Sunday, November 17, 2013

What Is Wrong with Religion?

Objections to ‘Faith’ Now hope that is seen is not hope,for who hopes for what he sees? Romans 8:24–25

 There are thousands of variations of religion, which suggests that its roots lies in something inherent in the human animal brain, albeit a misinterpretation of some natural by-product of natural selection but the fact that there are so many variations attests to its falsehood.They can’t all be right. It is perhaps an artefact of expanding consciousness or an expression of humanity wondering about its place in the universe but one that is observed through religious falsehood. We all may share a sense of the numinous but it doesn’t mean we’re all right about its interpretation. Why should Christianity be any more relevant than Navaho beliefs?  Only because certain men say it is and nothing more. 
When backed into a corner the theist will then produce what he considers to be his trump card. That trump card is ‘faith’. By using the word ‘faith’, the theist is actually agreeing with the atheist. ‘You’re right,there is no evidence that proves my god exists.’ Faith is the last redoubt, the last rampart to hide behind.As there is no evidence for god, the atheist is told, often in patronisin tones, to accept the vacuous idea of faith, which is nothing more than wishful thinking. Faith is a desire, a hope that something might turn out to be true against all evidence to the contrary. A theist may believe that god exists, may have faith, but nothing is there save dreams and phantoms.

 Bertrand Russell said:

We may define ‘faith’as a firm belief in something for
which there is no evidence. When there is evidence,no one
speaks of ‘faith’. We do not speak of faith that two and two
are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when
we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.

Something quite bizarre as well as revealing happens when a priest lectures his congregation about faith.What he or she is saying is that it’s better to believe through faith than evidence because there isn’t any of the latter. It’s an admission that the answers are unavailable. Faith is a magician’s trick, a sleight of hand used to confuse and befuddle. Derren Brown, in his televi- sion programmes, tells the audience that all he does depends on mind tricks and psychology. If only the priesthood could be that honest. Interestingly, in one of his shows, Derren Brown used psychological techniques to make believers out of atheists and atheists out of believers. If it’s that easy, surely religious experi- ence has a more prosaic source than believers contend. Put simply, theists have been duped.

When a man who, say, is supposed to have killed his wife is brought before a court, the jury demand evidence for the charge – even a jury made up entirely of theists. No one would accept the accusation of murder if the prosecution said they had no evidence to back it up but they did have faith that he was the murderer. Nothing else, just faith. Not a court in the land would find the alleged murderer guilty. But this is exactly what happened in the witch trials. The prosecution in such cases were simply acting on faith. Look at the destruction their faith caused. If all the theist has is faith, they have nothing at all.

Dan Barker in Losing Faith in Faith:From Preacher to Atheist wrote:

The only proposed answer was faith, and I gradually grew to dislike the smell of that word. I finally realized that faith is a cop-out,a defeat – an admis- sion that the truths of religion are unknowable through evidence and reason. It is only undemonstrable assertions that require the suspension of reason, and weak ideas that require faith. I just lost faith in faith. Biblical contra- dictions became more and more discrepant,apologist arguments more and more absurd and, when I finally discarded faith,things became more and more clear.

Faith is often a motivator for war. We have seen this  in the invasion of Iraq. President Bush talks about faith in his actions and faith in god who told him to invade. Stirring up the national psyche on the basis of faith is both idiotic and lethal. People die over unsubstantiated nonsense. (How can that be moral?) Faith can supposedly move mountains but why does that have to include mass slaughter? Through faith, humanity can be duped into religious or political compliance.

God’s Benevolence?
Charity shall cover the multitude of sins… 
Peter. 4: 8 

Is God willing to prevent evil,but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able,but not willing? then he is malevolent.Is he both able and
willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Theists claim that many of their charity organisations look after the needy, the hungry and those less fortunate.This is admirable indeed but does it not involve an implicit statement that their god is pretty useless? If he was a benevolent entity, why are there all the hungry children dying by their thousands every day? Some claim that the suffering are there to teach man a lesson – to be better people. Evil teaches humanity the ideas of good.This is a disgusting concept – that most of the world should suffer in order for others to learn from their misfortunes.This excuse is the last refuge of the worst kind of theistic apologist.

