Lately I have been accused by a few people, in email and in person, of “attacking” Christians and suggesting they are all “stupid”. Perhaps I should clarify myself. I’ve been writing this out in email and saying it in person, so I thought I should include it here just in case more people are taking me the wrong way.
I don’t think I’ve intentionally made any personal attacks on people who disagree with my position and, if I have, please point them out to me so I can correct them. That said, I’m not being politically correct either and I understand that. I think it’s time that the human race had this discussion, openly, honestly, and in public. Too much is riding on the outcome of it.
And I really don’t think I’ve suggested that people who believe in god are necessarily ‘stupid’ (although I’m sure some are). In fact I’ve said many times that the people who amaze me the most are the ones that are intelligent and well educated and *still* feel the need to
subscribe to bronze age mythologies about supernatural beings. I can understand peasants in the middle ages buying it. I can even understand modern uneducated peasants in the middle east buying it. But well educated, middle class people in the West? It has me mystified and, quite honestly, more than a little scared.
What I have said is that people who believe in religion are irrational and that isn’t meant as an insult. It is just a statement of fact. And here’s my justification. Tell me where you think I am wrong.
Rationality is, by definition, based on logic and reason. And religion is not based on such things. It is based on faith: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Because faith is not based on logic or reason, it is therefore, by definition, “irrational”.
As I said before, if you think I’m wrong about the “irrational” tag, tell me why. Or if you think I have attacked anyone, show me how and I will promptly apologize.
I’m certainly not suggesting that changing anyone’s perceptions by force is acceptable. Not at all. But changing them through argument and debate is fine. In fact, that’s probably the only way. Issues like this should get debated strongly and people will, in the end, decide what they want to decide. But I *hope* more and more people, when presented with the facts, will agree that religion is an inherently negative force that is holding back humanity. 200 years ago, most people believed slavery was acceptable. Most people believed “blacks” were inferior to whites. Most people believed blacks and women should not be allowed to vote. There were all ideas which had been around since recorded history, subscribed to by Christians and religious people of all denominations, and most people subscribed to them. And they were fundamentally wrong and immoral by today’s standards. A small few fought openly against them and, eventually, public
perception changed. I believe the same thing will happen with religion. How long it will take, I don’t know. But I feel compelled to do my part.
I do believe religious beliefs harm the rest of the world – directly and indirectly. Direct examples are obvious (justification for oppression, war, violence, segregation, preventing scientific
progress, human rights, AIDS, etc). Indirectly, all religious people subscribe to what I believe in an inherently negative view on humanity. We are all born bad (sinners) because the God of the Old
Testament didn’t want Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He didn’t want him to KNOW. That’s such an inherently negative view on the human race. And then Yahweh told “his people” to murder anyone who didn’t believe in him and he took care of millions himself (flood, brimstone, plague, etc). THEN Christians believe he sent his only son (or came himself depending on which Christian you ask) down to earth to be tortured and murdered for reasons which escape me. And Christians somehow think this is all okay. I think it horrifying and to teach this kind of stuff to kids and tell them it is somehow “holy” and honourable defies imagination.
The other indirect way I think religion harms the human race is that is teaches people that faith without evidence is not only acceptable but preferable to searching for solid evidence. And that viewpoint has to hold us back from understanding the true nature of the universe. It slows down scientific progress, if for no other reason than there are millions of kids who grow up without a solid appreciation for the scientific process. One of those kids might have been the next
Einstein or Darwin or Da Vinci. We need all hands on deck if we are going to survive on this planet. Bronze Age mythologies aren’t going to help us figure out global warming, or preventing an asteroid collision, or the next mega-volcano eruption. Yes I know that Darwin was raised a Christian. Remember though that pretty much EVERYONE in the West during the early part of the 19th century and earlier was a Christian. To be otherwise was to make yourself a social outcast and, until at least 1800, put your life in danger. And yes, of course, some great thinkers broke through and managed to hold both thoughts (faith and reason) in their minds. They straddled the fence. But surely our chances of finding new Darwins would be better if people weren’t told
“believe without evidence” as well as “search for evidence”. They are incongruous thoughts. There is a good reason that the vast majority of scientists in the West today are atheists.
Yes, some of the leaders of the fight against slavery, etc., were Christians. Again, EVERYONE was a Christian until the Enlightenment and even today, 90% of Americans claim to believe in a personal God. But of course that also means that there were far, far more Christians defending slavery and those other crimes than there were fighting against them. How is that justified by the Christian community? Isn’t it true that until the mid-20th century, “Love Thy Neighbour” really finished “… if they look like you. Persecute everyone else.”? Take the American South. They went to war over the defense of slavery. And today they think of themselves as the Bible Belt. Don’t you find that slightly ironical?
When the Christians from Europe invaded the Americas, Australasia, PNG, NZ, The Pacific Islands, they justified the wanton murder of the indigenous peoples because they were “heathens”. Again, religion was the justification for wide-scale genocide. I think it’s pretty easy to see that, over 2000 years, Christianity has been responsible for far, far more murder and bloodshed than it has good works.
But hey, if you disagree, tell me how and why and I’m always listening.