It's a common misconception (not to mention a sweeping generalization) that all atheists hate everything about religion. I for one can say that that isn't so. So in hopes of building bridges--and being less of the "negative nancy" I seem to have been lately--I thought I'd write a list of things that I do like about various religions, and I encourage commenters to do the same. After all, we're all sharing this tiny pale blue dot together.
- I like Christmas. That's an easy one. I like that there's a bright spot in the middle of winter full of colorful lights, homemade goodies, songs everyone knows (and many will sing in public, when they don't sing any other time of the year), charities for needy kids, classic movies, and so much more. When a kid figures out the truth about Santa Claus, it doesn't (usually) ruin Christmas for them for the rest of their lives; well, figuring out the truth about God and Jesus didn't ruin it for me either.
- I like seeing the way a church community will come together when one of their flock is enduring a hard time. Even though I don't believe that prayer actively accomplishes anything, it's very comforting to see a dozen or more families care enough to wish they could do something (which to me, is what prayer is a ritualized version of. And that's fine!). I've seen churches band together to do charity fundraisers for people who are sick and suffering; I've seen collections taken up for bereaved families. That's the good stuff. I can get behind that.
- I like how Kosher practices are centered around ethical treatment of all creatures. How it was figured out a long, long, long time ago, how to slaughter cows for food in the way that caused them the quickest and least painful death. That's pretty enlightened, I say.
- I like how Buddhism encourages you to question and really think about any and everything having to do with it. I like how it doesn't reject science or common sense, but rather embraces it.
- I like how focused Buddhism is on compassion in all areas of life. Even if there are points with which I disagree, all in all, I like the emphasis on compassion and relieving of suffering. I like how it doesn't make exception for anyone.
- I like the Wiccan/Neo-pagan tenet of "harm none". Very similar to the previous, but it's a different religion, so it bears repeating.
- I like the healthy attitudes toward sexuality that I've seen in Wiccan/Neo-pagan circles. If you've ever been to a "sky-clad" dance, you'll see there isn't much shame for one's own body image, or gender, or orientation.
- I like how, during Europe's Dark Ages, the Muslim world kept science alive. 11th-century Muslim astronomers were already dismissing astrology as a non-science-- a thousand years ago. Also, much of the classical works of ancient Greek scientists (such as Archimedes) survived because they were preserved in the Middle East.
- And, more generally speaking, I like when people of faith are secure enough in their faith to not get defensive when I talk about my lack of faith. Instead, they put their money where their mouth is and Love Thy Neighbor and use religion as a tool to better themselves, rather than a weapon to make them better than others. I admit it's rare. But I have seen it, and I admire it greatly.
Now I know, and I'll say it now to head off comments, that every single one of these can be present without religion at all. Obviously I know that, being a non-believer myself. My point is not that religion is necessary for any one of these items. My point, rather, is that in the right hands/minds, religion doesn't have to be inherently bad and that people with religious beliefs are not themselves automatically bad guys by default.