I'm 54 years ancient now and my children seem amazed that am still able to walk unaided, but I still have vague and hazy memories of my schooling, all those years ago when God was a boy. I had a maths teacher called Mr Williams who had a favourite saying which has stayed with me,
"Common sense should be called Uncommon sense, because so few people use it".
Which brings me to my point. Today an employee tried to convince me that I should read the Koran and various booklets he could provide and that my life would be enriched by converting to Islam. He did this because I am an avowed and passionate atheist and he truly and quite genuinely believes that my soul is in peril and my life is being wasted.
I honoured him for his concern and I did not mock him or his beliefs, but I did outline my own position, which I hold to as fiercely as he does to his faith. The difference, I politely explained, is that my position is based on evidence and rationalism, whereas his is based on belief without reference to evidence. Indeed I stressed that religion is the absolute opposite of reason, in that it compels it's adherents to follow without question.
I explained that my assertion, there is no God, was open to discussion and further examination and that, should proof ever be found I would immediately change my stance. He took great pains to tell me I was mistaken and, with good nature and patient explanation, informed me that I was missing the point. If I submitted myself to Allah in all things I would be rewarded, precisely because I had not asked for proof.
I must stress that the person concerned is not a radical or a zealot. He abhors terrorism, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He wears a western business suit or jeans and a T shirt, except on his sabbath and religious holidays. He has a great sense of humour, loves his wife and children and is happy to live in England, with no wish to move to an Islamic country, or change the nature of this one. Nonetheless, he is devout and serious about his faith and is deeply committed to the idea that everyone would be better under Islam and that all peoples and countries should 'submit' to the will of Allah.
I would not by choice discuss religion with him at all, because I feel it is inappropriate and detrimental to our business relationship, but he pressed the issue. Eventually I had to use my authority as his employer to stop him and forbid him to raise the matter again with me or any of my staff. I did this not because I'm an atheist, but because no amount of rational argument could break through his conviction that Islam was the only path to God and salvation. The more I put forward my assertion regarding the need for rationalism and evidence, the more adamant he became. It was only my refusal to be drawn that prevented our discussion falling into an ill natured conflict of opinion.
If someone as highly educated, intelligent, modern and in every other sense liberal can so deliberately and consciously refuse to accept logical argument, is it any wonder that people all around the world still believe in such ancient and outmoded concepts? And I refer to all religions, not just Islam.
Virtually everyone reading this will live in a modern, western environment. Yet many of you will devoutly believe in God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, Brahma and a host of others, just as people once believed as passionately in Odin, Zeus and Baal. My question to all such believers is simple. How can you accept a modern world, based on science and the application of human intellect and still follow blindly the word of other people or the writing in a book, without applying logic and demanding evidence for outlandish claims? Without, in fact, using common sense.
Science certainly doesn't hold all the answers and almost certainly never will. But it does continually seek answers and looks for proof. The very process of science is to postulate theories and work to disprove them. Only when a theory has stood up to such rigorous scrutiny will it be accepted and even then it is only accepted until further knowledge comes to light. By contrast, religion expects blind acceptance and actually demands that you do not ask questions.
If someone tried to sell you The White House or Buckingham Palace, would you take it on faith that they had the right to do so? Of course not. That would be naive and foolish.
If someone claims that the pixies send them messages at night, telling them to steal, would you accept their behaviour? Clearly not.
If someone tells you to believe every word in a collection of books written between 1400 and 3000 years ago and tells you that you will be rewarded in heaven for certain actions, even though that person admits they have no direct evidence that heaven even exists, why would you believe them?
Let's have a little more uncommon sense.