Sometimes the “Big” Questions Don’t Matter

See here for the Finnish version.

I don’t think there is any real chance that a God exists. I have reviewed the supposed evidence in the most sophisticated forms I have found, and there is nothing to it, at least given understanding of some scientific and philosophical points. I know people may believe just through faith, but that’s completely against my nature. If there is no reason to believe something is true, then it almost certainly isn’t, and what’s the sense in believing something that isn’t true? So you might say I agree with those who don’t think God exists.

God’s existence is one of the big questions in life. Even from my point of view there would always be a reason to ask something like it at first, even if the answer turns out to be negative. And it determines everything, doesn’t it? How the world works, where everything came from, what’s morally right… And for those who are religious, the further question of which religion is right is equally important. Should everyone follow the Bible  in their lives, or the Koran? Surely questions like this divide us into different camps, most notably those who are right and those who are wrong, because, I mean, come on, what kind of idiot follows some old book like that when God doesn’t even exist.

Well, no, not really. Fundamentalists in different religions certainly can act very much alike. Oh, maybe someone is reading this who says, well, that’s what you’d expect from those religious people.  But some atheists act almost like religious fundamentalists. Moderates and fundamentalists in a given religion, in turn, might have almost nothing in common. Personally, I know I believe almost exactly the same things as some theists. Take this guy, for example:

So he believes in God for whatever reason. You’ll not catch me calling him stupid for it. He doesn’t even believe in the church much, by the sound of it. He can criticise it intelligently, and frankly, he knows what he’s talking about better than the stereotypical atheist saying similar things. But there’s no big difference, anyway. And besides the objective and mature view of the religious traditions, I agree with what I can make of his spiritual views from this. Oh, not the supernatural stuff. “Spiritual” can either mean anything connected with religion, no matter how shallow, or anything having to do with the deep questions in life, no matter how secular. I’m using the latter definition. The first is boring anyway. He says, “Our problem is not that we are born in sin. Our problem is that we do not yet know how to achieve being fully human.” I would certainly agree. He just thinks there is already a God, I guess, Who represents the goal of humanity. I think we are alone in that, but we must set similar ideals for ourselves anyway. (I’m leaving this knowingly vague because I can’t explain the meaning of life in this post. Maybe in future ones.)

The most easily articulated central beliefs, of which religion provides the best examples, are one thing by which people label and stereotype each other. Don’t do it. While understandable, it’s stupid. I’ve actually seen atheists on the Internet seriously saying that you can expect someone to be smart because they’re an atheist. (The reverse happens with theists, although I haven’t seen as much of it.) Bah. So they get one question right? Even a broken clock is right twice a day. I’m sure such a stereotypical atheist is smug when they hear about studies indicating how religious people come by their beliefs for reasons related to their family or psychology (and so not based on reason). But it’s not like atheists can’t become such as an act of rebellion or some such. Similarly, even the smartest people are wrong sometimes. And how they can be is not so surprising when you realise how little difference there can be in the belief systems of a “believer” and “nonbeliever”.

Attitudes are another similar thing. Again on the Internet, I’ve seen an atheist acting with the sickening narrow-mindedness of a fundamentalist. I’ve also read conversion stories in many directions. “I was in religion A and scorned religion B without really knowing anything about it, until I eventually did look into it, realised how narrow-minded I had been, and switched to religion B, where I now live much more happily and broad-mindedly.” Or “I was an atheist but converted to religion A.” Or “I was in religion A until I became an atheist.” After you’ve read a few of these, you should realise they’re no proof of the narrow-mindedness of the first option and/or of the superiority of the second. It’s just someone associating the narrow-minded attitude with where they grew up in and learning to think with wherever they moved. And, of course, the broad religious tradition or belief system or nonbelief doesn’t determine which attitude you take or how informed you are. Those “smart” atheists may be ignorant of the reasons given for believing in God, or other details of religions, just as well as those “obviously right” religious people are likely not to know atheist arguments, anything about other religions, or even much about their own. But the more ignorant they are, the more likely, it seems, they’re also contemptuous of others for being so wrong. It’s a good thing not everyone is like that. I’m not stereotyping everyone here myself, after all. I’m only talking about whichever people this applies to, and I know they exist.

It’s a hard thing to navigate amongst facts and generalisations about the world without falling into using stereotypes. For example, I think I read somewhere (I may add the source later) that in a study, the non-religious had been better informed on average on matters of religion than believers — the reader should be able to see why this affects what I said above not one bit, which would be the topic for a separate article. But at least understand this: Simple-minded deductions in the lines that everyone who has some wrong belief is stupid, that those who have a given more correct belief are smarter, or that everyone who has some belief in common is similar in other respects — are just that, simple-minded. The world doesn’t care about your prejudices, and it doesn’t work that way.

Sama suomeksi.

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes the “Big” Questions Don’t Matter

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