Slandering the Heretics

Heretics“There is a war going on for your mind;” a war being fought on battlefields and on billboards, in universities and Sunday schools, in blogs and boardrooms, capitol buildings and city parks. From Wall Street to Main Street, from Kabul to Kansas City, the combined facts of seven thousand years of civilization and seven billion human beings struggling to eat, breathe, live and believe are all coming to a head. It has many names and many forms, running the gamut from Terror to Women to Drugs to Christmas—all inextricably linked by the immense power of ideas and the belief systems that propagate them.

In the United States, as we move unsteadily into the second decade of the new millennium, there are two reigning champions vying for supremacy over the American soul. These sometimes united, sometimes conflicting ideologies are called Christianity and Consumerism—the Pillars of Hercules for the modern age—shakily supporting the fading glory of the last of the global superpowers. As the inevitable signs of old age and decay begin taking their toll more prominently with each passing day, the reactionary forces redouble their efforts to maintain the status quo, embracing the mentality that the best defense is a good offense.

For Consumerism, this takes the form of increasing corporate influence over the political system and daily life, along with ever-more-violent crackdowns against the Occupy protestors and others who stand against total corporate domination. It claims as its victims both the planet’s environment and the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution, all in the name of “security” and “prosperity.” For Christianity, it takes the form of the Culture Wars, equally trampling upon the Bill of Rights in pursuit of the ultimate objective of its proponents—to turn back the clock and return to that golden age of enforced Jesus worshiping known to history as the Dark Ages.

The first few months of 2012 have born witness to an all-out assault by the Religious Right on all secular notions of what it means to be free. In Tennessee, bills have been passed requiring the teaching of Creationism in science classes, encouraging displays of the Ten Commandments in schools, courthouses, and other public buildings, and promoting the involvement of teachers and administrators in after-hours religious activities on school grounds. In Kansas, a sweeping anti-abortion bill—on top of severely limiting access for women to basic contraception—includes a provision to protect doctors who deliberately withhold vital information from mothers about the health of their fetuses. In North Carolina, voters have struck down the legality of gay marriage and in Mississippi, a prominent lawmaker has gone even further by apologetically calling for gay men to be put to death based solely on a single line from the poisonous rant known as Leviticus. Barring an immediate and diametric change in direction, these and countless other recent examples are likely but a preview of what’s in store for the nation in the years ahead.

The underlying theme here should be obvious. These aren’t merely cases of opposing politics or differing ideas on how best to lead society forward to a brighter future. They’re not about money or safety or accountability or equality.  They’re not about taxing and spending, or social vs. individual rights, or any of the other issues that frame the usual progressive/conservative divide.  No, every single one of these issues is being driven by an explicit and uncompromising religious agenda. They’re all facets of a larger effort to repeat Joshua’s mythical feat at Jericho with the hopes of flattening once and for all, the wall of separation between church and state.

Latching onto the ancient fables of superstitious nomads from the deserts of the Near East, zealous politicians and the devout citizens they represent are lashing out at what they see as the corrosion of traditional Christian values. Under threat by scientific discoveries and an evolving sense of what constitutes morality in a multicultural society, they seek the comfort of “old time religion” along with the worst of Old Testament tribalism and the bloody vengeance against “the Other” that comes with it.

Faced with this rising tide of ignorance, misogyny, and theocratic yearnings, those who value the Enlightenment principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” struggle with how best to respond; how best to mount an effective defense against it. Ironically, much of this difficulty is self-imposed, for most of the efforts to counteract this deluge of fanaticism remain severely hampered by a basic unwillingness to call the enemy by its true name.  Even more ironic is that the only group who seems unafraid to point out the real problem—the ones most ready, able, and eager to attack it at its root—also bear the unwelcome distinction of being America’s most reviled minority, universally despised more than foreigners, gays, and Muslims combined—the atheists.

That word alone is enough to send many Christians clutching for a crucifix or scurrying for the mental shelter of their nearest Bible. For engaging in the simple but unpardonable offense of living life without a belief in God (and daring to mention it out loud) we are made outcasts from our own society. In trying only to achieve a free and open civilization based on facts and on reason, as reward for our efforts we are attacked by those on both the left and the right and smeared with the label “intolerant” or told that sharing our ideas amounts to nothing more than “proselytizing.”

