Atheism is not a religion

Atheism is not a religion, it is the absence of religion; as light is the absence of dark.

Being without faith is not a faith unto itself and it does not require any faith to not have faith. It takes faith to accept a claim for a deity, and to accept the so called sacred texts that detail the deity’s works and interactions with the world and to accept the leadership of a leader or elite class of people who facilitate between the deity or deities and the masses – it is faith, not evidence, logic or reason, that a person relies on to accept that the deity is real and to give authority to the elite class of intermediaries to explain god to the masses and to bring the masses to god’s fold.

Faith is belief, absent of evidence, logic and reason as well as reality.

In earlier times, people looked to religion to explain why crops failed, why natural disasters happened, how things came to be and why they unfold as they do. But as humans began living in larger and larger communities and we altered our environment, rechanneled rivers, built massive public works, building complexes, cities with running water, shipping and trade routes to other lands – when we bumped up culturally against each other and exchanged knowledge and technologies as well as the inevitable cultural exchanges, eventually, the understanding that science and technology is developed on the same principals and that science observations of the natural world, end up being the same everywhere, but what varies is deities, in some places and some people, began to piece together that deities are the invention of humans, a cultural product that creates group identity, and the manner of religious worship has no bearing on crop failures, the passing of comets, volcanoes and hurricanes and other natural phenomena and disasters.

Religion serves a social function of codifying and enforcing behavioral norms by including those who conform and expelling those who do not. Religion’s authority for determining behavioral norms is apparently divine aka a deity or deities who reward or punish individuals based on their conformity to the deity’s preferred behaviors or serves a supernatural purpose, such as karma and the form of your reincarnation, it impacts the journey you take to achieve nirvana or oblivion. But in fact, it the authority of a religion is down to the individual and number of followers who are willing to grant the religion authority over them – which is why it is extremely important to keep religion and secular state authorities entirely separate.

The state has legal authority over its citizens, because we have been born to or chosen to be citizens of our respective countries – and part of the social contract is that state/secular law treats all members equally under the law and grants equal access to the law. Where this has fallen short of the mark, is when religious and social attitudes corrupts the secular law and creates a variety of classes, such as only white, heterosexual and male landowners get to vote and everyone else is lesser than. Then women get to vote and slavery is abolished. Ethnic minorities are permitted to vote and it’s no longer legal to discriminate against gays/lesbians in basic matters such as employment and houses – the law was already in place for everyone to vote, to be free from discrimination, equal under the law, including being able to marry, it was the religious/social bias of the language the laws are expressed in that prevented it – gender neutral language is all that is need for laws to be barrier free to all people of a nation.

The reason that religion has not been made wholly obsolete is the same reason, we do not all become neutral towards the diversity of humans (aka socially liberally enlightened) at the same time, there will always be a curve with some leading the way and some lagging behind, with most in the middle, muddling through, letting go of a bias here and a bias there. Part of the reluctance is that belonging to a religion – and all religions claim to be the one true path, means to belong to an elite and special group – which, when society says that all are equal, it undermines the special status of the group and diminishes the individual members. This is the motivation for insisting that marriage is for straight people, silly faggots.

Gay marriage does not in law or fact diminish straight marriage, but it does diminish and erode away the perception of religious people that marriage is a state of grace between them, their spouse and their god. It’s because to them, marriage is between a man, a woman and god – and gays do not include god (to the straight believer) nor opposite genders. Theirs is an emotional and not at all an intellectual or logical assertion, and this is why those that oppose a same gender couple from being married has no opposition to polygamy, or an infertile straight couple, or an atheist straight couple – but often cannot comprehend a straight couple that is childless by choice.

Religious believers do not believe that atheists are really without belief, so are tolerant towards civil marriage, but less so of interracial or inter-faith marriages. That their theory of marriage is so contradictory further demonstrates the emotional basis of their position, that there is no logic or rationality underlying their marriage beliefs.

But, the matter returns to the same point – marriage is for any member of the society, as marriage is regulated by secular law; marriage is contract law and confers government benefits and responsibilities and is a matter of public interest and is a social stabilizer. Marriage is also a religious ceremony and meaningful within religious communities, however, this is a private aspect of marriage that does not impact secular marriage. Lesser legal status, such as civil unions, do not confer the kinship and other legal responsibilities and benefits that marriage does, and it also means that the law is not treating everyone equally, nor is equal access to the laws being granted.

Americans have positioned marriage as a zero-sum game, and it needn’t be – there is no limit to how many people can be married and there are a myriad of ways that people can access marriage – so the Canadian solution of gays being able to marry but the churches who so not wish to perform the ceremonies, means that the unwilling churches are protected from lawsuits, the churches who are willing to perform ceremonies may do so, and gays can access the secular marriage services as can any non-religious Canadians. The only thing that is preventing the equality that the American constitution and bill of rights purports to guarantee to all citizens, is religious bias that has no place being asserted in or over the secular law.

