Ideas don’t have feelings. Ideas aren’t people and should never take precedence over people. No one should ever die for having an idea, irrespective of however bad it is. Ideas can and must be critically eviscerated and viciously mocked if they are bad or even worse, deadly. Religion is an idea. It is a very bad idea. It is an idea which has held society back, celebrated willful ignorance and enables infantile wishful thinking. Religion should have been abandoned a long time ago.
I am vicious in my critique of religion. I will never relent in that endeavor. I understand that religion is deeply held for many people; it was once deeply held for me. I acknowledge for many, these ideas are sacred and must be respected, I once thought the same. But ideas won’t take umbrage when one such as I obliterates them with logic and reason. I don’t pretend to be an expert in logic and reason, but I like to think my newfound skepticism has sharpened my deadened critical thinking skills (I used to think 9/11 was an inside job–ugh).
In a prior post, I explained how I became an atheist. It was a long, hard and frankly depressing process. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though, because it made me who I am now. The good and the bad were necessary to temper my thinking and engender within me the desire to be rational. That said, I believe there are two types of atheists. There are those who are empathetic and understanding of people’s beliefs. They go out of their way to show deference and respect to beliefs that are, frankly, barbaric.
I’m not one of those atheists.
I am the Firebrand. Currently, I am reading David Silverman’s Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World. I find his take on atheist activism refreshing. He is brash, he is loud, he is brutally honest. He is a Firebrand.
Firebrands don’t respect religion or any dogma that limits human ingenuity, compassion and progress. The three major religions of western society are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three teach bigotry, hate and encourage scientific ignorance. You can probably imagine how well that goes over for me when I tell people this to their faces. No one likes an iconoclast, but some icons need to be destroyed. Remember, ideas don’t have feelings.
I honor people’s right to believe whatever they wish. When I say religion needs to die, I say this with the knowledge that this is simply my opinion and that as much as I wish for religion to take the long walk, I cannot and would not take away anyone’s rights to believe. But I never said I had to treat religion with kid gloves. Religion enjoys an unearned privilege in society. It demands respect where it would give none. It demands belief whereas it gives no proof. It demands absolution of criticism, whereas it criticizes everyone. Religion teaches us to rely on faith instead of reason. For this alone, religion is dangerous. So why is it that saying something like this in a public forum causes so much controversy? As I already stated, religion is fiercely defended against criticism because it is a deeply held belief. Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit. Much of what we do now are things we’ve done for centuries. We follow tradition because tradition is safe. We forget to learn from history, however, that tradition dictates that times always change.
Firebrands are assholes. I admit this. I am an asshole. Assholes expel shit, they remove bodily wastes. In this graphic sense, we’re necessary. I try very hard to be an asshole to bad ideas and not to the people who believe them. I’m not always successful, but I try. I will remain an asshole to bad ideas because assholes make people think. And, as Silverman puts it in his book, the asshole makes the empath look good by comparison. It’s a win-win for the atheist community because bad ideas are condemned and those who are offended often take solace in the company of more empathetic skeptics who listen, offer nods of agreement and then ask questions which poke holes in the believer’s logic (the Socratic method).
I am often criticized for showing disrespect to religion. I simply do not believe it deserves respect. Remember, religion is an idea and ideas don’t have feelings. Do you respect the idea that homosexuals should be put to death, because the Bible and Qur’an certainly do? Do you respect the idea that one can own slaves or sell one’s daughter into marriage if she is raped and her rapist pays her father? The Bible and Qur’an were written when women were property. How can books written in a time of such barbarity offer any contemporary wisdom in the present? Sure, there are timeless anecdotes and lessons from the scriptures which are positive. But if either book gets anything factually right, it does so by mistake; or it speaks on things which would’ve already been universally known by most people within that time period.
Religion is why the state of Kentucky can use tax payer money to build a replica Ark and be treated as a museum and given non profit status, all while employing discriminatory hiring practices. Religion is why people can continually deny climate change, vote for measures which restrict a woman’s right to chose (Ohio did, punk ass Ohio), and even control who can and who cannot get married. Virtually every religion preaches that its right and the others are wrong. The only sensible conclusion is that they’re all wrong.
Imagine a world free of disease, a world of longevity. Imagine a world where technology allows us to explore the cosmos, live a life of leisure and pursue learning. Imagine a world where racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny are relics of a bygone era, remembered only for the purposes of not allowing them again. This is the world religion has robbed from all of us.
Damn right, I’m a Firebrand.