Since most men don’t know how to do anything but wipe their ass on a new idea, we sometimes fall prey to our own defensive hubris, in our attempts to communicate those ideas to others. And we fail to appreciate the ever-present danger, of falling into an ironic, self-righteous diatribe, at the expense of those new ideas.
Translation: We can become the same kind of overbearing gasbags, we often claim to denounce.
This becomes a particular problem, when attempting to appeal to some ‘higher morality’ behind relinquishing their belief in a supernatural being.
The first message we need to convey, is simply that most atheists are moral. And, though ‘good without God,’ many share a lot of what anyone might otherwise characterize as “normal Christian values.” And that’s because morality is, at bottom, based on a large number of shared human values. What I like to point to, as making up the core of our common humanity.
Being honest, industrious, hard-working folks, who take care of their families – and sometimes help each other out – is hardly unique to the Christian faith. These are human social values – shared world-wide – regardless of who’s superordinate deity is ultimately ascribed oversight, at the top.
Neither, however, does that negate any of the highest possible attributes of personal or social morality among religious believers. In fact, for better or worse, they’ve been largely responsible for getting us to where we are today.
So, where are we today? At some brittle juncture, where belief systems are to be broken down, and the world remade into some ultimately moral, though completely Godless, society? I would truly hesitate to say. And that’s because humans are social creatures, with deeply held emotional attachments to their spiritual notions about life, death, and their ultimate personal connection with the universe. (Also, a deeply held sense of ultimate justices, for those who commit crimes against individuals or humanity, and earn their sense of moral outrage.)
And though there are some ghastly belief systems still extant – that are clearly throw-backs to a more brutally barbaric age – and that go against everything modern man has managed to overcome, most Christian religions have at least ‘evolved’ to preclude those completely outrageous and unlawful practices of their checkered past.
After all, Christians might still mock and excoriate the non-believer, but they just can’t torture and burn us at the stake like they used to.
But that’s some cold comfort to some of the newer generation. Who would like to see much more change – or the idea of God done away with altogether.
But change is coming – if only one generation at a time. And folks – like those at the Pew Center for religion – are constantly keeping track of how many of us have already tossed in the towel on complying with the practices of most organized religions. And gone on to either non-belief, or adopted a more personal version of God. God-lite. (Less hate and judgmental exclusionary practices, and more Kumbaya.)
And of course, some of the churches themselves are no longer the prized little money-makers they once were.
But, no. What I see happening is more along the lines of the European model. Moral, social folks, who are increasingly happy to trade their hard-core notions of illiterate belief, for the more educated social attitudes that embrace a less strident view of God, and more of an eclectic mix of religion and cultural fables, surrounding their religious holidays. Kind of like what we’re seeing in a good many young American families today. Who, in light of better education and the reality of evolution, are increasingly relegating the Christian God, to the level of fable. And ultimate retirement – right along with Zeus and Apollo.
In the meantime, we all live our moral lives, often ascribed to very different belief systems. But who’s moral values largely overlap – at the locus of our commonly shared social values.