It has been brought to my attention (thanks mom) that perhaps the purpose of some of my posts has been misconstrued as being the proselytizing of atheism or the conversion of the faithful. This is not my desire…usually. I am fully aware that there are people who find great joy in religion and the comfort that it brings to their life. While I think they would be better served in life had they never been touched by the irrational hand of religion…they are in it now and that’s fine with me. The place where I draw the line is when their religion and their god becomes more than just a personal one and the faith is moved into the public sphere. This isn’t an instance where faith offends me in any way…I don’t cringe at the site of a manger scene on a town square or a menorah in a park, I suppose I would rather they weren’t there but if it makes someone else smile then it shouldn’t make me angry (and it doesn’t). Rather I draw the line when legislation with a set of morals based on someone else’s made up dogma invades my life, or the life of my family, or (looking forward a bit) my children’s lives. I am also an advocate for the idea that religions need to be, in general, much more tolerant; not only of each other (they have a poor track record here) but also of those in society that are non-believers, free thinkers, atheists, agnostics, deists, and the like. In addition, the subtle distinction of being against religion (which I am) but not against the religious. I should be clear in that I believe that generally organized religion is a destructive force in society…I do not believe that moderately spiritual people who do not (or choose not) to understand how the world around them works (i.e. the laws of nature) pose much of a threat. The problem comes with the combination of moderately spiritual people and organized religion meet in a dark alley. It is then that we pull the Budweiser truck up to the AA meeting and now we have a problem. It is a very small switch from being a somewhat spiritual individual to being indoctrinated into a faith that determines that you should despise someone based on their choice of sleeping companion, and not much further down the road to deem that a doctor who performs abortions is a murderer who deserves to be summarily killed. We live in a country that is fortunate to have a great deal of religion and suffer fewer of the ill effects than most other places with similar degrees of fervor. We usually escape the phenomena of ritual killings, genocides, and ethnic cleansings that usually come along with places as religious as ours here in US. Even so, it is those things that worry me the most because of how close some parts of our country could be to that if left to their own devices and the fiery words of a preacher who wields the spurious threat of eternal damnation. Furthermore while these are external threats there are certainly internal threats as well to the individual. Beyond the clear ones in that religion is often a force that demands outrageous self-sacrifice (no atheist would ever consider being a suicide bomber), there are far simpler ones. I can put it to you in a metaphor of a child with an imaginary friend. I think that most of us would agree that such a child is not a problem, the imaginary friend is filling a void of some sort and it brings the child comfort. But what happens when the imaginary friend is able to push out the real friends and our young metaphorical subject ignores the beauty of real relationships with actual people. Then, most would agree, we have an issue that must be dealt with. Some would tell him or her that they can keep their imaginary friend as long as they make new ones while I think most would say that it is healthier to abandon the imaginary friend and make true and long lasting relationships with the people around them. Thankfully, most people who have imaginary childhood friends grow up to leave that behind and become well adjusted adults with a sense of the real and the unreal, the rational and the irrational. Others of us do not. The unfortunate side of living in a free society is that we cannot mandate moderation in life and so we must be prepared to deal with the consequences of people who take things to their illogical conclusions and make decisions that are foolish. So with all that beings said, if my tracts on religion seem harsh or critical then you are correct, they were meant that way. If you are religious and you feel offended, I’m sorry for that but hope you would consider my point of view and be very careful in your dealings with faith in the future. Patrick OUT!!!