I know I promised a post on racial and cultural prejudice. That will have to wait at least one more post. I couldn’t leave religious prejudice at just stating a few of the problems. It is 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. My wife and I go to different churches. Yes, I go to church. It is a non-religious, non-theistic church. For the last few weeks, we have been in a state of compromise. Every other week, we, each go to the church of our choice. She chooses to go to a more traditional church; I choose to go to a Unitarian, Universalists church. We recently had to alter the compromise. Now, she drops me off at the Unitarian church and then leaves for her more traditional church. We can’t even solve the problem in our own house. Don’t expect that to hinder me from offering solutions, or at least an expanded view of the problem.
Recalling my previous example of the three churches, she is more of the mainline behaviorist, while I am more the liberal naturalist. I want to define a fourth category. It stands between behaviorism and naturalism. Let’s call it faithism. This group tends to be more conservative in belief than they are in practice. They believe that their god is most pleased by you successfully decoding the message rather than you successfully carrying it out. They have all manner of formulas for grace and forgiveness to deal with imperfect behavior. What is important to them is that you believe the right things about the right things. They do not throw babies into volcanoes. Nor do they disfellowship a person for a few behavioral problems. They are not completely opposed to knowledge-based reality, but are not ruled by it. Mostly, they believe that they believe the right things, and think everyone else should believe it to. They are very creedal. In fact, the creed is everything to a faithist.
My wife is more of a faithist than a behaviorist. She is more mainline than any of the other groups in my opinion. The thing a faithist cannot stand, and in fact, fears most, is a person without faith or creed. A naturalist like myself has a hard time with a faithist. I have an easier time with Volcanists because at least they are doing science: bad science, to be sure, but they are trying to understand how the world works, and are following through.
A faithist has a set of core beliefs that are not subject to science and reason. In fact, they tend to be somewhat hostile to science and reason because those positions are always questioning faith-based assumptions. Science and reason are good as long as they do not question a faith-based assumption. At that point, they become evil lies of the devil. The whole point of faith is to believe in spite of better evidence to the contrary. If one’s faith could be swayed by science and reason, then it would no longer be faith.
For a naturalist to go against what science and reason demands is to betray his own conscience. I cannot pretend faith in things that I do not believe, or that offend the mind. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens, “Faith is what any darn fool knows ain’t true.” It is impossible for a naturalist to maintain faith in something he does not believe in his heart and mind. It cannot be done, even for the sake of a happy home.
We each have fears that I do not know how to solve. The faithist fears life without faith. They pity the person who believes in nothing. They don’t understand such a person. That formula does not compute. They fear enraging their god who requires faith, even when the faith seems irrational. They fear the kind of world we would live in if everyone stopped believing in the unnatural.
For my part, speaking as a naturalist, I fear faith. I fear abandoning mind, conscience, and reason. I fear a lack of honesty about the way the world works. I fear the hindrance of social evolution that cannot happen without fidelity to the facts. I fear people who have abandoned reason. Such a person is capable of anything in the name of their god. If Abraham can walk away from his happy home to sacrifice his only son on an alter to the lord because of his faith, then faithists are more dangerous than Vocanists. Such stories of irrational behavior are the meat and potatoes of the faithist.
Another challenge to finding a solution is an assumption I made near the end of my previous post. I said that all of the groups want their crops to grow. On further consideration, that may not be the case. When religion is at play, I do not believe we do all have the same goals. The naturalist may just want his crops to grow, the other groups are more interested in pleasing their god, or at least, not angering him. Some want to go to Heaven; even more want to avoid Hell. Still others want to facilitate social and biological evolution, while others just want to survive. We most certainly do not have the same goals.
A behaviorist would rather starve than accept a gift of crops from people they consider evil. A faithist would rather have an unhappy life with another faithist, than a happy life with a faithless, naturalist. A naturalist would rather die than eat food produced by throwing babies in volcanoes. It is way too simplistic to say that we all want to grow crops. That simply isn’t true. We all want to further our religious agendas, regardless of the consequences. I have no solution for that.
The easy thing for me to say is that religion is the culprit, and the solution is to eradicate religion. I happen to believe this is a big part of the solution. Unfortunately, it is never that simple. Most of the religious world would rather die than give up their religion. I love my wife. I fear her religious faithism, but I don’t want her dead. It hurts me to even write these things. However, as long as religion rules the day, we will all continue to look at one another askance, as we do not have the same motives, methods, or morals.
A Jihadist wants the infidel dead, and his culture of evil wiped from the face of the earth. A behaviorist wants to change the behavior of the world by force, if necessary. The faithist will teach our children untrue fantasies about the world to grow another generation of faithists, even if it means never finding a cure for cancer. The apocalypticist can’t wait for this world to end in the flaming destruction it has coming to so that the new heaven and earth can come sooner. They have little interest in making Heaven on earth. They can’t wait for Jesus to come back in “flaming fire, taking vengeance on them than know not god!”
No, we don’t all want the crops to grow. Religious agendas are at cross-purposes.
In the end, I have said much about the problem, and little about solutions. Perhaps it is more difficult for me to see solutions because of the situation in my own house. As my wife of 16 years and I prepare to go to separate churches, I can’t help but feel the situation to be intractable. But, I promise, next time, I will try to come up with a few solutions. I think it will be a very short post.
Now, where did I put that depression medicine…