Religion 2010 Wish List

Dionysus

This isn’t about how all religions are very nice chaps, really, or that–ideally–all religions promote peace on earth, good will toward men, and women, in their own very different ways. Not even the religion that copyrighted that slogan in the New Testament after stealing it from Virgil’s fourth eclogue (where it’s assigned to the Muses of Sicily) has been able to follow the advice of the angel choirs.

No, this isn’t about how religions are greatly misunderstood by nearly everybody who feels less than passionately about religion, how they inevitably fall short, like David the King, of what they really and truly and essentially are. I have no idea what any given religion essentially is and much less an idea what religion in general essentially is. I have theories, of course.

But I do know that religion is slippery when confronted with its sins–ranging from blowing up fellow worshipers or abusing children in rectories and laundries, to grabbing one more snip of land before “peace talks” (I love the phrase: so standard we overlook how insipid it is) can resume in Israel. Convenient too that any “religion” can say (with deference to the greatly overrated and entheogenic Huston Smith), “You must mean the other man’s [sic] faith.”

Religion alone seems able to convince ordinary people that there is no point at which abuses and sins become definitive and not exceptional: imagine judging a serial rapist by saying that he’s simply failing to live up to his ideals and that, for all appearances, he’s really a very nice chap.

Down with ideals and on to concrete proposals in this tenth year in the third millennium of the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ awaiting his long delayed coming. (What did you think AD meant?).

It is time for a list of things religions must give up, forswear, abandon and forever repudiate in order to be what they want to be–or say they do: mechanisms of peace, justice, compassion and love of humanity.

Christianity

1. Abandon the mythology of Genesis. God did not make the world in 6, 8 or 1000 days or 1000 days of years. Stop squabbling over Hebrew syntax and what you think the Biblical writers meant. They meant what they wrote and they were wrong. We know far too much about how things really came about to believe any of the nonsense written by a Hebrew-speaking priest of the sixth century BCE who thought things came about by a direct act of his hereditary deity.

2. Abandon any suggestion that you are doing science when you teach creationism. “Mysteries” are not taught in schools. Science is not about the unexplained but about the way we can best explain things. If you want students to learn about creationism, teach it in a junior year mythology class alongside Greek and Roman literature.

3. Stop trying to convert people. Do you hear me you evangelical jabberwockies? Yea, the day is coming–yea it approacheth, when the converts will stop listening because you have no idea what you’re talking about and no one in Malawi can eat the biblical bread you promise when the maize crop fails again.

4. To Our Catholic Brothers and Sisters: Abandon the liturgy you stumbled into in the 1960’s. It sounds like the 1960’s. If you must continue it, make your priests wear balloon-sleeve transparent yellow shirts with flouncy cuffs, paisley ties, and flare-bottom jeans. Maybe a striped pancho for special feasts. If you sound like an era, look like an era. And also with you.

5. To the Anglicans: Good job of putting all divisive theological issues aside, especially those based on that uncooperative tome called the Bible. Now stop counting theological success and rectitude in the number of gay and lesbian bishops you ordain, admit you’re agnostics who like to dress up and have a good time with it.

6. To all fundamentalists: Blessed art thou among Christians, for even though you will surely not see God and the Kingdom, and even though your personal morals are as shoddy as everyone else’s, you probably really believe what you say. Now, go back to school, learn a little science, and take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake. Oh, and please stop mucking up the airwaves with your prayers and singing and sales pitches. It keeps me from watching the real shopping channels–the ones where I can actually order something that comes in a box, something that I can really be disappointed with when it doesn’t fit.

Muslims

1. Give up the idea that the Quran is the most beautiful poetry ever written, the most perfect Arabic ever set to ink, the closest we can approach God in the scheme of time. Are you inhaling this stuff or just smoking? You have two hundred poets whose Arabic is better, any one of which could have won in a slam-down with Gabriel.

2. For all I know, Mecca is a lovely place. But get a second archaeological opinion on the Kaaba and especially that Neolithic outcrop, the jamarat, where people get trampled to death every year at the Haj trying to throw one last stone at the stone devils before curfew tolls and they have to board the bus. (Most recent tragedy, 2006: a stampede killed at least 346 pilgrims and injured at least 289 more.) –-Better now that the pillars have been hidden from view behind a wall, but still a pretty dubious ritual. My suggestion: learn to throw rocks at your politicians and hateful, firebrand illiterate mullahs who keep you from being nice chaps, really.

