Faith Column: Can thiests and athiests live at peace?
Naive Co-existing in Faith
On Jan. 19, I had the immense privilege of attending a lecture that was all about equipping atheists to convert people of faith to atheism. It was a “how-to” on saving the faithful from their delusions and convincing them to abandon “complete silliness.”
The speaker, Peter Boghossian, came onto the stage and before he started his lecture, asked if the technical crew could turn the stage lights down a bit as he was being blinded. Which, he surmised, must be exactly what it feels like being in a church. Quips such as this were woven into his speaking, which were followed by uproarious laughter. Most of which, I must admit, I was part of.
Most people of faith are not unaware of how delusional we can sound to those who do not prescribe to such beliefs. Honestly, I’ve said things to friends in my own faith that they thought sounded crazy. That is part of the joy of living in such a varied and multi-cultural society. We can have differing views and still be friends. But is that always the case?
Boghossian does not seem to think that the faithful and the non-faithful could co-exist well in society. Does that mean he harbours ill feelings towards the faithful? No. However, he firmly believes that beliefs bred out of faith are nothing but delusions and are extremely harmful when allowed to permeate society.
I don’t entirely disagree with his viewpoint. I know that there are certain laws and restrictions that people of faith have interpreted out of holy books that are harmful and/or extreme. So it got me thinking, can different beliefs and non-beliefs systems flourish inter-culturally?
We Canadians often pride ourselves on being tolerant. In theory, being tolerant sounds ideal, but is it? How would you feel if your best friend “tolerated” you? Would you feel nurtured if your mother told you your whole life that you were “tolerated?” People long to be loved, appreciated and accepted. Tolerance doesn’t even come close to hitting any of those marks.
Tolerating other beliefs in Canada usually means that anyone can think and believe whatever they want as long as it doesn’t “infringe on me and my rights,” some might say. “You can build your holy places and celebrate your holidays as long as it doesn’t get in the way of me and mine.” This works for a time, but gets complicated when you start bringing up issues of education, segregation, marriage and abortion.
Ultimately, most religions function in a communal way. Faiths were meant to shape entire societies and overflow into governance. We say that people are free to believe and practice whatever they want, but when restrictions are placed on how far those things can reach, ultimately, no one is free.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are required to proselytize — Christians believe in evangelizing. Certain Muslims believe in being segregated from women (York University, in recent news). All of these actions intrinsically impose on the way other people live their lives.
Peter Boghossian’s book is called “A Manual for Creating Atheists.” Ironically enough, the methods outlined in his book and his lecture follow the exact same pattern that I was taught on how to teach people about the hope in Jesus.
When questioned, Boghossian even conceded that heaven was the greatest hope anyone could believe in, if it wasn’t founded in complete delusion of course. So maybe I’ve been blinded by teachings of hope through faith, but who’s to say Boghossian isn’t teaching blindness of a different kind?