I am uncertain what believers are referring to when they refer to winning and losing in religion vs atheism – for lack of a better word – debates; recognizing that online forum discussions between non-professional debaters, are more accurately, pissing contests and name calling fests.
I wonder how much is really owing to the anonymity vs the animosity of the participants. Not that I want to assert that atheists are blameless in rudeness, name calling and even malicious behaviors – but the percentage of atheists who thusly engage is anecdotally lower than the percentage of religious believers who often start out the gate with threats of hell and eternal damnation.
I’ve tends towards a live and let live attitude, but that become difficult when dealing with people who are not content to let you live in kind. The idea that beliefs are private and should be respected falls apart on many fronts; not the least of which is many beliefs require the believers to spread them by the word or the sword:
An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”
“Then why,” asked the Inuit earnestly, “did you tell me?”
~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
The simple answer is that the priest aka believer is unwilling to share heaven with those whom they deem have not earned it by believing and the idea that people who hadn’t heard the word would be forgiven by the omnipotent god who was unable to effectively market and promote the word on his own is just illogical apologetics to make the religion seem less harsh than it actually is and to make their alleged omnipotent god forgiving, when it categorically is not at all forgiving given that the punishment for minor offences and major offences is the same being cast into eternal damnation without parole or time off for good behaviour.
Worse, that the believer cannot even imagine enjoying heaven unless there’s people who are cast into hell. Which also explains the insistence that only their god is preventing people from being serial murderer and rapists, rather than that these are self evidently anti-social behaviours that no person able to make moral distinctions could justify engaging in, without need to resort to punishment disincentives. The act of murder or rape, in and of themselves, are not enticing to a person capable of moral conduct. So punishment as a disincentive is only a deterrent to those people who are not moral to begin with and who need these matters clearly spelled out for them, in which case, by refraining, they are merely avoiding punishment in their own self interest rather than acting morally and for any social good.
Religious Belief is then a guideline for behaviour that the believer is not capable of working out on their own or spelling out that which should be self-evident. Except that the number of religious leaders and hierarchy members who have engaged in a variety of criminal, anti-social and immoral behaviors and conduct – from actually immoral or illegal actions such as molesting children, adultery, embezzlement, fraud, bigamy and bigotry to actions that are violations of the rules of the given religion such as non-marital sex, gay sex, sex generally, lying, stealing, coveting – it is clear that religious belief is not a sufficient system of behavioral codes and punishments to force believers to act within the apparent rules of the religion or within secular law or social moral norms.
But when you consider that religion isn’t that keen on humans being good are actually predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy and crapulent to start with and must repent, worship and sacrifice in order to redeem themselves to their chosen god’s good graces and esteem – you have to kind of wonder, why, when we have an understanding about battered wives standing by their abusive partners, can we not recognize this same malfunctioning relationship pattern exists between humans and their deities?
Humans abase and genuflect, but the deities never call, never respond positivity or clearly to prayers or need for assistance. This absence of impact is excused by apologists with “Sometimes the answer is no”, “god’s will or purpose is unknowable, but we have to believe that there’s a plan or grand design.”
If god’s answer to prayers is no and no is indistinguishable with no god to hear the prayers, then what good is the god or the effort of worship?
Worse, some unknowable grand design is cold comfort to those who are suffering without apparent purpose – and if this grand design is so unknowable, then why do so many people claim to know what their god thinks about anything, while cherry picking their sacred texts to support their pet bigotry and causing much suffering in the world?
The plethora of religions in terms of both unique versions and the high number of sects within each version shows that religion isn’t winning by any meaningful measure- as it only splinters and not unites people; driving so much intolerance and violence, that religions are a death march towards our extinction in which everyone actually loses; but which religionists can claim victory by calling it the rapture – self fulfilling prophesy as it will be. In terms of the destruction of humans with few if anyone left to say or hear the inevitable “I told you so.”
There is something in the religious conservative mindset that makes self-destruction preferable to compromise or social change. Or maybe it’s something that makes them wanting so badly to be right, that they are willing to self-destruct in order to achieve it – which, I think we can put down to the belief in the afterlife. Maybe it’s just delusional self-righteousness and outright denial of consequences – after all, the rapture is supposed to restore the earth to the factory garden of Eden original settings. So, what need do we have of environmental protection laws with a god-backed warrantee?
For non-Abrahamic religions, what need is there for the same environmental protections or human rights when we are clearly working out our own bad karma and are deserving of all the badness and suffering – so should not interfere with this suffering so we can move onto to the next experience or cycle of learning.
If a person considers this life a dress rehearsal for the eternal or repeated cycles of experience, then it becomes easy to understand the willingness to die for ideas. There’s a certain romance of dying in a cause, strong enough to override our individual and even collective survival instincts. It’s not really dying if you expect an eternal afterlife, it’s just…. exit, stage right.