I’m very happy to announce that many countries across the globe are losing their religion,and even more happy to mention that my own country, Canada is 61% atheist and relatively highly placed on this list .
From the “Well, Duh” files
The public’s love affair with Pope Francis continues. Just today he uttered the, quite possibly, the most obvious sentence I have ever heard and believers are all aflutter. Here’s the quote; “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!”
The Catholic Church has been pulling the old, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ routine for so long now that many people no longer take them seriously. He may be winning back some hearts and minds with statements like the above, but for how long? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. My guess is that the pudding will be about as real as the invisible man they worship.
Many religious types, when arguing with an atheist cite Pascal’s wager as an argument for a belief in god. Let’s take a closer look at what Pascal actually said.
I find this attitude to be not only disingenuous, but if there is a god, highly insulting to him/her. If there is a god and he/she is omniscient, then don’t you think they know that your are just hedging your bets. If only true believers are to go to heaven, then this type of behavior would be seen as a one way ticket to a flame filled afterlife. At least atheism is honest.
I see three camps when it comes to belief in a deity. The first group doesn’t know, but believe with all their being that a god exists. The second group doesn’t know, but due to an overwhelming lack of evidence choses not to waste their time believing. Then there’s the third group who doesn’t know and doesn’t care (agnostics). There is currently a battle waging between the first and second groups. The believers believe that they are being persecuted (IRONY!!) for their beliefs. The second group just want the beliefs of the first group to stop hindering their lives via the government or any other area of life that has been taken over by religion and are willing to stand up and fight against the first group. I don’t understand why the religious types need so much for everyone else to believe as they do, but they do. Hence they are constantly trying (and failing) to convince us atheists that their god exists via arguments like Pascal’s wager and sayings like “There are no atheists in foxholes”. This saying basically means that in a life and death situation everybody turns to god and prays.
As an atheist who has been in a life and death situation, I can tell you, that is simply untrue. A few years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the position of the tumour, there was some question as to whether or not a mastectomy would be necessary. As I went under the anesthetic, I had no idea if I would wake up with breasts or not. For those of you who have read my post entitled, I hate my big breasts you know which way I was rooting. It had been discussed that if the doctor had to take the breast, that he would take both. When I awoke after surgery, I looked down and saw to my dismay, that both my breasts were still there. My doctor then gave me more bad news… chemotherapy would be necessary. This whole cancer ordeal took a lot out of me over a period of months, but not once did I find myself talking to an imaginary person in the sky. I was insulted when friends told me they would pray for me, for I see the act of praying for an atheist as, not only insulting, but purely selfish and more than a little smug. Instead of wasting your time praying for someone who does not believe in your god, perhaps you could spend that time making sure there is plenty of ice cream available for after the surgery (or whatever hardship they are facing), or just being there and listening to your friend as he or she goes through a difficult situation. Instead, some believers feel this is a situation in which their friend is ripe for conversion and they are ready to take full advantage. I actually had one friend who, before I went into surgery, told me that maybe I should get myself right with god. Way to be there for me! Not wanting to hurt his feelings (said the cancer patient to a perfectly healthy individual), I told him that I had come to terms with god. Not a lie, as my terms were that god doesn’t exist, but it seemed to make him feel better (because, of course that was what was important… that he feel better). With actions like these, I don’t understand why believers think that they should not be persecuted. It’s really tough to get on board with the whole, “we’re the good guys” thing when you act like this… or worse.
Another part of religion that I never understood is the need for an afterlife (or reincarnation). This seems very egotistical to me… and entirely exhausting, not to mention unnecessary. Again, if there is a god, it’s like you are saying to him that this gift of life he or she has given you is great and all, but there should be something more. (Gee Grandma, thanks for the 50 bucks in my birthday card, but why didn’t you get me a present too?) Talk about a slap in the face. I take great comfort in knowing that after this life is over, I will cease to be. This life was more than plenty, why would I ever want more? I have suffered in this life, I have known joy in this life. I have laughed and I have cried. I have experienced most of what this life has to offer and I am good with that. When I die, even if that may be tomorrow I feel that I have lived my life to the fullest and have absolutely no need of more as neither a reward, nor a punishment. I have gone all in and when the game is over, I will fold.
And now for something completely different…
Notice how the shop owner never argues that the parrot has gone on to a better place?
The dangers of magical thinking.
When one thinks of the people of Papua New Guinea, one might conjure up an image similar to this.
