Anne Perry’s fictional detective Thomas Pitt, when asked to define “blasphemy,” says, “I think it is jeering at other people’s beliefs, making them doubt the possibility of good and making reverence appear ridiculous. Whose God it is doesn’t matter. It isn’t a question of doctrine, it’s a matter of trying to destroy the innate idea of diety, of something better and holier than we are.” (Half Moon Street, 2000)
I neither question the beliefs of atheists nor label their beliefs as disbelief.
What I question is their need to attack the beliefs of others.
Millions of people around this world find solace and strength and peace in their religious beliefs and great comfort in the power of prayer. Why would any reasonable human being deny them this?
Granted, throughout history religion has been both a catalyst for war and persecution and a suppressor of advanced knowledge. Anyone versed in history could never deny this. On the other hand, religion also has at its foundation moral precepts, and like many atheists, many who adhere to faith are both moral and pursuers of wisdom.
The search for knowledge has not been limited to those who deny the existence of a supreme being. And to deny that no knowledge has been advanced by adherents to religion is prejudice.
To quote Miss Perry in “Brunswick Gardens:” “Calmness and reason should always prevail over emotion, self-indulgence or any kind of indiscipline.”
Why then the need of atheists to be militantly opposed to organized religion? Why then must religious persons be militantly opposed to atheism?
I recently quoted famous lawyer Clarence Darrow who said he was not an atheist, because he could no more prove there is not a God, than he could prove there is. Darrow, who, according to his biographer Irving Stone, believe in God, was one of this country’s greatest crusaders for human rights and equality, and, reading the transcript of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, no one could ever accuse him of stifling knowledge.
I am a Christian, an adherent to the true teachings of Jesus Christ. I am both aware of and heartbroken that His teachings have been so misconstrued and distorted. I find fanaticism and fundamentalism in any religion deeply disturbing, for therein lie both the suppression of wisdom and disdain for others' beliefs.
Through the Internet I have had the good fortune to meet many atheists who are both moral and diligent workers for the betterment of society. I also have the insight gained from in-depth discussions with a beloved relative about his atheism. The only demand we have made on each other is that we expect respect.
Speaking for myself – and not for any religion which has greatly distorted and maligned its own teachings - I am offended by terms like “Christianistas” and “Jesusistanis” and by such statements as “Prayer doesn't work in elections any better than elsewhere.” I don’t care to read any Web site which says of Christians: “The core of their faith being based on an un-dead Jewish Zombie.” Such attacks are not just myopic, they are downright meanspirited.
How can one person determine what inspires another person? How can one person define another person's spirituality?
Like Darrow, I cannot prove there is a God. I cannot prove there is no God. It is equally difficult to convey the meaning of “faith.”
Perhaps this quote, again from “Brunswick Gardens,” comes close: “The essence of faith is courage and trust without knowledge.”
I have always been a strong supporter of separation of church and state, and I believe it is best not to bring religion or athesim into the political arena.
I am willing to respect any person’s convictions. I just demand respect in return. And the common decency of refraining from mockery.
As Ms. Perry opines: “It is all very well to preach what you believe to be the truth, but when it shatters the foundations of someone else’s world, it isn’t very clever. It doesn’t help. It only destroys.”