This reaction is to be expected, as surely as the sun will rise again tomorrow, for it’s deeply ingrained in human nature to fear the unfamiliar and abhor the unknown. The question is whether it’s fair, whether it’s reasonable, and whether it’s a useful response to the pressing problems facing modern humans. With that in mind, let’s then examine these charges for possible merit or validity, beginning with intolerance.

Part of this dismissive name-calling stems from what seems to be a widespread confusion over the difference between the concepts of “tolerance” and “acceptance.” The dictionary defines tolerance as, “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own; interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.”  The key words here are fair, objective, and undogmatic.

Atheist opposition to religion doesn’t stem from some deep-seated bias or unconsidered opinion.  It’s not derived from some ancient book immune to rational criticism. Modern atheism is built upon critical thinking and knowledge of objective scientific facts about the workings of the universe coupled with an unblinking awareness of the countless, clearly documented instances—both in the news and throughout history—in which religious believers have repeatedly sought to impose their own narrow ideology in ways that restrict other people’s rights and limit their freedoms.

Atheists are not ignorant of the religious viewpoint; far from it. Many are actually former theists (“apostates,” as they’re referred to by the faithful) who have experienced the process of indoctrination firsthand. As for the remainder – those of us lucky enough to be born into an environment of free inquiry—if you scratch beneath the surface of the derogatory stereotypes, you’ll find we are often extremely knowledgeable about religious creeds and practices as we have usually studied them extensively in order to consolidate and refine our arguments against them.  In fact, many atheists find religion fascinating for the very reason that it is so foreign and different from their own way of seeing the world. It would seem quite clear then that whatever else atheists may be (if such a broad generalization is even meaningful or fair to make), intolerant is not the right word.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is a far different beast. Acceptance means, “favorable reception, approval, favor; the act of assenting or believing.”  If that’s the criteria by which we’re being judged then fine, call us “unaccepting.” Atheists (by definition) certainly do not assent to or believe in religious ideas nor do we approve of many religious actions and behaviors. And why should we? Why should we accept something that all of the available evidence indicates is false and for which example after example readily show as causing much more harm than good?

The idea that putting forth honest criticism is somehow a form of intolerance is not only patently absurd but also provides an excuse for every human rights abuse, every form of tyranny and oppression, every lie and betrayal and misdeed ever conceived of or carried out in the history of humankind. Do we as a society “tolerate” murderers? Do we “tolerate” rapists and child molesters? Do we tolerate wife beaters or drunk drivers or bank robbers (as we might an incessantly barking dog)? No, we most certainly do not, because we have decided as civilized human beings that certain behaviors simply cannot be tolerated. Certain actions are so harmful and disruptive to peaceful coexistence that we will not stand for them.

It’s the true believers who are truly intolerant. It is they who condemn all who fail to share their religious opinions to suffer eternity undergoing unspeakable torment, and when their threats of divine punishment ring hollow, they all too often take matters into their own hands. As for everyone else, by not just tolerating but instead actively honoring and respecting the theists’ fantastical worldview, it serves only to give them free reign to continue to oppress generation after generation of innocent young minds, dragging along all of society as their unwitting accomplices.

Former-Muslim-turned-freethought activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts it clearly in perspective with the statement, “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” Or in the words of the philosopher of science, Karl Popper:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant … then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

When you think about it, this charge of intolerance against atheists is itself a form of intolerance, for if atheists are not allowed to expressly dispute the claims made by religion—if we are required to just sit there politely with our mouths shut while twiddling our thumbs—then essentially we are not allowed to exist. As it turns out, this existential threat is much more than just a hypothetical concern.

