I’m not an atheist. I’m not agnostic. I believe in God. I also happen to believe that Jesus Christ was divine.
I also am not “religious.”
I believe in science. I ascribe to God some of the things that science can’t explain, like what happened before the Big Bang or what, if anything, happens after we die. Science explains a lot, and science explains more as time passes and refines its explanations of what was thought to be understood as time passes. That fact that scientific explanations change over time shouldn’t disqualify it in the eyes of anyone whose religion has made similar changes over time.
St. Paul didn’t condemn slavery; he told slaves to be obedient. The fact that any religion I can think of now condemns slavery doesn’t invalidate the religions that have in the past been tolerant of slavery. By the same token, changes in estimates of the earth’s age or in milestones of human evolution doesn’t invalidate the scientific knowledge in those areas; it means humanity is getting smarter as time passes.
My tolerance of your adherence to your religion and to the religion itself is proportional to the extent to which it doesn’t make my world a worse place for all of us. If your religion motivates you to pursue social policies that hurt people who haven’t harmed you directly, your religion offends me. If your religion justifies your lack of acceptance of scientific theories that are widely accepted, your religion offends me, and your gullibility worries me.
Religions are human creations. They can be useful, and they can also be abused, and they’re only useful when used for their intended purposes. As a way to promote social order or to give children a reason to behave properly, they can be effective, or they can be abused. If your religion motivates you to deny my cousin the love of her life or an ex-girlfriend the love of her life, it’s out of bounds. In what way does it harm you that two women love each other and even raise children together? That may not be the way you live, but it doesn’t stop you from living the way you choose to live; it merely means that your way is not their way.
If your religion demands that you accept your scriptures as literally true and historically accurate, why should you grant such a demand? You can believe that they’re divinely inspired and “truth” at some level without being historically accurate. Do you believe each translation of the scriptures over time has been divinely inspired and protected? If you read the Koran in Arabic, are you so sure that your Arabic and your knowledge of the times of Mohammed is accurate enough to understand what those writings are attempting to tell you? (I haven’t studied the Koran the way I have studied Judeo-Christian scriptures, but they suffer from the same fundamental weakness.) Even if your holy scriptures are less than two-hundred years old, what makes you so sure that you understand and accept the context in which they were written or the reinterpretations of your prophet’s words in the relatively short time since then? Non-caucasians aren’t worthy of your faith, until your church elders realize their mistake and agree with the rest of society that race-based distinctions are wrong. If your faith still makes distinctions based on skin color or other ethnic characteristics, what makes you so sure that this is true and reasonable?
My Christian upbringing tells me that I am to use the talents God gave me. One of them is a functioning intellect and the ability to reason. Another talent is an ability to learn from others. Do you use your similar talents, or do you take the lazy way of accepting some authority without critical analysis?
I also am unable to understand why any religion would conclude that it alone is the chosen, true religion. Even if I conclude that Christ’s messages to the people of that part of the Roman empire in those times were divine and at some level true before human interpretations got in the way, why would I immediately assume that God would not similarly reveal truth the the native people of Australia, or Japan, or South America, or North America. The people of our planet have spread out over this planet and faced different challenges and different environments over the scores of millennium of human existence. The message the natives of temperate North America need to hear from God probably is different than the message needed in the outback of Australia. Even the message the tribes of Israel needed to hear changed between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus, unless you think the teachings of the Torah are somehow perfect and need no reinterpretation. If you think that, your mothers, wives, and daughters may disagree with you. And if your religion teaches you that their feelings, opinions, and judgements don’t matter, I sincerely hope you’re willing to use your critical thinking to challenge yourself why God would divide humanity in such a way.
Finally, I find a lot of religious proselytizing offensive. It reflects this same assumption that this religion must be superior to all others, and thus I’ll tell you how to pray and think so I can save you. No, thank you. Don’t tell me how to pray to angels. Don’t ask me to repost some Christian meme about opposing the Devil or else the Devil wins. What I need from God and what I do for God may be completely different from what you need and do, because you and I are simply different people.
There’s an incredible diversity among humanity on Earth, let alone presumably among intelligent life in the universe. If you insist that there is only one true religion and that all people should live by one true religion, be ready for someone to prove to you as much as you want to prove to them that you’re conforming to the wrong faith and practices.
Finally, to my agnostic and atheist neighbors and fellow humans, your own belief system can’t be proven correct, either. What constitutes proof to you may not constitute to anyone, and a closed-mind insistence that you’re right and everyone is just as offensive as a religious zealot’s claim about their faith and you.
Live and let live. Love and accept, not as friends or people you want to be with or like, but simply as people who have their right to their lives as long as they don’t impede you rights to your life and beliefs.