3. Let your women get an education. Admit that the most ordinary housewife who chooses to wear hijab to keep her husband and eldest son happy is smarter than the average imam. Don’t cut off people’s legs for adultery. Stop the stoning. Stop saying that cliterodectomy is un-Islamic, or rather shout it out and mean it. Don’t throw battery acid in girls’ faces for consorting with boys en route to school. Stop torching the schools.

4. If you think everyone in the religious world is evil and that you alone possess the key to truth, maybe a nice debating club would provide sufficient technology and less loss of life than your current plan. You really are making a lot of enemies this way—I have to be honest.

5. Stop promoting fallacies and false history. Medieval Arabic science was truly remarkable. Philosophy and medicine especially, and physics, not to be sneezed at. Now teach the real reasons the Islamic star ceased to shine brightly–dynastic feuding, internecine violence, a vilification of secular and scientific learning that continues today–and no fair jumping ahead to the Crusades or the colonial period for your answer. In general, the crusaders were far too stupid to pick up anything along the route to Jerusalem except diseases and by the time colonialism comes into view Islamic learning had been in eclipse for five hundred years.

6. Stop whingeing about how people who “blaspheme” or defame Islam are the “source” of violence within Islam. Here is a cart.

Notice that the horse is different because the thing on legs pulls the thing on wheels. Is this analogy unclear? See 5, above re: learning.

7. Stop blowing yourself up and calling the killing of your friends and neighbours “martyrdom.”

Nobody else is doing this. You are. In general, I don’t have an opinion on the wisdom of cultivating religious doctrine through suicide bombing, but I tend to think it’s counterproductive and immensely stupid, don’t you?

If the early Christians had tried this against their pagan persecutors in the marketplaces of the Roman world there’d be no one left to tell their story. If this had been the tactic of the medieval bishops against the heretics and Jews, guess who would have come out on top?

Judaism

1. There are no chosen people. There are just people. It is depressing, isn’t it? We all want to be special.

2. Stop trying to sell archaeological crap to the gullible west and Alabama Baptist yokels. You did not find Jesus’ family tomb. You did not find a neighbour’s house in Nazareth and probably not even Nazareth (Show me the city limits sign). I know that $1,000,000 comes rolling in every time you get a story on the cover of Newsweek, but you and I both know that this schlock is going to be available at Remainders ‘R Us a year from now when no one is looking.

3. Do your construction teams ever take a vacation? If I had been raised to think (as every Palestinian has been raised to think) that Israeli bulldozers are as aggressive and hateful as tanks I might see you as invaders and occupiers. I know you need to find room for the swimming pools (God wouldn’t want his chosen people wandering around in a desert, now, would he?), but give it a rest.

4. I know I will be slapped for saying this, but you really must get over the Holocaust. Yes, of course, I believe 6,000,000 Jews were slaughtered for no reason except their beliefs. Yes, I believe it was the greatest sacrilege against humanity of the twentieth century, not counting Hiroshima. But I think the best guess is that between 62 and 78 million people died in World War II, and in one way or another all were victims of the same racist ideology. Perspective is always nice, and at some point you will need to confront the fact that history is unkind to the monuments of persecution and tragedy. At a certain point, the cry for justice sounds a lot like the God of the Bible who screams for revenge.

5. Stop winning so many Nobel Prizes. It’s so embarrassing it’s not even funny. But your comedians are.

And to All?

1. All of you need to relinquish belief in heaven, hell, eternal reward, and eternal punishment. And of any God who participates in such abusive game-playing. These things do not exist except in your head. To the extent any of your conduct–towards virtue or towards killing infidels who don’t agree with you–is motivated by eschatology, you are living a dangerous fantasy and teaching your daughters and sons it is true.

2. All of you need to grow up a little. Some religions more than others, some people within each tradition more than the rest. It’s no wonder that some of our best minds since the nineteenth century have compared religion to infantile delusion and childlike behavior. Sorry to say, most of the people who see religion this way have been semi-believers or unbelievers.

But who’d deny that the Taliban behave like two year-olds with guns rather than like men, whether they are beating girls or blowing up Buddha statues in Bamyan. The robust beards are only masks for the deep sense of masculine insecurity they mistake for obedience to God’s will. Their wives will know better.

3. Value secular learning. I do not know whether the truth will make you, or me, free. I do know that religious truth is normally a shortcut for the intellectually lazy, crafted and sustained by preachers who like one-book solutions to the manifold problems of a complex world. There are no one book solutions, and if there were, they will not have been written in antiquity.

Both the Bible and the Quran have served that purpose in their time. ButTruth in the sense religions try to frame it–as dogma or superior knowledge–isn’t worth a confederate dollar. Knowledge of history, science, and the things of this world will get you a lot farther down the road to true salvation than religion will. Embrace it.

