Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and reportedly the fifth richest person in the world, no longer wants to be identified as an ‘atheist’, he said on the social network he created.
“No,” he said, when asked if he was (still) an atheist. “I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”
Perhaps in keeping with his newfound appreciation for religion, Zuckerberg, who used to list himself as ‘atheist’ on his Facebook profile, no longer does no.
The conversation happened in the context of Zuckerberg wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah”.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.
“I hope you’re surrounded by friends and loved ones, and that you have a chance to reflect on all the meaningful things in your life.
Zuckerberg did not respond to follow-up questions from his ‘friends’ on Facebook about whether he now considers himself a follower of the Jewish religion or not.
Judaism — and the oldest of the three Semitic relgions — is also considered the ‘original’, as it is widely seen as having served as the base, or inspiration, for the top two organized religions in the world today.
Judaism is credited with inventing the concept of ‘exclusivity’ among Gods.
While earlier religions contained many gods who did not have a problem if their followers worshiped other gods, the Jewish religion considers anyone who worships other gods as ‘wrong’.
The exclusivity became a hallmark of the other two Semitic religions as well, and is credited with making them the most successful religions in the history of humankind. Around 56% of humankind is expected to be affiliated to some for or the other of Abrahamic religions.
The Jewish people have undergone several rounds of persecution at the hands of non-believers, an experience that has made them more protective of their identity and culture than many other communities.
Atheism — which believes in no Gods — is also split into various forms and formats, including Buddhism — the biggest atheistic religion with nearly 7% of the world’s population — Confucianism and militant rationalism.
Atheism in the modern context refers to the lack of any religious beliefs, and excludes those who ‘pray’ to any higher power. As such, modern atheism also excludes many forms of Buddhism — whose adherents pray to the Buddha.
Atheists, in this sense, tend to see religions as a negative force — one which has more negative effects on the human personality than positive effects, and therefore must be diluted away for ‘progress’ to occur.
The modern atheist tends to portray science as in opposition, or even contradiction, to religion.
Zuckerberg’s comment — “I believe religion is very important” — seems to indicate that he has moved from this form of militant atheism to a form of agnosticism or started taking a pragmatic or benign view of religion. Such ‘benign atheists’ do not believe in the existence of gods or heaven, and neither do they share the view that the net impact of religion on human beings is negative.
They, for example, value the contribution that religion makes towards taming the baser instincts of many human beings by instilling the fear of punishment in their hearts. They also appreciate the role played by religion in creating art and culture.