“You know it’s a myth…”

December 11, 2010

Canadian Anglican priest Christopher Page, on  his blog In a Spacious Place, posted some observations yesterday on the atheists he had encountered on the internet, attributing to them many features of religious fundamentalists. The list includes narrow-mindedness, “a compulsive need to prove wrong those with whom they disagree,”  and “a common conviction that truth can be summed up in words.”

A number of commenters took issue with the writer’s rather broad brush; this is fair enough, he might have done more to emphasize that he was speaking only about a rather small self-selected cyber-sample and not about all who might identify themselves with the “a-word.” But for my purposes he made this clear enough, and in this paragraph especially I see a spirit kindred to mine:

I do not mind if a person believes in the tenets of fundamentalism or holds firmly to the doctrines of atheism. What I am concerned about is that, whatever beliefs people hold, those beliefs lead those who hold them to greater openness, deeper compassion, more kindness, gentleness, and love.

At the same time, the comments of one Slater seemed in some measure to vindicate the author’s observations, claiming that atheists are, after all, the ones with reason on their side… at which several others took umbrage. The latest turn in the discussion I found particularly interesting: the question of whether religion has a rational basis led that of whether it claims or needs one, or whether there is something beyond the dichotomy of  “rational” and “irrational.”  Slater’s most recent comment ends

Irrationality is not an inherently bad thing, it’s just useless in determining truth value.

Which I am inclined to agree with, but it leads in turn to my great issue: the tendency of fundamentalists and atheists alike to reduce “religion” to its “truth claims.” Now some like to say there are other truths or kinds of truth besides those that are rationally provable. I prefer to say there are other values besides truth. Some speak of “other ways of knowing,” my preferred formulation is that there are other things worth doing with our lives besides “knowing.”

You know it’s a myth.
Celebrate it anyway!


3 Responses to ““You know it’s a myth…””

  1. Slater Says:

    there are other things worth doing with our lives besides “knowing.”

    Well, I can hardly disagree with that.
    I’ve never wished for the eradication of religion, just that no important decisions affecting others than the believer him-/herself are based upon unverifiable beliefs of commandments made several thousand years ago by – most likely – fictional or ordinary people at the time.

    Being an atheist I of course think we have to make our own reasons for living, and one of my primary ones is to learn. I like learning as much as I possibly can and getting as close as possible to the truth. This is what drives me. I have no illusions that everyone else feels the same way.
    If you are fine with believing something that cannot be validated and is quite likely false, if you feel it makes you a better person, then by all means. Just keep that away from laws, schools, expressed prejudices, etc.

    • allogenes Says:

      Hi Slater! Thanks for stopping by!
      Fundamentally we don’t disagree much, I just try to cultivate a more irenic way of putting things… There is actually rather little that I would claim to “believe,” but I do like to speculate a bit about things beyond the rational/empirically “knowable,” and think it’s perfectly OK for people to do so. And perfectly OK for people to have no interest at all in such things. I am totally with you on matters of public policy – and you may be surprised at how many self-identified Christians and other “believers” and unaffiliated “spiritual” folk are with you also. The traditionalist/authoritarian side of “religion” is something many of us can join in opposing.

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