Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An A on the Lapel

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

Years ago I remember seeing Mother Teresa being interviewed on Irish television by Gay Byrne. She was asked if she had any doubts. Her answer was a blunt 'no'. However more recently I've read some letters she wrote when being more honest in which she mentioned that when she prayed there was no response, there was just a disappointing silence. It seems to me that she was more of an atheist than agnostic. Such an utter contrast to the position she declared in public.
But she is not alone by any means.

In Roman time, politicians would pretend to believe in the Roman gods, they thought it would help to get votes. The practice continues.

Throughout modern society people publicly profess their religious faith. Some wear religious clothes or emblems. In churches people repeat their creed aloud for all to hear. Many agnostics and atheists keep their lack of faith silent, lest they offend. As a result, when religious people are loosing their faith, they think they are much more alone then they actually are.

It really would be helpful if non-believers could be more public. So recommend that we wear the letter 'A' lapel pin. The motivation is not to seek persecution nor to insult religious folks, but rather to show solidarity with those who are trying to free themselves of religion. If you'd like one, then get your's here..

The idea behind wearing the 'A', is just to make a public statement that the wearer is an atheist, agnostic or non-religious person. It will persuade others who feel the road away from religion is a lonely one that in fact they are far from alone. It will also help to show religious people that atheists are happy, normal people, who are capable of being kind, generous and compassionate.

Atheists are just like ordinary people, except that when they think about moral or ethical issues, then tend not to pay too much attention to bronze age texts. They also tend to think a bit more for themselves, rather than just accept what they are told. In all the studies that I have read about there is a negative correlation between religiousness and eduction level or intelligence, though surprisingly there do seem to be some reasonably intelligent people who publicly proclaim their religious faith.

For me, if someone is intelligent, it means that they can think clearly, but it doesn't mean that they always do. For example Admiral Yamamoto had a brilliant military brain and was very effective. However, in spite of the lack of evidence, he still believed that the Japanese imperial family was divine.

How can some ridiculous belief persist for generations?

If you get a child, surround him by people who all believe some nonsense, such as in reformed pastafarianism then you can build up a strong association in his brain between the flying spaghetti monster and all things good. Then when those children grow up they'll insist on bring up their own children as pastafarians and so the nonsense propogates from one generation onto the next.

For the beliefs to persist into adulthood the following will help:
  • Tell people they will be rewarded for believing
  • Encourage people to fear an after-life if the don't believe.
  • Build up a form of condescending pity for non-believers
  • Control the eduction system, which makes certain that the question of faith is not presented in any balanced or objective manner, but rather it works very hard to indoctrinate
  • Ask people to frequently, publicly profess their faith.
  • Have lots of public demonstrations of faith.
  • Have a good public relations machine that will associate the faith with charity works.

When faith has grown large enough to have significant political power, criticism of the faith (blasphemy) can become a crime.

Then the most extreme of all, as in Islam, those who loose faith are killed. Currently apostasy is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Mauritania and the Comoros. One question we can ask is, why would an Imam hate someone who has lost his faith sufficiently so that he wants that person killed? In a strange way hatred is a form of respect. It is very difficult to hate something that is pathetic and weak. Very often hatred comes out of fear or jealousy. For Imams and people of all faith who have devoted their lives to religion there is a very real fear that people around them and indeed even they themselves might loose their faith. Their whole lives are based on people continuing to believe in fairy-tales. One enormous fear is that everyone will stand up and together shout "The emporer's got no clothes". For an Imam, if their community loose faith, then they are left in an empty mosque and their position in society is gone. If they themselves loose faith, then it is even worse, they are left in no-man's land. Religious organisations are full of closet agnostics, without the courage to come out.

No comments: