Religious harm

Religions are equally valid – which is to say that there’s none more valid than any other – but that all religions have benefits and harms is also not a contested thing.

The issue is that that harms done by religion are far reaching, and are entirely voluntary – which means that the harm of religion far outweighs the benefits – and the harm is completely unnecessary.

Religion’s immediate harm is to the individual believer – religion, having no evidence to support it’s claims, is a false belief, no matter how many truth nuggets there are – in the broadest sense, there is no reason to accept any religion.

Other harms include wasting of school funds fighting over the attempts to shoe horn ID/Creationism into science classes. Electing politicians who will suspend or limit research funding of pushing into science frontiers or cancel funding for family planning, sexual education and anything else deemed to be a religious moral matter, rather than a private medical matter.

Unmeasurable harms such as lower levels of education and a population far more ignorant than it should be, with people clinging to millennial old thinking and morality for a world that has moved far beyond the nomadic desert existence and the scale of our existence being far larger now while the world is so much smaller, with more people than at any other single era of time.

Mostly, the harm of religion is that it divides people and makes them competitors, false claimants to possessing The One True Faith – when faith is what is dividing and separating us, when we should be working together across and despite our differences, for we all all humans and the differences are only skin and culturally deep – not insurmountable, which is where religion does it’s biggest harms.

At the very least, religion is a means by which we excuse our difficulties in not getting along with each other. By eliminating or minimizing the alleged differences and barriers to getting along, we are forced to deal with what’s really making us not get along with each other.

Which is xenophobic fear – which religion directly speaks to: purity – to allow others is to contaminate the faithful and xenophobia was a needful survival thing when we lived in small nomadic tribes; but it’s not useful in the modern world, and is harming us

Religions that claim to be the one true one, is to hold a group above and apart from the rest of humanity; when, the reality is, no one is better or worse inherently than anyone else.

We need to put aside the systemic mechanisms that continually assert that any group is better than all others because when one group feels and thinks they are better, then it turns into a mission to impose that “betterness” on everyone else.

That goes for America thinking it’s the world police to the theocratic religions (which Christianity is one, putting itself as above secular civil law, but hasn’t yet achieved it’s government take over, but clearly is no longer content to have infiltrated and influenced).

So, how do we get people to lose faith?

First, we stop coddling religious sensibilities – allow religion to compete in the marketplace of ideas without any special consideration given to that the ideas are religious. We need to be able to say that the ideas religion promotes are foolish on their face, no more validating or kid gloves.

But the main effort is education ; it’s a big reason why people give up faith, because when you learn about world history and other cultures, it becomes apparent that every human civilization has made up their own religion to reinforce their cultural values and to enforce behavioral norms.

We used to explain everything through religion, and now we have science to explain a lot about the natural world and how to be in it.

It’s a simple thing really, we are on the verge of a global civilization and things that divide us, like religion, need to be put in the past

We need to uncover answers together – and science is the same no matter where you are on the globe; it comes down to will enough people want to have people be in charge or deities that divide us.

Believers, “Atheists” and actual atheists

There’s a number of backlash articles against New Atheists and it’s astonishing to me how little believers understand what atheism is and that lack of understanding does not become an impediment to writing about atheists.

Example 1: 5 things atheists and christians agree on, wildly misses the mark:

Example 2: Convoluted with twisty presumptions

Silly me to think that if you don’t like a group of people, you at least have a clear understanding of them. But then, I should have known better, given how little understanding is demonstrated by some believers towards gay people.

Curiosity and compassion, not just buzzwords, but words to live by.

As a generality, believers – especially the more fundamentalist ones – simply cannot accept that someone else doesn’t beleive, so must cast them as either a rebellious teen regardless of their age or how much of their live has been as an atheist or immoral perverts for rejecting god or worse angry at god, which make no sense, since you’d have to beleive there is a god to be angry at one – they literally do not understand that a person can have access to the same historical and cultural information and arrive at a different conclusion.

Although, I have to say, while we all have the same access to historical and cultural information – believers tend to not be as knowledgeable about history or in particular, the history of their religion. I think this is because for so many centuries, people were not literate and beleivers are conditioned to have other people provide and interpret information – and so don’t tend to seek it out.

Everyone one of us engages in some degree of confirmation bias, but consider that there are no atheist apologists but there are religious ones. Apologists are people who try to smooth off the rougher and more fanatical edges of religion to make it palatable or malleable enough to fit history or our shared reality.

That the religion isn’t enough, but needs this extra social layer of protection and buffering should tip any thinking person off that anything that needs this level of hard sell is not on the level.

So the believers cannot understand rejecting belief, so they have to find some other way to explain how another person looks at the earth, history, so forth and comes to the conclusion that there’s no place for supernatural or deities; and being unable to find fault with their religion, they must place the cause as some defect in the person rejecting their claims.

Which is the sum total of what they understand about athiests – that we reject their claims and they lack the intellectualy curiosity and perhaps confidence in their beleifs, to be curious and find out why – and instead, call non-beleivers names, assign them characteristics and assert that no one is really an atheist.

When, it’s only true that there are no atheists like they understand atheist to mean, because what they think has no relationship to or meaning for actual athiests.

On the flip side, non-believers who have only recently been able to get group support in a meaningful way from other non-believers are tired of fundie believers who are worming their narrow minded ideals into government policy and funding, and people are increasingly tired of being sensitive to religious sensibilities that view mere disagreement as an insult and that people who are religious, rarely restrain themselves from being offensive to their favorite target groups: athiests, gays and believers of other religions.

It’s a little funny, how quickly believers are to take offense when people act towards them in a manner far more mild than they act towards others.

Many of us non-deceivers have come to realize that reason, logic and rational debate doesn’t work on people who have rejected those as their basis for their worldview, so you can’t use those to make an appeal to rationality and reason to a person who has rejected reality, rationality and reason already.

In order to not deal with the cognitive dissonance of what they believe vs realty/non-believers, the believer has to convince themselves that the non-believer is either a willful rebelling child or an immoral demon – neither of which are owed any consideration or grown up response in the believer’s mind – they respond to the child or demon that they think they are dealing with, with childish or demonish behaviour – either name calling (child) or threats and damnation (demon)

What it comes down to is really that it’s the believer who is the intellectual child, clinging to god is no different than clinging to Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.

When reality threatens to crash their wishful.magical thinking world view, believers retreat, casting their fears and aspersions out in the form of childish hatred and the vague threats that they find compelling enough to beleive – it’s only the laziest believers who are convinced by Pascal’s Wager and hellfire threats.

They really do not understand that threats of hell mean nothing to people who don’t beleive. Seriously, no afterlife beliefs means the possibility of a bad afterlife holds no fear. And since bad afterlife threats hold no sway, promised of positive afterlife, is not an inducement, because no afterlife beliefs means any threat or bribe for the afterlife has no impact or emotional pull.

Throughout  religious thinking, there’s the idea of shunning and being punitive to people who don’t conform – so the name calling and spewing is a function of that shunning. Shunning isn’t something that just the Amish do – shunning is the same as excommunication. Being kicked out of the group, which, in older times was scary because it would mean death.

But not being part of a religious group no longer means being kicked out of the community or your family. It is no longer a powerful weapon, much the same as being labelled a witch holds no terror because it just means a fight is on, not that anyone will be put to death.

What’s most horrifying, is that the Christians today are seeming increasingly jealous of Islamic people who’s sensibilities are somewhat catered to in that we make an effort to to not offend to prevent mass rioting and looting and killing.

Freedom of speech has a moral limit in that my right to say or express an idea is not more important than other people’s safety and security. As much as the Danish cartoons were legit as an artistic freedom of expression, the cost of the rioting, loss of life and injury, damage to infrastructure, was not advisable.

That Western Christians, knowing that they can’t get away with that rioting conduct, then act like wounded children because we are not willing to coddle their sensibilities anymore.

It’s time we started with taking a cue from the gay/lesbian playbook and start with taking back the word Athiest.


If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t afford to pretend that religion has merit or is a force for good in the world. We must no longer be willing to coddle religious sensibilities.

Religion is about dividing people between the real true believers and everyone else who’s lesser than; and since all religions claim to be The One True One, and there’s nothing to recommend one over any other – we need to put them all aside in favour of social justice and equality. Secular law under which everyone is equally deserving and has equal access to the law.

People are afraid of Islam because of the anticipated violent response and Christians complain bitterly about their sensibilities not being catered to because we know that they don’t respond violently. It’s as if western Christians are jealous of the fear Islam is inspiring because Christians know they can’t get away with a violent response – and this suggests that if they could get away with it, that they would respond violently.

Christians live in the secular world which will not tolerate religious violent protest – while Islamics tend to live in theocratic countries where such public expression of their intolerance is acceptable, even mandatory.

