Posts Tagged ‘Religion’
Many people of faith make the claim that atheism is a religion. Ask any atheist if this is true and the answer will be a resounding no. For the longest time I thought the comparison was absurd, as evidenced by my repeated quote: “Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Alas, I am cursed with a tendency to think about things, especially a tendency to think about things from different perspectives, and as a result, I have concluded that the “atheism is a religion” argument is not entirely without merit. Here then, in no particular order, are some reasons why. (Note that I am not claiming that atheism and religion are identical, just that the theistic argument has some merit.)
The fact that atheists generally get annoyed to angry at the comparison is the first indication. Even worse, most of them don’t even want to discuss the issue, and dismiss it out of hand with truisms like my quote in the preceding paragraph. Um, getting angry at an accusation and responding to it irrationally and emotionally is a hallmark of religion, not a neutral secular belief. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.
Moving right along, atheists have formed organizations to both defend and promote their beliefs. Granted lots of different organizations do such, but the beliefs of atheists tend to revolve around religion to a large degree. They have meetings, they form groups, they often tend to associate with other atheists. And a lot of them have issues with people who aren’t atheists. Frankly I’ve had atheist trolls berate me for not being atheist enough. Again, I certainly see common ground here between atheism and religion.
Then there’s the definition. If there were no religious people, there would be no atheists. Granted some will say that everyone would be an atheist then. Still, the word atheist wouldn’t exist, and there would be no people that called themselves atheists. It’s certainly safe to say that atheism as we know it wouldn’t exist without religion. That to me indicates, again, that atheism has some things in common with religion.
It should also be pointed out that atheists are not above using false, malicious, or misleading arguments in their attacks on religion. Granted this is human nature, hell, I sometimes I think there must be a straw man argument gene, right next to the slippery slope argument gene, they seems so hard wired into some people. It’s hard for me not to notice when both sides of a debate are stooping to irrational lows. And boy, want to make an atheist mad, point this out when they post such on Facebook.
Speaking of anger and emotional responses, there is one final point in this argument that isn’t debatable. If one asks atheists, American atheists at least, which is the “worst” religion, the vast overwhelming majority of them will answer that it is Islam. Let’s think about that. Atheists in a Christian country, a religion that demonizes Islam and has been waging war on it more or less continuously since the seventh century … mostly agree that Islam is the worst religion. Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion, and both have a history drenched in blood, it’s impossible for me to not notice the similarity between Islam hating Christians and Islam hating atheists.
I am saying is that American atheists have internalized some core Christian values and thought forms, and not the pretty ones. It makes it hard for me to understand how they can claim they are in no way religious. If one share’s a religion’s prejudices, there is common ground. Granted, I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak for them. The only point I am trying to make in all this is that the religious contention that “atheism is a religion” is at least debatable. From some perspectives, there are a lot of similarities between atheism and religion. Whether atheists like it or not.
PS. After I published this I discovered I had written a previous post on “Is atheism a religion?” I knew this would happen sooner or later. :)
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s all over Facebook so I have no clue who the author is. Granted it’s not exactly germane to the topic, but close enough. It’s also funny, since it’s true. The American Christians agitating for prayer in school aren’t doing so out of some concern for freedom of religion, they are doing so because they want to promote Christianity among America’s youth. They are also off the mark since the Supreme Court not only didn’t prohibit prayer in school, they specifically said they weren’t prohibiting prayer in school. They prohibited organized religious services in school, big difference.)
What I have really been struggling with the past few weeks is the concept that there are tens of millions of Americans who actually believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and the events described in the Old Testament really happened. Granted, maybe I’m a bit old to be grasping this, but until recently I have more or less fooled myself into believing that only a few of these people actually believed, and that most of them were more or less conforming for the sake of fitting in. I grew up in a religious household, don’t get me wrong, but it was a liberal modern denomination, Episcopalian to be exact. We said grace before dinner, we went to church sometimes, Sunday School on occasion … but no one ever expressed the idea that the events in the Old Testament were literally true. Heck, I remember drawing dinosaurs as part of a Sunday School lesson, liberal Christians have no problem with science and its understanding of the Earth and the Universe.
