Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Absence of religious faith

My intention is not to necessarily attack religion per se, but rather to explain my own lack of religious faith.

I have never been religious. My parents were not religious, and they never imposed any particular religious values onto me as a child. I was free to make up my own mind on this issue, independently of whatever thoughts or values my parents may have harboured. As an aside, this is exactly how all children should be raised, whatever the religious faith of the parents. To impose your religious views onto your children, before they can understand the issues for themselves, is in my opinion, not acceptable. By all means, teach them your faith, what it means to you and why you follow it, but let them choose for themselves whether they wish to follow in your footsteps.

For me, one of the main reasons I hold no religious values, is quite simply because I see no need for them. I have a perfectly normal moral compass, I know right from wrong, and would hope that my friends and family would describe me as a decent, kind and generous person. It is perfectly possible to be a good person for its own sake, and not through fear of feeling the wrath of some deity when my time is finally up. So religion is not necessary for moral direction.

With no afterlife, no heaven and no promise of seventy two virgins in paradise, I live my life to the full. I do not live my life with the concept of a safety net. If I behave myself I can expect a better life in death. Well, as I don't expect to be reincarnated or to be welcomed by an omniscient deity, who will lead me away for an eternity of happiness. Instead, I prefer to live my life to the full and be happy now, not when I am dead.

We have more than adequate explanations for the formation of the universe, the planets and life. There is no reason to concoct supernatural explanations for them. Science provides our underpinning explanations for such things. While many of these explanations may be incomplete or not yet fully understood, they are still far superior to any explanation that relies upon supernatural beings. Religion does not so much answer these questions, but raises new ones. If God made us, then who made God? Of course, all religious folk will have their ready made, stock-in-trade answers to these questions, and to my mind, they are wholly inadequate.

I find that religion lacks the intellectual endeavour of science. It teaches you to stop questioning, to accept ready made explanations that are simply insufficient in explaining the beauty and wonder of our universe, and everything that is in it. As the late, great Carl Sagan so sagely referred to it, our Pale Blue Dot. As human beings, one of our greatest capacities is surely our intelligence. With it, we have traversed continents, built ships, invented aeroplanes, medicine, civilisations, art and culture, to name a mere fraction. As great as it may be, we must not take it for granted, or let it make us arrogant.

There is just no place or reason for religion. It is perfectly possible to be good and kind in its absence. There is science to explain the formation of the universe, and evolution to explain life. The question therefore is not so much why I do have no religious faith, but why is religious faith required at all?

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