Scott H Young

Should an Atheist Be Reading the Great Books of Religion?


I’m one of the least religious people you can find. I’ve never been to a church service in my life and I’ve never leaned towards a theological explanation of the world.

I’m also pretty hostile to the word ‘spiritual’. At best, it’s used as a glib catchphrase to suggest the person has non-materialistic motivations without being honest enough to say what they are. At its worst, it is used to justify beliefs that don’t bear any resemblance to reality.

Considering all of this, should I be reading more of the great religious books?

Why Read Religious Books, If You Don’t Believe Their Content?

It’s a valid question. Religious books such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible or Tao Te Ching, offer a set of facts about the world. These are the facts that are supposedly believed by followers of that religion. So, what is the point of reading the book if you’re convinced the facts are untrue?

It’s not just atheists like myself that need to ask that question. If you’re a devoted Muslim, you probably wouldn’t agree with much of the Hindu account of the world. Does that mean there isn’t any value in reading the Upanishads?

I think there are several arguments for reading the major works of every religion, even if you’re completely convinced they are factually inaccurate:

  1. For a cultural and historical perspective. Whether good or bad, religion has shaped most of the course of human history. To ignore religion, particularly the foundational works it is based on, is to be ignorant of a vast section of humanity.
  2. From a literary perspective. One could argue that in order to survive centuries of readings, the stories in religious works must have been powerful. You could read religious books for the same reasons you might want to read other great works of literature.
  3. From a life lessons perspective, irrespective of religious fact. Religions contain thousands of years of condensed wisdom about how to live. Even if you are convinced the facts are wrong, the specific practices religion promotes may have value in living a better life.

Considering the theme of this blog, it’s that last point I want to discuss. Even if you’re convinced a religion’s facts are wrong, either because you’re an atheist, or because you happen to believe in a different religion’s set of facts, there is still value in reading the great religious works.

Traditional Wisdom and the Danger of Nonconformity

There is an unconscious wisdom to many traditions. This is because if a tradition were significantly harmful, it probably would have fallen out of fashion. Similarly, if a tradition is useful to living a better life or keeping a better society, it tends to get promoted.

As Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, there are thousands of independent cultures that all have an answer for the question, “what’s to eat?” Often these traditional diets are far healthier than modern ones, even though our modern diet is much more deeply informed about nutritional science.

The reason is that tradition encapsulated a lot of dietary wisdom. Any diet that resulted in overall poor health would either kill off the culture that generated it, or it would be replaced by something healthier. The stated reasons for the tradition aren’t the same as the actual reasons it works, but it works nonetheless.

If you lead a completely nonconformist life, then you miss the encapsulated wisdom in traditions. Yes, you may through sheer force of reason, discover a much better way to live. But you may also spend dozens of years before you realize your mistake.

The point isn’t to blindly conform to traditions. Rather, it’s to recognize that, on average, there is a reason many traditions have been around for so long, copy the ones that are helpful, and rebel against the ones that aren’t.

Religious Works as a Source of Encapsulated Wisdom

Religious works cover a lot of topics: how to organize society, who should have power and the ontology of the universe. But in almost all religions, a big topic covered is how to live. Should I drink or abstain? Should I work non-stop or take Sundays off? Should I brood or forgive people who have wronged me?

Again, as a skeptic, I don’t believe a lot of the stated reasons for the wisdom. I don’t believe that the reason one shouldn’t kill is because an omnipotent being said it was a bad idea.

However, just because I’m skeptical of the stated reasons, that doesn’t mean there aren’t very strong actual reasons that support the same conclusions. Murdering people is a bad idea regardless of your religious inclinations.

When I’m reading a religious book, my emphasis is on uncovering this encapsulated wisdom. For each major religion, the traditions it holds have gone through billions of lifetimes of trial and error. I may not believe in the Sabbath, but that doesn’t mean taking off at least one day per week for rest wasn’t an ingenious idea.

What About All the Religious Facts that Don’t Make Sense?