Tens of millions of Americans apparently do have a problem with the scientific view of the Earth and the Universe, and instead believe that a supernatural being created it all a few thousand years ago. This is the logical equivalent of believing that the Earth is flat. These people aren’t mentally ill, they for the most part had at least some scientific education in the school system, and for all practical purposes are functioning members of society. Granted I haven’t met too many of them, but the ones I have met seemed like nice normal folks to me.
And even more interesting, most of the people who don’t believe aren’t all too upset by it. Imagine if tomorrow morning 50 million Americans woke up and insisted that a nine foot tall invisible rabbit was following them around. Most people would be pretty shocked, and would think there was something wrong with these people. Especially if they insisted that this rabbit had impregnated a virgin, who grew up, was killed, and was then brought back from the dead by the very same rabbit. These people would be rounded up and locked away for their own good.
Instead, they are increasingly running the show. Now maybe the people at the top are simply using the Christ myth to manipulate people, but that is still disturbing on so many levels. I guess people encouraging people to believe in nonsense is part and parcel of human culture, but it’s still an ugly sight. Especially when all of those who are so deceived don’t have much trouble recognizing that other people’s religious beliefs are absurdities. It’s depressing and I’m depressed about it. How much future can the human race have when its individual members are easily persuaded to believe in dogshit nonsense? And the idea that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Earth is only a few thousand yeas old, or there was a global flood (for starters,) … are dogshit nonsense. Turtles, turtles all the way down makes as much sense.
It kinda throws a monkey wrench in the idea of intelligent design too. What kind of God would design people who can easily be persuaded to believe in crap? Which leads me to think that if there is a God, a great designer who set this all in motion with the Big Bang, he must be a little disappointed with these folks. By not appreciating the amazing universe that God created, a universe where the act of creation never ended, and new stars, galaxies, and forms of life are created continuously … aren’t the Evangelists the ones who are denying God? By their own logic, by worshipping a Bronze Age myth put to parchment, aren’t they the ones worshipping a golden calf? The Bible is no more the word of God than a Spiderman comic. Claiming that it was divinely inspired is no different than claiming Stan Lee was divinely inspired. Heck, I could claim God inspired me to write this blog.
On the other hand, this is giving me at least some insight into how people believe other silly things. That however is a topic for another blog post. Have a great week everyone, it’s good to be back.
(The above image came from a site offering free religious imagery. It’s Jesus rising into heaven. Well, white Jesus. Another mythical being. If there was a real Jesus, he wasn’t what most people would call white. And he no doubt suffered from an early case of Jerusalem Syndrome.)
Image brought to Doug’s Darkworld inspired by the Oklahoma Senate, which just passed a bill claiming that a fertilized egg is a human being. We live in an interesting age, but when one tries to enforce a bronze age morality on a 21st century nation, the going really gets weird. Bottom line: It’s OK for people to have sex for reasons other than procreation. Really, try it some time, you’ll be surprised. As soon as we get that settled, the sooner we can go about sensible ways of making sure that every child is a wanted child, but sadly the evangelicals are never going to give up on sex. It’s how cults control people. It would be like a government giving up taxation, aint gonna happen.
Whitney Houston died. Whitney who? This story got vastly more press than it deserved, but that’s the corporate fawning media at work, real news get short shrift, dead celebrities get top billing. Yes, the mainstream media is now little different that the celebrity magazines by the checkout counter at Safeway. The state of New Jersey is even going to fly its flags at half mast for Whitney, so yes, it can always get weirder. Some aren’t exactly thrilled by this, who can blame them?
The UN has condemned the Syrian government and asked them to step down. Yes, an organization touted as being a way for states to avoid conflict with each other is now simply the enforcer of western hegemony, the US and its allies get to decide what a legitimate government is. The usual burblings about it being about human rights, like the bloody sores that are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were. Only tyranny and discord can be imposed on a country from outside, freedom can only be had when a people chose to be free … which of course is what the west is so freaking terrified about in the Middle East. They aren’t afraid of terrorism, that’s to distract the rubes. The real fear is powerful sovereign governments running their countries in their own best interests. Can’t have that, it makes it almost impossible to exploit them for their resources.
