Fascination

Oh god, not another post on Mark’s blog about Atheism (and here), you are probably thinking, especially if you are one of my readers that is religious but worry not; as this is not as outspoken or as opinionated as other posts might have been, but actually a little topic that confused me at first but now I understand. And one recently that has been given a little kick up the arse.

Okay, so I live in the US and Texas is quite religious; change the record. Indeed, my company it’s self is very religious, whether I like it or not. This means that the majority of people here go to church much more regularly than people what say “they go to church” do in the UK, which is sometimes more than twice a week. Good luck to them, they can do what they want, and I admire their faith and that they are giving up their time for something. It would go without saying then, that this company has a bible study group. It should also go without saying then that many people chose to put religious passages and wise words in their signatures. That’s a little unprofessional for my tastes, but the culture is different so I’ll let them off with it.

There’s also a religious message board. The company have set up several boards on the Outlook system, one called the “BB” where people post literally everything from chain emails, photos, things they are selling or wanting to buy to puppies and kittens that are being given away. The Believer’s Board, as it’s called, is the sole domain of several posters who put up daily posts about religion and bible teachings. I guess that the board could be used for any other faiths, including that of spirituality, as the meaning of ‘believer’ is something that could be interpreted differently and subjectively. It is though the sole proving ground of Christian beliefs.

I venture onto the board every so often to see what is posted there and read the teachings. One thing you can’t ever say about my atheism is that I don’t discount the healing power and purpose belief can give someone and I never hold that against someone in my life. As long as they give me the same respect I give them we will get along fine – all you have to do is ask my friends that are religious and we, mostly, keep the peace. At any rate, it is a fascinating read and a world that I have had little true exposure to only through fleeting readings at Scouts and other events.

The board is quite harmless really and really quite a nice place to read certain things – recently though it’s been one man copy and pasting wholesale from the Old Testament about things that don’t have much relevance for me other than struggling to understand the writing. But... someone did something quite surprising.

They quoted Douglas Adams. They quote Isaac Asimov, Huxley and Clarke. And at first I wasn’t sure why. The quotes, some of which are admittedly my favourites, are either pitched in three ways.

1) As a religious person pointing out that these writers were atheistic.
2) As a religious person pointing out that these writers were atheistic and were good despite that.
3) A non religious person baiting a response from the readers of the board.

The other one that I wasn't sure of was whether the quotes were used to support religion in some backwards way, as some, like the first Douglas Adams one, is quite jarringly out of context.*

I am unsure which yet, but the poster leaves no trace as to the meaning, so maybe I’ll never know. But it does beg the question that, if it’s number 3, why post it at all? I read it not for the smug satisfaction of knowing something is different to that of them, nor do I read it because I get a laugh or enjoy the statements as cannon fodder, I read it because it genuinely interests me, and faith is something I am very interested in at a personal and evolutionary level.

I’ll keep an eye on the board.

The quotes are below. As an interesting aside, as I tried to look up these quotes I wasn't allowed to due to them being blocked. No word on that yet, by the way.

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. - Aldous Huxley

I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent. - Arthur C. Clarke

To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today. – Isaac Asimov

If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. – Isaac Asimov

I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing. – Douglas Adams

Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for Atheism ever conceived. – Isaac Asimov

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? – Douglas Adams

*Here's the actual passage, for completeness and context.
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

The Babelfish, btw.