Some people have argued you can’t separate the nonsense from facts in religions you don’t believe in. If you have the ability to detect which ideas are good and which are dangerous, then you already have a criteria separate from the works themselves, the logic goes.

If you already have this independent criteria that may tell you resting one day per week is a good idea, but lending money with interest isn’t a sin, why not just use that criteria? What’s the point of seeking advice if you already have a filter for ignoring the ideas you don’t agree with?

However, if this were true then there wouldn’t be much value in any advice. Yes, we can often filter advice from good and bad once we see it, but a filter isn’t the same as content.

Many people have written to me saying that they enjoy the website because I’ve been able to articulate things they believed, but couldn’t really pin down. Reading any book for advice is a process of absorbing ideas to be filtered, which takes far less mental effort than creating them from scratch.

Reading for Advice, Not Facts

The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite book. There is also no doubt in my mind that all of the events involving the main characters in the book are completely untrue. Edmond Dantès never existed. He was never imprisoned in Chateau d’If.

But it’s still my favorite book because I was never reading the book for factual accuracy. I was reading it as a parable for the deeper themes of persistence, fortune and forgiveness. If someone later told me the book was actually a true story, that wouldn’t change what I derived from the book.

My feeling is the same with religious works. When I read the Bhagavad Gita, books on Buddhism or the Tao Te Ching, the truth of the story wasn’t what compelled me to read them. It was the themes the book explores which actually have an impact on my life.

The virtues of duty as explained in the Gita. The practice of mindfulness in Buddhism. The paradoxes of duality as presented in the Tao Te Ching.

Future Reading

Most of the actual religious texts I’ve read have come from Eastern religions. Growing up in a western culture, this was the most obvious choice since I’m already saturated in the encapsulated wisdom of 2000 years of western culture, religious or otherwise.

A few of the religious and philosophical works I want to tackle over the next few years would be the Bible, the Qur’an, and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Reading these books are also a quest of self-understanding to get at the roots of why our culture is the way it is.

What are your thoughts? If you’re religious, have you read works of other religions? If you’re secular, have you found value in exploring the philosophy of a religion, even when you disagree with its factual accuracy? Please share in the comments.


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31 Responses to “Should an Atheist Be Reading the Great Books of Religion?”

  1. Sofi says:

    “Among the nature of man, God blesses them with affectionate to His Holy Wisdom.”
    -Van Hallone

    “We’ll let them be Children of Apes, but they must let us be Children of Adam.”
    -Van Hallone

  2. Scott,

    I am also non-religious. I was brought up in a strict Roman Catholic household and went to a Catholic school through the 7th grade (12 years old). However, I became an atheist before I moved out of my house, although my parents made me go to Church each week anyway. I don’t consider myself “spiritual but not religious,” because I’m not spiritual, whatever that means. I do contemplate my philosophy of life, but there is nothing supernatural or mystical about it. I base it all on reason.

    If you are interested in what an insanely intelligent atheist has to say (and no, I’m not referring to myself!), then check out Thunderf00t’s videos on YouTube. He is very impressive. Actually, he considers himself to be a PEARList (Physical Evidence And Reasoned Logic) rather than an atheist. I would say that this is how I consider myself as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/Thunderf00t

  3. rg says:

    This post will likely bring out some religious.. ahem.. let’s just call them blind followers… (atheist here if you couldn’t fathom).

    Anyway, I don’t find most of the religious texts very interesting or enlightening in the least. The Bible is quite horrid prose, partially due to the fact that it’s been edited by committee and translated and re-translated so many times. The Gita was better, but not by much. And the Qu’ran was complete crap to read. The Tao and some of the Buddhist texts are at least worth the time to read and reflect on.

    And I find modern thinkers and authors to be much, much better than the old texts.

