Saturday, December 31, 2011

Religion's Failure as a Source of Morality

A number of my posts have explored the skewed, twisted nature of religious morality.  In particular, I have taken pains to make clear that religious morality is not morality at all but a combination of authoritarianism and fear of punishment.  True morality is predicated upon the avoidance of harm--not the pleasing of authority figures.  I recently came across a quotation from Bertrand Russell that sums up the moral confusion of religion on this point:

"Clergymen necessarily fail in two ways as teachers of morals.  They condemn acts which do no harm and they condone acts which do great harm."  Bertrand Russell

This quotation is very useful.  It not only sums up the absurdity of "religious morality" in short, pithy way, it also shows (once again) that everything that is wrong with religion was pointed out before any of us were even born.  Yet, religion persists because of the ways in which it dishonestly manipulates the marketplace of ideas.

See also, Religion and Morality VII.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bias Against Non-believers VII

Today I simply want to point out and make explicit a thought that is often implicit in other posts.  Many of the lies the religious tell and believe about nonbelievers are face-saving measures.  The same is true of the phenomena of splitting (into good and evil with no indeterminate middle) and projection (where the believer accuses the non-believer--without evidence--of the same intolerance being shown by the believer).

These things are the beginnings of rationalizations for the emotions the religious person feels when challenged.  He feels these emotional reactions because he has been, in his own mind, shamed by a challenge he cannot answer.  In his mind, he cannot restore his social status without lowering the status of his detractor or, in extreme cases, destroying his detractor.  The more narcissistic and egotistically fragile the believer, the more strongly he will feel this need.  Anyone who has ever been the subject of a narcissist's rage (or witnessed it being directed at someone else) knows how disproportionate and insane it can be.

The narcissism of believers is a treacherous shoal that must be navigated with care.  Such people take offense all out of proportion to any offense actually given and will respond in ways that can cause the non-believer great harm.  Given our already tenuous situation in society, this sort of reaction can cause us real economic harm.  In extreme cases, it can cause us physical harm.  In the vast majority of cases, however, the harm will be social and economic.  Believers today generally have come to understand that physical violence will make them "look bad", which is the one thing they can't abide.  Instead, they will try to make the object of their hate "look bad". 

If you are that object, and they are successful, this can have devastating consequences on your career and personal life.  It can even do great harm to the members of your family by preventing you from fulfilling your role in the family as a result of being unable to lead a normal psychological, social, and economic life.

If you realize that you are in this situation, it is crucial to get good legal advice and to document everything that is going on.  Gather as much evidence from independent sources as possible.  Make written complaints to objective third parties who are in positions of authority (and keep copies--perhaps even sending separate copies to your attorney).  Most important, research methods of dealing with psychopaths, narcissists, and stalkers, because that is exactly the situation you will have on your hands.  The most important piece of advice for such situations is to have absolutely no contact with the person.  Such people have no ethical boundaries and consider the whole thing to be a game and your pain to be their "points" in the game.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bias Against Non-believers VI

In my previous posts on this topic I have tried to stress just how serious and pervasive bias against non-believers is--and how it goes unpunished almost as a rule.  (In fact, it is frequently rewarded, but that will the subject of a later post.)  I have often maintained--based on personal experience--that the religious see us non-believers as morally on a par with child molesters, or worse.  (This is, of course, more than a little ironic given that so many actual child molesters are members of the clergy.)

I have found that most believers and many non-believers simply don't take me seriously on this topic.  They insist on believing that this bias is relatively rare and not a serious danger.  A recent series of blog posts, however, provide evidence that my view is correct.

It seems that an alleged pastor from Miramar, Florida, "Pastor Mike" Michael Stahl, proposed in his own blog, which has since been removed, that a "Christian National Registry of Atheists" be created.  He defended the idea by comparing it to registries for convicted sex offenders, etc.  He wrote:

"I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys [sic] for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc... This type of 'National Registry' would merely be for information purposes."

He clarifies what he means when he say "information purposes"by saying that Christians could use the information to target non-believers for "conversion" (which, of course, translates as proselytizing and harassment) AND those that won't convert could then be targeted for economic discrimination (to prevent them from making a living).  Apparently, Pastor Mike hasn't heard that the U.S. is a free country and that people can believe what they like.

I particularly like the way Austin Cline ended his article on this topic:

"Mike Stahl considers atheism a religion. He knows that atheists are a minority. So, from his perspective, atheists are a religious minority. When was the last time a Christian majority forced a religious minority to register for a national database of their identities and location? Hmmmm....."

Before anyone concludes that "Pastor Mike" is simply some loon with internet access, I would like to point out that it is unlikely that he would style himself "Pastor Mike" if he did not have like-minded followers.  Nor is it likely that he would have published such an idea if it had not already met with approval amongst his peer group.  Furthermore, my own experiences amongst the believers leaves me with no doubt that there are many among them who think this way.  I know this because they exposed this part of themselves to me by their words and actions.


http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2011/02/bias-against-non-believers.html

http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2011/03/bias-against-non-believers-ii.html

http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2011/06/bias-against-non-believers-iii.html

http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2011/07/bias-against-non-believers-iv.html

http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2011/11/bias-against-non-believers-v.html

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Evolution and DNA

I recently watched a documentary concerning evolution and recent advancements in our knowledge of DNA.  It was entitled "What Darwin Never Knew".

The documentary pointed out not only that Darwin never knew about DNA but that until recently no one understood certain aspects of its operation.  Most particularly, it has only recently been understood that DNA consists of a series of strands that govern individual aspects of a species' development and that each of those strands comes with a small portion of DNA that governs when it is turned on and off during the development of the particular species.

The features of the species are so sensitive to small changes in the timing of these events that in some cases simply switching on a particular gene 24 hours earlier during fetal development will cause changes dramatic enough that the animal could be considered a separate species.  If several such minor changes occur in a group of animals, then it will be a separate species.

What is significant about this is that it nullifies the creationist arguments that we so often hear about the rarity of actual mutations in genes and how mutations usually result in harmful changes.  The facts of this argument are true, true mutations (where the DNA strand has been damaged or altered) are relatively rare and usually harmful.

Now we know, however, that mutations are not the only possible way in which evolution can occur.  Simple minor changes in the timing of the development of features during gestation can cause noticeable differences.  Those changes can be the result of genes switching on or off at slightly different times, which can be the result of minor, normal differences in the genome.

Such differences occur every time animals engage in sexual reproduction.  The process of splitting each parents genes in half is not exact.  Virtually every sperm and every ovum carries a different portion of the parent's DNA from all the others.  When recombined with an equally randomly chosen portion of the genes of the other parent they create a new and unique individual that often has traits that diverge from those of one or even both parents.  Anyone who has children or has observed those who do, knows that such differences between parents and children often occur.

Perhaps I should add to the last sentence of the preceding paragraph "If the person is paying attention".  I have noticed that many people, particularly religious people, seem to have a livestock breeder's view of genetics.  They think that children directly inherit the traits of their parents because pigs give birth to pigs and horses give birth to horses.

I have noticed that such people are often quite upset when their own children are not "just like" them.  This is especially true if the trait they expected to see is the one they are most vain about in themselves.  Their child may have unique or even spectacular talents or gifts, yet if those are not the talents and gifts the parents had, they may be completely unappreciated.

Sad as these little family tragedies may be for the individuals involved, they help us understand the depth of the ignorance of the average person concerning genetics and the reproductive process.  Which, in turn, helps us understand the persistence of creationism.  If one must engage a creationist, then it is a good idea to give him or her a small education concerning genetic recombination in the reproductive process.

I wouldn't recommend spending too much time in such endeavors, however.  Creationists are inevitably fanatics who are ignorant of many aspects of science.  The most one should ever do or hope to do when speaking to one of them is to point them in the right direction concerning one or two of their misconceptions.  After that, change the subject or leave.  Further debate will simply upset them and cause them to dig in their heels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Reasons to Give for Being an Atheist

We all have various reasons for the choices we make.  Usually we will have more than one reason for making a particular choice, even if it is something simple and inconsequential such as choosing our favorite style of shoes.  When the choice is something important, such as choosing what to believe about religion and the reason for our existence, the chances are good that we have more than one reason for that choice.  The chances are also good that we have reasons that speak to us very strongly on an emotional level.  We probably also have reasons that are more purely logical.

Whenever discussing one's atheism, whether with religious people, agnostics, or even other atheists, it is good to keep in mind this distinction between the emotional reasons that give us the strength to resist the pressure to conform and the logical reasons that show we are right. 

The religious are all very eager to focus on our emotional reasons, because they know such reasons are insufficient (even though they use such reasons themselves).  They know perfectly well that they have chosen to believe for reasons that are not logical and they want to pretend that non-believers have done the same.  (Hence the frequently heard canard that atheism is "just another religion".)

The religious know they can't win the argument based on logic.  They will try to convince you that their reasoning is logical, but, when they fail, they fall back on the accusation that the non-believer's reasoning is "just as illogical".  Don't play into their hands by citing your emotional grounds as your primary or logical grounds.

For example, a frequently mentioned emotional ground for disbelief is the level of evil and suffering one sees in the world.  This evil and suffering, however, do not prove that god doesn't exist.  After all, he could just be a sadistic bastard, or, as the religious maintain, have inscrutable reasons for causing us--his supposed favored creations--to live in a world of evil and suffering.

