Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fact vs. faith

I struggle with my atheism every day. But not in the way that sentence may sound. No, I don't have my beliefs pulled back and forth in some metaphorical tug of war. What I mean is, should I bite my tongue or should I speak my mind? If you know me at all, you know I don't beat around the bush when people chat with me about any topic, but when it comes to religion/deities and atheism, I find myself struggling internally with my thoughts and actions.

Admittedly, one of the reasons I started my search for the truth, (and by truth I mean the best evidence available for any gods' existence and not some PR slogan on a billboard for a religious radio station) was because family members were so adamant about their religion and so in-my-face with it and I hated it. So, now that I have arrived at the conclusion that satisfied me, should I not share my discoveries? But wouldn't that make me just as bad as them? Wouldn't I be a hypocrite? Wouldn't I be guilty of perpetrating the same annoying acts, telling people stuff they don't believe in?

I do not want to be that person. But is there a difference? Is there a difference between spouting religious belief, which is based on faith and not fact, and spouting facts about religion? Let's look at it another way.

You're in a car headed to a place with a loved one, who is driving, and neither of you has been there. You're in the passenger seat with GPS and your loved one says ...

"I have a feeling we need to exit here, even though I have no idea where we are going, I just have faith that this is where we need to get off." 

You look down at the GPS and you know not only is the exit you need to take about 20 miles farther down the road, but that the exit your loved one wants to take likely won't even get you to your final destination and sends you in the exact opposite direction. Do you speak up? You have facts that refute your loved one's delusion, but you love them and don't want to hurt their feelings by trampling on their faith in something. 

Now, you might be thinking, "Don't be silly, you have to speak up because you know the truth and you don't want to waste any time."

Both very valid points. Now, imagine if you were wasting an entire lifetime taking the wrong exits. Puts it in perspective, doesn't it?

I'm not saying I know there is no god or heaven or afterlife, just like you weren't absolutely positive the exit your loved one wanted to take couldn't in some improbable way get you to your final destination. But when you have contrary facts about things that others believe in, should you tell them? I believe this isn't the same thing as someone spouting off about things they can't prove are true. 

If I walked into your home and told you there are pink elephants living on Saturn's moon Titan and they are all-knowing beings that you must believe in because they're the only true gods, not only would you think I'm a nutjob, but you wouldn't ever want to hear me say that again. Why? Because you know it's not true? How do you know? You can't, just like I can't know there is no god. But without proof, what's the point? 

There are a limitless amount of unbelievable irrational thoughts and beliefs I could come up with to talk about, but you wouldn't want to hear about them every time we got together, right? So why would I want to hear about religion and god?

Now, to get back to the point, if a friend or family member told you they don't have to file taxes until July, what would you say? You'd say, no, it's April 15. But what if they said they have faith the correct date is actually July 15 and all of the info you have to the contrary is propaganda designed to scare us into paying early so the government can benefit from having that extra cash? You would do everything you could to stop them from paying late because you care about them, right? You have facts and they have faith. It's a tangible scenario you can relate to and prove simply by going on the IRS website to show your friend the penalties for filing late, etc. 

When they still insist on paying on July 15, you will either continue to try to persuade them or you will throw your hands up in the air and say you did your best to inform them. When this person pays late and receives the penalty they will finally be convinced.

This is how I feel. I don't have proof there is no god (that's not my job as I am not the one in the affirmative on that stance) but I do have proof for other things. I do have facts I can share. When people say the bible is 100 percent true, I know it isn't and can prove it (even though again I don't need to because I'm not the one saying it's true). 

When they say Mother Teresa was a good person and believed in the Catholic god, I have proof that says otherwise. Shouldn't I tell them what I know of her when they posted some platitude about her on Facebook? They are quoting her and putting it out there for me, shouldn't I do the same?

If you believed your spouse was faithful to you, and I saw him/her making out with someone on a park bench, would you want to know? Then why wouldn't you want to know your priest is molesting little boys or your bible is full of lies? Facts, not faith.

I think one of the main reasons I struggle with this so much is because of the years I wasted and the lies I have to try to erase. And if I wasted all of that time taking the wrong exits, wouldn't I want to stop loved ones from doing that, too? You might say the believers in my family are doing the same thing when they talk about god and miracles. But again they aren't. They're proselytizing for something that is unproved and unknowable, which is far more harmful and wrong than stating provable facts. Just because it's religion doesn't make it any different than the aforementioned conversation about tax deadlines. Why does religion change that? 

The other main reason this is a struggle for me is I'm proud of the work I put into this, into what I uncovered. But most (if not all, other than my wife) of my family isn't proud of this. They have always been proud of me and my accomplishments, so it's odd not having their approval for something, in fact it's downright disappointment on their part. And we're at the point where we can't even discuss it, so that disappointment can't ever be rectified.

I don't know which way I will go. Will I continue to bite my tongue, or will I speak up regularly when I know the facts are being trampled on by irrational faith? Time will tell.

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