After the controversy that erupted over the publishing of the Mohammed cartoons in Denmark a few years ago, Muslims all over Europe were clamoring for new laws to make it illegal to criticize or otherwise offend religion.  This would in essence, criminalize disbelief. Since that time, imams, lay believers, and fanatics alike haven’t let up in calling for an end to free expression, and the shield they cower behind while promoting their favored brand of censorship is that of “religious tolerance.” Thankfully, thus far, the liberal democracies of the world have continued to value freedom of speech above almost any other right and so for the moment, these “blasphemy” measures being pushed in the UN have yet to gain any real traction. How much longer this will last remains uncertain.

It is nothing more than this fundamental freedom of speech that atheists exercise in speaking out. Does this amount to proselytizing? Are atheists just missionaries of a different stripe? It hardly seems a valid comparison.  How often has an atheist come knocking at your door on a Saturday morning bearing pamphlets and dire prophecies? How many times have you opened the drawer of a hotel nightstand and found a book by Richard Dawkins? Frankly, if we could just be left alone, unencumbered by the trappings of regressive medieval thought imposing itself over our laws and our politics, it would be the last anyone would hear from us (on the issue of religion).

To proselytize means “to convert or attempt to convert as a proselyte” and a proselyte is “a person who has changed from one opinion, religious belief, sect, or the like, to another.” So unless you wish to denigrate believers and unbelievers alike by considering atheism a religion (which is like calling baldness a hair color or abstinence a sex position) then the term doesn’t really seem applicable. Atheists simply present our ideas; we don’t force anyone to listen or threaten terrible consequences if they don’t believe us. This is a crucial distinction. As the philosopher John Stuart Mill—perhaps the most passionate advocate of liberty ever to put pen to paper—phrased it:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.  His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.  He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise or even right.  These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise… Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

This is what both Christians and infamous godless dictators like Stalin and Mao have repeatedly and continually failed to grasp.  You can’t force people at gunpoint to accept your ideas or your opinions—and threatening eternal damnation is the exact moral equivalent. All you can do is try to persuade using evidence and rational arguments to support your points. Failing that, there’s always the less respectable fallback of appealing to emotion (the preferred tactic of preachers, politicians, and advertisers) but actual or implied violence is categorically unacceptable. Anyway, what’s so fundamentally wrong with sharing ideas so long as it’s done without coercion?  Isn’t that precisely what every scientist, philosopher, journalist, or teacher does?  Aren’t they equally accountable to this charge of proselytizing?

Now, I fully realize that for many people, the thought of criticizing someone else’s most cherished beliefs is severely distasteful, and that’s fine. As Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi remarked, “I am careful to never talk about religion. Who am I to kick other people’s crutches?” What he fails to mention however, is that such polite non-interference makes no sense when people are using those crutches, not as supports, but as clubs with which to bash everyone else over the head.

This is precisely why atheists are becoming increasingly vocal. It’s not some deep-seated misanthropy or general desire to offend or provoke. It’s not a product of immaturity or confusion or a lack of knowledge.  We are every bit as passionate and committed as any oppressed minority, and being the last group in America who even presidents feel they can freely disparage without a twinge of conscience makes us all the more committed to keep fighting for positive change.

I’ve seem commenters claim that they’re “sick of” this constant back and forth between atheists and theists.  Well, guess what?  After almost two thousand years of Christian domination over Western culture—of near-total control over all aspects of morality, psychology, and ontology—we’re sick of the endless and ridiculous oppression and violence that continues to take place in the name of religion. Telling people what to do based on what you’ve arbitrary decided to be true and then condemning any efforts to determine objective truth based on the workings of the universe is the very epitome of tyranny, and that is what we oppose.

The world has simply become far too crowded and our technology far too powerful to allow policy decisions to continue to be guided by ancient superstitions. That said, atheists will continue to tolerate the foolishness of others’ faith-based beliefs and irrational fancies for however long such vestiges remain a curse on the species.  No one is going to die by our swords; but nor shall they remain forever sheltered from our words. We’ll respect everyone’s right to believe what they wish but the beliefs themselves are fair game.

Theists might as well get used to our presence. We’re not going away, we’re not shutting up, and our numbers are only growing larger. Every time Rick Santorum or Pat Robertson open their mouths, more atheists emerge from the shadows. Every time a suicide bomber blows up a crowded market or an imam issues a fatwa against an infidel, more freethinkers rally to the cause. Every time Congress gathers on the capitol steps to sing “God Bless America,” resistance grows. So look out; as more and more minds become emancipated, it begets a snowball effect, and with an avalanche steadily building, the days of religious despotism on this planet are numbered.