The evil in the world may well have been an important motivating factor that led many people to atheism but it is hardly conclusive.  At best, it provides a partial refutation of assertions that a benevolent god exists.  It is a sufficient reason only on an emotional level.

In this context, it is important to keep in mind that believers truly believe the things they say.  They truly believe that this life is but a brief and relatively unimportant interlude before an eternity of bliss.  To someone who believes this sort of thing, it is very easy to rationalize away the problem of evil and suffering in the world.  Those things are seen as some sort of test or training before humans reach their infinite afterlife.

Likewise, don't mention personal misfortunes and god's failure to answer your prayers back when you were a believer.  It may be that the death of a loved one or some other past catastrophe for which you fervently asked god's intervention was a crucial turning point for you personally.  You must remember that was a turning point for you only because it allowed you to throw off the bias instilled in you by childhood brainwashing and finally realize that those studies proving the inefficacy of prayer were right--not because that one example proved the point.

Mention the studies, certainly, but if you mention your personal disappointment, the believer will conclude that you are "just mad at god".  In fact, I suspect that this particular response from believers comes from their experiences with non-believers who haven't presented their non-belief in a logical fashion.

Most important of all, try to avoid mentioning your disagreement with religious morality.  One of the most pernicious and damaging canards that the religious use to justify their bigotry toward non-believers is the notion that we reject god because we don't want to lead moral lives.  This prejudice is so pervasive and ingrained in the religious that I would suggest that you avoid mentioning your disagreements on such matters to the religious at all--even if you are not discussing god's existence.

If this point does come up, as it almost always does, it is good to point out that study after study shows that religious people violate their religious morality as often (usually more often) as non-believers do.  After that, explain how religious morality fails as a moral code and is really just fear of punishment, authoritarianism, and conformity.

When believers ask you why you don't believe simply make the logical case--point to the lack of evidence for god, the evidence that gods are man-made, and your unwillingness to dishonestly apply different standards to different supernatural propositions.

If any of your emotional motivations come up in conversation, just make clear that they are no more than that.  You can say something like:

"That is why it doesn't bother me emotionally that I don't believe in god."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Religion, Hatred, and Narcissism

I recently watched a wonderful documentary about Fred Phelps, his family, and their well-known "Church" (hate group), the Westboro Baptist Church.  It was called Fall From Grace.  Virtually everyone has heard of the Westboro Baptist Church and their protests by now.  They are world famous for demonstrating at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan claiming that the deaths of these soldiers are god's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuals.

Homophobia is a form of "overcompensation" used by some males to quell their insecurities about their masculinity.  It is often hypothesized that those who are rabidly anti-gay are themselves repressed homosexuals whose false identities are threatened by the presence of gay people.  It is assumed that such people feel that they must express hatred in order to send a message to the world at large that they themselves are not gay and to vent their fear over the secret temptation they feel.  In addition, they are often thought to be expressing their own self-loathing by focusing it on those who remind them of their secret internal conflict.

All of these things may well be true of Fred Phelps.  Other sources certainly hint at such psychological conflicts within him.  The film doesn't touch on these commonly expressed theories about Mr. Phelps, however.  Instead it presents Mr. Phelps and the Church in a new light.

It seems that Phelps isn't just hostile toward homosexuals; he is hostile toward the whole world and seems to believe that the whole world feels that way toward him.  While it certainly is true that much of the world does feel that way toward him now after his exceptionally offensive campaign of picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers claiming their deaths represent god's vengeance on America for tolerating homosexuals, it seems that Mr. Phelps does not see the connection.

A revealing insight is provided by Fred Phelps' estranged son, Nate, in a telephone interview, when he says that he thinks that his father is addicted to adrenaline--anger induced adrenaline.  He said his father isn't happy until he has had a chance to lose his temper and fly into a rage.  Such an addiction requires a constant supply of enemies to rage against, which pastor Phelps can readily find in the world at large by holding hate filled public demonstrations on an almost daily basis.

Some narcissists feed their need for attention by attracting large amounts of negative attention.  If positive attention isn't readily available, the narcissist is satisfied with negative attention.  Mr. Phelps seems to be just such a person.  An indiscriminate need for attention, whether positive or negative, is not only a classic sign of narcissism, it is also one of the things that makes narcissism pathological in extreme cases.  Sufferers will do things that are harmful to themselves or others in order to get negative attention if that is the only kind they can get.

Even more revealing in general about the narcissism of the religious mindset are the statements of Mr. Phelps and one of his granddaughters concerning their view that the IED's killing America's soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are retaliation by god against American society for a small homemade bomb that some local young men exploded on Westboro Baptist Church's property.  In other words, they see these deaths of soldiers they have never met as being retribution by their good friend and ally, god, against the society they live in for a personal affront to them.

The most important point is that they see god as their personal ally, their supernatural friend who uses his supernatural powers to punish their enemies.  This is hubris on a colossal, pathological scale.

What I find particularly gratifying is that the film documents this phenomenon so well.  This is a mindset that I have encountered many times, yet it often remains hidden.  As a result, many apologists for religion (and even some non-believers) deny that it exists.  My personal experience tells me that it not only exists but is widespread amongst the religious.

The most revelatory portion begins at the 46:22 mark of the video with Phelps' granddaughter, Jael, speaking to an interested onlooker.

Jael:  IED's are the main thing that is killing American soldiers.

Onlooker:  So why are we thanking god for IED's?...

Jael:  Ten years ago the fags set off an IED at our church.  And it says in the bible, the lord says "vengeance is mine.  I shall repay."  Ten years later, you think it's a coincidence that these American soldiers are getting blown up by IED's?  No.  No it's not.  It's not a coincidence, because when you start messing with the servants of the most high god, god is gonna kick your ass.  Period.

To Jael, her fellow church members, and many other religious people, god is simply their scary, psycho friend that they can count on to attack their enemies.  Maintaining this delusion is so important that the facts are stretched to the point where somehow young men and women who have never met, or perhaps even heard of, any of the members of Westboro Baptist are to be punished for something a few young men from Kansas did years ago that frightened the members of the church.

I have seen this sort of insane linkage on numerous occasions when observing or interacting with religious people.  It speaks volumes about the emotional motivation of the religious and their way of thinking.  They have been driven insane by fear.  Fear of death, fear of "others" who aren't like them, fear of the authority figure's disapproval, and so forth.  Yet, when I try to point this out, I am often met with disbelief.  I am glad to have such an explicit example caught on film to use as evidence in the future. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Religion Is Divisive II

After drafting my post the other day about religion's divisiveness, it occurred to me that one of the reasons this criticism doesn't resonate with religious people is that their emotional motivations are different.  They do not have the same negative reaction to the concept of divisiveness that most non-believers have.   

As I have asserted many times before, one of the motivations behind religious belief is egotism.  Many believers want to think that their belief makes them better than other people.

Thus, even if they can quote the precise definition for the word "divisive", they do not react to the accusation they way they should.  This is because many religious people actually want religion to be divisive.  They want it to elevate them above others.  This egotistical need is more important to them than accurate assessments of the facts and apparently more important than peace and harmony in the world.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Angry Atheists

This is a wonderful video of a talk that blogger Greta Christina recently delivered at a Skepticon convention concerning the accusation often leveled at atheists that we are angry.  It is an absolutely excellent response.  She lists the many good reasons atheists have for being angry, points out that these things bother us because they should bother any decent person, and points out that the "angry" accusation is often just an attempt to get us to shut up.  The one thing I don't think she mentioned, but which must be kept in mind, is that the accusation is often just shorthand for "you don't believe in god because you are mad at him."  Until the believer has the nerve to make this accusation explicit, however, simply respond to the one he has actually made.  Greta's talk should give you lots of ammunition.


Religion Is Divisive

Detractors of religion often point out that it is divisive.  While this accusation is true and (when one takes a good, long look at this aspect of religion) truly damning, it lacks the simplicity and emotional punch needed to register in the minds of believers.  The problem is that the point is too cerebral.  Frankly, most believers don't really understand what the word divisive means.  The non-believer needs to be specific in order for this point to register:

"Religion artificially divides people into mutually antagonistic groups and artificially creates conflict between those groups.  In fact, it is very often deliberately used for that purpose."

A very good example of this use of religion was recently provided to us all when some conservative pundits criticized President Obama's video address on Thanksgiving for not thanking god.  His written Thanksgiving message did thank god, and he was certainly not the first President to leave out a mention of god.  George Bush did it in 2008.  Though you will note, if I may wax cynical for a moment, that this was the last address he delivered and it occurred after Obama had won the 2008 election.  Could it be that he left out a mention of god because he no long felt a need to pander to the religious right?

What's even more revealing is that Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum did the same thing this year.  Yet the right wing pundits did not criticize them.  Why not?  Because the pundits support them.  This is not about paying homage to god; it's about riling up the mob and turning it on Obama by painting him as alien and threatening.

The right wing pundits are obviously and deliberately trying to use religion to turn the mob against Obama.  As I have mentioned before, this is one of the primary evils of religion:  that it can be so easily used in this way to incite a mob.  In fact, I would argue that this is one of its primary purposes--especially from the viewpoint of the powerful.

Here is a link to the brilliant send-up that Jon Stewart did about this little contretemps on the Daily Show.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are Christians Persecuted in the U.S.?

