I guess this comes up sometimes when I talk to people online. Especially religious people. But I think it merits a post on my blog, and my blog needs a new post. So this is me killing multiple birds with one stone.
So, when religion comes up, I do have to confess I am an Atheist. What makes me a bit different from your typical Atheist is that I am a natural one. What does that mean, really? Well, it means that I never actually grew up with a religion. The first time I encountered religion is when I was around 6 or 7 (not completely sure about that, it’s a long time ago), and that’s way too late for religious indoctrination. Which leaves my “religion”-module in my brain (of which the existance I am uncertain, but I heard there were studies confirming such a thing exists) pretty much unpopulated. I’ve filled in that void with LaVeyan-styled Satanism (I might devote a blog post about that) and a dash of occult esotericism and paganism, but it leaves me with one pretty significant downside: I really don’t understand religion.
I need to clarify that a bit though. Since I was never indoctrinated with a system of faith, the mental leap required to assume that a god can exist is just something I can’t do. It just seems illogical to me. Since I don’t have religious faith as part of my operating system, reason sits there instead, and imagination/creativity fills in the other gaps. On the positive side, I really am curious about how religious people come to their conclusions, what their religion means to them, how they see the world, and I love to debate them.
The downside is that my approach is pretty Socratic, and might come across as willful ignorance, even though it isn’t. I’m always genuinely curious. The problem is that people that are entrenched in a religion have a solipsistic tendency to assume that I’m religious as well, and assume that I share their beliefs. This can make debate a bit cumbersome, because I genuinely don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Also, this means that when it comes to religion, I’m pretty neutral because I don’t have a bias, having never experienced religion in the first place.
Of course, having grown older, I have seen the effect that religion can have on people and it regularily shocks me what people do to others in the name of religion. I’ve seen religion used as a tool to solidify power structures (which will also cement a religion in place so it won’t evolve). On the other hand, I’ve seen the solace and comfort that people get from it, and yes, I’m a bit sad I can never have that. I would love to be able to shove all my existential problems onto the shoulders of a deity and not having to take responsibility for them, but alas, I am not wired that way.
Also, I have learned the difference between religion and faith from my many debates with religious folks. Yes, those two differ. Faith is what you take on as truth without evidence, and religion is faith you get bestowed upon oneself from your superiors and peers. I have philosophical issues with the latter, but I just can’t fault the first.
I guess I can say that I do have faith, but I just lack religion.