How most of us talk about religion, or spiritual belief, is as weird as,...well, religion or spiritual beliefs. As an atheist blog we go a little bit deeper into the phenomena, looking at it many times as believers do - which can throw both believers and non-believers alike, who seem to think that, because we don't believe ourselves, we shouldn't get into it any deeper than one does listening to a good episode of Rush "He Is Your God" Limbaugh or NewAge Palestinian Radio. But we do. And we do it because we know that if you don't understand where believers are coming from (and most outsiders have no clue) then you miss the whole thing.
Outsiders - and an outsider can be an atheist, or a believer in one religion/spiritual practice but not another - are of course aware of the other beliefs, they just don't take them seriously. Many have a good laugh about "Gaia", when there's some news that goes against the Global Warming religion/Climate Change cult, without considering there are people who are as seriously passionate about "Gaia" as those that ridicule the concept may be about Jesus.
If they did consider that, they probably wouldn't be joking about it, considering most believers think we should all "respect" religion (a dubious concept in itself).
No, what most people are doing is avoiding the topic even as they appear to speak of it, they're dancing around it, mainly because they're afraid to look insane. (We've been charged with being insane for merely looking at beliefs.) But, in so doing, they're also avoiding the most salient topic of them all:
They've created an almost untouchable sphere of influence that affects us all powerfully - in more ways than we'd like to admit - because, many times, it's deeply personal as well.
TMR, of course, feels fine criticizing all of it because, as atheists, we find those who grew angry believing George W. Bush recklessly ran his administration from a Christian viewpoint (when he admitted he thought Jesus probably didn't exist) to be just as bizarre as those drawn to Al Gore after he said "saving the planet" was a moral and spiritual duty (in the NewAge way of understanding of things). TMR sees no difference between the May 21, 2011 "Judgment Day" apocalypse scam and the NewAge 2012 Mayan calendar "Doomsday" nonsense (except one will be exposed as a fraud sooner than the other). Whether you're Pat Robertson claiming you talked to God, or J.Z. Knight declaring you can channel Ramtha, it's all the same to us:
We're surrounded - by people who, one way or another, are determined to drive madness into everyone else's everyday lives, and others who refuse to discuss it as such, or won't bother to really understand any of the phenomena.
We get no break because to behave like this - to handle belief specifically in this non-specific way - is, more than anything else, seen as safe.
As we've said, you won't be thought crazy behaving in this way. You also won't make anyone angry. You will not be breaking the NewAge rule on being "non-judgmental", nor will you possibly be found guilty for ignoring Judgment Day. As Clark Whelton recently said, discussing the non-committal way we speak these days, "What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness".
And, when it comes to religious beliefs, that's the way we like it.
But we can't stay there any longer.
To be continued,....