A recent commenter on this blog alleged that religious people face discrimination in the U.S.  I have frequently heard this outrageous lie from other religious fanatics.  I have learned it is a sure sign that I am dealing with a fanatic because the facts are so much to the contrary that it is difficult to know where to begin.  Usually the person is complaining about the fact that their religion isn't allowed to become or act like the "established", favored religion.  In essence, they are complaining about the fact that they are not allowed to force their religion on the rest of us. 

Rob Boston published a nice, short article today in Alternet, 5 Reasons the Religious Right Should Stop Whining About Being Persecuted, which lays out some basic points concerning the ridiculousness of these claims.  I strongly recommend reading it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bias Against Non-believers V

Yesterday a religious fanatic posted comments on some of my posts.  One of the comments denied the reality of the extreme bias that non-believers in the U.S. face every day.  Consequently, I decided to post this video on the subject, which contains quite a bit of evidence concerning this bias:


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Religion, Racism, and Narcissism

Narcissists are people with severely wounded and threatened egos.  Deep down they feel very inferior.  They compensate by trying to find or invent ways to feel superior.  Religion and racism both appeal to them because they allow the narcissist to feel superior simply for belonging to a "superior" group.  They can feel superior simply because of their skin color, their ethnic heritage, being a member of the "one true church" or a member of the "chosen people", etc.

A recent series of articles in Media Matters provides evidence of this link between religion and racism (not to mention ignorance).  The articles focus on an attempt to build a sort of white supremacist homeland in a region of Montana.  When explaining why they chose Montana, one of the leaders of the movement said: 

"Our Christmas parade still goes by that name and we have a nativity scene in our public square with a Baby Jesus... Come Home!"

If you spend any amount of time exploring the statements of white supremacists in America, you will realize what that "come home" exhortation means.  It is often used and is shorthand for "come home to the religion of your forefathers".  

The religion they are referring to, of course, is a traditional version of American Christianity.  This is somewhat ironic because the leaders of the white supremacist movement seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that Christ was a Jew and that their European ancestors were actually converted at the point of a sword and were, in fact, pagans.  Like most religious people, I am sure that they "deal" with these facts either by ignoring them or wishing them away.  Facts are mere nuisances, at worst, when they can be chosen based on how one feels about them. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grace

With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the U.S. many people are facing the prospect of visiting the home of a relative for a meal with heavy overtones of tradition--and religion.  One of the most common questions for non-believers at this time of year is how to act when one's host says a prayer before the meal.

Generally, of course, the polite thing to do is say nothing.  When one is a guest in another's home, the traditions and practices of the host are to be tolerated with the utmost politeness.  This is a simple rule and is almost universally followed.  When religious people dine at the home of non-believers, they almost never have the temerity to demand that a prayer be said.  There are occasions when this will happen, however--such as when a parent visits an apostate child and fails to respect the child's wishes and status as an adult.  There is little doubt in anyone's mind that such behavior is rude and insulting.

There is another circumstance that non-believers sometimes face in this regard.  Sometimes relatives who ordinarily do not say prayers before meals will decide to say a prayer simply because they know a non-believer is in attendance.  If you find yourself in this situation, try not to laugh and try not to comment.  The person insisting on prayer is probably hoping to start a "discussion", which means, of course, a religious argument. 

Be the better person and don't take the bait.  Instead, look around the table to see if there aren't any like minded persons in attendance.  If there are no other non-believers, you might at least be able to discover which attendees are aware of the rudeness of this anomalous prayer.

If unable to avoid the argument, your first ploy should be to point out the person's hypocrisy in not saying such prayers for years and years and then choosing to do so only when a non-believer is present, which is not only hypocrisy but deliberate rudeness.  You should make that point explicitly.  Having invited you into his or her home, thus indicating you are welcome, the host has suddenly decided to send an unmistakable signal that you are not welcome. 

Do not say that the prayer itself is offensive, that would be playing right into their hands.  Simply point out that it is obviously aimed at you because it is not the normal custom of the household.  But, do not object to the prayer itself.

In general, we have a simple rule:  The owner of the home decides whether there will be prayer, and the guests abide by that decision quietly.

These observations about propriety and prayer can be used to shed some light on the school prayer debate.  When the religious insist on having organized school prayer, they have to know full well, on some level at least, that they are sending a message to any non-believer present that says "this is our house, and you are merely a guest here".  As I have written before this, in large part, is the precise reason they want to have organized prayer.

A schoolhouse, or any other government building, does not belong to any one person or to any one group.  It belongs to everyone, including non-believers.  In such a case, the proper thing to do is not to raise the subject of religion at all.  This, too, is the proper rule of etiquette, that we all observe in our day to day lives.  When we have relatives over from different religions we do not initiate discussions about which religion is the "true" religion.  Doing so would only incite conflict and controversy.  It is rudeness to start such a discussion, especially when those gathered came together for other reasons.

Government buildings are neutral ground.  They belong to no one and to everyone.  They are created for a purpose that we all share, and that purpose is NOT religion.  No one person or group has the right to demand prayer anymore than they have the right to exclude other citizens who don't belong to their group.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ignorant Bliss

I just read an excellent essay by a Canadian woman named Cathy Oliver.  It was originally published on Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers' excellent blog.  Here is a link to it on Alternet.  The author tells of the occasion when she realized exactly why she was an atheist.  I won't spoil it by telling too much, but I do want to quote two of her lines from the essay because they are truly priceless in their summation of why it is better to be an atheist:

"I’m really an atheist because religion is selling ignorant bliss – and I don’t want it."

Followed by this in the next paragraph:

"If I have to trade a bit of happiness for the ability to think for myself – done."

I wanted to share these because they are both (especially when used together) excellent short answers to why one prefers to be an atheist--something that almost all atheists have to explain on occasion.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A News Story About Atrocities In Franco's Catholic Spain

Christiane Amanpour has produced a short news segment about a new BBC documentary chronicling one of the worst crimes of General Franco's fascist, uber-Catholic regime.  During that regime, the children of "undesirable" parents were stolen and sold to Franco's supporters in order to make sure that they were appropriately brainwashed in religious authoritarianism.  Who were these "undesirable" parents?  Liberals (the few left that weren't executed by the regime during the civil war), the poor, single mothers, etc. 

The same sort of thing occurred in Argentina during their dirty war against liberals and secularists, and, although she doesn't mention Chile, I would be quite surprised if they did not do the same.

The BBC documentary will air in the U.S. on BBC America on November 3rd of this year.  We should all watch it.  More important, we should all remember that the religious are at war with us and will stop at nothing to marginalize and eradicate us.  These stories are just examples of how serious this secret, undeclared war can be.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Religious Morality?

Below is a great graphic indicating just how immoral the bible's writers were.  Notice that the bible comes down squarely in favor of amassing power over others but against things that relate to sex or pleasure.  Feel free to send this to anyone who tries to tell you that religion is a source of morality.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reproduction As Warfare

I am sorry I haven't posted lately.  I have had a lot of things occupying me in the last few weeks, and the posts I am working on seem unfinished as yet.  I felt I had to pass on something I read this morning, however.  A frequent poster on Think Atheist posted one of the best and most succinct explanations of the reasons for religious hostility to birth control, and I just had to pass it on (with a slight modification or two):


"Along the course of time, while religions were being invented by the leaders of humans, and gods were invented to instil fear in order to control the masses, unlimited reproduction, seen as a weapon of war, war by numbers, was a primary component of the purpose of religion.  Unlimited reproduction (breeding) is still a component of the religious wars. Overbreeding and religion are inseparable. Religious people are indoctrinated into thinking that humans are precious, in order to create more disposable humans, in order to outnumber the other religious factions.  Religious citizens are the breeding pawns of war mongers.

Our methods of economics, notwithstanding its many faults, has taught us one very important consideration, the availability of a resource is inversely proportional to its value.   Religious leaders know this.  As our human population expands, it becomes more and more important for religious leaders to instil the "precious human" doctrine.  We need precious disposable humans to send to slaughter at war, to ensure our place at the top of civilization.  Breeding contributes to the war effort.

Now... women in the west have been reducing our war effort, but what have our governments done to compensate?  [They] encourage population growth in the third world, then import those disposable war workers here.  As usual, our governments working against us."
Just above this person's comment, you will find another post on the topic that is also quite informative.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Do You Believe In?

How many times have we non-believers heard this sort of inane question?  We let it be known that we do not believe in invisible magic men in the sky and we are met with bigoted ignorance in the form of a statement that we "don't believe in anything" or a question that implies the same.

Recently the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) posted a quotation in the Freethought of the Day section of its website that I believe is one of many possible responses to this sort of offensive nonsense.  I think the last part, which I have placed in boldface, says it best with the fewest words.

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind--that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. . .

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech . . .

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.
— Mencken's Creed, cited by George Seldes in Great Thoughts

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It's Not a Choice, It's a Punishment

We have all seen the bumper stickers sported by the "pro-life" movement that say:  "It's not a choice, it's a child".  This slogan expresses what they would have us believe is their motivation--as does the name they chose for their movement "pro-life".  They would have us all believe that they're concerned solely with the life of the fetus.  But, as I explained before, they don't really care about that.  What motivates them is their conviction that sex (or any pleasure, really) is wrong.  They see the pregnancy as a punishment.

When they say "It's not a choice, it's a child", what they really mean is "It's not a child, it's a punishment".

So, you can respond:

"It's not a punishment for having sex, it's a fetus."

