We’re More Similar than We Might Think

By Mike Dishnow, April 17, 2011

We are more alike than we might be willing to admit, the freethinker and the theist.

The freethinker considers nature to be the controlling force, the laws of physics. The theist sees God or attributes nature’s laws to God. The first cause argument is fruitless and never ending. There is always one more level: What caused that? What made God?

The mysteries are alike, the unanswered questions much the same. Were the freethinker to substitute God for nature, he would be a theist.

There is an overabundance of friction and disrespect in the contemporary political sphere. One finds similarities in the state of affairs between the secularists and religionists. Believers and non-believers should look to similarities, work cooperatively together and not attempt to discredit the other. It is time to call a truce and learn to coexist and work together toward the common good.

It is time to call upon all to do as Thomas Jefferson did and find the good in the teachings of Jesus Christ (Jefferson’s Bible) and to cast aside the negative. We should call upon those of other faiths, such as Islam, to find the good in the prophet’s teachings and, like Jefferson, cast off the chaff and focus on that which helps humankind.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” — Judaism.

“Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” — Islam.

“Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” — Confucianism.

“Just as I am, so are they, just as they are so am I.” — Buddhism.

“So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the prophets.” — Bible

“Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all.”— Linus Pauling, scientist and humanist.

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” — Hinduism.

There is congruity in the views of the groups represented above. Would it not be wise to consider the good that comes from this common understanding of our responsibilities to our fellow travelers on planet Earth?

It is difficult not to conclude that the basis for the hatred and intolerance in our society today is based on fear and misunderstanding. So often, people and groups use the cloak of religion or atheism/agnosticism to cover their biases and intolerant behaviors toward those who dare to think differently.

It is tribalism in its most basic form, and, we might add, very demeaning and unhelpful in a global society. The question we should ask ourselves is, “Where does this sense of superiority lead in the world we now live in? Where did it lead in the centuries and years leading up to this time? Are there not lessons here that we should have learned long ago?”

As humanists, we try to embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. Another way to state this is as the ethic of reciprocity. We are saying that we aim to treat others, as we would like them to treat us — with tolerance, compassion and consideration.

The latest scientific finding means nothing to the religionist with black-and-white views — he or she has no use for this evidence. The latest finding about the value of religious belief is of no interest to the freethinker with a similar attitude. There is nothing gained from this mindset in either case.

Our job is to find a way to work together for the common good. The first amendment of our Constitution — Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances — is a good starting point.

There is little to gain arguing over the exact meaning or intent of the framers in regard to religion. It would seem obvious that our founding fathers considered this issue one for the conscience of each individual.

There is much gained in seeing the positive in each other’s views and much lost when we take the negative path.

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