The immediately previous post (“What good are Christian soldiers without an enemy?”) was the hundredth I’ve posted since kicking off johnjustthinking.com on April 27, 2013—twenty-six months ago. Now seems an auspicious time to review just why I write this blog and why I plan to continue.
Having retired from paying work a few years ago, I write these essays only when the (ahem) spirit moves me rather than pursue a preset pace (too reminiscent of working for a living!). There has been no shortage of topics that attract me and present an opportunity for thoughtful contrarian views. The long stream of subject matter still on my list consists largely of philosophical considerations in religion, secular humanism, ethics/morality, sexuality, and sometimes simply awe about this universe and its denizens. But the overwhelming issue has been—and will likely continue to be—the conflict between the superstition of religion and the rationality of secular humanism.
This blog has afforded me an outlet for strong and, I trust, thoughtfully constructed views on such matters. I get dismayed over faulty thinking and enraged over the haughty, hollow piety of so many religionists. As I’ve explained in an earlier post, I am not “offended.” (No one, including me, has a right not to be offended. If we can’t take the gloves off on life’s biggest issues, just what does deserve our passion?) I am either mildly amused or angry, but nothing so lily-livered as offended.
My preoccupation with these matters may seem excessive. However, this obsession is not greater than (a) my engagement for almost three decades as theorist, author, and consultant about corporate governance or (b) the focus of most ministers, priests, imams, rabbis, and even many lay religious persons with their Bibles, Korans, or Torahs. Still, despite the importance of such matters to me, my life has not been just about them. A great deal of my daily interest is in my marriage, science, friends, family, political events, and travel.
My interest in atheism, thence secular humanism, began around the age of twenty when I set out to rethink the faith of my (literal) fathers. My interest today undoubtedly grew from that, but it long ago ceased being driven by that. It would seem wasteful of life in the extreme to spend years merely in reaction to a churchy childhood. In fact, my interest in religion takes three forms or levels of engagement, from negligible to enormous—in three degrees. However, at each level my support of religionists’ freedom of speech and belief remains firm.
1] Disregard. Having not “lost my faith” so much as discarded it, most religious topics and activity are of no interest to me whatsoever. For the most part, I attend to religious subjects, people, and news about as much as I do to the social life of Hollywood performers. When religious persons refrain from bullying (see #3 below) and from inviting friendly disagreements (see #2 below), my reaction to their superstition is merely to be thankful for the good things they do, like hospitals, third world relief, and—in the past—some really fantastic buildings.
2] Intellectual attraction. I enjoy the light-hearted, friendly fun of arguing points of view about religion, but only when invited to participate. Religious discussion of this sort carries no emotional heat, considerably less than crossing verbal swords with a Cubs fan. Like an affable fascination with economics, international politics, and which chili recipe is tastiest, this involvement is just a pleasant exchange of varying points of view.
3] Combative. Neither of the foregoing two types of interest would motivate me to write a blog. The interest that drives me to take the time to write is my reaction to the haughty, faux pious, oppressive nature of most religion…including the bullying that perfectly decent people innocently do when motivated by religion. I don’t wait for an invitation to engage in this level of involvement; a hostile religion-based challenge or an instance of religious bullying is provocation enough.
In a later post I will speak to what comprises the bullying I am quick to oppose. Religious people probably don’t even recognize their bullying when they hear of it, see it directly, or even do it themselves. There is a strong tendency for them to act as if actions otherwise unsociable or unfair are OK if done in the name of religious faith. For example, Christians use their faith to bully others when a public school coach prays with the football team, when a city government hosts Christian symbols, and when politicians base laws on their religious rather than civic views.
Happily, there are signs that religious hegemony in the United States is weakening, but it still exerts massive influence. For example, Gallup reports that citizens who say they’d not vote for a qualified atheist candidate for president has dropped to 42%, although it was 82% in 1958! However, religion’s loss of power can be expected to generate even more egregious tactics as religions scratch to regain their authority or even just to maintain it.
In my immediately previous post, I quoted a few religious leaders who do not hesitate to make up history (e.g., the “Christian nation” arguments), lie about unbelievers (e.g., not trustworthy, immoral), demand that science conform to their faith (e.g., intelligent design aka creationism), and capitalize on gullibility (watch a few TV evangelists). Yet, incongruously, religious people seem unable to understand that their seeking to marshal government support for their faith and practice is itself a threat to religious liberty…in fact, the only threat that exists, at least in the United States.
At any rate, there are still many (and repeated) religionist behaviors that merit not only my #3 (combative) reaction, but that of all thinking people….easily enough to warrant another hundred posts.