Religion manifests in the imagery of the believer. We are all aware some believe in the ‘pink fluffy bits’ of the texts. I’m sure you recognize the ones who pull out the nice stuff, that will give them some modicum of secular reasoning to aid their belief system, nicely blanking out the ugliness in their biblical text.
For others, the fire and brimstone is the only way to go, be fearful in this life and have paradise in the next. The difference between the two is simple, in the first the consolations are merely personal, in the latter, they are also encroaching on our social and political world.
The justifications by religious people for their beliefs are frequently trying to rationalise what at its deepest depths is a non-rational belief system. It is emotional, traditional and at its roots the experiences of childhood when trusted adults instilled a religion invoking, and explicitly religious way of looking at the world.
Humanism on the other hand increased liberty of thought and expression, and has allowed atheists to speak critically of religion and the religious armour of privilege and respect is slowly eroding away, and exposing it to challenge.
Religion is an ‘amorphous’ target simply because the belief system does not stem from logic. Anyone reading the religious texts will find, ambiguity, multiplicity, interpretations and contradictions, so many in fact they are easily rendered consistent with any attempt to counter them.
Cancer, disabilities, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc that kill tens of thousands – are in the eyes of the religious, regarded as consistent with a benevolent and omnipotent god. They go to church giving thanks and praying for the dead, with no sense of irony. Of course, arguing this point will give you the blanket argument of ” god’s higher purpose.’
THE UGLINESS THAT IS RELIGION
If we take a moment to look at the world news today or anyday, you will see atrocities and oppression caused by religion. The defenders of their “sky fairy” will say these were not done in their gods name and were the work of either sinful men/ or not true believers.
Now doesn’t this make you curious? An earthquake killing thousands of people is an act of god, a god with a higher purpose no less. Now tell me how they can disregard for instance ISIS is not their gods plan too?
That religion has survived so long is remarkable evidence of how effectively it inculcates a mindset which criticism or questioning, and the recognition of contradiction or unacceptability, is suppressed. This is not a careless claim. Only consider: all forms of fundamentalism are notable for the infantilising and blinding effect why have on their votaries. Think of the angry crowds of Muslims demonstrating over cartoons they find insulting. Murder is committed because of this, and mayhem along with it. Mass immaturity of this kind requires a pervasive culture of unthinking credulity to foster it
– A C Grayling
When we engage with these religious individuals on twitter or any social media sight, they will cherry pick the bits of the bible they can live with and tell you how wonderful and loving their particular “sky fairy” is.
The moment you try a serious argument with them by way of their commitment, threats immediately arise to women, gays, human rights etc. Name calling is the time you should walk away and leave their childish playground. Plain speaking unfortunately is an anathema to them, they cannot be held up for criticism and scrutiny as they really have no answers. Their divine reality is they think of their imaginary god as an all-encompassing and unanswerable source of authority governing what they think, say, eat and wear, and who they fuck.
The fact that different religions claim that their god or gods have different requirements in these respects should be evidence that religions are man-made and historically conditioned, but religious people think that this insight only applies to other people’s religions , not their own.
Contesting religion is like engaging in a boxing match with a jelly: it is a shifting, unclear, amorphous target, which every blow displaces to a new shape. There is a human tragedy in this, it is a game of shadows, made no easier by the fact that many of the apologists and votaries of religion are eager to believe, even to self-deceive, and refuse to examine the considerations that would call their cherished commitments into question. the more they suspect that they might be wrong, the more fiercely they adhere. Mark Twain put the point accurately if a little unkindly:
‘faith is believing what you know ain’t so’
A C Grayling
I clearly remember when I fully comprehended I had reached ‘The Age of Reason”, which Im guessing is the same for most of us. I was age 10, it coincided with my family asking me to make what seemed at the time adult choices. I had been studying for several years various religious texts, as a book reader I admit more for their storylines than the question of whether they were true of not. It was however, clear as day to me that they were wonderful expressions of ancient mythologies, colourful but fictitious nonetheless. I had come of age …
I mention this as I see theists as children who have not reached the heights of reason, and this worries me greatly, because you see I watch the news of the gun crimes in the US, and I see grown children killing and I don’t think they realise the gravity of their actions. Much like a child killing an ant and then wondering why it does not come back to life. A man is shot dead, we see the finite reality of this, but does the gunman. You see as a theist he doesn’t see it as the end, he has two get out clauses ;
- The man is alive and well in the afterlife
- The gunman can be forgiven and will move on
With regards to the “Good” things in religion, the consolations and inspirations it provides to some ( even if these are false), there are better sources which have the additional merit of being grounded in reason and give a more accurate understanding of this world we live in.
Science and Education is our answer, indeed whenever we have advanced in both, the influence of religion has dwindled.
Religion should/must be kept in the private sphere and not to encroach into the public domain. To put it more succinctly, religion’s do not stand up to examination and belong in the same sphere as Astrology and Magic.
There is a beautiful and life-enhancing alternative outlook that offers insight, consolation, inspiration and meaning, which has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the best, most generous and sympathetic understanding of human reality.
The argument against religion is an argument for the liberation of the human mind, and the possibility of at last formulating an ethical outlook that all mankind can share, providing a non theistic peaceful world.
A C Grayling puts it far better than I ever could;
to move from the Babel of religions and their claims, and from the too often appalling effects of religious belief and practice on humankind, to the life-enhancing insights of human tradition which most of the world’s educated and creative minds have embraced, is like escaping from a furnace to cool waters and green groves. I hope the latter is the destination of all humanity, as more people come to understand this ethical outlook as far the better alternative.