The above article, from the New York Times, is an interesting article about those that seek religion without belief. It mentions the Unitarian Church of which my parents were members. One of the main ideas in the article is that people need community more than they need a dogmatic set of beliefs.
Where do I stand on all of this? I am an agnostic. The only claim I can make is one of doubt, that I don’t know what happens when we die. I don’t feel that anyone knows what happens after we die. Whether one believes either in religion or is an atheist, they are basically saying, in my mind, that they know what happens after we die. This is knowledge that I believe none of us possess.
However, Kurt Vonnegut, a secular humanist, used to say that if someone was just getting out of prison or something, had no family or community to return to, he would tell them to go to church, as community is an incredibly important thing. No one should have to go it alone.
I am an introvert, and don’t need constant human interaction, so having a community of good friends is all that I need. I am distrustful of groups, especially ones that are exclusive in any way. I like when groups happen naturally over time.
I vowed at a very young age that I would never join any group that would have me. I intend keep this vow. I’m not a joiner. I’m in a band, and that is enough for me! Sometimes this puts one on the outside, but the outside is a great way to see what is going on with minimal bias.
Now even though I am an agnostic, and am especially anti any kind of dogmatic religion that takes on a fanatical character, that does not mean that I look down on people that are religious. I have met deeply moralistic people that are religious. I don’t believe that you need religion to be moral, but if it helps someone treat their fellow man/woman with kindness, then who am I to judge? I know that some religious groups do great work on behalf of the poor and the needy. This is always to be commended, as long as they don’t tie that help with demanding the people they are helping believe what they believe. I know that in South America that Liberation Theology has been an extremely powerful force for social justice.
I think two of the greatest people that this country has produced are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. King was obviously religion and no one can dispute that his work here upon this earth changed civilization for the better. Meanwhile Lincoln was deeply skeptical in belief. He was not convinced there was an afterlife, although at the very end of his life, though he never became overtly religious, altered his beliefs slightly. Yet his entire life he was someone that was extremely kind, forgiving, that worked very hard to make the lives of people better.
So basically as long as other’s are treating people with kindness, to me, it doesn’t matter what they believe. I myself don’t need the mysteries of life explained, because I believe at least in this life, they never can be. I would rather focus my efforts at trying to treat other people better in the here and now, and not spend too much energy trying to answer a question that can’t be answered. And trust me, I’ve got a lot of fucking work to do on the front of treating people better!
The purpose of life, to me, can be explained in one sentence by Kurt Vonnegut:
“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
What else is needed?