A 16 year old girl from a Mount Hagen tribe.
But Papua New Guinea is not just tribal paint, shells and grass skirts. For instance, the bystanders who watched a 20 year old woman as she was tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused with gasoline, then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. Why am I mentioning what they were wearing? It makes a difference in the way people will view the act.
Bystanders watch as a woman, accused of witchcraft is burned alive in Papua New Guinea.
If they were dressed in tribal garb, this story might never have been made global. It might have been excused as just a barbaric act carried out by a people who don’t know any better. The fact is those, not so innocent, bystanders were educated in a place that has long been civilized. They have a police force and a government. It is a democracy and is part of the Commonwealth. The most popular religion in Papua New Guinea is the Catholic Church, with 27% of the population identifying as Catholic, followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church with 19% and a slew of Christian offshoots. I mention this because it is important to understand that, by and large, the people of Papua New Guinea are taught the same religious doctrine that the rest of the Western World is taught. Yet, Kepari Leniata, a 20 year old mother was not only accused of sorcery, but tortured and killed in front of hundreds of people who took pictures and cheered, because people believed in magic.
Or was is that simple? Were she a man, would this have happened? Accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are usually targeted toward women. Is this just another instance of a woman cut down in the prime of her life as an example to other women not to get too comfortable? Either way, if people didn’t believe in magic, or if women weren’t painted as the enemy, it would never have happened.
The good news is that the Police Commissioner isn’t having any of it. He was quoted as saying, “We are in the 21st century and this is totally unacceptable.” The Prime Minister is also on the right side of history, calling for the arrest of the killers and saying, “It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with.”
It is unfortunate, however that the Police Commissioner wants to establish courts to deal with sorcery allegations as an alternative to villagers dispensing justice, instead of stating outright that there is no such thing as magic. I guess that would mean that the religions that have a foothold in the area might lose some members of their congregations. If the people actually come to their senses and realize that if there is no such thing as magic, then maybe, just maybe, religion’s biggest role is keeping the people from the truth. The truth that they exist solely to rob you of your money, your intellect, your dignity and your human rights.
One God Further
Every year the Super Bowl is at the center of some sort of controversy. Sometimes it’s the game itself, sometimes it’s the halftime show . This year it was an advertisement. The Church of Scientology found a way to buy ad space during the airing of the big game without having to pay those exorbitant prices. They cleverly bought ad space in local markets during times that were scheduled for breaks saved for regional advertisers. They did this in a multitude of local markets including, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Clearwater, Florida. Here is the original ad (the one that aired during the super bowl was cut to a 30 second run time).
This ad has been online on YouTube since December, where it had been viewed 60,000 times until yesterday. As of 1:30pm EST today (less than 24 hours after it aired during the Super Bowl), it has been viewed 93,500 times and counting. Not the landslide, I’m sure they were hoping for with such a high exposure time slot, but it’s still more than half of what they had been able to accumulate in the past 6 weeks.
This morning, there is a video going around the twitter-verse (thanks to the CultOfDusty) that I wish had aired instead of the Scientology ad during a time when the whole of the USA was praying to a god that their team would win. At first glance it looks like exactly the same ad, but if you stick with it until the end, you will see that it is indeed very different.
The tag line, ‘We go one god further’ is in itself a stroke of genius. Atheists have long said that everyone in the world is an atheist when it comes to all of the deities in which they choose not to believe. For example a Christian does not believe in Zeus, Allah, Krishna, Vishnu, Jehovah, Freyr, Loki, Ao, Maru, Jupiter or Shiva. Therefor a Christian is but one god (and his son) away from being an atheist. The same holds true for the Islamic people, the Hindu, the Shinto, the Jewish people, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on down the line. Once you have decided that you do not believe in a long laundry list of gods, it’s such a small step to shed that last one, which is why the fastest growing group in the Western world is the non-religious.
After all, we are all born atheists. It’s not until we are indoctrinated by our parents or our “spiritual leaders” that we succumb to a belief in any one deity.
Some things just shouldn’t be organized
Don’t let a guy like this, become the next…
…guy like this.
My closet is organized by season and my books are organized alphabetically by author. My apartment is an ode to organization. But there are some things that should be left to flourish on their own. I see atheism as one of those things. The other day I was reading an article about how an atheist organization had put up some in your face, anti religion billboards and my first thought was these people are going down a very slippery slope.
