Friday, February 16, 2007

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae

To me it's just pretty Latin words.

I've been thinking a lot about religion recently.

And before I actually get into it, I'd like to say that I don't have a problem with religion per se. Most of you know I sing (mostly CofE) religious choral music with the three choirs which make up the University of Sheffield Singer's Society. Many of my choir friends are church-going Christians, and I'm perfectly happy to sing in church (not that I'd go to church if it wasn't a singing thing).

I make no secret of the fact that I'm an atheist. And I've recently realised that I don't believe in anything supernatural. Ghosts, Feng Shui, fairies, horoscopes, gods of any description, angels, reincarnation, psychic abilities. And in case anyone feels the same way, have a look here at TheBrights.

Essentially, I don't have any sort of faith. I feel that I've weighed up the evidence and based my belief system on that. I haven't seen convincing evidence for God or any other supernatural thing, so as far as I'm concerned, they don't exist - however if at some point someone gives me compelling evidence, I'll change my views.

I'm perfectly happy for anyone to believe whatever they want. It's nothing to do with me.

The problem I have is when someone starts to push their beliefs onto others. Or when a particular group decided that they are superior to the rest of us because of their religion, and therefore deserve special privileges.

Two particular groups are in my mind at the moment. The Catholic Church essentially wants to be exempt from the new Equality Act (due to come into effect in England, Wales and Scotland in April), which outlaws discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation. They claim that church teachings prevent their adoption agencies from placing children with homosexual couples.
Why on earth should their homophobic attitudes be allowed, simply because "God says so"? If it's deemed unacceptable (and illegal) to practice discrimination, how can they be justified in simply ignoring this and making up their own rules?
If I started killing young children and explain my actions by saying that God told me to do it and that the murder laws shouldn't apply to me because of my religion, I'd still be locked up (one way or another), and rightly so.

So now I've pissed off some Catholics, I'll move on to a fair chunk of America, i.e. those creationists/Intelligent Design-ists who keep on trying to get evolution removed from the science curriculum in schools.
Firstly, there's a lot of evidence for evolution. Huge amounts of it, in fact. I'm yet to see anything that even remotely convinces me that (a) God created the earth in 6 days, around 6000 years ago. And the majority of scientists agree with me. So teaching ID as fact (despite lack of evidence) and neo-Darwinism as "just a theory" (misunderstanding of the word "theory", and deliberate ignorance of science), is both wrong and stupid.
Secondly, kids deserve the respect of being allowed to make their own minds up. Give them both sides, show them the arguments for and against creationism. Don't force them to believe whatever you believe - they have the right to form their own opinions.
I was pretty happy to read that
the Kansas state board of education deleted language from teaching guidelines that challenged the validity of evolutionary theory yesterday. Good for them.

I basically don't agree with the indoctrination of kids. I'm with Richard Dawkins on this one, although I won't go anywhere near as far as to call it child abuse. Bringing a child up to be a good person is one thing - telling them they'll go to hell if they don't believe in God is another. Let them decide for themselves, when they're old enough to make that decision.

It reminded me of something Nathalie said about raising her (future) kids as vegetarian, because if you give them meat they don't have a choice about the animals you've killed on their behalf - as adults they'd decide whether they wanted to eat meat or not. I eat meat myself, but I can see where she's coming from, even though I probably wouldn't go that far myself.

And I'll stop now, before I get started on circumcision (I'm against it, because the child doesn't have any say in it, and it can't be reversed if the child later decides they'd prefer not to be snipped. Oops, too late!)

I must stress here that I am in no way attacking anyone's belief system, so please don't feel that I'm trying to undermine you or the things you stand for, if you don't agree with me. Think what you like. I think you're wrong, but we're all adults here. ;) We can get along despite our differing opinions, surely.


  1. Hi, Anna - Just thought I'd chime in because I'm kind of with you. I do believe in some supernatural things, mostly because I've experienced it myself. God? I don't know, but I don't rule it out.

    That said, I was raised an Episcopalian and still go to church on occasion. More so in the future, I think. Reason being my son, who needs a cliff to jump off of when he's older. He needs to know the basics of religion so that later he can make intelligent decisions regarding his own faith and beliefs. We expose him to all kinds of religions and have many of them in our own family - so he knows that love in the family ISN'T based on what you believe.

    We've also had the Darwinian/Creator talk. I told him that lots of people believe in one or the other, and that he'll hear both sides either in school or somewhere else. I also told him that it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that both are true - but the timeline is out of whack.

    I guess we're trying to give him as much information as he can handle on all sides of these questions. I don't expect him to stand on one side of the line or the other, but he needs to be ready to explain himself if someone else does.

    By the way, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment on my blog when I wrote about worrying about my son and possible mental illness. I had several good responses and it calmed me down considerably. We talked about it, and I told him that if he ever felt like he needed to talk to someone about his worries, I'd make sure he could if his daddy or I wouldn't do. He was much happier after that.

  2. Why I do think the same in some of what you say anna, I actually do think there is something out there, call it a belief system or whatever, but the thought that there is nothing is quite depressing. Religion can be a great comforter to some.

    Americans just annoy me (sorry) but children need teaching about everything, without being sensored.

    As for kids being veggie, whilst I understand the point, I dont think that is right for the kids, let them make up their mind not to eat it when they are older.

    But I am with you, think what you want to think, believe what you want to believe as long as it doesnt hurt others, or you try and push it onto others

  3. Thanks guys, nice to know it's not just me!

    Sayre, if I had kids I'd probably do that too. Kids have to experience as much as possible before they can make their own informed choices. It's great to see someone bringing up their child to be an independent, thinking adult person.

    And you're most welcome. I mean to comment more often but don't always get round to it. However I find it very easy to chime in and give advice, especially when the problem's not my own! Hope things are going better now anyway.

    Nic, yeah I'm with you. Religion can help people feel better, a comforter as you say. And living your life as if you're going to be judged when you die can be a good way for people to make choices. I just don't feel that I need that.