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Ours are times of turmoil and bitter conflicts in the world.

The reasons are many, from globalization of the economy, to need for sustainable future and new energy sources, to redistribution of wealth and resources among old and new state powers, to religious differences and prejudices that shape polarizing world views among people. In this page I compile information on the origins and similarities and differences of religious beliefs.

In doing this I do not preach which religion is right and which is wrong. Neither I impose my beliefs and world view on anyone. Rather, I try to educate myself--and whoever else is interest enough to read this and follow the links--and find answers to the questions: 

Why and how beliefs that inspire striving for perfection and most unselfish deeds come to also explain oppression and justify killing of other human beings in the name of chosen God(s). 

While not imposing, I do express my opinion on what I have learned. Thus, it is only fair to state where I myself stand.
I am an atheist.

"...the doctrine of a life-to-come is not such an uplifting idea after all because it necessarily devalues life on earth...
... why we sometimes remind ourselves that 'life is short.'  It is an impetus to extend a gesture of affection to a loved one, to bury the hatchet in a pointless dispute, to use time productively rather than squander it. ... nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift."

From "The Mystery of Consciousness" by Steven Pinker
TIME, Jan 29, 2007

 

My view on beliefs and religion

Though I do not believe that a deity is in charge, or gives purpose, of my life, I consider myself a believer. Because everybody--indeed, everybody on this planet--believes in something. Some people believe in God (whatever name used) or intelligent designer, others in miracles and angels, still others in some dear leader imposing some ideology (aka political religion).


      I believe in

I do not accept the notion that people have to be religious to be good, moral persons. People know, without revelations, that killing, stealing, lying, adultery, and envy are wrong. Yes, human beings could be cruel, and most of the history has witnessed unspeakable human disgrace. But above all, deep in all of us is goodness and desire to help others, and cooperate with the others, and be useful to the others, and make the others happy. And while the community is important for social beings like us, on the most basic level just good mother and father , not necessarily religious, are enough to bring all our virtues up.

I do respect religion. As a Bulgarian, I appreciate that our Orthodox Christianity has preserved our language, our faith, our customs, and our nation during dark times. When nobody else wanted or could help during the plague, low-rank friars and nuns were the first and last to offer help and compassion to those dying. But the Crusades and 9/11 were also done in the name of God.

I share Bertrand Russell view that religion developed upon fear, fear of the unknown. From men hiding in caves from pouring rain and thunder to men building majestic pyramids to reach the sun after life, ignorant human beings did not understand and thus feared mysterious phenomena and the awe-inspiring might of the nature that gives, sustains and destroys life. So, here we have Amon Ra, The God of Sun, and Zeus, The God of Thunder.

As human knowledge progressed and made clear that, for example, angels did not physically push the sun, moon, planets and stars across the sky, the need of religion as an explanation of natural phenomena diminished.  But religion acquired additional roles.  For the African slaves, religion was a way to cope with deprived life, a hope that if not on this earth, there will be justice at least in heaven.  For the white masters, the same religion provided justification for the slavery.  Religion is still a way to cope with hardship, but above all it is a way to preserve someone's power, usually that of rich and powerful over the ordinary people, that of men over the women.  In this sense I find any religion somewhat hypocritical and self-serving. 

My main question is, why is faith good, you people of faith? Just tell me why the purposeful suspension of critical thinking is a good thing?  If you can answer that question, maybe I'll shut up.

Bill Maher, on CNN on October 8, 2010

Religious devotion inspired the creation of the most beautiful music, paintings, poetry, and architecture. But any religion (or ideology) is also capable of confining the human spirit and creativity, stopping progress, and justifying irrational thoughts. Since the times of Egyptian shamans, knowledge has given power to those who possess it (remember Prus's Pharaoh), so it was deliberately withheld and jealously guarded from the masses; it is so much easier to manipulate and control ignorant people. This practice continues in modern world; we all witness the narrow scope of madrasas curriculum in Islamic countries.

The only answer to backwardness caused by zealous religiosity is EDUCATION. In the words of a friend of kindred spirit, "Knowledge and education are indeed among the most important of political stabilizers. Whether it be communist Russia, religious Iran, blind North Korea, women governed by the Taliban, or the far right wing U.S., liberal education is what the ideologues seek to squelch. That should be evidence enough of its value."

As education becomes increasingly important for more and more people, I believe religion will be inexorably marginalized in future. And, of course, the church will fight to keep its power over people minds, hopefully through reform, not through the age-old persecution or open conflicts. What future holds is uncertain; could be more tolerance, could be more terror. I wish more people see that there are really good reasons to celebrate a more secular world.

 

 Quotes I agree with, no matter the source:

Why does science scare some people?

Science is attractive to those who like solving puzzles. But it is not so appealing for people who want to be cuddled (or even reprimanded), who want to feel that things make sense, or that somebody's looking after them. Scientists do not offer certainty, and they do not offer a universe that is centered around humans. Religions offer a world view in which you are important.

Interview with novelist Margaret Atwood, Nature, 2011, 478 (October 6), p.35


How to end the wars of hatred

... As Jews, Christians and Muslims, we have to be prepared to ask the most uncomfortable questions. Does the God of Abraham want his disciples to kill for his sake? ... There is nothing accidental... series of decisions a half-century ago that led to the creation of an entire educational network of schools and seminaries dedicated to the proposition that loving God means hating the enemies of God. ... Those who believe that political problems have religious solutions are deluding themselves ...

Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 


Individuality vs. conformity

... Freedom, true freedom, is not "doing anything you want,".... True freedom is that your choices are not imposed upon you from any force outside of you; that your behavior is driven by a free soul within, and not by expectations, pressures, competition, vanity, insecurities and all other forces that compel us to behave in certain way.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson 


 
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