Ever wonder what an atheist does on a Sunday? It is pretty simple. He is hoping the faithful are being faithful so he can get to the store, ski slopes, golf course, beach, lake, or whatever, and beat the crowds. He is thanking his lucky stars for the faithful.
You probably thought I was going to make fun of the faithful since I am an atheist. Mostly I don’t care. One of the things the faithful get perpetually wrong about atheism is that they assume it is like their belief, just another form of religion. Actually it is just the opposite. We don’t have any beliefs. Oh sure, you can find the anecdotal atheist that is out to convert all the religious to atheism, but think about what you just said. What is it you are converting them to? Religion is mainly made up of a belief in some magical being, with a whole lot of dogma attached via their sacred books. Atheists simply believe there is no magical being and all that magical stuff is nonsense, full stop. That is why atheism school doesn’t exist. You can get the whole ideology off a bottle cap, “There is no god, Live with it”.
There is another thing the religious don’t get about atheists. It is not a need. I will get to Sigmund Freud in a minute, but religion for most fills a need. Needing to believe colors everything you see and hear (think about confirmation bias). The religious think atheists have that same need, to not believe. It doesn’t work like that. Many atheists were raised religious and want to believe. They simply can’t take that step beyond their own perception of reality. Atheism is not faith-based, it based upon a lack of evidence and our inability to suspend our disbelief. It is a totally different way of thinking than those with faith and they simply can’t understand it. As that commerical once said, “Where’s the Beef?”
Some scientists have postulated that there is a religious gene, that religion had a positive effect on the survival of our species, and so the need to believe, to have a social community organized around that belief, helped Homo sapiens survive. I just read an article that people with faith are more likely to partake in risky behavior (like ignoring global warming). All I can tell you about that is I do not have that gene, and most of my fellow atheists, as near as I can tell, do not either. We don’t have a need for you to not believe. When we look at the modern world without the need to believe, without the need to have a mystical and magical all-powerful, all-knowing God managing the world around you defining moral codes, what we see is amazing amounts of energy, not mention death and destruction, spent on ridiculous superstitious beliefs, uniformed by intellect and reality testing.
It is amazing when you talk to a believer. We certainly live in two different universes and talk right past each other. From an atheist point of view, our life view is based upon reality testing. Does that make sense in terms of the known world and are there other more compelling explanations for what the faith-based claim? I guess that is it in a nutshell, faith-based thinking versus reality testing. When you are talking with someone who thinks in a faith-based manner, logic is useless. But for us atheists, it is everything. As Tom Cruise’s character once said, “Show me the money.”
So I thought I would layout in a logical manner some of the things that bother us atheists about religion that prevents us from accepting the magical father in heaven theory. Oh, and don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of things right with religion in terms of a moral philosophy (and a lot wrong, see ISIS or religious freedom laws). But we atheists would tell you that you can arrive at the same moral philosophy (good or bad) without the magical god creature. And without dogma, you are free to change your moral philosophy as your understanding evolves.
I think I would like to start with H.L. Mencken, journalist and writer in the early 20th century. What Mencken did was try to list some of the gods of our antiquity and asked the question: “Where is the graveyard of dead gods?”. In other words throughout our very short history we have had a bunch of gods and they were feared and revered. Feared to the point of tens of thousands of deaths due to sacrifices and wars and yet where are these feared creatures today? “What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile valley? What has become of:” and then he list feared gods from the old testament. I counted over 80 he listed that are now relegated to the trash bin. And his point was simply this: “They were gods of the highest standing and dignity— gods of civilized peoples— worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.”
So we have had a lot of them and so you might be saying, yeah, but now we got the right one. So if you buy that consider Christopher Hitchens and his thought about why the Old/New Testament god (there seems to be two of them) is the right one:
The human species has been in existence as Homo sapiens for (let us not quarrel about the exact total) at least one hundred and fifty thousand years. An instant in evolutionary time, this is nonetheless a vast history when contemplated by primates with brains and imaginations of the dimensions that we can boast. In order to subscribe to monotheistic religion, one must believe that humans were born, struggled, and expired during this time, often dying in childbirth or for want of elementary nurture, and with a life-expectancy of perhaps three decades at most. Add to these factors the turf wars between discrepant groups and tribes, alarming outbreaks of disease, which had no germ theory to explain let alone palliate them, and associated natural disasters and human tragedies. And yet, for all these millennia, heaven watched with indifference and then— and only in the last six thousand years at the very least— decided that it was time to intervene as well as redeem. And heaven would only intervene and redeem in remote areas of the Middle East, thus ensuring that many more generations would expire before the news could begin to spread!