As Douglas E. Krueger writes in What is Atheism?:

God must not be too bright,on this view,if he can’t
think of any way to impart knowledge of good other
than to slaughter billions of people throughout human
history.If god is omnipotent why can’t he just put the
idea of good into our heads,without killing someone?

How easy would that be, for a god? If he wants us to worship him as a benevolent deity, then why all the death and destruction, often done in his name? In the universe of an omnipotent, loving deity, all would be well. If, as the old expression has it, there are no atheists in foxholes, how is it that god allowed the country to be at war in the first place when thousands of people, including theists, would necessarily die?
 One of the oldest and most obvious forms of evidence for the non-existence of god is the prevalence of evil in the world. How can a deity or deities who claim to be all-powerful, and benevo- lent, allow such horrors to continue.Theists have tied them- selves in knots to explain this but have yet to come up with anything remotely like a common sense answer.They never will. The old cop out – that ‘it’s just god moving in a mysterious way’– is lazily employed.The more stupid argument is that god gave us evil so that we can be better people. Innocents have to die in order to make us better individuals. It would be hard to find anything more blindly arrogant than that belief.Three-year-old children die lonely deaths, far from home, at the hands of murderers just so we can learn about god? Six million Jews, homosexuals, intellectuals, atheists, and handicapped people die in the gas chambers so we can know god? A suicide bomber sets off his bomb in a crowded market so we can understand god? This is truly despicable thinking and brooks no excuses.
 It should be noted that theists like to attribute the word ‘evil’ to events such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods and droughts.These are not evil.They are part of the natural processes of the Earth.A devil does not stoke magma beneath Mount Etna.These occurrences are what they are – amoral events in the natural world – and labelling them as evil provides further evidence of humanity’s ridiculous and juvenile predilec- tion for anthropomorphising everything.

Religion as a False Construct of Myth
The Christian religion not only was at first attended
by miracles,but even at this day cannot be believed
by any reasonable person without one.
David Hume, 
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. 
Stanley Kubrick

We have seen how, in the very short period of time since 1947, the UFO myth has been blown out of all proportion.The reporter who spoke of Kenneth Arnold’s experience of witnessing ‘strange craft’ near Mount Rainier in 1947 – the event which kickstarted the modern UFO craze – was the one who described them as ‘flying saucers’.Arnold did not. It would be interesting to see how things would have turned out had the reporter said ‘flying oblongs’ in his radio broadcast.Would ‘flying oblongs’ have become the norm of observed phenomena? Distortions are often the root of myths and legends – and of religion. 
 In the case of flying saucers, a mistake, (much like the idea of the ‘virgin birth’, or The Great Commission i.e. the big monothe- istic religions just out to convert people which is nothing more than a mistranslation of the Greek word, matheteuo – to teach), has developed into full-blown myth.The whole flying saucer ‘mystery’, like all pseudo-scientific and religious beliefs, is the result of one long game of Chinese whispers.Take the Roswell incident, for example. Not only is this now a massive money- spinner but also a whole religio-philosophy has been built up around something that never happened.A myth was born and, over the relatively short time frame of 60 years, it has become a legend far greater than the sum of it parts.The Roswell incident has been explained – it was the consequence of a top-secret nuclear detection system under the code name Project Mogul – but there are countless believers out there who refuse to accept this and are on their own quest for the ‘truth’.
People have great difficulty in reaching, or perhaps are unwilling to reach, consensus about something that happened in less than the span of a lifetime.The Kennedy assassination is another classic example. How infinitely more difficult is it to say with certainty what happened two thousand years ago? The passage of time has allowed the myths that make up religion to propagate, develop and evolve until the sources are lost, the truth (if ever there was any) confounded, muted and conspired against even more thoroughly than the truth about the events of Deeley Plaza in 1963. To use any religious book as a reliable source of history is profoundly wrong.
Religion, as a creation, behaves very much like the Star Trek universe or Middle Earth.A basic set of characters and ideas are drawn up which are then added to over the years by fans, adher- ents etc. Plots are discussed and debated, character motivations highlighted and pondered, and the morality at the heart of the show or book takes on great significance.The true meanings of the programmes or stories (if any) deepen as time progresses. Star Trek fans meet up and swap icons of the show.There are even some deluded theists who, in one of Christianity’s countless spin- off stories, believe that one day they too are going be‘beamed up’.Star Trek probably has greater relevance to the real world than religion. In many respects, it was not afraid to tackle social issues of all kinds – from acceptance of homosexuality (something the church won’t always do!) to the basic rights of man.And one only has to watch documentaries such as Trekkies to see how seriously followers of the show take it – Klingons doing charity work!
What about the Land of Mordor? Does it exist? There are many books that refer to such a place.There are films that also back up this claim, as well as websites and computer and role- playing games. So Sauron’s a real entity then? Or the ring of power? Some Tolkienites perhaps wish all this to be true; some might actually believe it to be. But is Middle-earth a real place? Well, no. Of course not, and it would be madness to claim that it is. But why stop there? Writers, filmmakers and fans for over 60 years have added to the characters and the history of the make-believe realm, beefing up its ‘reality’.Who is to say that religions might not spring up from Tolkien’s world? 
But the bible’s full of real places, the theists claim. So is Star Trek– San Francisco
Picard really exist? How about Adam or Noah? In short, why should one set of fairy tales be taken as (pun intended) gospel truth while others are seen for what they are – invention. Religion offers comfort? So does Star Trek to countless numbers of fans. So does any myth-based construct.What makes religious myths any more believable? Nothing. 

