Sunday, June 24, 2007

Angry Atheists

There has been a lot going on in literature these past 9 months or so in regards to god. If you've been living on the Galapagos, She's under attack! Sam Harris (Letter To A Christian Nation), Daniel Dennett (Breaking The Spell), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and, most recently, Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) have all kind of piled on the poor 80% of American adult public that professes some sort of religious affiliation. It's kind of a tough position to be in. On the one hand they DO have the numbers on their side, on the other they have not one iota of evidence for what they believe. Of course, the meanies don't have any evidence AGAINST them, but that's hardly the point. It's really not up to anyone to disprove their cherished beliefs. It's up to THEM to prove it. And they can't.

Unfortunately for fundamentalists (those who believe in the literal truth of every word, as being the word of god, of whatever particular faith you hail from) there is plenty of evidence that this particular way of believing is false. And this is where the problem arises because the vast majority of believers claim that their holy books are indeed the literal word of their god. So instead of accepting indisputable facts, which completely contradict this "infallible word", they hang on the book - blindly.

This causes some rather interesting cases of cognitive dissonance. For instance, they have (mostly) come to grips with facts of nature such as "the world is not flat, it's spherical", "the earth is not the center of the solar system (let alone the universe)", "the sun came into existence before there was any light in our solar system, before there was a Planet Earth and before any plants could possibly have existed". They accept these scientific facts despite the Holy Bible indicating (from the mind of god) that none of these facts are true. They fully profess to believe the moral truth of the 10 Commandments, while totally rejecting the explicitly clear punishments, ordered by their god, for breaking any of the commandments. (Not many folks believe in capital punishment for adultry (Leviticus 20:10), dishonoring parents (Exodus 21:17), or failing to keep the sabbath holy (Exodus 31:15). These are not a handful of odd examples. They are typical of biblical texts. If you haven't read any of the bible recently, pick one up and read some Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Personally, I'm not particularly angry at believers. I'm actually amused with them for the most part. Many are otherwise quite intelligent people who completely check their intellectual garb at cloak room when they enter the cathedral of belief. I'm quick to admit that most believers I know are decent people and I imagine they think their faith helps them. The only thing that makes me angry is that when we give respect to faith, we give cover to those who take it a step further and, having no cognitive dissonance, simply assert that all of their holy words are indeed from god, including all of the more harmful parts of the dogma. Please go to this and if you only watch one clip watch "Part 2".

While there is no reasonable hope for an end of faith, there is much hope that a more enlightened populous will reject those who claim to know anything mystical as an absolute. So my suggestion is to simply snicker at anyone who makes any reference to a personal god. While I like a lot of these folks as individuals, they deserve mild ridicule for the superstitions and public mockery (at least of the brighter ones) is probably the best way of effecting some level of change. Polls have certainly shown a rise in the percentage of people who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic over the past 50 years. At some point this will either rise sharply or our country will become second-class in areas of science, medicine and technology.

So if you read all of this and happen to think that god loves you, listens to your prayers, does miracles and will give you a place to stay after you die, all I can do is this.