Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Purpose of Religion... IV

One of the purposes of religion is to distract people from the injustices of the world.  Baron d'Holbach said it quite well in his work "Good Sense" (the title is sometimes translated as "Common Sense"):

"We are told, that divine qualities are not of a nature to be comprehended by finite minds. The natural consequence must be, that divine qualities are not made to occupy finite minds. But religion tells us, that the poor finite mind of man ought never to lose sight of an inconceivable being, whose qualities he can never comprehend. Thus, we see, religion is the art of turning the attention of mankind upon subjects they can never comprehend."

 This work was first published in 1772 and was primarily a summation of his more famous work "The System of Nature".  This particular point is related to others; it concerns the use of religion to control people, particularly the downtrodden.  It can be rephrased as follows:

"The purpose of religion is to keep people distracted so they don't give too much thought to the injustices they see around them."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Newton's Times

I have written several posts explaining that Isaac Newton had to be religious because of the era in which he lived.  Had he not been, it is highly unlikely that we would have ever heard of him.  In particular, see Newton, the Heretic and Newton and Einstein.

For those who doubt my assertions regarding the intolerance and barbarity prevalent during Newton's life, I recommend researching the case of Thomas Aikenhead, a Scottish University student who was hung in January of 1697 for blasphemy because he expressed opinions casting doubt on Christianity and the Bible.  In fact, his opinions were very similar to those of many atheists and skeptics today.

Aikenhead lived and was executed at the time that Newton's career was reaching its zenith.  I don't know if he could have been a great thinker or not.  We will never know.  But, we do know from the example of his case that Newton could not have even finished his education if he had not been a believer.

Thus, as I have asserted before, Newton's status as a believer proves nothing regarding the intelligence of believers.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Where Do You Get Your Morals?

Don't you hate it when theists ask us non-believers where we get our morals?  Usually this is the absolute sign that you are dealing with a bigot.  A bigot who has the moral philosophy of a 2 year old.

Well, here is an answer you might try:

"I get them from something called compassion, not from some sadistic bronze age myth."

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Purpose of Religion... III

This particular purpose served by religion seems to be best stated by looking at those whose purposes are being served:

"A church is just a gang with its own creation myth."

The purpose here, of course, is to identify the gang members, so that they know who to trust, and then provide a structure to make sure they are loyal and under control.

Abortion Is Murder, They Say

In recent decades, the religious have seized upon abortion as their moral "cause" that they use to rally the troops and try to seize power.

Of course, they also use it as a litmus test in order to re-assert the bigoted notion that they are moral and the rest of us are not.  That notion took quite a beating (a well-deserved one, I might add) after the deeds of the "Christian" nations of Central Europe during the Holocaust were exposed to the world.

These days the abortion issue has become such a hot button issue in the U.S. that I advise avoiding the topic altogether.  You can't hope to get through to those who disagree, and as soon as the topic comes up it becomes impossible to even talk to religious people.  They lose all rationality.  Not even changing the subject will work at that point because the rational part of their brain is not in control and won't be in control again for some time.  It is best to just walk away--quickly.

In this situation, religious people become dangerous--to you.  Letting them know that you disagree will cause you to be targeted by them and their friends and fellow church members.  The best that you can hope for is that they will only bad mouth you amongst themselves.

If you feel you must say anything or are in a situation to speak safely because of anonymity, distance, or some other factor that protects you, then the best response is simply to point out that there is much more at stake with this issue than the potential life of a child.

Our world is dangerously overpopulated, and, in my opinion, many social ills including mental illness, crime, and suicide result from bringing unwanted children into the world.

Consequently, when someone says that abortion is murder, you can sum up the situation by saying:

"Bringing unwanted children into the world is a crime against humanity."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Purpose of Religion... II

The other day I published the first of a planned set of posts regarding the different purposes that religion serves (with an emphasis, of course, on the negative purposes that the religious won't let themselves see or acknowledge).

That first post on the subject pointed out that religion often serves the purpose of manipulating people to get them to fight wars or otherwise kill their fellow man and still feel like they haven't done anything wrong.

The subtext of that purpose is something that I have touched on before, which is the human tendency to form in-groups and out-groups and then assume very different moral rules regarding each.  Those in a person's in-group are assumed to be owed a high standard of moral duty.  Those in the out-group are assumed to be owed a much lower standard of moral duty--if any at all.

