"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible Gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Sir Stephen Henry Roberts
A visitor to my wellness website asked, "Don, what is your religion?" I thought this query a bit of a false dichotomy in that it did not exhaust the possibilities. Why do some people assume everyone has a religion? I not only do not embrace any one religion—I have a low regard for all of them. As a wellness enthusiast, I care very much for the kind of passions that religions seem to obstruct or outright oppose, including but not limited to maximum personal freedoms, democracy, critical thinking, equality of opportunity, tolerance, universal rights, the common decencies and finding your own meaning and purpose.
I should point out that I am quite aware of a norm in our society that insulates religions from criticisms. Most who do not embrace Ïfaith-basedÓ thinking have learned to refrain from questioning the validity, worth or rationality of anything having to do with religious faith or faiths. While religious critics, at least in this country at present, are not burned at the stake for heresy or stoned as infidels, they don’t usually get promoted, celebrated or elected to high (or low) office, either. Therefore, criticism of religions, particularly the major religions with significant influence, is rather muted.
Well, as one who endured 12 years of Roman Catholic education during my formative years, I feel I have earned the right not to be muted. Besides, as I have noted on many occasions, I think religion, like sex and politics, is too important to be omitted from polite conversation.
Another visitor to SeekWellness.com asked a related question the other day. She wanted to know if, given that I seemed to be so skeptical about everything associated with revelation, holy books, miracles and the like, if maybe I was not, in an ÏunbelieverÓ sense of the word, a bit of a fundamentalist myself. I had to think about that for a while. After at least five minutes, I decided that there are Ultra Orthodox Jews, Islamic Extremists, Christian Political Ideologues and yes—Fundamentalist Infidels. I suppose, on matters relating to faith/religion of any kind, I represent a variation on Eric Hoffer’s true believer. I am a "true unbeliever." Nothing, it seems, can shake my disdain for religion. In fact, my new adopted manta is "God, I hate religion."
Of course this does not mean I hate those who are religious, or even that I have any unkind feelings toward believers. Instead, it means I don’t share a lot of perspectives with them on matters of faith or religion. I find discussion about religion with other fundamentalists a bit tiresome.
Some visitors to SeekWellness.com want me to join their religion, or cult. Well, I have my own cult, thank you very much. I don’t really think it’s a cult, but it’s fine with me if someone wants to classify it as such. Skepticism toward untested claims hardly seems cult-like, but if the faithful want to claim otherwise, thatÌs their prerogative, I suppose.
Sometimes, a visitor will get frustrated if I do not participate in a continuing discussion of beliefs via a long-running exchange of e-mails. There are many reasons why I try to limit responses, on any topic, to a post or two. The main reason is, like lots of people, I have other things to do. Not that any of them is so important in the grand scheme of things (if there IS any such grand scheme, which I doubt), but other topics and demands of varied kinds do beckon. In communications, we all have to decide when continuing to address a topic reaches diminishing returns of personal satisfaction. Who does not, at a certain point, choose to retire from continuous exchanges about anything? To do otherwise would make one a prisoner to hostile elements who never let up. Another possibility is I might have a short attention span.
I love the idea of starting if not leading a movement of fundamentalist unbelievers. However, I don’t want to start another church. There are too many now. In my view, two would be too many. The only church I support is Vonnegut’s imaginary "Church of God the Utterly Indifferent." (See Slaughterhouse-Five)
I don’t know how many reasons I’ve offered for not having a religion, not liking religions or advising others to reassess their religions, but I’m sure it won’t be hard to list at least 101 of them—in future essays.
Whether you are a believer or not, faith-based or given to reason and free inquiry or in some other category of your choice, feedback is always welcomed and appreciated. Be wellÛalways look on the bright side of life.