Friday 20 February 2009

Existence and meaning

A foreword: do feel free to comment on this one, I have the anxious feeling that I am blogging alone and that I am turning schizophrenic. And feel free to disagree with me, I love a good, heated debate when it is not trolling.

Since the controversy over the atheist bus (I am modestly taking part in it over the Internet), I have been thinking a lot about faith and my current (and most likely permanent) state of Godlessness (does that word exist?). I am trying to remember when I exactly lost my faith. It was a gradual process, that started with teenage and maybe ended before it. I stopped going to confession at 11 or 12, then in the anachronistic Catholic school system Québec had at the time, I just couldn't stand the nauseating preaching that the religion teachers and the animateurs de pastorale were giving us, telling us that God was love, not to go away from the Light of Jesus, that a bunch of people in Croatia or wherever saw the Virgin Mary (did she look like Olivia Hussey?), and so on and so forth. That was marshmallow version of brainwash, but it didn't work too well. I still believed in God, except that I was starting to think he also loved idiots and didn't mind them as his messengers. The only class I was thrown out from was a religion class, and I still don't regret it. I did have a few good religion teachers, one of them in my last year of high school, he was a nice guy and intelligent enough, so I sort of kept my faith for a little while. Then well, I slowly discovered that I had stopped praying, stopped talking to God, and that all I could hear was the echo of my own consciousness.

I don't like that expression "loosing faith", it sounds as if I lost something precious. I think now that faith is something I could have easily done without way before I "lost" it. I remember that I started saying "I don't believe in God" regularly in 1999, when I started living in England. First to two Jehovah's Witnesses that were really winding me up, then to a group of students, among which I was going to make many friends. A Muslim in the group said "you must be a very sad person". The year after, a Greek housemate told me the very same thing. So the faithful do think that life is incomplete without God. It is a false assumption. Hoping for an afterlife, since there is no proof of its existence, is for me a false hope. I do think, like the French existentialists, that life is meaningless unless one gives it meaning through actions. At heart, I am an existentialist. And I find it more rewarding than worship and religious obedience. There is also the question of moral: believers think that heathens like myself don't have any, or have a lesser one. Something that made perfect sense when I was a good little Catholic boy, but that I find ridiculous now, and actually slightly offensive. It implies that a human being lacks the judgment to see what is right or wrong and needs the guidance of a supreme being. But faith is often used by the faithful in lieu of moral, it makes moral subservient to it. One can measure what is good or bad on the effect it has on this world and on fellow human beings, the rest is unverifiable and ultimately pointless.


PJ said...

Tu t'étais fait sortir du cours d'Yvon Canuel, n'est-ce pas? C'est pas avec le sympathique Jos Lebnan que ce serait arrivé, ça c'est sûr et certain. Moi, j'étais encore relativement croyant en secondaire 2, plus vraiment en secondaire 5, et définitevement athée à partir du cégep. Reste que je n'aimerais pas n'avoir aucune culture religieuse du tout. L'athéisme inculte en matière de culte est trop souvent irréfléchi, pour ne pas dire irrationnel.

Devadar said...

Pour le voir avec de nombreux élèves, c'est fou ce que le croyant moyen ne comprend rien à la religion.

Tu leur demande si, selon le christianisme, l'être humain est naturellement bon, et ils répondent oui.

Ils ne connaissent presque rien à la Bible (Saint-Paul, c'est qui ça?, la parabole du semeur, hein?), aux théologiens (Saint-Augustin, Saint-Thomas), et Dieu sait s'ils comprennent la moindre parcelle des autres religions. Finalement, la plupart des chrétiens croyants se crée une espèce d'idéal de Dieu, bon père gentil, et omnipotent.
C'est évident, que lorsqu'on croit avoir un ami comme ça, on a pitié de ceux qui l'ont pas.

Et nous on a pitié de ceux qui croient que leur Dieu existe, et que leur foi aveugle et irrationnelle est une bonne chose.

Et pour la morale... Les croyants argumentent souvent qu'une personne ne peut être bonne si elle ne croit pas en Dieu, le ciel et l'enfer
... ce qui revient à dire finalement que la personne n'a pas de sens moral: elle n'agit pas pour le bien des autres, mais égoïstement dans son intérêt, voulant la vie éternelle au paradis, évitant les souffrances de l'enfer.
La morale religieuse est purement égoïste. Et après ils vont dirent que c'est à nous qu'ils manquent quelque chose. L'agnostic et l'athée sont capable d'avoir une conscience morale philanthropique... pas le théiste.

Honnêtement, si Dieu accepte dans son paradis pareils imbéciles et hypocrites, autant rester au purgatoire. Je préfère de loin pouvoir passer l'éternité à converser avec des gens intelligents qu'avec tous les débiles égoïste qui ont un passe droit pour le paradis.

Tim Stephenson said...

Hi Guillaume,
I saw a talk given by Daniel Dennett recently in which he said that the way to find meaning in life is to find something bigger than you are and to dedicate your life to it. Talking about your loss of faith to believers or in an internet blog is a solitary process and not likely to be as rewarding as meeting up with like minded people. I would suggest that you join the British Humanist Association and seek out your local Humanist group.

Jazz said...

Well, you won't get any debate from me, I "lost" (for want of a better word) my faith gradually. At 12 I told my mom that I was done with church and she said, "Well good, I was only going because you seemed to want to." Good thing I spoke up.

What really cinched it for me was a high school religion teacher telling me that everyone but the catholics were going to hell because they worshiped idols. When I pointed out that a) muslims are not allowed to have any representation of god at all and that b) we sort of do the same thing with that Christ on a cross thing at the front of churches, she went ballistic and threw me out of class.

The total closed mindedness of the catholic church galls me.

As for life after death. I believe that you live on until everyone who remembers you is gone. That's the extent of it. Otherwise you're dead and, at best, you're fertilizer.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to believe I'll live forever on a cloud playing harp, but damn that would be a boring eternity.

Guillaume said...

PJ-Oui, le cours de Canuel, mais je dois avouer que techniquement je l'avais un peu mérité. Le problème, c'est que comme le cours de religion était prodigieusement stupide, il était également très populaire.
Devadar-Excellent commentaire. Il est vrai que les croyants de nos jours ignorent beaucoup (tout?) de la foi qu'ils défendent.
Tim-Yes, I should do that really. The BHA is doing a great job here and I agree with the values they defend.
Jazz-Yes, you told me that anecdote before. In theory, the images made by the Catholics are not idolatrous, but in practice the line is thin, especially since, as my brother said, the faithful are no scholars and don't really understand many of the concepts of the religion they belong to. And yes, with all the flaws Islam had (and it has many), one cannot accuse them of worshipping images.