“Do you have anything positive to add? You don’t like god or religion or theism, we get it. Where is your proposal for fostering peace and unity? How does your belief encourage acceptance and connection with our fellow humans? Where are the inclusive ideas that make Atheism better for everyone?”
The above is me paraphrasing something I read recently, though it wasn’t new or unique and I’ve read or heard many versions over the years. It is something Anti-theists, outspoken atheists and non-theists hear a lot of. The implication that we’re cold angry people mad at the world and content to kick sand out of spite is not an uncommon viewpoint. Unfortunately there are those Atheists out there that actually do fit this view. I’d say however that by and large this depiction of atheists and especially activist atheists is an overly simplistic falsehood maintained to marginalize and dismiss an uncomfortable point of view.
It’s true, I don’t like the ideas of god, religion or theism, but as for “we get it” it doesn’t seem as though you do. I don’t take this stance to rebel or offend. It’s not because I’m an anarchist or due to my corrupted or absent morals, and it certainly isn’t because I imagine myself smarter or in any way superior to the believer. The considerations that make me an atheist are numerous and varied but the primary drive of my anti-theism is the very fact that religion, and indeed all faith, divides, deludes excludes and insulates. I am an atheist because I seek those virtues listed above, and because history demonstrates that faith and religion are the single greatest barriers to acceptance, unity and education that our species has ever faced.
I reject any idea that requires the suspension (or compartmentalization) of critical thought. I distrust any system that can look down on reason as a lesser thing than assertion or faith. I oppose any view which has the inherent ability to allow it’s adherents to pretend that there is some inferiority between the genders, or asserts that a person’s sexual preference marks them out as evil or damaged. Perhaps most importantly I recognize that to decry these acts and attitudes while supporting belief systems that promote and profess them is hypocrisy.
How does atheism promote unity and acceptance you ask? It doesn’t, not on its own anyway. Atheism is a gateway, it’s the path to the acceptance of the fact that there’s no magic secret, no ghost in the machine. At its finest, in my opinion, Atheism should lead to the twin truths of Humanism and Rationalism. It should lead a person to understand that only through the acceptance of evidence, the cultivation of knowledge and the taking of considered and rational action can anything of worth actually be accomplished.
Quite simply acceptance and inclusion are encouraged by accepting responsibility for ourselves and our world and by levelling the playing field, making the criteria for “truth” and “right” the same for everyone. Humanism shows us that we are the architects of our reality; that change, reform, and salvation must come not from some outside source but from ourselves. Rationalism requires that we open ourselves to accepting reason and science as our guides. By these methods we are more likely to take proactive steps, and come to more uniform and consistent conclusions. Thus we are more in control of our circumstances and more united ideologically. By holding to testable, verifiable truth rather than declared (and utterly subjective) divine revelation, we declare ourselves open to having our views challenged and our conclusions falsified. These ideals can only lead to a more elevated group consciousness and a more cooperative, peaceful coexistence with our fellow humans. When we base our views on reason rather than faith it helps us to see the world for what it is, it allows us to better match our solutions to the actual world.
There are those who advocate pretending beliefs don’t matter or that all opinions and ideas are equally valid and plausible. This is their answer for and guiding our species into the future, to just let anyone think whatever they like and to pretend that beliefs don’t have consequences. It seems to me however that the best way to unite, uplift and heal our species, and our world is to judge our ideas, our beliefs and our actions by the light of fact and the criteria of reason and commonsense.
It’s that time of year again, the holiday season, and so if you live in North America it’s likely that you’ve seen at least one example of the sentiments expressed above. You’ve probably seen signs on lawns while driving around your neighbourhoods, or banners hung while you did your shopping, and most likely post after post while exploring the internet. It is time again for the Christians’ annual drive to convince us that they and their religion are the source of our winter holiday, and that without their improbable claims and irrational organizations there would be no winter holidays. This time of year we begin to hear about how without Jesus there would be no December celebration, and no cause for the day of merry-making, gift giving, and enjoyment of family and friends which so many of us secular and theist, enjoy. The fact is, however, that “the Christmas season” has very little to do with Christianity at all and in fact most of the things we would consider to be “Christmas-y” have nothing at all to do with Jesus.
