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Moderate believers give cover to religious fanatics -- and are every bit as delusional.


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God's dupes

 

Moderate believers give cover to religious fanatics -- and are every bit as delusional.

 

By Sam Harris

 

SAM HARRIS is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."

March 15, 2007

 

 

PETE STARK, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.

 

Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."

 

Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.

 

The truth is, there is not a person on Earth who has a good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in a cave. And yet billions of people claim to be certain about such things. As a result, Iron Age ideas about everything high and low — sex, cosmology, gender equality, immortal souls, the end of the world, the validity of prophecy, etc. — continue to divide our world and subvert our national discourse. Many of these ideas, by their very nature, hobble science, inflame human conflict and squander scarce resources.

 

Of course, no religion is monolithic. Within every faith one can see people arranged along a spectrum of belief. Picture concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness: At the center, one finds the truest of true believers — the Muslim jihadis, for instance, who not only support suicidal terrorism but who are the first to turn themselves into bombs; or the Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.

 

Outside this sphere of maniacs, one finds millions more who share their views but lack their zeal. Beyond them, one encounters pious multitudes who respect the beliefs of their more deranged brethren but who disagree with them on small points of doctrine — of course the world is going to end in glory and Jesus will appear in the sky like a superhero, but we can't be sure it will happen in our lifetime.

 

Out further still, one meets religious moderates and liberals of diverse hues — people who remain supportive of the basic scheme that has balkanized our world into Christians, Muslims and Jews, but who are less willing to profess certainty about any article of faith. Is Jesus really the son of God? Will we all meet our grannies again in heaven? Moderates and liberals are none too sure.

 

Those on this spectrum view the people further toward the center as too rigid, dogmatic and hostile to doubt, and they generally view those outside as corrupted by sin, weak-willed or unchurched.

 

The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists — men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin's Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals — who aren't sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally — deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.

 

People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?

 

There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faith — but there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know.

 

Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.

 

Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.

 

http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2007/03...e-cover-to.html

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Awesome article! :goodjob:

 

The problem with Xianity is that the Babble contains a lot of nasty shit, things about the oppression and/or murder of others based on often the most inane (and hence, unethical) of reasons. Rapists and murderers are condemned to death in the Babble, yes, but the list goes on from there; gays, non-believers, religious critics (ie, blasphemers), fornicators, and so on are ordered by God in the Old Testament (the fundamental book from which all three Abrahamic cults spring forth) to be executed. Furthermore, the god of this book is depicted as being insanely jealous, murderous, covetous, and a dictator to put Hitler or Stalin to shame. He orders his loyal armies of thugs to murder whole populations, steal their belongings, and rape and/or enslave those they spare from the sword - all to placate his ego.

 

This is a sick book of myths, sicker than any other in human history. No other religion or philosophy on earth is built on a book of myths wherein its god commits such bloody acts of depravity, and to such magnitude. God drowned the whole world at one point, and incinerated two whole cities at another - all for the "crime" of displeasing him.

 

In the New Testament, we also have Jebus, the illogical Scum of God, who somehow has to be killed in order for God to change his mind about humanity, demanding that we believe in him or else be burned in Hell forever. In the Koran, we have Moo-hammed, God's own stupid cow of a man, and his delusions that an angel appeared to him and told him to force all the world to convert to Is-lame, or else be murdered in this world and burn in Hell in the next.

 

Conservative Xians are nuts enough to believe all this stuff actually happened, and that it was OK because their god did it. Liberal Xians who won't just flat-out say the Babble is crap and instead make excuses for these blood-soaked myths are barely better than their more rigid comrades - because they still aid and abet the same book of horrors that fervent believers have used for cneturies to justify crimes against humanity. The same goes for Moose-lims, or adherents of Judaism. Judaism is only scarcely better than Xianity or Is-lame because it doesn't promote the Hell myth nor does it require believers to convert the whole world. But they are all still the same sick shit.

