regard life, the earth and themselves as they now do death, spirits and gods. Is it still
unfashionable to have hope?
I respect any sort of advance in literature and philosophy, and the writers of religious doctrines were simply the literati of their age. Based on
this aesthetic, I prefer the story of the old testament to the new, which seems to me a little too nihilistic in the way it speaks of the body, the
earth and the earthly, so much so that one turns away from them to hide in a monastery where he can flagellate himself into chastity and fasting.
It’s slavishness is somewhat embarrassing, and there is not much with which I could relate. However, there was one profound moment I had when
reading it, and finally a character who seemed interesting enough—Pontius Pilate, the only person to have truly faced reality in the whole story;
the only one who had a grasp on what was real, while the madness and delusion of mobs broke out right in front of him. This may be too Nietzschean of
an idea, but he was beyond religion, outside of it, facing the gravity and reality of the spectacle of men from a view outside and much higher,
proving once and for all who really determines man’s future. When Jesus asserted his authority in the dealings of truth, Pilate asked, “Quid
est veritas?”. In not answering, Jesus finally spoke the truth. An important parable—philosophy as the praetor of religion.
My friend, allow me a moment with my vanities. Atheism was never an event or necessity in my life. There was nothing there to not believe in. My
relationship to religion was always positive. Though I am a more domesticated animal these days, I consider myself well-travelled, and have played the
spectator and guest of many different religions throughout many different cultures. Like any spectacle, I take part in the ceremony and ritual any
moment I can for the sake of experiencing it, not only because I am learning about the people I am doing it with, but by doing so I fundamentally
“Look there, an outsider, one who could easily be an infidel, an atheist, an unbeliever, a nāstika, but who does not seem to embody any of
these distinctions; someone taller and of a stranger color then the rest, different than us, unable to speak the language but no less trying (perhaps
too hard), wearing the outfit and losing himself in something meaningful to his hosts, obscenely vulnerable, but intent, curious, mindful, enjoying
himself, and best of all, smiling and laughing with the people around him while the children watch and thus play.” The assumptions a label elicits
slips away and humanity reveals itself.
Indignation, scorn, and mockery towards religion only breeds new religions. Buddhism out of an indignation towards Brahmanism; Christianity out of an
indignation towards Judaism and a motley of Roman piety; Protestantism out of Catholicism; and so on. Where the State has replaced gods, the task is
These belief systems seem to function in a myriad of ways: as a standard people may live by, or to ease the suffering of groundlessness for those not
light enough to float on their own thoughts, as a moral code, as a template for thinking, or in countless more evolutionary, biological and
psychological aspects. In other words, there is no one function or purpose to it. It is an emergent artifact. It’s growth is that of a tree, its
unity fracturing not unlike its branches, a fractal that has roots in our communal garden. Only a religion can replace a religion, and one born in
contrast and indignation towards the one before it does its origins, and thus itself, injustice. Concretely, religion is shaped exactly like human
bodies, behavior and evolution; it is shaped exactly like language, manifested in books, art, performance, architecture and the chaos of population
growth. We can go watch it, take part in it, change and influence it, but it is not going anywhere. To the philosopher who unfetters himself from this
entire human artifact and its affairs, able to view it from within, without, beneath and above, insert gardner analogy here, and only by being the
herald of religion can we direct it where we wish.