firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter Walker) We live in a society that is, nominally at least, Chri
email@example.com (Peter Walker)
We live in a society that is, nominally at least, Christian, though the
United States' law (indeed, the Constitution itself) is highly secular. Why
then, does the venom of theistic apologists issue forth toward this small
minority of athiests with more ferocity than toward any other group
(except, perhaps, homosexuals)? Even including the agnostics and
floccinonfacists (from L. flocci non facio - "I don't give a feather"), the
non-religious make up only a small segment of this society. Wherefore are
we such a threat?
Before I try to address this question, I must object to the manner in
which atheists have been stereotyped as belonging to a single
political/economic/ religious ideology. Atheism is not a belief in itself,
but rather the lack of a belief-namely in divinity. An atheist may be a
democratic secular humanist (eurapraxist), a communist, a hedonist, a
Buddhist, even a Hindu, ad infinitum. To equate all of those who do not
believe in a god with any one of these groups or idealogical doctrines is
grossly unfair and prejudicial.
I assert that those that dissent from within a religious society are
perceived as dangerous because they demonstrate that the religious world
view in not the unique set of lenses from which one might view the world.
An athiest has, in a very fundamental way, seperated himself from the bonds
of the community; especially so, if he was raised in a religion (like
myself) and then chooses to abandon it in favor of non-belief of errant
belief (indeed, this was the very definition of heresy in the Middle Ages).
What is more troubling to the theist indeed, comes from the emotional bond
the theist makes with these unseen, unperceived forces allegedly guiding
the Universe. Whenever life becomes unbearable, the theist first turns to
these agencies for support and relief, though no explicit answer is ever
forthcoming. To see an atheist merrily going about life indiffernt to this
bond, not needing it in a crisis, threatens the self-worth of the theist.
Either the atheist knows something the theist doesn't, and the theist is a
fool, or perhaps there really is no Divine Father to cuddle us and shelter
us from our woes. That is, coming from a former Christian, a very
Religions, especially of the messianic variety, rely on the appeal of
salvation to draw both non-believers and back-sliders into the religion.
But a religion can not be successful if it must reconvert every new
generation. THus to hold the believers, two tools are used. Firstly, there
is damnation or the fear thereof. Secondly, there is the sense of approval,
community, and self-worth that comes from belonging to a metaphysical
family guarded over by a divine father within a brotherhood of fellow
believers. Under normal circumstances, this is like a warm hearth - it is
comfortable, and more importantly comforting. But if ever one begins to
have doubts about a religion's veracity, creeping guilt, fear and isolation
(real and psychological) tend to bring one back into the fold. I can not
describe the lonliness I felt as I first turned away from Christianity, not
to mention the fear of hellfire and brimstone instilled in me by even one
of the least vitriolic of Christian denominations(Methodism). I lost
friends, and some family as a consequence of facing facts. But the barrier,
the bond, was broken, and I have never looked back.
We can not hope to disprove the existence of god - or rather prove his
non-existence. What we can do is to point out the absence of evidence of
the physical consequences of particular gods. We can discredit existing
religions by demonstrating their internal inconsistancies, and demonstrate
by use of other, older, and often dead faiths, that these creeds are
nothing new, and more often were plagarized from older, wiser, and more
We can show the tenuousness (indeed, the illusory nature) of the link
between religion and morality, as experienced throughout many cultures in
We can live our lives as best we can, forming our own communuties of
sorts, teaching others about their religions' fallicies.
We can die without fear of reprisal, or hope of reward.
Next time: Mithra, the mythological Zoroastrian messiah on which the Jesus
myth was probably based.
Buddha: "If god permits such misery, he can not be good, and if he is
powerless to prevent, he can not be god."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank