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May 21, 2007


I'd say most of the negativity has come from believers. It starts with "the fool has said in his heart, 'There is no god.'" and it gets worse from there, all down through the ages.

Even today, the hostility of believers towards non-believers is incessant. Believers do unbelievable violence to non-believers in their actions and in their words. A fair bit of what believers say to unbelievers would, were it said to some more fashionable minority, be considered hate-speech.

I agree with your second paragraph, Teju, and deplore the fact. I find it terribly painful to identify myself as a member of a religion because of this.

In titling this post, I didn't mean to imply that non-belief itself was negativity. What I find difficult are book titles that say things like "Why Religion Poisons Everything." Religion is a human invention; like human beings themselves, it includes our best and our worst.

Hitchens is a polemicist, but of the recent books--from what I can tell from his first chapter and the reviews I've read--his is the one that strikes a subtle note: that religion has exarcebated human problems, not caused them. It's an important distinction, and of course it's open to debate.

What I have found peculiar, though, is the strange air of consensus amongst reviewers: that it is bad form to criticize the religious way of thinking. There's a hush around religion, as if how seriously people held certain beliefs were sufficient grounds for not criticizing such beliefs. This has the effect of putting the irreligious on the defensive, and I think that's part of what has been responsible for the recent spate of anti-theist polemics.

I happen to agree with most of the facts as presented by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. I share their irritation at the worldwide theist-hegemony. But I can't join them in believing that the world would be better if, tomorrow, we all woke up irreligious.

What I find that many of the anti-theists and their theist adversaries have in common is the mentality that the world is solvable. The Pope thinks the world needs to turn back to God and into the arms of the Church, Dawkins thinks the world needs to give up on all supernatural beliefs, and the Imams are convinced that all would be well with us if we only submit to Allah and the fatwas of his servants.

But what doesn't seem to occur to any of them is that the world is neither a puzzle to be solved nor a secret to be uncovered but rather a mystery to be endured and enjoyed.

What a wonderful illustration that photograph is of the power of small things.

I, too, like the picture. From little things big things grow.

I forgot to say: lovely photo.

But what doesn't seem to occur to any of them is that the world is neither a puzzle to be solved nor a secret to be uncovered but rather a mystery to be endured and enjoyed.


I think what bothers me about either position is how strongly it is held, with no yielding or flexibility, no humility before the simple fact that we are limited creatures dealing with a greater complexity that is, in its essence and ours, greater than our ken. Neither side is humble; both insists desperately? dogmatically? that it alone is correct.

I myself am not that sure, because I know there is so much that I don't know, so much out there for me to learn.

And for me, that is not a bad thing, but a condition to be cherished.

I like the photograph too - and its name. :)

Hello...this is my first comment on this site, which I have been enjoying and appreciating for a while now. Thank you for it.

As regards religion and athiesm and the conflict between them...Rana's "greater complexity" is about as close as I can get to "God" these days. I'm 48 years old and the older I get, the more I realize I don't know...and I'm quite at home with that. Whatever brought us into being is a mystery; it will always, ultimately, remain a mystery, and I wish that we humans could relax enough into it that we'd stop bashing each other over what we believe. Fundamentalism is dangerous in any form.

Me, nowadays, I sometimes call myself, if anything, a "monoathiest" (I do not, cannot, believe in any "God" of institutional religion); I know in my bones that there's Something...I sense It as being beyond our ability to comprehend, and as Meister Eckhart once said, "If the only prayer you say in your life is 'Thank you,' it will be enough."

The important thing to me is to sit down and break bread with someone.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.