If the number of those professing no loyalty to make-believe celestial despots (thankfully) continues to grow, faith derangement syndrome is advancing to its final stage among those suffering from it.
A new PPP survey reveals that Republicans are afflicted most, with 44 percent now favoring installing Christianity as the United States’ official religion. (Lest we forget, the GOP’s roster of potential 2016 candidates is stocked with rabid believers, and even faith-faker Donald Trump is courting evangelicals.) A shocking 28 percent of Democrats are also theocratically inclined. Only 53 percent of Republican and Democratic voters combined oppose declaring Jesus jabberwocky our national faith.
The upshot: almost three out of four adult Americans would, in effect, junk the First Amendment, and with it, our gloriously godless system of governance.
These statistics should prompt all rationalists to sound the proverbial tocsin with unrelenting fury. The religious-secular divide among Americans is deepening, putting those who value reason, evidence and consensus-based decisions in direct opposition to putrid supernatural gobbledygook’s slackwitted votaries; in other words, to those who hear voices, see visions, and engage in kooky superstitious rituals – prayer, for instance – that would lead to their immediate institutionalization if such symptoms were not classified under the (scandalously) ennobling rubric of “religion.”
Remember, the PPP survey deals not with the simple spread of faith, but with the desire of one part of the population to force its antiquated way of life and counterfactual worldview on the other.
The situation, thus, is dire. We no longer have time for niceties. We need to speak out forcibly against faith and expose it for what it is – a delusion deleterious to liberty and the commonwealth.
The stakes are high. The faith-deranged support a (largely successful) nationwide campaign to restrict women’s reproductive rights and introduce Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, of which there are now 21 in force, with others on the way. As a result of decades of Christian propaganda, performing abortions can be life-threatening for doctors. And in times of widespread fiscal austerity, the government loses about $83 billion a year to religious tax exemptions. This should all outrage us and incite us to act.
Yet we have it relatively easy. Abroad, a terrorist state founded on religion is destroying Syria and driving refugees into Europe. Sectarian violence threatens to bedevil Iraq indefinitely. Boko Haram is wreaking more and more havoc in West Africa. A Christian-Muslim conflict is ripping apart the Central African Republic. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is spiraling out of control. The longstanding hostility between India and Pakistan could erupt into a nuclear war that would end life on Earth as we know it.
Even in countries at peace, religion offers justification for violence and oppression. Take Saudi Arabia, for instance, where floggings and beheadings, often for apostasy or blasphemy, are routine events. Female genital mutilation is endemic in 28 mostly Muslim countries. Last January, religion motivated young men to commit mass murder in the heart of Paris, and over cartoons. Then, a month later, another faith-inspired terrorist opened fire on a free speech conference in Copenhagen while the Femen leader Inna Shevchenko was speaking, killing one and wounding three.
This is all almost too depressing to contemplate. Yet there’s an even direr reason to speak out forcibly against religion now -- our species’ fading prospects for survival. Global warming, scientists show, is proceeding far more rapidly than had been predicted. The consequences have been to spark demonstrations in Syria that led to the civil war there, and worsen drought in the Sahel, helping birth Boko Haram. As the Himalayan glaciers melt, the Ganges River plains are threatened. Sea levels may rise as much as four feet by the end of the century. There may well be 150 or 200 million climate change refugees by 2050, and mostly from deeply religious parts of the world.
To worsen matters, our antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, leading to fears of what some have called a “bacterial apocalypse.” Overpopulation will also plague us, doubling the population in the next 35 years in Africa alone. Some scientists are even talking of human extinction.
Now, facing all these problems, the last places we should turn to for guidance are the macabre fables of ancient books, books composed before people knew they had to wash their hands after defecating.
Confronting all these perils, are we really going to sit by and keep quiet as religious conflicts divert our attention from solutions, set one group of humans against another and inspire misogyny, mayhem and murder? Are we going to nod humbly as pastors, priests, rabbis and imams preach division and hatred, when now more than ever we need a spirit of comity and union? Are we going to keep mum as faith-charlatans propose junk science be taught in schools as an “alternative” to evolution?
Will we keep on genuflecting to the avuncular Pope Francis, even as the Vatican aids, abets and shelters child rapists and forbids contraception, which is the same as sentencing people to poverty and underdevelopment in places like Africa and the Philippines?
Are we not going to object as our limited time and our limited resources are diverted to religious studies, faith groups and the building of places of worship?
We don’t have time or resources to spare. Every hour passed studying the Bible or the Quran in search of some “sacred” truth could be spent learning about the real world and our universe. We can’t tolerate such waste anymore.
Yet we do. By and large, we smile politely to people, humans just like us, who raise themselves above us by merely declaring themselves “saved” in one fashion or another. This, on their part, is unspeakable arrogance. We should stop smiling at once and speak out against such absurd presumption. Ignoring it just helps it continue.
Religion is, after all, implicitly arrogant. It assumes it knows the truth, that its followers are saved and that the rest of us are deluded and even damned. Are we really going to sit by as faith movements demand “tolerance” for such views, and try to make us to submit to their wills? Whether religion offers solace to some isn’t the issue. The submission and control it seeks to impose is. Toss out the Supreme Being and we’re left with one set of humans striving to dominate another, and justifying themselves with ideology based on nothing but myth.
