Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why This Blog Exists

So, after years of living somewhat-secretly as an atheist, why have I bothered to start a blog full of blunt and blasphemous material?  It’s a fair question, and one that deserves an answer. I didn’t really see any benefit to “coming out” for quite some time. My entire family and the majority of my friends are all Christians, and many of them are rather devout. I don’t typically enjoy pissing off the people that I care about, and I didn’t figure I would change many of their minds anyway, so I figured it wasn’t worth bringing up.

I suppose that the main reason that I’m ultimately bringing this up is this: I want the world to be a better place when I die, and religion is having the opposite effect. Most importantly, religion is a driving force behind much of the conflict in this world, and I genuinely fear that it will be responsible for a nuke going off in my lifetime. Jihad is religious in nature, and Muslims will not stop committing acts of violence in the name of Allah as long as they believe that Allah exists. The Koran is a scary book (“Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage...If they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evildoers.” (Koran 2:190-193)  This is but a sample of the Koran; there are many, many similar passages), and Islam is capable of being a scary religion (the Bible also contains passages about killing others, but luckily our culture has evolved enough to weed most of that out. It’s a danger with all religions, but it’s most prevalent in Islam).

The standard liberal reaction to that last sentence is to worry that I’m an intolerant racist who unfairly blames the actions of a few extremists on the religion as a whole. There’s a problem with that reaction. Namely: not all viewpoints should be tolerated. Look, I wish we could “all just get along” as much as anyone else, and being tolerant of the differences of others certainly plays a part in that. However, when we don’t oppose the objectively detrimental behavior of others in the name of “tolerance,” we’re implicitly conceding that their behavior is acceptable. To say it a little more plainly: it’s stupid to allow people to act like jackasses just because we want to be accepting of everyone. I’ll get into more details in other posts, but when people are convinced that the afterlife is much more important than their lives on Earth, they use their beliefs as justification for doing terrible things. You know, like killing infidels and people who inhabit their “holy land.”  This is not acceptable behavior, and religion is at the root of it.

I’m aware that religious extremists and fundamentalists may only make up a small portion of any particular religious population, but the extremists are enabled by the moderates. There’s a reluctance to condemn any actions done in the name of religion as it’s considered taboo to demean anyone’s religious beliefs. Societies as a whole give religion a free pass because no one wants their own religious views ridiculed or called into question. So, we’ve all decided that everyone can believe whatever they want and act however they want in the name of religion. Whenever someone points to religion as the root cause of terrible actions, “moderates” throw a fit and defend their religion by claiming that they are not performing these actions so we can’t consider religion to be a motivating cause. The truth of the matter is that the “problem” with fundamentalists is that they don’t ignore certain tenets of their religion that the rest of society has deemed crazy. In other words, their problem is that they adhere too closely to their religion. Religion is the cause in many cases, but moderates forbid attacks on religion because they want to continue practicing their bastardized version of it.

Following your religion to its fullest extent would be fine if religion was harmless, but it’s not. It’s been the cause of way too many wars throughout history and is a driving force in the current “War on Terror.”  While I’m glad that we haven’t been the victims of any serious attacks since 9/11, I am most certainly not glad that this “war” continues to suck up so much of our country’s budget.

To put it succinctly, here’s the problem: our economy sucks and our national debt is preposterously high. Spending $700 billion a year on defense does not help. Who is going to pay off that debt?  Future taxpayers. I am a future taxpayer. Ergo, I am pissed.

Obviously, there’s more problems with the budget than just military spending (namely the fact that we spend over $1.5 trillion annually on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security). That doesn’t change the fact that we’ve more than doubled our spending on defense in the past decade. Ideally that number would be zero dollars annually if we could get the whole “world peace” thing figured out. That certainly won’t be happening anytime soon...but it will never happen as long as we continue to tolerate religious beliefs that encourage killing others.

