Monday, October 14, 2013

Week of 10/14/2013

Can Atheists Best Theists?
– by David Matthews 2

When it comes to trying to validate religious beliefs, some people use the most asinine presumptions in their arguments.

One of the biggest is the pompous and self-serving presumptions that morals and values and everything that is good and decent and pure can only come from religion.  Of course when they say “religion”, what they really mean is their specific religious belief; but they don’t want to come off as being “too egotistical” when trying to castigate the “heathens”.  They had might as well claim that the air that we all breathe and the gravity that keeps us on the ground all come from “belief” as well.

Yes, it is really about validating their own egos and their arrogant presumption that they are superior to others.  And in doing so, they actually disprove their own claims.

The ego-driven presumption goes like this: all morality, ethics, values, everything that we consider to be “good”, these things can only come from religious belief.  Since atheists and agnostics and freethinkers do not believe like supposedly “devout” people, then they have no “guide” to what is right and wrong, and therefore cannot help but do evil things.

The presumption operates on the delusional fantasy that supposedly “truly devout” people cannot do the wrong things or break the rules of either society or “laws” of that particular belief.  This fiction then advances the equally delusional argument that if there is crime and perceived lawlessness that “society has turned away from God”.

Let’s start with a little quote from the BBC series “Doctor Who”…

“Good men don’t need rules.”

Simplistic but essentially true.  People that already know what is right and wrong will automatically try to do the former and avoid the latter without the need for a law or a rule to say otherwise.  They won’t do it because a law tells them, but because they believe it themselves in their hearts and minds.

So if goodness and ethics and morality truly come exclusively from religion, then why do we need rules in the first place?  All we would need is “faith”, right?  “Devout” people would automatically not do wrong… if the presumption was true.

That explains why the prisons are just overflowing with atheists and agnostics, right?  Oh, wait, they’re not.  In fact, the vast majority of prisoners consider themselves to be quite religious according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Atheists and agnostics make up only a tiny portion of inmates in the correctional facilities.

Well… maybe the rest are just Satanists and other “demon worshipers”, huh?

Uh… nope.  Christians dominate the inmate crowd in America.

Well, let’s look at the champions of faith; the religious leaders that serve as the shining examples of how goodness and morality flows from their belief in that higher power.

Inquisitions, witch trials, anti-abortion terrorism, rampant instances of physical abuse and systematic concealment of molestations… Yeah, not exactly religion at its best.  But if the presumption is to be believed, then none of these things should have happened!

Let’s face it, if you’re part of an institution that did nothing about the Holocaust while it happened around them, that persecuted men for looking into a telescope, that tortured and killed women and small animals out of fear and then did nothing to atone for it, that forced young victims of horrific crimes into silence and shuffled around the perpetrators, then you’re not living up to the claim that your faith somehow brings goodness and decency and morality into the world.

There’s another flaw in the idea that only through religion can one have goodness, and that is in measuring the goodness itself.  Do you do good deeds because of some sense of obligation?  Or do you do it because you believe it is right?

It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?  There’s really no way to tell if a person is doing good because of obligation or because they believe it to be right in their own minds.  We can’t read their minds.  We can only presume their intentions through our own biases.

So is it possible that a theist, despite their fidelity and proud proclamations of their moral superiority, could be denied that supposed spiritual reward, while the hereafter is filled with good-natured but humble atheists and agnostics?

This will blow the minds of some people, but, yes, hypothetically it is possible.

Let’s get brutally honest here… if you’re going to claim that religion is the basis of goodness and decency and morality, then you better make sure that your spiritual house – both personal and institutional – first lives up to the claim.

As a theist myself, I am somewhat embarrassed by the arrogance by those of faith over those that are not blind followers of that faith.  You’re not exactly helping your cause when your pride leads you to make claims that you know you can’t live up to.  Much like the recent Apple iPhone ads, sometimes the best form of advertising is humble demonstration.

No comments: