Squashed Asks: Do you have anything that you consider a higher authority than yourself to test your beliefs against? What in your life are you forced to wrestle with, even if it makes you uncomfortable?
I don’t see the purpose of the desire for a higher authority, to be honest. Believing anything based simply upon the authority of someone else is a terrible idea, and I think this can be applied to gods as well.
Even if I were to find out that there is, in fact, a “higher power” in the universe, I’d be quite skeptical of believing the things that it said or doing the things that it told me to do simply because it was bigger or smarter or more powerful than I am. I’d prefer to see evidence of why I ought to listen to that higher authority before choosing whether or not it was worth doing so.
Now, of course, if that higher authority said to me, “Well, you ought to do what I tell you or else I’ll punish you!” I suppose I might rethink my position, which I think is what a lot of religious people do with books like the Bible.
There is this sort of inherent abusiveness to most religion–a “do this or else you burn” kind of doctrine–that I think is a bit sad, but at the same time the Bible spends hundreds of pages telling us why we deserve that punishment anyway. I remember, when I decided years ago that maybe I wanted to be a Christian after all, getting what I think of as the “dirty rags” speech about salvation. I was told that we humans are nothing to God, that we are nothing but dirty rags in his sight, that God is so disgusted by us that he can’t even bear to look at us–unless we accept Jesus and start praying immediately.
This is a common practice. The first step to getting someone to believe any nonsense you want to fill their heads with is to make sure you get across to them the idea that they, as an individual and as a member of the human race, are absolutely worthless. Step two? You tell them that there is a benevolent God who loves them anyway. Finally–and here’s the kicker–there’s only one thing they have to do to get at that mother lode of cosmic love: They simply have to abase themselves in prayer, guilt, shame, and overwhelming gratitude that a perfect God would deign to love them in spite of their being a sorry piece of shit. It’s genius! Step Four, if you are the Catholic Church or a Benny Hinn type is, naturally, PROFIT.
The thing that I wrestle with the most, I suppose, is having faith in humanity. Religions tell people that they are worthless, that they have no intrinsic value as individuals, that our whole species is corrupt, evil, and broken. Religions have convinced billions of us that our only hope is to trust in God, that we don’t control our own destinies, and that we can work magic if we just pray hard enough.
As an atheist, of course, I don’t believe any of that. I think it’s complete hogwash. If there is no god, then all the rest of that doesn’t stand on its own as a philosophy unless one is horrendously cynical.
Instead, I’m a humanist, which at it’s most basic level simply means that I like people. I believe that people are all capable of living meaningful lives, contributing to society, and making the world a better place. I don’t believe that all people are intrinsically good, but I do think that every single person has an incredible amount of potential to be good. I also believe that the world we live in is not a bad one–that it, too, has amazing potential. This is all very challenging to believe.
Every single day I am faced with a world in which people are actively working against making the world a better place. I have to deal with the fact that many people don’t think that this world gets better–that, indeed, it will only get worse. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy.
I love people, and I have faith in humanity. I don’t believe a god exists to fix the problems of the world, but I believe humankind can do it–if we don’t wreck the place first. Holding onto that faith and the hope it gives me for the future is something I struggle with every single day.