But the reason that Christians don’t, is because they live in a secular society not a theocratic one. They have things to lose in a secular society that are just not considerations in theocratic ones. Christians would lose their freedom and possessions for behaving violently – they would lose their affluence and influence – which is an important distinction.

In secular society, anyone can prosper – and it’s that prosperity that makes people behave and adhere to the rule of secular law.

Christians are entirely free to behave violently, they are just unwilling to do so for fear of legal consequences – so they turn their response to censorship and shoe horning their religion into the secular law. Which, if successful, would turn the western secular society into a theocracy, in which everyone loses much, but especially non-Christians or the not righteous enough or right kind of Christians.

So, it comes down to Christians wanting to be able to live in a Christian theocratic society were they are not mocked or they are at least able to respond to the mocking with violence.

And, athiests are people without theism, full stop, no replacement. Some may go so far to say that there’s no god, but that’s farther than atheism is, which is to be simply without faith – people who argue that atheism is anything else is attacking strawmen.

We are all atheist to all religions except for the one any person believes in and full athiests go that one more than believers do. Believers are atheist to all religions, save the one that they were most likely raised in, perhaps one they later were drawn to, but one nonetheless, while full atheists have none and no more.

The mechanism that’s at work for people to not mock those that we can reasonable predict will respond with violence is not fear, but rather, safety and concern for life.

We in the west are not the ones who bear the burden and cost of Islamic riots – people over there pay the cost of our mockery. We do not wish to cause needless suffering, loss of life and/or damage to infrastructure.

Moreover, atheism is rejecting theism and as such, has no need for martyrs when atheism is based in reason and logic. Having no need of martyrs, means that atheism does not attract the fanatic element that is common for religion.

Another key difference between theism and non-theism. Non-theism is about living and living well – while religion is about death and the afterlife – and so martyrs are needed, even mandatory.

If people can’t see that logic and reason are the basis and means for a good life all on their own, if they cannot understand good from bad morality and resultant behaviors, if they cannot see that the quality of life matters more than quantity of life….

Then I guess the rational, free thinking, skeptical, logical people need to keep doing outreach and education – to keep fighting that best of all fights – the fight for life, for liberty and equality – must continue.

Or there’s no point to human existence, if we can’t continually improve our lots and civilizations.



New Atheists vs New Gays

There is much hullabaloo about the so called “New Atheists” by the Religious Righteous.

We’re aggressive, offensive, immoral and don’t work and play well with others – in short – all the things that the Religious Righteous are themselves but project onto others.

Aside: We always hate in others what we are ourselves.*

* Not ironic or without self awareness, as I fight my tendencies towards being a dogmatic rules lawyer and policy wonk daily.

It comes down to the Religious Righteous being threatened because atheists are no longer staying quiet or in “our place”.

We’ve become uppity.

Any time there has been a group that is no longer content to be legally and socially less than, well, straight white males with wealth, those groups are threatening to the status quo and so are painted with the same brushes:

uppity, unnatural, immoral, disturbed, incompetent and lacking in respect

Aside: “Status Quo” seems to be a lot like “The Popular Kids” in high school, they are the top of the social scale, but no one actually likes them. So, how did they get to be the popular or the status that everyone else is deemed lacking in comparison and value.

The problem with the “respect” is that what is meant is entirely different and that is “reverence” – and this is the most important aspect, because the rest all stem from this aspect. The problem for the Religious Righteous is not how the questions are asked, but that they are asked at all.

Religion cannot be separated from discrimination, as both come down to the same belief that “my” group of people are special and better than all other groups.

What the Religious Righteous are protecting is not the status quo, but rather their entitlement to discriminate being confused with a right to discriminate since that discrimination is divine to their mindset.

Every social advance is a rejection of the Religious Righteous’ status quo and is not reverent or deferential:

  • women getting to vote, own property, drive and be in charge of their own sexuality and bodies;
  • ethnic minorities being able to vote, be treated equal under the law, be able to marry people outside of their ethnicity; and
  • sexual minorities with gays and lesbians leading the charge, being granted the same basic civil rights as every other citizen, slowly and too often by referendum because rights flow from legislation, not rule by the mob.

There have been atheists for a very long time – back to ancient Greece in fact.

These atheists were very outspoken, so the so called new atheists are really getting back to the roots – coming out of centuries of shadows that religion pushed us into under fear of death.

Aside: Given how medievally Pope Palpatine dresses and his stated goal of reuniting all xtians under his…under the Catholic Church…I can only assume he longs for the days of absolute rule and being able to force hemlock martinis into science minded folks .

