Religion versus god and the danger of faith.
One of the few prominent religious figures in the United States who, I think, attempted to be a decent human being was Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. Sadly, and I mean that, she passed away after a horrible bout with cancer. After seeing her being interviewed only a couple of days ago I can say that death, in this case, was a blessing.
In researching her life for some other projects I came across comments by her son, Jay Bakker. Jay runs a church in New York that attempts to reach out to people rejected by most churches. Both he and his mother spoke frequently of the appalling treatment they received at the hands of their fellow believers. Tammy Faye said it was the gay community that reached out to her when she felt all alone in the world. And she reached back.
Jay Bakker recently preached to a church about how Christians treated him because he turned his church into a “gay affirming” church. He said that even while his mother was dying they ignored her illness and ostracized him. One Christian magazine, Charisma, was upset that Bakker said he doesn’t think it sinful to be gay so they wrote: “Consider this an official apostasy alert.”
The term "apostasy" means abandonment of one’s religious faith. I guess Charisma believes that denouncing gays is one of the main articles of the Christian faith. It’s right up there with other such nonsense as the trinity, the virgin (right!) birth, and the resurrection. I think the Apostle’s Creed has the hating gays part stuck in somewhere between Jesus dying for our sins and resurrecting from the dead.
Bakker says that even while it widely known his mother was dying these Christians didn’t want to offer compassion to him only condemnation. And he said something along the lines that he can sometimes understand why people become atheists. He attributed that atheism to the vicious treatment that people often receive at the hands of Christians.
Bakker seems to be implying, and rightly so, that such a form of atheism is irrational. At the same time he committed the same fallacy in calling on the church to thus reach out in love to the people it had previously rejected. He wants people to believe in a god due to the “nice Christian” but not to be atheists due to the “nasty Christian.”
The existence of a deity does not depend on the nature of those who profess a belief in it. Either a deity exists or it doesn’t. Being nice to people doesn’t prove the existence of a god anymore than being nasty proves the non-existence of one.
The unpleasant nature of so many religious people merely indicates that religion is no guarantee that it makes people nicer or more humane. It may indicate that religion is not particularly adept at turning people into saints but it doesn’t prove anything either way.
An atheist,who is an atheist because some Christian was unpleasant, is as irrational as anyone who believes in a deity because a believer was kind.
The reason for being an atheist is a relatively simple one: the evidence for a deity doesn’t stack up.
Separate from that is the debate concerning the nature of religion. Whether or not a deity is hiding somewhere in the universe does not change the evaluation that religion, on a whole, is a negative for human existence.
The way the Bakkers were treated by their fellow believers does indicate a problem with religion. The way the religious can commit terrorists acts in the name of Allah or throw out their gay children in the name of Jesus shows a problem with religion. God is simply false, not evil. Religion is both false and evil.
God cannot be evil since god does not exist. Religion does exist and it does bad things. Religion is an organized system created by people. So it has the same potentials that people have.
So whey then do I think religion is inherently negative?
The reason is that religion attempts to give people a code of morality that is inherently irrational. Faith is not a tool of understand this world or how one should act within it.
Worse yet, it gives people a divine mandate to indulge every bigotry and hatred they possess. People can justify the most inhumane acts in the name of the god they worship. If a god tells one to not steal the same god can later reveal that they must steal.
Certainly Jehovah, in one section of the Bible, says “thou shalt not steal” while in other sections he demands they steal the homes and livestock of other tribes. The god who tells them “thou shalt not kill” also turns and orders the execution of numerous sinners and the extermination of other tribes. God reveals one morality one day and a different morality another day. And the way this deity reveals himself is through the “small voice” people claim they hear. The burning bush trick hasn’t been used for centuries.
Christians usually don’t mean they literally hear Jehovah. They say, “God spoke to my heart”, or “God led me”. They really mean that their own sentiments led them in a specific direction and they attribute to a deity their own actions and decisions.
So, if they hate one group of people they can tell you how God has told them to hate. And when they hate, they are really being loving because they obey the deity. It was more loving to exterminate “heretics” than to allow them to live. It is more loving to deprive homosexuals of their rights than to allow them to live unmolested in freedom.
Every atheist must rely on human reason and he must know that human reason is not infallible. He can never be fully sure that everything he believes is correct. He must allow others a latitude of freedom because he may be wrong and they may be right. But the certainty of faith is inherently authoritarian. If you know the truth then there is nothing to debate.
Every authoritarian beliefs system, including religion, says it has the “truth” and knows how people must act. No rational atheist can say that. Irrational atheists, who have a substitute religion that has the “full truth” might, but not rational atheists who recognize the fallibility of human thinking. This is why Marxism is more like fundamentalist Christianity than it is different. It is a religion and it suffers the drawbacks of all religions.
Religion relies on faith not facts. As such it is prone to manipulation. It is a god-sanctioned means by which the dark side of human nature is released to inflict pain and suffering on others.