Religion and other irrational belief

I’m fascinated by religion, cults and all sorts of odd beliefs (such as the God was a Spaceman ‘hypothesis’). This is mainly because I can’t believe in such things myself (I’m an atheist and proud of it) but also because I want to understand why other people find them useful in their lives.

Perhaps a lot of it stems from having a very historical outlook: I look at the world around me and see only patterns that make sense and things with a rational explanation. I have no problem with the idea that someone (perhaps called Moyshe) inspired a group of Hebrews more than three millennia ago, that someone called Yehoshu‘a inspired some Jews in the early first century and that someone called Mohammed inspired some Arabs in the seventh century. What does seem wrong to me is that those who follow the traditions that have grown up around the messages of these people seek to impose them on the rest of us.

Let Jews follow their traditions, Christians theirs and Moslems theirs - just don’t expect me to follow them, too. In defining what each of these religions considers universal, divine law, they contradict each other. Which one is correct? That seems to depend on whether you’re a Jew, Christian or Moslem. And these interrelated traditions ignore the many other world religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shinto, Taoism etc. - which suggests to me that they can’t all be right. Except that the adherents of each one believe that theirs is the only one to be correct.

It gets me that in arguments about religion, westerners (and particularly Americans) always turn to the Bible to prove their point, as if this has any meaning to non-believers. I might as well quote the Homeric hymns back - they have as much meaning for me as bits of Hebrew myth and Hellenistic moral reform.