My Faith Is Not Important Enough To Concern You With, or, True > Happy
The Oatmeal recently published a comic called "How To Suck At Your Religion." (warning, offensive language) There are a lot of things that I would take issue with in it and several points that he makes that I would agree with. There are a lot of caricatures of religious ideas, particularly Christian ones, that are unfair critiques. I have one big issue with his conclusion though, and it's an issue that I find increasingly common. He says,
Does your religion inspire you to help people? Does it make you happier? Does it help you cope with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that some day you will die and you are completely powerless, helpless and insignificant in the wake of this beautiful cosmic ****storm we call existence? Does it help with that? Yes? Excellent! Carry on with your religion!*
*Just keep it too your ******** self.
I think that's totally lame. What I take from that paragraph is that religious/faith based/metaphysical/philosophical aspects of my worldview are only as good as they make me feel and help me to cope. If they do that, then they are great (but not worth sharing). If they don't, then they aren't. On top of that, they are completely subjective (see his comparison to a child's favorite color).
Now, I understand that he holds that view. From following his work, I would guess he's at least somewhat of a secularist/naturalist/materialist. My problem is that the view that my religious beliefs are just subjective preference, like my favorite ice cream, is incredibly hard for me to find valuable.
I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is who the Bible says that he is. I believe He is the Son of God and that after being brutally murdered in the early 1st century AD he physically rose from the dead 3 days later. There is good, historical, forensic science based evidence for this. I also believe that I have encountered Him, alive, not physically, but spiritually. He has changed my life. If I didn't believe in this objective reality, I wouldn't be a Christian. I would stop being a Christian. I'm a Christian because I know with reasonable certainty what happened in the past and I know what I have experienced.
No one else has to believe that, but it seems that the Oatmeal's position is just a polite way of saying "you go ahead and be crazy, just don't bother me with it." If not arrogant, that's just poorly thought out as far as an argument goes. Anyone that boils faith claims down to subjective self-help maxims isn't taking faith seriously. Either you don't think your worldview is faith based (it is) or you don't care enough about reality outside of your daily rhythms and routines to formulate a coherent philosophy of life (you should).
Religious claims are a big deal. They are a big deal for the Christian, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Atheist/Agnostic and every other adherent of every other belief system in the world. Refute them, argue for the superiority of yours, demonstrate how your worldview best represents reality, but don't dismiss them. That's not reasonable.
Now I know the Oatmeal is a cartoonist, and his medium is limited. If I had to guess I would guess that I would thoroughly enjoy a cup of coffee with him. But this cartoon represents an idea that is pervasive among the non-religious and the mildly-religious: what you believe doesn't really matter as long as it makes you happy and you don't "bother" anyone else with it.
What you believe about the world really does matter. What matters most about it is whether or not its true. Believe what you believe because its true, not because it makes you happy. Take the time and do the work to figure out what's true. Just don't kill people. He got that part right.