The Bible forbids it?
Ambiguity and inconstancy breed controversy, that much is obvious and when it comes to religion controversy leads to conflict. The Bible, in its entirety has been translated in its entirety into 475 languages, and translations of the bible are accepted. The Qur’an is meant to be read only in Arabic, so that the original meaning is kept. This difference is clear when it comes to practice, for example taking a look at a single passage in 2 different editions of the bible, they can be interpreted very differently.
For the sake of this I am looking at Leviticus 18:22 because this is a specific passage that has some controversy around it, as it deals with homosexuality. In The Good News Bible it reads “No man is to have sexual relations with another man, God hates that” This is absolute, and leaves no room for argument on the subject. Compare this to The Revised Standard Bible, which says “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman” This is a lot less absolute, afterall heterosexual sex between a man and a woman, is not the same as sex between 2 men, so this passage could be interpreted differently to the first. The difference is small, probably because they were translated into English from different languages yet this kind of difference is why Christianity can have such extremes of belief, for example Quakers have no problems with homosexuals, whereas Roman Catholics forbid homosexuality. While Islam has a view on homosexuality that I disagree with, they do have a very defined position. Therein lies my problem with a family friend who is against homosexuality, she says the bible forbids it, well it seems that would depend on what copy if the bible you pick up.
Atheism and religion
I am an atheist, I am secure in my atheist beliefs and am unlikely to be swayed. However I do have an interest in religion, and so I have read portions of multiple religious texts and teachings for example I personally own copies of both The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, and while reading these books I have come across certain moral points which I very much agree with.
I will focus on the Bible as that is by far the more accessible of the two and specifically there are two quote which not only ring true but that I try to follow as I go about my life.
The first is a concept pretty much universally held within religion but that was first brought to my awareness as a quote from the bible, and it is the idea that you should always treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated, now that does sound very simple, and you would have thought easy to follow, however from personal experience either many people do not keep to it, or there are a lot of masochists in society. I tend to extend this to how I act to people, that when I am confided in by someone I respond as I would wish someone to respond were the situations reversed. Even something as simple as wishing someone good luck when they are nervous about something, knowing that when I am nervous that helps me to feel more secure in what im doing.
The second teaching being ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ I think that so long as noone is hurt by the action people can do whatever they like and I wont judge them for it, even if it is not something that I would do myself.
In short there is no reason why non religious people cannot learn from religious texts and I would encourage them to do so.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS?
Well, I was raised christian, my parents are christian so it was always assumed that I would be too, I mean thats how religion works, right? As a child I attended church and Sunday school, and am even listed on the census as christian (against my will.) However this is not who I am now, I am someone who has lost faith, I lost my faith on the day my grandfather killed himself, I simply didn’t want to believe in someone or something who would put someone through all that he went through.
I would certainly not identify as an agnostic as that seems to be the indecisive persons excuse for not making a definite choice. I do not identify with organized religion as it is something I disagree with on principle. However certain experiences have resulted in me subscribing to some religious beliefs, namely guidelines which form part of religion but without the ideas of a god, and eternal reward/damnation, so technically I am an atheist.
For example after a particularly interesting visit to a Buddhist monastery I believe that understanding comes from looking within, not seeking validation through connecting with a deity. I tend to greatly respect the christain teaching that you should do unto others as you would be done by, and in a general system of moral balance. In short I may not have faith in a deity, but I have faith in myself and in the good of those around me. As religion is simply a collection of beliefs or moral values I think thats as good a start as any.
Things that annoy me #1
As someone who has an interest in religion I have often experienced the selective ignorance surrounding the word ‘theory.’ Used in a scientific context the word Theory means a statement that has been confirmed by observation or experimentation which is widely accepted in the scientific community, such as the Big Bang Theory. Some people when seeking to dispute scientific fact use the other non scientific definition and applying it in scientific situations to discredit the argument, this definition is what in scientific terms is known as a hypothesis which is simply an explanation for something that happens, ie the explanation may or may not be true. People using this definition therefore say that creation is just as much a theory as the big bang and therefore should be considered equally.
These are in no particular order, and I have come into contact with every single one of them at some point.