Religion does confer benefits to a group by providing a framework for a sense of community, interconnectedness and a sense of individual purpose and inclusion in something bigger than the sum of the parts; something that people also get from the larger society when they are able to economically participate, gain group affiliation from their place of employment, hobby groups and subcultures (i.e. science fiction fandom) – what makes people in secular democracies in wealth nations less religious than their counterparts in poorer nations is the wealth and leisure time to become members of non-religious groups – the need to belong and connection to a greater than self is met then by inclusion in sub-cultures and secular activities – religious sentiment is reduced by accumulation of wealth and the advent of leisure time.

The drawbacks of religion, is that there are also alleged sacred texts which are filtered and interpreted for the masses by an elite hierarchy, and this status draws wealth, power and influence and inevitably results in abuses of vulnerable members of the religion (usually children), vulnerable members of the mainstream community (extremist fringe groups) and given time, the acquisition and maintaining wealth, power and influence become the focus of the hierarchy rather than any incidental goodness or benefits that the religion may have originally offered. This influence takes the form of a religion insinuating and asserting its narrow beliefs into secular government policy, as the recent funding cuts to Planned Parenthood across the USA demonstrates or the historic exclusion from equality that gays, ethnic minorities, differently abled and women have experienced in various decades.

Which, brings us back to atheism not being a religion – with the freedom to chose a religion, comes the freedom to not chose a religion – and with freed of religion, there is also the lesser understood, freedom from religion. In order to ensure non-believers are treated equally under the law and protected from discrimination by religious believers, a legal fiction is needed and the fiction is to treat atheism as a religion, under the law.

The legal fiction needed to uphold non-discrimination does not reflect any reality of atheism.

Religion is a framework to explain the natural world as being caused and influenced by a supernatural being or supernatural plane of existence. Religions have sacred texts to explain the natural and supernatural world interactions, an elite hierarchy of people who act as interpreters of the supernatural world and who act as advocates for the masses to intercede or request favours of the supernatural world, and the masses have to abide by a religious code of ethics and morals, and perform worship, which entails observances of ritual, meetings and prayers, special clothing – usually special head coverings and body coverings denoting modesty and often rigid gender roles.

Atheism shares none of these characteristics. Atheism is the rejection of all of these activities and behaviours, with no replacement or alternative. Atheism is not a framework, it is merely a non-acceptance of the religious framework and everything that is dependent on it.

That atheists tend to be more educated, less criminal and within the range of charitable and happy natures as believers, demonstrates that one does not need to be religious to be good, kind or happy. Atheists are capable of making moral and social determinations for their behavioral conduct, and have established a group validation through work or hobbies or subcultures. With the advent of the internet, atheists are beginning to form atheist communities. Like any group where individuals have historically been isolated, the internet is the great social leveler – allowing people of like mindedness to connect and form groups across the globe in a way that has never before been possible.

Much like when a person first comes out as a lesbian or gay man, they tend towards the more extreme exuberance of being out and demonstrate their differences by dramatic behaviours, clothes and so forth, so too have atheists, no longer individuals or small local groups, but a wave, a virtual legion, so are the so called “New Atheists” appearing as if from out of nowhere, loud, proud and not ashamed to speak forcefully and actively against the dominant religious mainstream.

And the religious mainstream, is apparently unable to learn from the past, and they repeat the same pattern when other minority groups became organized, vocal and demanding equality – the mainstream religions opposed the end of slavery, women and minorities voting, blacks, women and gays serving in the military, interracial, interfaith and same gender marriage – social process is the process by which tradition, usually religious tradition, is pushed out of the mainstream and to the fringes; so that all members of a society can participate and benefit equally.

To be for social process is to be against tradition – some religions have demonstrated adaptive capacity and are inclusive of women and gays being included in the elite hierarchy of church leadership, are willing to perform interracial marriages, or have watered down the religious core to become a big tent open arms inclusive, a feel good religion lite, where the sacred texts are viewed as stories, not histories, as fables and cautionary tales, to be viewed as metaphor, but really, only the nicer stories, new testament only or better yet, all religions are just different practice for the same deity. Where is the sense of community, rather than the religion, that is the purpose of the gathering, which then begs the question of why gather around a vague all gods are equal and anyone can be a member so membership isn’t special and no one is better or worse than any other one or else.

These seem more a place where people are becoming unchurched, and finding community and group inclusion/validation through other means – work, hobbies, family – people who go out of habit or just on holidays, but do not make daily observances, who are good on their own merits and reject much of what the churches stand for as archaic or impractical in the modern world

Science, which is the study of nature, explains to us why crops fail, why and where weather disasters will occur, so that we can prepare for and mitigate disasters – religion doesn’t. Science has demonstrated that our solar system isn’t the only one with planets and has brought us images of other galaxies as well as allowed us to build technology to make our lives easier, longer and more comfortable.