The Dark Ages in Europe

Like many non-believers, I firmly maintain that the Christian church caused and perpetuated the Dark Ages in Europe.  I think there is ample evidence of this, particularly in the church's hostility to any form of scientific inquiry.  The church did not allow any sort of new learning but only that contained in the authorities of antiquity--those approved by the church of course, the rest were burned by the church.

Not only did the church try to prevent any form of scientific inquiry or thought that it did not control, it actively waged war against those who tried to change these conditions.  Luis Granados has published yet another enlightening article pointing out a specific example of this.  Luis often writes about the crimes of the church.  This time he highlights the church's strenuous and successful efforts to crush what could have been the beginning of the enlightenment--500 years before the enlightenment actually happened.

Frederick II was elected King of the Germans in 1211 at the age of 17 and later became Holy Roman Emperor.  Frederick was a scientist who had no use for religion or war (especially religiously motivated war) and who believed in egalitarianism and democracy.  Of course, the church couldn't allow any of that.  The church actually went to war with him.  He managed to hold the church off and survived until 1250.  But, after his death, the church murdered or incarcerated for life all 10 of his children.

Think about what this means.  The enlightenment could have begun in the first half of the 13th century if Frederick had not been preoccupied with and thwarted by the church.  Thanks to the church, the Western World suffered through five more centuries of darkness, ignorance, and suffering.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Insanity Never Stops

A recent news article highlights the insanity inherent in religion as well as its deleterious effect on the progress of mankind.  There is apparently a movement afoot amongst conservative Catholics to declare that Galileo was wrong and the church right regarding the Earth being the center of the universe.

The goal of such people is, of course, to protect the church's reputation and to restore the church to world dominance as this quotation from one of their leaders makes clear:

"Heliocentrism becomes dangerous if it is being propped up as the true system when, in fact, it is a false system," said Robert Sungenis, leader of a budding movement to get scientists to reconsider. "False information leads to false ideas, and false ideas lead to illicit and immoral actions — thus the state of the world today.… Prior to Galileo, the church was in full command of the world, and governments and academia were subservient to her."

The proponents of this historical and scientific revisionism, of course, see the heliocentric view of the universe as a conspiracy of sorts by the church's political enemies to squelch the church's influence.

As long as ridiculous worldviews are given preferential treatment and shielded from criticism and inquiry, then there is no limit to how ridiculous they can get.  Even to the point of denying well established facts and persecuting those who dare to speak the truth.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Truth About Islam

This has been a very un-productive month or two.  I have been very busy with personal matters.  I could not, however, fail to pass along a link to a very revealing article about Islam.  The author is one of my favorites--the ever insightful Luis Granados.  Once again, I cannot recommend his blog highly enough.  It should be required reading for all.

The article discusses a case of a trumped up blasphemy accusation made against a British educated Pakistani professor.  It seems the professor had the temerity to champion secularism and humanism.  Worse than that, apparently, was the fact that he advocated settlement of Pakistan's conflict with India by accepting the current de facto border as the actual border.  The trumped up nature of the charge was obvious and it provides further evidence of the true nature and purpose of religion:  Controlling people for political and economic gain.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holy War--Against Non-believers!

The religious are already at war with us non-believers.  Many of us just haven't noticed because they think that war has to involve overt homicide by trauma.  It doesn't.  There are many other ways to wage war such as social and economic discrimination and, more importantly, efforts to undermine the marketplace of ideas to deprive your opponent of support--sometimes even in his or her own mind.

I strongly recommend that all non-believers read Machiavelli's "The Prince" and Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" as a starting point for understanding many of the tactics used by the religious.  While these are the sorts of works that non-believers typically have no interest in, or are actually repulsed by, you should have no doubt that many religious leaders and "thinkers" have made a thorough study of them and the translation of the principles in them into active, modern strategies.

An essential part of this type of warfare is the use of political and social means to gain control over weapons and supplies just in case overt hostilities become necessary.  Anyone who has been keeping up with efforts to fight theocracy in the U.S. military knows that the religious are way ahead of American non-believers on this score.

Take a look at what happened in other countries, such as Chile, Argentina, and Spain.  The religious took over the military, then, when they felt they time was right, the country.  During that process they murdered as many secularists, suspected secularists, leftists and suspected leftists as they could find.  Victims weren't even necessarily true leftists.  There were instances where someone was killed merely for having worked as a volunteer in a charity that served the poor.  (Ironically, working as a volunteer to help the poor is exactly the sort of thing one would expect Jesus to do if he were alive today.  Clearly, modern Christianity has been perverted to serve those who seek money and power and is no longer a source of morality.)

The important point here, however, is to alert non-believers to the fact that believers (many if not most of them) are already at war with us and that we need to be on our guard with them at all times.  The war is a "cold war" at the moment.  As in all cold wars, the game focuses primarily on politics--gossip and public opinion.  In essence, they try to convince as many people as possible that non-believers are bad people.  They wish to pressure us into conforming or, failing that, turn us into outcasts.

A very important aspect of this cold, political war is economic.  By trying to make us non-believers into outcasts, they are attempting to "kill" us by making it impossible for us to obtain the means of making a living, not to mention the means of reproducing, or, just as important, the means of empowering ourselves.

I think that this effect of economic discrimination sheds light on the affinity so many "Christians" in the U.S. have for right wing politics.  After all, removing the social safety net makes the threat of discrimination a deadly one.  Of course, naked empowerment is not the only motivation behind the unholy alliance between Christianity and right wing politics.  Right wing politics also fits neatly into their anal-retentive, punitive mindset.  Regardless of the complexity of their motivations, however, it should not be forgotten that their goal is to get rid of non-believers by one means or another.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Faith Is the Rejection of Reason II

I have written to express this opinion before, that faith is the rejection of reason.  Today I want to add some revealing quotations on the topic that I recently came across:

"Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism…" --Martin Luther

"For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but – more frequently than not – struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God." --Martin Luther

From the horse's mouth, as they say.  Apparently, even religious people, when they are being honest (which isn't often), know perfectly well and admit that faith is the rejection of reason.

In more recent times, however, this position has become untenable because "reason" as an ideal has become more popular.  Thus, you will often meet modern religious people who will deny that reason and faith are incompatible.

Usually, what they mean, however, is that reason and logic can and do function normally even if the existence of god is taken as a given--an assumed fact.  This is, to an extent, true.  The rules of logic will still work the same.  Any conclusions reached, however, will not be reliable because, as I explained before, reasoning is unsound if based on false factual assumptions.  Therefore, until the religious can prove that their god's existence is a fact, the assumption of it as a fact renders all reasoning that follows an exercise in futility--or worse.

In other words, the acceptance of a factual premise that is not a fact violates the most basic precepts of logic.

How do we know whether or not a suggested premise is a fact?  Simple, apply the rules of logic to it before assuming it is a fact.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bias Against Non-believers IV

The recent controversy about the cross at the World Trade Center site has generated some very hateful and threatening comments by religious people against atheists.

A spokesperson for American Atheists appeared on Fox News to discuss the fact that such a monument would be un-Constitutional if erected by or for the Government.  Also, many of those killed in the terrorist attacks were not Christians.  The cross therefore does not represent all those killed and could be seen as insulting or offensive to those non-Christians who were killed or to their families.

Afterward, Fox viewers let it all hang out (their hatred and insanity, that is) on the Fox News facebook page.  Someone at Fox apparently deleted the threats of violence almost as quickly as they were made, but diligent non-believers captured many of them before they were deleted.

Some of these expressions of "Christian morality and love" can be seen here at the American Atheists' site.

Update 8/9/11:  A news story on Yahoo News reports that the Fox facebook page in question was taken down after less than 36 hours but had already accumulated more than 200 threats.   One site claims there were more than 8,000 death threats on the Fox News page before it was deleted.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Creepy and Deranged

In his book, "50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God", Guy P. Harrison mentions the tendency of many Christians to speak of their eager anticipation of the end of the world--according to biblical prophecy.  He says that they don't seem to appreciate how creepy and deranged this sounds.  His comments on this phenomenon are so good that I would like to quote part of them.

"Not only do many believers anticipate the end of the world as we know it, but they are happy about it.  Some people actually think it will be great when blood runs in the streets and the skies are ablaze from nuclear explosions because it will mean that their god is fulfilling the master plan.  I suspect they look forward to having a big 'I told you so!' moment, too.  Many believers have no idea how creepy and deranged all of this sounds to an atheist.  I, for example, tend to think that mass death and destruction are bad things.  So it's tough for me to understand how so many believers of various religious can get all giddy over an event in with billions of people will die agonizing deaths.  But somehow they do.  This stuff really excites them."  Harrison, p. 344.

I have heard this sort of thing most of my life because I grew up in a part of the U.S. dominated by fundamentalists.  There are a lot of people who say this sort of thing, even if you don't hear them say it every day.  (See also this article.)  Perhaps even a few of the "nice" Christians you know in the community or at work are among them.  You may not know that they think and say such things simply because you have never gone to their church or discussed religion with them at any length.  You may think that the apocalypse-mongers are a lunatic few.  Take it from me, however, they are legion.

I would like to point out that this sort of thing doesn't just sound creepy and deranged, it IS creepy and deranged.  More to the point, it is not something a sane person would say or even think.  I consider it a prime indicator that religion is, in fact, a form of mental illness.  This insane longing for the extermination of mankind is both suicidal and homicidal at the same time and is one of the reasons that atheists sometimes refer to christianity as a "death cult".

