For those unfamiliar with UK TV, that was the catch phrase of Victor Meldrew, the miserable old man who was against everything. Any slight problem, any action which was less than efficient was met with the response “I don’t believe it”. And just like Victor Meldrew I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, or that there are 1.6 billion Muslims, or even that there are 1.1 billion Secularists.
For the religious there are two key words, “belief” and “faith”. When I check these words in the dictionary what do I find? Belief: an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof. And for Faith, rather similarly: complete trust or confidence in someone or something. If, when answering the question, “are you a Christian?” (or Muslim) the answer given is yes, you might believe that the respondent had some knowledge of the faith they claimed loyalty to. Regrettably that is not the case. It is rather that the person is what they have been told they are. Thus, being told from childhood that you are a Christian and being brought up on Jewish history (I mean of course the old testament of the bible) and going to Sunday school to hear of the nice stories of miracles is a pretty good way to ensure that the answer to the question “are you a Christian?” will be met with the solid affirmation of “yes”. Of course when pressed to answer questions on the basic principles of say Catholicism, eg transubstantiation, when the bread and the wine miraculously is transformed into the blood and body of Christ, there is often no response. Even the well indoctrinated have trouble swallowing that, if you will forgive the pun.
The same is true for of course for Hindus, Muslims or, with some small exceptions, any faith based group. The fine details which might erode the message are either glossed over or completely ignored. For example, one of the tenets of Hindu faith is “Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, non-injury, in thought, word and deed. Similarly “Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s Light, deserving tolerance and understanding”. Presumably if you don’t believe that you can’t be a Hindu except of course Hindus in India frequently carry out massacres of Muslims. In the case of Islam, I fail to understand how a religion of peace can be spread by violence. Now religious scholars have made a lot of money explaining how I and other secularists and non-believers are wrong, that somehow we are failing to understand the subtlety of the holy works upon which their particular faith is founded. Some might prey for my enlightenment in sorrowful regret of my ignorance. Others might wish to cut off my head. What they usually won’t do is change their mind. Yet despite all the pressure applied for conformity there is some good news. In 2007 16.1% of Americans identified themselves as secular, in 2015, 22.8% so described themselves. In the face of quite substantial pressure to conform to the concept “one nation under God” this is quite an achievement. Keep up the good work