This campaign to make the season about the Christian messiah is, of course, not a new thing. We in North America and some other places even call it “Christmas” now, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, historically speaking the advent of “Christmas” is a relatively recent thing compared to the true “reason for the season” which is the celebration of the Winter Solstice.
The solstice is the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon, it is the shortest day of the year, and traditionally the first day of winter. Observing the solstice is a tradition which predates Christianity by thousands of years, at least. Some scholars actually say that the observation, in some form, of the solstice, may date from as early as the Neolithic period of the Stone Age. Observances of the solstice have been practiced by almost every culture on the planet including the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Greeks, a host of Celtic pagan societies, and several Asian cultures including the Chinese.
So there has always been a winter celebration toward the end of December and the solstice has always been a major festival in most cultures, a day of celebration, feasting and reflection. In light of this fact is it so remarkable that a theology would choose to try to attach their deity to it? Of course not, what better way to make converts comfortable with a new religion than to maintain a tradition they already have? Even if it is slightly altered. Not only is it not surprising, it’s not unique. Many religions have attached their mythological protagonist to the solstice. Here are several besides Christ whose adherents have all claimed December 25th as the birth date of their god: Horus (Egypt) Osiris (Egypt) Attis of Phrygia ( Phrygia and Greece) Krishna (India) Zoroaster (Persia) Mithra (Persia/Rome) Heracles (Greece) Dionysus (Greece) Tammuz (Babylon/ Sumer) Adonis (Greece) Hermes (Greece) Bacchus (Greece) Prometheus (Greece) Beddru (Japan) Odin (Scandinavia) Salivahana (Bermuda)
The fact of the matter is that the invention of “Christmas” was a carefully thought out and executed piece of propaganda by one of the early Church’s masters of propaganda the Roman (and pagan) Emperor Constantine in 336 AD. December 25 was chosen for the simple, but important reason that it coincided with the supposed birth of Mithras, a Persian god who was adopted by Rome, a god worshipped strongly by the vast majority of Roman soldiers at the time. By making this upstart Christ figure as much like the existing Mirthras as possible Constantine made his worship more palatable to his people in general and his soldiers specifically. The soldiers were, after all, the source of the Emperor’s power, and so had to be kept happy and comfortable.
In fact most of the “Christmas” traditions you think of associated with the holiday have absolutely nothing to do with Christ or the religion named after him. As a child you likely heard that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is to commemorate the gifts presented to the infant jesus in the manger by the three wise men. Well, right from the start that story is a corruption of the bible story since the three wise men weren’t even in the stable where jesus was supposedly born. According to Matthew 2:11 an unspecified number of “magi” visited him in a house at some unspecified time after his birth and presented him with gifts.
The fact is the practice of giving gifts at the solstice, as well as decorating homes with trees, wreaths, mistletoe, and other greenery all come from pagan traditions which predate Christianity by centuries. Christianity is a relatively modern graft onto a far more ancient pre-existing festival. Christmas as it exists today is a bastardized amalgamation of Christian dogma, pagan, traditions and (in most cases) western commercialism. Saying that Christ is “the reason for the season” is the same sort of arrogance as claiming that all that exists does so just so that our tiny spec of a civilization could come into being. At it’s purest and simplest here is the truth:
The Facebook page “The Atheist People” has published an article I wrote today. It’s no three book deal with Random House but it is the first time I’ve submitted my own work for someone else’s consideration and the response has been great!! It’s always so nice to see that your perspective resonates with others, and it’s always interesting to spark debate. I hope those of you who read me here will check it out. Unfortunately the best I can do for a link is to the page it’self. My article is the one that was posted today. Enjoy and thank you to those of you who comment, like, share, and everyone who takes the time to read what I write.
Indoctrination, the word comes up all the time in conversations between theists and non-theists but let’s actually look at it closely; what is indoctrination? Is it necessarily a bad thing? Or is it just a matter of what we indoctrinate people with that’s the problem? Well first things first let’s define the word. Merriam Webster defines indoctrination as follows:
Indoctrination: 1) To instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments.
