Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's Be Reasonable

I would like to address a topic that I have been meaning to address, but have not done so yet.  And that topic is religion.  Like homosexuals, those lacking a religious belief are generally assumed to be politically left-of-centre.  And, also like homosexuals, there do exist those lacking a religious belief that are conservative.  There even exist conservative homosexuals who lack a religious belief (such as myself).

I consider myself agnostic, because I believe that we cannot know for certain whether or not a deity (or any supernatural entity) exists (unless it were proven that one does exist).  And, just because modern science doesn't prove the existence of some supernatural entity, that doesn't necessarily mean that it never will.

For all practical purposes, I suppose I am atheist, in that I would only accept a supernatural entity/diety if it were scientifically proven.  In accordance with the principal of Occam's razor, that dictates that the hypothesis that depends upon the fewest assumptions is generally favorable, I do not believe that anything supernatural exists.  Most things can be better explained with science.  And, for that which cannot be explained with science, new scientific discoveries have elucidated what has previously been unexplained.  Ergo, it stands to reason that new scientific discoveries may elucidate what currently cannot be explained with science.  Having said that, science is not absolute.  Existence is mysterious, and, in my opinion, we humans cannot be absolutely certain that things are how they seem, regardless of how likely or unlikely they are not how they seem.

I do not view those with religious beliefs as inherently inferior to myself because they are religious, just as I would hope that religious people would not view me as inferior because I am not.  I have a great deal of respect for religion, as I believe it plays a significant role in society.  In this comment I made to a post at GayPatriot, I explained my views on this subject.  So, instead of writing something new, I will just recreate most of that comment because it does the job.
I have a large amount of respect for religion, the role it plays in society, and the people who commit to it. I doubt I would ever be able to understand faith, but I can respect how important it is (as long as I still have freedom to be secular). It provides a valuable structure and a means by which to keep people grounded and restrained, as well as a means by which to keep society moral. As long as the religion is a benevolent force (unlike Islam), I condemn those who mock it. They should have the freedom to mock it, but I cannot understand or appreciate their intolerant motivation.
As a social (or cultural) conservative who favors limited government, I recognize religion as a valuable means by which to propagate a moral structure in society and it does so much better than government ever could. In other words, it keeps people and society “clean” and modest.
I do not have respect for those who, whether conservative or liberal, who [sic] fail to respect another point of view, so long as that point of view allows for dissenting point of views [sic].
While many atheists/agnostics claim to be rational, I will say that many of them have an irrational opposition to religion.  Because I was raised secularly, I have no understanding of the nature of religious faith, so, for that reason, I cannot condemn it as "irrational."  The primary function of most secular organizations seems to be to pass judgement on others, which I find ironic.

As for the nature of the relationship between religious people and secular people, I would hope there could be a mutual respect.  Not all atheists are religion-hating liberals.  Public expressions of faith do not threaten me, just as they shouldn't threaten anyone else.  In addition, religion is not necessary for morality.  Most people are able to tell the difference between right and wrong.  That doesn't mean those people necessarily avoid doing wrong, but many do.  That also doesn't mean that secular people are as moral as religious people; the opposite is probably true.  

There are plenty of secular conservatives.  And, something that also applies to gay conservatives is that much of the incredulity of this apparent oxymoron is based upon misconceptions.  The misconception of the average conservative as being a religious zealot that means to dictate what people are allowed to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, or something.  While there are those on the right who may fit that description, there are many who do not.  I mentioned this issue in a previous post, in which I also present an argument (someone else's) for cultural conservatism.

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