Saturday, May 7, 2011


In their seminal work "Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Non-believers" Bruce E. Hunsberger and Bob Altemeyer mentioned a smaller study they had done of those they called "amazing apostates" who had left the religious training they had received as children.  They found that those who had been raised in religious environments but who later became non-believers did so because, among other factors, they possessed a strong streak of honesty.  Finding and embracing the truth was, for them, more important than maintaining the pleasant fantasy of never having been wrong or maintaining the group and family ties inherent in religion.

Personally, I think this insight goes a long way toward explaining both religion and atheism.  For atheists, truth is the highest value; while for the religious felling good about oneself (and protecting your "reputation") is more important.  This is why one often hears the religious refer to their belief as "higher truth" (by which they mean something that, strictly speaking, isn't true).  Evidence for this distinction abounds--and is not simply found in the "higher truth" subterfuge used by the religious ("higher truth" is, of course, one of those things the religious say that is tantamount to an admission that the whole thing is a delusion).

An extreme example of this adherence to the search for truth can be found in the case of Giordano Bruno, who literally preferred being burned at the stake than to being forced to speak falsehood:

“Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people...
[you] dispute not in order to find or even seek Truth, but for victory...
you appear to me but as parrots in a cage, while I watch you dancing, turning, and hopping...
Perchance, you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it..”
-- Giordano Bruno (just before being burned at the stake for the crime of being "Atheist")
“Then, he slowly turned his head away from the offered crucifix, and died in silence..” 
-- Santillana (Witness to Bruno's burning.)

Rarely have I seen or heard a more accurate description of the nature of the religious mind:  "[You] dispute not in order to find or even seek Truth, but for victory..."  What matters most to such people is winning--at any cost.  What matters most to such people is power.  This is also a hallmark of the mind of a narcissistic psychopath.  (See also this post and this one.)  Such people really don't care whether they are right or wrong; they only care about winning.

I find that this difference between the believer and the non-believer is something that believers not only cannot grasp but cannot even see.  The following quotation is an excerpt from article concerning Pat Tillman's death and its aftermath that repeats the comments of Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, one of the military investigators assigned to the case:

In an interview with, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."
Asked by whether the Tillmans' religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, "I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know."

There are many things buried in Kauzlarich's words that cry out for examination and comment, but for now I would only like to point out how perplexed he is that people would be so upset about the fact that lies were told about their son, brother and husband.  After all, the lies were so laudatory and cast him in a very favorable light.  He literally can't understand why they are so upset.

It is obvious, however, that they are upset because what was said was a lie, even if a pleasant one.  They, like most atheists, understand that lies are evil and that they usually exist (especially pleasant ones) to cover up evil.  They also understand that the function of government is to do what is right and just even when it is not pleasant.  It is only a small step from telling lies to cover up a friendly fire incident in order to protect the reputation of the Army to telling lies to cover up crimes to protect the reputation of the Army.  (In fact, I think that is what actually happened here.  I will post more on what happened to Pat Tillman later.)

Unfortunately, there have been many cases in the news lately where this "cover it up to protect the institution" mentality has been demonstrated--and demonstrated to be largely a sign of a religious mindset, and a narcissistic one.  I am referring, obviously, to the many cases of child molestation that occur in churches and which are then covered up even if doing so results in the further victimization of the victim.  The religious are more worried about the reputation of their church than they are about the well-being of their own children.  If that isn't a form of pathological narcissism, then I don't know what is.

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