2) To imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.
So looking at the definitions given one can see that a case could be made, without much difficulty, that there are cases where the first definition of indoctrination is a good and necessary thing. Someone might argue, for instance, that children should be indoctrinated with proper fire safety lessons, proper respect for the dangers associated with sharp objects and the risks of crossing the street.
I disagree with this argument for the simple reason that I personally prefer education over indoctrination in all cases and situations. What is the difference? Well there is, at least to my mind, a huge amount of difference, though it can often be subtle. Indoctrination is, very simply, teaching someone WHAT to think, it is the implantation of sound bites into a person’s head, propaganda. It is “teaching” through repetition and rote without the benefit of multiple viewpoints or considered study. Education on the other hand encourages the person in question to study everything they can from every perspective they can, to take it all in and THEN judge what they’ve learned according to their own intellect, morality, sense of right and wrong and so forth in order to form a worldview.
Religion uses the indoctrination model over the education model for very specific, and quite obvious, reasons. Those reasons boil down to the simple fact that everything we actually KNOW demonstrates that their worldview is often factually wrong and always at the very least highly improbable. If theists were to send their children into schools without any previous indoctrination and allow them to study and learn and draw their own conclusions I honestly believe that the number of theists in the world would drop off sharply, and so do they (that’s why they don’t do it more often). Would they endanger the existence of their various theologies doing so? Sadly, no probably not, because for every person who is freed by study and considered rational thought there are two more who are more than willing to suborn their reason in favor of a collection of comforting promises that no fellow human is actually qualified to give them.
If you look at the growth in atheism and non-theism in the last century there is, I am certain, a correlation between it’s rise and the enhancement of global education systems. It becomes harder and harder to insulate and isolate oneself from the proofs of science and the considerations of reason. Oh it can be done, and as a matter of fact it is done regularly by a great many people but in order to accomplish it you have to do one of two things A) Actively segregate yourself from any topic or content that might challenge or infringe upon your faith (as my wife’s creationist friend who I’ve previously mentioned does) or B) To compartmentalize yourself in such a way that you can accept all of the gifts and truths of science, history, and the other secular disciplines with one part of yourself and with another still fully embrace whatever your particular set of ancient myths, precepts, and strictures are.
This second kind of person is by far the most prevalent form of theist on the planet. This is the personality type of the “religious moderate” who is, in every other facet of their life, a perfectly rational, reasonable, capable and intelligent human being. If you were to insist to this type of person that the local river had spontaneously turned to tomato sauce they would not believe without some sort of evidence, and would tell you so in no uncertain terms and yet at the same time they will admit unapologetically that they subscribe to a system of belief based on nothing more than a two thousand year old collection of writings and an ill-defined personal feeling.
These moderates are as much a product of indoctrination as the less frequent fundamentalist. In the case of the fundamentalist the indoctrination is total, becoming not just the core of their worldview but the entirety of it. There is nothing but the indoctrination. The bible says god hates fags (and it does) and so it is the simple unvarnished truth and, as in the case of the Westboro Baptist Church, the people who believe and spout this ignorant, hateful rubbish will tell you quite unashamedly that they are doing so for your benefit, and even out of their love for you, that you may come to see the truth. As terrible, sad and shocking as this outlook is it’s the moderate group that shocks me more however. Their indoctrination is a more subtle, quiet, and insidious kind. They don’t present the loud mouthed, wild-eyed frenzy of their fundamentalist cousins, they don’t spout the ill-considered rhetoric or shoulder the garish and offensive signage, or even dismiss the benefits of modern technology and medicine yet somewhere inside them there exists an invisible but impermeable wall that no amount of fact, or reason or evidence can penetrate.
