Monday, April 11, 2005

A Perspective on Faith

Want to understand my point-of-view? I think this is worth reading.

SAM SMITH, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - As far as the government and the media are concerned, the world's fourth largest belief system doesn't exist. In number of adherents it's behind Christianity, Islam and Buddhism but ahead of Hinduism. Globally it's 85% the size of Catholicism and in America just a little smaller than Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans put together. Perhaps most astoundingly, given today's politics, in the U.S. it is roughly the size of the Southern Baptist congregation.

Its leaders, however, are not invited to open Senate sessions. Our politicians do not quote them and our news shows do not interview them. And while it is a sin, if not a crime, to be anti-Catholic or anti-Semitic, disparaging this faith is not only permitted, it is publicly encouraged. The media acts as though it doesn't exist. You'd need an exceptional lawyer to sue your employer for ridiculing your belief in it. Its adherents are repeatedly and explicitly excluded from the category of "people of faith" even though they are among the most steadfast and well-grounded in their beliefs. Finally, if one of its major figures dies, you will probably not read about it, let alone find the president, two ex-presidents and Brian Williams flying off for the service.

So completely is this belief system excluded from our national consciousness that we do not even have a name for it. So let's give it one, at least for this article: shafarism - standing for secularism, humanism, atheism, free thought, agnosticism, and rationalism.

Shafars are 850 million people around the globe and at least 20 million at home who are ignored, insulted, or commonly considered less worthy than those who adhere to faiths based on mythology and folklore rather than on logic, empiricism, verifiable history, and science....

Further, omnipresent evocations of American religiosity ignore some basic facts. Such as the Harris poll that shows about half of Americans go to church only a few times a year or never. In other words, they are at best what is known in some Latin American countries as navi-pascuas, attending only at Christmas and Easter. And among these, one reasonably suspects, are numerous closet shafars, silenced by the overwhelming suppression of skepticism and disbelief. In fact, the same poll found that 21% of Catholics and 52% of Jews either don't believe in God or are not certain that God exists.

Such facts are blatantly ignored by a media which happily assigns absurdly contradictory roles to God in stories such as the recent shootings in Atlanta. In that case one was led to believe that religious faith saved the hostage, even though the abductor professed belief in the same almighty, as presumably did at least some of those killed by the perpetrator. But who needs journalistic objectivity when such cliches are so handy?

None of which is to say that mythology and folklore are necessarily evil or that the non-religious necessarily earn morality by their skepticism. I'd take a progressive cardinal over Vladimir Putin any day. The thoughtfully religious, expressing their faith through works of decency and kindness, are far more useful, interesting and enjoyable than lazy, narcissistic rationalists. There have been times, such as the 1960s, when the church not only lived up to its gospel but proved to be one of the most desirable institutions around. And there are tens of millions of people who act as good Christians, even when their Pope or other leaders make it difficult.

But faith in religion is just one type of faith. Atheism can be called faith in evidence, agnosticism faith in doubt and science faith in logic. These are no less human faiths than those in an unseen God. Then there's deep ecology, a faith motivated, as one evangelist put it, by belief in creation rather than creator. Whether you call it God or Nature, argued Thor Heyerdahl, "the disagreement is about the spelling of a word."

2 Comments:

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Keith said...

GREAT post. I am a proud Shafar, and completely echo these statements.....

"But faith in religion is just one type of faith. Atheism can be called faith in evidence, agnosticism faith in doubt and science faith in logic. These are no less human faiths than those in an unseen God."

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Luke said...

Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home