Thursday, July 18, 2013

More on morality and critical thinking

I remember vividly the last time I was in church (not to attend but for a relative's ceremony), and this was when I was still struggling with my faith, or at the very least having doubts in a god. And I recall looking around at the parishioners during one of the service's many group recitations and I just couldn't help but feel like I was in the midst of a cult. I wasn't trying to be malevolent or viscous in any way, nor was I mocking anyone, but I just turned around and looked at these people repeating in unison an antiquated prayer or punctuating the priest's sermon with amen or some other worship phrase, and I was purely aghast.

I had visions of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians or Charles Manson and his followers. I know this sounds horrible, but it just seemed so mindless to me, almost trancelike. I bring this up because sometimes I wonder if these people, and other devout believers like them, actually think for themselves at all when it comes to faith. I've mentioned critical thinking on this blog before, and I readily admit I never practiced it seriously until well into my adult life, but I also never went to church on a regular basis and had to routinely sit through this ritualistic behavior. If I had I can assure you my quest for truth would have begun a lot sooner.

And when these religious zealots choose to open their mouths to try to defend their religion do they actually hear what they're saying? Or give any thought to the answers they offer? I can truly see why these believers are called sheep, and it may be consoling to them, but it is so transparent to me. Don't think, just follow. Ugh.

Here's an example of what I mean about not thinking: Christians say they get their morals from the bible and from god and wonder how I can have any morals. So, when I ask why they do the right thing, why they don't steal or kill, they inevitably say, "I don't want to go to hell," or "I want to please god." But by saying that they've trapped themselves and they answer their own question about me and my morals. Here's the reason: Suppose, for a moment, we can prove without a doubt there's no god, no afterlife and no eternal damnation as a consequence to "sin." Would they then steal or kill? If they answer yes, then they're really just a horrible person driven by fear, which their omnipotent god would now know is their true character, what's really in their heart, and would punish them for thought crime. If they say no, then they prove they don't need a god or his book to be moral, thus answering their inquiry as it pertains to me.

Just because I'm an atheist doesn't make me incapable of understanding that doing onto others as I would have done to me is a solid concept that long predates Christianity. Animals have acted in the best interest of the pack long before we were walking upright, and they certainly don't have any moral sky camera watching their every move and judging them. There's no way early humans could have survived without this practice.

If I were to act in an immoral way on Earth, I wouldn't need to be held accountable in some afterlife fiery court system. I would be held accountable right here, right now, by those who surround me. Law and order would make sure justice prevailed, if the offense was severe enough, and if it were just me being a jerk then those around me would be sure to let me know with their actions and remarks. Society will hold me accountable for my actions and deem the necessary reaction, not some vindictive god. 

Don't ask me how I get out of bed in the morning. I do it every day because I have purpose; I have the love of a fantastic woman (not to mention parents, siblings, children and grandchildren) to motivate me to be the best person I can be. I now marvel at the universe around me, because I know of the remarkable odds it defied just so that I might breathe its air, and isn't that infinitely more impressive and rewarding than owing it all to some omnipotent dictator?

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