28 May, 2008

Fuck the Courtiers and Their Admirers

I'm tired, I'm behind in my work, and I'm getting cranky, so this is going to be a quickie.

I am godsdamned motherfucking sick and bloody tired of this ridiculous idea that religious ideas are somehow beyond critical thought and criticism.

The moment an advocate of a religious idea tells me I should live by that idea, I start to question it. Why? What's the evidence that this is better than the 2,684,879,413 other religious ideas I'm told I should live by?

The very instant I'm told "because [insert deity/deities here] said so," that idea gets flushed. I've had it.

I'm out of patience with special pleading. Religion is no better an idea than any other. Just because someone says a god is behind it doesn't mean it's automatically more valid than the non-god endorsed good ideas that humans have had.

Frauds tell you not to question. Liars tell you to believe. Folks who are telling the truth welcome inquiry. Good ideas withstand skepticism.

I'll tell you the #1 reason I can't have faith in God. It's because God, according to the Christian Bible, doesn't welcome doubt. God can't stand to be questioned. And that tells me either God is an illusion created by people who are now desperate to keep that illusion from being revealed as such, or God is a psychopathic liar who isn't telling me the truth.

I don't believe because there's no evidence, but that's a diatribe for another day. What I'm dealing with here isn't belief, but faith. The requirement that we live by certain principles because they are religious. The demand for respect for something simply because it's religious.

As PZ said,

When someone advances remarkable claims of remarkable phenomena, like N rays or cold fusion or polywater (or natural selection or chemiosmosis or endosymbiosis), we demand evidence and skeptical evaluation…but not for religion. God always gets a pass from the people who already believe. They claim the existence of the most powerful, all-pervasive force in the universe, yet will provide not a single shred of support. And worse, this bozo calls the demand for evidence "hooliganism".

If that's the case, I'm proud to be a hooligan.

Too fucking right. Maybe I'm more tolerant of other people's faith than PZ is, maybe I'm more willing to let them that likes it have it, but their beliefs don't get my automatic respect because they're religious beliefs. "It's what I believe" isn't enough. Give me a fucking good reason. Especially if you're demanding more than my mere toleration.

The bastard who called PZ a hooligan likes to drop the names of a lot of religious luminaries, such as Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Krishnamurti, etc., and then crow, "What, are you gonna call them liars, PZ?"

Why the fuck not?

Just because the courtiers had good ideas on how to be decent human beings doesn't mean they were right about the Emperor's clothes.

Being religious people doesn't give their ideas greater weight than the great ideas of non-religious thinkers.

It doesn't put them beyond reproach.

And anyone who claims it does is showing me they're too afraid to let those ideas and the actions that spring from them stand on their merits. Fuck you if you think I'll respect that.


Woozle said...

Indeed, it seems to me that this is where we draw the line in the sand: if your ideology won't negotiate about the nature of truth (much less admit reality as evidence), we'll have to work through other means -- by which I mean, of course, such savage, thuggish, and brutally oppressive methods as rational analysis, satire, and legislation.

Shall I have a go at the "Gandhi and Krishna" objection? I started to but it started getting too long and I have other pressing stuff at the moment. Basically: they may be religious figures, but their ideologies have never gotten in my face.

Raising Gandhi as an objection to atheism is a particularly stupid move, as he says all kinds of devastating things about religion and intolerance.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Dana,
I also get sick of other Christians telling me what to believe and how to think. They are the elitist bastards. We may sing from the same hymnal, but we're not on the same page.
As to the question of faith: I have lived on this planet now for some 51 years and I have come to realize that there will always be unanswered questions and that's ok. To me faith is alot like love. Why we love the people we do and why we believe as we do sometimes have no logical reason and will always remain a mystery. But hey that's just my opinion.

Dana Hunter said...

@Woozle: I love your brutally oppressive methods! And yes, by all means, when you have the time, you should certainly have a go at Ghandi. I can't wait to hear what you say! My champion!

@Karen: I missed you! Thanks for the cheers. I'm damned glad you're with us on this. That "We may sing from the same hymnal, but we're not on the same page" quote - instant classic!

Anonymous said...

Ya, It's not just atheists that get crap from the fundies. We do too!

Anonymous said...

You know it's funny; I live just an hour and a half drive away from the The world class Tyrell Museum and the Badlands where many significant dinosaur discoveries were made. Still with all the evidence and carbon dating Alberta is still the bastion of fundidom in Canada. It baffles me to no end how these people justify Creationism. Why are they so threatened by the facts? God could have got the ball rolling with Evolution, But no! They would rather run back to their cockamamie assumptions about Adam and Eve. Ya, and I've got some swampland in Florida you can buy.

Dana Hunter said...

I've always wondered that, too: what's so damned threatening?

After all, if God is all-powerful, evolution would be an awesome way to bake up a bunch of worshippers, wouldn't it? Isn't a God who got all of those physical laws just so from the very beginning far more awesome than some bugger who has to go round fixing things all the time?

That's one of the many problems I have with fundies: their view of God is incredibly petty. And then they go round trying to cram that view down everybody's throat.

Silly buggers.