Colby Hess is a freelance writer and photographer living near Seattle, WA. He is currently writing a book about science, philosophy, and freethought. Follow him on Twitter @ColbyTHess.

Colby Hess

Colby Hess is a freelance writer and photographer living near Seattle, WA.He is currently writing a book about science, philosophy, and freethought.Follow him on Twitter @ColbyTHess.

40 Comments on "Slandering the Heretics"

  1. The problem with Atheism is that it’s based on an absolute yet unprovable proposition, just like Theism.

    • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

      Mankind deals in absolutes. Religion has resulted in misery for it’s absolutism so atheism is the antithesis. Of course both can neither be scientifically and methodically proven or unproven but the effects that religion has had on the world and on humanity is enough to warrant its marginalization or removal.

      • mannyfurious | May 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

        Same old tired reply. Do we really have to get into this? Do we really have to go through the names? Do…we…really? *sigh*

        Pol Pot
        Adolf Hitler
        Charles Taylor 
        Josef Stalin
        Chiang Kai-shek
        Idi Amin

        You know what all of the above have in common? They were all habitual mass murderers/rapists/plunderers and not a single one of them was ostensibly religious (and I could make this list much, much longer if need be). Religion does not turn human beings into dicks. Human beings are already dicks, religion just happens to provide a convenient excuse to be a dick. Even if you got rid of religion, humans would still be dicks in the name of “conservative values” or “radical values” or because they’re from “the south” or because they’re “a yankee” or because one side believes in the big bang theory and the other side believes in the plasma birth of the universe and on and on. Religion is not dangerous, ideas that are taken too seriously, regardless of what they are about, are dangerous. Just look on this site. There are commentors who are foaming at the mouth for violent revolution. I agree with most of these people with their ideas and values, but I don’t see how violent revolution is any different than what’s so fucked up with the world as it already is.  

        • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

          I was expecting this but all those men have something in common you forgot to point out they all tried to be gods, in terms of political authority and power. And actually remove Adolf Hitler’s name from the list because he believed in god and was a devout christian. Every German soldier during WW2 had GOT MIT UNS on their uniforms meaning “God is on our side”. 

          • mannyfurious | May 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm |

            The debate on whether Hitler was religious or not has been going on for years and it’s not something you or I will solve on a disinfo message board. Suffice it to say I agree with those who insist that he only used religion to his advantage and really wasn’t devout or a believer at all. 

            As for the others, I fail to see how “trying to be a god” is the same thing as being religious. In fact, it sort of seems like it’s the opposite. 

          • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

            Nope. Trying to be like god is not the opposite of religion it is the goal and the primary premise. Ultimate authority wielded by some dubious entity and lorded over his subjects. God has ultimate authority and uses that authority over those deemed under him. The king says he has authority by divine right, the politician says the people have “chosen” him ie. given their powers over to him so that he might “represent” them or have all their individual powers bottled up within him. Religious ideas are more powerful and pervasive than you suspect.

          • mannyfurious | May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

            Your argument is so much of a stretch it borders on being a red herring. I guess in some sort of spastic, paranoid universe, self-worship can be considered religion. Your fallacy is mistaking the fact that there are similarities between some aspects of religion and the authority these people claim to wield with the idea that because there are similarities that they are the same thing. It’s like saying basketball and football are the same thing because they both have a ball, two opposing teams, and are played on a linear, horizontal field of play with the objects of scoring located on either end. But football and basketball, while sharing certain similarities, are not in fact the same thing. 

          • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm |

            How is my argument a red herring when clearly religion has been used to assume positions of authority?! How am I misleading you or distracting from the issue? You trap yourself in your own rebuttal. The clear linearity and uniformity of thought is there between religion and politics. I agree there are not the same, but we can see the developing thought process as coming from the same source.