  4. JoeG says:

    Hi. Great post and question. When I was your age I was an atheist as well. But I actually had a minor in religious studies. What I really enjoyed about reading the “classic” religious texts was that it shed a great deal of light on the cultural underpinnings of various societies. It also really helped me to understand some historical trends etc. It seems to me that in a certain sense history, politics, and culture are all inextricably linked. So for instance to understand the US constitution and the founders it is useful to see what they were a reaction to. In order to do this you need to understand many things but the reformation and protestantism give insight. This then can really be understood by looking at the catholic church. The catholic church can be understood in the context of early christianity. Christianity can be understood in relation to Judaism and things like the cult of Isis etc. Radical Islam can be better understood by understanding how Judaism and Christianity share the concept of a “messiah” and how the President of Iran is waiting for the 12th Imam. This would illuminate perhaps their stand on nuclear weapons. So it seems they all hang together. Likewise Buddhism is in some ways a reaction to Hinduism. Buddhism and Taoism blended some elements to form Chan Buddhism. This then underwent changes an became various schools of zen. An understanding of this would help one to figure out Japanese culture. That would help you with concepts like Kaizen and productivity concepts in lean manufacturing. So with apologizes for the somewhat rambling comment,…,I am trying to convey broadly that yes you should read the classics as it will inform your perspective and deepen your understanding on many other topics. Also you never know after reviewing them you may find certain unifying principles or natural laws that lead you develop a different viewpoint. Perhaps you will decide to be a tribal shaman or shinto priest when all is done :).

  5. I’m a Muslim. In my eraly 20’s I left my religion and tried to set myself completely free from my tradition that I was born into. Even though I eventually reverted to Islam after a few years, I’m still grateful to this mental liberation experience. Now I read the Bible with an open mind. I take what I like, and take note of what doesn’t make sense to me. I even approcah my own religion the same way, I can question what doesn’t make sense to me, in a way that doesn’t contradict in anyway my beliefs, which is a balance that could be hard for many devout Muslims or believers in other religions. I also like Budhism. When I read another religion though, I know already I don’t agree with the fundamental explanation of the world that they provide. For example I love much of the Budhist wisdom, but in my opinion it doesn’t give a coherent understanding of the story of life. For me, Islam does give me a coherent understanding of the whole picture, then the details can be discussed and even disagreed upon.

    After all, I’m all for reading all we can from religion that we don’t believe in. Especially at this time, we can’t realy ignore it. Many people do look at followers of other religions are “the others”. When we read and understand what people believe, from within their own texts, we get to see why they believe what they believe, and that they’re not that alien after all.

  6. Captain says:

    I despise religion and all it has to offer, however I actually attempted weighing the pros and cons of reading religious texts if nothing else to debunk foolish claims by people who try to argue with me or push their faith down my throat.

    In the end, I feel that most of my time would be utterly wasted for a couple key reasons. Mainly I could be doing almost anything else which would qualify as more intellectually stimulating. By reading religious gibberish, I am neglecting to read books of true value and merit (i.e. science)

    Secondly, attempting to convince someone that their belief in a magical being who grants wishes when they say words over their breakfast cereal is a futile exercise.

    I’ve commented and followed your posts for a while Scott and I think we parallel many of the same thoughts and ideas. While I won’t argue against your reasons for reading religious texts, I personally feel that the cons outweigh the pros.

  7. Paola says:

    [...]This is because if a tradition were significantly harmful, it probably would have fallen out of fashion. Similarly, if a tradition is useful to living a better life or keeping a better society, it tends to get promoted[...]

    [...]Any diet that resulted in overall poor health would either kill off the culture that generated it, or it would be replaced by something healthier[...]

    Sounds a little bit Darwin-like, doesn’t it?

    Anyhow, I agree on the point: if those books are so vastly known, it seems highly probable that the content is somewhat valuable; also, as people almost universally know those contents and stories, that is a most useful language to let other people understand what we mean if we refer to those language and stories.
    Religious books and myths often give either different or similar answers to the same questions – the question is always the main point, in which we actual find interest.
    There are similarities between the Noe’s story in the Bible and Gilgamesh’s story in myth, for example – but the question is about the representation of a “great flood” and human survivor. These kind of stories tell us “something” and tell “something” to a very great number of other people.