The freethinker WS Ross (1844–1909), who became an atheist after reading the bible during his studies for the ministry, wrote:
Jack and the beanstalk was just as suitable for the nucleus
of a religious system as Christ and his cross;but the one
has been taken and the other left.


Will Self’s novel,The Book of Dave, is about a London taxi driver who, 500 years in the future, becomes the unwitting instigator of a religion based on writings to his son that he left buried in the garden.This is probably nearer the truth in reflecting the source of their own holy book than any theist would admit.
There is something dangerous and sinister about myths being used to execute great crimes against humanity.What if people used Lord of the Rings as an excuse to murder people of short stature? Silly example? Maybe not.

Just Why Does the Church Fear Atheism?
Peter pumpkin head came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold’s for
But he made too many enemies Of the people who would keep us On our knees…
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head

 Why is the church so opposed to atheism? This question is rarely asked, if at all.There are, perhaps, several reasons.The most obvious one is that we are told the lie, repeated so often that it is unquestioned, that society’s morality is on the line if we give up faith.This is obvious nonsense. It is evident that religious morality is dubious at best – certainly it is contradictory and muddled. Being willing slaves to a capricious deistic monster is hardly the best way to live but that is exactly how theists who see no harm in mental dictatorship tell us we are supposed to act. 
Theists often make the claim that god has given us free will so that we can make our own minds up.Then, of course, they say he will punish us if we don’t believe in him.They say their god has given us the ability to think for ourselves but that he punishes us for free thought. Numerous theologians – cheery Martin Luther among them – have stated that believers must crush all reason so that they may know god.‘Give up thinking’, in other words.This makes a mockery of the idea that god has given us free will.‘Stop thinking and you can believe anything we tell you.’ This is immoral, to say the least.
Is it more likely that those who preach from the pulpit are the ones living in fear? That in their hearts they know it for what it really is? Surely, theologians who take empty degrees in theism must read about the biblical forgeries, the arguments that it’s all myth, that most of the characters in the bible didn’t exist and have no basis in archaeology or are at best, like Herod who has been re-imagined as a kind of Hollywood villain, gross misrepresentations.
 Do theologians fear the dark? (Yes.) Do they fear that the universe is an amoral place? (It is.) Do they fear that, if humanity was wiped out by natural disaster (or fundamentalist religion), everything would carry on regardless? (It would – without so much as batting the proverbial eyelid.) That we are insignificant on the cosmological scale? (We are.)
The most treasured elements of society are its freedoms and its power of democracy – religion offers neither. Religion is seen as part of the democratic process when it is nothing of the sort. Democracy is not something religious people, particularly at the fundamentalist end of the spectrum, genuinely like. In democracy, we are free to pick and choose but religion, because of the constricting system under which it operates, will not tolerate such freedoms.Theists of all faiths fear the loss of power.
At heart maybe those who shout the most about atheism, science and evolution are the ones who fear that something they believe in may very well turn out to be utter twaddle. (They are right to fear. It is.) Darwinian evolution, which necessarily goes hand in hand with atheism, is one big spotlight to illuminate the dark.That darkness, in the hands of theists, is a powerful tool for compliance.

