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.