What’s more interesting than all the Religious Righteous’ engaging in childish name calling and discrimination is the discussion going on with the so called New Atheists – and that is how the New Atheists are looking to the Gay Rights Movement for strategy.

Because in a relatively short time, gays have become a part of the mainstream and even status quo fabric in many places in a much faster and less violent manner than any earlier wave of social change.

Part of it is that no one is calling anyone the “New Gays” despite a certain accuracy of that phrase.

In entertainment, gays are no longer the ill fated suicide or murder victim, not the Nelly or Sissy Boy, not the sexually threatening Diesel Dyke preying on innocent school girls.

Gay characters in entertainment moved quickly after the 70’s – going from the earlier stereotypes of shadowy and miserable but occasionally fabulous to real people coming out and standing up for themselves to plain folks just trying to make their way in the world the same as anyone else – but with a better sense of fashion and wittier.

In real lives,  when I came out in the 90’s, it wasn’t illegal or likely to result in being locked up in a mental institution like it was for people who came out in the 70s or earlier.

But, it was legal for me to be fired, evicted, denied promotion, not be legally protected from sexual orientation discrimination and the idea of gay couple rights was nothing I expected to live long enough to see.

But, in the last decade – in Canada:

  • mid 90’s legal to serve in the military openly
  • 2000 included in common law marriage
  • 2003 included in marriage, which triggered a wide range of rights and most importantly, established legal kinship

Gays coming out now, have no idea what it was like for gays in the 70’s, never mind the 50’s and are generally horrified that there was a time you could be fired for being gay, never mind beaten up by the cops for it.

This is a very good thing that what earlier gays and lesbians went through is unimaginable by today’s gays and lesbians because that also means that the straight folks are also changing and not thinking that the discriminatory and even violent behaviour towards gays and lesbians is remotely okay.

That is what scares the Religious Righteous the most – they are increasingly preaching to the converted.

There certainly are new gays, but until atheists achieve a mainstream momentum – as evidenced by a politician declaring themself an atheist would not make them unelectable.

Unlike other social movements, there has been few atheist characters in entertainment and there isn’t a strong stereotype of atheist, which makes social measurements more difficult.

Most entertainment – TV and movie characters – tend to be vague on a character’s belief system and only in the last decade have there been overtly atheist characters – like House, MD and Bones – both medical procedural programs.

When more kinds of characters in movies and TV are specially atheist – rather than merely refraining from being overtly religious – then we could start to say that there’s such a thing as a new atheist.

Because not too long in the future, the mainstream will be surprised that being an atheist was ever an issue.

new atheists

There’s been a recent rash of religious writers complaining about the “New Atheists”.

That we’re arrogant, think we’re smarter, rude, lacking in respect for religious belief  and are basically more aggressive than previous and largely silent atheists.

And there’s two things that are funny to me about these complaints.

First, that  it doesn’t matter how some atheists behave versus others;  we aren’t a group, and what one does or doesn’t do has no bearing on other atheists. We’re individuals who do not represent each other or all atheists at large.

Even atheist organizations can really only represent their members, which doesn’t include all atheists. You don’t have to join a group to be an atheist – and most atheists probably wouldn’t join groups unless there was a need to support lawsuits and other matters.
The second part of this that is funny to me is that social change is not accomplished by quiet, silent and polite people

If women had waited for men to agree to let them vote, drive cars and get bank loans on their own, we’d still be waiting to get to vote.

It’s like the word atheist is like the word feminist,  where many women who do demand and get respect, equal pay, make their own decisions yet they refuse to call themselves feminists – the reality is it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, the main thing is that you are in charge of yourself.

If black people hadn’t refused to get on the bus anymore, there’d be no civil rights now.

And if gay people had stayed silent and not fought back against the raids, then, there wouldn’t be so many countries in which gay marriage or the lesser domestic partnership/civil union now.

If you wait for rights, you simply aren’t going to get them.

But atheists aren’t like the other groups – atheism is in fact already the law in Canada and US – in that the state does not endorse a particular religion.

So the atheist legal battle is actually to have the existing law enforced – no state favoritism for any religion. If we want to keep our countries secular democracies with individual freedoms – then we have to absolutely make sure the public square is equally available to all, with none favored over any other.

So, the next time you want to dump on atheists for being loud and aggressive,  maybe instead, you should thank us for keeping science in science classes, and courthouses free of any particular religion holding sway.

We’re not arguing and making the case for us, we’re making it for everyone’s freedoms.