Are Moderates Looking the Wrong Way?

We have all seen the posts and pictures on social media, reassuring the general public that not all people of faith share the same poisonous view and ideology. There has been a surge in such uploads after the horrific Paris massacres as there are immediately after any major terror attack. Most people (at least I am hoping) understand that only a very small percentage are to blame, although the severity and scale of devastation and loss of life can make it appear that these numbers are much higher. Others are going around spreading a ‘close the borders!’ style message in Europe at least, feeling that by that locking the door and standing behind it this will be enough to stop the pressure applied from refugees.

I am not one to agree with the more radical of the two, ‘closing borders’ will  not prevent the problem those fleeing conflicts are enduring. It simply buries our heads in the sand further.

So I will talk about the more peaceful protesters, the moderates, the ‘good’ side if you will. I do not believe that one side is good nor bad however many far right groups adopt the idea that stopping immigration will be the solution. It isn’t. Like sticking your finger into a bucket of water full of holes it is only a temporary fix and won’t last very long.

I do not know the answer, which I am sure would be demanded if this post was presented in the form of conversation. If anything I’m asking the question used as my title. 

The reaction I find most common and very self confident is that we should not paint all believers with the same extremist brush. Rightly so. But with the decision to show support to the moderate, I find religion receives a get out of jail free card.
  
 
Like a great big pair of puppy dog eyes religion gets off the hook, despite it being the key ingredient. Is the need to defend fellow moderates against those outside of the religion greater than the need to aim arguments toward the extremists? If hate crimes rise, maybe so. Until then, it is a waste of breath. Atheists and those of a seperate belief aren’t as dangerous and should not be prioritised as such. 

The danger comes from the belief moderates try to defend, not those questioning it.

I’d like to ask readers, what do you think of the reaction to recent attacks? Are you pleased with the response, or feel that reactions are misguided? There are so many angles to take there is no definitive right answer, however conversation helps and should be encouraged over violence.

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Some families put God first

On a couple of occasions I have found myself on the topic of religion in pretttty religious countries. Speaking to those in very religious families on what would happen if they were to leave the faith.

It shocks me to hear that some family members, in particular the older (supposedly mature) generations threaten to disown those who choose not to believe in God.

How can anyone love God more than their own child? Sibling? Grandchild? It’s pretty disgusting, showing that strong religious belief can manipulate rational thinking in such a way.

Threatening to never speak to a family member again, a one that you have loved and has loved back throughout life, all for an improbable God that you have never seen. This is simply madness.

This- I hope- is just a scare technique, to ensure that the family belief that one clings to remains an unbroken chain. I remember growing up with people leaving religion. At the time it left me a little uneasy and down. I wanted to cling to religion, I wanted it to be real as the alternative scared me. So seeing people head down a more scientific path made me feel more and more lonely, although the majority still were religious. (Well, didn’t go out the way to claim to be atheist anyway.)

I do not think I could let a family member get away with threatening to disown me, how sad that our own flesh and blood can do that. How sad that a family member believes God would find this justice acceptable, courageous or necessary.

I am blessed to have a great family past and present, although some are pretty religious I know they would never do this, because I’m loved all the same since coming out atheist.

If I was God? Meeting a family member at the gates who disowned someone for this reason would not get a warm greeting.

‘What are you thinking you idiot?!’ Would probably be my opener.

Manila: Six million Catholics, one Pope, no God

In recent news, Pope Francis visited Manila, Phillipines. It was a record breaking visit, the last visit by a Pope in 1995 was still an astounding figure, five million Catholics back then were in attendance to see Pope John Paul II.

With a Christian population that easily outnumbers the population in Britain, you could say a crowd the size of a major world city travelled to the Filipino capital to see this icon.

So what happened? What did he do there? Well, reading reports it appears he dedicated the event to the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan.

Topics also covered were helping the poor, the importance of family and looking after the environment.

The first thought to go through my head when seeing the images of this gargantuan mass was of the weather. Six million devoted Catholics with Jesus in their hearts flocking to see the next best thing.

It pissed down with rain.

It literally rained on their parade, apparently the event wasn’t worthy of any sunshine. Maybe it was the tears of God from all the wrong we are doing? Food for thought.

What I struggle to get my head around is that faith in God is so strong that people have flocked from across the nation to witness a once in a life opportunity, seeing the Pope on his 6- day tour of Asia. Yet everything about the visit was typically human, nothing spiritual occurred.

Six million! It sounds like it was fairly peaceful too. If there was any violence it mustn’t have been any major clashes as the only news to hit the headlines were of the sheer numbers in attendance. This doesn’t go without my admiration.

But the reason for this post is the following question:

Why do so many people have such a strong faith in God but are happy to settle with the Pope simply telling us to improve?

What then is the purpose of the Vatican? They claim God exists, yet we settle for doing the work.

God gets praise, we do the work to make the world a better place.

The crowds couldn’t have flocked to Manila hoping for miracles, but rather for a sense of community, togetherness and hope.

After all what is the point in a religion if all you get from a supermassive gathering of one faith, is instructions on how to make the world a safer place ourselves?

