Monthly Archives: November 2011
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” -William Shakespeare
I have been referred to by some as a “Fundamentalist Atheist”… and to be honest, I’m not really sure what that means. I understand what the word means, however there is no specific doctrine to fundamentally adhere to. I am, however, fundamentally opposed to war, poverty, and human suffering. I am fundamentally against ignorance, willful or otherwise. I loathe bigotry, and sanctimonious indignation. I love science, reason, compassion, and freedom. The search for truth is what motivates me to employ skepticism, and to not waver in my integrity even in the face of inconvenience, or popular opinion. I trust that truths derived from facts will eventually bear themselves out. So if that’s what my critics are referring to, then I will accept the label gladly.
I have also heard Atheism categorized as its own religion, which makes no sense either. As my friend, and colleague Brian Sapient (www.rationalresponders.com) once so eloquently observed, “Atheism is a religion the way that not collecting stamps is a hobby, the way that off is a television channel, or the way that bald is a hairstyle.” It would be like forming an ideology based on the disbelief in Zues, Mithra, or for that matter, the Tooth Fairy. From my perspective, Atheism is just a word describing one’s non-belief in any supernatural deities. It is not a personal decision to not believe, rather it’s the rational determination one arrives at based on evidence and the acumen of their life’s experience. If new evidence were to be introduced to any rationally thinking person, they would be forced to re-examine their beliefs.
As such, I spend much of my time and energy trying to contribute reason to the national discourse in the face of what I perceive to be an intrinsic evil… Evangelical Christianity. While I have yet to experience any religion which doesn’t fly in the face of reason, I tend to focus on the perfidy inherent in American Christianity mainly because as a resident of the United States, the majority of people who reside here identify themselves as such. Although many who make such claims are often doing so out of cultural tradition and are in fact, much more casual about their faith than their evangelical counterparts, their upbringing still holds sway. However it is predatory manner in which the evangelical movement manifests itself upon the assailable psyches of a frightened populace which warrants my claim of “evil”.
It’s to the cultural (more casual) Christians whom I am writing.
Most people simply don’t feel that being gullible applies to them, especially where it concerns religious beliefs. Subjectivity being what it is, it’s always easy to recognize the irrationality of other faiths, but not our own. However the harsh reality is that many Christians have not actually read the bible, mainly because either reading “ain’t their thing”, or because it doesn’t quite have the same appeal as the Real Housewives of NJ. So many Christian Americans actually hire people (through donations, and TV ratings) to read it for them. They entrust their immortal soul to clergy and evangelical preachers, who often misrepresent what’s actually in the bible.
It is this misrepresentation that makes the American evangelical movement evil in its intent. They dread knowledge of bible, for it would certainly cast doubt, and hurt business. So they give their frightened, intellectually compromised flock biblical sound bites, and keep those more casual in their beliefs tethered to their faith. Conveniently, we rarely hear about how the God of the bible condones rape, slavery, or stoning children to death. Instead, we are told of a loving God… and most Americans, it would seem believe what they want to hear. So much so, that our social and political discourse is driven by a blind adherence to the Christian faith, which happens to be based on a very provable lie.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
According to the new testament –on which Christianity is based– the God of the old testament (the one who had previously killed almost everyone on earth in a great flood, among many other petty, violent acts… not any of the other gods from other holy writs) sacrificed his only begotten son so that we could all be forgiven for an “original” sin (hey, there had to be a first, right?) … which had happened approximately four thousand years prior on our newly created planet when Satan (disguised as a talking snake) convinced a belly-button-less Eve to eat an apple (which God had forbidden). This human sacrifice, and the ensuing angelic altruism was apparently the only way the omnipotent creator of the universe could think of to allow us into his cosmic gated community called heaven. I can only imagine that God, being a supreme being and all could have just said something to the effect of “Bah, forget about it, it was only an apple… so offer me a peach and we’ll call it even.” But that wasn’t the case. Jesus had to be crucified so that he could rise from the dead, and bring the rest of the unworthy souls to eternal paradise with him. Party at Dad’s place.
However, Science tells us otherwise. We know that the Earth is not six thousand years old. We know that humans, as a species have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. We also know that the universe is billions of years old, and that it originated from a central point. We know this, because science has proven so through *literally* millions of pieces of genetic, astrological, geological, and fossil evidence. We know the story of creation to be, in fact, just a story. If there was no Adam & Eve (there wasn’t, btw) then there was no original sin to prompt the necessity of a savior. Yet many have ignored the evidence and abandoned the story’s metaphoric intent so as to remain stubbornly obtuse in their faith.
I am often confronted with the convoluted logic that “Evolution” and “the Big Bang” are *just* theories, and that to believe the myriad of scientific evidence that supports them in the face of the biblical holy writ is, in itself, not rational. However I don’t think that those who employ the dizzying, circular logic that allows one to believe the bible to be both historically and scientifically accurate (simply because it says so) truly understand what a scientific theory is. It’s not as if Charles Darwin was sitting in his underwear and chowing down on pot brownies when he got the idea that humans and other primates shared a common ancestry. It was a determination arrived at through years of research, and gathered evidence which has exponentially increased in the years since his death. The embodiment of the scientific community –through peer review and authoritative scrutiny– have come to embrace these theories, and they only remain categorized as such because we cannot physically travel back in time. To offer some perspective, gravity (also once opposed by the church) is still a scientific theory.
