This came across my iPhone’s newsfeed this morning:Bear in mind that I’m an atheist, but when I saw this headline, all I could think of was, “God help us.”
Mel, over at Crushed Caramel, wanted to know what we would do faced with this situation:
You are in love and the person you have been courting for some time wants to marry you. Although you are very close, there is one main difference in your outlook. One of you believes in a Creator and wants to practice a particular faith. The other does not believe in a Creator and despises all religion. When the two of you talk about beliefs, emotions run high and generally the conversations have to be cut short because it can become hurtful. You realize this may cause challenges, despite the love you share.
In a comment on her post, I wrote:
What would I do? I’d turn around, walk away, and never look back. This is such a fundamental matter and one that essentially defines who we are. It can’t work in the long run.
In a response to my comment, Mel asked me this:
Here is a question for you…and it is not meant to be controversial or provocative, I just wonder what you think. I can see that if one partner did not believe in a Creator and was anti-religion and the other partner was very actively religious and constantly pontificating about it – there could be fireworks. But what do you think of a couple who agree to disagree and decide to talk about it? Or the partner who believes in a Creator does so silently. Perhaps someone who believes in a Creator but steers clear of religions who seem to have their own agenda. Someone who silently prays but does not speak about their beliefs to their partner because they know it would be provoking. I have a few friends in exactly that boat. I have seen a lot of love in those relationships, but also a lingering sadness.
Okay, so here’s the deal. I’m an atheist. I believe that the notion of a supernatural “creator” is a man made creation. I am not, however, anti-religion. My philosophy when it comes to religion is “whatever floats your boat.”
That said, I have no patience for the holier-than-thou religious cheerleaders who are certain that their religious beliefs are right and anyone who doesn’t embrace them is wrong, who go around proselytizing, calling atheists immoral and saying anyone who doesn’t believe in God can’t know right from wrong or good from evil, or who try to foist their concepts of morality or their religious beliefs upon the rest of us through legislation.
My wife, the woman I’ve been married to for more than 40 years, believes that a “higher power” exists, but she doesn’t refer to it as “God” or the “Creator.” She also believes that there must be something beyond our Earthly life, but doesn’t call it “heaven” or “hell.” And while she considers herself to be somewhat spiritual, she’s not religious and finds most “organized” religions to be off putting.
She and I are fine together because religion is not an important factor for either of us, and the fact that she believes in a higher power and I don’t has not been an issue. But in her question, Mel noted that “one partner did not believe in a Creator and was anti-religion and the other partner was very actively religious and constantly pontificating about it.” And she asked whether such a couple can “agree to disagree” and, thus, be happy together.
My answer is that even if they agree to disagree, each person, in her example, has deeply held beliefs that are fundamental to who they are, and those beliefs are in diametrical opposition. Such intrinsic elements of someone’s being and nature can only be stifled for so long before a pent up resentment for having to suppress their true nature starts to boil over.
Bottom line, in the context of Mel’s question, my response is that opposites don’t attract and love does not conquer all.
Anyone else want to weigh in on this?
Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.
How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.
If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 14th) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.
This was originally posted on February 14, 2016 in my old blog. I posted it a few days after Bernie Sanders soundly beat Hillary Clinton by a margin of more than 22% in the popular vote in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. Bernie was declared the winner of this year’s New Hampshire primary this past Tuesday, albeit in a much tighter race. When I reread this post, I realized that I feel the same way now as I did exactly four years ago today.
I Like Bernie Sanders, But….
I really like Bernie Sanders. But I have to say, as a practical and pragmatic individual, I am hoping that he doesn’t earn the nomination as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this year’s presidential election.
And now that Bernie achieved a surprising “virtual tie” in Iowa and won big in New Hampshire this past Tuesday, it’s conceivable that he might just end up being the Democratic nominee.
But Is he electable in the general election?
Bernie describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist.” But the words “socialist” and “socialism” in the United States have very negative connotations. In fact, a lot of Americans find the idea of socialism downright scary.
Of course, they’re thinking of the old USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as well as of the classic definition of socialism, which is:
A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
Of course, “community” in the concept of national socioeconomic systems, equates to “government.” And the Republican candidates — surprise, surprise — are milking those fears of socialism and “government control” over a wide swath of our society for all they’re worth. They’re claiming that the Democrats in general, and Bernie Sanders in particular, want to turn the United States into a European socialist nation like Sweden or Denmark.
Or, perish the thought, France.
But in truth, Sanders’ version of Democratic Socialism is not your grandfather’s socialism. Sanders’ approach doesn’t favor or promote government ownership of specific industries. It’s actually oriented around stronger regulations and trying to make sure that the private sector works for the benefit of everyone, and not just for a the very wealthy, or the so-called One Percenters.
Yet while I embrace many of his strategies for economic and political reform, I just don’t think the American voting public is ready for Bernie’s brand of Democratic Socialism.
On top of being a self-declared Democratic Socialist, Bernie is a Brooklyn Jew. He says he is not actively practicing his Jewish religion, but is, instead, Jewish by heritage and culture rather than by religious beliefs. Some suggest that he is agnostic, or worse, an atheist.