Speaking of fake scary again, Iran made its heralded nuclear announcement. Which got zero news coverage because they announced that they had installed their first domestically produced fuel rod in a reactor, and that they had made a breakthrough in medical radioisotopes. All under constant western supervision of course, since Iran’s peaceful nuclear program is carefully monitored as per its obligations under the NPT. Iran being a peaceful responsible player isn’t part of the crazy mullahs meme, so I doubt anyone even saw this in the news. No, just the stories about purported amateur Iranian plots to kill Israeli diplomats, stories so fishy one has to hold their nose while reading them.
Greece. What a mess. My current understanding is that the crux of the whole Euro thing, is that everyone borrowed beyond their means on the assumption that the world and national economies would continue to grow forever and outpace the debt. Yes, basically every nation in the west acted like a crack head with a credit card, and now the bills are coming due. All in collusion with the bankers of course. If people really understood that, capitols would burn. So instead a fall guy has been found, Greece. If the bankers can just get the population of one county to agree to be serfs to pay off the bankers debt, maybe others will follow. I don’t think it’s gonna work, people may be sheep, but they are going to notice if serfdom is brought back.
One would hope so at least. Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s all over the Internet, I have no idea who to attribute it to. Redefining reality to promote social control, that’s religion in a nutshell.)
Part of the reason my blogging has slowed down recently is that so much of what is going on today makes me mad. So I decided to vent about it, maybe it will be cathartic, maybe it will just make me madder. In no particular order, and in no way comprehensive, here are ten things I spend my time seething about. Be warned, I may use some harsh language as the situation warrants.
1. The rich are ass raping us all, and tens of millions of Americans are clamouring for more. The rich have been getting richer in the USA since the 1970s, while the middle class has slowly and steadily lost ground. This is not debatable. They’ve moved our factories to foreign lands, slashed their taxes, taken over our government and mainstream media, and stolen trillions from the public till. And most Americans are so brain-washed and propagandized that they blame immigrants, liberals, conservatives, atheists, shriners, whatever. Anyone but the people who have actually gotten us into this mess.
2. The debt, an extension of number one. The Federal government has been running in the red a record breaking 33 months now. State and local governments are no better. How in the name of God did the richest country the world has ever seen run up debts so insane that there is no conceivable way to ever pay them off? The infinite greed of the rich and the apparently infinite stupidity of the great unwashed masses is my guess.
3. The Pentagon. There was a reason the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to a standing army. Armies get involved in politics, and then get the country involved in wars. All of which costs the country blood and money. And it just keeps getting worse, while tens of millions of Americans regurgitate the crap that our legions overseas are fighting to “defend our freedoms.” No, they are fighting and dying to make the rich richer and create endless new enemies for the USA. Frankly the US army needs to be disbanded it’s so out of control.
4. The historic last flight of the space shuttle. Good riddance. The space shuttle was one of the biggest boondoggles in history, it should never have been built in the first place, and it most certainly should have been canned after the first one blew up. Yet Americans are celebrating the lives lost and the billions wasted on this flying cash cow.
5. Iran is going to have nukes soon! Yes, another right wing think tank claims that Iran is going to be building nukes soon! Yes, the exact same claim that has been made by Israeli and American war mongers since the 1980s! Yes, for nearly thirty years Iran has been “just about to” build nuclear weapons! Meanwhile Israel and the USA have massively increased their war spending, including the creation of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. The USA spends more money on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the entire Iranian military budget, yet we are supposed to quail in our boots because Iran might someday acquire a few fifties era nukes?
6. Casey Anderson. A woman was acquitted of a terrible crime in a fair trial … and millions of Americans are braying for her blood. Literally. How does this make them any different than stone throwing Muslims? It doesn’t.
7. Health Care. France spends 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with cradle to grave health care of the highest quality. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the industrialized world. Anyone who isn’t mad about this is a fool.
8. Fucking the globe. From climate change to deforestation to over-fishing humans are making widespread and unprecedented changes to the surface of our fine planet. Humans are now the greatest force for change operating on the surface of the Earth in numerous realms, in most cases either ignorant of what the end result will be, or worse, deliberately proceeding even though our best minds say the end result will be catastrophic. Collectively we are no smarter than ants.