Because they are the chosen people! Not buying it. So why did we even invent gods? Because we needed them to explain a world around us and make sense out of chaos. To give us control. Carl Sagan tells us this: “The gods watch over us and guide our destinies, many human cultures teach; other entities, more malevolent, are responsible for the existence of evil. Both classes of beings, whether considered natural or supernatural, real or imaginary, serve human needs. Even if they’re wholly fanciful, people feel better believing in them.” And you have to ask the question, why are the descriptions of demons and gods culturally centric? Carl gives us this insight:
How is that apparitions of the Virgin Mary are common in the West but rarely occur in places in the East where there isn’t a strong Christian tradition? Why don’t the details of the religious belief cross over the cultural barriers? It is hard to explain unless the details are entirely determined by the local culture and have nothing to do with something that is externally valid.
In other words, there is a ton of stuff that raises the issue of why this is the “real god” and those other gods are the false ones? As I believe Christopher Hitchens once said, most religions deny other religion’s gods so they are only one god’s denial away from becoming an atheist.
Then there is the whole issue of the sacred books being overcome by science, the conflicts in the books, the incestual story telling*, the hypocrisy of an all powerful and merciful god being anything but in reality. The clearest example of this is when we see a tragedy strike and someone thanks god for sparing them. And you as an atheist say, if he was responsible for sparing you, isn’t he responsible for the killing of all those others? And if he is all powerful, why did he let it happen in the first place. Ah, but “God works in mysterious ways” is the faithful’s way of inserting an untestable hypothesis into the debate. Well, we atheists just won’t have it. It makes no sense, or as John Stuart Mill tells us when talking about his Dad’s view of religion:
He found it impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness. His intellect spurned the subtleties by which men attempt to blind themselves to this open contradiction.
But wait you say! What about the miracles? My favorite one comes from David Hume, another of the philosophical thinkers that greatly influenced the thinking of the writers of our Constitution. He first gives a long explanation of what is evidence, especially the eyewitness kind, and what is reliable human testimony (not much as he considers comfirmation bias even back then). He questions the eyewitness testimony of an ignorant people who have a need to believe, He then questions the fact that we never see “miracles” in our times. And finally concludes with the thought that the only miracle he has been able to uncover is the miracle that people believe this stuff in the first place.
Then there are the arguments that without religion, there is no morality. I do laugh at this one. I believe that the immoral acts committed throughout our history has no preference to the religious and the unbelievers. Remember that the Old Testament tells you how to treat your slaves. Just reading this book gives you a whole list of immoral acts done by “god”. See how our view of gays are evolving. As Aemin Havabi, a Muslim who ultimately rejected his faith tells us (Why There is No God): ” … moral standards, as we understand them, are social constructs. They are tied intimately to cultural circumstances and can change over time. Nevertheless, the source of these standards is rooted in sentiments such as sympathy towards our fellow conscious beings and a desire for living in a peaceful and cooperative society.”
I guess all in all for most of us atheists, none of it, religious belief, makes any sense. Why do all religions have an end game where the sheep get slaughtered and the chosen move on to a place most of us do not want to go (*From Hitchens: All religions must, at their core, look forward to the end of this world and to the longed-for moment when all will be revealed and when the sheep will be divided from the goats, or whatever other bucolic Bronze-Age desert analogy might seem apt.”)? ISIS right, up there with evangelical Christians, are waiting for the second coming and redefining when that is going to be. In the meantime all this nonsense uses up resources and lives to worship nonsense and enslave people’s minds.
Like I said at the start, mostly I don’t care, but when faith-based thinking intrudes into our logical world and starts redefining reality, passing laws that would allow religious discrimination, and impacts our ability to use science and data to solve our problems, well then I care. And so should you. Enjoy your Sunday.
Note: Most of the quotes were taken from Hitchens, Christopher (2007-12-10). The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever . Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition, and Navabi, Armin (2014-10-06). Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God (Kindle Locations 420-422). Atheist Republic. Kindle Edition.
*As some Biblical scholars have pointed out, the Gospels were compiled decades after the events, from those who are eager to promote Christianity, edited over time, and the claim of multiple independent attestation are clearly not independent.** Some like to argue that Christianity has lasted 4000 years and is proof this is the real religion. Well that would be Judaism. Christianity as we know it is about 2100 years old and Buddhism is 2500 years old. Hinduism could be far older than that. We know Islam began about 1400 years ago. Then there is the Roman Empire realizing the threat from Christianity, worsening the problem by persecuting them, and finally co-opting the religion to the only true god of the new Christian Roman Empire. And it has been such ever since, a wonderful tool to wield power and enslave people’s minds.
**People who start quoting the Gospels as historical proofs remind me of Dick Chenney. Remember when he leaked a WMD faked proof, then went on the Sunday talk shows to quote the leak and the news media’s printing it as independent confirmation? Not much different. I guess they could be true, but they could also be nonsense and there is just no way to tell. Revelations are not proof to most of us, but faith based nonsense.