Coming back to the question I started with: Is indoctrination necessarily a bad thing? Or is it just a matter of what we indoctrinate people with? For myself, I do think it is always inferior to education for making intelligent, thoughtful, considering people, but then again that’s not really the aim of indoctrination is it? So yes indoctrination is always a bad thing. Encouraging mindless following of any precept or principle regardless of any altruistic or well-meaning intent is, in my opinion, wrong. Indoctrination robs people of the ability to truly learn, it kills the impulse to question, and shrivels the drive to discover. These abilities impulses and drives are the most fundamental right and responsibility we have as human beings and should be treated with more respect.
I don’t hate god, I don’t believe there is a god to hate. I say this because one hears on a regular basis about how “Atheists hate god” which, to me, is roughly equivalent to the statement “adults hate Santa Claus”. That being said, I have to admit if somehow incontrovertible evidence of god was granted to us tomorrow it would not change my position as an AntiTheist. As a matter of fact such proof would likely cause a great deal of anger and resentment in me. My atheism is, I believe, rooted in sound rational and reasonable foundations of historical study, some scientific understanding and a critical analysis of both the reality around me and the world as it appears in the various “holy” books. That being said I have to admit there is another aspect to my atheism. Some of it, I have to admit, is just plain old human optimism. That’s right, optimism. I am comforted by the notion that the world we inhabit is not the design of some higher life form. It gives me great solace to see that there is no puppeteer on the other end of the strings, and that in the end it is us who have to decide the shape of the world we’re going to live in.
The concept of the existence of a deity who watches with indifference as suicide bombers, ethnic cleansers, and radical anti-abortionists kill and maim in its name is abhorrent to me. I find the idea of a god who would litter the world with various competing faiths and then sit back and watch the millennia of fear, horror, death, depravity and deprivation that had to ensue as a result truly disgusting. I see nothing worthy of worship in the characterisation of deity laid out before me by the various faiths. In every case you’ve got an all-powerful entity whose primary entertainment seems to be pitting one group of its creations against another. For example, we’ve got the ancient Jews against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15: 2-3) which was only one group which the Jews were expressly ordered to kill and pillage in the book or Muslims commanded to fight and kill disbelievers (quran 2:191). These are only two examples. There are a great many more.
I am happy to know that there is absolutely no objective reason to believe that there is a force in the universe which hates some of it’s creations so much that it has ordered the rest of us to shun and kill them. I’m delighted that there is no evidence to support the idea that after we die the vast majority of us will be consigned to a place of fire and suffering for not fully embracing the proper method of worship.
The characterization that “atheists hate god” is incorrect, as I stated at the beginning of this post but if there was a god to hate the god of the abrahamic faiths would certainly be deserving of that hatred, as well as fear, mistrust and disgust. I personally can’t think of anything more reprehensible than to claim to love something while threatening it with pain and death if it steps out of line.
The optimism comes into play with the conviction that these systems of belief are entirely man made. This is optimism because if we made it that means we can unmake it. Whether or not this will ever occur is another matter, but the possibility exists and that makes me hopeful. I believe we can eventually transcend the strictures, fears and prejudices of our ancient past and put aside the divisive, damaging and dangerous concept of theology in favor of a truly humanistic system.
I have a great many beefs with the theistic way of thinking, I can’t help it, it’s just the way that I’m built, but there are only really two reasons that make me feel the need to speak out against it. The first is that it is simply too dangerous, in this day and age, to allow any system of belief that not only allows but requires a suspension of rational inquiry, and even a suspension of secular moral judgement in favor of some “higher” mandate. As Christopher Hitchens liked to say “The suicide bombing community is entirely religious.” In my view it is not alright for people to believe whatever they want, not when what you believe requires you to act in a way that is detrimental to others.
When someone has a physiological imbalance that causes them to act in dangerous ways they are treated or at least sequestered away from the healthy population. When someone has a psychological problem that causes anti-social behaviors they are treated with drugs in order to bring them back to the realm of the real, yet there are absolutely no constraints on a person’s philosophical outlooks. You’re absolutely free to believe whatever you want to, even when it can be demonstrated that those beliefs themselves are the root cause of various inequities, bigotries, falsehoods, and in a great many cases even acts of great violence. I’ve said this before but I think that at our current state of technological ability we’ve lost the right to maintain our illusions about existence. Can anyone really argue that the world is made safer by the practice of religion? Can anyone really say that the world is more united by it’ various faith systems?
