Ok I've been meaning to write this for a long time, so here it is finally.
Religion and me
As you may have noticed I'm an atheist, religion is however one of my many passions and I've started to realise that in my passion I often say things that sound fine to me but which others can easily misinterpret, or which I dont mean at all but say when carried away. And the last thing I want is for people to be offended by me or put off from what I have to say. Richard Dawkins et al, whilst excellent scientists, academics, debaters etc (read Dawkin's science books by the way they're brilliant) are doomed to fail when they talk to many religious people, simply because their audience dismisses what they have to say pre-emptively. So I'd like to make a public apology.
All my friends, religious or otherwise, if I have upset you by ridiculing your belief or by offending a broad group to which you belong or inappropriately talked about people of your group having the character of some fringe lunatic, I am very very sorry, and promise that I meant no disrespect to you as a person by it. I have Christian, Buddhist, Deist, Pagan, Atheist (it would be good if I could spell that damned word), Agnostic and Pastafarian friends, with many others in-between and I do not think any less of any friend for being religious.
If I respect my friends who are religious why do I post many things attacking people's beliefs? Because respect for you all as individuals does not imply respect for your beliefs. I have a family friend who I like a lot, she's a lovely woman, very kind and generous. She is a young earth creationist who believes that the universe is 6000 years old, Hubble red shifts and careful analysis of many aspects of the universe tells us that the true age is 13.7 billion years. She is out by a factor of over 2 million, this is equivalent to believing the distance from Alaska to Maine is a little over 2m and that the whole of North America would fit in a generously sized living room. This belief is insane, much as I respect her and think she is a lovely person this belief is just wrong and frankly, she is intelligent enough to know how wrong.
My problem with religion is that whilst as a system for bringing communities together, comforting those who are grieving and helping people make tough decisions it is unparalleled, it does produce real dangers. Knowing the age of the universe is unlikely to save your life, but in many things being out by a factor of over 2 million is enough to kill you many many times over. Religion provides many bright people with the desire to believe things that aren't credible and this kills. Not just kills Jehovah's Witnesses who need blood transfusions, or women in many countries who die because they cant get a safe abortion, or gays and apostates who in the 21st century are killed by stoning but many others in far less serious cases who just cant act appropriately because they think they should, to be a good person, believe something that reason tells them is false. These things make me angry, because there is no bigger perversion of the good that religions should be doing. I'm upset because I hear rational normal people telling me that god made mountains with dinosaur skeletons already in them, or that they have met and done spiritual battle with witches or that the laying on of hands can cure their illness.
So to all my friends, I am so sorry if I upset you, because you are the very people who need to be able to hear about the things I post without being put off or feel you're being shouted at. I really want people who are religious to hear some of the crazy and frankly evil things being done in the name of their religion. Because if the important debates of our time like gay marriage, assisted suicide, ID in science classes etc are set up to be god vs. liberals then everyone looses. If nutty ideas aren't challenged within religious circles than they wont be challenged at all. My young earth creationist could listen to me present evidence all day, it wont change her mind. To stop someone with a nutty belief you need to get to the heart of where that belief originates, and that's what I cant do. I know a lot about religion, I went to Sunday school as a kid and have read most of the bible, but it's been so long since I believed in god I cant connect to it any more.
I know it's damned presumptuous of me to think this. But I know a few of you are the kind of people who really want to see change in the world for the better, and you are the only people who can do it. People of faith that can reach out to others in a way that I cant, I can give you all the science in the world, talk to you about constructing your own moral system, do a comparative analysis of religions of the world. But someone from the same church, or just someone who believes in a god at all, has a far different impact when they say that Matthew cant be a historical account because Matthew 27:52-53 is about zombies. It's very different for me to say that the pope is evil for his stance on condoms, as it is for a catholic to say that the Christian principle of compassion outweighs papal dogma.
So I'll end by saying I'm sorry if I call religions nuts, I dont mean it, I mean that religions give licence for people to hold nutty beliefs, and that reasonable people of faith are probably the key to challenging that licence.
Please do reply to this whatever you think, I want to know what you'd all like me to do, my dear friends.