Doesn’t this stand out as a major factor in concluding God is absent from our lives? How does this religion stand out from any other?

It doesn’t, it just proves that people need hope during desperate times. It is either that or that people are happy to not just settle with, but worship a God that doesn’t do anything.

I hope it is not the latter.

Do you get offended because you know God doesn’t exist?

After the Paris shooting many magazines and articles reproduced the cartoons that bizarrely caused such offence.

Is freedom of speech more important that religion? This was the the resulting debate on Sky News on Thursday.

Yes.

YES!

Of course it is. Thank goodness after centuries to the contrary people are beginning to get fed up of dedicating their lives to pleasing a non existing God. Oh God exists does he?

So why bother dedicating your time to proving it? Let us find out for ourselves on judgement day.

I also bring this up in my post Why blog on behalf of God?

I know that would be my mentality if I was convinced of my religious belief. I was very eager as a teenage believer to have Gods back when skeptics argued against him. Now I know that was because I didn’t truly believe, not 100%. My heart was in it but my head kept casting a shadow of doubt that led to the small flame of belief burning out. This is where my need to argue in Gods favour was fuelled, not feeling God has a voice of his own.

It’s a little embarrassing to think that some believers address non issues such as cartoon drawings with such urgency that weapons are used. Maybe God decides not to speak to us, unwilling to provide a voice. Do you really think that the governor of the universe is pleased with you fighting the small injustices religion sees on a daily basis? I doubt he even realises.

Imagine a team of officers reporting back to the head of police at the end of shift. ‘Boss! Listen to what we did today! We told a bunch of kids to stop swearing in the street! Aren’t we good boss!’

Now imagine that on a much larger scale. Larger being a large understatement. We are just showing that we desire to believe in something higher but cannot comprehend that something higher would have bigger problems than our petty ones.

Of course freedom of speech is more important, religion and it’s believers have an obsession with telling us how to live and when we are doing it wrong. I know my blog is doing the same, but I won’t be shooting anyone anytime soon. Nor will I be content with anyone’s fate of an eternal torture for not believing the same loving deity as me.

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Now I cannot say that fundamentalists carry out attacks because they feel non believers won’t meet justice in a universe without God. Anyone willing to kill themselves in religions name must have a great deal of faith. What is to be understood is why those influenced by extremism aren’t content with knowing ‘infidels’ will meet their maker in the not too distant future. Some tomorrow, some in a matter of decades.

I guess anger. When a faith so strong is ridiculed, logic is pushed to one side. This doesn’t make it right.

Moderates do not get this angry when their religion is questioned. But still the desire to stand up for God in some way is present. This time common sense isn’t pushed to one side to make way for anger, I think common sense comes into play and the reality that God isn’t there to argue back hits home.

God punishes us for his decisions, are you happy with this?

I have heard on many occasions people state that God has created us inferior. Fine. I’m assuming that if God was to exist, that would indeed be the case. We still have a long way to go before unlocking many mysteries of the universe, many natural phenomena on our own planet still leave us scratching our heads.

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There are additionally some believers, depressingly, that accept the idea that God created us inferior and we should pay the price for not believing in him. Punishment despite the lack of evidence (which is apparently intentional) and despite the inevitable confusion and violence this creates between religions as a result.

A typical quote goes like this:

‘God lives outside of the realms that we understand, free of time and space. We cannot comprehend such a being as we do not have access to the conditions in which God lives.’

In that case, how the hell do you come to the conclusion he exists?!

If we cannot comprehend God, then we cannot come to the conclusion he exists. A lack of evidence should not point to the idea that something exists, and created us to not understand. If you use this argument, you must accept the argument from countless other religions stating the same thing. Evidence does not point to one religion considerably more that any other with this logic. My belief in the magic monkey now has as much credibility as any other.

As I have said before, God would be a terrible businessman. If a business was to expect people to find the brand or product instead of advertising and putting a voice out there, the business would fail. This is the exact trend we are seeing with religion, Christianity at least. I am expected to find God? I do not need to. If believing in him is so important, I’m sure he has the capabilities to find me. None of this ‘God had already spoken to you/you have already found God’ bullshit… Actual definitive, conclusive communication.

Similar to other paranormal phenomena, isn’t it funny how there is never any mass observations or true recorded footage of anything spiritual? There is one huge reason why many are skeptical, the reason being that for millennia there has not been any conclusive proof(s). If you feel God has spoken to you, you are lying to yourself, or extremely susceptible to accepting something to be true that simply isn’t. I have talked of the simple images and patterns that emerge on a daily basis that some may be lead to believe are spiritual experiences, but burnt toast? A metal cross in amongst thousands of tons of debris? Come on now, I really do hope that isn’t the work of an intelligent designer.

I’m sure I had seen a Pokemon today. The size of a cat, it jumped into the bushes before my eyes could adjust to the blur. I loved Pokemon as a child, it was indeed the size of a Pokemon… Yes, I’m pretty sure it was a Pokemon.

Wouldn’t that be a nice thought?!

It would be, but that doesn’t mean I should convince myself that it was what I desire it to be. It is not healthy. I would rather be disappointed by the truth than satisfied with a lie. There are so many amazing truths out there that we do not have to resort to kidding ourselves. If you do like to do so, fine, but as this is a personal preference please do not use it in a debate with genuine truth seekers.