My reasons for being anti-religious are not all selfish; I wish that terrorism was not a threat and I wish that I didn’t have to pay to fight it, but I also wish that the quality of life was better for everyone in the world. I wish that people would stop killing each other over Palestine. I wish that India and Pakistan would stop threatening to blow each other up. I wish women were not treated like property and could wear whatever they chose in Muslim countries. I wish that people would stop taking their own lives and the lives of others to earn a reward that will never come. I wish that we could freely distribute condoms in Africa to cut down on the AIDS epidemic. I wish that people would stop pretending that abstinence is a reasonable form of birth control. I wish that no one will ever be used to make a blood sacrifice again. I wish that people were not ostracized for refusing to believe in imaginary deities. I wish that gay people were treated like straight people. I wish that creepy old men would not molest innocent boys because they’re sexually repressed. I wish that stem cells could be used to relieve the suffering of people that actually exist rather than worrying about the imaginary souls of things that are incapable of thought. I wish that people would stop using the words of books that are thousands of years old to justify their behavior. I wish that people weren’t sent to jail for possessing plants that are harmless. In short, I wish that logic, reason, evidence, and knowledge took precedence over superstition and archaic beliefs.

All of those issues can be attributed to religion. People like to complain about atheists under the premise that religious beliefs are harmless. I strongly, strongly beg to differ, and that’s why I’ve bothered to “come out” and start this blog.


  1. I share many of your concerns about the world, so we've got some common ground there.

    I'd like to poke back at religion as the cause of the war on terror, however. It is quite true that bin Laden and many of the head honchos appear to be religious nutcases. However, I wonder for many of the more average followers how compelling the 72 virgins reward really is, or rather, would be if they had decent family-supporting jobs and full bellies for all in their families. Also, if they had access to education to better evaluate the claims made by their leaders and to understand cultures other than their own. In other words, I think class issues may be just as relevant as religious ones.

    Also, the US's military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq had virtually nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with revenge and oil, respectively. (And perhaps W's daddy issues).I took part with many others, both of faith and not, in a large protest movement against both wars. There was also much discussion within Christian circles about how neither conflict met the criteria for just war.

    While some Indians and Pakistanis harbor hatred toward each other over religious issues, I think much of their conflict can be traced to tribal issues going back forever, and also the effects of colonialism and how the countries were divided.

    I don't claim to be an expert on international affairs, but it is my opinion that resource struggles and power struggles are just as much to blame for war as religion. Sometimes I think that religion functions as much as a tool for those at the top as a genuine belief system.

  2. I agree with Abby that there are many factors that go into wars, religious or otherwise. The role religion seems to play in these conflicts is rather important though. It provides the excuse for one party to revenge themselves on the other. As Abby ably put it "Sometimes I think that religion functions as much as a tool for those at the top as a genuine belief system." Al Queda probably could not convince young men to fly a plane into a building in New York just because America is wealthy and they are poor, even if that's what causes most of the anger. However, if America is the Great Satan, then these young men get to channel their anger through a legitimate cause, that of saving the world from a source of supernatural evil. Not only is there a noble cause to die for, but their actions will be rewarded in heaven and they will be respected by true believers etc.etc. Religion is a catalyst to violence which leaders (and some following fanatics who actually believe the stories) use to justify their actions while accomplishing more secular goals. However, without the religious justification, violence in those situations would seem to most to be unreasonable, and the people would need to find less efficient means of accomplishing their goals.

    In regards to Abby's comment on tribalism, well, isn't that all that religion is? It's a tribe mentality, "us and them", "right and wrong". It enhances cooperation within the group, boosting survivability, but reduces cooperation between groups. Generally.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Abby. A few thoughts:

    -The "poverty and education" issue is not as pertinent as one would intuitively think. This NY Times article provides some interesting insight into terrorist personnel: I absolutely agree that religion is not solely responsible for inspiring terrorism; I do think, however, it is practically required as a part of that recipe.

    -I didn't mean to imply that the US's involvement overseas is a result of OUR collective religious beliefs. My point is that we're only over there in the first place due to the dangers of THEIR religious beliefs. I don't view the "War on Terror" as some kind of Christian crusade. Sorry for the confusion.

    -I totally agree with Kyle's comment that religion is used as justification by fundamentalist leaders to inspire their followers (as well as your comment that religion is sometimes used as a tool). I think you would qualify this as a "misuse" of religion. However, when the religion in question includes tenets about fighting infidels, it's not really a misuse.