I know I don’t often comment here, but I thought I would write a little thank you, and perhaps start a discussion on the benefits of rationalism.
I’ve been coming to this site for a while, and at the beginning, I was very locked in the “gospel” or the “good news of Jesus Christ.” In other words, I was a dyed-in-the-wool, “Jesus lives in me, through me, I am no longer alive, it is the Lord who lives and acts” etc, kind-of guy. Now, I’m not criticising that. But the frank truth is that I was so locked into the “Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is Wisdom” and so on and so forth, that I was not really using my mental faculties to their potential. It really was a case of “Jesus knows best.”
But reading on this site, I came across a lot of different opinions, and I’m glad to say, opinions that challenged me. These opinions tended to be more rational, reasoned opinions. All manner of questions from the validity of the Bible as a religious document, to discussions of what can be considered “true” were found on this site. And I’m glad to say, they made me think.
Somebody on this site (I forget who) made a comment on the evolutionary necessity of religion. Now as a person who has always rubbished evolution as a theory that has been stretched beyond its proper magisteria, I found this fascinating. So I ended up reading Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. It really introduced me to the intellectual strength of rationalism, of seeking natural explanations for seemingly supernatural longings within humans. I read that book, and related books, as a direct result of a comment on this site.
Another comment that really made me think was by a poster, replying to someone who says that Jesus speaks to them, and reveals things. Now, while respecting their right to believe that the voice inside their head is Jesus Christ, the comment pointed out the power of hallucination, and the dangers of allowing such people a say in the way society is run. The comment by the poster was, in a way I’m sure they didn’t know, an echo of the truly great TH Huxley: “Trust a witness in all matters in which neither his self-interest, his passions, his prejudices, nor the love of the marvellous is strongly concerned. When they are involved, require corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of probability by the thing testified.”
Prompting my thinking, I ended up reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World (an old book, but no less brilliant for it). It was a healthy call to arms in defence of rational thought, especially helping me to think clearly about those who claim that “Jesus speaks to me”. And so, onto Richard Dawkins, and particularly Unweaving the Rainbow, among many ,many others. Again, it was comments by posters on this site that led me that way.
Now, “what is your point, boring Paulapollos?” you may say. Well, I wanted to give a great big “shout-out” to all you rational thinkers on this site, all you people who write searchingly and thoughtfully. Sometimes you get a bad rap. You get accused of “cynicism”, and in extreme cases, of “blaspheming against the spirit” (!!!), as I saw recently. I know you are far too thick-skinned to be affected by such barbs, but I still wanted to give a great big “thank you” to you, for being beacons of uncommon sense and rationality. I’m thinking of among others, OntheWayOut, BandonTheRun, wobble, cantleave, Ziddina (despite her unhealthy obsession with Middle Eastern Bronze Age Volcano Gods ;-) ), Rebel8, Terry, Leavingwt, AlltimeJeff, NewChapter, Jookbeard, madsweeny, metatron, besty, among others.
Notice, I don’t know who is atheist, agnostic, Christian, or whatever, nor do I care. What you all share in common is an unwillingness to simply believe what anyone tells you, but a commitment to think rationally. And for that, I say thank you. You have definitely helped me to think, and in many ways to shed irrationality. Rationalism has led me to freedom from all manner of ignorant superstitions and paradigms, to freedom from all manner of frankly illogical ideas, to freedom from all manner of backwards creeds. In particular, it has helped me to look at "Jesus" or "Jehovah" and say "before you tell me I should worship you, you've got a lot to answer for." It takes a particular kind of rational thought to come to that conclusion. Some of you posters get a real bad rap - but I can honestly say, I appreciate the things you write.
And now that is out the way, I would love to hear from others whether they feel that thinking rationally, skeptically, has helped them, and if there are posters here who have helped them to open their minds. And of course, if there are those who think rationality can be taken too far, I'd love to hear from you too.