The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Posts Tagged ‘faith

Sam Harris on religion

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On conversation versus dogmatism

Curmudgeonly Yours


Written by Curmudgeonly

March 19, 2008 at 1:47 am

I believe in me

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I was listening to the John Lennon song God on YouTube the other day and I could relate to the lyrics – especially the line that said “I just believe in me” and then the addition “Yoko and me. That’s reality”.

Since I rejected religion, I’ve always said that I believe in people, not God. I’ve also learned to believe in myself a lot more. In the past I tried to be what someone else wanted me to be – the people who wrote the scriptures, church leaders, other church members. I conformed myself to other people’s views of how I should behave, what I should think, say, do and not do.

Freedom from religion has meant, for me, freedom to be myself. Several years ago, a woman who wrote on a forum that I used to visit put it perfectly when she said:

Maybe that’s why it hurts to find out the church is crazy. You are feeling the death rattle of a false self. You think it’s your self, but it isn’t. It’s just an identity that was built on something phoney. Your real self is right under it, eventually waking up and stretching its arms like nothing ever happened. And then you’re stronger because you’re living closer to your true identity. – Melissa

There is a deep satisfaction in being my real self, that never existed when I lived the religious life. Not that I’m so very different in my personality, except that I’m much less judgemental, less gullible, more logical and more sceptical. I’m still polite, kind and friendly. I still love to study, but now I study a whole world of absorbing subjects, not just the scriptures. I’m still often forgetful and careless and I continue to procrastinate over tasks that I dislike. One of the big differences is that I don’t feel guilty about my failings – I just accept that I’m human. I still want to improve in some areas of my life and behaviour, but not because someone else tells me I should, but for my own reasons. I don’t have to spend time doing things that I don’t really want to, or that I’m not particularly interested in, because I think God has “called” me to that work. I can say “no” without reproaching myself for it.

Since setting aside faith, I’ve felt the power and strength of reality. It’s not always comforting, but it’s always honest and solid. There’s a simple joy in believing in yourself and your loved ones and knowing that you can count on them absolutely. Believers may fool themselves into thinking that they can count on God, but only because they’ll twist any circumstance to “show” that he was there for them. I know, because that’s what I did. Except, there were certain very traumatic times in my life when, try as I might, I just couldn’t convince myself that I was being supported by a loving God. My belief in him and desire to understand the terribly difficult things that were happening to me in terms of his will, made a hard situation ten times worse. And, despite my faith, there was a part of me deep down that felt that faith wasn’t the comfort I really needed.

Everything about my life has been so much happier and more satisfying since I walked away from religion and from belief in a god. Even if rejecting God and the trappings of belief was the only thing that had changed in my life over the past 6 years or so, I would still be immeasurably richer today than I ever was then. I’m materially better off and certainly healthier psychologically. I’m free from groundless fear, crippling guilt and superstitious magical thinking. And I can believe in myself. That’s reality – and I love it.


Written by islaskye

January 27, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Respect is a two-way street

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respect1.jpgAbout 6 years ago I stopped attending meetings at the Mormon church. I hadn’t necessarily planned this, but I was becoming more and more concerned about things I was learning about the church and the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing made church attendance progressively more uncomfortable.

As I had always been a regular church-goer who played a very active part in all worship and other activities, my non-appearance for three weeks running prompted enquiries from some church members as to whether I was all right and offers of help if needed. I presume they thought I was ill or something. They didn’t know of my feelings towards the church so, when I made it known that I believed the church had strayed from its original teachings in some important areas and I was taking time out to evaluate how I felt about that, it came as quite a shock to the members that I confided in.

One was a young woman whose response was that she thought I had been deceived by Satan, but she still wanted to be my friend as long as I didn’t ever say anything negative about the church to her again.

Well, this hurt and surprised me (I was very naive in those days about the reaction of the faithful to expressions of doubt amongst their number). As I thought about it later I also began to feel annoyed. She was giving me an ultimatum – don’t speak negatively about the church if you still want me to be your friend. Not only that, but while she was demanding respect for her feelings about the church, she was quite prepared to be disrespectful about my very real concerns by labelling me Satan’s dupe.

Since that experience, I have noticed that religious believers are always demanding that their feelings about their religion, or their god, or their prophet are respected, while thinking nothing of denigrating those of other faiths or of none. These can range from Christians claiming that atheists have no morals because morality only comes from God, to fanatical Muslims claiming that a middle aged school teacher is worthy of death for allowing little children to name their teddy bear Muhammed.

In Britain this year, Christians have been yelling “persecution” because religiously symbolic jewellery such as crosses or so-called “purity rings” are not allowed in schools. Although all jewellery is banned for safety reasons, they feel that, because the objects have a “sacred” meaning for them, they should be given special treatment.

In America, atheists are treated by many Christians with suspicion and, sometimes, downright hostility. Despite Jesus’s example of tolerance and his plea to “love thy neighbour”, many of those who profess to believe in him are not willing to allow non-believers the same respect and protection that they claim for themselves.

