Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some updates to my last post.

I was reading over the article I linked to at the top of my last post... and at the very end of it was an important point.
Having a sense of one's place in the world is important to everyone but has particular significance for minorities and peoples under political, economic or military pressure. Individuals may even accept Dawkins' atheistic and scientific deconstruction of the myths they have grown up with but still defend and nurture the matrix of institutions, practices and relationships which make them who they are.
I think that is a terribly important point to note. It even reminds me of my friend Mike who doesn't necessarily believe in god etc.. but still stands strongly behind his Jewish heritage, including the religious aspects of it, because of the mesh it weaves in his life. Or other friends of mine who don't really consider themselves true believers, but who still go to church and still for all intents and purposes walk the walk of religion. Afraid to fully let go... or to no longer belong to the group... or to face the scorn of their peers or upset their families... in their hearts and minds they don't really believe, but afraid of the consequences of openly stating that they no longer believe or belong to "the group".

I think that it's possibly the major part of the problem actually... it's not so much that people couldn't rationally understand the facts... it's very hard not to... it's the point when those facts clash with the most fundamental parts of who someone is... what they've based their lives on, beliefs on, their whole social system, peer group, comfort level etc... it's that point where the reality runs smack dab into their sense of who they are that the alarms go off and the acceptance turns to a kind of frantic denial as a means of self-preservation.

It's not just a matter of admitting you've made a mistake... it generally entails a huge shift in the very nature of who we are. I can understand it, having gone from essentially one end of the spectrum to the polar opposite end over the course of around a decade. And I can remember the transitions... not only getting past the ingrained taboos, bigotry and ignorance... but also of the social aspects of it... as one of the members of the Freethinkers group in Colorado said in the video... you take a very real risk of losing your job, apartment etc... for simply stating that you are an atheist. It has become such a social taboo to openly state that you are an atheist... not that you might just be a little out of touch with your religion... or be of an alternate religion... but that you flat out find religion as a whole to be a ridiculous and primitive superstitious concept and don't believe in it at all. Saying you're an Atheist seems just as bad as saying you're a Satanist in most circles. People look at you like they're slightly shocked... like you've just stated that you're a Nazi... or that you have sex with Animals etc.

I can personally attest to how dangerous it is to state your personal beliefs in the workplace. I can't tell you how often I hear or see religious saying and symbols etc... but if I were to wear something that said I was an atheist... it would cause an outrage. If I openly state my beliefs, I get looked down on and looked at with a bit of mistrust... all based on ignorance... from such concepts as being taught that anyone who doesn't believe is out to destroy you... or that all morality comes from the bible, and therefor if you're not a believer, you must be devoid of morals etc.

Or how about work e-mails that say "god bless" at the end etc... what if you were to write "hail Satan" at the end of your e-mail... or if you were to write and politely say that you'd rather they not mention their religious beliefs in their correspondences with you... or the next time someone says they're going to pray for someone, and you ask what they think that will accomplish? And then you proceed to explain to them how prayer is demonstrably almost worthless... and I don't say completely worthless, because the psychological act of giving up the stress of something, even to a figment of your imagination, does ease the strain on the human body and improve health... however, so would sitting in a dark room with some candles and gentle music doing some relaxing breathing and mental relaxation type 'meditation'. There's no supernatural power affecting your health there. Just human physiology. You start pointing that stuff out and you're going to get yourself in hot water.

This is the kind of stuff Dawkins is talking about... even if you know better, the vast majority of people play along because they're afraid of the consequences of standing out. Of contradicting someone...

Nobody wants to be the first to tell the Emperor he has no clothes on.

But getting back a little more to where I started... I've dealt with this before and blogged about it... about my parents for instance... even if they could rationally accept the facts involving the nature of religion... once they started touching on the psychological aspects... the cognitive dissonance would get to be too much and they would shut off. They can't risk losing their entire social life, their work with the teen and adult Christian retreats, their idea that they'll get to see my sister in heaven again someday... they've based their entire sense of selves and found this "answer" for the unknowns that made them feel good. Do you think they're easily going to face the scorn of all their friends and most of their families... after YEARS of building these relationships... and face the prospect that their daughter is just fertilizer and they'll never see her again... and that there's not castle in the clouds for them to go be with her when they die... just nothing... a dreamless sleep you never wake up from... just pulling the plug... lights out. Having to rethink EVERYTHING they thought they knew before... facing the fact that they've probably hurt many people in their lives based on those beliefs that at the core were flawed...

I think you get the idea. I've dealt with that distrust and shunning... even a bit of hatred actually... I've dealt with being called a failure as a son because I wasn't a good christian... I've been told by my parents that I was possessed by the devil because I didn't agree with their beliefs. I've felt the absolute fear of sinning based totally on myths that my parents drilled into my head... I wept almost as hard the night I lost my virginity as I did when I saw my sister killed. I feared for my very soul... that I was going to hell... I was up for hours bawling my eyes out praying to god and jesus to forgive me. I felt the fear of some unknown punishment the first time I started reading even the introduction to the Satanic Bible. I hadn't even gotten to the actual book yet and already I felt this almost overwhelming fear... because of how ingrained it had become into my psyche that it was taboo. I had been raised such that reading that book was going to damn me straight to hell... that the kind of stuff that was in there was EVIL.

It's funny when you grow up and start learning about the world, you realize that there is no such thing as "good" and "evil". There simply isn't. You might think Osama bin Laden is evil... but to millions of people he is a hero. And for justifiable and understandable reasons. To label anything as simply "good" or "evil", as I've said before, shows either ignorance or purposeful dishonesty.

Anyway... I'm wandering all over with this post... stream of consciousness. I need to go to bed as it's way past my bedtime. I was supposed to be asleep 3 hours ago.

That should be a little food for thought anyway... for what it's worth.

Until next time... おやすみ なさい.

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