  8. Brian C. says:

    background to give context to my comment: I am an atheist who is similarly hostile as Scott is to the word ‘spiritual’. I live in the U.S. and was raised as a Roman Catholic.

    Regarding the Bible specifically, I consider reading and studying it to be a massive waste of time. This is not to say that there are no great stories therein, because there are. This is also not to say that there are no pearls of wisdom, no philosophical perspectives that are valuable and worth considering, because there are. But mixed in with them are:

    -maxims and ideas that are essential but not by any means unique (Thou shall not steal, thou shall not murder, et al.)
    -maxims and ideas that are utterly evil and should be abhorred (Everyone who does not believe in the Christian God will suffer torture for eternity after death, stone adulterers, etc)
    -very dry and empty description (see Deuteronomy as an example)
    -ideas that may have had merit in the world in which they were written, but are woefully obsolete now

    A few years ago, I began to read the Bible cover-to-cover, and only made it the middle of Deuteronomy before realizing what a waste of time it is. Maybe there could be an abridged version that just contains the parables and philosophy? I could see that being a decent read.

    As for an atheist reading other Scripture, especially those of Eastern religion, I can’t say. I know next-to-nothing about most religions, as my strong bias against them disinterests me from Eastern religion. However I’m sure they too have their pearls of philosophical wisdom. I just don’t believe that religious philosophy is innately superior to secular philosophy.

  9. sudhir khanger says:

    If am convinced that Scott writes nonsense, how can i ever understand you.

    Religion is not facts. Religious men live naturally, it is the religiously bankrupt people who follow books.

    You probably hate people who formally established religion. Not the religion itself.

    I am a Hindu but i love the tradition of Sufi mystics. I love Jesus. A religious man who hates other, is he really religious.

  10. Elena says:

    The first religious books I read were the Greek myths, and a collection of stories from the Bible. I didn’t know about the existence of religion at the time (I was seven, and I grew up in a completely non-religious household), so I thought they were just slightly odd fiction books. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that they were stories that some people really believed in.

    I completely agree with you that reading religious texts is worthwhile, even if you think of them as fiction. Plenty of fiction books contain useful insights, and stories can often help us to understand life and people in a more intuitive way than non-fiction. If books that we all agree are fiction can give useful advice, then certainly religious texts can do the same, whether you believe in them or not.

    I think religious texts are also worth reading for historical interest, even if you think of them as fiction. Reading Shakespeare is worthwhile, because of the impact his writing had on the English language and culture, even though the events of most of his plays never happened, or didn’t happen exactly as they are portrayed. I think the same applies to religious texts – reading them is worthwhile for the insight they give into history and culture, even if you think of them as completely fictional.

  11. Thank you for an interesting post! I feel that the more sure you are about how life is constructed, the more you need to read opposite opinions. This goes for religion as well as for politics. Say you read a daily newspaper with opinion pieces coming from the far left of the political spectrum, and you yourself fin yourself in this very spectrum – all that happens is that you sit there and nod and agree over you morning coffee. Nothing new has happened. You have not developed. A better way would be to read a paper with opinion pieces coming from the right side of the political spectrum. There’s a fresh take on things. You may find it wrong. But at least you find yourself challenged.

  12. Brian says:

    Why do my comments keep getting deleted? It’s happened twice now.

  13. M says:

    I was raised in an LDS (Mormon) household but officially resigned from the church at the age of 20. Countless times I have read the King James version of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon and other church doctrines such as the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine & Covenants. I was saturated in religion for my first 20 years.

    Although today I consider myself atheist, I still find the parables of the Christian scriptures to be helpful in understanding culture that has adopted aspects of the Christian Bible. I am an anthropologist, so I value religion as an indicator of established cultural norms. I am fascinated by so many interpretations of the Bible represented by so many forms of Christianity.

    I have started reading the Qur’an to get a feel for the cultural norms of the fastest growing religion on Earth, but I have to keep in mind that there are as many ways of interpreting the Qur’an as there are ways to interpret the Bible or any work of literature.