          • mannyfurious | Jun 1, 2012 at 11:21 am |

            Because, how did Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong use religion to assume positions of authority? They didn’t. They used completely secular ideas like Communism and greed. And even if someone like Hitler or Genghis Khan appealed to a “divine right” of some kind, I don’t see how the blame goes on religion (assuming, of course, that neither Khan or Hitler were actually true believers and were just using religion as a means to an end, which I do believe the evidence suggests). That’s like sentencing the gun to a jail sentence instead of the shooter. 

            So I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to suggest you’re misleading or distracting. The funny thing about all of this is that I’m not religious in the least, but I am clear-headed enough to see that blaming all the ills of the world on religion is fucking stupid. 

          • The only thing to get is money | Jun 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

            You are just being an apologist for religion. Dropping names and all that, I can do that too, but the list of murderous maniacs and events influenced and STILL directly influenced by religion is too long. Anything a man did in a political regime absofuckinglutely pales in comparison to the violence hatred and negligence contained within religious doctrine ITSELF. The article above does an excellent job of pointing this out and the canvas of history is marred indelibly by the religious hogwash and bullshit.  

            “That’s like sentencing the gun to a jail sentence instead of the shooter.”

            -Yep I hate to break it to ya but the gun is what gave that person power in the first place to commit harm. Take away the gun(religion) and you reduce or eliminate harm. Politics and religion are so alike that if this were done it would actually be good for humanity. But no, you are interested in “red herrings” and how Politics is SOOOO different from religion. Look at the ideas goals and aims of both politics and religion, there are nearly indistinguishable. Hmmm that reminds me, oh yeah what was the first form of government before the supposed separation between church and state, oh yeah… THEOCRACY!!! Idiot.

          • Mr NoBody | May 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm |

            Oh, I thought it was a marketing campaign for

            “Got Mittens?”

        • Hewdmefeud Turnkey | May 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

          The problem with the List of “Atheists” you mention, still ignores the fact that they believed, essentially, in the same Monotheistic Authoritarian Ideas that most Religious people believe in, except instead of God they have replaced Him with The State instead. (or Country or People or whatever vague abstract that commands an Us Vs. Them/ Either/Or Group Mindset). The Problem here is the simplistic thoughts that sees people as groups or ideologies instead of as Individuals.

          The article comes off as being instigating another sort of Us Vs. Them absurdity by appealing to “Atheists” who tend to be as full of ideological bs (& as led by dogma) as any other Religion.

          The only real skeptical persuasion would appear to be (to me) agnosticism (& even then i doubt that…..) which seems to get thrown under the bus alot of the time by all sides since they seem to always want to get in a scrap instead being open to all ideas & willing to discuss. all religions (& most moral codes that are worth a damn) talk about humility as being one of the most important traits one can have. it’s about time we acknowledge that, otherwise we ain’t goin’ nowhere (except in circles)

          • mannyfurious | May 31, 2012 at 6:13 pm |

            “The problem with the List of “Atheists” you mention, still ignores the fact that they believed, essentially, in the same Monotheistic Authoritarian Ideas that most Religious people believe in, except instead of God they have replaced Him with The State instead. (or Country or People or whatever vague abstract that commands an Us Vs. Them/ Either/Or Group Mindset).”
            I don’t see how that’s a “problem.” That still doesn’t make them “religious.” As I said later in my post, believing in ideas without a shred of doubt is dangerous, whether it’s religious, political, social, etc. Believing one’s self a god or believing in “The State” is not the same thing as being a Christian or a Jew or a Moslem or a Scientologist. 

            “The Problem here is the simplistic thoughts that sees people as groups or ideologies instead of as Individuals.”

            That sort of goes along with my point that the danger is in believing in ideas so much that we lose track of everything else. 

        • David Howe | Jun 1, 2012 at 6:42 am |

           ad hominem, guilt by association, etc.  really?  do we have to go through this yet again with you people?

          • mannyfurious | Jun 1, 2012 at 11:35 am |

            If a person’s arguments suck, then… yes. Don’t get mad because “we people” point out that an argument sucks. That’s like getting mad at an English teacher when she points out that you have no idea how to use a fucking comma, or at a nutritionist when he tells you to stop drinking soda. 

