Thursday, October 12, 2006

Where I Stand

Hello again everyone. I am back for yet another blog, this one entirely of my own thinking and not merely a commentary on another authors' writings. The issue this time is religion, specifically addressing what many atheists have been accused of by religious moderates and fundamentalists alike. This accusation, intended to put atheists on the defensive is that as an atheist, I wish religion had never existed. It is worthy to note that this charge also comes from atheists who do, in fact, agree with the charge and hold a certain contempt for atheists such as myself who disagree entirely. So this is basically a defense of my disgust for religion, hopefully a pretty in depth look at it.

Well we might as well start with the beginning right? Now I am going to make a somewhat fair assumption here that everyone knows about the story of Christianity from Jesus' birth to his death and resurrection. You're all Christian right so you should now this. If you don't feel free to go educate yourself; you will be needing it for this blog. Now then, picking up where Jesus left off, we have the time period known to many as "the gap." Jesus dies around 30-33 AD and then there is not really much record of his teachings and life and whatnot until somewhere around 70 AD at the earliest, which comes in the form of the gospels. For more information regarding that little problem, consult the documentary "The God That Wasn't There." OK so what I want to talk about is the manner through which Christianity spread. The most common conception of this is that Paul and Peter took care of the spreading of these teachings. So let's go ahead and focus on exactly who Paul was and what he preached. Paul was originally named Saul and persecuted Christians with a fiery vengeance. In fact, just to show how much he hated these bastards, on what would be his final journey or this sort, he set off towards Damascus to arrest any Christians, chain them and bring them back to be imprisoned and/or executed in Jerusalem. No wonder atheists decry Christianity as one of the most violent atrocities to come to this earth. Anyway on the way to Damascus Saul has a vision where he sees Jesus, and is converted in an instant to Paul of Tarsus. Now, I'll be nice and ignore the ridiculous improbability that a man who had devoted his life to the persecution of Christians became one over a hallucination in the desert. So anyway Paul becomes chief proselytizer of Jesus and his teachings, proclaiming faith in God as the way to go. Nothing to remarkable yet I suppose, but here is where it gets interesting. The manner in which Paul spreads these teachings is, to be honest, wholly non-Christ-like, while at the same time the very definition of Christianity. Paul instilled a fear within the uneducated with his threats of hellfire and damnation and claims of original sin. He speaks of a violent, malevolent God and denounces those skeptical of the resurrection as fools. In reading Romans and Acts and Epistels and Corinthians, etc, I can't recall a single time in which Paul acknowledges the right to independent belief and thought. Humanity as a whole is a sinful bunch and must repent to God, or else face his wrath, and by the way, this is THE way to think, as there is no other way about it. The state of Israel? Merely misguided peoples yet to understand the truth. Am I the only one who questions what the fuck was Up with Paul's decision to put Christianity at odds with every other past present and future religion and belief system? And people say that religions are mutually exclusive...my ass they aren't. In conclusion, Christianity didn't spread via genuine love for thy neighbor, or for an inherent belief in the good of others, or even based on any peaceful pretenses.

Now I'm not too biased, so I will go ahead and express my volition of Islam. So as far as the history of Islam goes, I am not going to explain the resident beliefs on it's origins in detail. You should already know that, and if you don't, go educate yourself then come back. What you really need to know is Muhammad, the last in the line of prophets of God, at the age of around forty staring receiving visions from the angel Gabriel in a cave on a mountain outside Mecca known as Hira. Gabriel tells him to "recite!" and so he does and what he recites over the many years this occurs becomes what we all know as the Qur'an. Anyway, the manner in which Muhammad spread this word of God was in an almost identical manner which Paul had used half a century earlier; with proclamations about the Day of Judgement, strict monotheism and condescending attitudes on his belief to perfect the flawed systems of belief that were Judaism and Christianity.but Meccans didn't take too kindly to this asshole telling them they are fools, so they exiled his ass to Medina. Then they got really mad and attacked Medina, but strangely enough Muhammad and his Muslim followers were able to fend them off, eventually marching on Mecca and conquering that city, supposedly in a bloodless battle. Anyway the Muslims remove the idols from the Kabba in Mecca and thus Islam becomes an established ideology in the history of the world...through subjugation of powers; awesome. So here we have the Muslim religion expanding in much the same way as Christianity, though with arguably more war and bloodshed.

Now getting back to my point of this blog, how is it possible that as an atheist I don't despise the creation of religion, even after the condescending remarks I have made in the previous paragraphs? Simple. Religion was a bounty of scientific knowledge. Yeah I said it. Do a double take, laugh, cry, whatever you need to do after reading that....OK so now we're back and it's time for me to justify that. Let me be the first to say that religion as we know it today is one of the most tremendous abominations in opposition to science that exists. But is religion as we know it today the same as in the past? Let's compare some proponents of religion from each time period. Present day, we have Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Christian fundamentalists that most people will agree are bat-shit crazy. They hate gays, they hate atheists, they hate liberals, they hate terrorists, they hate abortion, they hate most things other than that which brings humanity closer to the Day of judgment, which means nuclear holocaust. In short they take the Bible in its most literal sense. But what about philosophers of early Christian theology, like Origen. he was essentially a Platonistic idealist, who advocated seeing the scriptures in a symbolic and metaphorical way. Sure he still believed in God and such, and never said much without adding a scriptural sub note, but did he think in any way like Robertson and Falwell? Not even in the slightest. Yet Origen wasn't the only Christian theologian to think in this manner. His predecessor Clement believed in a similar manner; Justin Martyr held a view largely influenced by Pagan ideas. There were of course those that believed somewhat in the way Robertson surely does, such as Tertullian, but the number who believed along his lines were scarce.

