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Thinking in Absolutes; Atheism vs. Religion

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Most of us have different ideas on faith and religion and everything in between. Unless of course you are one of those rare few who think and believe in absolutes.

Those who ascribe to such  radical and unyielding systems of belief lose the ability to adapt and grow as they progress through life. It stifles and eventually debilitates the creative and adaptive aspects of their human nature, leaving in its stead a hardened and impenetrable barrier.

With arrogance and a self-righteous sense of superiority those who think and act in absolutes can only move to control those who do not believe as they do. Absolutist ideologies leave no room for compromise, for mediation or for common ground. In my humble opinion I believe that the real problems arise from thinking and acting according to absolutes. Throughout history we have seen atrocities strung together by this common thread.

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A common argument these days is that religion is the root cause of the pain and suffering we see in todays troubled world. Championing this argument is the Atheist community at large. Atheism is defined as disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or Gods. I believe this definition to be inadequate and I think it requires some deeper inspection.

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First off, a disbelief is extremely different than a lack of belief. Disbelief is defined as an inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real and it has the potential to blossom into an absolutist ideology. An inability occurs when one is ill equipped. A refusal is a choice. How can one choose confidently or refuse without knowing? When an individual has an inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real it denotes some barrier, some insurmountable obstacle that blocks their path.

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All sorts of difficulties can arise when we try and rationally justify our structure of beliefs. The most common being our lack of personal experience, and therefore an inadequate amount of information to process. I think a close second would be our personal experiences that we mistake as being representative enough of the whole when consciously attempting to unravel and understand a subject. But when these difficulties arise do we recognize our limited ability to know or do we pretend to know?

 Strangely these two main inhibitors of human understanding are diametrically opposed. One person believes blindly with inadequate data, foregoing an ability to critically analyze the subject by adopting absolutes. The other thinks in absolutes by believing they have obtained adequate evidence. One believes without question, the other has an answer for every question. But when the subject is as intangible as faith, as unknowable as God, as controversial as Religion, how do we wade through the waters of skepticism, faith and knowledge?

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Many of us become jaded through our personal experiences. We become opposed to certain things simply because of the bad taste we are left with. My own life was no different. I had a particular Uncle who claimed moral superiority because he was a Christian. His actions proved otherwise time and again, yet the words of righteousness kept flowing from his lips. The hypocrisy kept me disinterested in faith for a long time. I believed that I knew definitively that religion was bunk.

It wasn’t until many years later when I came to understand that people, having free will, will represent and misrepresent what they stand for. We cannot deem what it is they claim to represent as invalid or untrue because of their personal and willful choices. Most of us have the capacity to discern right from wrong. When we do wrong it does not become right because we reason it so. Any ideology that does this is nothing more than wishful thinking. Plotting minds always find a way.

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A ‘lack of belief’ on the other hand, is much more open ended. It conveys the skepticism that is necessary in a critical analysis of something until one is sure the burden of proof has been met. A lack of belief is not the same as a disbelief or refusal to believe. It allows room for a mind to critically think in broader strokes by allowing the possibility of something to be proven true, or false for that matter. This is the kind of thinking that allows mediation, compromise, deep reflection and imagination. It is a valuable asset to the human race.

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Without skepticism our innovations would cease, invention would become a think of the past, and we would stagnate in our absolutist understanding of this world and each other. A healthy dose of skepticism is just that, healthy. When the mind flows like a river it stays fresh and crisp and clear, but if it becomes damned and stagnates it festers. Skepticism can be understood as the refusal to damn the flow. I have a deep respect for those both of faith and without, who humble themselves enough that they can listen and learn from the views of another. Each of us are individuals, we experience on our own. The world is a pretty big place. We shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that we know exactly anything absolutely, all it makes us is arrogant and intellectually limited. Atheists and Believers are equally guilty of thinking in absolutes, and that is the crux of the dilemma.

  
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