The Sydney gunman and my thoughts on the Twitter campaign

Another day, another religious person threatening to kill innocent people for a God they have never met.

Sadly one hostage has been killed.

This is another addition to the terrorism statistics. According to the BBC World Service and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, the death toll totalled 5,042 in November with 664 separate attacks. That is seven or eight people dead in every terror act. 168 people each day woke up for the last time.

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If December is similar, we should be closing in on two to three thousand dead. It frustrates me. But so does the desire to stand up for the beliefs of moderates, although themselves condemning such violence. There is a campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #illridewithyou after a female Muslim was seen removing her hijab on a train shortly after the attack. Another lady caught up to her and said ‘put it back on, I’ll walk with you’.

Now I adore the community spirit and the love shown here between religions and cultures. It shows in the grand scheme of things, the majority of people are compassionate and tolerant, kind and loving. Religious or not.

And this lady who felt the need to take of her hijab is no doubt an example of this. A victim herself. But what are we actually doing when we provide support and build empathy for those who are left isolated or alienated after a belief they share has played a role in an attack?

We condemn the terrorist(s).

But it is not for having faith in a book with violent passages, that is widely accepted. It is only when the passages are acted out.

We then feel sorry for moderates that are vulnerable to discrimination when a terrorists carries out an act sourced from the books, read by both the moderate and fundamentalist alike. Beliefs sharing the same passages.

See it from this perspective.

A nazi moderate is on a bus in the 1940’s, in an area or country of neutrality.

(I am in no way suggesting moderate believers are nazis, hopefully this is made clear come the end of the example)

He or she learns of a mass killing of Jews, becoming very ashamed and concerned about possible repercussions. Nazi attire is slowly taken off. The individual absorbed inspiration solely from the positive segments of speeches by Hitler and his book Mein Kampf, ignoring anything deemed to be immoral.

A genuinely good person.

A passer by of another political affiliation and opposing nationality realises this, approaches and demands the nazi to put the attire back on, providing support and comfort. This results in a larger community get-together to show compassion towards the shaken nazi.

This should seem a bizarre situation to anyone. This is the best I can do to describe my thoughts on the Twitter campaign. Compassion is key to keeping peace, I cannot and will not oppose anyone supporting a campaign to get those who feel alone feeling loved and appreciated again. It is seen today in Sydney with the attempt to build bridges between cultures.

I continue to be baffled when religions escape criticism. Those who are moderate followers should consider (and be persuaded to consider in conversation) what they are following, though never made to feel a threat or cause of attacks. Those who are in support should look at what they are in support of.

We could very well be feeding the mouth that bites. I will show support to those who are discriminated against as a result of the gunman, I just cannot follow the campaign as I know the religion it is supporting will be the source of many more deaths in the months and years to come.

I don’t believe it all, but my religion is still right!

‘Believe what you want, as long as it isn’t bad!’

I hear this a lot when debating moderates and ‘friendly’ atheists alike.

This may seem a fool proof path to peace, it isn’t. Nor is it healthy for debates.

My most recent clash of this kind was with a friend, one that I will indeed label a ‘friendly’ atheist. I am in no way unfriendly, but the person in question goes the extra mile to be accepting of religions. This seems illogical because we all know, religions cannot share equal status when all claim divinity.

Therefore to be accepting of all is absurd from a theological and scientific perspective. Morally, it is a more understandable stance to take but does little to halt the the most basic claim of all seeming ludicrous- religious superiority.

Believing whatever you like

This does not work in a debate. It can only hold weight when the belief is admittedly for personal reasons. This is fine, but should never be present in scientific discussions or debates.

Personal preference vs evidence= incompatibility.

Unless personal preference is believing what is evidence based.

Accepting multiple
religions

Similar to the above in that it cannot possibly be used in intellectual discussions. Considerate, but trouble making when confronted with a fundamentalist, believe-every-word stance.

I have said it before, moderates cannot argue for a religion if it involves leaving out large amounts of outdated, discriminatory doctrine. Morally yes, a moderate wins. Fundamentalism wins at not being silly enough to believe something is perfect, without believing all of it.

Fundamentalism still loses, nonetheless.

Religious differences cause conflicts. Conflicts are addressed with an attempt to blend religion in with multiculturalism, teaching tolerance and acceptance. I am all for multiculturalism, however some people will refuse to get along by simply being pushed together and told to do so, we aren’t fighting children being forced to make friends by our parents. Religion makes this a lot more of a difficult task.

But what happens when attacks occur? We are told they are carried out by people without faith. Groups with other agendas, religion isn’t one of those agendas.

So, moderates possess faith? Not as much as a fundamentalist. If I was to cherry pick certain verses to tailor it around my personal tastes, I wouldn’t have faith that religion was correct at all.

So what are moderates and religion-accepting atheists arguing for? Peace, not truth.

I would rather try to rid the world of all organised religions in search of truth and peace. My future children growing up with the image of a man nailed to a cross until dead is not the best start for a developing mind.