I need you to believe

I’ve been mulling over some faith issues recently, and I should perhaps have written about this before now, back when I was so incensed that that my ability to reason was impaired. A couple of things happened that really jarred, and I had a hard time thinking through the implications.

One of the things transpired from a silly conversation midweek over dinner with my partner: I was pushing him to confess to something he believed in, and the thing he confessed was that he couldn’t think of anything he believed in. We had been talking about personal identity, and the fact that he didn’t believe he was the same person every day. I joked that this is a rum deal for me, who can’t rely on his continued affections, and who perhaps has to win him over again every day! I was also surprised, because he is one of the most constant men I know (perhaps just a little less so than my Dad, Mr. Ultimately dependable). Most surprising, though, was the stark contrast between us: believing in things that can’t be proved and having faith are absolutely fundamental to my character, and I was shocked that I had spent more than seven years of my life with someone to whom this was not important. For better or worse we’ve stuck together (for better most of the time) and I started to wonder about this imaginary list of attributes that our partners must have, and about how many of these are negotiable. Simply put, for us to have had such a good relationship despite this ‘crucial’ difference means that it doesn’t have as large an impact as I would have guessed. Still, all the way home I was singing Chemical Brothers ‘Believe’ in my head, and wondering about the fact that my partner can still surprise me.

The second incident, and this was the one that I surprisingly got so irate about, was a post in a friend’s blog. It was about the atheist bus, which has a printed banner along its side that states ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy yourself’. I find this deeply offensive: I don’t think believing in God means people will worry unduly and/or fail to enjoy themselves. I find the fact that so many people are willing to donate money to fund this advertising campaign very unsettling – it’s such negative action, and will only appeal to the ‘converted’, who have made their own minds up (as is their prerogative) and wish to poopoo the beliefs and behaviour of Christians (and perhaps others…) What ever happened to tolerance and respect?

Ariane Sherine writes, unconvincingly, in the Guardian: ‘Your donations will give atheism a more visible presence in the UK, generate debate, brighten people’s day on the way to work, and hopefully encourage more people to come out as atheists.’ I say, why should believing in nothing be more visible? Why should Atheism have a presence? Why should we encourage people to ‘out’ themselves to a non-community of nothingness?

More to come on this one…

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4 thoughts on “I need you to believe

  1. Her “unconvincing” piece appears to have struck at least one note: generating debate.

    It’s light-hearted, take a look at the Just Giving page for it and look at people’s comments against their donations. They’re hilarious! This isn’t a big uprising of atheists about to start fighting against people’s beliefs, it’s simply there to make people think. The original advert that started the idea was an Alpha Course advert on the side of a bus, whose website preached an eternity of burning in hell for non-believers. Not very tolerant.

  2. I can’t find any mention on the website about burning in hell. I just don’t understand what Alpha are supposed to be doing wrong? Where is the harm in belief? Where are the people ‘worrying’ and having a miserable time because of their faith? Given that atheism is based on there being no proof of God’s existence, I think it only fair that there’s some proof behind the argument being made.

  3. Okay, agrument conceeded. In a stubborn sort of a way. With no concession about my personal beliefs. My uber-emotional mind will never be turned to science!

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