Today’s writing prompt from WordPress asks: “Do you practice religion?” People who follow my blog will know that I have strong opinions about religion and religious beliefs. This writing prompt prompts me to dig up this subject again and share my opinion about it.
The short answer to this question is: no. I don’t practice any religion at the moment because I am an atheist. Some would argue that I need to practice harder. Others might argue that atheism is a religion but this is of course nonsense. I am an atheist, so I do not believe that a God or gods exist. It’s as simple as that. Not believing in something is not a religion, it’s the opposite.
There was a time though, that I entertained Buddhism. Not the more esoteric and mystical forms of Buddhism but the more down-to-Earth Sōtō Zen Buddhism. Inspired by Shunryū Suzuki, especially his book “Zen mind, beginner’s mind“, I began practicing zazen, a form of seated meditation. The practice gave me insight and also a form of inner peace. It helped me to learn to let go of certain attachments and pushed me towards minimalism, especially when it comes to clinging to material possessions.
I abandoned my practice of Buddhism when I converted to Christianity. I found the two practices to be somewhat incompatible with each other, especially when a pastor warned me that sitting in silent contemplation might open someone up to attacks by evil forces. Make of that what you will.
But it didn’t take long before I started to doubt my faith, as I have explained before. The things promised in the Bible didn’t match with my experience and any questions I had about that, were answered by the advice that I should pray more, read the Bible more and “just have faith”.
That advice didn’t help much. If anything, it pushed me further away from having any faith at all. Eventually, it lead me to rejecting all religious belief and turned me to atheism.
Do you practice religion?
No, I don’t practice any religion and I don’t think I ever will again. I think that I am not suited to be a religious person and ultimately, I think that religion is a failed project. I realize that is a provocative statement so let me clarify my position.
- Religions are based on bad or no evidence
This is true for Christianity and Buddhism alike. There are no good reasons to believe that the beliefs of Christianity are true just as there are no good reasons to believe that there is a cycle of death and rebirth we can escape from as believed by Buddhists.
- Religions are life-denying
All religions that I am aware of (with the possible exception of satanism) are anti-life. They all paint our human nature, with its drives and urges, as something that is bad. Something that should be changed or ignored. I have explained this further in a critique of Christianity but it’s also true for Buddhism.
For these reasons, I think religion is a failed project. A belief that forces you to deny human nature or vilifies aspects of it can’t be healthy for you in the long run. Human nature is not different from animal nature in any meaningful way, with all its drives and urges. We like to think that we are above it, that we have outgrown nature but this isn’t the case. Sure, we have managed to domesticate ourselves and religion has been a major influence in this process. But under the surface of what we call civilization, those drives and urges are still present. A worldview that seeks to ignore or negate our more base urges and drives is ultimately doomed to fail, in my opinion.