Lately, I’ve been looking away from and outside of the religion I grew up in. The view doesn’t seem especially encouraging.
I have been thinking that perhaps the religion I grew up in was a fabrication. I have been studying myths and their origins, and have been wondering if all religions are perhaps fabrications. They are very odd creature. They seem to grow and change like living creatures. Evolving, I guess.
God, as I understood him, is a fiction we wrote. So I suppose that makes me an atheist?
But when I read about atheism and atheists, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. Things like Elevatorgate. And the issues that followed.
Or rape culture. You can look up stuff about that on your own. Its easy.
I don’t know what my ultimate take away is on all that. But I was slowly waking up to the fact that there was misogyny woven into the fabric of my culture. Just in time to find misogyny woven in to the fabric of opposing cultures as well.
And then there are the problems of the Gulag. And the fact that massacres have been committed (directly or indirectly) in countries where atheism was the dominant worldview just as easily and frivolously as witch hunts and crusades were carried out in areas where religion was the dominant narrative.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Albania (communist albania section)
http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0273.html (from what I have read of the first hand accounts, this seems pretty accurate)
It seems to me that there is no escape- no instant salvation if you say a prayer, join a group and just add water. You can’t leave that ‘evil’ religion behind, and suddenly be inducted into a magical land of ‘good’ atheism. Maybe you can and I’m just too depressed about my former religion to see it- but I’m too depressed about my former religion to see it.
I’ve been turning over two possible thoughts.
The first is that- perhaps there is a difference between atheism and humanism. Humanism is something I am just beginning to look into. I can’t claim to know much about it. Here’s an interesting article.
“What then is the humanism that Said wishes to not have thrown out with the bathwater of discredited colonial or racist projects? For him, ‘the core of humanism is the secular notion that the historical world is made by men and women, and not by God and that it can be understood rationally … Or to put it differently, we can really only know what we make.'”
– Priyamvada Gopal
If this is the definition of humanism, it looks like it has more potential than atheism. The word atheism itself is a negative definition. The atheists I have read so far believe in human evolution, the non-intelligently designed nature of the universe and seem proud of the fact that they have used logic to puzzle this out. Their science has been untainted by myth. As far as it goes, it seems their facts are correct.
But how far is the mere disowning of an Imaginary Father going to take us?
Is it possible to define ourselves by what we do believe in? Are we allowed to believe in ourselves?
If there is no God. And we are what has existed the whole time. And we are the people who are creating and have created our subjective experience of human history.
Shouldn’t we crown ourselves emperor?
There is so much we left undone because we had left it in the mighty hands of The Imaginary.
And here, all along, we were the Imaginers.
I don’t know where this leaves me on the subject of religion.
If evolution- guided by survival and survival only- really is what produced us- it seems to have produced in us a deeply felt need for religion. If science has replaced religion, wouldn’t religion now be dying away- withering like a vestigial organ? But it does not seem to be doing so. So perhaps religion was not a primitive and now-outmoded form of science in the first place. And if religion hasn’t been functioning as an accurate/inaccurate scientific map of reality- it has certainly been filling some function.
Given the sway religion has over our world, I would guess the unknown function that religion fills has not withered away either.
Should we affirm ourselves and try to discover and meet our needs, even in our ignorance?
Or should we try to remove this organ- assuming that, since we don’t know its function, it clearly doesn’t have one…?
I am as wary of atheism as I am of theism. I believe that it is necessary- it is a statement of the facts as, it now seems to me, they are. But it isn’t a statement of all the facts.
This… this… humanism… is not a position that appeals to me. In the days of My Faithfulness, this seemed to me the most unattractive of all opposing view points. I was used to the emotional thrill ride of a god who could order the complete massacre of your race one day, and declare his passionate devotion the next (Exodus 32: 7-14), so perhaps this was simply a matter of emotional education. In my increasing discontent with the Elohim- YHWH- The One, atheism now appeals to me: as a way to declare a personal vendetta against Him. This, sadly, is rather irrational.
Humanism, as defined above, seems fairly sane.
This brings me to my second thought.
“Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes…. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations…. Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Chapter 4, p. 173
Without evildoers, there would have been no Archipelago- but without an ideology what would there have been?
What if we decided that no theory or religion was ever more important than the lives of our fellow travelers in this world- our brothers and sisters?