Some of the things that often annoy me are when other atheists:
1. Think that reading philosophy makes them a “better atheist” than those who do not or read very little of it.
The reason for your second point is simple, it is not that they think that eastern religions are immune from criticism, it is that both they and their audience know a lot less about eastern religions than western religions, and it is easier to challenge a belief system that you know more about.
In another of Dawkins’ books (The Greatest Show on Earth,) he refers to people who do not accept evolution as fact as ‘History Denyers.’ This is something which I believe shows Dawkins as a bit short sighted.
I agree with him, in that I believe in the evidence for evolution and therefore accept it as fact, however there is a very simple argument that can be made in support of the religious perspective. The argument goes as follows, it is logical that if a deity is judging the faith of people after death then the deity must test the faith to ensure that only the righteous are rewarded. A simple way of testing faith could be seen as placing false evidence that could be seen as disproving a cornerstone of the religious belief system, people with strong faith will not question the lord and will believe despite being questioned. So if we assume that god does exist it is reasonable to think that evidence for evolution may be a test of faith.
The religious perspective is logical if looked at from their point of view and therefore is maybe not deserving of being referred to in such a derogatory way.
Recently, I read a book Called the God delusion, by Richard Dawkins. It is seen as a fairly controversial book and I can understand why, from a religious perspective it seems to directly attack the idea of faith, and in the way that it seems to argue that atheists are of more sound mind than people who are religious.
However I think that skeptics, and people who claim it is inappropriate to challenge faith in such a way are either looking at the book in the wrong way,or are afraid to have their faith challenged for fear that they might be swayed.
Admittedly I may be an atheist, but as someone with an interest in religion I can appreciate the ideas surrounding the maintenance and questioning of faith. Reading the book made me feel no more or less justified in my atheism, I believe, and I have backed this up by asking religious friends who have also read the book, that the questioning of your faith by an author should not be an issue. If you are someone for whom merely reading a book is enough to question your faith, then maybe your faith isn’t strong enough.
I think the controversy is caused because people don’t like their ideas to be presented as anything other than correct, however the way that The God Delusion condemns religion is no different to the way religious texts such as the bible, where alternate beliefs are stated as wrong.
I myself have read the vast majority of the bible, I did not take similar offense to that presented to The God Delusion because I read it purely out of curiosity, I knew that my beliefs would be questioned, this is because I read because I enjoy having my beliefs challenged. I think that if people do not want their beliefs to be challenged as in the god delusion they should simply leave it rather than complaining (for example as a result of the book Richard Dawkins website was completely banned in Turkey until 2011,) And frankly its quite obvious from the title whether or not the book is for you.
Something particularly awkward happened to me today, while talking to some family friends someone, who happens to be an evangelical christian argued that practising homosexuals are sinning and will go to hell. This was awkward for two reasons, firstly the son of one of the people present had recently come out, and secondly because they are completely wrong.
Their argument went as follows, ‘the bible says that it is a sin, and so acting as such means you go to hell’ their argument cited Leviticus 18:22 Which says ‘You must not have sexual relations with a man as you would a woman.’ they say that because the bible says this, it means that all homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is a choice, and therefore that it is acceptable to judge people on this alone.
I personally think that this belief regarding homosexuality is detrimental to the view of the christian faith, because this is not a view that should be held in a modern educated society, especially when considering that some of the religions that abrahamic religion, and more specifically Christianity had potentially more enlightened views regarding homosexuality, such as one of the myths surrounding Prometheus, which suggests that homosexuals were created as such, which on the face of it seems a more accepting idea.
Another reason that this use of a rule from the bible may be seen as invalid is the sheer variety of rules laid out by the bible, for example, in Leviticus 19 it is stated that ‘You must not wear clothing of different kinds of material mixed together.’ and ‘You must not cut the hair on the sides of your head or cut the edges of your beard.’ The relevance of these rules cannot be seen as less than that of Leviticus 18:22 as these rules are stated in the following passage of the same chapter. Also it can be said fairly categorically that the people stating that homosexuality is wrong have broken the two aforementioned rules, yet you don’t see people campaigning for the abolition of poly-cotton clothes.
This much is clear, in this case the bible is being used to back up pre-existing judgement, which is condemned in Matthew 7:1 ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’
So these people, in showing their prejudice are just as wrong as the people to whom they are being prejudice.