Part 2 of 2
It often enters my line of religious thought that a very small, well-intentioned lie told to me as a young boy by an ordained Lutheran minister set the course for my concept of clergy, religion and god for my entire life up to this exact moment in time.
That is one point. Another point is this: While I consider myself an agnostic today -- a person who thinks it impossible to know with exact knowledge that a god exists, or who cannot demonstrate with proof positive that a god does not exist -- I am a believer in believers.
This is the actual answer to your question, Kaya.
Although, I am a skeptic and would debate the validity of any particular religious belief at the drop of a hat, I envy and, in a sense, admire those who do have legitimate religious faith. To the devotee of a religion, I would say this: You have belief and have faith; I do not. I respect your point of view, but pray for yourself, not for me; ask salvation for yourself, but not for me; convert the heathens, if you wish, but stand back and away from me. Respect my right to lack belief just as I respect your right to have it.
A religious person would not find me disrespecting his faith or trying to keep him from practicing it. Quite to the contrary. I would defend the right of anyone to believe anything he wishes to believe in a religious context, and I would defend anyone who was the target of abuse or interference or disruption in the pursuit of an individual's right to practice his religion.
I mentioned previously that I have little respect for clergy, Christian or otherwise, as a group. In a religious framework, perhaps the only group of people I hold in greater disdain are those who mock or attempt to discredit people who are genuine Christians or authentic believers in a god -- no matter what the faith.
My advice to disbelievers would be to avoid mocking someone who does believe in a god in my presence. Mocking Christians in America has become a popular pastime among some self-anointed, "enlightened" characters. To me, these types of beings give a new meaning to the word idiot.
Religion sometimes causes individuals or entire nations to go crazy. Witness the Spanish Inquisition, for instance. Look at the Nazi response to the Jewish faith or the persecutions in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s or the Muslim intolerance of Western life today.
At other times, religion is the social fabric of a nation, as it was in America for generations until the rise of unbridled political liberalism during the 1960s.
A long time ago, I arrived at the conclusion that the last war on Earth will be a religious war, initially engaged in by fanatics of a few faiths and then exploding out of control. My viewpoint has since modified to the extent that I think it will be economic/political elements manipulating religious elements into constant warfare until control is lost. The Christian Bible calls it Armageddon. I call it what the Old Norse called it. Ragnarok.
I am beginning to drift off subject, so I will end with this: Intellectually and rationally, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god. Neither can anyone else, at least, anyone of whom I am aware. Religion and god are a matter of faith, not intellect, so believe what you will but do not try to foist it onto me or to ridicule me because I have a different view point toward religion than do you.
Rather than try for a summation or roll this over into three parts, I think I will close with some stand-alone comments, so my last sentences will be these:
No matter if there is a god or not, it makes no difference to me. I believe how people treat each other is the fundamental and the important element of living, not who or what they worship. If having religion as a guide helps some people treat others better than they would without it, fine.
Along with Will Durant, I should also mention Joseph Campbell as someone whose books were particularly influential upon me reaching the religious/philosophical state of mind that I have. Campbell was many things, a student of mythology, a historian and a teacher of literature, among them. I read his four-volume set, "The Masks of God," when I was in my early twenties, and those books left a sharp imprint on my pattern of thought then, and it remains there still today.
One thing Campbell and Durant had in common, incidentally, is that they both married women who had been their students and had long, successful marriages. Campbell and his wife shared a two-room apartment for most of their married lives. Imagine that; imagine their ability to share themselves and blend, each with the other.
The romantic side of me, the poetic side, would like to believe in a god, but I am just a bit too much of a pragmatist to let it be that easy.
In terms of a religious concept that I follow, the closest word that I would use to describe myself would be a pantheist. At times, like many of America's founding fathers, I lean toward Deism, but probably never could fall off the cliff in that regard, either.
In terms of actuality, Fram is a Pagan who practices the same habits explained by one among the Old Norsemen a thousand years or so ago when a priest attempted to convert him to Christianity and failed: I believe in no gods, but I will worship them if it suits me. No god, no king, no lord is my master, and I kneel before no man. In what do I believe, you ask? I believe in the strength of my own right arm.