    Being born and raised in what I believe was a Christian religion, I am still dismayed by the numbers of other self-professed-Christians who deny that Mormonism is also a Christian religion, or who label the oldest religion in the world (Hindu) as “New Age” (LOL!).

    I am an atheist who loves religion. Religion is fascinating, it’s cultural, it’s a marker of the evolution of human consciousness. I have studied the world’s most popular religions, and they are all beautiful in their own rite.

  14. Grover says:

    While the term “spiritual” is annoying it is none the less useful. It just means you believe in a higher power or supernatural forces but you haven’t worked it all out yet. It will make more sense the first time you see a ghost.

  15. Mike says:

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

    I had read and studied money and money management for about 10 years before I found out the Bible had much to say on the topic. After studying Biblical financial principles I changed the majority of the ways I think about and manage money. Without a doubt it has helped me maintain financial solvency, personal peace, and has given me the ability to help others in need during this time of economic recession.

    I have read books and blogs that discuss principles of Buddhism and zen and have found that some of the principles taught are helpful and simply reinforce or strengthen my Christian beliefs. For example, living in America, I am prone to materialism. The constant barrage of marketing, advertising, social pressure, etc encourages if not demands that I live the life of a consumer. Constantly on the search for my next purchase. But looking at principles of Buddhism and zen living showed that materialism is just chain or anchor that keeps us from the really important things in life. Materialism keeps us focused on self instead of others. When I searched the Bible for these same ideas, I absolutely found them there and it in fact deepened my faith.

    I agree with you that you can and must pick and choose what you take from these “religious books”. The one amazing thing about Christianity is that Heaven (i.e eternity or the afterlife) is offered to me as a gift out of the infinite love and mercy of God. I don’t have to earn my way to the afterlife. I can never do enough good works and I don’t have to try to be a good enough person. It is a gift from God and it has changed my life forever.

  16. Nick says:

    I’m a Christian, and took a class on world religions in college.

    I have a great book called “Texts of the Worlds Religions” that I hope to read in the next couple of years.

    I think its very important if you’re a religious person to read on other religions- to understand other’s ways of life, and also to understand why and how your religion is different from others.
    I think its also important to understand religions if you’re not religious at all.

    I’m American, but its important for me to understand whats going on in Europe and Asia- kind of the same idea.

  17. Danny says:

    There is more philosophy in the book of Job than in all of Dawkins or his ilk. I’m not saying it’s literally true, but it has truth in it.
    Everyone here needs to have a true religious experience. Not one mediated through religious creed/symbols, but an actual experience with truth beyond yourself.

  18. Ketan says:

    If you read the Bhagavat Gita and strip away all the religious dogma what you find is actually a very practical self help guide on how to live your life.

    I read a book called “The real gita” which attempts to find the origins of the text and also traces how all the religious bits were added later. The original text is only about 5 chapters everything else was added later to give it an air of divinity.

  19. Yamil says:

    Hi Scott,
    I think that the book “Sufism and Taoism: a comparative study of key philosophical concepts written by Toshihiko Izutsu” could help to have a good insight of the kernel of all relegions and filosophies like Taosim.

    Regards

  20. K. van Lent says:

    It might be useful to read about all religions in general to have a understanding of how those people think, it can only give you better insight of life. Though I haven’t read any book about religion, I do speak with religious people about religions and I find it quiet strange. The energy those people put into their religion is enormous, even when you just know it isn’t true… it’s logical… Thanks Scott

  21. Rob says:

    What a great post! I’ve never commented but am an avid reader. The lifestyle you present here is very inspiring, and the questions you ask are very prudent.

    As a Christian religious conservative I am naturally inclined to tradition and great books, especially the religious ones. I’m not so sure how much I would rely on those books directly though. Even as a deeply committed Christian I must admit that the Bible is not particularly useful at expositing an intellectual understanding of truth. It’s more of a call to and an anchor for a different kind of life than a succinct philosophical statement. Without that life, the Bible is rather meaningless, and frankly crazy.

