Sunday, June 22, 2008

Faith, Part Two


"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see --
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

Emily Dickinson, 1860

I suppose I am not the only one to go off to college and come out the other side without her faith. It was a combination of heavy emphasis on the science aspect, exposure to people of other, non-Christian religions which my small hometown was conspicuously lacking, and a certain sense of glamor to becoming a non-believer.

I took Physics classes that explored different theories of the beginning of the Universe. I took Biology classes that postulated theories for the beginning of life. I took Psychology classes that studied the formation of cults. I took Sociology classes that described the human need for religion.

I took all these into account, and I thought to myself that if I had been born in India, I would no doubt be a Hindu. If I had been born in Saudi Arabia, I would have been a Muslim. If I had been born in Greece four thousand years ago, I would be a worshipper of Zeus and Athena and Ares. It seemed to me that religion was almost wholy dependent upon what family in which culture you are born in. And it also seemed to me that all those people practicing all those other faiths believed in them just as strongly as the Catholics I grew up with. And what right did I have to decide that one is more true than the other?

Faced with the idea that all these religions could be the one true religion, I rejected them all as being equally false. Well, not necessarily false, but manufactured. Created by humans to fill a societal, psychological, emotional role. Religion helped people live together in harmony, provided shelter from the thought of death, gave people hope and inspiration. It was good enough for those who needed it, but for those who didn't, who could see through all the hocus-pocus, it was unnecessary.

And so I entered into my atheist stage.

to be continued


lizardrinking said...

Can we comment at each stage? Of course in Saudi, apostasy brings the death sentence, so people have great incentive to stay faithful.

My question is do all the religions believe they are the only true religion? I know the monotheistic ones do, and I guess the others must, otherwise they wouldn't be in existence. Yet, Shintoism and Buddhism, for a long time, and certain degrees still, lived side by side. However, the Christians literally got drawn and quartered in Japan. The Romans were pretty good at adapting the Greek gods, too. In principle, the polytheistic religions could accept all religions.

I wonder, too, if the ones that believe in reincarnation are a comfort against death or life - maybe it ends up being the same thing?

It's all very interesting. I have an uncle who has travelled the world, including India, yet, for him, there is only one faith, and not only that, it has to be the Catholic faith - that kind of narrowing I find very hard to fathom.

Maybe there will be evolution of my comments along with your posts! Can't wait for part 3.

morpho aurora said...

rose asking if all religions believe they are the only true religion reminded me of my favorite joke. the punchline is "shhh! that's the baptists - they think they are alone here!" having been raised by southern baptists, i can tell you all of the ones i've met do seem to feel that their way is the only way. i don't know what i believe anymore. i don't care for quite a bit of christianity, but nothing else seems to make much sense either. i usually tell people i'm pagan, simply because the word means "anyone not jewish, christian or muslim" which leaves me a LOT of wiggle room. :D of course, 90% of the people around here think pagan=atheist. i feel that as long as i'm asking questions i'm doing ok.