      • kowalityjesus | May 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

         Saying that religion should be marginalized because it has (historically) had adverse affects on society is like saying The Sun should be banned because it has had adverse affects on the forest understory.  Indeed, the only thing creating the adversity is the dearth of influence thereof.

        Look at history, is there any mistake that theism has been the rule throughout?  Just because we can explain some of the phenomena by Science that was formerly explained by Religion does not mean that the basic tenants of Religion are incorrect.

        A lot of things in this article are inflammatory, which I find consistent with most Atheistic literature.  If you’re so sure, then where is your calm and collected attitude?  Atheism is a transient state for anyone without a grudge to bear.  I pray that those who are disaffected by the ubiquitous struggle against injustice do not fall into the myopic iconoclasm that is the modern atheist’s attitude.

        • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

           “Saying that religion should be marginalized because it has (historically) had adverse affects on society is like saying The Sun should be banned because it has had adverse affects on the forest understory”
          That’s a bad analogy, that’s not even close to what I am trying to point out. The sun is impartial in terms of it’s effects on the planet. Religion is not. Religion is guided by as Mannyfurios put it dickish humans, who are made more dickish by religion. Stop defending religion. It is a force for evil and division not unity.

          • kowalityjesus | May 31, 2012 at 9:49 pm |

            I think my analogy is good. 

            Society and religion are so entwined that one could easily say that they are almost as inseparable as the sun and the forest.  Those who live in the understory have reason to rue their position; instead of accepting the hard truths that it takes to become canopy trees, they reject and resent the system that elevates those around them.  (and try to pull down whoever they can because they hate and can’t explain why other people have such fulfilling lives)

            Nothing personal, I would have thought the same thing as you several years ago.  God has a way of speaking to us through signs, though.  The truths shared are so intimate that to reject them is to almost reject one’s self.

          • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 11:01 pm |

            Your analogy is not sound because the sun shines irrespective of moral perspective, or in other words notions of “good” and “evil” do not apply to nature.

            The sun is not aware of it’s illumination and heat as being “good” or “bad” nor does the forest understory express whether the intensity of the sun is “good” or “bad”. WE humans care and express that concern in a language familiar and understandable among ourselves. I am not tearing anything down, religion does that well enough on it’s own.Religion, which springs out of human thinking, is BUILT upon the foundation that there are certain activities and ideas that are inherently good while others are inherently evil. Nature which I have shown to be an impartial process of forces and organisms expresses no such conceptions or division. Religion is built upon the goal of achieving the supposed ultimate “good” IRREGARDLESS of whether people WANT or NEED that “good” and that is what paradoxically makes it such a force for atrocity. In it’s quest to achieve utopia, either on earth or in the after life it is creating hell on earth because it does not respect the wishes of those who do not want to take part in the religious journey.You wrote, “God has a way of speaking to us through signs, though.  The truths shared are so intimate that to reject them is to almost reject one’s self.”-Your very statement is indicative of the problems of religion then and now. You feel that there is a concrete capital T truth. Well I reject that truth and I reject this self that you allude to. I will have none of it because I DO NOT WANT OR NEED IT. So in this case the religious would call me a heretic. Interestingly, the word heresy from Greek means ‘choice’. Religion denies people the freedom to choose because it believes that it is inherently “good” and therefore right. I reject this totally.

          • kowalityjesus | May 31, 2012 at 11:36 pm |

            You fail to see the value in my metaphor by over-personifying the elements thereof.  Let’s say The Sun is “God” instead of “Religion,” because that is what all religion strives to understand and atone with.

            The Sun shines light and blessings down upon all the land.

            The canopy gets first pick at the most vivacious light.

            The understory “suffers” from a lack of sunlight, that is “those who are away from the Sun do not attain the same fullness as those who are closer to the Sun.”

            This is an explicit and therefore much less eloquent iteration of my unadulterated metaphor, but if you have to spell something out to explain it, then you have to spell something out to explain it. 

