Friday, October 26, 2012
Why I admire atheists
A few people have told me that they thought of me as an atheist. If they are Christians, I usually ask them in what ministry of the church they are serving. More often than not, they don't serve in the church at all. That usually shuts them up because they know I do serve the church on a voluntary capacity as a lay parishioner and I have done so ever since I was a boy.
But there must be a reason why some people assume I'm an atheist. The fact is I do admire atheists from a distance. I know I can never be an atheist and they are a different kettle of fish altogether but they are worthy of our admiration.
The usual complaint I hear from my fellow Christians about atheists is their supposed arrogance. Do I think atheists are arrogant? I acknowledge some of them are but if we can learn to be objective and put ourselves in their shoes, we will see why some of them can't help but be arrogant. It's hard for an atheist not to be arrogant when they know they belong to a small coterie of geniuses amidst a sea of morons of all stripes and colours. We are the morons but most of us don't like to acknowledge our imbecility and because of our pride, we denigrate the innocent atheist.
All of us believers used to believe wholeheartedly that the earth was flat. We also believed the earth could not be moved because the Bible tells us that the Lord has established the earth and it does not move. I used to think only the RC church persecuted Galileo for saying the earth moved round the sun in contradiction of the Holy Bible but I've since read that Luther and Calvin were totally opposed to Galileo and his brilliant discovery.
Today, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and anyone who does not accept the fact of evolution has got to be, if I may borrow the words of Richard Dawkins, insane, ignorant or stupid. Although the RC church has accepted to some degree the fact of evolution, there are many Christians today who are still opposed to it, notably the fundamentalists.
Who are the fact-deniers in our world? We, the religious majority!!! We are the ones who deny facts in order to justify our religious beliefs. Atheists, on the other hand, have no ancient book to uphold. They don't have to write ridiculous books like "Reconciling Perceived Inconsistencies in the Bible". They just have to follow the evidence and their common sense. We are the ones with the huge agenda. We are the ones who have to defend God when the Bible tells us He ordered the killing of a whole town of men, women, children and babies. We are the ones who skirt around verses on slavery that supposedly came from the mouth of God himself and I don't mean emancipation which is a notion alien to the Bible writers. We are the ones who spend all our energy defending God and the Bible while at the same time, we ignore and pooh-pooh scientific facts and discoveries. Why my fellow believers are unable to see this is something that befuddles me. How do we expect an atheist to respect us when we are so blatantly dishonest with facts and so averse to the truth?
Kurt Wise was a distinguished paleontologist and geologist. Now, both fields are inevitable time-bombs to a believer of a fundamentalist religion. The story goes that one night, Kurt Wise decided to go through the Bible and snip off with a pair of scissors parts that did not square with science. According to him when he was through with the Bible, he could not hold the Bible up because it was all collapsing into tiny fragments, so extensive was the snipping. At that point, he felt he had to make up his mind - go along with his faith and reject science or forget his faith and go on with science. He decided to go with God and that's the reason why at the start of this paragraph, I wrote that he WAS a distinguished scientist. He's not dead, he's still alive today but he's no longer a distinguished scientist. Kurt Wise says rather unwisely that even if there is a whole universe of evidence for evolution, he will deny it because he has chosen to believe whatever the Bible tells him.
How do we expect a rational atheist to be less arrogant?
My admiration for the atheist is objective and honest. I'm saying ANY totally honest person would admire the atheist. But I'm not advocating that all of us leave the church, synagogue, mosque, temple and other places of worship and be atheists. It's not that simple. All I'm saying is we've got to be truthful and honest with ourselves and our religion. We must recognise the huge flaws in our religion, the contradictions in its claims, the inconsistencies, the immorality in some of its teachings (and yes, there is a great deal of immorality in religion which we as followers should expunge) and we must come to terms with these things. We must understand the cultural and historical contexts of our religion and we must realize that antiquity does not necessarily mean truth. On the contrary, what's antiquated is usually incorrect, unscientific, morally outrageous, superstitious and just plain wrong.
We must accept that what's written in a holy book whatever the religion may be is not inerrant and there are parts that are downright evil. Holy books are all full of errors and some are violent and bloodthirsty. We all love the "Battle of Jericho" song which every Christian must have sung as a child. Children in kindergarten love the part that goes "and the walls came tumbling down". My Mum once played a CD of this song to my children when suddenly, something in me snapped. I stopped the CD and asked my Mum if she knew what the song was about. She didn't know and she didn't care. It's just a Christian song for kids so what's the big deal? Of course it's a huge deal. What happened after the walls came tumbling down? The people of Israel rushed into Jericho and massacred every man, woman, teenager, child, toddler, baby and newborn because God commanded them to do that. If you just save a baby from the slaughter, it would be considered a grievous sin and the punishment is death for you and your entire family. This is what happened in another city called Ai. The Bible also tells us that King Saul's greatest sin against God was not that he ruled Israel badly but because he didn't kill someone when God commanded the slaughter of EVERYONE.
Many Christians hate me for showing the skeletons in our religious closet. But I believe it's time for us to send these skeletons to the museum. Tell the world that we had skeletons at one time but we have reformed our religion and the skeletons are now in the museum as a part of our violent history but history they will remain.