Let's examine Islam in this same manner shall we? It's often stated that Muslim's brought a vast amount of knowledge and advancement to society in its early days. And that's largely true. Take, for instance, Avicenna, or often known as Ibn Sina. He wrote of philosophy, alchemy, mathematics, physiology, physics, ethics, theology, etc. However his greatest achievements were in the field of medicine. He was centuries ahead of his time in his physical and psychological analysis of the human senses, which he classified as the Human Soul. he used organization and classification methods similar to that of Aristotle, primarily because he, like many other Islamic philosophers, writers and theologians, agreed largely in the necessity of free will and knowldege/reason, much as ancient Greek philosophy had emphasized. Even though this often went against the teachings of the Qur'an, many of them reconciled their persistence with either claims to allegorical interpretation of the Qur'an, or as in the case of Averroes, tried their best to justify the Qur'an as encouraging free will, stating that none of this which I have mentioned was at all contradictory to the Qur'an. Again, there were those that denounced them as well as their admiration of Greek philosophy, such as Al-Ghazali. But as with Christian philosophy, the majority lay on the side of loose interpretation.

So what are we to conclude from all of this? The fact is that ancient religion was a manner far different from what we call religion in present times. Now, am I suggesting reverting to that ancient style of religious interpretation? Still, the answer is no. Religion was a handy tool that sparked human curiosity and ingenuity. Religion was, in a sense, the base argument of civilization, both literally (religious theocracy) as well as figuratively (ideological study and examination). But its grown useless. The reason I say this is because in early AD, much of the world was undiscovered. There were few proven theories and laws which concerned themselves with the nature of our world. So today, in a world where evolution has extensively been shown to be biological fact, why must we feign ignorance and say God had a hand in it all by studying the pseudoscience known as Intelligent Design? Why is it necessary to say God was the first cause when physicists have gone to great lengths in their study of Big Bang Theory to show it as factual information? As a society we are not in the dark. We have examined issues of science and mathematics which ancient theologians themselves examined and we have found solutions to them.

The world is indeed "shades of gray" in many respects; however, that said, there are those things which are indeed set fact, and we can prove that. Religion today is a hindrance to our humanity. With reactionary, ignorant bullshit, for instance the disinformation campaign on AIDS pursued by the Catholic church, it is no wonder so many people are starting to move to the "moderate" stance of religion. People are waking up to the reality that is the irrationality of faith. They want to pick and choose from their respective religious text what they believe in and create some wonderful personal thing. As great as that may be, the problem lies in the fact that there are radicals who still follow the violent, bigoted, racist doctrines located within these same texts. So the situation becomes this; I, being a rational, reasonable person, decide to call bullshit on the Religious Right ass hats in America. The most effective way to do this is tear from them what little ground they have to stand on, in this case, the Bible. So I verbally assault the Bible, but now here it comes; I will be receiving a backlash of shit from those damned moderates who still love portions of the Bible. They claim it's wrong for me to paint them with the same brush and to harp on their beliefs. Thus making it impossible for someone such as myself to mount a credible offense against radical religious faith. And the truly horrifying aspect of this is the unnecessary need for the biblical "positives" people selectively cling to. Generally those in this position agree with the moral ideology perpetuated in the bible. For example, they applaud the love thy neighbor, don't murder, etc. However, is love for the rest of humanity really something you need to be told to do? Were we to be without these religious texts, would society devolve into an anarchistic state, following tribal methods of social interaction? Granted, some really do believe we would devolve into this state (Thomas Aquinas and any others who believe in original sin and the inherent evil of man, I am looking in all your directions). However, the brute fact here is that there are societies throughout the world which are for the most part godless. Japan, for instance, is around 65% atheist/agnostic/nonbeliever in God, has one of the most advanced technological markets in he world. Literacy is 99% and infrastructure is well established. Japan has about 1.3 robberies per 100,000 people, as well as only 1.1 murders per 100,000 people. Now if you don't see that as low, compare it to the United States pathetic figures, 233 robberies per 100,000 people and 8.7 murders per 100,000 people. Now I spent little time finding and researching this, but the numbers can't be too far off. Basically we see low crime, and a solid economy in so called "godless" countries such as Japan. Again I ask then, where does this leave us? The argument that without religion civilization crumbles into anarchy and loses all basic moral structure is flat out false and data can prove it.

So that, good people, is why I don't think organized religion should never have existed. It was a fountain of progress for the first thousand years or so, however today that fountain has dried up. It's time to rid ourselves as a people of faith-based ignorance. We are humanity; no need to be ashamed of it.