The Life of a Godless Unbeliever Must be Hell

Did you know that Atheists are driving people away from science and into the loving arms of religion because we’re such meanies? Yeah, neither did I. But according to Mary Midgley, moral philosopher, that’s exactly what we are doing:

People are not going to accept scientific fact if they think it is morally pernicious. When people are asked why they are persuaded by intelligent design, they often say that it’s the only alternative to scientific atheism and Darwinism which are pernicious moral doctrines; they see it as the only refuge from this anti-human bloody-mindedness. It’s at the level of attitudes to life that these choices are made. And people will think scientists as a whole believe this.

Not that I think this is true but let us suppose, just for a moment that some people are put off of Science by us morally pernicious Atheists and our ungodly talkativeness. Why would this be?

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Still Need Proof Organized Religion Is a Scam?

Mother Theresa: Atheist:

Shortly after beginning work in Calcutta’s slums, the spirit left Mother Teresa.

“Where is my faith?” she wrote. “Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness… If there be God — please forgive me.”

Eight years later, she was still looking to reclaim her lost faith.

“Such deep longing for God… Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal,” she said.

As her fame increased, her faith refused to return. Her smile, she said, was a mask.

“What do I labor for?” she asked in one letter. “If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

“These are letters that were kept in the archbishop’s house,” the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk told Phillips.

The letters were gathered by Rev. Kolodiejchuk, the priest who’s making the case to the Vatican for Mother Teresa’s proposed sainthood. He said her obvious spiritual torment actually helps her case.

“Now we have this new understanding, this new window into her interior life, and for me this seems to be the most heroic,” said Rev. Kolodiejchuk. [emphasis added]

Sure, she didn’t really believe in God but she’s really popular so we’re going to make her a saint anyway. Whatever it takes to fill those empty pews. How many other saints didn’t really believe but were appropriated after their death for reasons of marketing and cajoling? Probably about as many as were just invented altogether.

Mother Theresa of course deserves some of the blame. She continued to force feed the poor and sick nonsense that she didn’t even believe, just so she could watch them suffer, to try and jump start her flagging faith.

The only thing worse than sadism wrapped in piety is sadism for it’s own sake.

Loosing His Religion

William Lobdell, staff reporter for the LA Times, writes about how covering the religion beat for the newspaper cost him his faith. He lobbied hard for the job and then was confronted by an endless parade of child molesting priests, outcast Mormons whose only sin was not being Mormon enough and worst of all, Benny Hinn. It’s a sad story because you see in William Lobdell what you see in a lot of people these days. They desperately want to believe in God as away to give structure and meaning to their lives, to do good deeds and use their faith a s a motivation for creating positive change. But then reality set sin. They see how people let themselves be used by church leaders for the usual pathetic power games, or worse, to cover up and excuse their own twisted, all too human hearts:

On a Sunday morning at a parish in Rancho Santa Margarita, I watched congregants lobby to name their new parish hall after their longtime pastor, who had admitted to molesting a boy and who had been barred that day from the ministry. I felt sick to my stomach that the people of God wanted to honor an admitted child molester. Only one person in the crowd, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, spoke out for the victim.

On Good Friday 2002, I decided I couldn’t belong to the Catholic Church. Though I had spent a year preparing for it, I didn’t go through with the rite of conversion.

I understood that I was witnessing the failure of humans, not God. But in a way, that was the point. I didn’t see these institutions drenched in God’s spirit. Shouldn’t religious organizations, if they were God-inspired and -driven, reflect higher standards than government, corporations and other groups in society?

I found an excuse to skip services that Easter. For the next few months, I attended church only sporadically. Then I stopped going altogether.

Luckily, Mr. Lobdell realized that faith was a crutch propping up institutions that have neither God nor people’s needs in mind, but are just corrupt organizations designed to make money and control the week and desperate. And he walked away. he decided that he didn’t have to be part of that system. It may make it harder to be a force for positive change in the world without an established apparatus with all its infrastructure and support to fall back on but it is still possible. Hopefully, Mr. Lobdell will see that and maybe help us Atheists make some noise and spread some of his hard-won reason and knowledge.

