28.9.08

Blind Faith?

A friend, writer Ariane Sherine, is launching the Atheist Bus Campaign on 21 October 2008.
The short explanation:

The campaign has the slogan 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'. It is designed to reassure people that they won’t be consigned to eternal damnation should they renounce religion and God. The motivation behind the campaign is explained on the Facebook group page, and in Article 1 and Article 2, written by Ariane for the Guardian’s Comment is free section.
If you are an atheist, please join the group and support the campaign. If you are not an atheist but aren’t particularly bothered about the wrath of God, do also join. If you’re not a Facebooker, you can e-mail Ariane through the link on her site with “Atheist Bus” in the subject line to register your support or interest. 

For the record, I haven’t joined the campaign because I do believe in God, but I think it’s a great idea purely because it provokes thought. It has reminded me of some of the questions I’ve asked in the past: do I believe in my religion because I’ve been conditioned to or because I truly believe it? Can the things I disagree with really be explained away with deeper knowledge and research? Can the fundamentals of my faith really be applied fully and properly in today’s world?
I definitely believe in God. I believe there is a balance in my life that I haven’t achieved alone. I believe that I have been both tested and guided. I believe that many of my prayers have been answered because someone was listening.

The thing is, God is different from religion, albeit not entirely separate. I have discussed some of my issues with Islam before – sometimes questioning it, sometimes defending it – but to question the entire religion is a different thing entirely. I will admit that in the past I have thought, ‘What if Islam isn’t real and true? What if we just believe it because we’re meant to?’. Of course I immediately feel guilty about these thoughts, but surely it’s healthy to question the things that govern our lives?

I’m interested in asking followers of religion, and particularly of Islam, how they maintain strength of belief. In an age where science screams so loudly and atheist proselytisers tell us we’re not really enlightened if we still believe in God, how do followers objectively and logically maintain belief? These are not rhetorical questions. I genuinely want to know if there are Muslims out there who have ever questioned the worth of their worship. And if not, how are they so sure?

8 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot for talking about the campaign Kia, even though its stance isn't one you personally subscribe to.

    I think another way of looking at the atheist bus campaign is that atheism isn't recognised in society in the same way that religions are. There's no 'atheist' tick box on the census, and kids are taught about all the major religions but never about atheism. They don't know until they're much older that they can choose not to believe in God at all.

    If religious groups are allowed to advertise, atheists should be as well. Not everyone will agree with our message, but as you say, it will hopefully generate debate. Thanks again for posting about the campaign, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

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  2. I've never understood religion in this day and age. To me, it was a case of realising that god wasn't needed. The concept would have been quite useful in the dark ages when the world was a big scary place where things happened as if by magic, I can see how religion would have acted like a 'guiding light' or a comfort blanket of sorts.... but frankly, I think we (as a people) have out grown it.

    Anyway, I like the atheist bus idea as it brings to light something that shouldn't be, if nobody bats an eyelid when people put a religious ad on the side of a bus, it really shouldn't be a big deal if someone wants to put an atheist one up.

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  3. I believe in re-incarnation deluxe. After you die, you have a short holiday in a heavenly place before starting your next life. If you're lucky you come back as a gorilla. God doesn't come into it.

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  4. I know my replies are a little late but here they are anyway. I did ask a few Muslim friends about their thoughts. Apparently they're scared of coming over all fundamentalist. I guess I'm alone in my bouts of doubt :(

    > Ariane
    You raise an interesting point about teaching kids about atheism as an option. I agree that schools should definitely cover it (my secondary school did but I can't speak for other schools). The more interesting question is to do with parents and their responsibility to teach their children about the options. I know a few 'believers' who haven't told their children that God exists and say it's up to them to decide when they're older but I can't see this course of action catching on.

    > Josh
    I think human beings by nature (at least historically) need(ed) to believe in something bigger than themselves. I once read that not one civilisation has been discovered without have a deity of some sort.

    Having said that, I think that God is still needed and that the world is still a big and scary place. It would be great if people could use God as the comfort they need without trying to force others to share that need/belief.

    > gorilla
    Can a gorilla be reincarnated as a gorilla? If not, is it all downhill for you from here?

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  5. Adam (not being ironic)05/12/2008, 12:29

    I’m a bit confused about this. Sherine says that the campaign is designed to be a ‘reassuring message to atheists’. So who is the actual slogan (There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life) aimed at?