As regular readers of this blog know, I am an atheist and I am not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. All this means is that I do not believe in a god (any god). The issue I have with this kind of behavior is that it is akin to picking a fight… the very same behavior that atheists (rightfully) accuse religions of exhibiting. I have no problem defending myself and my disbelief when pressed, but I see no reason (reason, get it… what atheists do believe in) in goading the religious toward further persecution of atheists. I understand that it is important to defend the separation of church and state wherever it is being threatened, but that is one of very few cases I can make for the need for atheists to get organized. The organization who put up those billboards is American Atheists, found online at www.atheists.org. If you go to their website, you will see a big red button that says “Donate Now” and that they are holding a convention next year. They also have literature for you in the form of a magazine (available in app form). American Atheists is not a new organization, they’ve been around since 1963 and, according to their website, have been defending civil liberties and the separation of church and state ever since. I find this interesting if only because their site seems to have taken several pages straight out of the church handbook.
Earlier this year a man named Alain de Botton published a book entitled Religion for Atheists in which he asserts that instead of eschewing all that religion has to offer, atheists should steal some of the attractive things about religion such as, building a sense of community, making our relationships last, overcoming feelings of envy and inadequacy, escaping the twenty-four hour media and creating new businesses designed to address our emotional needs. Pardon the expression, but for Christ’s sake, what the hell is so special about the emotional needs of atheists? To my eyes, this man is trying to set himself up as some sort of atheist messiah by preying on and exploiting one of the human traits that religion exploits so well… the need to belong.
It’s the need to belong that enabled events like the Jonestown massacre, the Manson family murders and the Waco Siege to occur. You may be thinking, but those events were all cult oriented. I submit that all religion is a form of cultism. Every time humans organize in an us vs. them way, it ends badly. It seems that, no matter how well-intentioned the origins of the organization are, there is always some greedy, morally questionable person who comes along and co-opts the ideal for his own financial gain and power. The need to belong is indeed powerful and is usually paired with the need for validation which is a very dangerous cocktail when some douche bag with a messiah complex is feeding those needs. Your average person, no matter how much of a skeptic they claim to be is almost powerless against being lured into a group when told that they are right and there are many more people who think the same way.
So please, atheists of the world, heed my warning and stay away from organizations that want to poke the religious bear. If history has taught us anything, it’s that those religious types are not afraid of shedding copious amounts of blood in service to their imaginary sky daddy and if we want to keep the moral high ground we are so fond of, the last thing we need on our hands is a holy war… or in this case an UNHOLY war.
People with Gods
Each day on Twitter, I post my quote of the day tweet. The other day, the quote I posted was, “Gods don’t kill people. People with Gods kill people.” – David Viaene. One of the responses I got to this quote was, “people without Gods hold it down in the killing dept just as well. It’s a human problem.”
While I take no issue with the fact that there have been many killings done at the hands of people without Gods, the problem I have with the above statement is with the phrase, “just as well”. I decided to do a little research on the subject and here is what I came up with.
While there is really no way to tally the amount of individual murders committed by individual atheists, there are some numbers to be found when one looks at State Atheism, for instance in Mexico, under President Plutarco Elias Calles, there were at least 40 priests killed between the years 1926 and 1934. In the Soviet Union, Marxism-Leninism ideology sought to eliminate religion from the state entirely. In the period between 1922 and 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox Bishops and more than 1200 priests were killed. In Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge, the estimated death toll is between 740,000 and 3 million. In the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Soviets launched a full-scale attack on Buddhism in 1936 where between 30,000 and 35,000 lives were lost. In North Korea, in the late 1940’s 166 priests and religious were killed or kidnapped. Using the high estimates, the total adds up to 3,036,434 deaths. Which, is a very substantial number.
On the side of people with Gods, I am only including the tally of one mass killing. The Holocaust, which took place between 1938 and 1945. Christians like to tell you that Hitler was an atheist, but, by all accounts, Hitler was a Catholic raised, Christian who espoused his belief in Jesus Christ (albeit an Aryan Jesus Christ), which makes him a man with a God. “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”- Aldof Hitler There were 5.9 million Jews, between 2 and 3 million Soviet POWs, 1.8 to 2 million Poles, between 220,000 and 1.5 million Romani, 200,000 to 250,000 disabled people, 80,000 Freemasons, between 20,000 and 25,000 Slovenes, 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals, and between 2,500 and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses killed in the Holocaust. Even using the low estimates, the death toll is 10,227,500 or more than 3.3 times the number killed by Atheist States in 5 different instances.