Link via Amanda at Pandagon.

Framing the Wrong Answer

Mathew Nisbit at Framing Science asks a pertinent question of us Atheists, and then proceeds to piss all over everyone who has an answer. But you can’t be an apologist for theists and not get something wrong. First, the pertinent question: “How do we make sense of human values and how do we move forward in a post-religious age?”

He’s actually quoting someone else (Philip Kitcher, who has a new book Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith), but it is a common question I’ve heard asked by a variety of people. Now, the something wrong:

As I’ve argued, one of the reasons I find the New Atheist PR campaign so troubling is that it is has radicalized a movement that feeds on anger and fear and that offers little more than complaints and attacks.New Atheism turns on a binary discourse of us vs. them. In the rhetoric of the New Atheist movement, you’re either with us or your against us.

There are a number of problems with this short paragraph but the main one is pretty glaring: Pissing off religious people is easy. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous. As if we weren’t so strident and there, Theists would respect our freedoms and wishes to exist, eventually. In time. Once they get used to us being, you know, around. So yes, pissing off religious people– how easy is it? You don’t even have to call them out on their fairy tale nonsense, their history of repression and violence, or their adherence to outdated and reactionary ideas. Hell, where I live, you can do it just by buying beer on Sunday. If we New Atheists (who are a lot like the Old Atheists, only more vocal, which is Mathew’s real gripe) come off as tad angry, it’s because we’ve gotten tired of being told we’re bad people and treated like second class citizens because we don’t believe in the popular fairy tales of the day. There’s only so many times you can be called Evil and treated by older relatives like puppies who have just messed on the rug because you don’t want to get up early on Sunday and go play Eat the Magic Carpenter with them, before you just decide to be the asshole they already think you are by having the lack of decorum not to drink wine while pretending it’s the blood of their imaginary friend.

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The Truth About Atheism Today

Atheists and rationalists often lament about the increased influence that the dogmatic and religious have in this country and by extension, on the world’s political and social scene. We hear so much about religiosity and it’s discontents with modern civilization, that we think of it as a creeping force to be reckoned with, something to remain ever vigilant against, lest we be dragged kicking and screaming back to the Dark Ages. But a recent report by Gregory Paul & Phil Zuckerman says otherwise.

Their study looked at a number of factors and found that far from the popular claims of a Western World in the grips of a religious rebirth, we are in fact becoming far more secular, faster. And by we, I mean the entire human species, not just the US. The only disappointing news in the whole piece is that the US is moving slower in this regards than everyone else, including China and even Turkey (where one third of the population say that religion is not all that important in their daily life, compared with just over one half here in the US). But just because we’re a little behind in the race to a rational, secular world, it doesn’t mean we aren’t getting there, and faster than the Dominionists would have you believe [emphasis mine]:

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An Antidote to the Poison In The Well

I don’t often agree with Christopher Hitchens. His midlife flight from Trotskyism has, in many ways, turned him into a cranky reactionary, siding with Neocons when occasion suits him and generally being contrarian for the sake of pissing people off. Which is fine, the world needs it’s contrarians and I don’t have to agree with a man entirely to recognize when he is making sense. Which is why I’m glad he put the gin bottle down long enough to write God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Firstly, you probably won’t discover too many new pieces of information here, though I did learn a few things about how the Koran was edited together that were new to me. But Hitchen’s offers a much needed complementary view to atheism in general and Atheist writing in particular. The unavoidable comparisons to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are made in just about every review of Hitchens’ book I’ve read and they probably will form a sort of unofficial atheist trilogy. Where Harris comes at the problem of faith and belief in god form the point of view of a philosopher and Dawkins tackles it from the perspective of a scientist, Hitchens offers us the much needed insight of a journalist and man of letters.

