We tend to not criticize those with strongly held belief sets, as having some kind of belief set is one of those things that humans do as a natural behavior. We’re fairly certain that Ooog and Uggg invoked their forms of prayer to the invisible deities they felt controlled the mastodons or brought them luck in the hunt, millennia before there was what we now call ‘religion’.
We don’t self-identify as agnostic, nor as atheist, believing that ‘faith’ is your own damn business. We can recite the Nicene Creed from memory, which means there has been some theological learning in our history, but not limited to the usual suspects: We looked at them all over the years to see what we could learn from older, potentially wiser people and their documents. The scientist in ourselves, who looks for empirical proof has no problem with the contradictions of religion demanding faith before logic, as faith seems to be one of those things that humans have. If you don’t like contradictions in humans, then, perhaps you need to adjust your world-view. Humans are contradictory creatures at the best of times.
What we are looking for is an understanding. Let’s, for the sake or argument, accept that there is a higher power than us humans and stop there. We’re not going to get into he/she/it created the Universe in an afternoon, or cause a flood, or did the thing with the apple and the snake, as that is theology, not belief in a higher power.
Theology is something totally different from belief in a higher power and we’re going to use the term “God” as the most commonly understood and recognized term for a belief in a higher power. (We have to have some kind of short-form label, if only to keep this post from being in excess of 10,000 words. We’re not going to tie ourselves in politically correct, ultra-inclusive language for the sake of not offending anyone. Higher power = God. Now, let’s move on.)
The contemporary parallel is Cars. A lot of humans own them and they all do the basic things of move you somewhat effortlessly from A to B, often carrying some of your stuff with you, like groceries, or the cat to the groomer. There is no real difference between them, in that they all are at least vaguely competent in doing what they are designed to do.
Where they differentiate is in their branding and what is created in the mind of the consumer as the image of the brand. Ask a die-hard GM owner to drive a Ford and you might as well demand they whittle off a limb with a butter knife. Nissan owners would rather have dental surgery in an septic tank than be near a Honda driver. Blue Oval fans insist that late at night you can hear a Bowtie rust in your driveway, while BMW pilots sneer at the Audi drivers who can’t seem to find the turn signal. Volvo and Mercedes-Benz drivers are simply smug pricks. Smart Car owners need a red foam-rubber nose as mandatory equipment so we can spot the clowns getting out of their ‘vehicle’. FIAT stands for Fix It Again Tony and the Trabant was merely a very bad punchline to an indecipherable existential Soviet joke.
Same functionality, but rabid fandom for their brand.
God is the king of branding: It’s not Terry O’Reily. Before there was such a thing as branding, in a marketing sense, there developed a large number of brands of God that spoke to various cultural needs as a convenient explanation of current events, social and gender control, and political intrigues. Of course those brands also used, wars, hatred, slavery and exceptional levels of violence as part of their brand.
If God’s purpose is to give us comfort and something to believe in, either because we as humans need to feel that, or because God actually exists and made us want to have that feeling, then God has succeeded rather well.
Where it all goes to shit is with the brands.
In keeping with our analogy, even the most hard-core Porsche fan wouldn’t ever consider setting fire to a Lotus Europa, as we have something called tolerance. Yes, you are allowed to like other brands, your judgement may be suspect (QED, Chrysler owners) but it’s ok.
Why can’t we do that with religion?
You like your brand. I like my brand.
It’s Friday, move on.