Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Justification for Being an Ostentatious Asshole

This began as a blog comment, but it spiraled out of control into essentially a personal manifesto concerning just why I deride religion oh-so-much.

When confronted with any anti-religious stance (no matter how much evidence one has to back it up) the near-universal reaction from theists is "why attack religion," "to each his own," "it offers so much good," "who cares if it's based on falsehoods," etc. -- followed by charges of intolerance, faithism and so on. There is a simple answer to all these points -- it's no exaggeration to say that religion is either directly or indirectly responsible for every atrocity in human history. Show me an abomination and I'll show you the religious tie. The crusades. The inquisition. The holocaust. The war on drugs. The war on terror. Show me a place people are being oppressed and/or have limited access to rights, power and/or resources and I'll show you a religious motivation (though many times masquerading as an ethnic/governmental one). It also retards progress and is not only the root but the primary purveyor of every single one of what sociologists refer to as the "-isms." This is universally acknowledged, but the difference of opinion comes when people try to either minimize the impact of some of the "-isms" (primarily heterosexism) and/or justify religion on the grounds of all the good it supposedly does socially and offers personally.

This is where a key difference between religion and governments comes into play. Like governments and regimes, religion is institutionalized and systematized, but unlike those things, religion is also personal and individualistic, albeit masquerading as spirituality or beliefs. Because of this, religion, like governments and regimes, can not only be the perpetrator of grand atrocities, but can also be the motive behind them, even when they're committed by said governments or regimes. And because of this, religion, unlike governments and regimes, can also be the cause and perpetrator of thousands of smaller, more personal and painful injustices, such as the alienation, abuse, marginalization and derision suffered by atheists, women, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered people and any other misfits whose ideas and personalities didn't jive with the dominant pseudo-theocracy.

Happiness and purpose are wonderful things -- but, like charity and morality, they are objective and not derived from or reliant upon religion. Because of this, in a hypothetical, completely atheist world, these things would still exist for all the same people, just from different places and for different reasons.

So religion offers nothing that is both good and unique, and is inherently destructive, detrimental and limiting. So there had better be a damn good reason to justify it's very existence -- and this is why it's such a big deal whether or not there's any truth to religion. To back bold claims and assertions requires bold evidence, and religion has none.

There are plenty of writings by people a lot smarter than me attempting to reconcile the inconsistencies, inadequacies and imperfections inherent in faith and religion. And there are plenty of writings by people a lot smarter than them calling their answers what they are -- argumentative jokes (those by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and the U.'s own Deen K. Chatterjee are my favorites). The theists argue from emotion and personal experience rather than keeping all arguments within the realm of logic and philosophy, where meaningful religious discussion must occur.

Some believe its fine to have religion, just not one that is wrong. When argued within the realm of argumentative logic, religion -- all religion -- is shown to be wrong. And for those that think that God is as impossible to conclusively disprove as he is to prove, you're wrong. The burden of proof lay with the faithful, and God (or any omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity) and faith essentially cannot be proven or defended without using faith to do so, thus begging the question (the writings of David Hume illustrate this beautifully).

To the faithful, the religion which supposedly derives their shallow happiness, outmoded morality and their precious "purpose" is something they think about perhaps a few times a day, but Utah's Amendment 3, which they voted for on essentially religious grounds, is a crushing weight on someone else which they feel constantly. One's right to worship foolishness stops as soon as it interferes with another's rights.

You see, unlike The Da Vinci Code, what's at stake here isn't something as abstract as "the truth" -- it isn't whether people are mass-believing a lie. What's at stake are very tangible things such as gay rights, reproductive rights, women's health rights, class struggle, minority and ethnic rights, civil liberties and Democracy itself, for it is reliant upon secularism. Atheists aren't trying to be vindictive to institutions that have trampled them all their lives -- we merely understand what's at stake here and realize that the root of it all is religion, which has hid behind false claims, faulty logic, moderation, charity, ignorance, indoctrination and "tolerance" for far too long. It is not intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance (wordy, I know, but no less true). Hating stupid people is not the same as hating a specific race -- the fact that one could even compare the intolerance of ignorance with racism is ridiculous. Ignorance, religion and all the "-isms" have a very symbiotic relationship, and together they constitute a systemic threat which must be confronted and dealt with by the very mindset we militant atheists and secularists are espousing. It wouldn't be out of the question to call us revolutionaries, for this is merely the foremost frontier in the ongoing struggle for human rights and progressivism.