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Monday, March 05, 2007

Chatting with Believers

So how often do you talk about religion? It's probably a bit of a subconscious bias on my part, but I find the topic comes up more and more frequently. While I'm not holding my breath that I'll be converted to anything in the near future, I'm endlessly fascinated by the varieties of belief (and disbelief). Besides being interesting in their own right, I think these conversations help immunize me from thinking about believers in stereotypical ways. People's belief systems are rarely as out and out thoughtless and anti-intellectual as some would have you believe (and as I tend to suppose when left to my own devices). In fact except for the actual little detail about believing in a supreme being, I'm often surprised how much I have in common intellectually with believers. Of course I'm still surprised that they *do* in fact believe, but it's fascinating to explore the exact geographical delineation between belief and non-belief. Well, at least for me.

So how about you, do you like talking about religion? Why or why not?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Richard said...

I find myself speaking more and more about my atheism to believers. I don't travel much with right-wing fundamentalists (although my former partner, with whom I lunch every couple of months and with whom I discuss both my atheism and my Buddhism, is a former Promise Keeper), but I find that it's getting easier and easier to talk with the others about non-belief. I think that it's getting easier for a few reasons. First, atheism has, over the past couple of years, come out, and those believers who had a prejudiced understanding of it—basically associating atheism with Stalinist communism, nihilism, hedonism, and "hatred" of religious people —have come to recognize that atheism is very different from what they thought it was. And they are curious. Second, I have gotten better at explaining why I find atheism not only persuasive but very comfortable, without getting defensive and without attempting to proselytize (although some proselytizing is probably inevitable when you're explaining what you find attractive about a system of understanding). The flood of books about atheism, and the very thoughtful atheist websites and blogs, have helped me a lot with this.

I'm very careful not to attack religious belief (although when I'm asked, I explain, as gently as possible, that I find the notion of God not only unnecessary but more than a little absurd). For the most part, I try to concentrate on the fact that my atheism frees me to develop a more compassionate understanding toward my fellows—no need to divide them into groups based on their orthodoxy or the state of their souls; we're all in the same boat—and to experience the magnificent wonder, diversity, and mystery of life, the universe and everything without feeling compelled to reduce all of that to a single explanation: God did it.

It's fun. Back in the old days, before the emergence of atheism as a proper subject for discussion, I'd frequently wind up pissing believers off, because all that I knew how to do was attack their superstitious nonsense. These days, despite what the fundamentalists would like, the discussion can proceed more civilly.

Tue Mar 06, 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger evtujo said...

All of the conversations I've had in the last year have been pretty cordial and I've learned something. Except the conversation with a Lutheran minister who was a friend of a friend. It started off well enough but then he just accused me of not even trying to understand his points. For instance I asked "How do you you know God exists and what his attributes are?" And he said "That question doesn't matter". Things didn't progress well from there. Call me old fashioned but the question of whether God actually exists or not seems pretty fundamental if you are going to believe in him.

Tue Mar 06, 11:19:00 PM  

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