Saturday, April 7, 2012

I've been putting something off

Quite some time ago my brother asked me about my thoughts on religion. He knows I'm a non believer, it's not secret. He is a new minister, having recently finished his Masters of divinity. Back then he wasn't a full time minister. He wanted to know what I think about religion, what I dislike, like etc. I told him I'd write something and get back to him. I wrote about half of what I'd outlined in one late night, and never got around to finishing it, partly due to being busy, forgetful, and yes, a little bit anxious. I've been avoiding my atheist confessional.

I have a dilemma. I don't usually go out of my way to tell religious people what I believe (Adult Education Foundations time was an uncharacteristic experiment in being very vocal, but that's because I wanted to get ideas from other people I might have used in my study) but I don't try to make it a secret either. I strive for honesty while still being polite and respectful. I need to clarify something. I don't equate being respectful with not allowing myself to disagree with someone's beliefs. I believe it's possible to show respect to a person without necessarily having respect for what they believe. However, I find people react a lot more strongly when the topic is religion. If I totally respected what religious people believed then I'd likely join them in that belief.

I like to think of the British style of debate that I see on programs like Intelligence Squared, where an atheist and a believer can debate each other, be sometimes very critical of each others opinions, but argue with reason and logic and avoid ad hominem attacks. It's the exact opposite of the kind of debate shouting louder than the guy or girl you disagree with match that you'll see on Fox TV. Atheists are sometimes accused of being 'Militant' or 'Disrespectful', but usually all we are doing is saying what we believe to be rational and moral. Sometimes we are reacting to what we find offensive. It sometimes gets lost, that if religious people have the right to be offended and upset by people criticizing their beliefs, atheists have an equal right to be offended if religious people assume that we don't have the right to be offended about some religious beliefs and actions. Anyway, I digress.

Back to my main point. My dilemma. I want to be honest and not avoid having a dialogue with my brother about this. However I worry that what I write, my honest opinions and feelings about religion, something to which he has devoted his life and career to, might upset him. He's my brother. My relationship with him, since I love him very much, is more important than convincing him that I'm right, he's wrong. However, he asked. I believe in truthful and honest debate, and I think that perhaps the times when it's hardest to be true to what you believe in may in fact be the most rewarding times to do just that. To be honest, I don't believe he is the type to take it too much to heart permanently, but I don't want to screw this up. He's my brother and I want to keep it that way. Also recently, my brother and his wife just had a baby girl. Perhaps being a new parent, although making them very happy, might also be a little stressful. Maybe some time to adjust would be good before dropping a bomb. I haven't even met their beautiful daughter yet.

Anyway, it's been so long, I'm not even sure if my brother still remembers, but I don't feel quite right just not ever replying. I thought about finding some people I trust to read what I've written and see if it comes off overly caustic. I worry that he thinks I've forgotten about it or am just avoiding it. I haven't forgotten. I think perhaps I'll call him and tell him I haven't forgotten and let him know some of the reasons why I haven't gotten to it.

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