    If it is aimed at atheists and she is telling them to stop worrying and enjoy their life then surely it’s redundant because atheists DON’T believe in God. Any enjoyment of life is wholly unrelated to their belief in God (or lack thereof) so what’s the point of the message?

    If it is aimed at people who DO believe in God, it’s a bit smug in assuming that they somehow live tedious and ‘unenjoyable’ lives. Is this what Sherine believes?

    I’d like to know which one it is and how the message actually reassures atheists.

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  6. > Adam (not being ironic)
    Thanks for your message - I'm sorry about the late reply. I think Ariane is trying to raise the profile of atheism in general. The response to the ABC (http://justgiving.com/atheistbus) proves that many atheists really relate to the campaign and see it as something that represents their voice.

    With regards to your specific question, I think the slogan is aimed at people who are sort of unsure about their faith and perhaps are scared of giving it up. This is a gentle way of saying "It's okay if you don't believe". Of course, I can't really speak for Ariane - I'll try and get her to drop by and answer your question.

    Kia

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  7. >>Of course I immediately feel guilty about these thoughts, but surely it's healthy to question the things that govern our lives?

    Why feel guilty? It's your duty to question these things :) it's what Islamic Scholars have done since the revelation of Islam nearly 1500 years ago.


    >> I genuinely want to know if there are Muslims out there who have ever questioned the worth of their worship.

    Of course there are. For me I see some sense in Spinoza's God - Spinoza with a twist of lemon. A God who reveals his existence through nature and the natural order. I don't admit to knowing everything - but the little that I find out about the world and universe around me points to a beauty and rigor in the physical laws that show signs of God. The more we understand science, the more of God I see.


    Take the argument for God's existence aside from the argument for whether any religion is real or whether Islam is the religion for all.

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  8. I used to be an atheist then grew out of it, went from an agnostic/skeptic then a believer in Islam.

    "…. an age where science screams so loudly and atheist proselytisers tell us we’re not really enlightened if we still believe in God…"

    Science and religion are separate knowledges; science concerns the physical realities of the world whereas religion the metaphysical and philosophical. Materialists only consider what can be empirically observed/measured. That doesn't negate the possiblity of the existence of a realm not perceptible by our physical senses.

    Call it spirituality or the soul - this is the faculty that perceives realities beyond the physical.
    The word 'enlightened' itself means to be rational and free of ignorance and also means the achievement of spiritual realisation. That isn’t to say every observer of a religion is enlightened, most religious people are idiots, sad but true. But there are also many ignorant atheists.

    I agree with what Frank Skinner wrote in a recent article - atheism is just a fashionable fad. The ignorant atheist is as equally unenlightened (ie stupid) as the religious-fundamentalist. - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/frank_skinner/article6886168.ece#

    Take for example the comments above by Josh. That is an idiotic rationale for religion, to make people who have religious convictions sound simple dumb people. No, only a dull mind could come up with such a notion. People of faith don't believe in a God because they fear the unknown, many people have spiritual experiences, most of us intuit these 'undeniable truths'.

    The most 'deep' people, most intelligent, wise, brave people I've come across are religious, or spiritual people.

    I'm not too impressed by the bus campaign either, the evangelical Christian ones were at best tacky at worst crude, the atheist tit-for-tat response is the same. You don't need Buddha-esque insight to see both of these groups are daft as each other.

    I wiki'd the author who started this campaign, Ariane Sherine, found out she was a writer on the atrocious 'comedy' Two Pints of Lager…, she was a writer on another programme 'My Family', which I've never seen but googling it threw up results like 'worst comedy programme…' I've always thought you can gauge a lot about a person from the type of humour they're into (let alone create!). I mean 2 Pints comeon, how shite was that? And you want to talk to me about whether God exists? Jog on love.

    Came across this surprisingly fitting quote -

    "Just as some people claim that March of the Penguins highlights the existance of a higher deity crafting life, five minutes of watching Two Pints of Lager... is enough to prove that this is a Godless universe after all." :)

    What keeps my faith? Beauty does, my experience of Islam has been beauty, (2 Pints and bus ads I find ugly). I see beauty in many practitioners of religion. I can't say the same for atheists, or to be more specific in your face arrogant atheists like Dawkins, who probably is an intelligent guy in his field but seems like a bit of twat overall, he's intelligent but not wise. Rene Guenon (a traditionalist thinker from the 1940's) pisses on him - see http://books.google.com/books?id=IqybJkbPgBUC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false

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