Archive for June, 2013

An Atheist’s Perspective I: Do I Hate Religion?

June 18, 2013 Leave a comment

I was in an online debate, the kind where I posted an article to my facebook page with my opinion boiled down to one sentence knowing full well that someone was going to disagree with my opinion on the article. The conversation stayed on target for a series of comments, but then like entropy it started moving towards general claims, and then finally ending with the person wondering what it was that made me hate religion so much. I assure you, that the article in question was not about hating religion, but it was about hypocrisy of one particular religion.

What happened was that a Catholic hospital botched an emergency operation which causing a woman to die along with her twins which were still in-utero. The widower was suing the hospital and the Catholic Health System (CHS) for malpractice in the death of the twins. Apparently the mother’s life wasn’t the result of anything wrong (that’s not a shot, I only know from the scant news reports concerning the situation, as far as I know the mother’s loss was fate). The legal defense strategy was to claim that there was no lawsuit to be had because there was no loss of life as fetuses aren’t people. Let me repeat that: a legal team speaking for the Catholic church was claiming that fetuses (not fetii) are not people. My comment was that even one of most sacrosanct principles of the Catholic church, that life begins at conception, was allowed to be transgressed by their representatives when money was involved. The plaintiff in the case was Catholic, and it must have been an awkward conversation to say the least. Since I posted the news item I have since learned that the local Bishop has ordered that defense to be dropped. My original point—that morality transcends the law, and if an organization is going to claim a moral high ground then monetary concerns shouldn’t factor in their adherence to their moral positions, in short, the Bishop made the right call. It’s an important call to make as well as anyone with a criticism of the church (including ex-Catholic Atheists like myself) could easily use that situation as an example of hypocrisy. The people I was arguing with, both Catholics (a second person) didn’t see it from my point of view. It wasn’t evidence of hypocrisy because the church was obeying secular law and not church law, which somehow made it better. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t matter, this post isn’t about that conversation it’s about how it ended.

Mostly, this blog has been about disagreeing with religious claims, whether god exists, and my having yet to see the alleged evidence that such a being exists. While I have no qualms about attacking religion, the difference between being critical and hating is a find distinction. For instance I can disagree with a government program and attack it, without hating the government. The question that remains though is, do I hate religion?

The answer is a resoundingly qualified yes. There could be a religion out there which teaches compassion, empathy, and humanity without all of the prejudicial bias, the tribalism, the need to convert others, and most importantly that this world is much more important than a dry run or dress rehearsal for the real existence. I suppose then I could like that religion, but since most of them punish inquiry and skepticism of doxastic thinking I would rather drown in the sea than get on board. If there was a religion that taught morality without the supernatural fairy tales whose only purpose is to awe the followers I could get along with that, but there isn’t. Religion seems to trade in unverifiable supernatural breaking of the natural order, yet its plainly obvious that these are added in post hoc. We don’t hear anything of Lazarus after he was raised from the dead, which just shows us that it never happened.

I hate religions because they all seem to necessitate a separation of the sexes and hierarchical ranking of one sex over the other. I say “seem” because while they all do this, there is no reason for it outside their own precepts. Is there a religion that doesn’t at least separate the sexes, I can’t think of one. I hate that the largest religion in the world was written by a guy who thought that women needed to be silent in church (1 Cor 14: 34-35) and cover their heads. That they need to be submissive. When Scientology has a better track record on gender equality you know that something is wrong.

I hate religions that stunt progress because they have already found the “truth”—this means, all of them. There is no reason to continue any kind of reasonable investigation if everything that can be found is already found in some ancient book. Anything that is regarded as perfect can only be emulated never surpassed, which is why we use the word “perfect.” Science, philosophy makes no such claims, and it is there that the future of humans lies.

I hate religions because it decides that we are all somehow wrong or incomplete at birth. That our very existence is the result of some imperfection, who could look at a newborn baby sleeping and think to themselves, “no this creature needs to purified lest its impurity taint its soul.” That baby’s crime? Being born. This simply will not do.

I hate religions that rely not on arguments or proofs for their claims but on supernatural fairy tales indistinguishable from all of the other tales that I was told as a child but unlike the tooth fairy, I was told that these type of creatures were real. Why? Because its easier to explain to a child that he ought to listen through fear of an immaterial angel whose eye does not blink. It’s easier to explain that one ought to listen because some character once had a trumpet that could knock down walls, that angels dictated the holy book, that golden tablets were found in the backyard, etc. I reject these stories as being anything other than a work of fiction until someone can give me an argument. I don’t need or want ghosts, talking snakes, or burning bushes. I want proofs and arguments, not the commands of spirits.

I hate that this world, the only one that we know we have, is looked on with disdain and that this life is better served in misery and meekness to await a reward that no one can really describe or prove that we are going to get. This is the real deception, it compels us to live a life of waiting for the real good which is only based on a hope. This is like setting the alarm for 8am knowing that you can hit the alarm for 8:20. Why do anything at 8 when you know you have a backup plan?