My second major beef with theistic thinking is this: It makes otherwise intelligent people say and do incredibly stupid things. Here are a couple of recent examples:
In each of these examples you’ve got educated, accomplished people, all of them either holding a place in or seeking election into, the government of their nation and yet every one of them holds terribly bigoted, hateful, and verifiably false things as absolute truth and right for no other reason than because it says so in their holy book. Paul Broun is a doctor, and a member of congress’s house science and technology committee. This incredibly educated, and one has to believe, mostly rational human being professes to believe that the planet is only 9000 years old, and that the theory of evolution by natural selection is “a lie from the pit of hell.” Loy Mauch, a state rep from Arkansas makes a case FOR slavery, his position based solely on the fact that his bible has NOT ONE WORD to say against the practice. Mr. Fuqua is in favor of the biblical law which requires that rebellious children be stoned to death! These are only three examples. There are many more, from the woman who kills her child because “god told her to.” To the nation that declares “holy” war against the infidel because they are mandated to spread their faith.
Theistic thinking is a breeding ground for falsehood, bigotry, and hate. It is a block to unity and progress, and a danger to every man woman and child on this planet. As a justification for monstrosity, ignorance and atrocity it is unparalleled in history. It is a system of thought in which rational argument and discussion are made impossible and truth becomes so subjective as to have no valuable definition. It’s the conversation between children where one asks “why” and the other says “because” on endless loop.
I honestly and fervently believe that the only hope for mankind to survive and grow as a species is for us to put aside our fables and wishes and approach the world from a place of reason and rationality. To concern ourselves with the world we live in and the fellow creatures we share it with should be the only goal of a united humanity. We should point all of our energies toward enhancing the experience of living in this world for everyone and stop concerning ourselves so much with otherworldly claims rooted in the natural human fear of death and the unknown. We only get one life, shouldn’t we spend it more fruitfully than concerning ourselves with the wishes and dictates of supernatural creatures that more than likely aren’t there anyway?
“No one has the right to tell anyone that their beliefs are wrong.” “People should be free to believe whatever they like.” “There are no “right” or “wrong” beliefs.” These are things that you’ll hear a lot if you speak on or debate the topic of faith. This is the concept of Religious Pluralism, the idea that all beliefs and belief systems are equally valid and equally deserving of respect. It sounds, on its face, like a reasonable and high-minded point of view, inclusive, reasonable, a very live and let live sort of outlook. Yet there is a serious flaw with the idea of Religious Pluralism, the flaw is simply this: Each and every religion mankind has ever come up with is absolute. Every one of them claims their doctrine and tradition is right good and true while asserting at the same time that all other belief systems are false, wrong, incomplete, or even evil. Religion by its very nature rejects the idea of pluralism; what’s more it often requires an absolutist perspective from its adherents.
Religious pluralism is the invention of the modern religious moderate. That species of theist who can pick and choose which tenets of their scriptures to believe in while flatly dismissing some and metamorphosizing others into metaphor and poetry in need of scholarly interpretation. Pluralism becomes the shield behind which the moderate can take refuge. “You can’t challenge the irrational things I believe because I respect the irrational things you believe.” At the same time it becomes another weapon in the fight against the rational naturalistic outlook of the non-theist. It’s “impolite” to question why someone believes in something without a basis for that belief. It’s crude and overly simplistic to state that a position that has no rational objective basis for truth is most likely false. Instead, it would appear, the more acceptable and “polite” tack is to accept that religious faith, all religious faith is valid, not only valid but equally as valid as reason. This is, at least to me a fallacy of the most monumental type.
Pluralism only works if the believer is willing to concede that their beliefs exist solely in the province of their own minds for no other purpose than their own psychological wellbeing. If you’re willing to allow that your beliefs have no bearing on the material world, no basis in history or science, that it is a mental construct designed to comfort you personally that is something different. In this case, as a strictly personal belief, one could make an argument for the case of pluralism. However if you’re claiming that the stories in your text are true, that the bible is historically accurate, and that the dictates of said book are fact and globally binding, then pluralism is an absurdity. How can you genuinely respect a belief system that you truly believe is wrong, or evil? How can you claim to respect another faith while living in certainty that its practitioners are misguided, deluded and destined for a fiery damnation in the next world?
