Identity

Most of my posts are just my own musings.  Some of them are based on actual knowledge--fact, evidence, and whatnot.  And some, such as today's are my own musings, but triggered by a nugget of wisdom uttered by someone else.  For the inspiration of today's post, you have my friend Scott to thank.  In a discussion concerning religious debate, Scott said that (I'm paraphrasing) one problem that believers have is that they identify themselves with their beliefs.

I understand that believers hold their beliefs very dear to them.  This much I know for certain, because that's exactly how I was when I was a believer.  In fact, I even posted about how there's evidence to support the idea that not only are religious beliefs deeply emotionally ingrained in a person, but that they are also linked to a person's survival instincts.

What is sometimes difficult to communicate to a believer, in having a religious debate, is that when I attack a particular religious belief (eg, that god exists), I am not attacking any particular individual who believes it.  There is a great difference between saying "I think that the belief that god exists is ridiculous" and "I think you're ridiculous for believing that god exists".  Often, the type of statements I make (or mean to make) are of a nature like the former sentence, while what is perceived by the believer is that of the latter.  And I do believe that it's because the believer believes so intensely that ey actually identifies emself with eir beliefs.

I don't think this is intentional.  In fact, I don't even think that it's conscious.  I think it's just a natural reaction, since a believer holds eir beliefs so dear to eir heart.  I think in just about any personal opinions or personality-related topics, it is difficult to remain objective about the discussion at hand (for example, someone saying "I believe that homosexual behavior is evil" can easily be interpreted as "I believe you are evil because you're gay" by a homosexual).  But, I think that this effect is magnified many times over when it is religious beliefs that are being discussed.

As I said in my previous post (and in a couple others a while back), I definitely feel like freedom to believe as one chooses is one of the things that has helped make America great, and I am very grateful for the freedom to choose which religion I am to follow (or, as I have chosen, to follow none at all).  I have no problem with anyone believing any religion they like.  I do not feel I have ever ridiculed anyone for believing as they choose, and I certainly don't plan to do so.  I may (and often have) ridicule the beliefs themselves, but that's entirely different.  Persecuting someone or discriminating against them because of their religious beliefs (or anything else, really) is wrong.  If I were to hear of any political movement to force people to believe something (for example, that homosexuality is moral), then I would fight against it because I believe that everyone should be able to choose what to believe or not believe.

So, when I say that I don't believe in any gods, I'm not saying that anyone who does is a fool.  When I point out all of the reasons that I no longer believe, I'm not telling you that your beliefs are invalid or that you have no reason to believe them.  Your experiences in life have been very different from the ones I've had.  What those experiences are and (more importantly) how've they've influenced you is something I'll never fully comprehend, try as I might.  So, I'm not going to judge you for having an opinion different from the one I have.  I won't use labels like those so often applied to non-believers ("infidel", "apostate", "heathen", etc).