Thank you for your response. I enjoyed reading it, and it certainly gave me some more things to think about. In particular, I enjoy discussing concepts with people that both have a strong opinion, and know why they have that opinion. I always enjoy talking to someone that can better increase my understanding of the world.
You seem like a very educated person. I’m curious as to what you do with your life. With what profession does the webmaster of IAmAnAtheist.com support himself with?
Which also brings me to another question. Do you consider it a personal prerogative to “cleanse” the world of religion?
I enjoy discussing politics more than anything. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of fighting in the middle east stems from competition over the “Holy Land”. Do you think we can live in a peaceful world where religion exists? Must people give up their belief to establish serenity?
And finally, my last question. From an atheists perspective, is it wrong of people to follow organized religion? Even if none of it is true, is it wrong to follow an idea that makes people feel safe?
Don’t take anything I say too seriously. I’m eighteen years old, and my family just moved following my graduation from high school. I’ve got an entire summer (which is winding up pretty fast), zero friends, and only an internet connection to entertain myself.
Thanks for your complements and further questions. I’m going to have to pass on discussion of my profession as I like to leave certain personal details out of bounds. (I also avoid references to my gender, even in pronouns.) I will say that I do not have a college degree and that Pants Aflame Productions is the Webmaster of this site.
You asked if I, “consider it a personal prerogative to ‘cleanse’ the world of religion”. I assume that by “prerogative” you don’t mean to ask if I think I’m the only person who can eliminate religion from the world. Rather, I think you’re asking if the elimination of religion is one of my main goals. In either case, my answer is no. I do not seek to eliminate religion. I realize that religion is helpful to many people and I don’t seek to deny them this comfort.
What I do want to do is help people examine their own beliefs and make sure that they conform to my two rules for acceptable philosophy (that is, an acceptable philosophy must at least be self consistent and not condemn those who think in the same way). I think that promoting rational thought and behavior will go a long way toward eliminating a great many social problems, including those caused by the blind following of certain religions.
Despite the situation in the Middle East, I do think that peace and religion are compatible. However, I also think that any kind of fanaticism — be it religious, political, or what have you — is dangerous in that it discourages free thought and can therefore lead people to take completely irrational actions.
Must people give up their beliefs in the name of serenity? No. Heck, you can even believe that members of other religions deserve to die and live in peace, just so long as you also believe that you aren’t the one with the right to carry out the death sentence. (This is an extension of my second rule — if I believe I have the right to kill unbelievers, then I must not condemn anyone who believes they also have the right to kill unbelievers, so if I don’t want everyone killing everyone else the rational thing to do is leave the killing to God.)
From an atheist perspective, is it wrong to follow an organized religion? Well, it would be wrong for an atheist, obviously. For anyone else, it is, at most, incorrect. Individuals must decide for themselves whether giving a certain amount of their belief up to faith is worth the benefit they get from religion. For those who think that the universe makes more sense if religion is true, then following an organized religion may make sense. But for anyone, I’d say that giving up your thought processes to another is always bad — even if that other is always correct. Fortunately, there are some religions that do not require mindless belief.
Your last question is a difficult one: “Even if none of it is true, is it wrong to follow an idea that makes people feel safe?” The reason it is difficult is that you are mixing the theist and atheist perspectives. Is it bad to devote ones self to an idea that one knows is untrue for the sake of comfort? Probably. But this isn’t generally what religious people do since they don’t consider the ideas they are devoted to are false. But what about the person who believes in an afterlife because life without such belief would be overwhelming and there’s no proof one way or another? Although it’s bad to have any belief for simply emotional reasons, since this belief in and of itself harms nobody and helps the one holding it I can’t condemn it to strongly — just so long as the person with the belief admits its origin and does not try to convince others that it is based on something objective.
You tell me not to take what you say too seriously and mention that you just graduated from high school. If these are your beliefs and your honest questions we’re talking about, I’m going to take them seriously whether you’re 18 or 80. Even if you are just having this discussion to entertain yourself, so long as you are doing so seriously and with an intention to learn even when you disagree, then I welcome your correspondence.