What disturbs me even more is the reception such thoughts receive when actually spoken out loud.  They are accepted as perfectly normal--sometimes even by non-believers.  In fact, because they are often seen as a sign of religious fervor, they are even seen as signs of virtue. 

I have seen people who literally had a maniacal gleam in their eyes, who spouted such insanity and expressed a determination to dedicate their lives to bringing this insane result about treated as if they were especially sane, good, and responsible citizens and given positions of authority and responsibility denied to the vast majority of their peers.  I can only assume that their insane ideas helped to ease their paths to positions of authority and responsibility because generally they spoke of little else and were well known for thinking and saying such things.  Thus, those who chose to promote them had to know.

Furthermore, a large number of religious people are actively dedicating their time and money (sometimes their whole lives) to bringing this apocalypse to pass.  This wholehearted dedication to ending life on Earth (at least, human life) is evil and insane.  Those who think this way and act on it should be in mental institutions.  Instead, we place them in positions of authority--even the Presidency of the U.S.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Religion as Narcissistic Personality Disorder II

In several previous posts I have discussed the ways in which religion and religiosity seem to be a form or symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I recently came across a quotation from Sam Vaknin, an expert on narcissism whose writings I linked to in one of those posts.  That quotation helps explain succinctly why religion is, at a minimum, often a symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

"[N]arcissists - both men and women - are chauvinistically conservative. They depend to such an extent on the opinions of people around them - that, with time, they are transformed into ultra-sensitive seismographs of public opinion, barometers of prevailing winds and guardians of conformity. Narcissists cannot afford to seriously alienate those who reflect to them their False Self. The very proper and on-going functioning of their Ego depends on the goodwill and the collaboration of their human environment."

In other words, the eager, diligent, and thoughtless conformity of the religious is necessary to attain the approval of others, which, apparently, is more important to them than anything--even the truth.  The willingness to sacrifice all other concerns in order to obtain ego gratification can be called the central characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The name for this gratification is "narcissistic supply"--a relatively generic term coined by Dr. Otto Fenichel in recognition of the fact that different narcissists will have different ways of gratifying the needs of their egos.

Religion as Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Religion as Narcissistic Delusion

Religion as Narcissistic Delusion, Part II

Religion as Narcissistic Delusion, DSM-IV

Monday, July 11, 2011

Religion and Racism III

After drafting my post entitled Religion and Racism, it occurred to me that a previous post gave strong support to the views I expressed.  One of the things I said in that post was:

"Three hundred years ago it was still considered acceptable to enslave people of other races.  Likewise, it was still acceptable to burn non-believers at the stake.  These extreme expressions of intolerance are no longer permitted."
Although it is true that such practices are no longer acceptable, thinking about them apparently is.  I had mentioned in The Insanity of Religion III that a prominent Israeli Rabbi had publicly stated that other groups of people were meant by god only to serve the Jews.  I did not mention racism in that post, but I could have because the link is clear.  Religion and racism are both expressions, in part, of insane, group based egotism.  I can't imagine any example of words or behavior that could make this link any more clear than the Rabbi's publicly expressed thoughts.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Atheism Is Not Satanism

“An apology for the devil: it must be remembered that we have heard only one side of the case; God has written all the books.”
— Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English satirist. Dictionary of Humorous Quotations edited by Evan Esar

One would think that it would go without saying that atheism is not the same thing as satanism.  Satan is merely another god.  Atheists don't believe in any gods.  Unfortunately, however, one often hears this nonsensical equation of atheism with satanism from believers.

Many times it comes from their complete ignorance.  Having grown up surrounded by talk of nothing but god and his alleged opponent, satan, they think this simple bipolar world encompasses all possible scenarios.  Therefore, anyone not working for god must be working for satan.  They often also limit their notions of who is working for god to only those who represent their particular flavor of religion.  Thus, to such people, even other Christians are often thought to be working for satan.

These people are an extreme example of the way in which religion necessarily leads to intolerance.

Others, however, have found a veneer of respectability for their bigotry in the words of non-believers.  Many non-believers, aware of the sensibilities of believers, make a point of tweaking believers by calling their own views satanism or the like.  Anton LeVay is a prime example.  He called his philosophy of rational selfishness satanism even though there appears to be no reason to think that he actually believed in satan.  It appears that he was simply stressing the point that he did not believe in god or religious morality.

One of the best responses to this nonsense is:

"You are more of a satanist than I am.  You actually believe in satan."

or

"I don't believe in anything supernatural and that includes satan."

Others such as Milt Timmons, who wrote "Lucifer's Handbook", were simply trying to tweak the noses of the believers by pointing out, as did Samuel Butler in the quotation above, that it is far from certain who the "good guy" was in the mythical struggle between god and Lucifer.  Judging from the Bible and the things believers say it appears that their god is psychologically similar to Kim Jong Il and his heaven is an eternal version of North Korea.

In that vein, another response might be:

"If Lucifer is the bad guy, then why does his name mean "bringer of light?"

(The actual answer to that question is that the name is a reference to a pagan god that was based on Venus--the morning star--whose appearance in the morning sky heralded the coming of the Sun.  Most Christians won't know this, however.  Thus, using this response is a slightly dishonest bit of nose tweaking, but some of them deserve it.)

In conclusion I would like to say that even though I understand the desire to have a bit of fun at believers' expense, it is not a good idea to associate non-belief with satan worship.  Believers are already inclined to believe that we non-believers are evil and they have a history of persecuting us rather severely.  Anything that lends any legitimacy to their tendencies toward doing such things hurts the cause of rationality and puts non-believers in danger.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement V

Here is a video of Christopher Hitchens presenting some of the information that makes it absolutely clear that Hitler and the Nazis were not atheists or even secular:


The Moment of Truth II

Some time ago, I published a post expressing my conclusion that most people have the intelligence to see that religion is false and that most people do have that epiphany at some point in their lives and that what separates believers from non-believers is their reaction to this moment of truth.

I recently came across a quotation from the writings of Sigmund Freud that implicitly express the same notion that I would like to add to my thoughts on this notion:

"In the long run, nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is palpable."

Once again, I am struck by how the same realizations concerning religion have appeared again and again throughout history, yet mankind still suffers from it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement IV

One of the ways in which Christianity has tried to distance itself from the Nazis is to focus on the pagan influences amongst the leaders of Nazism.  Undoubtedly, there were such influences.  As I mentioned before, however, this is akin to the Nuremburg defense.  The fact that the leaders were less than purely Christian in outlook does not relieve their Christian followers of moral culpability--especially given that these Christian followers were the ones who committed the actual atrocities and did so eagerly with only a little encouragement from their leaders.

In addition, this is akin to the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in which a person argues that a perpetrator of bad acts could not have truly been a member of the group simply because his actions are inconsistent with the idealized view of the group.  Thus, the bad acts are said not to reflect upon the group as a whole.  Obviously, this is a "tails, I win; heads, you lose" argument.  It is a circular argument in which the conclusion (no one in my group is bad) is taken as an immutable given.

Most Christians have their individual opinions about the particulars of their religion.  In fact, no one person can define in detail what it means to be a Christian--though many claim to be able to do so.  Thus, when a Christian does something very unpopular, the other Christians will argue that he wasn't "really" a Christian.  In doing so, they will try to get everyone to focus their attention on the ways in which that individual differed from many other Christians--failing to mention that the same type of "distinctions" can be made about all Christians.

One of the most useful bits of "evidence" the religious have for this subterfuge is the Nazi symbol, the swastika.  The swastika is an ancient symbol found in many cultures.  So ancient, in fact, that its pagan origins are undeniable--it predates Christianity.  This does not mean, however, that it was adopted as part of the Nazi's rejection of Christianity any more than the adoption of various pagan symbols used at Christmas and Easter mean that Christianity is pagan.

The swastika was simply an ancient good luck symbol.  The word swastika came from the Sanskrit word svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck.  It was adopted by some Christians just as were ancient fertility symbols--rabbits and eggs.  In fact, the name for it in German is Hakenkreuz or "hooked cross".

To the best of our knowledge Hitler saw the swastika as a Christian symbol.  Hitler's first encounter with the swastika was in his boyhood catholic school, which had it engraved on its wall in several places as part of its crest.  (See Anna Elisabeth Rosmus, Out of Passau: Leaving a City Hitler Called Home, p. 35.)

Hitler's family moved to Lambach, Austria, in 1897.  For several months Hitler attended a Catholic school there located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister, where the walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.  It was in Lambach that the eight-year-old Hitler sang in the church choir and entertained the fantasy of one day becoming a priest.

Thus, if presented with this argument, one can say:

"There is no reason to believe that Hitler or the Nazis saw the Hakenkreuz as any less Christian than a Christmas tree."

or

"If the swastika proves the Nazis weren't Christian, then Easter and Christmas prove that the majority of those who call themselves Christian aren't Christian either."

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement II

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement III

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free Will III

A member of Think Atheist whose posts I have quoted before has posted a wonderful summation of the way in which free will and predetermination interact and exist simultaneously:

"Our choices aren’t free in a libertarian sense: they’re free within the constraints of our experience; our identity.  Perhaps Arthur Schopenhauer summed it up best: “Man can do what he wills but he can not will what he wills.”  We can do, in the present, whatever our experience has prepared us for."

