Monday, March 28, 2011
Of Pharisees and Atheists
I believe God is a confusing concept, and that at its best the god concept duplicates a clearer concept like Nature, Reality or Existence. Yet I am not overly fond of the term atheist because that only says what we don't believe in. Instead I accept the reality of a number of things. I have positive beliefs, which I am explaining in my essays on Natural Liberation Philosophy. In reading, or at least skimming through the 1902 edition of The University Encyclopedia, I came upon the entry for Pharisees. In my childhood I was taught in Catholic schools that Pharisees were bad people, not maybe as bad as atheists, but certainly bad enough to go to Hell when they died. The New Testament shows them tormenting the man-god Jesus with vexatious questions, which of course he turns back against them. The entry quotes the Talmud's (a Jewish holy book's) criticism of certain types of Pharisees. The specifics don't have a one-to-one correlation for atheists, but if you want here's a link to the article: Pharisees. Here I'll lay out my own set of types of atheists who could do with some improvement. I'll admit I struggle with these issues myself. 1. Atheists who think just being an atheist makes them wonderful. Boastful atheists. It is fine to say you are an atheist when appropriate. On the other hand, that does not tell people you are a good person. How do you conduct yourself? Do tell lies other than religious ones, do you steal, are you a helpful member of your community? 2. Atheists who think ethical rules don't apply to them. Also, atheists who make up ethical rules and exceptions to justify their anti-social behavior. Ethics should be a concern of every human being, religious and non-religious alike. 3. Atheists who are not charitable. Just because there is not a priest or minister hammering you for 10% of your earnings (before taxes) on Sunday, does not mean you should forget the unfortunate. I believe it is better to give to charity through a religious organization than to not give at all. Atheists should do more to help the sick, the hungry, victims of injustice, and the homeless. 4. Atheists who have nothing positive to offer society. Just because there is no God and no spirits are keeping score of your good and bad deeds does not mean that selfishness or destructive behavior is to be admired. Help people, be productive, give people an example of embracing life and society for their own sake. 5. Atheists who are intolerant of theists. This ranges from being unfriendly or unhelpful to religious people through actual persecution up to and including killing religious prisoners or civilians in time of war. If atheists were nicer, there would be more atheists in the world. 6. Anti-intellectual atheists. No one has achieved much by realizing that religious theologies tend towards make-believe. There is a lot to learn beyond that.