It’s this literary perspective that is most necessary to help encourage skepticism and disbelief to spread among the general public. Far too often, atheists are seen as cold, calculating rationalists, robot men who have amputated the limb of faith and are lacking in something vital, all in the pursuit of reason. Hitchens does a service in showing that disbelief is not the result of prolonged exposure to rare intellectual isotopes but the natural and organic process of simply living in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Atheism and skepticism has a long and glorious tradition, rooted in Enlightenment values of free thought, unrestrained inquiry and above all imagination. Some of the greatest writers and thinkers of the last three centuries have been men and women without faith. These are not freaks and outsiders, hammering away at the foundation of Western Civilization. They are they architects of our culture. Showing that the Bible is just shoddy literature, with very human (and often bloody) fingerprints all over it will go a long way towards undermining its authority as an unimpeachable resource, one to be eyed with the critics skeptic eye than the true believer’s blind faith.

If We Keep Our Mouths Shut, Maybe They’ll Give Us Chocolate, Too

There’s been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere of late as to weather or not “mean” atheists like Richard Dawkins are helping the cause of atheism and the spread of free thought or hurting it. Some people say that of course, they are, we need our agitators. Others say we should just keep our mouthes shut. Because being polite is just how slavery was ended and women got the vote. Some even think Atheists aren’t really persecuted and shouldn’t include ourselves among those fighting for our liberties. Afer all, it’s not as if atheists are being physically attacked for their beliefs:

In what appears to be the first violent hate crime against an atheist, Justin Trottier, Director of the Center for Inquiry Ontario and President of the Freethought Association of Canada (a national body composed of secularist student groups including the UofT Secular Alliance and the Freethinker’s Association of Ryerson) was attacked around midnight on March 27 on the campus of Ryerson University. Ryerson security is treating this as a hate crime.

Mr. Trottier and his colleague Peter Aruja were placing posters for upcoming events at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, featuring physicist Victor Stenger, author of the New York Time’s Best Seller “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, set to take place on April 5. While postering, two assailants took offense to the religious implications of the posters advertising for Stenger’s book. About fifteen minutes later when Trottier and Aruja were in a more secluded area of the university the two reappeared and initiated a verbal argument.

According to Mr. Trottier “The first individual smacked me in the face twice and said “watch your smart mouth.” I said “don’t touch me” at which point he head butted me hard in the face, causing my nose to bleed profusely.”

The attack targeting an individual for his beliefs clearly represents a hate crime and is being treated as such by Ryerson security. This also represents a disturbing trend of targeting individuals who visibly question the legitimacy of religious dogma. Just last week Toronto Police were involved in the highly publicized threats against Mr. Fatah and Mrs. Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Here the anonymous individual swore to “slaughter” the two MCC members, in the name of god, for belonging to an “apostate” organization.

The Humanist Association of Canada spokesperson, Pat O’Brien, responded to this shameful incident: “Atheists have never been accorded the same respect as those with religious beliefs even though our position originates in logic and reason, not myth and superstition. This escalation of a systemic, although till now hidden, discrimination is very troubling.”

Hey God, Next Time, Just Send A Condolence Card

I’ve only heard of this Dinesh D’Souza fellow once before, when he was on the Colbert report, selling his shitty book about how progressives and free thinkers were responsible for 9/11 and the only way we’re going to defeat The Terrorists is by passing Sharia laws and becoming more like them. So, I wasn’t expecting clearheadedness from him when I read his little rant about the Virginia Tech shootings, in which he went off on a tangent, wondering aloud to his navel where all the atheists were about now and why wasn’t Richard Dawkins invited to speak at the memorial service.

That last little non sequiter there is the result of D’Souza not knowing the names of an other prominent atheists, ones who maybe live in the US rather than England. But apparently Mr. D’Souza thinks that Dr. Dawkins has nothing better to do than to fly half way around the world, calling press conferences to comment on tragedies that he has no personal connection with.

