Imagine… no religion

Jimenez2People say, like, you know, “Aren’t you sad that 50 superstitious nut-jobs died?” Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me, you know, what if you asked me, “Hey, are you sad that 50 Christians were killed today?” Um, no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society! You know, I think the world is a little safer tonight!…

The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die… because these people are predators! They are abusers! They take advantage of people! And look, as Rationalists, we need to take the stand that it is not our job to sit there and say, “Oh, this is a tragedy” or “Oh, this is something we mourn.” Look, everything tells us these are deluded, wicked people. These are evil people.

… People sometimes will say, “You guys are advocating violence!” We’re not advocating violence! We’re not saying we should go do this! But we’re just saying this: If we lived in a rational nation with a rational government, then the government should be taking them… I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out. If we lived under a truly secular government that loved rationality and loved children, and wanted to protect them, that’s what we’d do.

Hate speech? Certainly. But not mine. The original, which you can find here, is about the Orlando shootings a few weeks ago, and is directed at gay people. I’ve simply replaced gentle ‘Pastor’ Jimenez’s use of ‘sodomite’ and ‘paedophile’, which he disingenuously uses interchangeably, with ‘Christians’ and ‘religious nut-jobs’, and his use of ‘God’ and ‘righteous’ with ‘superstition’ and ‘rational’. Jimenez, emissary of a religion of love (Matthew 5.44 etc), would like to see his government exterminate LGBT people.

But, you know, maybe there’s also a case to be made for eliminating the superstitious and irrational from among us. Those of us who have adopted a rational basis for our lives would be happy to see the end of religion and superstition, the removal from the Earth of the religious and the superstitious (I use the terms interchangeably). After all, what do believers in mumbo-jumbo add to the world that is any way positive? What can those who are unable to engage with reality without the crutch of make-believe possibly have to give? On top of their general uselessness, they’re also dangerous and predatory.

Maybe there is a case to be made. But I’m not making it. Any philosophy, ideology or religion that preaches the extermination of other people is wrong, debased, corrupt (you’d think, wouldn’t you, that we’d have learnt that by now.) If you subscribe to such a view – be it from a Christian, Islamic or Jewish perspective – you are wrong. No-one, whatever magic books may say about them, merits death simply because those magic books say so (ratified, of course, by the dim-witted prejudices of those who subscribe to them). Rationality and a secular perspective, on the other hand, eschew hatred and are philosophically opposed to harming those who might not agree with them. Yes, even the religious.

In this way it is vastly superior to religion – your religion, whatever that happens to be.

The Stuff Christians Say… (part two)

Balaam

Atheists don’t behave as evolution says they should: This ridiculous accusation is often slung at atheists by Christians who seem to see it as some sort of stinging rebuke. Answers In Genesis is very fond of it; the Hamster’s drones and other Christians seem to believe – without ever thinking it through (plus ca change) that because those who acknowledge the veracity of evolution don’t behave according to its principles they are somehow inconsistent in their ‘beliefs’ – hypocritical even. They seriously propose that because natural selection and the survival of the fittest (not one of Darwin’s phrases) are cruel, uncaring processes, then that is how, for the sake of consistency, atheists ought to behave too. We shouldn’t care, they say, when a child develops cancer or someone dies. We shouldn’t attempt to cure illness or work to prevent suffering because these are nature’s way and part of the mechanism of evolution.

While it’s true they are, it’s been a long time since our behaviour, our existence and continued success as a species has been solely determined by what nature does. Humans regularly override its mechanisms, natural selection included; every time we use birth control, show compassion for the weak, heal the sick, develop medicines, engineer genes and preserve life. And so we should.

Christians seem unable to comprehend that evolution is not a pattern to be followed. It is not a set of instructions for living, a prescription or a set of (a)moral guidelines. It is the best explanation, supported by considerable amounts of evidence, of how life developed on the Earth. As such it makes no ethical claims nor does it demand that its principles be blindly followed (that’d be religion). Are Christians truly unable to detect this difference?

Atheists have no reason to be moral: I’ve looked at this ignorant claim before. Of course we have reason to behave morally. We’re human, we live in human society. Morals help us do so while doing the least damage to ourselves and others. They may also enable us to bring some happiness or comfort to those around us. Atheists don’t look to an imaginary God to tell us how to be good; our morals come from our culture, upbringing and education. Christians’ morals do too, whatever else they may claim. They certainly don’t get them from that most immoral of books, the Bible.

 

to be continued…

Do No Harm

sermon2

If religions took ‘do no harm’ to heart (as the Hippocratic Oath does) and their adherents were made to comply with it, what a better place this world would be. There’d be –

No more religiously-motivated suicide bombers and terrorist atrocities;

No more murder in the name of the Lord (whichever);

No more children molested by priests and pastors;

No churches attempting to cover up their crimes;

No more child deaths as a result of ‘faith-healing’;

No religiously-sanctioned denigration and abuse of women;

No more ritualistic mutilation of children’s and young women’s genitals;

No more religious scams and shams;

No more religiously-inspired vitriol directed at gay and transgender people;

No more barbaric executions of ‘minorities’, like gay men, women and those of other faiths.