The reason to only include the Holocaust on the side of men with Gods was because, all of the Atheist State examples I used were from the 20th century and I didn’t want anyone crying unfair if I used examples like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty years War or the French Wars of Religion, which all took place in different eras, when people were not as enlightened as they were in the last century.
I do agree that killing is part of human nature, and I am positive that, even without a belief in any sort of deity, people would find something to fight about on a mass scale. My point here is that belief in a god seems to be a pretty popular reason to kill people. Here’s a question to think on… is God the reason, or the excuse?
Atheists I admire
The common thread in all of my choices here is intellectual bravery. All of these people are not afraid to speak their mind, come what may. All of these people are highly intelligent and witty in their own right.
Ms. Sweeney is an American actress and comedian, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live. She is also a very brave woman, as a cancer survivor and outspoken atheist. She is one of those atheists who has read the bible, cover to cover. The way she is able to relate her experiences with humour and humanity is inspiring. Below is a clip from her must see special, Letting go of God where she talks about her reaction to the Bible chapter, Revelations.
A British actor and comedian, Mr. Izzard is also famous for being a transvestite (an action transvestite), which, in my book makes him even more courageous. Another outspoken atheist, his comedy, or the best history lesson ever, as I like to call it, often touches on the nonsensical parts of religion, as illustrated in the clip below.
Yet, another actor and comedian from Britain, Mr. Gervais is not afraid to defend his lack of belief in any forum. As one of his Twitter followers, I’ve seen him seemingly revel in putting religious fanatics in their place. His comedy is not only hilarious, but manages to make you look at things in a way you never would have without his perspective. Here he talks about Noah’s Ark.
Before you think this is all about comedians, here come the scientists…
American author, neuroscientist, and founder/CEO of Project Reason, Sam Harris is and incredibly well spoken atheist. Logic is his art form and he is a master. It may be seen by some as less courageous for a scientist to openly proclaim his disbelief in religion. In Mr. Harris’s case, he lives in the United States, home of Christian zealotry and death threats and fearlessly speaks on morally controversial topics like this one in the clip below.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON
American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Mr. Tyson is also a very outspoken atheist. He is brilliant at explaining otherwise mind boggling scientific theories so even the layperson can instantly grasp them. Here he talks about what he calls Stupid Design.
A British author and evolutionary biologist. Arguably his most famous book is The God Delusion, which contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion. An extraordinary mind, Mr. Dawkins is quite possibly the world’s most famous atheist. Here he eloquently talks about creationism, evolution and religion.
These are all living human beings who have much to teach us, whether it’s through laughter or science. For those of you thinking that I missed George Carlin or Charles Darwin, I didn’t. I just wanted to include people who are currently contributing to the conversation. I acknowledge that these people are standing on the shoulders of the atheists who came before them, just as future atheists will stand on the shoulders of these people and so on until we reach heaven 😉
Us vs. Them
Lately the world has been reminding more and more of the Dr. Seuss book about the plain bellied Sneetches and the star bellied Sneetches. This book should become required reading for children and adults alike worldwide. It’s a simple story about how we focus too much on our differences and forget how alike we actually are.
Everywhere I look there’s a fight going on. Liberals vs. Conservatives. Women vs. Men. Straights vs. Gays (and the whole LBGT community). Whites vs. Blacks (and Hispanics, Asians, Indigenous Peoples etc.) Theists vs. Atheists. Rich vs. Poor. The list goes on and on to the point where there is fighting between sub-groups of each group.
When are we going to collectively wake up and realize that we all share this planet and these petty arguments only serve to distract us from moving forward in life. I identify myself as a feminist, an atheist and a Canadian, but first and foremost I am a human being, a life form on this planet. I respect all other life forms who share space on earth with me. Yes, I like to state my opinions, and invariably those opinions will be opposing to those of others, even to the point where they may offend others. My intention is merely to bring my viewpoint into the collective fray of opinion that we have created as a global online community.