If you look at any secular nation vs. a theocratic one, the difference in where the poverty line falls and the quality of life indicators and average life span, the difference is startling.

Religion is a social mechanism that keeps the poor, poor and elevates a small elite hierarchy to having all the wealth and power – it is telling to me that Osama Bin Laden, one of the world’s wealthiest men and a religious fanatic, did not use his wealth to create equality, he did not use his wealth and influence to redistribute that wealth throughout the ranks of Islamic society to raise his people out of poverty, instead, he used his influence and wealth to attack the USA and symbolically the world, as all industrial nations had corporations and people in the World Trade Centre – 9/11 was after all, an attack on world trade – to attack those nations who did not require their populations to remain impoverished and under the heel of the wealthy elite religious ruling class.

Religion is spread by the word or the sword and 9/11 was a major sword thrust, Crusade 2.0, and after blowing his influence and failing to make the world tremble before his religious might, the world instead rallied, and over the last decade, and especially Muslim Spring – it is the Islamic chokehold that is being released from the throat of the masses – and they are demanding participation in their governments and society in a way that theocracies and dictatorships do not allow.

Which is why it is more critical than ever that America not fall to Christian fanaticism and steps up once again to the promise of the bold social experiment that the US was founded to do – each person, equal under the law, with self evident rights and freedom for all.

We are one planet, made of many nations, and attempting to assert any of the conflicting supernatural frameworks, which are unsound, discriminatory, elitist and at the expense of the many to benefit the few; can only lead to more division, violence, inequality and suffering; religion truly is the intellectual parasite that infects the host and destroys everything in opposition to its spread will surely lead to our collective doom, but not in the armageddon/left behind same get saved while the rest suffer, we will all suffer and die – but this one planet that can sustain us all, if we work together, across our differences and with respect for diversity, and that will require a naturalist framework to understand the world and our place, our impact, our sustainability and our future continued existence; if we chose to coexist with each other, and with the balance of everything in nature in balance.

Burning the Other Side

Pastor Terry Jones is flip flopping on whether they will or will not burn the Koran on Sept 11, 2010.

It think it’s good that he’s rethinking and perhaps realizing that this story got a lot bigger than he was perhaps expecting – or maybe he thought he would have at home support by other religious groups at least. Support is something he has not gotten – not other religious groups, not the US State Department and not the military.

Everyone is waiting on the decision of this new player on the international media stage to see if he will or won’t demonstrate his patriotism by putting US Troops and likely US and other Western tourists at risk. In fact, one protester has already died.

Reading the comments by a variety of people who are worried about this potential outcome has caused me to step back and look at what that really is saying.

When 9/11 happened, Westerners were cautioned to not blame all Islamic people for the actions of the Al-Quaida. For previous terrorists acts, this was an unspoken understanding, even though the US had a collective bruising with the USS Cole. But 9/11 was an attack not only directly on the sites, symbolically on the physical representation of the American military and economic power but an attack on all Western people.

The stock market took a dive and a lot of people, myself included, lost investments. The insurance companies took a savage beating and raised everyone’s rates to try to recover. Many companies lost their head offices, corporate records and resources and worst of all, employees.

Most people took a collective breath and tried to understand what kind of fanatical hatred does a person have to harbor to fly a plane into a building. Very few people in the US and Canada became vigilantes and sought revenge on anyone who looked Islamic or the Mosques.

9/11 was an attack on the Western world, collectively and individually. Crowds gathered along streets and city squares to collectively grieve and try to make sense – there were no violent riots, no lynch mobs no wide scale assaults on Islamic people or property or businesses.

Yet, there is 10 years later, the expectation that the Islamic sensibility is so frail that the childish actions of one obscure man launched to the international stage by his public temper tantrum will set off a violent riot and increase hostilities. Given the delayed violence over the Danish Cartoons, it is a reasonable assumption.

And that is what should give us pause.

Because how can the West ever satisfy, appease or come to terms with a mass of people who are not operating with the same basic assumptions and goals?

Conflicts are usually fought or diplomatically dealt with on even-ish footing – nation on nation, city state on city state, warlord on warlord. The West is dealing government to…, well, some government, some warlord, some non-governmental groups, but there is no central unifying organization for Western Countries to negotiate with.

How can the West deal with a people who’s sensibilities are so tender that any slight by any Western individual or small group is deemed to be the responsibility of all Westerners?

Especially since the West is not to take terrorist groups as a representation of the whole Islamic World.

Without each side being held to the same standards, there is no common ground.

We cannot refrain from active expression of our rights and freedoms – and no where in the world does anyone have a right to not be offended.

We cannot race to the lowest common denominator and see which side’s population can accomplish the most violent riot.