It’s a smoke screen, a high-minded get out of jail free card that the moderate uses to justify the imbalance between the rational part of themselves that allows them to function in the modern word and the part of themselves that hangs on to bronze age mythology and supernatural occurrence as reality. However not all beliefs are valid, and certainly not all beliefs are equally valid. If I claimed to believe that the mantle of the earth was made of toast for instance no thinking person would advocate my right to hold such a belief because, aside from the fact that we can prove it is not so, the idea itself is simply to ludicrous for anyone reasonable or even moderately informed to credit. Yet the beliefs that A) Muhammad ascended to Heaven on a flying horse and B) that no such thing ever happened in reality are equally valid and equally worthy of belief? This is the worst kind of relativistic nonsense.
Aside from that it’s also incredibly dangerous. We live in the most dangerous and precipitous period in human history. There exist, at this very moment weapons of such incredible power that a single human being can kill millions, or make entire landscapes uninhabitable for generations. Add to this the fact that there are literally billions of people on the planet who believe that there is an invisible person in the sky who likes some of us better than others and will in fact REWARD them handsomely for killing those others. This is an unsupportable situation. We’ve grown past the point where we have the luxury of being allowed our illusions about the world and how it works. With the powers we now command we cannot afford any view but those founded on reason and rational decision-making.
The moderate who champions pluralism gives defense and tacit approval to the suicide bomber who blows up a bus, or the gang that beats a homosexual to death because he’s a homosexual in defiance of god’s will. The fundamentalist cannot exist without the moderate, shoring up his position, fighting for his rights, fighting against the right of the secular world to impose a moratorium on the very fount and source of his various madnesses, while all the while decrying the actions of those whose only real crime is faithfully following the dictates of the faith that the moderate picks and chooses from.
The world was made perfect, humanity was made in the image of the creator and endowed with free will and free choice. The “fallen” “sinful” state of the world is the result of the wrong choices made by mankind as a result of free will and only an acceptance of god and its will can heal the broken world and ensure paradise everlasting. These are things that we’ve all heard before. This is the theist’s justification for the state of reality in the face of their assertion of a loving god, however there is one major problem with this argument. The problem is the idea that “god” in this scenario is omnipotent and all-powerful. Why is that a problem?
If you’re going to assert an omnipotent creator then you’re required to accept all that that entails. First off it means that if such an entity existed it would have been intimately aware of the ramifications of it’s creation before it had even begun. Long before the big bang ever banged an omnipotent creator would have had to know, by definition, every movement of every molecule, and every thought and action of every microbe, animal and individual within this imagined creation.
Free will is defined as: “The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate. The ability to act at one’s own discretion.” This, obviously, is not possible in a universe monitored and maintained by an all-knowing all-capable life form. If the omnipotent god hypothesis is true then it follows that you act the way you act not because you choose to but because said god chose to allow you to by the initial act of creation. It is patently ridiculous to think that we are in some way capable of acting in contravention to the will of something that is truly omnipotent.
If the god hypothesis is true it leaves us with only two possibilities:
1) There is an omnipotent god and we are, all of us, fulfilling his original design every day: If this possibility is true it would mean that all of the horror of history the witch hunts, inquisitions, holy wars, genocides, murders, rapes and various other atrocities were foreseen and are part of the design. If this is the case then how can we possibly take seriously the idea that this creature we call god has any warm feelings at all for us and what makes it worthy of anything but our distain?
2) The god which created the universe is not omnipotent and is subject to errors and mistakes: this possibility addresses the fact that god is apparently so displeased with the make-up of it’s creations, so reproachful of the instincts and drives which it implanted in us to begin with. If this option is truly the case though why is there any reason to believe that worship of it would result in anything of better design or construction than that which is already before us?