9. Religious nuts. Even the Romans understood: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) And here we are two thousand years later blowing each other up, destroying the planet, and breeding like rabbits because people think it’s a great idea to do stuff because of what someone’s imaginary friend said. Jesus wept.
10. We’re all little better than monkeys. Yes, science has now shown that our brains are hard wired to be stupid. When most people are confronted with logical and scientific evidence that refutes some stupid idea they have, it reinforces their beliefs! This wouldn’t be such problem if our leaders weren’t all too eager to promote dumb fuck ideas because it makes them richer and more powerful.
In conclusion, speaking globally, this isn’t going to end well. Speaking locally, despite a missing lime and a recalcitrant pull tab, it’s going quite well and will end up nicely. And when I wake up, maybe the last 31 years will have all been a nightmare. A man can dream.
(The above image is of a painting made in 1562, so it’s currently Public Domain under US copyright law. I expect that to change soon as corporations twist the law to their own purposes. It’s titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Brueghal the Elder. I believe it’s self evident why I thought this was an appropriate image for this post.)
“OK, I’m an atheist, and I’m offended by this. It’s a masterful compendium of logical fallacies, and little more than an ad hominem attack on people who believe in an afterlife. This is why I am distancing myself from mainstream atheism, there are plenty of reasonable avenues to attack fundies of all stripes, but insulting everyone who believes in an afterlife strikes me as being a really counterproductive approach.”
I posted the image and comment above on Facebook last night, and boy, the fellow who originally posted it gave me endless grief. Apparently I am a “weak atheist” because I don’t countenance insulting everyone who believes in an afterlife. And between his various insults and straw man arguments, he never addressed my main point, which is that the logic in the illustration is badly flawed. It starts off with “The only reason people believe in an afterlife … ” Um, saying that there is only one reason that people believe in an afterlife is a pretty sweeping declaration of fact, unless it’s supported by data, saying it doesn’t make it true. And while I suppose a case can be made that there is a narcissistic component to believing in an afterlife, that doesn’t mean that people who believe such are necessarily narcissists. It’s like saying someone who likes to watch football or hockey is a sadist.
I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I don’t care what other people believe as long as they don’t scare the horses. People believe all sorts of silly things, best to judge them (if one is going to judge them at all) by how they live their lives, not by their beliefs. In fact, it’s fundamentalists who judge people by what they believe, company I do not care to join. And now I know, there are fundamentalist atheists as well, quel surprise. Company I also do not care to join. I like having friends all or the spectrum, that’s both how I know they are my friends, and it means I get feedback from all perspectives.
The reason I don’t believe in an afterlife is very simple. There’s no evidence for an afterlife and no logical or scientific reason to believe there should be one. And there not only are no good scientific cases of people in the afterlife contacting the living, even the anecdotal cases are singularly unconvincing. If there is an afterlife, it apparently is one where people simply have no way to contact the living. In other words, the evidence for an afterlife is the same as the evidence for God, there isn’t any. Although to be fair, the two are unrelated, even if they are commonly conflated by some people.
I am open minded enough that if anyone knows of any good stories about contact with someone in the afterlife, I’d love to hear them. Heck, if I come across anything interesting, I’ll blog about it.
(The above image is posted all over Facebook, so it’s either public domain or no one cares. And since I don’t have anything to say about it I haven’t already said, a joke: Three buddies die in a car and go to heaven for an orientation. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say, ‘Look, he’s moving!!!!!'”)
God sent an angel to me, he said that unless everyone in America sends me 1$ in the next month, the End Times will be permanently postponed
Heck, if even one person in a thousand comes though, I’ll still clear over $300K. Beats working for a living, that’s for sure. Yes, unless the gentle reader has been in a coma, the rapture is scheduled for this Saturday. I’ve had people actually tell me that I would make a great cult leader. I … guess … that’s a compliment. Sadly I couldn’t take advantage of ignorant weak-willed people for my own personal aggrandizement. If that’s a personal failing, I can live with it.
