A nonbeliever was once traveling through Northern Ireland back when the Northern Irelanders were slaughtering each other for being the wrong sort of follower of the Prince of Peace. He was stopped at a roadblock by unknown assailants: "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" came the menacing question.
"I'm an atheist," he replied.
Undeterred, the questioner demanded: "Well are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"
I never really believed in Vishnu. I didn't agonize for years about reconciling Vishnu with what I could observe to be true. I wasn't mind-fucked by Vishnu's followers and indoctrination. I don't feel an urgent need for atonement through opposition to the sins of Vishnu's tribe, as I was never a participant. Of course Vishnu isn't real, and of course bad things are bad things whether it's Hindus or Christians or atheists doing them. But Vishnu isn't near to my heart in that Morgul-blade sort of way that Southern Baptist Jesus still is. I am very much a Protestant atheist.
That personal history informs my encounters with other faiths. When all you have is a rage-fired hate-crossbow, every problem looks like a zombie, and while I never really expect to like what I see when I look at religion, the itchy trigger finger can make an honest examination difficult. Here we have the indoctrination of children, the unsupported truth claims, and the harmful and antiquated morality propped up by the arrogated word of the divine; there we see the social circles so beloved of its members and so oblivious and sickeningly hurtful to those excluded; and finally we are reminded of the good commandments, and asked not to notice that they are supported by the same epistemology which upholds the bad.
How shall we react?
But the attempt should nonetheless be made. So, I'm going to read the Quran. It's an idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while now: to have an honest encounter--including an honest accounting for my history and viewpoint, which you're currently reading--with the "sacred" texts, and to set down my thoughts and reactions. I've just recently started a new job, so I have no idea what kind of posting schedule I'll be able to manage, but I'll strive for regularity and at least weekly updates.
So with all that out of the way, stay tuned for more.