More Atheistic Feelings

In the last post, I tried to give religious people some insight into how it feels to be an atheist. Rereading it, it’s a little dry and abrasive. Sorry. I’ll just keep spilling these thoughts out until I get something that feels like I want it to. Let’s try again.
From the perspective of an atheist, the world is a scary place. Actually, that’s not quite true. The world is an awe inspiring place. It’s people that are scary. The scariest thing about them is that they’re willing to fight, kill and die over fairy tales. It’s hard to communicate that concept clearly, but to an atheist all religiously motivated actions seem deluded. The attacks on the WTC on 9/11 are a chilling example. The guys who flew into the WTC believed an eternal paradise awaited them as a result. Most reasonable people would think that’s just a tad crazy. They’d be right. However, are Christian beliefs about Heaven more rational? Hell no! Christianity has effectively the same setup. Perform action X while alive and you’ll get a pass into eternal realm Y. It’s the same damn thing. Usually the Christian version doesn’t involve killing people with different beliefs, but that tolerance is a very modern development.

It’s not that atheists can’t understand the pull of religion. We can. Who wouldn’t want access to an eternal paradise? That would be fantastic. We understand the comfort that religion can bring. Whenever someone I care about dies, I always want to believe they’ve gone to a “better place”. However, wishing doesn’t make it so. “No.  Rover isn’t dead Jimmy, he’s gone to a big farm in the country where he gets to play all day with other dogs and have fun”. Valid for kids, but at some point adults shouldn’t need the crutch any more.

God is, ultimately, an adult version of Santa Claus. Behave well and you’ll be rewarded, screw up and you miss you out.

Something that I’ve always wondered about is why religious people believe they have the moral high ground. Aren’t they really just behaving because they believe they’re being watched by the big guy upstairs? Atheists don’t have that to fall back on. We behave because our morals are deeper than that. We’re not afraid of being punished or angling for some sort of reward. We behave morally because it feels like the right thing to do. Religion is completely unnecessary (and is regularly in opposition) to having good moral character.

The deepest problem that I, as an atheist, have with religion is the crushing effect it has on critical thinking. Critical thinking is crucial to running a democratic nation. Many of the problems we’re going through at the moment appear to stem from the fact that the nation isn’t critical enough to elect a smarter leader. Religion teaches you not to question things. It teaches you to accept them on faith. You’re supposed to be okay with fairy stories in the absence of evidence. It’s particularly scary when you think about the amount of effort devoted by religious people to discrediting evolution. People should think critically as a general rule. Religion is directly in opposition to that and it’s a huge problem.


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