So this Saturday I am having a Rapture BBQ. I hope many of my friends and neighbours show up. My balcony has a nice view of Oakland, where many of the current Rapture Cult reside. So I figure we will have a great view of the chosen ascending into heaven. And if some of the BBQ participants get chosen, well, might as well go to heaven on a full stomach.
So am I disrespecting people of faith with this post and this BBQ? No, I’m disrespecting doomsday cults. And they deserve disrespect. Doomsday cults promote ignorance, spread fear, and ruin lives. They are simply cons in the guise of a religion sucking money from rubes. Sure, they don’t all end up like Jim Jone’s cult did, but some do. And even if Jim Jone’s cult hadn’t committed mass suicide, it still ruined numerous lives.
And just to make myself perfectly clear, nothing is going to happen this Saturday. Jesus is dead, he’s not coming back, the rapture is superstitious nonsense. I’ve talked to people who should know better who claimed that “maybe” something will happen, or that they were keeping an “open mind” about it. Frankly I blame the media and our educational system for this sort of wishy-washy intellectual claptrap attitude. When someone is spewing lies that shouldn’t fool a twelve year old to make themselves rich, there’s no need to be open minded about it. People promoting doomsday crap are liars and charlatans, people who fall for them are fools.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, t’s central to illustrating the post, and I’m linking too and plugging their fine web site: Post Rapture Pet Care. Yes, pets apparently aren’t going to be raptured.)
There were two monks walking along a deserted country track. They belonged to an order where they had taken vows to have no contact with women whatsoever. They came a place where they had to ford a river, it was spring and the river was high and wide and fast. There was an elderly woman there, who obviously wanted to cross the river, and obviously could not do so. One of the monks took her on his back, carried her across the river, and set her down. The two monks then continued on their trek. Some miles later the second monk, obviously upset, said to the first: “I’ve known you for decades, you’ve never broken your vows. I don’t understand it, how could you deliberately break your vows like that by carrying a woman on your back?” The first monk said: “I left her on the far side of the river. Are you still carrying her?”
So I was on an atheist discussion board today, and an atheist had a question. They said that an old and dear friend, a friend who knew they were an atheist, had asked them to pray for their dying father who had but months to live. The atheist wanted to know what other atheists would do in this situation. Gentle reader, if you were an atheist, how would you handle a request such as this?
To my surprize, a number of atheists said that under no circumstances would they do so. I thought this was fascinating. If a person is truly an atheist, then a prayer is simply a string of words, and has no inherent significance. Yet some claimed that this was a superstitious ritual, and they simply could not comply. In other words, complying with their atheistic beliefs was more important than comforting an old friend. I don’t understand how this is any different that what atheists accuse theists of doing, following ritual and dogma instead of using compassion to guide their actions. In fact if an atheist is adamant about refusing to do anything theistic, be it prayer or using the Lord’s name or whatever, I would submit that they are just as superstitious as anyone.
Until I came across this discussion thread I maintained that atheism wasn’t a religion. And in the conventional sense, it isn’t. At least in the sense that their is no church of atheism or book of atheism or some head atheist in a funny hat interpreting atheism for the rest of the atheists. However, if there is even one atheist who insists that acting like an atheist trumps all other considerations, a person for whom acting like an atheist is what it means to be an atheist, then I have to admit that for some people, atheism is indeed a religion. Or at the very least a superstitious belief, but what is religion except groups of people with shared superstitious beliefs.
Speaking for myself, of course I would pray for a friend’s father in a situation like that. In fact there’s all sorts of religious rituals I might participate in if loved ones asked me too. As long as a loved one’s beliefs cause no harm, it would be disrespectful of me not to. Politeness is also a meaningless ritual, yet most people do understand that it’s an important part of what makes society function. While I don’t believe in Jesus and his imaginary friend, nor any of the alternate imaginary friends, there is no harm and much good to be had by respecting the beliefs of my loved one who do. Compassion and caring come from the heart, not from following arbitrary rules.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the image. I got it from this fine web site, credit and copyright Ajay Jain. I first heard the zen story of the two monks in my Altered States of Consciousness class taught by the redoubtable Professor Charles Tart. I knew it would come in handy some day.)