We need to expose those myths for the lies they are, political correctness be damned.
We’ve all heard, “This is my religion and it’s true for me.” Objectively, though, the my-religion-is-true-for-me line is false, of course. Jesus can’t be the savior for some, but not others. Muhammad cannot be the prophet of God for one group, but not another. There either is a God, or there isn’t – and there is not. There is no middle ground between truth and falsehood. None should be sought.
Everyone is entitled to believe or not. But no one has a right to air their beliefs, let alone intrude them into public policy, without criticism. Freedom of speech means being able to criticize, mock, censure and condemn bad ideas. Religion is certainly one of the worst. We have a constitutional right to speak out against religion. We now have a duty to do so, given the state of the world. And remember, in attacking religion, we attack ideas, not people. We can and should separate the view from the view-holder. The believers of today may be the skeptics or atheists of tomorrow.
I stress the arrogance intrinsic to religion, the arrogance afflicting all who claim to know the truth and demand respect for it because it’s in the Bible or the Quran and lots of people believe it and have always believed it. Such arrogance should spur us to show courage, to declare that if science hasn’t yet got all the answers, religion has none. We need to elevate reasonable doubt to a virtue, and call faith based on no objective evidence what it is: a vice.
We need to call out all those who tell us that since we can’t prove there’s no God, we should call ourselves agnostics. Consider Bertrand Russell’s response to such misguided epistemological effrontery – the teapot argument.
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
The upshot? You don’t need to prove God’s nonexistence. Turn the tables and ask the religious to provide objective, verifiable proof He exists. In effect, they will give you the teapot argument. Dismiss it and, again, demand evidence. They will have none. God is the failed hypothesis par excellence.
Living in the age we do, we nonbelievers find ourselves attacked and labeled intolerant for speaking out against religion. But we have no holy book to kill and die for. Are we really going to sit and let religious folks demand respect for the Bible and the Quran, when both books bristle with accounts of divinely ordained bloodshed and massacre?
All that said, we cannot divide the world into fixed camps of us and them, into the equivalent of Islam’s Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam. Any believer today can become a nonbeliever tomorrow, provided he or she wakes up and starts thinking in terms of evidence. Free speech is the way to achieve this outcome.
We cannot betray rationalists in Muslim countries by curbing our speech here out of mistaken notions of political correctness or “respect” for Islam. Think of what Raif Badawi would say, how he’d feel, if he saw us here in the secular West refraining from criticizing the faith of those who flog him and imprison him? Would he not lose heart?
In the fight for free speech about religion, Islam presents us with semantic confusion stemming from the widely used balderdash terms Islamophobia and Islamophobic. Yet accepting the sort of pseudo-logic offered by denouncers of Islamophobia – that finding fault with the dogmas of Islam is racist – leads one to inescapably racist conclusions.
How so? Well, are Syrians and Iraqis just naturally prone to beheading people? They really would behead even without the Quran telling them to smite the infidels at their necks? Men in the Middle East are just born wife-beaters? Or might instructions on wife-beating in the Islamic canon have something to do with it?
(We should recall there’s one and only one U.N. Convention on Human Rights. The Convention doesn’t make exceptions for culture or religion.)
The don’t-blame-religion trope also fails in the United States. Two examples suffice to prove this: is a certain County Clerk named Kim Davis just naturally inclined to deny same-sex couples their marriage licenses? Or might her Christian beliefs be involved? Are some loving parents congenitally disposed to deny their children medical care, and de facto murder them? Or does Christian Science have something to do with it? On the latter point, you might read Jerry Coyne’s “Faith Versus Fact,” if you have any doubt. But I’m sure you don’t.
We arrive at certain inevitable conclusions about what sort of person you have to be if you persist, despite the evidence, in believing in God. If you think little girls’ clitorises should be sliced off, then religion is for you. If you think holding one belief instead of another, or renouncing a belief, is a capital offense, then religion is for you. If you think an outbreak of atheism among ISIS’s ranks would do nothing to slow that group’s commission of atrocities, then religion is for you. If you think women need to wear a certain form of headgear or be considered whores, then religion is for you. If you hold that an aging, kindly-appearing male should rightfully hold sway over whether women can moderate their own reproductive cycles, then religion is for you. If you believe women should submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, then religion is for you. If you think the myths and nonsense embedded in the Bible qualify that book to serve as some sort of public-policy guidebook, then religion is for you. In short, if you’re incapable of thinking straight, and you’re willing to lead your life in accordance with wild metaphysical jibber-jabber, then religion, I’m sorry to say, is for you.
Well, I hate to join the “I find that offensive!” crowd, but I hold all the above-mentioned views extremely offensive, worthy of ridicule and excoriation. To believe something on the basis of no objective evidence, given the consequences, is, as William K. Clifford wrote, wrong everywhere and at all times. It is moral cowardice to believe something because you want it to be true. It is nothing short of moral treachery to cede, in the spirit of tolerance, the high ground to people with such beliefs. When we do so, we betray skeptics and nonbelievers everywhere, including, most of all, those in religious countries.
The winds of nonbelief are blowing more strongly than ever. We need to finish off faith and hasten the arrival of the day when we, as a species, free of superstition, can look each other in the eye, no matter what our nationality or skin color or gender is, and see partners, partners in making what we can of our lives.
We can defeat religion, as long as we don’t surrender first.