            Religion is built upon an inherited system of traditions.  If you think that you are far-sighted and clever enough to come up with your own, much better traditions, then you have every right to ignore those that have gone before you.  But I doubt you will do anything more than isolate and frustrate yourself. (this, I will remind you, is heretical speak as well 🙂

          • The only thing to get is money | Jun 1, 2012 at 3:42 am |

            Ahh.. but you fail to address one crucial aspect. The biology of organisms are not limited in function. The understory is just as vibrant, if not, more so than the canopy. There are other ways to receive nourishment outside the rays of the sun that serves as the metaphor for god. So your assertion that 
            “those who are away from the Sun do not attain the same fullness as those who are closer to the Sun.” is both correct and erroneous depending on how you used the term “fullness” Is the understory the same as the canopy? Of course not. So in this sense they cannot achieve the same “fullness”. But in regards to thriving is it possible for the understory to be just as “full” and vibrant as the canopy? Absolutely. 

            So herein I present my case that tradition should be squelched in favor of variability. One does not need god or “spirituality for nourishment, there are other forms of nourishment. I am not interested in building a new tradition or a conceptual framework nor do I need to break down existing frames as they all run their course. They are all limiting and limited. 

            In this day and age it is very hard to avoid heresy (choice), or as I like to call it the breaking of limits, which was once a capital offense and still repugnant to some, even though, heresy hurts no one.

            BTW: I am already frustrated and isolated. I have no need to exacerbate it further. This debate has been quite refreshing.

    • David Howe | Jun 1, 2012 at 6:41 am |

       false. It is religion that requires proof. Non-existence does not have to be proven. Existence does.  If there’s a god, prove it.  You must.  The burden is on you.

      • Unfortunately, I think you have misapprehended my comment and on more than one level.

        First, there’s no burden on me at all to prove there’s a god, because I’m not asserting that there is one.

        Second, if you want to insist that there is no god anywhere, ever, then yes you need to prove that statement.

        Even Dawkins recently admitted that he’s logically an agnostic, not an athiest for this reason.

        While it may not seem like much, that “small” final assumption from agnosticism to atheism is what puts atheists back into the same category as theists.

        Logically and sadly, psychologically.


  2. Ricky Jazzercise | May 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    Atheists – no matter how much you want to believe that spirituality doesn’t exist (because that’s a simple belief that feeds your ego) – it in fact does. Near death studies and psychedelic studies are going to completely destroy your ignorance in the next 100 years or so. Same deal with you Religious people. Your holy books are fucking based on shamanism in the first place, which is something you’ve completely lost track of. As much as you want to run away from things like near death experiences, alien contact experiences, DMT, out of body experiences, occultism, etc. – they’re never going to go away. You can’t hide forever. It’s hard to blame you for your ignorance. People are conformist and we live in a society that tells you to stay as far away from this shit as possible. It’s almost impossible to study it scientifically because of that bias, but that’s changing here. Our minds can do a lot more than we give them credit for and that’s an indisputable fact. Welcome to the future.  

    • The only thing to get is money | May 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |

      The word/concept spirituality itself is nonsense. The body is physical material, and all of it”s processes are so. You can say there are intangible aspects to nature. I would agree. You cannot see the wind or see an electromagnetic field or feel that your body is composed of tiny vibrating atoms, but the effects of those things ARE VERY REAL, atom bomb is a good example. If there is such thing as “spirit” it effects would have to measurable as per the other forces, and if this cannot be done then talking of such things as “spirit” is useless, and the discovery of such thing as “spirit” would destroy the whole immateriality concept. So yeah, spirit is a doomed premise outright. Near death experience or NDE and psychedelic experience are chemical processes, nothing more or less. Our thoughts are based on sensations which evoke a pleasure/pain response, we always try to maintain the pleasure aspect while pain is inevitable and necessary for this body to function effectively. Who is conformist or non-conformist is a matter of opinion. To what degree can a conformist “conform” and to what degree can a “non-conformist non-conform”? Notions of the mind are dubious at best. Neither science or religion tells us much anything about a “mind” besides speculation, and I am inclined to suspect that there is no such thing as “mind”.

      • Zero Point Field | Jun 2, 2012 at 12:38 am |

        ” I am inclined to suspect that there is no such thing as “mind” “. No kidding, your posts prove it.