While I identify myself as a Canadian, I am hardly patriotic. I see no sense in patriotism. Something as random as where you were born shouldn’t give you a sense of pride. You didn’t build the place. I can understand a feeling of nostalgia for your home town/country, but patriotism is just another way to separate ourselves from others and to incite anger. At its worst, patriotism is used to brainwash young men and women into dying for their country. In reality these soldiers are not dying for their country, or even for the beliefs of their country (a mass of land can have no beliefs… the people in any given country will have a widely varied belief system). They fight in wars created by smaller groups of men who can’t get past the whole might makes right theory of winning an argument. (I am aware that I am simplifying here.) Patriotism is simply my Dad is better than your Dad.
Religion is very much the same thing. My God is better than your God. Wars are fought, blood is shed and for what? In the end, there is no end. I mentioned that I identify as an atheist. You won’t see me on a religious battleground. Atheists don’t believe in God, yours or anyone else’s. This, for some reason gets religious folks all riled up, to the point where they wish us harm. I wonder if they are angry at atheists because we found a way out of church on Sunday and burning in hell for acting like humans act every day. In the eyes of theists, atheists have no shame, so what stops them from committing heinous acts of atrocity? Interesting viewpoint. I could ask the same of religious people. It seems your God is simply there as an excuse for the atrocities you commit. Atheists may not have some invisible Santa Clause watching over us and making a naughty and nice list, but we do have a conscience, same as you, that tells us when we are crossing our own moral line. Without going any further into argument territory, honestly, I don’t care what you believe in or don’t believe in. Religion is just another way we have of separating ourselves from others and inciting anger.
A while ago I wrote a blog entitled ‘What Do Women Want’ about feminism and what it really boils down to. In it, I state, “Women want the same freedoms, rights and privileges that are afforded to men, no more, no less.” It’s unfortunate that we still don’t have this. It’s unfortunate that we have to fight for this, but, unlike patriotism and religion, it’s a cause worth fighting for. However, like patriotism and religion, the fight for women’s rights stems from the idea that there exists a group of people who are superior to another group of people. This simply isn’t the case. Just as no one country is the BEST country on earth and no one religion is the one TRUE religion, no one sex is the GREATER sex. As Shakespeare said, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
Whether we have stars on our bellies or plain bellies, we are all Sneetches.
Unless, of course the conspiracy theorists are right, and this is happening…
Fear of the unknown
As an atheist, I’m proud to say I DON’T KNOW. Heck I will even shout it from the rooftops. I don’t know how the universe came to be. The truth is no one does, no matter how concretely sure they come across, no matter how much they believe, deep down the one thing we all have in common is WE DON’T KNOW.
There are many theories as to how the universe came into existence, for instance, science gives us the Big Bang Theory (so do Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, but that’s not the Big Bang Theory I’m talking about here). Religion gives us the theory that some deity or another created the universe.
What happens after we die? Another good question with the same answer I DON’T KNOW. The truth is no one knows, but this question causes so much anger, delusion, violence, war, murder, hatred and FEAR, yes fear. The difference between theists and atheists is that atheists aren’t afraid to say I DON’T KNOW. Believers are so afraid to even entertain the concept that they don’t know the answers to these questions that they will bulldoze over those who deign to challenge their theory. Scientists relish the opportunity to challenge a theory. This difference is beautifully illustrated in the “interview” below.
O’Reilly’s smug condescension is simply a mask for his fear of the unknown and a weapon used to silence logic. Now look at what happens when Richard Dawkins is allowed to get a word in edgewise.
Another example of how theists stifle those who they see as their opponents (atheists are not the enemy, by the way, we just want to be allowed to express our own beliefs) is illustrated here, through violence.
And here, again through smug condescension.
Notice how the believers are trying to show hypocrisy on the part of the non believer by trying to prove she has faith in something… anything? What I find funny is their go to was money… something Jesus was adamantly against. It has always baffled me that religions and religious types don’t see their worship of the almighty dollar, euro, peso, yen, etc as flying directly in the face of their religious teachings, but I digress.
What theists need to understand is that atheists aren’t persecuting you. If you want to know who is really being run ram shod over, take a look at this.
In conclusion I would like to share a short back and forth I had on twitter with a self-professed Christian woman.
Her- Ain’t no such thing as an athiest . Pastor Anderson said so.
Me- Ooh, say hi to the pastor for me. Time for him to understand the difference between real and imaginary.
Her- Ignorance cannot be helped . I’ll just pray for you 🙂
Me- Why, so I can be ignorant too? Ignorance is bliss. Have a blissful day.
Her- Ignorance may indeed be bliss , but i’m not ignorant . Have fun rotting in Hell – literally .
Me- That’s very Christian of you.