These are the reasons that I hate religion. For what it is and what it does. I hate the lies, the fairy tales, the alleged morality. We can have the morals without the other crap that cripples us in both thought and action, punishing both. Other than that I have no problem with it.

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The Atheist Explanations: Unquestionable View Points

June 11, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the things that we Atheists get accused of; aside from eating babies of course, is sanctifying science. Part of this is easy to understand given that the history of organized religion has been opposed to scientific progress where it contradicts the religious explanations of the natural world. In the scientific disciplines we generally don’t see this, it’s not like there were a bunch of Newtonian fans trying to get Einstein and his supporters imprisoned or executed because of a new explanation of gravity. So the people threatened by the mere existence of those who will not accept a book on faith alone seem to want to comfort themselves with the accusation that Atheists have a god, it’s just a secular god called science. This is apparently viewed as a good counter to an argument that wasn’t being made in the first place. This offers a counter which makes religion bad but fails to disassociate any belief in god with religion. In other words the argument admits that such belief is wrong, that Atheists have that belief as well, so they are just as bad as the theists. It seems like the wrong way to go about shooting yourself in the foot but I’m not the one making that particular argument.

I’ve discussed why it is foolish to call Atheism a religion before, but that’s not the idea I am discussing now. This is the idea that for Atheists the god is science, which is a funny claim to begin with since it would be like saying that a Christian’s god is Christianity or that my favorite color is art. The reason that this argument gains any traction at all is because the mentality of the established religions all rely on a central conflict. I’m not focusing merely on the fringe religions of end time eschatology, or cults that preach oppression either; I’m talking about the mainstream accepted religions. The narrative of their religions always has a central conflict, it’s not just salvation, it’s salvation in spite of our natures, or its enlightenment in spite of our natures, or its obedience in spite of our natures, etc. The increasing numbers of people in the United States that claim adherence to no religion must be blamed on something other than a weakness of doctrine or perhaps the growing realization that organized religion is no longer needed that we can think for ourselves. So the religious dream up a boogey man and call it science.

It has to be the evil science, with its ever expanding need to explain the universe, and that every religion has the same basic format with only the particulars changed, similar styles with different techniques, or that as civilization moves forward the need for the old tribalisms disappears—no it can’t be any of that, it has to be the Atheists and their sciences that are making the world secular. A secret cabal challenging the old order that only the faithful and their religiously supported institutions can fight against (and again, if I’m wrong and there is that secret Cabal, I’m currently an unemployed student…just saying). This isn’t a new charge either, the old religious orthodoxy has opposed any social or scientific change that they have supported throughout history in the U.S. it has opposed Suffrage, abolitionism, civil rights, and now we see it planting its flag on the losing side of gay marriage as well. All of these movements were seen as a personal affront to orthodoxy by feminists, radicals, communists, socialists, and atheists who were all apparently in league with each other. It must be that and not that these movements were the right thing to do. We can see this in the US with the ridiculous notion that we ought to be teaching thinly veiled Christianity in the class room rather than the established scientific theory of Evolution, because Evolution isn’t supported by facts, evidence, and experiments; it’s just a plot to get Jesus out of the classroom. It’s not that Atheism is winning in these arguments, it’s that Rationalism is winning. Rationalism knows no allegiance to organizations or persons. You don’t have to give up anything except superstition. There is no head, no organization, no appointed figure to give orders. The idea that anyone has sanctified the thing known as science is being ridiculous.

The idea that science-itself is sacrosanct is wrong, it is the method which is unquestionable. Forming an idea, testing the idea, and then if the test confirms the idea keeping with it; but if the idea is counter to the results of the test, this is the important part, rejecting the idea; that is the part which is more important than anything else. It’s not that the findings of science are considered holy, it’s that the method by which those ideas are accepted is.

What gets lost is that any intelligent, reasonable, atheist is making two distinct arguments. The first is that there is insufficient evidence to justify the claim, “there exists a god(s).” If the evidence did turn up, I would admit the existence of such a being. Anyone who denies this claim is a fool. The second argument is that religion is man-made fiction. The two are separate but important claims. Arguing that Atheism is a religion or that Science is a religion; is merely admitting the second claim as being true, while still being wrong that either Atheism or Science is a religion. The problem with claiming the religiosity of either science or Atheism is that it does nothing to produce the evidence that some kind of god exists. In fact you would need the scientific method in order to show me any kind of evidence for the divine in the first place.

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Being an Atheist XX: Hell? No.

June 4, 2013 Leave a comment

The concept of eternal punishment weighs heavy on the minds of Atheists, not because we are consciously afraid of punishment, but because so many of the devoutly religious think that their god is going to send us (and every other person who does not subscribe to their particular brand of religion) to a place of eternal and infinite torment. Including all but the select few of the history of homo sapiens is just further evidence that everyone is an atheist, just some are (to borrow from George Orwell) more atheist than others. That’s why Christians who take the “salvation through Jesus only” method of religion think Hindus are going to hell for being Hindus and not Christians, why fundamentalist Muslims think Christians are going to hell, and on and on. Everyone is going to eternal torture for the simple crime of not being exactly right. What gets lost in this usual argument against Atheism, is that when I am told by a Christian of the Westboro Baptist variety or by the Vatican after clearing up a comment the Pope made, for not worshipping at all is that the remainder of the planet also comes with me. I’ll be in good company as Mormons, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, the Amish, and every other sect of Christianity gets a special psychological torture for ending up in the same place as the unbeliever they screamed at in an online debate. Even Pantheists who believe that all gods are the same, and the Pan-religious types will come with me because of the worshipping false gods and idolatry that Westboro also complains about. Really, if you are a religious person who thinks belief is necessary to go to heaven you are damning a great number of people to hell.