Free Will

Free Will II

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Confirmation Bias and the Backfire Effect

A few days ago Alternet published an article entitled "Why Do People Believe Stupid Stuff, Even When They're Confronted With the Truth?"  The article contains information about two phenomena that all non-believers must understand if they are to engage with believers. 

I have mentioned many times before that one should never expect to actually de-convert a believer.  One must wait for the believer, in most cases, to decide that it was his idea to stop believing.  The believer has to feel that his ego is intact.  If you "win" the debate, it will have the opposite effect.  His ego will feel threatened, and he will dig in his heels all the more.

The article I mentioned discussed this phenomenon in the context of presenting someone with evidence that contradicts one of his beliefs (regardless of whether the belief is about religion).  Numerous studies have shown that this contradictory evidence merely causes the believer to believe in his convictions more strongly than before.  This phenomenon has been named the "backfire effect" because the presentation of contradictory evidence usually backfires.

The backfire effect is the primary focus of the article, but it also mentions another well known phenomenon that has been established by numerous studies:  Confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is the well-known tendency for most people to seek out and believe information that confirms their beliefs--even if it is of doubtful veracity.

Both of these tendencies are very much ego-driven.  They occur because the person exhibiting them feels an emotional need to protect his or her ego from the possibility that he or she could have been wrong about something.  Thus, the greater the other evidence for the egotism and narcissism of the believer, the more likely he or she will be to exhibit these tendencies.

These two tendencies, in addition to various social pressures, will make it very difficult to get through to a believer--especially someone who has reached adulthood and still believes.  Keep them in mind when discussing religion with a believer.  Toss in your thought barbs and walk away--no matter what they say or how tempted you are to respond.  Patience is more than a virtue, it is a necessity.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Religion and Racism II

A month ago I posted some thoughts on the links and parallels between religion and racism.  I recently came across a bit of evidence that I think sheds some light on this issue.

Here are links to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.  If you compare them, you will find some interesting differences, as well as a number of similarities.

One of the most telling differences occurs in their respective preambles.  The United States Constitution's preamble is as follows:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The Confederate States Constitution's preamble is slightly different:

"We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America."  [Emphasis added.]

Two things immediately jump out at the reader.  First, the emphasis on states rights in the preamble to the Confederate Constitution.  Second, and more important to my point, is the explicit statement of religiosity, which is conspicuously absent from the entire United States Constitution.

Do not be fooled by the reference to states rights in the Confederate preamble.  The drafters were clearly re-writing the United States Constitution from their own perspective and found the emphasis on federalism implicit in the "more perfect Union" phrase objectionable.  Many modern historical revisionists wish to convince people that the secession of the Confederate states and the Civil War were motivated by states' rights rather than slavery.  Their efforts, however, ignore the obvious question:  States' rights to do what, exactly?  The answer, of course, was the right to continue the practice of slavery in spite of what those in the rest of the United States thought of the practice.

Indeed, when one turns to the Bill of Rights in the Confederate Constitution, one finds explicit and strong evidence of the importance of slavery and the economic system is sustained.  The Confederate Constitution included its bill of rights in the actual document rather than in amendments, but the very first item on the list was a ban on the importation of new slaves from outside the Confederate or United States.  This may seem odd given the Confederate states' support of slavery until one remembers that importing new slaves would lower the value of those already present.  Seen in that light, the provision is clearly meant to protect the economic interests of slaveholders.

What we know as the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution doesn't appear in the Confederate bill of rights until item number 12, but it is identical in wording.  The first 10 items in the Confederate bill of rights, however, all relate to slaves, slaves as property, and money (with the exception of the third, which deals with the writ of habeas corpus).  These items and their importance to the Confederate cause are thus made clear by their primacy in the list.

In other respects, the Confederate Constitution mirrors, more or less, the United States Constitution on religious matters.  There is a provision stating that no religious test shall be required for office holders.  The date of adoption doesn't say "in the year of our Lord", but this appears to be a scrivener's error because that phrase is used previously in the document when mentioning a specific date for the Confederate post office to become self-sufficient.

Given that the Confederate Constitution was adopted on March 11, 1861, less than three months after the first state, South Carolina, seceded from the Union, and given that much of the document was obviously copied from the United States Constitution, one can conclude that the secular provisions were not necessarily indicative of the character of those who put together the draft document.  The character of those drafting the Confederate Constitution can be discerned by the changes they chose to make, such as the invocation to god in the preamble.

The character of those in the Confederate states was clear then, racist and religious, and is clearly still the same even now as the most religious states today are also the same ones that were members of the confederacy--or wanted to be, in the case of Kentucky.  They are also the most racist.  I do not think this is a coincidence.

Religion and Racism

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Abortion II

A few days ago I published a post on abortion, in which I tried to get the basics of the issues surrounding abortion into a single post--virtually an impossible task.  I think it is time to tie the abortion issue more closely into a recurring theme on this blog:  Religion is a form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in which the religious are trapped in the infantile state that Freud named "anal retentive".  Wikipedia describes this as follows:

"In the psychology of Freud, the anal stage is said to follow the oral stage of infant or early-childhood development. This is a time when an infant's attention moves from oral stimulation to anal stimulation (usually the bowels but occasionally the bladder), usually synchronous with learning to control his or her excretory functions, a time of toilet training. Freud theorized that children who experience conflicts during this period of time may develop 'anal' personality traits, namely those associated with a child's efforts at excretory control: orderliness, stubbornness, a compulsion for control."

Those stuck in this stage are very concerned with making sure that they always appear to be "good" and that the authority figures view them in a favorable light.  Another name for this particular type of narcissism is authoritarianism.

I think one of the best places to start making this connection clear is a recent article in RH Reality Check:  The Authoritarian Agenda Behind Attacks on Contraception.  The article was prompted by the reaction of male writers to a study showing that contraceptive use by Catholic women was nearly identical with that of women from other religions.

The author of that article, Amanda Marcotte, makes a very good case for her point that those who attack contraceptive use have an authoritarian agenda that has little to do with making anyone's life better--except perhaps for those few males who intend to be in authority.  She sees the agenda as inherently misogynistic.  I think, however, that she is giving them credit for more self-awareness, deviousness, and intelligence than they actually possess.

The opponents of birth control seem to be driven by an emotional belief that authoritarianism is a good thing in and of itself--the anal retentive fixation as a worldview.  In this case, the burden of the strictures they wish to impose on others just happens to fall primarily on women.  Of course, that fact combined with the fact that most of the leaders of the movement are male indicate that she is not completely wrong.  There is, undoubtedly, an implicit assumption that women should do as these men say, but I think that is as much or more a symptom of their narcissism as any explicit hatred of women.

I think the quotations she uses make clear that the motivations of the anti-contraceptive forces are indeed authoritarian.  The religious authors she quotes were clearly very concerned (to the point of obsession) with how female disobedience on contraception within their church made them appear to others.  This is a classic concern of the narcissistic obsession of "looking good".  In addition, there is more than a hint of sado-masochism in the implicit assumption that self-denial and suffering are good in and of themselves.  Just what one would expect from adults stuck in an anal retentive stage of development.

I highly recommend reading her article.  It is linked above.

Abortion

Friday, June 24, 2011

Geert Wilders on Islam

Yesterday, Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician was acquitted on a charge of hate speech for criticizing Islam.  The charges apparently stemmed from comments he made comparing Islam to Nazism, as well as a film he made, entitled Fitna ("Discord" in Arabic) in which he interspersed images from the 9/11 attacks with verses of the Koran that arguably justified them.  Mr. Wilders rightly called his acquittal a victory for freedom of speech.

On his website, he publishes a Message to Muslims that is a must read for everyone, Muslim or not.

Bias Against Non-believers III

A recent poll concerning politics in the U.S. reveals that the percentage of the population with negative attitudes toward atheists have not changed recently in spite of an increase in the percentage of atheists in the population.  Fully 61% of the population would be less likely to support a candidate for public office who did not believe in god, which is little changed from four years ago.

My previous posts on this subject emphasized the extent to which discrimination against non-believers is pervasive and reflexive--that is to say, literally thoughtless.  Many times the person doing the discriminating is not really aware of what he or she is doing--or of the full implications of their actions.  Being the kind of people who choose their "facts" based on how they feel about them, they often fully believe the rationalization of their actions that springs forth from their inveterate bigotry.

What I did not mention in those posts, but did allude to in my posts on theocracy and the threat thereof, is the extent to which this discrimination is practiced consciously as part of a political movement.  Time and again I have witnessed and heard of religious people given preferential treatment simply because they were religious.  I have seen teachers and co-workers hired or promoted into jobs they did not deserve simply because they were of the right religion.  I have seen others, including myself, attacked, marginalized, mobbed, forced out of schools, jobs, careers because they did not toe the line.

A recent article by a former member of the theocracy movement confirms what I have warned about.  There is an active movement in the U.S. dedicated to seizing political control of the country.  Their methods include conscious acts of discrimination and the misuse of the rules of law to cover up those acts.

Bias Against Non-believers

Bias Against Non-believers II

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Abortion

Abortion is so controversial that there is little point in trying to discuss it with those who oppose it.  I can attest from personal experience that it is a very bad idea even to broach the subject or respond if someone else does.  Nothing will enrage the religious more quickly and put a bigger bulls-eye on your back than letting an anti-choice religious fanatic know that you support liberal abortion laws.  This is an area where their desire to kill us non-believers is not only still stated openly but has been acted upon regularly.

