In Reaction to the Passing of Proposition 8:
A Conversation of Privilege around Religion and Faith
Zack Ford – November 8, 2008
Atheism has been interpreted in many ways. Because of the messages our privileged society offers about atheism, it is often interpreted by believers to mean “anti-God.” This does not accurately describe atheists. I believe most atheists would admit that they cannot prove that there is no god(s). They merely see no reasonable proof or evidence that there is a probable deity nor any personal value in believing in such a claim. They do not live their lives believing there is no God; they simply live their life without God. Note also that many atheists still participate in religion, or traditions rooted in religion. (Similarly, some theists do not participate in a religion.) It is also important to note that atheists are no less moral than theists, and share many of the same morals that are rooted in religion. Obviously, they cannot escape the norms and society (i.e. religious culture) in which they were raised. However, these morals can be and are constructed and rationalized without consideration for theistic faith or religious dogma. Just as an example, consider the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While this value is rooted in many scriptures, it does not originate there. It actually is responsible for our evolution as a species. Our survival as humanity depends upon our social interdependence. Though our complex reasoning skills now allow us to consider and define “morals,” this core guiding value is consistent across all cultures and belief systems because it is, in fact, biologically instinctual. Thus, atheists can interpret and apply morals through such secular philosophies as Buddhism and humanism.
Atheists live in a society where those who do believe in God are privileged, and—and here’s where it gets tricky—society also privileges the beliefs of monotheists over other groups’ sets of beliefs. This notion is at the core of my argument, and I shall expand upon it in different ways shortly.
I say that this is where things get tricky, because beliefs are very personal. I think this is why many have taken offense at my comments, but I want to try to explain why I think my words caused such reactions. Before I proceed, I want to reiterate how important it is to consider the differences and yet dependent relationship between privilege around religion and privilege around faith/theism. The privileged faith, monotheism, is incorporated by most of the religions in our culture. In fact, I would argue that religion itself—its culture and traditions—is a byproduct of theistic belief. It is impossible separate the two: the privilege of Christianity depends on the privilege of monotheism, and is essentially the most privileged manifestation constructed around monotheism. Likewise, monotheism depends on the religions organized around it in order to be sustained through society over time. (If the conceptualization of this sounds interesting, I encourage you to read more on memetics.) Please keep in mind that when I refer to faith, I am talking specifically about theism, belief in something supernatural. For many, the customs and values of religion cannot be separated from the monotheistic faith, but I believe it is imperative to see the two operating separately.