Conversely, Americans rely on facts and evidence to reach every other rational determination in their lives, except creation. So to reference another fictional story in order to illustrate the lack of rationale it takes to be able to ignore what is plainly evident in favor of denial, and blind obedience…. the King of Kings has no clothes.
The truth is, none of the basis for Christianity makes any sense unless one’s had their umbilical cord wrapped around their throat. Yet it drives our national dialogue. It’s safe to say that no one could even be considered to be a viable presidential candidate without first claiming that they truly believed that God impregnated a young virgin with his son (who is actually an incarnation of himself –Jesus is God, John 1:1) …so that he could sacrifice himself, *to* himself in order to alleviate us from an original sin that he determined we had in the first place because some chick ate an apple, thus denying us entry to heaven… and sentencing every human who had existed prior (not to mention subsequently should they not appeal to his sense of vanity by praising him in the appropriate manner) to languish for an eternity of torture, pain and suffering in a fiery hell, despite God’s love for us dirty, unworthy homo-sapiens.
My battle with those of faith is not about their beliefs, per se’… but about the causal effects of their beliefs. The truth is, once a populace gives into fear, abandons fact for fantasy and reason for fairy tale, it invariably accompanies irrational socio/political determinations. It accords Bigotry, and the denial of minority rights. It does this violently, and through legislation. And if history has shown us anything about theocracy … it’s that it harmonizes with tyranny. So I am, as my detractors would say, Fundamentally opposed to the ignorance, bigotry, and outright evil that is consistent with the Christian lie.
I too, am guilty.
There is a current socio/political trend that is lending itself towards an irrational dynamic. Like many irrational behaviors, it is largely motivated by fear. This “trend” I speak of, is when American citizens begin with a subjective political assertion, and gather evidence –whether it be real, manufactured, or a little both– to support it. These declarations are often made without regard for acumen, rather the impetus is to affirm one’s blind allegiance to their chosen dogma… Or to put it more bluntly, paranoia caused by partisan hyperbole. And while toting a “party line” has been an establish practice for generations, the vitriol and adversarial approach to our fellow Americans has become a tragic part of the new Americana.
For instance, I have lifelong friends who reside on both sides of the political aisle who are the exemplification of this sociological paradigm. Almost without exception, they’ll depict a political landscape whereby good and evil are easily recognizable, dependent upon one’s political affiliation. Representatives from either party are often labeled as socialists, fascists, elitists or stupid… and while there are times when any of those labels might seem justified, it is the cavalier manner in which they are so casually tossed about which allows for bombast to have trumped reasonable objections to policy.
The reasons for this social malady are many, depending on who is making the assertion. The psychological payoff, it would appear, is to try to tether oneself to something both righteous and tangible in a world spinning out of control, socially, politically, and economically. It is simply how the culture of fear manifests itself. When one considers how media contributes to this dynamic, certainly it is understandable how we can vilify and canonize so recklessly. We behave more like Sharks and Jets than Democrats and Republicans, and as such our angst is able to seek its expression through our natural discourse.
But for the sources of the cultural divide –those who manufacture these extremes– the motives are not nearly as honorable. Those who profit from any given media platform have recognized the profitable forum in extremism, and thus prey upon the angst of those whom they purport to be enlightening. The laughably biased –albeit lyrical– affirmations of “truth” made by political televangelists on cable news have compromised the imaginative ability of the proletariat to which they preach, resulting in the regurgitation of fact challenged, wingnut propaganda by average citizens on blogs, and in social media. In the ideological turf war, the battle to win the hearts and minds of those not centrifugally pinned to either political extreme is being waged through those who are. In a nation fast losing its ability to employ critical thinking, reason is now viewed as weakness. The inability to rationally articulate one’s socio/political concerns in non-polarizing terms has been denounced, because the truth –as many of us see it– is not actually based on our own perceptions, but rather the perceptions of those on whom we place our misguided trust.
Which brings us to the point of this article, which is an observation about the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Regardless of our political leanings, I hope that we Americans can differentiate between condemning our entire financial system, and calling to task those who have undermined it for personal profit. I hope that we can understand the difference between capitalism, and corporatism. I trust that we recognize that when political influence is purchased though lobbying or when competition is artificially removed from the marketplace, that we no longer live in a democracy, nor do we live in a capitalist society. Something un-American is occurring where it concerns the collusive relationship between capital interests, and congress. The Tea Party saw it, and so do the OWS.
But with few exceptions, both the liberal and conservative media –which provides many with their philosophical rudder– ignores these facts. Rather they fan flames of partisanship because profit lies in our contention with one another. Actuality has given way to the portrait they want us to see. And while I have little doubt that this movement –like the Tea Party before it– will be co-opted by special interests, it does not deter from the evidence, or the larger picture. Regardless of whether one is able to channel their inner hippie and support these protestors, or whether they are the re-incarnation of William F Buckley and denounce them as whiney, entitled, and without a work ethic… it should not dissuade us from recognizing that there are those in both the private and public sectors who are escaping incarceration because we Americans have allowed ourselves to become distracted by political theater.