“Your brain is surprisingly reluctant to change its mind. Rather than going through the difficulties involved in rearranging itself to reflect the truth, it often prefers to fool you. So it distorts. It forgets. It projects. It lies.”
If you think prayer can cure cancer, why didn’t prayer prevent it? Did the tumors start growing the day you forgot to pray you wouldn’t get cancer? I just don’t understand the premise, nor the false comfort it seems to brings to those who accept it.
The first comments came from likeminded people who had a propensity for snark. But then came the inevitable _friend_ who found the post and comments questionable. He wrote:
A question for all of you. What is it that so many Atheists get out of ridiculing religion and people of faith? I couldn’t care less about what other people believe or don’t, spiritually – but I don’t understand your apparent need to feel intellectually or morally superior to other people. To be so convinced you are right about the absolute non-existence of God, or some superior intelligence seems supremely arrogant to me. And the faith you have in your beliefs seems strangely religious and even fundamentalist.
That’s a question I see often, especially by religious people are offended by some of the things Atheists say. I’ve also found that even the term Freethinker is offensive to some of my Christian friends, even though it’s not meant to be.
In theory, a Christian could be a Freethinker if they lived open-mindedly and determined that Christianity made the most sense to them and represented the best truth – at lease at that moment. Of course, I say in theory, because the true nature of Christianity and other religions is ultimately tyranny of the mind.
But I digress.
Two people replied to the question, and I thought their responses were so good, that I’d share them here.
There is no evidence for the existence of beings we call gods. you wouldn’t say it’s supremely arrogant to not believe in the existence of unicorns an fairies, would you? You don’t _believe_ 2+2=4, but if someone insisted to em it was 3, yeah, I suppose I might come off as a bit fundamentalist about it.
A large portion of the world believes that a fucking fairy tale is literally real. Each major religion (and individual exclusive sects within) are bent on making the world in their image, at times with violence and force. So you can imagine how we atheists would get pretty sick of such idiocy being paraded around as truth.
At least our “weapons” are words, humor and snark. Despite the term “militant atheist” being thrown around, atheists don’t advocate for violence against believers. They have every right to believe as they will, and we have every right to point out to them how stupid it is because having a right doesn’t free a person from consequence.
It’s frustration at all the energies and passion going into something completely unreal. It’s that religion blocks progress. It’s that American religious communities have become overtly political. It’s that we atheists cannot expect salvation so we rely on continuity instead. That continuity is threatened by American religiosity, especially in relation to serious issues like climate change, gun control, and providing health care to the needy. It’s that Americans’ sense of religiosity has been twisted by marketers and politicians into something that is not religion at all.
So let me ask you, why do so many in America hold onto cultures that bear little to no resemblance to the religions that sparked them in the first place?
It thought both responses were spot on, and they represent why many atheists don’t hold back when they observe what they perceive as the absurd.
My parents taught me that I was God’s creation and that I was loved unconditionally by Him. They told me that the Bible was God’s Word and that it was perfect (something the Bible conveniently states about itself). They made it clear that all things good come from God, that Christianity was the source of all morality and that everything good in this world comes from it. I later learned that was all bullshit.
My parents never told me the full story.
In the first few years of my deconversion from Christianity – something that didn’t happen until my early thirties and took about six years – I had the feeling that I had been lied to. Lied to by my parents. Lied to by the church. Basically lied to by all of the people I trusted most.
Why hadn’t anyone told me about the full history of the Bible? Like how exaggerated orally transferred stories had made their way onto paper and were altered countless times. How this religion was historically used for political purposes to unite people under a single god and belief system. How Christianity is a fairly new religion, borrowing and stealing from the traditions of other mystical belief systems that came before it.
As far as I knew, Christianity had been around for a long time, everything else was a false religion, and that’s all I needed to know.
If you tell a lie, but don’t know it’s a lie, is it still a lie?
Coming to the realization that I was just another victim of generational ignorance — not a vast conspiracy perpetrated by those I loved the most — greatly improved my feelings about being lied to. Without the intention of lying, I didn’t feel lied to. Instead, I felt misinformed by those who had also been misinformed.
My parents never got the full story. Their parents never got the full story. I realized nobody ever gets the full story.
I can’t haz Enlightenment
Obvious examples of misinformation include news sources like MSNBC, Fox News or the bat shit crazy Glenn Beck. Less obvious examples include any source I implicitly trust. In the same way I implicitly trusted my parents and the church, I must accept that whatever enlightenment I think I have now is ultimately still an illusion.
For example, Sam Harris’ general philosophies resonate with me today, but it’s doubtful he communicates the full story through his writings. He most certainly leaves out details that he thinks are insignificant to the arguments he’s making. He also has probably never been a true believer of any religion like I have, and therefore lacks the ability of knowing what it’s like to feel the presence of God.
Sam Harris is incapable of telling the full story, just as I am incapable of perceiving and comprehending it. It’s part of the human condition.
A Fullish Life
No matter how much I read and learn, I will most certainly die not knowing the full story. The best I can do is to continue to seek out truth, as best as I can comprehend it.