    The great books are like a fierce debate, they contradict and undermine each other every chance they get. The religious books especially contain never ending inconsistencies or “mysteries” that are only really resolved by living in and practicing their traditions. Even then, understanding of the inconsistencies only seems to lead to a blissful enjoyment of their internal tension, rather than a satisfactory resolution itself.

    I’ve spent the past few years diving into a study of Western tradition, religious and secular. Religiously raised, and secularly educated, I’ve found that most of the assumptions I grew up with are merely unquestioned indoctrinated opinions when submitted to the examination of this great (I would say even universal) tradition. I seem to become only more consciously incompetent at the truth. Each step forward I take, the truth only looks bigger and even further away.

    That said, I’d like to recommend an excellent book written by a very old and very popular Jesuit professor at Georgetown University, James V. Schall. The book is titled “Another Sort of Learning” and is a skilled guide to Western intellectual tradition. It’s more or less a long book list. It doesn’t include many “great books” directly (except for an comical insistence that someone who has left college without reading The Republic has wasted her money), but rather includes books that comprise an excellent (and helpful) debate over those great books.

    I’d also like to point out another excellent debate that is going on right now:

    http://patrickdeneen.blogspot.com/2010/05/against-great-books.html

  22. Hifcelik says:

    Hi Scott,

    Good approach. Successful evaluation. Wisdom is something nobody can refuse. The world of the future will be so passionate about wisdom and wisdom management. Knowledge itself will be accounted as waste of time.

    One thing I can contribute: If you want to read Qur’an in detail, please keep in mind that Qur’an is Arabic; so you should beware of translations and read from different translation sources.

    A better idea is to read with Qur’an with commentaries as well as translations. As you may know, there are hundreds of translation sources and thousands of commentary collections on Qur’an.

    There are two types of commentaries on Qur’an: One style prefers to follow Qur’an sencence by sentence; translates and explains with detail by the aid of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)’s life and words. This is a good way since the best express can be done by the Prophet himself in the first place.

    An other style is to proof the concepts, wisdoms, subjects and approaches of Qur’an with solid evidence. This type of commentary has a style free from tracking Qur’an “sentence by sentence” since the goal is to collect all the ayah (sentences of Qur’an) that are facing the same facts; and proof the essence and approach with Qur’an itself and sunnah.

    The latter style has rather few representatives since it is really challenging. And most brilliant of those type of commentaries is Risale-i Nur Collection by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.

    I think it will be the best way for you if you want to dig out wisdom from Qur’an. Because Said Nursi commited his whole life (and I really mean that) to this goal: Discovering the wisdom, truth and message in Qur’an and Life of the Prophet (pbuh).

    Some of his work contains: Proving the existence and unity of Allah (God to say), proving the prophecy and miracles of the last prophet, proving hereafter, proving existence of destiny (with the role of human in that).

    Sorry for the long comment but if you consider this point, you can easily gain much information, knowledge and wisdom in Qur’an. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of other sources examining Qur’an, but this is the best collection as far as I’m concerned.

    Here is a source to the mentioned commentary collection: http://www.nursistudies.com/collection.php (Risale-i Nur Collection on Islam)

  23. Magenta says:

    I’m very respectfull about other’s religion and believes, but I wanted to tell you what I think. I completely believe in God, not because of books (religious or not), churchs or priests, I believe in God because of himself, because my own experience. I know that angels and demons exists, I’ve seen miracles facing me, I’ve cried during my prays, I’ve have visions during my dreams, I’ve seem his love with my own eyes and I’ve felt his spirit with my skin and heart. It’s something that you difficulty can understand or explain, because it has no logic or reasonable explanation (and I actually consider myself a very studious and intelligent woman).

