Generally, I have no trouble with the moderately or liberally religious. Really. Contrary to popular opinion of me, simple belief doesn’t bother me, and I don’t care what you believe. It’s only what you then do with it and how you action it that I object to. Oh, and mostly why people believe, as that’s usually far more interesting.
So, people trying to say that the Earth is 6000 years old and claiming this ludicrous assertion is legitimate science – that pisses me off. People claiming moral absolutist authority (regardless of their inconsistencies) for their One True Religion – that hacks me off. People using religiously derived traditions as an argument against anything – I will not suffer such ideas to live. Anyone who does this is someone I consider fair game to attack their beliefs. Because, frankly, if you’re making statements that can be proven wrong, then people should try to prove them wrong – ideas that stand up to that sort of treatment are good ideas.
The liberally religious fall into this far less so. They more or less get on with it. You can have a sensible and grown up conversation with them on the subject. They’ll most likely view their religion as guidance rather than didactic statements of absolute authority. They probably won’t restrict their respect and friendship along religious lines. Perhaps they’ll even use their beliefs as a force for objective good, like helping people, rather than wasting their time on telling everyone how immoral homosexuality is and how women should shut up and stay indoors because… because… well, just because.
Hell, I know a couple of liberal/moderate Christians who would happily engage in a bit of creationist bashing for the same reasons I do – namely that they’re all scam artists trying to sell cheaply produced books and DVDs to the masses just to keep them stupid enough to keep buying those books and DVDs and throwing their money at megachurches.
Guys, continue with that. It’s great.
But… and this is a tiny little “but” in the grand scheme of things… let’s switch track from actionable beliefs to actual truth value.
Not actual factual truth value, but perceived truth value (if, of course, you care to discern a difference).
I presume that if you believe something, you believe it’s true. Well, Daniel Dennett did coin the term “belief in belief”, but the point of that is that no one ever actually thinks they merely have “belief in belief”. If you think it’s true, then, from your perspective it is true. You treat it as true. It’s an “I believe this chair is here so that when I sit down on it I won’t crash my arse onto the floor” sort of true. Well, I presume it is, because if it isn’t you need to have strong words with yourself.
So, when it comes to believing that a specific religion is true, then the only thing consistent with that is acting like it. At least actively converting others and warning them of the dangers of hell fire and so on. You need to go out there and really believe it. After all, this is your immortal soul you’re dicing with here considering what religions are about. But not only your own soul, but everyone else’s – and surely you’re morally obligated to save others. That means preaching, that means evangelism… that means being a disrespectful dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.
The moderately/liberally religious don’t do that. They’re not dickish about that. They respect other beliefs. They think that others are entitled to their own beliefs. They’ll even have inter-faith platforms where they’ll be nicey-nice to each other in a constructive way. Some might even go so far as to hold the belief that all religions are right. Hey, I’ve heard that said on several occasions although I still have no idea how it’s internally consistent.
So, here’s my problem. Again, the one and only problem, and a tiny one in the grand scheme of things. If you think that all religions are valid, and can coexist, and you can generally live-and-let-live with differences, and you’re not being a preachy evangelical dick about it… doesn’t that mean that what you believe is somewhat arbitrary? If a vicar can stand next to an imam without shouting “You’re going to hell! Repent now sinner!”… doesn’t it say that the specifics of what you believe doesn’t really matter? If you can fall asleep a Christian and wake up as a Hindu then, from your view… has anything really changed about reality?
If so, and it doesn’t really matter what you believe, what’s the point in even having those beliefs?