So either god is perfect all knowing and coldly indifferent to the trials and tribulations of we lower life forms or it is loving but bumbling and incapable. These are, in my view the only rational possibilities available under the umbrella of the god hypothesis.
Of course there is another possibility. It is possible that we are natural phenomena resulting from a complex and not fully understood process of growth change and development. It is possible we are beholden to no one and nothing for our existence, and that we are limited to a finite period of time before we break down and cease to be. Under this possibility our actions are explained by our upbringing, culture, traditions and education. Our various crimes and cruelties are explained by the fact that we are imperfectly evolved creatures whose adrenal glands are too large and whose frontal lobes are to small. Under this possibility we live in a universe of cause and effect in which we have to make a conscious effort to better our own circumstances and those of the fellow creatures around us or simply watch them both deteriorate. This possibility requires us to act as stewards of ourselves and our world. To take responsibility for the shape of our reality and to put away the notion that it will all work out regardless of us. It requires us to act. If not out of any altruistic motivation then out of simple self-interest. In my view this possibility is the one most likely to result in the kind of radical shift in perception and action that I honestly believe is necessary if we’re to survive as a species. Whether or not the god hypothesis is true is, to me, of less importance as whether or not it is good for us collectively. I think an honest weighing of the pros and cons throughout our history points to the fact that it is not, and yet we cling to this support blanket while it’s influence divides us, distracts us and ultimately imperils all of us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
Please forgive the presumption of my writing to you as a group but there are just a few things I have to get off of my chest. I grow daily more concerned and alarmed with the state of our world and so I’ve decided to address myself to you, my fellow citizens of earth. It is my (likely misguided) hope that perhaps my single voice might generate a thoughtful pause, a calm moment of rational introspection in what appears to me to be a widespread and tumultuous orgy of self destructive, unreasoning, thoughtless chaos.
Right now, as I write this there are religious extremists in the Middle East rioting and killing people because another group of religious extremists here in North America made a video mocking the Muslims’ prophet. In retaliation for this “grave offense” these Muslim faithful have already had days of protests, angry riots, public violence and destruction of property. Here at home debates surge about what constitutes freedom of speech, whether people should be allowed to make this type of movie, and whether or not this movie constitutes a hate crime.
In Nigeria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Israel, and many other places around the world there is violence right now. Violence started, fueled, or at least exacerbated by religion in one form or another. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a great deal of this conflict has roots other than religion, indeed religion and religious sentiment is often used for political and financial purposes but there’s a reason for that, and that reason is: BECAUSE IT WORKS! BECAUSE YOU LET THEM DO IT! The vast majority of you out there believe in a system with no objective basis, a system so open to interpretation and corruption that it can be used to justify anything at all!
I know, I know, a great many of you can’t read, and haven’t had any education whatsoever except in whatever your particular god demands of you. I understand your faith, you have nothing else, and no reason to believe thereis anything else. What about the rest of you? What about those who do have access to knowledge and information, the ones not forced by starvation and ignorance into the glorification of nonsense? What’s your excuse?
There are places in the western (so-called) civilized world right now where text books teach that the Loch Ness monster is real and what’s more that its reality “proves” the falsehood of the theory of evolution. There are educated people in my own part of our benighted globe that believe they have the right to deny basic human rights to a segment of our population because their stated sexual preference is in opposition to the teachings of ancient “holy” books. Important life-saving research in the area of stem cells is consistently blocked by religious groups because the material needed to do the research is judged by them to be life, regardless of the fact that said material is in no way viable as life. Contraception and abortion are anathema because only “god” gets to choose when life occurs or doesn’t. These issues are only the tip of a large and senseless iceberg.
I am an Atheist, but more importantly I’m a Humanist. I can’t prove absolutely that the deity you believe in doesn’t exist but ultimately that is immaterial. I think it’s apparent that your particular deity isn’t going to fix the massive problems of our world so I ask you this: Please, for your own sakes and indeed for all our sakes, put down the old books, get up off your kneelers and prayer mats, and let’s focus on the secular world for a little while. Let’s start acting as though we are one species, not many disparate enclaves composed of “the righteous” and everyone else. There are roughly seven billion of us on this tiny blue dot in the universe. We have capabilities and powers of creation and destruction undreamed of by the ancient prophets , perhaps it’s time to stop worrying about what happens in the “next world” and start concerning ourselves more seriously with this one. Who is really harmed by a movie maker’s opinion? Who is harmed by same sex couples? Who is harmed by allowing a woman to make her own choices about her body? No one!
