Worlds & Time

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Writing and Religion

My first impulse after seeing Slacktivist link to Patrick Nielsen Hayden (I check to make sure I've spelled that right) was to run over to their blog "Making Light" and to post a comment to every single entry on the front page.

You see, Patrick Nielsen Hayden is the guy that heads up the Science Fiction/Fantasy side of Tor. When I submitted a few weeks ago (months really, I suppose), my manuscript was addressed to him. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have recognized his name. Just to be sure though, I checked and his wife Teresa is listed on the site with him.

There are numerous things about this that shouldn't surprise me. First, they're also the people that maintain the Tor page, so of course they're technologically literate. Why wouldn't they have a blog? They're writers, or at least they work in a literary field, so that's another reason to have a blog.

They're also liberal Christians (apparently), which also shouldn't surprise me. This is America after all, so the chances are they're going to be Christian, and there have to be some liberal Christians somewhere in America.

All of this does in fact surprise me. I'm now embarrassed that I didn't think to Google their names when I found them out. I'm surprised that they're Christians, and I'm almost shocked that a blog that I've been reading for a year or more just suddenly links to someone who's name I recognize out of the blue.

Despite all this shock and awe, I haven't yet posted anything on their blog. I will, when I see something that I may be able to contribute to, but I'll try to let the drunk and bubbly feeling dissipate so that I don't say something stupid. I probably will anyway, but I'll certainly try to sound intelligent. My hopes of being a published writer haven't gone away, despite the voice in my head that clearly points out that they're not going to offer me a book deal just from posting on their website.

Darn the anonymity of the internet. I wish I could get to know them. Describe in detail all the work and effort, not to mention blood, sweat and vertebrae that I've put into my story. Tell them that I have a plan to market and brand me to a mainstream audience, and that I should be able to make it work. I wish they could see the fire in my eyes when I describe the universe that I see behind my eyes, and tell them that they'd probably get along well with Jonathan.

But enough of that. No sense wishing for something that isn't going to happen until the advent of the Kyaran.

Slactivist's article (linked above) really got me thinking about religion.

I'm not a "new atheist." I don't think that religion is either unnecessary or inherently and unequivocally evil. You know why? Because in human history, some of the best things in the world have come out of religion.

Look at the Taj Mahal, and the Pyramids. The Sistine Chapel and Mozart's Concertos. Even today, I can point to great things that religion is doing. The structure of organized religion makes them the ideal candidates to do charitable work around the globe, for instance. Atheists have nothing even close, because we don't have a structure, and we don't have the resources (people) to distribute the assistance where it's needed.

Not everything good is from religion. There's a lot of bad things that have come out of religion too. Ignorance is the first one that comes to mind, followed by the crusades, the factionalization of groups, and George W. Bush. They don't need to be linked. You know what I'm talking about.

The most important idea to me is to recognize what the good things are, versus the bad things. It doesn't matter where the original idea or object comes from, it needs to be looked at in context.

What do we find out when we do this? That abstinence-only sex education doesn't work. That the world was not created 6000 years ago. That condoms are vitally important to the survival of sub-Saharan Africa. That going to church makes people happier, more well-adjusted, and gives them stronger ties to the community. That the existence of gay marriage makes gay people happy and has no impact on straight marriage. That religious fundamentalism is a bad thing, and that militant atheism may be no better if it doesn't address social and moral problems.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to walk into church the day after tomorrow. But it means that I understand when 75% of the country does (I made that statistic up, incidentally, don't quote me).

Now, obviously there are things that are gray, and they need to be constantly re-evaluated. The existence of God is gray, for instance. It keeps some very scary Christians from murdering their family, but on the other hand, some people murder their families because they think that God is telling them to do this. I've made up my mind on the issue of God. That's fine for me, but I can't push that on someone else. Atheist or not, the existence of God is one of those great questions of life.

And don't get me wrong, I don't believe in God, I'm a strong atheist. I think that when you pray, you're not talking to God, because there is no such being. But I do think that praying can help you. It calms you down, it allows you to examine something by your own moral framework, and it sorts the thoughts in your head out. So, we might disagree why prayer is helpful, but I still won't complain when you want to go to church.

All of this, the questions, the tolerance, and the respect, is very necessary to our survival. We can't become complacent, because more and more of us are learning how to create world ending weapons: Nukes, hatred, and pop stars.

So, no, I'm not a new atheist. I'm a strong atheist, but not what Wired called a new one. If that's new, we're in trouble, because it's not going to help us. If we can't recognize the good things, then we're going to have serious problems getting along, and building on each other's weaknesses.

Since I started this off talking about editors, I should have a strong ending for this in case they ever read it. I don't though, other than saying:

We all have different strengths. There are no perfect beings, so we need to learn how to see the truth of the matter and recognize that.

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