Woozle said...

"Why are they so threatened by the facts?" I've come to the conclusion that fundamentalism is essentially an authoritarian phenomenon (I know Dana is familiar with the concept, but there's more here and here.)

Basically, facts are anathema to the authoritarian mindset (especially the leaders) unless they happen to align with the leader's political needs. Fundie leaders use religion as a tool for controlling others, and people who like being controlled and feeling "safe" (i.e. authoritarian followers) tend to accumulate around such people.

I believe civilization has a place for wild speculation and personal belief without clear evidence, so long as the individual is willing to take new information into account when it shows up.

It seems to me that a lot of people become interested in spiritual matters out of an admirable motivation to make their lives part of a positive force in the universe, something bigger than themselves. I believe that this is even essential for civilization to progress in a good direction. (I've been calling that motivation "idealism", for lack of a better word.)

Fundies take that idealism and manipulate it for their own ends, convincing their followers that any contradictory information threatens both their ideals and their personal safety. I think this explains the fervor with which many followers defend their faith: their core idealism has been taken hostage by, and subsumed to the needs of, the power-structure created by the leaders -- and the leaders don't give a damn about truth; they just want power.

There's no harm in, say, believing in God and believing that parts of the Bible described real events. The problem happens when real-world evidence contradicts the conclusions you might have come to based on that belief.

When this happens, a sincere seeker of truth will be willing to re-examine the structure of their belief and admit "well, okay, maybe I'm misinterpreting the Bible here" or even "maybe it's got that bit wrong".

Authoritarian leaders, however, feel threatened when understanding changes. They've got all the rationalizations worked out to justify whatever it is they need their flock to do today. If the underlying facts change, they have to work out a whole new set of rationalizations -- and the better people understand things, the harder it is to rationalize evil. So from their point of view, it's better just to say that the Bible is perfect.

It is, in fact, a perfect tool for manipulation, because it is so vague and contradictory; if you can get people to accept metaphor and blatant contradictions as literal truth, you've effectively disabled their thinking mechanisms, and they're more helpless than ever -- they have to turn to someone else for advice. If you have that advice packaged and ready to go, you will literally rule their world.

Those who can see the Bible as a source of wisdom but also of error will tend to be immune to this abuse -- but they need to be aware of it, and stamp it out wherever they can.

A challenge to all sincere, truth-seeking Christians: Find ways to fight Bible abuse within the context of your religion, and start doing it. Campaign for your particular church to wage war on it, to take an official position against fundamentalism and all other extremist religion. Work out a set of ideals that all moderate and reasonable faiths can agree to (here are some starting ideas). Your faith is in danger, and it's not the atheists who are the real threat. We're just trying to save civilization from being ruled by the fundies, which would be far, far worse than a society dominated by atheism. (If you disagree, we can discuss it -- but remember that a fundy society would have no room for any truth besides their own unquestionable dogma.)

And once again, I started out typing a short reply and ended up ranting... [facepalms]

Anonymous said...

Well said Woozle,
The dangers of a funde takeover are very real. Just look at what is happening with the "full quiver movement". Families are being manipulated by authoritarian ministers to breed "Warriors for Jesus". A very sad example of this is Andrea Yates.

Woozle said...

Seems to me this is one area where we could really start something going. Over here we get both Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons coming to the door on a semi-regular basis; I'm not so crazy about the JWs' apocalyptic views, but I think they do see themselves as fighting against religious control of politics (or vice-versa). And every Mormon I've ever spoken with, without any exception I can think of, has been very intelligent and opposed to religious extremism. (Though they totally don't seem to get that their uber-clean-cut look is kind of creepy.)

If I had a flyer to hand out with some specific proposals...

Something to think about.

Dana Hunter said...

Woozle, I adore your rants, and you know it! When I become a Master of Time - well, Mistress - I'll make sure all of you have some awesome little device that will allow long rambles without sacrificing the rest of your lives! LOL. Seriously, these discussions that go on are thrilling, so don't worry about length!

So... if we were to create a flyer, what should be on it? Seems like a damned good idea to me! If moderates, secular folk and atheists don't stand shoulder-to-shoulder against this crap, we're all going to be living in theocracies.

All right, maybe it's not that extreme, not yet, but they're gaining a lot more public power than any of us are comfortable with.

Woozle said...

"All right, maybe it's not that extreme..." ...or maybe it is.

Leaving aside the whole Heinlein Prophecy angle it seems to me that even if Obama wins, isn't assassinated or suborned, proves able to overcome neocon BS and actually gets something done, investigates all the corruption of the past 7 years and gets some serious convictions and all seems well...

...the Bush mispresidency has nonetheless been a wake-up call that we need some back-up plans in place, because we can't trust the government to be sane. (I have some very concrete and cheaply implementable ideas about this and am hoping to get started by this summer. Nag me. Please.) Some of the stuff I've come across while investigating the whole 9/11 thing has me seriously worried; even if only a small percentage of it is true, there's some seriously screwed-up shit going on, and I think we owe it to ourselves to use the tools to which we now have access to do something about it.

Assuming we're allowed to keep them, anyway.