Saturday, 10 December 2011

Why be an anti-theistic blogger?

Bloggers who consistently seem to attack religion can find themselves criticised for their efforts.  They are sometimes labelled 'aggressive' or even (believe it or not) 'sanctimonious' by people who do not seem to know the meanings of the words.  Typically I am asked why I spend so much time attacking Christianity when it is obvious that the religion brings comfort to people in times of need.  I have never heard the same argument used about Islam, but then again I can only imagine that it is about as comforting as a bed of nails.

I also find that people sometimes accuse me of pointing out the transgressions of particular Christians as if they are typical of the acts of all the others.  In actual fact I try rather hard to avoid these particular ad-hominem attacks, not because the hypocrites don't deserve to be singled out, but because is is clearly a weak line of argument.  Please accept my apologies for the few times when I have done this as it was just a case of inconsistency on my own part.

But should I apologise for being anti-religious?

After all, look at all the good things done by church members worldwide.  Look at the charitable works that they perform.  Look at how they help the poor in Africa. And look at the way that they can console the bereaved or those who have had a traumatic experience.

I accept that religion is not altogether bad, but I strongly believe that it is not altogether good either.

Faith frightens!

Christianity and Islam both preach (in their own ways) about eternal damnation in the fires of hell.  Imagine teaching little children this doctrine and blighting their lives.  It is no use denying it.  Different traditions approach this topic with different priority and levels of dogma, but I suggest that it is there - at least by implication - in all branches of these two religions.  I know ex-Catholics who spent their childhood terrified by this story and who feel liberated by escaping from their religion.

Both fundamental Christianity and fundamental Islam also find themselves at odds with science.  Islam teaches that salt water and fresh water do not mix.  Certain creationist Christians teach that the sun is not producing power by nuclear fusion, but that it is 'young' and all the energy is coming from gravitational collapse.  Some deny the big bang and 'the fact of evolution' using tired old arguments.

All this is based on nothing more tangible than some holy books - books that are not even internally consistent!  On top of the sacred texts there is doctrine. 

Much of doctrine is based on even less tangible things that someone somewhere 'just knew' to be the truth.

Look at the harm caused by doctrine.  For example, the Catholic Church is going to find itself responsible for the death of millions of people by their teachings - no lies - about how AIDS is spread.

Anyway - aside from getting drawn into talking about the harm caused by religions - as after all there is no lack of evidence to be found - there is another thing. 

Christians typically meet at church on a weekly basis to affirm their faith and to share their experiences.  Atheists have no such meetings and one opportunity that they do have to affirm and indeed challenge each other is by writing and reading about each others' views.  Communication between us is so much easier via the internet and we all learn from each other and add our own 'teaching' in our own ways. 

This is why I join in the conversation.  I feel that I have a right to say the things that I believe, even if some few people take offence at them.  I don't seek to offend but to lift the veil of superstition and reveal what I believe to be a small part of the truth.

Am I robbing people of hope?  Perhaps. But what is the value of hope in something that is supported by so little evidence?  I think I prefer to think that I am supporting others who find that a 'lack of faith' is both liberating and empowering.


(Added later: Don't miss the supportive and inciteful comment from Todd, which you can see below.)


Todd said...

I was reading a comment recently where a person had some bad experiences growing up in the US as a non-christian. All of the christians who replied downplayed everything the person said, and they each claimed that this person had simply run into some "bad" christians who were not representative of christianity as a whole.

I've lost count of how many times I have seen this very situation play out, and the response is always the same. Excuses are made, the suffering is downplayed or ignored, the person is disparaged or defamed, and the religion is absolved of any wrong doing.

If none of that works, then the religious portray themselves as the abused party. They claim that their religious freedoms are being violated, they whine, they act offended, and they play the victim.

It's all a manipulation, and the goal is to make you shut up. Don't get discouraged by it. It's a sure sign that you are having an effect.

Plasma Engineer said...

Spot on Todd. I recognise all those points!

Hilary said...

1) Whoever wrote the 'Religious Truth' is a little unimaginative with their vocabulary :)

2) Evolution is not a 'fact' it is theory.

3) I know many former atheists who were just as frightened by the thought of non existence at the end of life.

4) It is not possible either to prove that God of the Bible exists or doesn't exist.

5) ...and to Todd, if a christian runs into some bad atheists...I'd imagine that by you would view the bad atheists as prob only a minority and would see atheism is absolved? ...and now, let me think, have I ever heard an atheist whine, be offended, play the victim or attempt to manipulate...ummmm :)

6)The thing is, people are the same the world over, and any discussion or dialogue about faith, atheism, or anywhere in between is always going to be difficult when very different viewpoints are held, and usually passionately held. usually each party is incredulous that the other can believe such things as they do, and that will always set off some sort of emotional reaction, either in defense or offense or both or some sort of provocation...but when all can set aside the emotional response and come to the table with consistent (as much as possible anyway) levels of discussion and argument then I think reasonable dialogue can take place...listening is the key I think.

Hilary said...

7) oh and P.E I have NEVER called you sanctimonious :)

Plasma Engineer said...

2) Evolution is much more a fact than ID is a theory. ID doesn't even qualify as an hypothesis. (Maybe @Hilary personally hasn't used the term 'the theory of Intelligent Design' but many do.)

7) Indeed, @Hilary has never called me sanctimonious, but some atheists do find that the term is used to describe them - and I have no idea why.

I can't argue with the content of the other points, but nor do I find them at all illuminating. I appreciate them anyway. Thanks.