I beg the following things of you: Please act as though this is the only world you’ve got. Turn your energies toward making it a more peaceful, more united, less divisive place to live. Act as if you yourself are responsible for the betterment of the world; don’t expect supernatural intervention or support. Forget what you think you know about the origins of the world and of life and find out what we can prove is true. Educate yourselves, fight for the education of others. Put the ghosts and spirits of yesterday from your mind and focus on tomorrow. Lets deal with what we know is real and true. I think you’ll find that once we put aside the divisions and prejudices and biases engendered by our various “faiths” we’ll be several steps closer to the paradise promised, but never delivered, by those systems.
Thank you for your attention.
Yours in Reason
In the beginning there was darkness, and the darkness frightened us. We huddled around our fires, looked off into the unknowable night and shuddered with dread at the terrifying cries of…who-knew-what… all around us. We understood nothing and had neither the knowledge or the tools to remedy that lack of understanding. Mankind, for all our faults and lacks however, is a creative animal and so the more enterprising (and dishonest) of this simple tribe laid out a pattern that would dog us for uncountable centuries. They went among their fellow animals and assured them that there was hope. This terrifying and unexplainable world was, they said, controlled and regulated by great and powerful beings. These beings were awesome in their power but not all that different from us ourselves, and, “Aren’t you lucky?” said these intrepid thinkers to their fellow-men “I’ve figured out how to commune with them! All you have to do is listen to me, I will tell you how to live, and even tell you what these forces demand in order to avoid their wrath and assure your prosperity. You’ll never have to be afraid again!” Such was the fear of the others that these declarations were met with frenzied joy and gratitude, an orgy of ecstatic surrender ensued that has lasted right up to today.
Humanity has grown to a point in our development where for the first time we truly have the ability to understand our world, ourselves and our place in the wider universe. The darkness has receded. The lights of exploration, study, and experimentation have brought forth a glorious dawn which could not have been dreamed of by centuries of scholar and philosophers who came before. Yet in many regards we remain the huddled frightened animal cowering in the cave.
We live in an age in which we have unlocked the wonders of DNA, witnessed the swirling perfection of far off galaxies, and discovered the breathtaking evidence of the interconnectivity of all lifeforms from the first primordial algae all the way up to modern mankind.
Yet, in spite of all of this there is still a large percentage of the world’s population who believe the ancient fairy tales devised to explain away the darkness. Still the hucksters draw their crowds promising cures and salvation if only you don’t ask too many questions or think too hard about it. You’re afraid to die? It’s ok, death is better than life because when you die you go to a place of perfect joy, but only if you do as you’re told. If you don’t do exactly as you’re told, or if you’re unlucky enough to live in a place that teaches the wrong things then you’re gonna burn forever. You have urges and feelings that are contrary to The Teachings? Yes, the Maker put those there to test you, be sure you handle them in the proscribed manner or you’ll be punished. That group of The Maker’s children has displeased Him, now go forth in His Holy name and kill every one of them you can find.
Ignorance, fear, shame, and atrocity are the sword and shield of religion. Weapons it wields exceptionally well after long millenia of practice. The time has come however to counter the misinformation, the suppression and the willful ignorance. The time has come to put aside the comforting fictions of superstition and look out into the world as it truly is. There is no magic, no cosmic judge just the majestic precision and beauty of an intricate system of growth and change, and endless system of trial and error that eventually saw us come to light. The shot we have now is the only one we get. Should we waste it on the stories we told ourselves in the night? Or should we embrace the light and take an honest look around?
This blog is dedicated to the principle that the time when mythology and superstition ruled us should be relegated to the past, that religion is harmful to the “soul” of the human animal, and contrary to the goals of human unity and progress.