I am an atheist. And there is often an inherent difficulty when entering a dialogue about religion. People can become offended by what comes out of it. My hero, Douglas Adams (I wrote a post about him yesterday), put it this way:
“the invention of the scientific method and science is…the most powerful intellectual idea… it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn’t withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn’t seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That’s an idea we’re so familiar with…that it’s kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? – because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it…But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody’s (I’m going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say ‘No, we don’t attack that; that’s an irrational belief but no, we respect it’.”
I am not in the business of offending people. And I am not in the business of accusing those that hold a belief in a god or gods of being foolish or unintelligent. This is an unfair and unreasonable stance to take, in my opinion. There are historical, cultural and social reasons that people find themselves holding a belief in a god. Although I may have assessed the situation from my perspective and come out the other end as a firm atheist, I don’t take the attitude that those that have not done the same are, somehow, unreasonable.
I do, however, think they are wrong. And this is where Adams’ argument that religion, like anything, should be open to discussion is realised – I respect a person’s right to believe in a god, but I happen to disagree with the conclusion they’ve arrived at.
Here’s my bizarre voice explaining more.
I was very conscious of how I was discussing religion when I wrote my novel because it could, at times, seem as though I am directly mocking anyone that holds a religious belief. I was extremely careful not to be outlandish or aimlessly provocative in my writing, but the entire premise of the book (and the original idea) comes out of an interest in the subject of why people are so drawn to religious beliefs in the first place. And I am interested. Fascinated, actually. Although I am of the opinion that a belief in a god is an irrational belief, I can rationally understand why such a belief would exist. Read the rest of this entry