Of course, even without these, the world would still not be perfect. Awful things would still happen. But the principle of doing no harm would eliminate much of the trauma inflicted on people by the proponents of irrational superstition.

On paper at least, the Abrahamic religions have expectations that are more demanding than simply doing no harm:

Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; Judaism);

Love your enemies; treat others as you would like to be treated’ (Matthew 7.12 and 5.44; Christianity);

…compete with each other in doing good (Surat al-Ma’ida, 48; Islam).

However, these are just too damned hard for so many religionists. They disregard them and opt instead for the spiteful paranoia of the same holy books. Perhaps the simpler injunction of ‘do no harm’ would be easier for them. But until the preachers of judgement and hatred find it in themselves to promote such a principle, we will all continue to suffer the destructive effects of the ‘great’ faiths.

So, how long until the next terrorist attack? The next church child-abuse cover-up? The next rape scandal? The next persecution of gay people?

      Not long at all.

           Praise the Lord (whichever)!

 

The stuff Christians say… (part one)

Jesus-Facepalm

On the day Christians remember the time Jesus allegedly spent being dead and buried (that’s one day, if you’re counting; what happened to the three he promised?) by going shopping or watching sport, let’s take a look at some of the nonsense they spout about atheists:

Atheism/humanism is of Satan: Given there’s no evidence for any supernatural beings, there can be no devil, Satan, Lucifer – or whatever other name Christians come up with for this fantasy figure. (Bizarrely, it’s Jesus who’s called Lucifer in Revelation 5.5) The devil is a creation of the human mind, intended to explain the nasty stuff in life and to let a supposedly good God off the hook. It follows that an imaginary being can’t make human beings be anything. The devil therefore does not make people atheists nor direct them in their ways.

Humanists/atheists set themselves up as God: Every manifestation of the god(s), including those that happen to be popular at present, is of human origin. Like all the others, the Christian God is a product of the human imagination that is made manifest only through human behaviour. So who is it who sets themselves up as God? Those who recognise that this creation of the human mind has no external reality, or those who claim an intimacy with the ‘Supreme Being’, believe his Holy Spirit lives within them and delude themselves into thinking they speak for him? No prizes.

Humanists/atheists worship man as God: Atheists don’t do this either. We are well aware of humans’ fallibility, inconsistency and capacity to bugger things up. However, we’re all we’ve got. There’s no God going to come and save us or solve our problems. We have to do it ourselves (or, as the case may be, not). Nor do atheists regard other people as wicked sinners who have no good in them – a particularly unhealthy viewpoint favoured by the religious – but this hardly constitutes ‘worship’.

Atheists hate God: Only to the same extent we ‘hate’ Santa Claus, Poseidon and Ra. You can’t hate (or rebel) against something that doesn’t exist. We do get very tired though of Christians foisting their views on us, insisting we should believe what they believe. And we get angry when they disparage others and attempt to curtail their freedom because they alone know what Jesus would want. But being angry about Christians’ unreasonableness is not the same as hating something that doesn’t exist.

To be continued

Is It Wise To Be An Atheist?

Tract

Christians say the funniest things… like ‘atheists can’t possibly know that there’s no God.’

This is the argument expressed in a tract,  Is It Wise To Be An Atheist?, that I was given on the street the other day:

A person cannot really be sure there is no God (unless) they have existed for all time and have identified that God isn’t there; they have been everywhere and have seen that God isn’t anywhere and they know everything and therefore know for certain that God is non-existent.

Safe to say, these are not the same impossible criteria Christians apply when determining whether deities other than their own exist. Even Christians know that Allah, Zeus, unicorns and the tooth fairy don’t really exist. But without being immortal, omnipresent and omniscient, they cannot know for sure. By their own criteria, all mythical/supernatural beings have as much chance of existing as their God. Yet Christians do claim, with reasonable certainty, that other Gods and imaginary entities are not real. This is because determining the authenticity of entities is not about absolute certainty but probability and, yes, reasonable certainty.

For reasons I explore on this blog – here, here and here, for example – the likelihood that a god of some sort exists is low. That that god should then turn out to be the one worshipped by Christians today reduces the possibility still further, on the basis that the more conditions one adds to a proposition, the more improbable it becomes.

To put it another way, the probability that there is no god is already high; that there is no God as conceived by Christians is higher still. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude he does not. This is reasonable certainty; the same reasonable certainty Christians apply when dismissing all other gods.

Better luck next time, Christians.

Arguing for God

God3It’s a funny thing, but there aren’t hundreds of sites on the internet arguing for Barrack Obama’s existence. Nor the Eiffel Tower’s. Nor Australia’s. Nor the moon’s, nor the universe’s.