I think this lack of tolerance on the part of religious believers towards those of other faiths, or those who have no faith, stems from an unfounded certainty of the rightness of their chosen belief. Despite a staggering lack of verifiable evidence for the claims made by religious believers, they insist that they have the Truth and, therefore, anyone who does not agree is wrong. This allows them to feel secure enough to dismiss any opposing views and march along unscathed by logic, reason, or other religionists’ equally deeply-held beliefs.

I recall having a conversation with a work colleague when I was a dedicated believer, during which I told her that I knew that a certain belief I held was true (I can’t remember what it was now). Up until then she had listened respectfully as I’d outlined my convictions, but at this point she said “You don’t know that’s true”. I insisted that I did and I can remember feeling completely sure of my knowledge. Of course, she was right – you can’t know something without testable evidence to back it up – but religious believers think that they can claim knowledge simply from experiences interpreted in the light of their belief, and feelings that have been manipulated either by themselves or by those who have a vested interest in influencing them to continue with and strengthen their beliefs.

The dogged inflexibility of some believers means that they cannot possibly give any credence to the honest convictions of people who don’t share their beliefs. It’s impossible to respect someone else’s point of view when you have convinced yourself that your view is not only correct, it’s the only one that truly matters. Believing yourself to hold the Truth means that all other views can be comfortably and instantly dismissed. It’s a form of elitism that enables you to be righteously close-minded. After all, if your belief comes from God, then anything that contradicts it must come from the Devil. Such black and white thinking is the hallmark of fundamentalist religionists of every stripe.

Thankfully, there are religious believers who are more open-minded and thoughtful, with whom those who hold differing views can have a genuine debate and know that they are being listened to. Unfortunately, the young woman that I mentioned at the start of this post was not one of them. Instead of demonstrating her commitment to our friendship by talking and listening to me, she chose to report my “apostasy” to the bishop, who was equally rigid in his rejection of the validity of my questions about the church. I never returned and my former “friend” never contacted me again. Perhaps things might have turned out differently if we hadn’t been separated by a lack of respect.


Written by islaskye

December 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins & Harris on religion

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On the 30th of September 2007, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens sat down for a first-of-its-kind, unmoderated 2-hour discussion, convened by RDFRS and filmed by Josh Timonen.

All four authors have recently received a large amount of media attention for their writings against religion – some positive, and some negative. In this conversation the group trades stories of the public’s reaction to their recent books, their unexpected successes, criticisms and common misrepresentations. They discuss the tough questions about religion that face the world today, and propose new strategies for going forward.

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Curmudgeonly Yours

No more excuses

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excuses.gifIt was when I began taking God seriously that I suddenly found myself on the road that would eventually lead to my becoming an atheist. The American actress and comedian Julia Sweeney was onto something when she said, speaking to an imaginary God, “It’s because I take you so seriously that I can’t bring myself to believe in you.” Her one sentence perfectly encapsulates why I don’t believe in God today, why I felt I had no choice but to reject my supernatural belief system.

Someone reading the above paragraph could conclude that I was never an ardent believer – not until the moment I decided to take God seriously – but such an observation would be very far from the actual truth. My religiosity had always been sincere and earnest, anything less would denote a significant flaw in my character, and such could only mean that I was foolishly trying to get one over on a being who supposedly knows the condition of one’s heart and mind.

I think the seriousness that turned me into an atheist was of the type that refused to make any more excuses for God’s behaviour, whereas before I was always conjuring up explanations for what I couldn’t understand, probably in order to boost my faith. Which faith was nothing more than an excuse to believe in the absence of a valid reason.

It’s difficult to bring out in writing a very significant time that caused me to move away from a complete belief in a personal God. Having found myself backed into a corner by God’s apparent apathy to, what I thought were, sincere pleas for help and consequential questions that sought to understand why he was responding to my supplications with complete silence, I decided to reject him on the grounds that I had insufficient reason to continue to accept him as a viable reality. Faith had become an inadequate “get out of jail free” card. Whereas I had used it often in the past as an excuse to shelve difficult questions which I felt had the propensity to damage faith if entertained for too long, it had become defunct by my need for something greater.

I had reached a point when I became excruciatingly sick to death of living my life based upon self-imposed suppositions that had no more foundation than a flying spaghetti monster. I was somebody who sincerely thought that I had experienced God and for a time that brought me a lot of joy, but as I faced my cognitive dissonance I realised that everything was mere assumption on my part. And this realisation irritated me without end, because I wanted so much to believe in a deity.

I felt insulted by God’s silence. I was sincere and seriously believed in him, so completely that I thought I could bring him out of his hiding place by obedience to his word. I tried to bring verses of scripture to fruition by conforming my life accordingly. “Ask and ye shall receive” should bloody well mean what it says. And that goes for any other scriptural promises.

Quite frankly, I had had enough of asking God questions. As far as I was concerned, the onus was now on him. If he truly wanted me to know him, then he had better get his act together and stop expecting me to put my life on hold until he deigned to reveal himself in a way that would be unmistakable. I had no time for playing a childish game of hide and seek. I had a life to be getting on with.

There comes a time when the exercise of faith becomes unreasonable, in my book.

Curmudgeonly Yours

Written by Curmudgeonly

September 30, 2007 at 3:12 pm