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Growing Up

Entry 410, on 2006-10-17 at 13:14:06 (Rating 4, Comments)

This morning I read an opinion piece in our local paper by a religious commentator. His theme was that the process of growing up involves changes of attitude and belief and that religious belief should not be excepted from this. He finds fundamentalist belief to be based on dogma and failure to accept new ideas. But he includes what he calls fundamentalist atheists in this group, as well as the more usual meaning of fundamentalist religious people.

I don't really accept this. I agree that there is only one reason anyone can be a fundamentalist Christian (or other religion) and that is they are close minded - there's just no other reason to believe stories which are obviously untrue. But I have never met anyone who is an atheist because of fundamentalist beliefs. People become atheists because they don't want to accept a belief system unless there is evidence for it. Atheism isn't based on emotion - its hard to be emotional about not believing in a god.

He then goes on to discuss what sort of god people should believe in. He appears to reject conventional notions as belonging to the category of beliefs we have as children, but he doesn't take the argument to its logical end and say we should reject the idea of god completely. Instead he falls into the trap of defining god in vague terms such as this one from theologian Lloyd Geering: "a verbal symbol inherited from our mythological past, a human concept we have created and used to find and express meaning in our collective and individual experience."

But why create a god of this type where any meaning has become so blurred and subject to individual interpretation that it really has no meaning at all. Would it not be more honest just to say "there is no god" and use more objective concepts to find meaning in our lives? Why not use principals from politics, sociology, psychology, social evolution, and statistics to determine what's right and what's wrong. There is too much history in the concept of god for it to be a useful vehicle for any form of moral discussion or philosophical theorising, in my opinion.

When we grow up we reject childish notions such as Santa Claus, but we don't just change the myth into a new form, we change our world view completely. That's what religious people need to do when they finally grow up and realise their religion is totally fake.

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Comment 1 (268) by Anon on 2006-10-17 at 18:26:22:

The main concern is that religions occur because (besides many things) we want to find out why we're alive, what purpose we serve, etc., while in reality, we're just alive for no reason.

Believing a higher power that "made" us gives people a sense of being born for a reason, which is understandable back then, but nowadays we're far too intelligent for such thing, as there's no reason for us to be alive, we're just alive because the Earth is just precisely in the right distance with the Sun, a couple miles backward, it's too cold, a couple miles forward, it's too hot.

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Comment 2 (269) by OJB on 2006-10-17 at 18:27:45:

Yes, people who have grown up shouldn't need to seek meaning in mythology. They should have the intellectual courage to look at things the way they really are. Relying on mythology to shape your world view creates distortions in the way some groups act. For example, some Christians don't want to tackle long term environmental issues because they believe the end of the world isn't far away!

Your comment about the orbit of the Earth is partly right. It would be possible for life to exist in a wider band than you have suggested (assuming other factors don't intervene) but it would need different adaptations than life on Earth has if it was going to be in conditions which are too much hotter or colder.

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