Setting aside the idiocy of this part of the argument, he goes on to make some ludicrous pronouncements about the character of people who do not share his belief in the grief counseling power of fairy tales:

Several atheists–who haven’t yet lost their fundamentalist habit of reading–took this sarcastic statement literally. “So what? The Pope hasn’t been invited either!” My point was that atheism has nothing to offer in the face of tragedy except C’est la vie. Deal with it. Get over it. This is why the ceremonies were suffused with religious rhetoric. Only the language of religion seems appropriate to the magnitude of tragedy. Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances. If someone started to read from Dawkins on why there is no good and no evil in the universe, people would start vomiting or leaving.One clever writer informs me that atheists don’t deny meaning, they simply insist that meaning is not inherent in the universe, it is created by us. Okay, pal, here’s the Virginia Tech situation. Go create some meaning and share it with the rest of us Give us that atheist sermon with you in the pulpit of the campus chapel. I’m not being facetious here. I really want to hear what the atheist would tell the grieving mothers.

First off, atheists don’t give sermons. We don’t tell other people what they should think and feel and then condescend to them when they have a different reaction than us. In the face of tragedy, some people cry, while others laugh or simply stare into space and wonder. We all react differently to grief but I have to wonder if telling the bereaved fairy tales about the dead playing volleyball in Cloud Cuckooland will really make anything better.

Secondly, as a number of people have pointed out, your God wasn’t exactly falling all over himself to stop the bullets or change the shooter’s mind. Just like Jesus didn’t use his super wood carving powers to build an unbreakable levy in New Orleans and Moses didn’t part the South Seas to stop the tsunami. But D’Souza has this one covered:

But perhaps God’s purpose in the world (I am only thinking aloud here) is to draw his creatures to him. And you have to admit that tragedies like this one at Virginia Tech help to do that!

Nice, huh? God lets bad things happen in order for us to become emotionally dependent on his stingy love and murderous whims. D’Souza thinks that not only is humanity suffering from a massive case of Battered Spouse Syndrome but that this is somehow a good thing.

Hat tip to PZ Myers.

Dawkins Vs. God II

Most of the reviews for Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion go to great lengths to mention how intolerant the good doctor is towards religious intolerance. The assumption is that we shouldn’t take serious a forceful argument about such a delicate subject because as we all know, theologians are just hothouse flowers and what’s this Dawkins fellow got against your Grandma and her sweet Sunday school demeanor any how? Which is utter bullshit.

Dr. Dawkins makes a first rate argument against religious belief, especially the belief in God and does so simply by applying the same basic level of critical scrutiny that all good scientists apply to any proposition. And that really is what has so many of the Religious apologist reviewers all atwitter. Dawkins is applying logic and the scientific method to something that, historically, has been given a pass I this area. Belief in God has been granted such special status in our culture by rigging the system. You can’t question God’s existence because it relies on faith, and it relies on faith and faith alone because God’s Priests say it does. So buzz off, why don’t you. And don’t look at the man behind the curtain, the one with his pants around his ankles and an altar boys ass in the air.

We’ve reached the point in our society where clinging to irrational superstitions is no longer a quaint pass time for soccer moms and armchair theologians, but is actually quite dangerous and not just to people in New York sky scrapers or hunkered down in Mesopotamian bunkers. Religious intolerance and the violence it engenders has become a major problem on all levels of society. And trying to vaccinate holy madness by cutting it with new age spirituality and moderate belief doesn’t work. It just creates a Petri dish for fundamentalism to grow faster. So yes, Dawkins is intolerant of religion. As well as we all should be.

His arguments will not really be news for anyone well versed in the ins and outs of Atheist thought but they are compelling, thoughtfully argued and backed up by rigorous science and scrupulous evidence. And that is the really revolutionary aspect of this book. There is evidence for why religious belief is dangerous. And it is presented here in a manner that is cogent, persuasive and compelling.

Reading the God Delusion, I was struck by the thought that animals that do not evolve and adapt to their environment become extinct. It’s an elementary concept that forms the foundation of evolution: evolve or die. And since the religious leaders who have appointed themselves custodians of our culture don’t want us to evolve, it should tell you just what it is they want us all to do instead.