I once had a conversation with a Christian preacher in which I was describing some tenants of the religion of Jainism, and specifically their belief that they aren’t allowed to harm any living thing. They eat only foods that don’t kill the animal or plant. Dairy is okay, fruit and nuts are okay. Carrots, however, are out since the entire plant is destroyed for consumption. Further, they are very careful not to step on bugs, and frequently wear masks because they wouldn’t want to accidentally inhale a fly and kill it! I was telling him about Jainism (which, to no surprise, he was unaware of) to illustrate the stupidity of Pascal’s wager. Go ahead and google it, I’ll blog about it later. At any rate, he replied by pointing out that if they wash their hands, they are in fact killing living things, namely bacteria. Then he said something that opened the door for a slam-dunk. He said that as you dig into these religions, they all fall apart. I simply said that I agree, and we can include Christianity in that as well, right? Silence.
But it made me realize that making fun of other religions is so damned easy. It really is. And not just for me. EVERYONE is very skilled at systematically dismantling other people’s religions, and even other denominations within their own religion. Frankly, it gives me hope when I see people take down other religions, because it at least means that for most things, their critical thinking skills are intact. But why the hell are people so damned resistant to critically examining their own religion? That’s the maddening thing about atheism, as it turns out.
I can talk to a Christian, and they will not only agree with me on my assessment of other religions, they may even gleefully find fault in other religions. They ask probing questions. They compare the religious teachings with our modern understanding of the world. They examine the ridiculous reality of how the religion began. They fault the religion for immoral teachings. They do everything that your standard atheist does with respect to their religion. I don’t even have to do any work! If I want to find fault in Christianity, I ask a Jew. If I want to find fault with Judaism, I ask a Muslim. If I want to find fault with Islam, I ask a Mormon. If I want to find fault with Mormonism, I ask a Christian. Et Cetera. As it has been famously said, all those religious people are atheists in respect to almost a thousand other gods. Atheists just believe in one less god.
So what the hell is going on here? Why do they still believe in their religions when it is so easy to see the error of other’s religions?
In my experience, I’ve noticed that the one challenge to other’s religion on which none of them dare to tread is the challenge to belief itself. They are essentially just debating the fine points of doctrine. The Protestant will happily make fun of the Catholic belief in transubstantiation, but naturally still believe in a Jesus. The Christian will happily make fun of the Muslim doctrines of Muhammed, but still hold the belief in a god. The monotheist religions will make fun of polytheists, but at least are comforted knowing that they believe in SOME kind of higher power. So they aren’t really atheists regarding all the other gods at all. They are just quibbling about the definition.
This is the real problem. It’s not that they don’t have critical thinking skills, it’s that the one sacred area that can never be challenged is that a higher power exists. And this is exactly why atheism is the only response to the horrors of religion.
You see, your average Christian can get upset about the doctrines of the Westboro Baptist Church (the “God Hates Fags” folks), but they don’t really have any solid argument as to why they’re so bad. The difference between the Westboro Baptist Church and Pat Robertson, after all, is signs. That’s it. Pat Robertson is an asshole, an evil snake oil salesman, homophobic, devoid of all logic, and equally offensive. But he says it slow and calm on TV, while the WBC make signs and protest at military funerals. But the message is the same. So how can the members of the 700 club get pissed at WBC? Well, they try, but they stumble over the details. They use horrible arguments. They use emotion over logic. You know, the same way they defend their faith.
Christians in the western world get offended at the actions of Islamic fundamentalists, but their only real argument is that their supposed prophet was right and the other prophet is wrong. “Based on what?” the discerning reader will ask. Nothing of substance, it turns out. They pretend that there is something in their particular holy book that proves that theirs is more real, but the only reason it “proves” anything is because it agrees with their view. I’ve started asking Christians about horrible shit in the bible to elicit the usual “that’s old testament” excuse. And once THEY have set up OT god as the asshole (because making excuses for OT god is the only way to justify the bible), then I point out that the “evil” Islam is actually more in-line with Old Testament God, and if the Old Testament is true, then Islam is the logical conclusion. This is where their minds short circuit. It’s funny.
Back to condemning religious crap. Within the religions, there is no real condemnation that can be made. But ask an atheist. Luckily, there is absolutely no evidence at all that either Muhammed or Jesus were acting in accordance with the wishes of a god, and absolutely no evidence that god exists. This is why skepticism is the only real answer to the evils of religion. Nobody’s god was acting as the arbiter of real estate transactions because that god is FAKE. Case closed.
Palestinian/Israeli conflict? Same thing. While Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all bitching about which one of them God willed his property to, we know it was none of them, god is fake, stop acting like entitled morons, and learn to get along. Northern Ireland? Ask the atheist. Shia/Sunni wars? Ask the atheist. Genocide in Rwanda? Ask the atheist. On the domestic front, questions of religious freedom? Ask the atheist. Stem cell research? Ask the atheists. Gay marriage? Ask the atheist.
Now, just to clear some things up, here is what atheism has to say about solving all these issues. I’ll write it below:
Yeah, that’s right, atheism says absolutely nothing about any of these issues. Atheism is not a belief, it’s not a set of values, it’s not a political movement, it’s not even a platform. It merely is the understanding that all the religions seem made up. And since we have no way to figure out if any of them are real, we must deal with life on our own. We must use our brains. So let’s quit being dicks to each other, roll up our sleeves, and figure these things out. And keep making fun of religions.
The Spartan Atheist