reply to post by Astyanax
It's a dicey one, isn't it? I wish I could say my own position was as saintly as Benevolent Heretic's. Sadly, mine is a bit more...
It's also more humble, more thoughtful and more believable.
Most of the time, because of this, a person's religious beliefs or lack of them will not be a factor in compelling either my respect or my
contempt. Honour, justice, courage, courtesy, commitment, decency, humour, forethought, competence... these are some of the qualities that earn my
respect – earn anybody's respect. There are many more, and neither believers nor infidels have any monopoly on them.
It seems to me these qualities come from within a person, from their experience, the thought-habits they have built up, from their choosing of role
models and, if animal breeding is anything to go by, their inherited character.
Religion may give a person impetus to act well, but only if they are that way inclined. With the huge variety of stories in the bible, anyone can find
support for their chosen way of life. However, as the writing of some Jewish Rabbis has illustrated, and the Catholic church has shown, it's
particularly easy to use the old testament to justify genocide. And uncounted numbers of gays and old wise women have been hated, hounded and murdered
because of Christianity.
If one had to choose which one book had done the most harm in the history of mankind, it would have to be a book that I have loved dearly, the Old
Testament. Ok, I know it's a collection of books, but it's generally published as one.
Anyway, this is why I could not continue to claim membership of a religion which claimed members were superior or more favoured by god than other
people. I could not believe in a petty, vengeful god who would, in judging humans, act with far more evil than any human is capable of. We would abhor
any man who fathered a bunch of kids, left them to their own devices so that many forgot about him, then came back and threw the forgetting ones into
a huge fire, for ever, for not having worshipped him while he was away. Yet people pride themselves in bowing down to this ugly human invention.
I still believe in god, because of personal experiences, but the god I believe in prefers honesty to belief, and respects a person who admits to being
atheist or agnostic rather than convincing themselves of a belief because it's the done thing, or as an insurance policy against a possible hell.
It's an admirable thing to go it alone, throwing away the crutches of belief, and strengthening your character by relying on what is within, rather
than on something this world cannot measure.
It's the people who put their faith in their own selves, the people around them and in hard work and science who will one day enable limbs to regrow.
There is also the vexed question of people who believe in fundamentally ridiculous things, such as astrology or the Law of Attraction.
Many years ago I was given my first bicycle, and my older brothers had fun teaching me every bit of bullcrap they could about bikes. Amongst other
things, they taught me you mustn't let a bike touch the ground if it has a flat tire.
One morning I slept in and missed the school bus, so rode my bike the 10 miles to school instead. - Well I tried to. I got three flat tyres on the
way, and only was able to replace the first two, so I picked up my bike and carried it the rest of the way to school. When I arrived the first class
was 3/4 through, so I went to the library and read the paper. Aries for that date said "You will be off to a late start but your cycle will pick up
later in the day. You will encounter difficulties due to your retiring nature and should not expect to be able to fix the whole problem on your own."
Now you have to admit that was pretty spot on.
A book detailing the worst aspects of the various star signs nearly had me sold on astrology, because I fitted its description of Aries to a tee.
However my children, reading through it, helpfully pointed out that I fitted all eleven other character-assassinating descriptions perfectly too.