Sunday, October 27, 2013
5 Things That Believers Can Do, But Atheists Can’t
If you read the news at all, you will have seen country after country finally recognize that many Catholic priests abused, molested and in some cases raped children. This was often done over a protracted period of time. Very few of the individuals involved have been jailed (oftentimes because of an applicable statute of limitations), although many Catholic dioceses have had to pay some significant settlements, usually on an out-of-court basis. All too often, the offenders were not turned over to the police nor were the crimes admitted, even though these crimes were known to the higher authorities within the church. In some cases, repeat offenders were just transferred from one position into another. The senior authorities who were responsible for the cover-ups have, up until now, escaped justice altogether.
Fundamentalist groups often follow strict observance of physical punishment for children. These are the “spare the rod, spoil the child” types. Many Christians consider it their duty to apply corporal discipline to children. Some consider this practice to be imbued by the taint of “original sin.” Every year, we see reports of children brutalized under this doctrine (although some parents are being prosecuted now, if the harm is too egregious).
Jews and Muslims also ritually mutilate their sons’ bodies through the practice of circumcision. If an atheist sliced off the ear tips of their children, on the basis that kids never properly wash their ears, what would be the response? Just because someone claims that their god told them more than 1,000 years ago to mutilate their son’s penis, that makes it ok? We even allow Orthodox Jews to perform a ritual that involves the mohel, a “professional” practitioner of the circumcision ritual, to draw blood from the newly circumcised child by using his mouth. I can’t see an atheist putting his mouth on a 8 day old boy’s penis and not going to jail.
It goes by the ritual name of being kosher or halal. Under this practice, an animal is slaughtered by slitting its throat so as to allow its heart to continue to pump the blood out of its body before it dies. Both Islam and Judaism prohibit their followers from consuming blood, so this is probably the underlying “reason” for the practice. Most developed countries require that the animal be stunned before being slaughtered, but give an exception to slaughter houses established for these “religious” practices.
I have read many apologist arguments that this is somehow not a cruel practice and that the animal dies very quickly. But this has never been supported by any independent study. I have seen animals slaughtered this way. It’s not fast. It doesn’t matter how sharp the knife is (which some authors contest is a critical factor in their support of this practice), the animal either dies from blood loss or asphyxiation if the windpipe has been fully severed. It is prima facie more cruel that stunning the animal first before killing it. If atheists killed animals this way, in most countries it would be illegal and we’d go to jail.
3. Practicing Medicine Without a License
Don’t you just love all the faith healers out there? Claiming to heal the sick,
If an atheist had a new “cure” for a medical condition and tried to sell it without going through the normal procedures for approving pharmaceutical products or medical practices—procedures designed to prove that they are safe and effective before they can be administered to the public—they would go to jail, or be sued, or fined for false advertising.
4. People Respect Your Opinions Without Evidence
Isn’t it wonderful how believers can justify a position they have on the basis that they are being guided by their faith? It would be rude to challenge them on this; after all, they have a “personal relationship” with their favorite god. Does this mean God leaves you voice mails on your phone? Maybe you’re his “friend” on Facebook? Why are they not worried about climate change? Because we are in the “end times.” How do they know this? Because of the “signs” that they interpret to be in accord with something someone wrote ages ago. Never mind that they have been wrong about this numerous times in the past.
How about evolution? No, they have creationism and intelligent design. Any evidence for this, like a new species just popping into existence recently? How about the great global flood? Any evidence at all? Archeology, astronomy, geology, biogenetics, and paleontology have conclusively demonstrated that:
1. The universe, earth and animal life were not created in 7 days;
2. Water did not predate the creation of the universe and the earth;
3. There was no global flood;
4. There was no exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt (or wandering in the desert for 40 years);
5. The Hebrews didn’t conquer Canaan, they were Canaanites already themselves, they spoke a Canaanite language, and originally worshipped El, a Canaanite god;
6. The moon never split in two;
7. There was no iron-using civilization in America with millions of people fighting huge battles before the advent of the Europeans;
8. and so on and so forth.
Yet when faced with a complete lack of evidence, religious believers expect others to “respect” their beliefs about these things and not laugh at them. Apparently, if you’re a believer, having faith is all about being able to believe the most patently ridiculous things, and not be criticized or ridiculed for it. There is no such thing as a peer-reviewed paper in religion. Anyone can interpret the holy books anyway they want, and there is no way to prove them wrong. If an atheist wants people to believe in something, they need evidence to back it up and any test results must be capable of duplication.
The whole state of Israel falls into this category, and not just the illegal occupation of the lands outside the 1967 borders. In every other context, invading another country, taking their land, and then putting your own people on it, is considered to be ethnic cleansing. It was ethnic cleansing when the Serbs and Croats did it to each other and to the Bosnians. It was ethnic cleansing when the Germans settled people in occupied Poland, Ukraine and Russia in WWII. The action is always the same—you kill the original owners, or drive them away, or make them afraid to stay. Any who remain lose their land rights to the new preferred settlers and usually get stuck in a sort of ghetto (like the Palestinian refugee camps now, or the limits on Palestinian building in occupied territories).
But when the Jews did it to the local Muslims (and some Christians too) at the time of the formation of Israel and subsequently, it wasn’t (and still isn’t) considered ethnic cleansing by much of the world–especially in the US. They are just going back to their “promised land” (even though the land promised by YHWH in the Hebrew Torah is different than the land occupied by Israel today). Never mind that the Egyptians controlled it on and off before the two small kingdoms of Israel and Judea ever existed. Never mind that it has been the property of many other nation-states over the course of recorded history. God gave it to them, so they are entitled to it.
The American concept of “manifest destiny” falls somewhat into this category too. Although no one at the time said overtly that the Christian God had given the land to them, much of the writing during that time had heavy religious overtones. The Christian European settlers were more “entitled” to the land than were the Native American peoples, who were also heathens. There was also no small amount of racism in this as well. The same is true for the period of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of South America, and the English occupation of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Many of the horrors that were visited upon the local peoples were justified in the name of religion—a religion which was deemed superior to the beliefs of the native peoples, whose conversion (often forcibly) into Christianity was considered part of the divine plan.
I do not see atheists having any chance of being able to take over territory as their new “homeland” to save themselves from possible persecution by others, nor to be allowed to forcibly convert religious believers. One thing the Jews, Christians and Muslims can all agree on is that they don’t like atheists.