An atheist speaks out.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Raising Kids

They other night I was speaking with some friends, Jews and Catholics, about how we would raise our kids religiously. The Jewish girls said that if they married Christians, that they would allow the kids to celebrate Christmas, Easter, etc., with their husbands and their families, but would insist that the kids be raised Jewish, and go to Jewish school and all that jazz. They said it was important to raise them Jewish because their aren't that many Jews, and they want to preserve the culture. This makes sense.

They asked me what religion Bri is and how we planned on raising our kids. Bri is Episcopalian, and although she is not very religious, she did go to church growing up and still goes on holidays. I have always thought that when we had kids I would be cool with Bri taking the kids to church, as long as I could explain to them why I don't go to church with them.

Now I am thinking that it would be even better to teach the kids about all kinds of religions. There are some really great ideas to be taken from different religions, so it would be stupid to limit ideas to one source.

Honestly, I would be happy if my kids turned out like me, not believing in any religion, but getting inspiration from all religions. I think learning about different religions early on, and learning to respect them, would probably lead to this kind of mindset.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mythos vs. Logos

The reading this week for my Scholar's Seminar is the introduction of the book The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong. In this book she studies and attempts to analyze fundamentalist movements in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

She emphasizes in the introduction the difference between what scholars call mythos and logos. She says, "Both were essential; they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its special area of competence."

"Myth was ... concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life ... and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning."

" Logos was the rational, pragmatic, and scientific thought that enabled men and women to function well in the world ... Logos is practical ... logos forges ahead and tries to find something new..."

For millennia there had been a balance of power between mythos and logos, each of which had its own important role to play in our lives. In the modern age however, logos has become greatly overpowering, as we yield to and rely more and more on science. Armstrong proposes that since we have discounted mythos in favor of logos, the fundamentalists have "tried to turn the mythos of their faith into logos."

This is an interesting dilemma. By disturbing the balance of mythos and logos in the development of a science oriented culture, we have discounted the true and noble purpose of mythos in society. Mythos has recently regained much of its power, but in a distorted way.

Speaking about mythos, Armstrong says they "were not intended to be taken literally." I think there are many religious stories, and other stories from mythology, that are worth reading because they convey important ideas and can promote moral behavior. While perhaps not mythology, Aesop's fables comes to mind as an example.

It scares me a lot that in my country the fundamentalists who take their religious mythos as logos are growing more and more powerful politically. Most disturbing, I think, is the simple fact that while the majority of Americans may share the beliefs of the fundamentalists to some extent, there are many people whose beliefs are completely different, and even contradictory. I would understand the creation of laws and policies based on religious beliefs if all citizens shared these views, but it seems terribly undemocratic and perhaps immoral to do so in a country which was founded upon the principle of liberty and operates under the principle of separation of church and state.

This is how to make everyone, or at least most people, happy: Let's go back to the old balance between mythos and logos. We will venerate mythological traditions of all religions and these will help us grow morally and philosophically. What we learn from these traditions is learned on a personal level, and will guide us in our spiritual lives, and in our interactions with other people and with our environment. We will also value very highly the pursuit of logos, and the logos is what would lead us in our practical lives. The government's laws and policies will be based on the logos, and the logos will increase the quality of our physical lives.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Atheist Safety

Found this on a few weeks back. Beware the Atheist!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

This weekend almost everyone went home for Easter...I of course stayed here.

I find it very hard to believe that so many people, over 2 billion worldwide, believe that there was a guy who, 2000 years ago, was crucified by the Romans, was entombed, and then rose from the dead a few days later. My problem is not so much that people believe this story even though it is obviously mythology or allegory, but that they believe this while the other 4 billion people in the world don't.

There is a lack of retrospection that I find unsettling. Many Christians would look at the Hindus who worship many different deities and criticize them, or at least express the same feeling of non-understanding that I am expressing. Turn the tables, and Christians would find these Hindus wondering why the Christians fail to acknowledge the rest of the deities.

It just seems weird to me that so many different religions with different ideas about life and death can coexist in an age of fast and easy worldwide communications.