Thus, my usual advice should be altered with a special note of caution:  On most issues, I would say don't expect to win and just to have a few bon mots ready to drop in as "thought barbs" and then walk away.  In the case of abortion, non-believers in many cases are better off not commenting.  If you do, it is probably best to limit yourself to only one comment.  Choose the thought barb you think is best and use it as your single comment--if you say anything at all.  As is the case with creationism, there is little point in discussing this issue at all with religious fanatics.

For many of them, abortion seems to have become an obsession.  They claim that they feel this way because they think abortion is tantamount to murder and therefore a violation of god's moral directives.

I think abortion is, however, an example of another of the levers of thought control.  Religion is using it to play on emotions and human nature in order to control what people think and do.  I think it is being used both to control and motivate religious voters and as part of the campaign to breed particular religions (and, most importantly, their leaders) into power.  I think it's also a ploy to regain the high moral ground lost by complicity in the Holocaust and innumerable cases of child molestation. As I pointed out before, religion is driven by the quest for social status and the loss of social status from these scandals required a response of some sort.  The anti-abortion movement is part of that response. 

Although there are undoubtedly other reasons for opposing abortion, a cynical observer, jaded by too many observations of religious dishonesty and hypocrisy, can't help but notice that the issue has the effect of causing religious people to become willing to sacrifice even their own self-interest in order to "save babies".  Thus, it appears that the practical effect of this stance is to use the instinctual desire to protect the young and helpless to motivate religious people to vote and behave blindly in a way that advances the agenda of the clergy and others who benefit from the spread of religion and its power.

Most people don't realize that this vehement religious opposition to abortion is a relatively new phenomenon.

Although there have been theologians over the centuries who opposed it, there was hardly a consensus.  For most of the history of Christianity, abortion was a non-issue.  The protestants began to become obsessed with it less than a generation ago.  Indeed, it became an issue for protestants only within my living memory.  Even the Catholic Church, famous for its opposition to abortion, changed its position on the issue and only became truly adamant about the issue in the last century or so--right around the time the Church decided to declare the Pope to be infallible, which explains a great deal as I discuss below.

There are several very interesting points to be made here.  The first is that there is absolutely no support for this position in the bible.  In fact, it seems to indicate an opposing viewpoint among its authors--who were not unaware of the practice.

(You remember the bible?  That ancient book that the religious say must be followed strictly--except when it shouldn't because modern standards of civility and morality would be violated).

The ten commandments do forbid murder, but other parts of the bible show god actually ordering or even carrying out murder.  In fact, according to the bible, sometimes god killed children and babies without any excuse that a civilized person would consider acceptable.  Thus, it can be stated with certainty that when the ten commandments forbid murder, the intention wasn't to forbid all killing--not even the killing of children and babies.

Furthermore, it is clear that the authors of the Bible considered the killing of a fetus to be a lesser offense than the killing of a living person after his or her birth.  In other words, the bible clearly does not treat abortion as murder.

The closest the bible comes to addressing the question is in Exodus 21 where it provides for the punishment for causing a miscarriage during a fight.  The punishment is monetary compensation.  The punishment for actually killing a person already born is death for intentional killing or exile for unintentional killing.  Further on in the same Chapter of Exodus, there is a provision for accidentally killing another person's ox and the punishment is, again, monetary compensation.  Just as in the case of killing an unborn fetus.  Thus, the bible itself implicitly holds that an unborn fetus is not a human being, as indeed was the opinion of virtually everyone until recently.

Given the complete lack of biblical support for the anti-abortion position, one has to wonder what is driving this hyper-emotional obsession of the religious.

The motives of abortion foes come into question when one realizes that those who oppose abortion usually have other beliefs and engage in behaviors that belie their opposition and their stated reasons for it.  The opposition to other forms of birth control, the lack of efforts to prevent easily preventable deaths of children already born, the lack of concern for children who are victimized by clergy, and the lack of efforts to prevent miscarriages all indicate that the religious do not really care about the children. 

They are motivated by a confluence of other factors, such as their twisted thinking about sex, their confusion between authoritarianism and morality, their need to rehabilitate the moral authority of their religion after recent scandals such as the holocaust, and their simple inability to do anything that looks or sounds like an admission of error (classic symptom of narcissistic personality disorder).

The opponents of abortion are usually also opposed to other forms of birth control.  Anyone who is opposed to abortion on the grounds that it is tantamount to murder should be very much in favor of birth control methods that prevent conception in the first place.  Use of such methods has been shown repeatedly to reduce the number of abortions.  Abortion opponents will argue to the contrary and will actually say that birth control leads to more abortions.  Anyone who says such a thing is the intellectual equivalent of a creationist--and a lunatic.

Here is a quotation from the report linked above regarding the effects of legal restrictions on abortion:

Just as the data show that women have abortions despite restrictive laws, they also indicate that women do not have abortions because of liberal ones. Some of the world's lowest abortion rates are in western European countries, where abortion is not only legal but also covered as a standard service by national health insurance systems: For example, the abortion rate in Germany is less than one-quarter that in Columbia, and the rate in the Netherlands is some six times lower than the rate in the Dominican Republic.

The fact that the anti-abortion advocates oppose such methods proves that they are not, in fact, motivated by a concern for the life of the fetus.  It reveals that they are motivated, at least in part, by a perverse desire to prevent people from having sex.  If one searches for religious explanations of their opposition to abortion one finds numerous implicit admissions that this is so.  The explanations given for this contrary stance are filled with statements to the effect that such methods will simply encourage people to have sex.

They follow these statements up with an explanation that this will lead people to have unprotected sex eventually.  This, they say, explains why birth control is a bad thing.  The trouble is, the same point can be made even more strongly about opposition to birth control.  In societies where such people have their way, people are forced to have unprotected sex or no sex at all, with the result that such societies have noticeably higher rates of abortion.

This entire portion of their argument is implicitly based on the assumption that abstinence is the norm--or should be.  This is a ludicrous assumption.  It's absolute denial of human nature is similar to the assumption in communism that people can simply learn not to be selfish and to be completely altruistic.  "Abstinence only" birth control has been repeatedly proven to fail just as miserably as communism and for the same reason:  A complete refusal to face the facts of human nature--indeed of nature itself.

Sometimes they argue that contraceptives "routinely fail at statistically significant rates" resulting in more unwanted pregnancies.  Again this is an absurd claim because, except in the case of those new to such methods, the rate of failure is usually less than 1 or 2%, which is not statistically significant and, in any event, is far less than the failure rate of the rhythm method or using no contraceptive method at all.  There is evidence of higher failure rates and a temporary increase in abortions when a population begins to use modern birth control methods.  The religious point to this data as "proof" that birth control leads to abortions.  But, in fact, all it proves is that the population had to learn how to use the new methods after having been kept in the dark.  Inevitably, there will be human error.

The true concern of those opposed to birth control, however, is hidden in the implicit assumption that use of effective contraceptives will result in people having sex more often, which apparently is a very bad thing in the minds of those opposed to birth control.  See Chris Hedges article:  The Christian Right's Fear of Pleasure is Our Greatest Threat to Choice.  The war against abortion has nothing to do with the protection of life.  It is a war against an open society -- a cover for assaults against sexual pleasure and personal choice.  There are good reasons to be concerned about the consequences of sexual activity, but, as I pointed out in my posts on religious morality, those concerns are based on the harm that can occur from sex.  One of the biggest types of harm is unwanted pregnancies.  Remove the possibility of those and you have removed a major reason for moral strictures on sexual activity. 

Sex is a biological compulsion and can only be suppressed for a finite amount of time.  (The amount of time will differ, of course, from one person to the next.)  If you convince people that they have a moral duty to either have no sex or have unprotected sex, sooner or later they will opt for the unprotected sex.  Then they will have to make hard choices about the result.

Also, it is an unfortunate fact that this compulsion begins to manifest itself years before people are mature enough in any sense to become parents.  In the case of those who will not or cannot use contraception the unprotected sex will be chosen sooner rather than later--much too soon from the standpoint of their suitability as parents.

It is interesting to note that abortion opponents themselves often gloss over the difference between abortion and contraception, lumping them together as part of the same "attitude" and condemning contraception by association with abortion.  This view is seen clearly in Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae":

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. . .  [S]uch practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment.

In the same encyclical the Pope also wrote:

"[Contraception] is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage."

There are two possible explanations of his meaning here.  One is that he thinks it is bad to have sex with one's spouse just for fun.  That chastity is to be practiced in marriage unless and until one is ready to "accept the result".  This is an absurd, inhuman notion.  If people aren't allowed to have sex with their spouses for enjoyment, then they are obviously never meant to enjoy it.  In that case, the position of the Church would indeed be based entirely on a extreme hostility to pleasure.

The other possible explanation of the Pope's meaning is that married couples using birth control are more likely to cheat on each other.  Again, though the focus seems to be on punishing people for having sex by making them have babies.  Personally, I think no one in his right mind would want his or her spouse to be having babies with other people and would much prefer any infidelity to be sex only.  Taking away birth control may cause a reduction in infidelity, but it won't stop it.  What it will do is create more unwanted children born into complicated situations where they will often be despised by their own family members.

This brings me to one of the most important points to be made in this discussion:  It is more immoral to bring an unwanted child into the world than it is to use birth control--far more.  I also think it is more immoral to bring an unwanted child into the world than to have an abortion.