    I know that human people naturally NEEDS to believe in something, and I’m pretty sure, that when some moment of hopelessness arrives (I dont mean the end of the world, I mean some hard moment that everybody will experiment some day, because that is the life cicle: hard and good moments-) U will need to believe in something bigger than you, something that u cannot control. Probably after all you will imagine and ideate some solution of your problems, or someone is gonna be there to help you, and you’ll see how everything it’s going to be solved, almost by itself. Surely, the atheist people will think that all what they lived was the result of their tremendous intelligence, but let me tell you something: all that, is going to be God, showing you his big love, and wanting you to be winners.

    P.S: I’m sorry for my gramatical mystakes. I hope this message don’t be erased.

    God Bless You.

    Sincerely, Magenta.

  24. Adrianne says:

    What a great post. Scott, I am addicted to your Blog. I remember the very first post I read was about Process Focus and it changed my life! Thank you.

    I was raised by two atheist parents and so that caused me to search out truth. After a sincere search; I believe that Jesus died to pay for my sins and his blood has made me acceptable to God and secured my eternity.

    I do enjoy reading…about other religions and ideas. I absolutley agree with you Scott about filtering, or as I say “Chewing up the meat and spitting out the bones”

    Thank you for your dedication to writing and excellence!

  25. Nasreen says:

    When you do read the Quran, I have a list of really fascinating readings on the way Islamic Political Philosophy developed. The synergy between the Greek, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions is really profound; they ask a lot of fundamental questions that we still grapple with on the relationship between religion, philosophy (later science), and law.

    The culminating reading, for me, was Ahmed Akbar’s astute description of post-modernism and how different “Western” conceptions of modern and post-modern are from much of the Islamic world. As a Muslim American student of political science, being able to identify the streams of thought within our society and the intellectual histories behind them was both exhilarating and illuminating.

    I’m appreciative that you respect religious traditions enough to read scripture, even if – and I mean this sincerely and affectionately – it seems to be a somewhat limited respect with just a touch of post-modern arrogance.

    :) But that’s just a good-natured dig at you. I look forward to seeing your posts on the subject in the future.

    Thank you again for your kind email.

    Nasreen

  26. Scott Young says:

    Nasreen,

    I’ll admit my approach (as you say, postmodern) is impious to say the least.

    -Scott

  27. [...] would be great to perform on a variety of  beliefs from major and minor world religions.  (Scott H Young talks about the benefits of branching out here.)  I may start doing that. Tags Beliefs, Decision Making, God, Thought Experiment Categories [...]

  28. [...] be great to perform on a variety of  beliefs from major and minor world religions.  (Scott H Young talks about the benefits of branching out here.)  I may start doing that. Tags Beliefs, Decision Making, God, Thought Experiment [...]

  29. Randy says:

    I found your article interesting. I was not shocked, nor did I flinch at your view concerning “spiritual” or whatever. I believe in God. I believe that God is the higher power, but I do not believe it because someone told me that I should believe it. I do attend a local church. I enjoy the music and worship. I listen to the pastor. He does not yell. He opens the Bible and talks to us and gives us things that are practical. I go away knowing that I can find some “nugget” that will make a better person.

    I find that my view of God is more personal. For too many years, I thought that I had to earn something. I could not earn what is freely given. It is gift that I chose to accept.

    I love my Bible. I believe in what it says and teaches. It is for me.

    I loved “The Shack.” I did not mind the book calling God “Papa.” It forced me to think of God from a new and fresh direction. Some book stores even put a “disclaimer” inside the book because of how some people viewed the book. That is horrid. Why do we have to put disclaimers on life. Everyone is free to choose. Everyone is free to believe as they wish. As for me, I choose God.

    I do believe there is a life after death. I would hate to live life and think that the end was truly THE END!

    Scott, I read you and listen and I gleen what works and helps me.

    That is what true life is all about.

  30. Roma says:

    I just stumbled on this article and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always been interested in Eastern philosophy, and some of it has helped make me a better person.

    I’ve recently started doing yoga and have become interested in the Bhagavad Gita. I don’t believe the fairy tales or buy into the mysticism, but I think there is some wisdom in there that could have a positive impact on my life. I’m just glad I’ve become open minded enough to take what works for me and leave the rest. I wasn’t always like that.

    Great post!

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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