04 December 2009


As a quiet but confirmed atheist for all my adult life, I have serious issues with the lack of tolerance, not to mention the lack of intellectual rigor, inherent in most organized religions. Particularly oppressive to me is living in a region where (for reasons of inherent insecurity in their own beliefs, I suspect) the residents feel it necessary to relentlessly advertise their particular brand of belief in a supernatural being. In few places does this occur more aggressively than in the American South. I've lived in Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and traveled throughout the region.

I was reminded of the ubiquity of such in-your-face religious proclamations when a correspondent mentioned living in a rural area where signs with biblical references are common. It seems so odd that in a nation which has as one of the stones of its foundation the concept of freedom of religion, that a fundamentalist sect of one religion (Christianity) proclaims that ours is a "Christian nation." Gee, I wonder if that makes our millions of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and non-believers into non-citizens? Hmm. Whatever happened to live and let live? If I had to accept a label for my spiritual leanings (labels are so limiting), Animist comes as close as any.

I had an English lit professor who once observed that inherent in any specified freedom is the choice to abstain from that freedom -- e.g., freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. What a concept.

Especially abhorrent to me are those who not only proscelytize where they live, but send out "missionaries" to spread their version of Truth among those of other traditions. How dare they? Who conferred upon them the Only True Vision? Since so many religions believe theirs is the true vision, how can all of them be right? And if one is wrong, might not they all be wrong?

I'll stick with the principle of parsimony -- analogous to Occam's Razor -- when in doubt, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. One does not need a god to explain where life and the universe came from. In fact past religious explanations have been woefully off the mark. Nor does one require a religion to posit a purpose to life. Why does there have to be a purpose? I'm persuaded that there is no destination, there is only the journey. It is the Quality with which we lead our lives which defines us, individually and as a species.

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