We’ve never had a Jewish president in this country. We’ve never had a non-Christian, non-religious president in this country, much less someone who is thought to be either agnostic or atheist.
So when it comes to the 2016 general election, not only do I think the American voting public is not ready for “Democratic Socialism,” I don’t think that mostly-Christian America is ready for an agnostic/atheist Jewish Democratic Socialist as president.
I’m just saying….
In his song, “Imagine,” John Lennon wrote:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Well, leave it to none other than Rory, A Guy Called Bloke, to pose a bunch of questions about one of my favorite topics: Religion.
Warning. I’m an atheist and I have some strong views about religion. If you are one who tends to get offended when someone questions your believe system, I suggest you stop reading here.
With that out of the way, here are the provocative questions about religion that Rory posed, along with my answers:
Would our world be any different to today [if religion just simply never existed]?
I believe it would be different…and better, with one big caveat. The planet would be seriously overpopulated — even more than it already is — because millions of people who, over the ages, were killed in the name of God and religion would not have perished.
Would the world have begun without some kind of belief system in place?
Of course it would have begun. The world (i.e., the planet Earth) is four and a half billion years old and modern human beings have only existed for only about 200,000 years. So, since humans are relatively new compared to the planet, and it’s humans who have “belief systems,” the planet did just fine without any kind of belief system for billions of years. You’re welcome.
Is religion really needed?
As an atheist, my answer is no. Not for me, anyway. But for some, religion or faith or belief in something bigger than themselves provides comfort and solace. My philosophy on religion and belief in God is “whatever floats your boat.” Just don’t try to sink my boat because it doesn’t look like yours.
Many already say that ‘something’ would have been created to fill that void and if that is the case, what would that have been?
Humans are always seeking answers to questions, some of which, even given present knowledge, may be unanswerable. Hence, throughout human history, humans have invented gods and supernatural beings to fill in the blanks and to answer the unanswerable. So yes, based upon human nature and the need for answers and to belong, some sort of belief system would have been created.
Organized religion, as it exists today, though, is designed to control, manage, and manipulate their flocks, and to create and promote group-think built around superstitions and mythologies. It also tends to divide us based upon our specific set of beliefs, rituals, and practices, rather than unite us based upon our commonalities as human beings.
Organized religion also reinforces the notion of “the other” with respect to those who don’t share the same superstitions and mythologies that they do. That is why so many religions have as their mission converting “the other” to their own beliefs, rituals, and dogma. And those efforts to convert the “heretics” and “infidels” can be violent and deadly. And, to me, that’s not a good thing. In fact, I think it’s the most negative and destructive aspect of organized religion.
Okay, rant over. But this is what you get when you ask an atheist about religion. What are your thoughts?
If you’re reading this because you think this post is about the 1967 song “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees, it’s not. Not even close.
What this post is about is that I was talking to a friend of mine this past weekend. He’s a fairly religious person and he knows that I’m an atheist. He told me that he didn’t understand how anyone could be a “non-believer.” Apparently he believes, like many people, that being an atheist means that you’re a “non-believer.”
Do you tend to call those who don’t believe in God “non-believers”? Well, if you do, your definition of “believer” is way too narrow. You’re thinking that the word “believer” applies only to a belief system, a religious belief system. A belief in a supreme being, a greater intelligence, a supernatural deity. And for most Americans, that means believing in God, Yahweh, Allah, or whatever you call your deity.
As an atheist, I believe that God does not exist. I believe that Christians, Jews, and Muslims made up God in the same way that Greeks and Romans, for example, made up Zeus and Jupiter and all the other gods they believed in.
But just because I don’t believe that God exists doesn’t make me a non-believer. Because that would imply that I don’t believe in anything. I believe in a lot of things.
I believe that we didn’t exist before we were born and that we will cease to exist in any form after we die.
I believe that our universe is almost 14 billion years old and that the planet we live on is 4.5 billion years old. I believe in evolution. And I believe that we are working pretty damn hard to destroy our planet’s ability to sustain human life.
I believe in a woman’s rights to choose. I believe in free speech, in freedom of (or from) religion, in equal rights for gays, and in gun control. I also believe in the separation of church and state.
But wait, there’s more that I believe. I believe that humans are fallible and that we all make mistakes. Some more than others. I believe that most people are good, decent, and moral, regardless of their religious beliefs — or lack thereof. And I believe in my country. Just not in “God and country.”
Yeah, I know. You’re thinking that these beliefs make me a liberal, which is the next worst label a person can have after atheist, right?
You’re also thinking that these are not beliefs. These are philosophies. These are ideologies. And you’re thinking that I’m expressing political opinions, not, you know, beliefs.
Sorry, I don’t believe that. Yes, these are philosophical beliefs. They are ideological and even political beliefs. But they are, nevertheless, beliefs. Other than from a very narrow religious perspective, just because I don’t believe in God, doesn’t make me a non-believer. I have a whole host of beliefs. Because I am a human being and I am alive.
There is not one of us — unless you’re dead — who doesn’t believe in something.
And now, for those of you who took the time to read my 520-word post, here’s a reward for your effort.