Being an atheist, agnostic, or secularist in the United States of America is like being the villain of a James Bond movie. You are portrayed as a nefarious person, scheming to undermine the moral center of the country; and advocating for the rape and pillaging of towns and villages. Without religion the world would certainly fall into a hedonistic debauchery, and people would be killing one another in the streets for a loaf of bread. This of course is ridiculous.
As a non-religious person I wouldn’t want any of those things, in fact I don’t even care what others do or don’t believe in. Have at it, I really don’t give a shit. The only thing that troubles me about the opposite side of the “is there or isn’t there a god” argument is when spirituality is used in a manner to dictate behavior, governance and how we educate our kids. By agreeing to be a religious person, no matter what degree of religiosity you fall into, you have a significantly narrower lens in which you see the world then those who are non-spiritual. This essentially means that you chose to operate without all the information, and that “alternative facts” are just as important as the real ones.
Having a personal set of spiritual beliefs is fine, and I can’t stress this enough, it only becomes outrageous when you begin to selectively edit history, infringe on the basic rights of others, and become a censor for scientific inquiry based on a questionable set of beliefs that exist in a framework that is not testable or universally agreed upon.
In fact in some regards I am enviable of people who call themselves religious. Mainly because it gives a person an excuse to ignore information no matter how contradictory it is to their personal beliefs. No matter how well researched or tested this information could be, as a religious person you get a free pass to not accept it, by simply stating “it is a test from god to challenge my faith.” If a non-religious person does this, well, they are just plain ignorant.
I do not consider myself an atheist, and the word agnostic seems somewhat problematic as well. I view the two in the same sense I’ve heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson describe them. They are one face on the same coin, but atheism is the political wing of the non-god fearing heathens. Our elected president is Richard Dawkins, are vice-president Sam Harris, and our secretary of state is Michael Shermer.
It may be more a matter of semantics then anything, but the very act of assigning names to “us” seems problematic. Using words like atheist, secular, or agnostics seeks to religify the very concept of not-having a religion. It feels like a contradiction. Religion in a way is like watching an NFL football game. Everyone meets on Sunday to watch the game, and for whatever reason the one guy who hates football (atheist) is now forced to watch and chose a team to root for.
This article isn’t meant to insult anyone, although that probably isn’t how it will be read, rather it is meant to point out that as a religious person you operate with certain set of cognitive biases. Those biases don’t always follow a line of thinking that is good for the whole, or maybe even the individual; and relies on faulty, sometimes uneven, or maybe flat out wrong information.
Deciding your religion is the “one true religion” becomes a philosophical pissing match, and unfortunately we all get wet. Ask yourself why is your religion the one true religion and why wasn’t this message revealed to the followers of other faiths? Sure, there is some party line answer for this, but it boils down to the fact that if there is a god, he is an impish petty child. In many religions he is just a flat out racist. In several of the Abrahamic religions certain groups of people are chosen by god, whereas others are not.
So ask yourself, is your god acting in a manner that would be found acceptable by today’s Western standards? The answer is probably not, and you also need to ask yourself is who gets to decide what is good or bad about a religion? Many religions have some not so secret dark parts to them. Yet, by today’s believers they are considered not relevant or perhaps are no longer followed in modern times. Yet, religious text is still taken as an authoritative work, yet many chose to ignore the more challenging (and possibly illegal) parts of their book.
In academia, a text book is filled with facts, it is then updated and rewritten when new facts come to light. These facts either expand or replace a given understanding of a topic. Yet, holy scriptures don’t ever undergo the same sort of rigorous update and criticism; so why would books advocating slavery, misogyny, and racism still hold as much weight or more in your mind? A holy book undergoes no updates, which in turn leads to insane ideologues acting in a reprehensible manner. However, these people are adhering to a belief system in its most literal sense.
Now my beef isn’t with religion necessarily, it is with the weight these ideas are given when compared to real and observable information. Mainly with things like evolution and how old the earth actually is. This goes back to the earlier point of viewing the world through a narrow lens, and being allowed to ignore contradictory information. In the professional and academic world people are not rewarded for being ignorant on a topic. In the religious world the more ignorant the better, it is a sign of loyalty and faith in your cause.
When considering evolution, many religious people say that evolution is just a theory, and that means it doesn’t exist or that there is room for interpretation. To this I say, so is gravity, so why don’t you go jump off of a bridge. The use of the word theory is problematic because what it means in science is not the same as what it means in dumbfucknese. Somehow the word theory got transposed with the word idea, in common parlance, when in fact it is something that has undergone rigorous testing and stood up to that testing on multiple occasions with similar results each time.
There are two types of evolution, macro and micro. Macro being the idea humans descended from apes, micro being small changes that happen in a shorter very observable way. Micro evolution isn’t so much that a species morphs into some sort of new awesome creature like Pokemon. It’s the whole survival of the fittest thing where certain group traits become more expressed in a species due to environmental pressures. This can sometimes be seen in a single generation or maybe several.
Arguing a case for evolution is perhaps the most convincing when looking at it in the micro scale. Consider the following scenario, a species of moth in England can appear as two different colors. One color is white, the other is black. The most common of these colored traits is white. However, during the industrial revolution the sky is made darker from the coal plants. The white moths now contrast more sharply against the darkened sky. The natural predator of these bugs are birds, with white moths now more visible then ever they are picked off and killed in an almost genocidal fashion. The dark moths, which are now more easily camouflaged and avoid the fate of their lightly colored brethren, making this trait the new dominant one in the species.
This is how evolution works. Do this several billion times over the course of a million-plus year history, and a new species begins to emerge.
If you are unflappable in your beliefs nothing I can say about evolution will change your mind. But please realize that your belief in a spiritual boogie man creating all life on earth sounds as equally preposterous to me. The only difference is that my belief is constantly updated, revised, and has gone through a vigorous vetting process. Also, please understand that the current form of a religion you practice, is not its original form. What you practice and preach is probably a bastard child that is based off of a poorly translated set of scrolls that very few people can read. More people disagree with how to practice the very thing you claim to believe in then the people who study evolution.
So what this essay boils down to is this. I am advocating that religious people stop running for government. Yes, you heard me, it is idiotic to say the least and the constituency you claim to represent is only a subset (albeit a pretty large one) of the population. A population that probably makes decisions more on emotion than logic and understanding of a given topic. You are not representing the oppressed (trust me), being a religious dilettante doesn’t make you a minority in any sense of the imagination. What it does make you is a majority group that constantly works against the best interest of their species.
If you are a voter; then please when you go to the polls please opt out of voting for anything that meets a certain religious agenda. Simply state that you have a conflict of interest, or just don’t show up that day. It’s that easy, because when it comes to certain things you simply can’t be left to make a decision that was formulated by rationality, instead you are going to vote based on how a guy wearing robes and a funny hat told you to.