Here, in the West, we like to have our opinions. Some of us even go to the extreme and express those opinions in, of all things, a blog! (Ahem) Now, we may argue and berate from time to time. And we’ve all called our opponent an idiot – well, okay, I’ll admit to it even if you won’t. There have, I know, even been occasions when a difference of opinion leads to a difference in a right and left cross. But in the end, when it’s all done and dusted, we know it’s just a difference of opinion. We may wish our opponent would shut the %$&! up, but it’s not the end of the world if we let him hang onto his stupid beliefs.
In recent weeks, the tragic suicides of a number of teenagers due to bullying has really raised public awareness of this vile and insidious behaviour. Bullying in any form is unacceptable – but those victims who suffer bullying because of their sexuality, get a double dose. Not only do their peers attack them, physically and mentally, but some sections of society – mostly religious – see nothing wrong with persecuting children because of their (sometimes only perceived) sexuality.
A lot of people find the whole idea of atheism impossible to grasp. In the past, I’ve actually been accused of believing in nothing, and asked how I could live like that. There’s a lot of confusion out there, particularly from people who question their own beliefs. Well, I recently came across this video – and it’s such a wonderfully clear and concise explanation of atheism that I thought I’d share it. It helps to explain a lot of things.
What it doesn’t explain, unfortunately, is why those some of those with belief expend so much hatred on those that do not believe. Atheists don’t go around yelling to believers that they should just die, or be burned at the stake. In fact, atheists are generally very gentle, non-violent people who look at all the death and destruction performed in the name of gods and wish it would stop. Atheists certainly don’t go out looking for believers to kill – and yet, in some religions, that’s perfectly acceptable. Given that, as babies, a lack of belief is the default position, why do believers feel so much hatred – or feel so threatened – by those who do not believe?
Okay, if you’re a believer and delighted Australia has its first saint, then here’s a warning for you – I’m about to rain on your parade.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. And if somebody out there would like to enlighten me, I’d appreciate it. I mean, what’s it all about? What is a saint, exactly? A half-human, half-god? If so, whatever happened to the whole ‘one god’ religion? If not, then how come she has the power to cure people of deadly diseases? I thought god was the only one supposed to have control over life and death. At least, that’s the excuse right-to-lifers have when they shoot people for carrying out abortions, or those people who sneered when the Nobel Prize for Medicine this year was given to the person who perfected IVF treatment. So if god has a monopoly on life and death – how did Mary McKillop save anybody’s life? If she didn’t do it herself, but god did it – then why are we making her a saint?
Back when John Howard was PM, a federal program was put in place to supply religious chaplains to schools, paid for by the government. This funding has now been continued for the next two years, despite a national campaign to bring it to an end. It’s interesting that, in a country where 70% of the adult population says that religion is unimportant in their lives, the government is prepared to provide religious advisors to 100% of the nation’s school children. I have to ask, why?
It’s no secret I have no love for the Catholic Church. But I’m not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. Some of my best friends are Catholics, and there’s no doubt that charitable work around the world makes a considerable contribution to the well-being of millions of unfortunates. There’s also the music, the art and architecture – all of which I adore and the loss of which would make the world a poorer place. It’s not all good – but it’s not all bad, either.
But in the grand scheme of things, some individual heads rise above others, and in the process, expose the rotting mass underneath. George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney is one such man.
In part 2 of this series, I look at the influences and experiences that brought me to atheism.
I went to church when I was a kid. Not with my family, mind – just me, on my own. I liked it. I liked knowing that there was a big guy up there somewhere, looking over me. It felt comforting. My Dad was in the army so we travelled around a lot. Having god up there also meant I didn’t feel so lonely, always being the new kid at school, and never sticking around long enough to develop real friendships. God was my imaginary friend. Given that I didn’t come from any religious tradition, I guess that choosing to go to church was my first attempt at rebellion :-).