There are two reasons for this.  First and foremost, bringing unwanted children into the world usually results in the children having very unhappy lives, which tend to be shorter as a result.  In fact, often much shorter because these children are more likely to die miserably in infancy.  Bringing an unwanted child into the world as punishment for his parents' actions results in the innocent child being punished for things he or she didn't do.

(Abortion opponents would undoubtedly say that abortion is a worse punishment--but that reasoning is based on the circular assumption that the fetus is fully human.  Another example of assuming your conclusion in order to reach it logically.  For those who base their morality on actual suffering, the termination of a pregnancy before the fetus has a central nervous system is a non-issue and is vastly preferable to bringing an unwanted child into the world.)

Second, these unwanted children are far more likely to develop anti-social tendencies and become a burden or even a danger to society.  Thus, those who have to "pay" for a sex act are not always limited to those who actually "play".  We all have a stake in this.

The same people who oppose birth control are also opposed to programs that would help these children brought, unwanted, into the world.  This indifference has been shown not only to increase the number of abortions (because the mothers have no money, jobs or mates with jobs) but also to cause the unwanted children to have miserable, short lives in which they often become criminals and damage others as well as themselves.

One of the most telling bits of evidence is the way in which religious leaders react to incidents of pedophilia in the clergy.  The Catholic Church, which has been at the forefront of the anti-abortion movement clearly places its own reputation ahead of the well being of the church's own children.   More to the point, it places its reputation ahead of even the survival of its children (given that many of the molestation victims commit suicide).  See also this excellent article by Andrew Sullivan.

As I mentioned above, this is really all about trying to prevent people from having sex and is a reflection of their twisted thinking on that subject.  With regard to that twisted thinking, see this article and this one by Andrew Sullivan, who knows a thing or two about religion's twisted views on sexuality, as well as this one by another gay man who wrestled with his religion's rejection of his sexuality.

Furthermore, if the religious were really so concerned about all these babies, then they would be undertaking great efforts to make sure that these unwanted children are cared for properly.  But, they don't do anything in that regard--in large part because they see these children as "punishment" inflicted on the parents for having sex--i.e., what they have to "pay" for "playing".  In other words, their punishment for having pleasure.

If the anti-abortion partisans truly saw every fetus as a human being, then they would also insist on many other changes in our society.  For instance, shouldn't each fetus be given a name and a "conception" certificate?  After all, if it is conception that is the crucial event and birth is simply part of the development process, why should naming and the issuance of a certificate that records the inauguration of a new human life wait for birth?

Also, if every fetus is a human being, then shouldn't every miscarriage or potential miscarriage be treated like a life and death emergency?  Shouldn't all mothers having a miscarriage or in danger of having one be rushed to the hospital?  If mothers have miscarriages as a result of taking risks during pregnancy, shouldn't there be an investigation and perhaps even criminal charges against the mother or anyone else who was a party to neglecting the "child" resulting in its death?  I am sorry to say that soon after first drafting this paragraph, I came across a news story indicating that abortion foes in the U.S. want to do exactly that:  Pregnant woman arrested for falling down stairs and admitting that she had considered abortion months prior.

Unfortunately, this insane incident shows that the anti-abortion foes are starting to truly believe in their rhetoric and apply it as a general principle--even if the result is tyrannical and abusive, as it was in that case.

Perhaps more to the point is the fact that as many as 40% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.  (That percentage is not definitive, however, because many pregnancies are never clinically recognized and recorded.)  This not only makes god, if he existed, the world's greatest abortionist, it indicates that all pregnancies should be treated as life and death situations--if one truly believes that each fetus is already a human being.

After all, if nearly half of all children died before adulthood of accidental causes, the situation would be seen as catastrophic and extreme measure would be taken to protect them.  Society would be restructured if necessary.

Well, if the abortion foes are serious about considering all fetuses to be children, then similar steps should be taken to end the incredible death rate among them.  All pregnant women would be put on bed rest (or similar measures) immediately upon discovering they're pregnant.  But, you don't hear the abortion foes even discussing this "dire" state of affairs much less proposing that something be done to stop the world's biggest abortionist:  "god".

As I hinted above, the anti-abortion partisans are motivated as much by classic narcissistic personality disorder symptoms as anything else.  Unable to face the evidence of their own moral failures, they try to cover them up by by shifting the debate and going on the attack.  Complicit in the murder of millions, they suddenly feel a very strong urge to let everyone know that they are "pro-life" and would never do anything to cause or allow the death of innocents.  This is a classic example of denial--trying to cover bad deeds with rhetoric.

In addition, the doctrine of papal infallibility--adopted in response to the loss of the papal estates and thus the Vatican's independent source of wealth--came at a time when the church had recently made clear that it opposed all forms of birth control.  That doctrine of infallibility made it impossible for the church to change its mind on that subject--as it had in the past.  To do so would be to admit that a Pope had been wrong, i.e., fallible.  That is something those with narcissistic personality disorder cannot do.  They would rather die--or kill.

Here is what will happen if abortion is made illegal in the U.S.:  Abortions will continueIn fact, we can't say for certain that the number of abortions for U.S. women would substantially decrease.  Approximately, 1.2 to 1.6 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. per year since abortion became legal.  According to the statistics from heavily catholic countries where abortion is illegal, the rate of abortion is actually higher in those countries than in many countries where abortion is legal.  Consequently, given the lack of data concerning the actual number of abortions performed before legalization, we have no way of concluding whether the total number of abortions would go up or down if similar laws are adopted in the U.S.

In fact, the data suggest that abortion rates are not determined by a country's laws regarding abortion, but by the private decisions of the individuals in those countries.  (That particular study concluded that "[a]bortion rates are no lower overall in areas where abortion is generally restricted by law (and where many abortions are performed under unsafe conditions) than in areas where abortion is legally permitted.")

Rich women will travel to places where it is legal to get abortions or else they will pay extra for high quality, safe clandestine abortions in the U.S.  Poor women will have unsafe, illegal abortions and many will die from them.  Poor women will also have more unwanted children.  They will not be able to care for those children, either emotionally or financially.  Those children will have very difficult and unpleasant lives, will die at much younger ages, and will be responsible for a huge percentage of crime--and the crime rate will go up as those children reach adolescence and adulthood.  The human population will continue to expand resulting in further overuse of resources and eventually war over scarce natural resources.

There are more than 6 billion people on the planet now and we are rapidly approaching 7 billion.  The Earth is overpopulated.  If all farmers switched to organic farming, 2 to 3 billion people would starve to death.  Many of them are starving to death even now.  Many others live in squalid, miserable conditions.  It has been proven that a good way to end poverty is to give women control over their reproduction rate.  This would improve the lives of millions, if not billions.  Only someone who thinks suffering is a virtue and happiness a sin could be against that.

Overpopulation will inevitably lead to war over scarce resources (and religion, of course).  Indeed, it is clear that this has already started to happen.  When it becomes clear that the need for scarce resources threatens the survival of large numbers of people, the wars will become worse.  Competing religions will be used to justify them.  They will become battles for survival with fanatical supernatural beliefs motivating the warriors on each side.  (Again, this has already started.)  The wars will become nuclear.  The result will be a thousand times as many people killed in one day as there are abortions in any year or even several years.

Even if mankind survived as a species, we would lose huge portions of our modern infrastructure and civilization resulting in millions a year dying from mankind's loss of the ability to feed and otherwise care for such a large population.  Indeed, it is not too fanciful to suggest that the 6th great extinction event that is currently underway as a result of mankind's overpopulation could include mankind itself among the species that go extinct.

Here are the thoughts of two of the 20th Century's greatest thinkers on this subject:

  “I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet.” [ Albert Einstein, in a letter, 1954 ]

"People would rather commit suicide than learn to do math." [ Bertrand Russell ]


One of the things a non-believer might say to an opponent of abortion is:  "How can you can yourself 'pro-life' when you support policies that threaten the very existence of the human race?"

or,

"Is it 'pro-life' to support policies that threaten the existence of the human race?"

In other words, a great number of lives could be lost by banning birth control and abortion.  It could perhaps even result in the extinction of humanity--as our population explosion has already resulted in a great number of extinctions of other species.  It is clear that our planet's ecosystem is already out of balance because of our numbers.  At the same time, it is not at all clear how many "lives" would actually be saved by banning abortion.

No one knows exactly how many abortions occurred in the U.S. prior to Roe v. Wade.  Likewise, no one know for certain how many women died from unsafe, illegal abortions per year.  The estimates seem to vary from a high of 10,000 cited by pro-choice advocates to a low of 60 cited by those who oppose abortions.  It is safe to say, however, that there would be an increase in such deaths if abortion were made illegal.

There would also be an increase in the number of murders and suicides in the U.S. starting about 15 to 20 years later.  That increase would be approximately 8,000-10,000 per year based on the drop in the number of murders in the U.S. starting some 20 years after abortion was legalized.   This would come with an increase in other crime as well.  These deaths and the effects on the unwanted children and the crime they will cause will offset a large number of the "lives saved" by preventing poor women from having abortions.

In the final analysis, religion's stance against birth control is extremely foolish, ill-conceived (no pun intended) and leads to a great deal of harm in the short run and catastrophic harm in the long run.  It does far more harm than good.  This is entirely because it is not based on reality.  Governmental policies focused on the reality of human nature would be far more effective, as the data show.  The countries with the lowest abortion rates are those with the least amount of religiosity and secular, humanistic policies.