The middle east gave rise to the major civilizations that have driven history and many advances in mathematics and early science and culture. But what have they contributed to the world since Islam has dominated the region?

I get that the Islamic world is nursing wounds and perceived slights, but have they forgotten that they won the last crusades? The Templar Knights lost, withdrew and went home to be destroyed by European politics and Vatican greed.

Maybe instead of harboring hurts and reveling in resentment, Islamic nations need to decide what it is that the West has that they want and work to achieve it. Or, if they want to reject the Western world, then close their borders to any Western nation and just deal with the nations that they want to deal with.

Christianity in the US continues to slow science, undermine education and dominate US politics, resulting in the decline of the US as a leader/champion of human rights, innovation and scientific advancement. But Islam, being a theocratic and not secular democratic or even secular dictatorship, has effective ended any cultural, scientific or civilization advances in those countries.

It’s not the case that the citizens of Western nations are uniformly educated, enlightened, participating economically and have a sophisticated understanding of history and cultural diversity. But most individuals in the Islamic world have little or no opportunities to be any of those things. Especially women.

Christianity is hampering the US with a bronze age mentality, but Islam hampers by enforcing a bronze age reality.

The modern infrastructure and technologies in the Islamic world are largely imported similar to the way that Peter the Great forced Russia to modernize.

Collectively, we need to stop fighting over who’s bronze age superstitions are better than the other’s bronze age superstitions. Especially as many ages away that the bronze age is from the current information age.

I can no longer believe that the current crusade is about history, economics, culture or anything other than a childish “my god can beat up your god.”

The time for the spread of religion by the word or the sword needs to be over. If anyone thinks that their religion is so great, then let people be curious and convert as they will. If your religion is great and true and real, then the people will come.

One person’s faith should have no impact on any other’s person ability to participate in a religion of their choice – or not participate in any.

We need to stop allowing these so called peaceful religions to drive international conflict and warfare.

The War Dead

I wonder if the public outcry over the deaths of soldiers is connected to the public’s understanding and support of why the war is occurring.

contrasting the war deaths:

World War 1 1914 to 1918:

Canada – 66,944
US – 117,465

World War II – 1939 to 1945  (1941 to 45 for Americans)

Canada – 45,300
US – 418,500

Afghanistan/Iraq – 2002 and ongoing

Canada – 150
US – 5,521

While Canada’s total numbers are smaller, Canada’s population is about 10% of the US population – so our world war I/II  dead are a higher percentage of our population than the war dead for the US. Too soon to tell for Afghanistan/Iraq…

The US, when it entered WWII, was losing thousands of soldiers a day.

Compared in lives lost, the Afghanistan/Iraq with 5000 lost over 8 years, is actually a dramatic improvement.

So, was it that the purpose of WWI and WWII was moral, clear and supported – so these lives were an acceptable sacrifice?

But the purpose, goals, morality for Afghanistan/Iraq are not clear or moral, so not widely supported – making these deaths not acceptable and somehow even worse than the far larger number of deaths in the earlier wars?

Or, is it because the Afghanistan/Iraq war is happening now, to us and the deaths in WWI and WWII are essentially out of living memory?

That for the most part, the public has become used to, forgotten or romanticized those deaths and reduced their emotional impact and sense of loss?

Or just consigned the WW I/II deaths to history, which we can’t do anything about?

While we think we may be able to do “something” about the current war and associated deaths?

The “improvements” in war technology has certainly reduced the risk for modern fighting forces with wars being fought more distantly than facing each other across a field, aerial dogfights or naval warfare.

Future warfare will be almost indistinguishable from video games – bringing back to mind that Star Trek episode where Kirk forces a real war between 2 planets who wage virtual war with computers, but actually kill their citizens as a compromise to keep infrastructure intact.

I don’t think we can afford to allow war to become that clean and tidy that people willing line up to be executed and accept war deaths as just another day.

The entire cost of the lives lost isn’t felt immediately.

During World War II, so many Newfoundland young men died that some towns lost an entire generation of men. Not only devastating to the families, but also the cohesion and economy of the entire town – many of which later ceased to exist.

The losses impact families down the generations or end family lines entirely. We don’t just lose the soldiers, but also any generation that would have followed.

What’s also often not considered is that civilian deaths around war are often higher – partly through being “acceptable losses” but also starvation, illness, lack of resources available during and after the war.

There are still people being killed today as a result of WWI and WWII – with land mines and unexploded munitions buried in fields.

So, in a way, wars are never really over and consigned to history.

Even old conflicts are still raged today, because what has the world been engaged in since 9/11 other than another Christian/Muslim crusade, resurrected from the middle ages?

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On a related note, I also find it curious how a person can “support the troops” but not their mission.

After all, the troops tend to believe or support or accept their mission. So by not supporting what they are doing, you can’t really support the people doing it.