Worry not, for I bring good news. The principles of Justice and morality necessitate that this is not a hell-worthy crime…unless the god you speak of is actually a cruel tyrant who enjoys the sadistic torture of souls, well we’re all boned then. This god character would have to be the most sadistic of despots to not only create a place called hell but also to send people there for eternity.

In the old religions, the place of the dead was simply that: a place where the dead souls went to upon death. Even the word “hell” is derived from the Norse “hel” where the dead went, it wasn’t a place of suffering it was just a place. Now it was guarded by fierce creatures, but that was only to keep the dead from escaping. Think of Homer’s Odyssey, there are just souls there hanging out. Socrates points this out in the Apology, it’s where people go. It wasn’t punishment or reward, it was just a place. Achilles mentions, again in the Odyssey, that its boring—that glory and honor mean nothing. Everyone stands around milling about. Typically, the ancient religions were like this, the dead souls just stayed in one place, good or bad it didn’t really matter. To earn punishment or reward one had to do something that was really extraordinary. Sisyphus had to trick the gods out of dying in order to be cursed to rolling a rock for eternity, although generally the one crime the Greek gods would not abide was hubris. The Ancient gods were spiteful and cruel, they twisted and cursed humans for sacrificing the wrong type of goat, indeed Sisyphus’s punishment is for punishment’s sake. Even if he learns his lesson it won’t matter the gods are never going to relent on his punishment. Those, however were the old gods.

The new gods, however, don’t seem to be that much different than they. I thought different, but any person who thinks that another deserves eternal punishment is actually making the claim that violence for the sake of violence is a moral and just thing since violence for violence’s sake is the only purpose that hell serves. We punish people on Earth, in the United States, for the accomplishment of a variety of things concurrently. THe first is to isolate criminals from society (I’m not going to get into an argument about why certain things are legal crimes, that’s not in the scope of this post). We keep the dangerous from their potential victims. This, of course could be accomplished in the afterlife with a mere sequester and does not need lakes of fire to accomplish this. The second is to coax reform. The idea is that jail is so bad that once out, the criminal will avoid prison and reform their ways. Whether this occurs or not is immaterial, the point is that eternal hell cannot reform a soul since there is no way out. Hell cannot be about reform if the incarcerated will never be released. The third reason is that of deterrence. Deterrence is the idea that the punishment of imprisonment will seem so bad that a person will refrain from committing a crime. Hell, it is said is the same way, the tortures and sadism is about making sure that we don’t act immorally. This is a tricky concept, but deterrence doesn’t make someone moral it only makes them not act. In other words, they still desire to commit sins against god they just don’t because they are afraid of suffering. This is how tyrants rule their countries, and as we apply the judgment of immorality to those who lock up their citizens on their whim as being immoral surely we cannot consider god to be the same. An eternal jail would then make sense, but any kind of torture or violence would be superfluous. This is however, still a plausible reason for hell to exist it just says more about the creator of such a place than the people that get sent there. The fourth is vengeance.

Using the vengeance claim is tricky because it depends on your religion. If your religion claims that it is the religion of peace (Islam) or the religion of forgiveness/love (Christianity) than it makes no sense to have hell. Hell is full of violence so that eliminates the peace portion, and there is nothing about love or forgiveness if your deity is sending people to everlasting torture. You can’t tell me that your god is all about love and understanding, then tell me that same god is going to send me and everyone else who ever lived and is going to live to a place of eternal torment because we did not believe correctly.

Unbelief and/or incorrect belief doesn’t seem to warrant eternal suffering. I’ve been given the light of reason which led me to doubt and then to unbelief, now I’m going to get punished for using that reason? Perhaps I get sent to Limbo, that place Dante described where Homer, Virgil, and Aristotle got to hang out in the afterlife. They suffered only by being secluded from actual paradise; although if you do put me in that room it’s like I’m being rewarded so I’ll be happy there for eternity. I would be further following the advice of Machiavelli, go to heaven for salvation but go to hell for the company.

If torture is morally wrong, then a place like hell is morally wrong as well. And the moral responsibility is to the maker of that place. All hell does is add to the suffering and misery of the world. It creates a place where the souls of the dead are eternally tortured to no purpose, other than vengeance. As prohibition, it may work but it needn’t actually exist just the threat of it would be enough. Perhaps someone more versed in this can justify it to me without invoking Godwin’s law. Even then I cannot see that the worst of the worst ought to be eternally tortured for the sheer sake of doing it.

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