If I can do anything with this knowledge of my chronic lack of knowing, it’s to be more patient with those I don’t agree with, and to try to be less of a dick.
“Religion is based primarily upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly as the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.”
When most people think of the New Atheists they think of Hitchens and quasi-militants. However, the title New Atheists belongs to a different group of people. Richard Haynes of Atheist Nexus wrote an amazing post on who that group is, and provided seven clarifications of these newer atheists – all of which I identify with.
Atheism is not a religion.
Newer atheists are not militant.
Newer atheists are not ignorant of history, nor are they doomed to repeat it.
People do not become atheists because of traumatic experiences with church.
The decision to become an atheist is proceeded by great fear and emotional heartache.
Many “newer atheists” long for the sense of community they felt in church.
Newer atheists are open-minded and desire honest discussion with believers.
Some of the simplest and shortest sayings that people use in U.S. culture are actually overly complicated and philosophically wrong. They’re used to comfort those who are anxious or emotionally stressed, much like the religious institutions they are connected to.
Take for example the saying, “everything happens for a reason.” It’s something that people tell others to imply that God has a hand in certain (or all) events, and it’s okay, because the circumstances must be connected to something bigger than them – a master plan.
As a freethinker – one who espouses logic, reason and science – a more correct saying would be:
“everything happensfor a reason“
While coincidences occur in practically everyone’s life, in most (if not all) cases the things that affect us are a response to stimulus from an incomprehensible system. There is no plan as the superstitious would have us believe. Everything just happens, period. We must deal with it, whatever it may be, if we can.
There’s another saying that’s become popular near where I live, and that’s, “it’s gonna be ok.” Or better known as IGBOK. The “ok” part means it will be okay after death, when you’re in Heaven, blah, blah, blah. Not exactly helpful for the here and now, unless of course you long for death and can’t wait to live in your fictitious resting place for eternity.
At the root of these sayings is a desire to provide comfort to another person (which is obviously not a bad thing in and of itself). However, in the same way that all religions are used as a coping mechanism for our limited and sometimes miserable existence, all these sayings really do – philosophically speaking – is provide false hope.
I realized – I doubt for the first time – that ignorance is not just one thing. There are different types of ignorance. Different reasons and circumstances for why people experience ignorance.
Incapable of knowing ignorance
Some people are ignorant, because their life circumstance doesn’t permit them to know. They could live in another country and be ignorant of a cultural folkway – one that’s never been discussed on the Internet or in any book. Or they could be mentally incapable of understanding something.
Choose not to know ignorance
This is the “ignorance is bliss” type of ignorance. This can be conscious or unconscious denials of facts. A mother who refuses to accept that her son is gay or a Christian who refuses to follow a logical thought pattern for fear of finding an answer that is inconsistent with their beliefs.
Influenced to not know ignorance
Then there are people who are suffocated by those around them. A religious family that shuns any education that isn’t inspired by their own canon and rituals, forcefully and intentionally keeping their children from experiencing a world view that would deviate from their own family traditions.
Not knowing how to know ignorance
There are those who lack the tools and skills to research, learn and build upon their knowledge. Even if they wanted to know more, they wouldn’t know where to begin.
Then there are those who refuse to live mindfully, and allow their impulses to drive their behaviors and are unable to take the time to experience empathy or understand the world around them. They experience the worst kind of ignorance. The kind that makes everyone’s lives a living hell.
“If God exists, and if believing in God is perfectly rational, then why does increasing rational thinking tend to decrease belief in God?”
Why indeed? Rationalization may not be the right word for it, because rationalization is exactly what keeps people entrenched in their religious beliefs. However, analyzing is definitely an appropriate word. It is logic that dispels the illogical when void of rationalization.
And one day, I finally caved to my doubts and actually considered a question that had been hanging around at the edge of my consciousness for years. It’s accepted among most Christians that humans are the only human beings to have souls. Dogs, cats, horses, goldfish – nothing. Chimps, nothing. We assume the Australopithecines had no soul. So what about Homo habilis? Or Homo erectus? No. So when had the soul appeared? Which individual was the first Homo sapiens and had the first soul? Of course, I knew that was a ridiculous question. But it had to be asked, because if there was no soul, there could be no afterlife. No heaven, or hell. And if there was no afterlife, there was no god, and it was all an invention of people who were afraid of death, and so convinced themselves that they would live forever.
The Being Human blog just rewrote a secular sermon that was written in late 2009. The message is a reminder of the true context of the Bible – a collection of contemporary literature. I love the juxtaposition of the Bible with other religious texts, and how the acceptance of a work’s mysticism is directly related to an individual’s choice of religious exclusivity.
Most Christians do reject most of the holy books of other religion as a bunch of ancient fairy tales. One could ask for a good reason why would do one treat the holy book of one religion differently?
The simple answer is that accepting just a certain religion can make one think that the old book of that religion is something special. Still, the very same people so very often end up thinking that the holy books of any other religions are just work of humans.