Why not? Because we have an abundance of empirical evidence that all of these things are real. People have experienced them first hand, can observe them and interact directly with them. There is no need to ‘prove’ or argue for their existence.

There are, however, hundreds of sites – plus books and broadcasts – that argue for the existence of God. This is telling. It is, whether those offering such arguments realise it or not, a blatant admission that there is no empirical evidence for him. If there were, there would be no need for argument and ‘proofs’; no need for apologists to resort to persuasion that is ultimately self-refuting to ‘demonstrate’ his existence. No need for apologists. Their problem is, of course, no-one has ever met God nor observed or interacted directly with him. Not in the same way people have met President Obama, seen him on the television, heard him speak or interacted with him in person. No-one has done anything of the kind with God, not even those who claim they have and feel compelled to tell us all about it. Every encounter with the Almighty has taken place in the mind of the individual experiencing it, just as St Paul admitted. God himself has never made an appearance.

So, yes, it’s very telling, this having to argue for God. If there was clear evidence of him there wouldn’t be any need to devise arguments for his existence; he’s not, or shouldn’t be, a philosophical proposition. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, creative being would, by dint of his immanence (presence in this world), be somewhat obvious and there would be incontrovertible evidence of his existence. Christians and other god-botherers say there is such proof, citing Nature, Goldilocks universes, Holy Books and personal experience. But these are far from incontrovertible, being much better explained by other means, none of which involve God. His very superfluousness demands that, through the application of Occam’s razor, he be discarded; not, as apologists would have it, rebranded as ‘transcendent’, a sleight of hand allowing them to proffer unreality as the ultimate reality.

The desperation to convince others there’s a God with an existence outside the human imagination is, then, more than adequate demonstration that there isn’t. Christians and others who want us to believe their God is real, protest much too much and in so doing, demonstrate precisely the opposite.

All in the mind

Disaster

A new minister at the church near where I live has announced his plans to bring ‘God’s love’ to people in the parish. This sounds laudable enough, I suppose – it’s better than delivering God’s condemnation and judgement as many holy rollers are prone to do – but it begs the question why God doesn’t deliver his own love in person. Why is it he feels he can only channel his love through flawed and fallible human beings? Why doesn’t he engage intimately with his creation and let his love be known and felt directly? Why doesn’t he show his love by eradicating cancer, say, or preventing natural disasters, or exterminating the mosquitoes that cause the deaths of up to 2.7 million people every year? Why, in anything that would count as a tangible expression of God’s love for the world, as declared in John 3.16, is there a singular lack of evidence for both his love and his very presence?

‘Ah, but wait!’ say any Christians reading this. ‘God’s love is made manifest through his people, just as the new minister suggests.’ But this is my point; if I only ever expressed my affection for my loved ones through intermediaries – or even strangers, as this minister is to me – or only through a succession of Valentine’s cards, what sort of impression of my love would they have? They would, I think, be unconvinced of it, because love is not just a distant expression of feeling; it’s what we do for others. Love is action.

‘Ah, but wait again!’ say the Christians. ‘What about the second part of John 3.16 that tells us that God showed his love for the world by sending Jesus to die for us?’ You’ll pardon me, won’t you, if I find that a paltry and pathetic expression of love? If I had somehow expressed my love for others millennia ago, no-one at this distance would be impressed by a largely symbolic ‘gift’ proffered only after its original intended recipients declined it (Matthew 22. 8-10).

God didn’t really do this, of course; he didn’t send Jesus, didn’t instruct Paul to extend to all and sundry the offer of salvation that Jesus made only to Jews, didn’t transmit any sort of time-travelling compassion to reach us in the present; doesn’t express his love through other flawed human beings today. How do we know this? Because there is no God to show us love nor to judge or condemn us. Any judgement, condemnation or love is expressed by other human beings, frequently in the name of one god or another but humanly derived even when drawn from a holy book. Gods don’t write books; they’re human creations too.

Everything to do with God, from his very existence and all of his supposed attributes – his aversion to sin, his revelations about himself, his miraculous and mysterious ways, his answers to prayer, his non-answers to prayer, his supposed offer of eternal life, his holy books and his hatred and love – derive from human hopes and fears and our need for explanation. We know this because God’s love and all his other supposed characteristics are made manifest through human agency and in no other way; they have no existence outside the human imagination. So the new minister’s love can’t really be from God. At best, it will be a level of interest and concern for a limited number of people, because that is all that is humanly possible. Even so, it’s more than a God with no direct dealings with his creation can manage. Every expression of who he is, how he thinks and how he behaves is a projection of how human beings think and behave. That is why he is so maddeningly inconsistent across cultures and even within them, depending on which cult (and they’re all cults), denomination or church claims to be representing him. The Christian God is, like all the others, a human creation and all manifestations of him – including his much vaunted love and the relationship believers claim to have with him – are entirely human too.