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Further adventures of a religious misfit
delirium happy
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I am about to make an entry on the subject of religion. As such, I feel it necessary to state my own religious inclination, in the interest of full disclosure. I was raised Catholic, then turned atheist, and am now taoist-atheist-discordian-humanist-oh-who-knows? And I should also say that I'm in no way even close to an exspert on anything related to this. There. Now onto the actual entry.

This was born out of a comment I made to someone, which has then stuck in my mind, and convinced me that it's worth fleshing out into a full journal entry. So I now present unto you my list of five reasons (in no particlar order) why I believe that it's worthwhile for even the staunchest of atheists to study religion.

Intelectual Integrity: Have you ever heard a Creationist say something along the lines of "evolution says that people evolved from monkeys, but monkeys are still here, so evolution must be wrong"? And generally wanted to tear your hair out at their complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of evolution? I generally believe that if I'm going to talk about anything, especially if I'm going in some way denounce it, then I ought to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of it. Naturally, the amount of knowledge needed vries, with someone who's going to be an evangelical atheist needing a lot more knowledge than someone who just decides that the whole isse of religion isn't relevant for their life.

Increased ability to laugh at fundamentalists: I'll reuse the example of Biblical-literalist Creationists here, because they're just so well known. That their claims make absolutely no sense from a scientific viewpoint is obvious. That they make precious little sense from nigh on any religious viewpoint you might want to look at them from is less obvious. Knowing about religion enables such wonderful mockery of fundamentalists as this and this.

It can be interesting: You don't have to believe a word of anything being said to appreciate religious texts as literature, or mythologies for their stories. Turn the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah into badgers, and you have an Aesop style fable, for mature audiences. And it's probably actually better if you don't believe if you want to study it in terms of history because then there's no danger of your views being influenced by opinions that an event was just the schism of heretics from the One True Faith.

They provide an interesting way of looking at things: Again, quite apart from any actual belief, religions tend to offer interesting ways of looking at the world, which can often be adapted to fit a secular viewpoint. The teachings of Christ (or at least, those teachings that deal with not being an ass). Zen koans. The Wiccan Rede. Whatever. And even if you don't like any of them, having an increased perspective is always good.

Increased understanding of others: A lot of people do stuff (good, bad and indifferent) in the name of religion. To understand this -- in the name of psychology, or sociology, or just better knowing what makes your friends tick -- you need to have a reasonable understanding of religion. Understanding religion also allows you to spot the many, many references and allusions to it (mainly but not exclusively Christianity) in popular culture and in literature.

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I couldn't agree more!

You are so articulate. Your logic is excellent as well.

Evangelical atheist? What an interesting thought... I simply must ponder that one a bit more.

one of them rants what you linked to was idiotic in its conclusion of us and themness.

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