As Steven Pinker writes in The Blank Slate: 

The religious opposition to evolution is fuelled by
several moral fears.Most obviously,the fact that
evolution challenges the literal truth of the creation
story in the bible and thus the authority religion
draws from it.As one creationist minister put it,
‘If the bible gets it wrong in biology,then why
should I trust the bible when it talks about morality
and salvation’…

The minister shouldn’t, of course.The bible is full of immorality, contradiction and savagery. In fact, to draw inspiration for morality from such a flawed work is a dubious practice at best. Any serious theologian, worth their pillar of salt, knows this.To deny this fact is to deny the very substance of a book that defies reason.

 As Thomas Paine declared: 

 Whenever we read the obscene stories,the voluptuous
debaucheries,the cruel and torturous executions,the
unrelenting vindictiveness,with which more than half
the Bible is filled,it would be more consistent that we
called it the word of a demon,than the word of God.
It is a history of wickedness,that has served to corrupt
and brutalise mankind;and,for my part,I sincerely
detest it,as I detest everything that is cruel.

Is it not likely, though, that men in positions of power simply do not want to lose their exulted pontifical posts? Would the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury give up their power and wealth and live in caves? Of course not.Why doesn’t the Vatican and the Church of England lead by example and sell its stocks, shares and assets and actually make a genuine difference in the world by sharing it with the poor. Surely that is the height of Christian benevolence, the highest moral good. 
Theists attempt to fill our minds with strident lies, among them the idea that non-believers perform great evils. Greater evil has been perpetrated by theists (often in collaboration with those they claim to despise) in the name of their myths.They revel in their ability to scare us – they demand conformity through fear. Isn’t there something psychologically perverse about that?
Pope Benedict XVI has been condemning the creeping rejection of Catholicism in South America by using scare tactics about Marxist ideology, which appears to be on the rise as a bulwark against interfering American foreign policy and Papal domination. Being a conservative, the Pope is keen to reassert theistic domination, which he thinks is better for the people. (He has stated that Catholicism is the ‘one true way’, how so?) As well as claiming, erroneously, that the people were ‘silently crying out’ for Christianity (such startling hubris and arrogance!), he’s resorting to tinkering with history (not the first or last time) and spouting the old and hideously false maxim, Ecclesia non novit sanguinem (‘the Church is untainted by blood’) in an effort to play down the role of the Catholic Church in supporting Conquistadors such as Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro who ravaged the continent and put to death great numbers of the indigenous peoples in the name of Christianity in the sixteenth century. Or the destructive extremism of the fanatical Spanish monk, Diego de Landa, who, after burning many of the priceless books of the Maya, compounded his assault on their culture by becoming interested in their system of writing but in the process making a real and insulting hash of it.The Catholic Church’s power base in the continent is under threat and powerful organisations resent rejection. Power and control are at stake.
 It may very well be that in this case, as in others in the past, a mixture of theism and politics, god and mammon, has come together in a neo-con, anti-Marxist political manoeuvre to keep an influence over (oil) resources – especially those of Venezuela. Whatever one thinks of Chavez, he is keen to keep foreign inter- ference out of his country. Wouldn’t any country want that?
Simply put, many theologians have an all-too-human love of their exalted positions.There is nothing more potent than the combination of god, money and power.Atheism threatens to take that away.There are many theists out there who really do think we have souls and that they are under threat if we disbelieve in the ‘sky fairy’. But they are surrendering themselves to archaic fears. We must always ask, what have theists got to lose?

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