When I was in college I had a strange experience in that I had to be x-rayed so a doctor at my university’s medical center could determine why I was having difficulty breathing. As he and I studied my x-ray together in awkward silence I, in my youthful fear for what would happen to me, waited for him to explain to me what the dark and obviously empty space space meant in my chest cavity. Finally his gravelly voice broke the news, “There appears to be something wrong here…” I stared at him wondering if he would complete his thought. When he didn’t I asked, “Could it be that there’s no lung? I think I should have two there.” In fact, I did come to school that semester with two lungs and somehow I had lost one on my way to campus that morning. By the time I arrived at the emergency room my lung had collapsed almost 80% due to a spontaneous pneumothorax.
I thought about this experience recently when scrolling down my Facebook timeline and noticed someone’s latest diatribe against individuals’ who judge others. The irony in these posts amuse me, but this particular post stood out to me for a couple different reasons. The first being is that this young person sincerely believes that people who believe in a god and those who do not are an automatic Us vs. Them, with the “nonbelievers” always playing the roll of the persecuted.
Disclaimer: I am in no way persecuting Atheists or Agnostics. I persecute everyone equally. (That’s a joke.)
The second reason this post stood out to me is that it was just such an enormous pile of bullshit that it was too hard to ignore it.
Let’s frankly shove the most obvious elephant out of the room. A person can’t cry about people being generally judgmental, hateful and disrespectful of other people or their beliefs/lack of beliefs only to turn around and be judgmental, hateful and disrespectful of people for their beliefs. It doesn’t work that way.
One person’s belief in God and another’s disbelief in God is not at war with each other because neither person’s belief is dependent on the other. For this individual to insist that a “theist” is stupid for believing in a god or has been brainwashed in order to be in a religion, or insists that it represses the intellect, then this is entirely off the mark from the sharing the campfire circle in the name of love and respect for all people.
In reality, this has nothing to do with religion, the lack of religion, God or no God. This has everything to do with someone needing to be right no matter what.
Intellectually, I can go through and discount every single point this person made using actual research and quantitative studies — all except for not ever having seen God because I am obviously very much alive. I have also never seen my lung but I did see the absence of it and I did feel the absence of it. Sure, I could philosophize in circles with people about what this means. If I feel the absence of something does that mean I know its presence by experiencing the opposite of its presence? If I have seen the absence of lung and now have seen its presence, do I now have a perfect knowledge of it? No, I don’t because I still have never seen it, right? I’ve seen an image of it — not even an actual photograph of it. I’ve seen an x-ray of something they tell me is my lung, but how do I know if that really is my lung? I was there when they took some image while I stood against a board but why should I simply take the technician’s word for it?
I could give statistical data on all the intellectual advancements that “believers” have made since the Enlightenment. I can cite studies of valid peer-review studies on why supposedly less atheists commit crimes. I can even write pages on what “brainwashing” truly means and if it even exists, in all of its varying definitions, since 1950.
But I won’t because it doesn’t matter.
What should matter the most is that belief systems, like solar systems, should rotate on their own gravitational pull, all spinning on their own individual axes. Sometimes they might eclipse but they don’t ever collide because they all rotate around our common humanity.
It isn’t a god or the lack of one that makes a person a good person. It’s the ability for a person to see others as people who are capable of making human mistakes and who keep trying anyway. Nobody has the ability of perfection in this life — and doesn’t make anyone stupid, more capable of crime, or brainwashed if someone has faith in some sort of Higher Being to help him or her to keep improving in this life.