The Importance of Sources

It seems that creationists have trouble understanding the importance of source material. They are constantly linking to “scientific” articles that supposedly disprove evolution, yet one quick glance is all it takes to discover these articles are written by other creationists with either no scientific credentials or degrees from a university that consists of a trailer in the desert with nothing more than a phone, computer and printer.

Let’s make this simple. If you want to learn about a topic, you need to go to the appropriate source for information. For example, if you want to learn what the theory of evolution is and what the most current knowledge about evolution entails, you need to go to SCIENTISTS. STOP looking for creationists who claim to be scientists. Find an ACCREDITED college and take a class from a real scientist. If you can’t afford to take a college course, go to coursera.org and take one online for FREE. You can even audit a course in your spare time if you don’t think you can keep up with a regular course – it’s ok, a lot of people work and don’t have the time to take a course online. By auditing you can download the course materials and study at your own pace.

Let me be clear. If you are truly interested in learning you must start without looking for only those ideas that support your preconceived beliefs.

If I want to learn about the bible, I read the bible. If I want to learn why it says something or what something means, I am not going to ask a religious leader with their own agenda. I will talk to experts in HISTORY and LINGUISTICS. If you look for information that only confirms what you already believe, you are not going to learn anything. Sectarian leaders are only going to confirm what their own sect believes. A historian can shed light on the actual activities in the area and time that a text was written. They can confirm or debunk events that are claimed by a text. A linguist can confirm translations from the texts original language and speak to nuances. Most translations of the bible were done with specific agendas.

When creationists post links to “pseudo-scientific” articles about DNA “code” published by a religious organization rather than an accredited scientific laboratory, it only shows us their ignorance.

Difference Between Racism and Anti-Theism

If you see someone whose dark olive skin tone and clothing suggests that they are from the middle east and you think:

“I wish those damn towel-heads would get the fuck outta my country!”

You are a racist.

If you see someone stop what they are doing (either because of the time of day or a meal is about to start) and start talking to invisible beings, and you think:

“Damn, I wish people would use common sense and reason rather than believe in the superstitious ramblings of bronze-age goat-herders.”

You are an Anti-theist.

Imagine No Religion

The 11th Anniversary of the 9-11 attacks seems like an appropriate time to reflect on John Lennon’s words and imagine what our lives would be like with no religion. Most atheists already know what it means to have no religion, at least on a personal level. But what about society as a whole? Can we dare to envision a world without corrupt, repressive, separatist dogma? I certainly hope so.

What would we be missing if religions vanished tomorrow? Charity? If you currently believe in a god and you donate your time and money to doing good deeds, would you stop those charitable endeavors? Is the only reason that you donate to charity to win points with your god? There are numerous charities that do wonderful work with absolutely no religious affiliation. Youtube atheists are currently involved in their annual fundraising effort for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). These men and women go into some of the worst areas of the world to bring medical help to the poor. They do it without any appeals to a deity. Oxfam is another secular charity that is working to bring food to starving people around the world. Not by praying, but by getting off their butts (or their knees) and working to educate people in poverty stricken regions and help them start sustainable economies.

What about Community? If tomorrow morning everyone woke up and realized that there were no gods and closed up all the churches, would you really have nothing more to do with all the friends you made in church? Do you need a god to tell you to love your neighbor? Do you need a god in order to get together with people in your community and have a barbecue?

What about law and order? Without the fear of hell or the promise of heaven, would you become violent or dangerous? Do you really need threats or bribes to keep you from doing bad things? Or do you know that something is wrong, because you would not like someone to do it to you? Do you feel empathy for your fellow humans? Do you value fairness?

So, without religion we would still have Charity, Community and Lawfulness. What would we lose? There will always be terrible, selfish people that want to hurt others.  But what about good people who are convinced that they must hurt others in order to appease their god? What about people that would have grown up to care for others if they hadn’t been taught their whole lives that they, and everyone else in the world, were born evil and sinful because of something a dirt man and a rib woman did thousands of years ago?

People don’t just wake up one morning and decide to fly a plane into a building. It takes years of indoctrination…years of being told that without this god or that prophet or the other dogma they are evil and worthless. It takes years of being told that their religion is the one true religion and all others are heresy…apostasy…wickedness. It takes a lifetime of being told that eternal torture is the act of a loving father.

Life is too precious. We are biologically wired to preserve it at all costs….our own and others. People don’t wake up one morning and decide to kill and terrorize. They are taught to do it. Every myth about mankind’s failure makes destroying our fellow humans a little less horrific. Every dogmatic claim that this ritual or that rule will absolve you of any guilt makes the thought of personally taking another life a little more palatable. Every claim that this group knows the secrets of the universe and all else are damned makes it a little bit easier to view those outside of our nation… our church… our kinship group…as Other…as non-human.

Without religion feeding our xenophobic tendencies, perhaps the human race can begin to shake off the evolutionary baggage of forming exclusive groups. It worked well for our hunter/gatherer ancestors who had to protect themselves from outside tribes competing for the same resources, but we have progressed much faster than we can evolve. The world is smaller today. Last week I chatted via skype with my in-laws in Malaysia. A few hundred years ago I would not even have known that they existed. Today I can log onto a computer and chat as if they are in the same room.

Technology has made us a global kinship group. Religion may have been a useful adaptation for strengthening the bonds within small communities, but we have grown. We no longer depend on small tight knit communities just to find food and chase away predators. Our community now reaches around an entire planet. I have nearly 7 billion kin and I’d like to get to know them. No myths necessary.

Why call atheism a religion…

It seems the big ‘insult’ from theists is to say, “But atheism is a religion, too.” And this gets atheists ruffled up and fighting amongst themselves over whether atheists “don’t believe in any gods” or “believe there are no gods.”

The semantics of the whole argument distract us from the tactic itself. The claim makes it sound like the theists are agreeing that religion is a bad thing. They may just be attempting to make a point that atheists are hypocritical. But whether some people define religion as a ‘belief system’ or whether it has to have some supernatural element, I think that when the ‘atheism is a religion’ argument is thrown into the mix, that’s the time to pull back and simply say,

“Well that’s not my definition of religion, but even if it were, so what? It has no bearing on whether or not a god exists.”

Myself…I’m thinking about becoming a High Priestess in the Church of the Everlasting Atheist and demanding all my tax exemptions.