Do you believe in God? Part I: Christian atheism.

I don’t, but I’m still a limited Christian atheist… Every time I say “I don’t believe in God” people get uncomfortable or astonished, “really?!?”. Some of them don’t say it but most of them look at me with this expression on their eyes and faces. Within my own family this became an issue some years ago, so I had to start saying that I believe in a special kind of God or an “Universal Energy” that only I understood. “Uff, that’s ok!!”, only then people see me as a “normal” human being.

“What if I’m wrong?” I prefer using Richard Dawkins’ South Park answer:

I use to say that I am a Christian atheist that doesn’t believe in God. How is that?!? Well, I found out I was a Christian when I lived in India, eleven years ago. India was a breakthrough in my life. I was raise in three types of schools in Rio de Janeiro: first a military school, then a Catholic and then a Jewish. Today, I realize how the three of them tried to make me believe in something.

The military school tried to make me believe that Brazil was a blessed land and we should die for it (we sang the national anthem every day). The Catholic school tried to make me afraid of God and convince me that only He could save my soul (we had to pray every time for forgiveness). The Jewish tried to make me believe that we should live with and protect “our” millenary community, understanding and respecting the traditions (there was symbolisms and get together for everything).

At the end, only in India I saw how deeply immersed in the Christian “way of living” I was. Hell, heaven, sin, forgiveness, an omnipresent God, engagement, marriage, family, saints, temples (churches) everywhere, Christian names, Christian places, etc… All these things are blended in our day-by-day tasks in the Western world (for practical purposes, let’s consider Australia and New Zealand Western worlds too). That is so deeply enrooted on us that we don’t even perceive it.

Indians respected that “limitation of mine”, living under a completely different set of values and beliefs: “Do you have only one God?!?”, some Indians would ask me, “that’s so sad!”. “Do you have only one life?!?”, again, “that’s so sad!”.

Wow! How could I prove to a regular Hindu Indian that we can’t have more than one life? That kharma and dharma don’t exist. Of course I couldn’t. Nobody can.

Indian Gods

Indian Gods

I have been reflecting on that ever since and few years ago I decided not to believe in any God, although I still consider myself a Christian cultured, locked in a Weberian Iron Cage, unfortunately limited and mentally constrained by its values and practices (like everybody else that believe in some sort superior being in this planet).

What about you?

Entrepreneurship and Latinity

As I travel around and read about capitalism I can’t avoid seeing some patterns in the recent development of some regions. Entrepreneurial ventures in Latin culture-based countries with long Catholic tradition are different from those created under other social contexts and I believe that at least two former state cities of Asia exposed to European Anglo-Saxon and European Latin cultures in the last centuries can be used to illustrate that: Macau and Hong Kong. Macau as a former Portuguese colony and therefore exposed to an European Latin set of values and Hong Kong as a former British colony, exposed to an European Anglo-Saxon set of values. Both cities are located in the delta of the same river, the Pearl River in China, lying down just in front of each other. Both cities were passed to Chinese authorities recently, Macau in 1999 and Hong Kong in 1997 after many decades or even centuries of foreign European rule. The Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau in 1557 and Hong Kong was occupied by the British in 1841, both as commercial trade posts between Europe and Asia. Nowadays, it is interesting to witness the urban and material result of the development of these two societies in loco, through satellite images from Google Earth or even through typical tourist pictures of both cities’ downtown.

First picture: Downtown Macau, by Holger Mette.
Second picture: Downtown Hong Kong by Oksana Perkings.

Despite of obvious historical differences between the commercial power of the Portuguese and the British empires along the last centuries, both regions developed together, exposed more or less to the same kind of trade until the first half of the 20th century. Since the British took over, the people from Hong Kong enjoyed a freer economic environment than the people from Macau, but that was not an important variable to their history until the Chinese communist revolution of 1949 took place and both regions attracted capitalists from all over China. With preference for the British settlement, which was more business friendly, Hong Kong became one of the world’s leading financial centers and ranked the freest market in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom for 15 consecutive years (The Economist), disputing today this position with Singapore, not coincidently another former British settlement. In 2009, for example, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the 6th largest in the world, raised 22% of the worldwide IPO capital. Under the official policy of positive non-interventionism, Hong Kong is often cited as a successful example of laissez-faire capitalism. Not surprisingly, the same phenomenon can be observed when comparing the development of Goa in India to Mumbai or East Timor to Singapore, the last both in the neighbors Indonesia and Malaysia.

This text in simplified Chinese and Portuguese (via Google translator) Continue reading