    • atheism is not a negation of spirituality . it is a negation of the idea that spirituality necessitates an authoritarian hierarchy. the doctrine that denies spirituality and by extension every platonic idealized sphere and abstractions such as ‘love, justice,’ etc. is materialism. technically, both buddhism and shamanism could be considered atheistic because they have no top guy dictating dogma.

      • Oh how I wish you were right.

        If you have not read it yet, I think you might enjoy the book _The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power_.

    • David Howe | Jun 1, 2012 at 6:45 am |

       near death studies and psychedlics?  please evolve into an adult.


    The problem with atheists is many of them claim to be free
    thinking and intelligent yet carry many of the same practices and behaviors of
    religious people that they claim to abhor. According to them they know what the
    absolute truth of the universe is and people who don’t share their believes are
    demonized. Some atheists such as Sam Harris think that atheism and our western
    thinking is so much more enlightened than say the Muslims living in Afghanistan
    that we actually have the right to export our beliefs through military force.
    How is that any different than Christians who wanted to conquer and colonize
    nations in South America and turn them into Christians?

    • David Howe | Jun 1, 2012 at 6:44 am |

       lol. christians never act like that

      •  Re-read the first sentence. My point was I’ve met many atheists who act the same way as religious Christians and religious people in general.

  4. Rgtvandenberg | May 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm |

    good article, the consumerism/religion parallel might be a bit of a stretch though, considering an atheist can very well be for consumerism and religious people can be very anti-materialist. There is also a big difference since almost nobody is a total anti-materialist (most people believe in some kind of right to personal possessions) and atheists are actually a pretty large group.

    Secondly, I think a big problem of this discussion is that the cultural framework is based around bipolar oppositions. In western culture, we are still deeply invested in (christian notions of) duality. Mind/body, emotion/reason, science/religion. The problem is these oppositions are false, they are pure mental constructs, that we often mentally link to eachother. Though it is hard to prove anything about our ‘being’ as in if we ‘are’ purely our brain, or that we also exist seperately as a spirit, we know nothing about where one starts and the other ends, or wether such a division is even possible. Why 2 parts? Why not 20? 40? a million? We basically don’t know, but all reasoning starts with either trying to prove or disprove the division of mind(soul)/body.

    Psychology and neuroscience are also tearing down the dichotomy of reason and emotion. Ultimately, these are both aspects of our thought process, and both are necessary. I would dare anyone to try to decide wether any decision they made was purely emotional or purely rational. I think it’s possible.

    Science of course, was born from religion. Early enlightenment thinkers actually spent a good deal of time trying to prove the existence of the christian god, among other things. Later, this position became untenable. Still, this denial of organised religious practice does not rule out the existence of a higher power, though an antropomorphous creator would seem highly unlikely.

    In any case, all these ideas are formed by both science and religion. The two are still far from separate. The opposition of science/atheism vs religion is a social division that has nothing to do with the ideas that are being discussed.

    But hey, feel free to disagree.

  5. Oh God will you give it a rest. The only thing I can think of after reading this crap is Nietzsche. I will answer an atheist with a quote from an atheist. “And when I beheld my Devil I found him serious, solemn and profound. He was the Spirit of Gravity and through him all things are destroyed”. – Nietzsche

    Lighten up. Real atheists like Mark Twain and Nietzsche would be rolling in their graves if they had to read that tired somber tripe. Here’s another. “He who climbs the highest peaks laughs at all tradgies real or imagined” – Nietzsche  

    Or this… “I have never copied any man more than half and to those who can’t laugh at themselves, I laugh” This quote was actually on his front gate. The seriousness of the neo-atheist and the seriousness of the religious nut sound all the same to me. Same old tired moralistic crap repackaged.

  6. Nunzio X | Jun 1, 2012 at 4:03 am |

    Robert Anton Wilson (PRAISE BOB) had a nice work-around for this:

    “I don’t believe in anything,” he said.

  7. Felix Scotfl2 | Jun 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

    This article lost me when it said that the book of Leviticus in the Holy Bible is a “poisonous rant.”

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