Religion takes advantage of this tendency by dividing people into groups, each of which is necessarily an out-group to those in other groups.  Unfortunately, religion goes a step further by teaching the members of each group that only their group is good and moral.  Thus, members of other groups must necessarily be evil and immoral.  Religion exaggerates this natural tendency and thus greatly amplifies and exacerbates the inevitable side effect of promoting and escalating conflicts between groups.

In other words, religion teaches not just that its members have less of a duty toward members of other groups, it teaches that members of their group have a moral duty to be hostile toward members of other groups--even to the point of having a moral duty to persecute them.  Religion teaches (implicitly and sometimes explicitly) that there is a moral duty to persecute those who disagree.

"Religion doesn't just allow believers to feel good about themselves after killing others, it makes them feel like they have a duty to do the killing in the first place."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Purpose of Religion...

If you are like me, you have noticed how religion seems to serve many purposes for many people.  Usually it serves multiple purposes for any one person throughout his or her lifetime and, often, multiple purposes simultaneously (or nearly so).

So, I have decided that I should state, to the best of my ability, what some of those purposes are.

Some are so easy to spot that even believers can do it.  Such as the comfort it provides in times of grief.  In fact, this is usually the emotional trump card they pull out to keep us atheists quiet.  "Come on!  Don't say that here.  You know Grandma is still grieving for Grandpa.  She might hear you."

Other purposes are less obvious, especially to believers.  They only see what they want to believe and they want to believe that their cherished delusion is actually a blessing.  So, naturally, they tend to be quite blind to the purposes that reveal anything bad about religion--especially when those things are actually horrific.

Naturally we atheists can see these purposes clearly because we do not have an emotional investment in religion.

One of those purposes is as blindingly obvious now as it was to Constantine, the future Emperor and saint, when he stood before that bridge 1700 years ago:

"The purpose of religion is to get you people to kill each other and feel good about it."

I think it was equally obvious to the men who agreed to sell out their church and its alleged principles for power and money.

As you can tell, some of these "purposes" could be considered insulting if delivered in the wrong time, place, or manner.  If you use them, do so wisely and gently.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

They Are Not "Pro-Life"

In recent decades religious people have attempted to regain the high moral ground that they lost as a result of the holocaust by suddenly proclaiming that they are "pro-life".  By this term they are seeking to convince us all that their political policy of encouraging their members to breed without limit actually reflects their prohibition against any sort of killing.

Of course, their history and their holy writings tell us quite clearly that they are not against killing by any means.  And their apparent indifference to the suffering (and often early death) of many of these extra, unwanted children tells us rather clearly just how little they really care about them or their lives.

Likewise, the recent publicity concerning the longstanding problem of pedophilia among the clergy shows quite clearly just how little most churches, both clergy and laity, care about children.  Almost uniformly, the concern of the church and its members is focused on the church's reputation--not at all on the well being of the children who were the victims of horrible crimes perpetrated by those in positions of trust.  In fact, the churches usually are quite willing to sacrifice the well-being of those children in order to protect the church.  Many of the children go on to commit suicide or live blighted lives.

These churches (including both clergy and laity) are actually interested in their own political power.  Their concern for their reputation and the growth of their flock make that abundantly clear.

I think we all need to understand where these churches are trying to take our society.  Their endgame, even if they don't realize it, is the extermination of all other groups.  They plan to outbreed everyone else, thereby seizing power and forcing the rest of us to either conform or face the wrath of a combined, intolerant church and state.  This combined wrath will make it very difficult for dissenters to successfully have children of their own.  They simply won't be able to afford them, even assuming they are not killed or imprisoned.

If, in the process, the planet becomes dangerously overcrowded, resulting in the death or misery of millions or even billions that don't belong to the right church, then so be it.  They don't care about that--at least, not enough to stop it, even though they could.

Consequently, I think the "pro-life" movement should be referred to as "pro-overpopulation" or "pro-extinction".  Don't let the religious fanatics get away with branding their poisonous product with feel good labels.  Call it what it is, using a name that highlights the horrible fate that awaits us if they get their way.

When the religious start their "pro-life", holier than thou crap, you can respond:

"You aren't pro-life, you are pro-overpopulation, which means you are also pro-extinction of everyone else and perhaps even everything else."

Of course, it is often best not to respond at all when they start in on the issue of abortion.  Their emotions have been whipped up to the point of murder on that topic.  Engaging them on it can be very hazardous.