Saturday, August 1, 2009


What is it one acquires through faith? Righteousness? Community? Redemption? Acceptance? One needs to understand what faith will offer before you can find it. For acceptance or community, there are the ecumenical, tolerant religions like the Quakers, Unitarians, Buddhists. If it's redemption (whatever that means to you) one must bite the bullet and learn to accept the tenets of one of the redemptive faiths, Islam, fundamentalist Christianity and the like.

If it is righteousness, and the ability to live a good life, then you don't need a religion, you just need a philosophical grounding for your own life. I think that "people of faith" believe that their faith helps them, or even compels them to be righteous, by which I mean honest, moral and ethical. I believe, in fact I know, that you can have those things without an external structure; in fact while the religious often seem to think that people of "no faith" are taking the easy way out, I in fact believe the opposite-- it is much harder to be a righteous person without an external structure-- your goodness needs to come from within.

I was raised by godless communists, who basically taught me to distrust organized religion, and in fact my encounters with organized religion as a child were pretty much universally negative inasmuch as my parents' atheism was well-known in our community and at my school. (Lots of ridicule and abuse suffered at the hands of authority figures who should have known better.)

So when I grew up and more or less became a seeker, the organized religions were out for me. I could not accept either the magical thinking, the hypocrisy, the intolerance, the arbitrary strictures or the authoritarian mindset. How I have approached this, then, as I'm someone with a strong spiritual bent, is to accept the idea of a higher power, but that this power emanates from me and that it is my responsibility to live up to it. Because I have no external structure to compel me, this creates an obligation-- I have no god to forgive me my transgressions, therefore I better be really really cautious about transgressing.

The idea, pervasive in our society, that atheists, the "godless" if you will, have no understanding of morality is so personally offensive to me that I literally cannot watch mainstream media at all. I am, despite my lack of *a* faith, a person *of* faith-- someone who believes in and strives for my own inner goodness, who seeks and in fact finds that goodness in others, and who lives what a religious person might call a godly life.

1 comment:

dimsum said...

Suggested readings:
These are not meant to be a true comment on your thoughts.