 

There are many Pagans in the world who readily admit their myths are just that - myths. They nonetheless build respectable religions out of their ideas, religions that do not require proselytization or tell horrible stories about mass murder and eternal torture - and that contain fine ethical treaties and values. Many Atheists and other non-religious folk also promote wise systems of thought, such as Humanism, which encapsulate and convey morality better than any Abrahamic cult ever could. The facts are that any of the Big Three Cults is totally unecessary in the modern world. There are dozens of choices out there, and humans simply don't need awful stories about "God" to be good people.

 

Liberal Abrahamists may be more tolerable than their hardcore comrades, but sadly are still helping the fanatics. Only a wholesale denial of all the Abrahamic cults by all strata of human society will end the insanity that they have brought to our world.

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Well put, Varokhar.

 

And how about all the people who "don't want to step on Christian toes?" I find a lot of people who don't believe in Christianity will start with, "Now, I don't hate Christianity, I respect it's believers and believe there is a lot of good in it and Jesus was a good man but..."

 

This bothers the hell out of me, because these people are trying to appear tolerant and non-exclusive, but the next sentance is ALWAYS to point out some radically stupid doctrine that the sensible can see is just complete bloody lunacy. What's to respect? It's nothing but pre-empting getting leaped on by the Christian majority.

 

...Who usually answers that anybody who believes in the example lunatic doctorine "aren't real Christians." Please.

 

There is nothing "good" in Christianity that isn't already found in normal, secular, human wisdom. Jesus (if he existed) expounded on little that isn't found in thousands of other religions much older than his cult is, without the henious violence given to the non-compliant. There isn't anything in there worth reading through the intolerant garbage for that you can't get from somewhere else.

 

I don't care if I step on Christian toes. I can be polite in my disagreements, but there is a difference between being polite and kissing ass. I will never kow-tow to it's believers by saying "I respect their beliefs." That'd be a lie. I don't respect Christianity or Christian beliefs. It's rediculous. I've got one roomate who won't eat meat on Fridays and another who was up before dawn this morning to get to church. They whine about doing this constantly, and they get no sympathy from me. I just say "Then don't do it." They can't really answer me when I say that, except to start backpeddling about how much it strengthens their faith. I really don't have to say anything more, a look from me is enough for them to know I think it's silly.

 

Christianity is crazy. It's about time we quit kow-towing to it's believers and started telling them this.

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This is exactly the point I made a few weeks back - liberals and fundies kind of need each other. In my case most of my family are liberal Xtians, but my Mum's best friend and her family are hardline fundie born agains. It's like the liberals say "oh yeah, the fundies are a bit extreme but at least they've got faith" and the fundies in turn say "it's good you've got faith but you need to study the Bible more/join in with the Church more etc etc.

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And how about all the people who "don't want to step on Christian toes?" I find a lot of people who don't believe in Christianity will start with, "Now, I don't hate Christianity, I respect it's believers and believe there is a lot of good in it and Jesus was a good man but..."

 

I agree - this irritates me as well, because it's just all ass-kissing. In the rare occasion I get into discussions about religion with Xian friends, I make it no secret how I feel about that sick cult.

 

I have no respect for it, believe it teaches virtually no morality, and I think Jebus was a demented cult leader - and I can provide the Babble verses to back it up. If they don't like that, too bad.

 

There is nothing "good" in Christianity that isn't already found in normal, secular, human wisdom. Jesus (if he existed) expounded on little that isn't found in thousands of other religions much older than his cult is, without the henious violence given to the non-compliant. There isn't anything in there worth reading through the intolerant garbage for that you can't get from somewhere else.

 

Preach it, sister :)

 

There is nothing of value to be found in Xianity that can't be found elsewhere, and usually stated better (Asatru's Nine Virtues, the Wiccan Rede, Buddhism's Eight Noble Truths, any book on Humanism, etc). None of them have holy books littered with positive portrayals of rape, murder, and oppression. With just about any non-Abrahamic cult, you can get moral instruction without intolerance and filth.

 

It's time to stop kissing ass.

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