4. Don’t rely overmuch on “interfaith dialogue,” the corporate certainties of the religious world, the merging of fantasies in favour of a grandly mistaken worldview and the substitution of “dialogue” for serious reflection and discourse. As religions grow less confident in the twenty first century, at least in terms of their ethical and explanatory value for human life,they will turn again to the arena of martyrdom as a proving ground for faith above reason. Do not be fooled.

Postscript on the Holocaust, December 29, 2009

I knew I would be held to the fire for using a phrase like “get over” in relation to the Holocaust. I have been. What I meant of course is that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of holocaust victims and survivors will not be able to sustain the horror of the event: history erodes not only the intensity of a moment but often its significance for people born long after the moment is past. Jewish friends and relatives agonize over this very pattern; it is a loss of sensitivity familiar most of all to Jews. I am worried that creating an idol of horror-of making the holocaust a religious symbol rather than a human catastrophe (in part, of course, religiously-motivated and supported and with a long history in European civilization), will make it transcendent and incomprehensible. Hollywood and holocaust-themed memorials and museums may play a useful role in pricking memory and consciousness, but their proliferation also betokens what the historian Robert Hewison once called the “imaginative death of reality.”

Human beings did this. It has to be come to terms with at the human level and not preserved as another idol of the tribe. “Getting over” is not the best way of saying “come to terms with, comprehend, move forward,” but that is what I meant.

44 thoughts on “Religion 2010 Wish List

  1. You will definitely catch some flak for the Holocaust complaint, but I absolutely agree. Almost every ethnic group can find something in its past to get its back up about. My mother’s side of the family is Irish, but we quit hating the English several generations ago. Even the Armenians have, for the most part, quit griping. It’s time to let it go. The Nazis lost, after all, and we’re still making movies (I just watched “Inglorious Basterds”) celebrating how evil they were. Apologize for Madoff or something.

  2. I think your Holocaust comment is misleading and misguided for a number of reasons.

    1. Jews were not slaughtered “for their beliefs.” Europe’s Jews were killed simply due to the accident of their birth and of their Jewish race.
    2. Hiroshima was worse than the Holocaust? Not to get into oppression Olympics here but that’s absurd. At least pick Nagasaki, which was much more gratuitous. In any case, even combining the deaths from both bombings you would have maximum 230,000 deaths, which while terrible isn’t even close to how many Jews died at Auschwitz alone. Also, while dying of radiation poisoning is hardly pleasant, it’s not really comparable to the systematic starvation, torture, dehumanization, degradation, rape and murder of millions of men, women and children.
    3.Dying in combat in WWII or even being an unfortunate casualty of war is NOT the same as what happened to the Jews. While not every person killed in the camps or in the war was a Jew, almost every Jew was killed. Proportionally, the Jews suffered by far the highest casualties of any group.
    4. No other genocide or attack on civilians in history has ever been quite like the Holocaust, where there was no political or territorial struggle at hand like with the Armenian, Rwandan or Kosovar genocides/ethnic cleansings. In fact, evidence shows that the effort to destroy the Jews became increasingly deleterious to the Nazi cause as the war marched on – the labor camps where they worked Jews to death never produced anything like what they cost and German resources at the end of the war were diverted towards moving the camps instead of retreating into strategic positions.
    5. What is unique about the Holocaust is how such an integrated population as German Jews could be gradually, piece by piece, otherized, separated from their Aryan neighbors and deprived of all human rights until they were objects that could be killed, beaten or tortured at will. The point of all the torture, the humiliations, the degradation, the dehumanization was not to punish the Jews because they hated them but rather to inoculate the Aryan guards and the SS men tasked with killing them against any strains of conscience. This is why the Holocaust is still relevant and will always be relevant – because it shows you how easy it is to make a person or a whole society into what the Third Reich became.
    6. Also, unlike the Armenians or Tutsi or Japanese to any large extent, the Jews are still targeted by violent extremists who want to exterminate them – not just Islamic fundamentalists who want to wipe Israel off the map but a surprising number of white supremacist and radical right-wing extremist groups in the US and Europe, many of whom believe that there is a Jewish conspiracy that is waging a secret war on the white race and that the Jews must be destroyed. These hate groups have increased 4% in the last year alone and there are more than 900 in the US. Many have turned to ‘lone wolf’ models, making them nearly impossible to catch. Examples of violence by these groups include the 1984 murder of Denver talk radio host Alan Berg by the Order, a group of white supremacists trying to overthrow the US government, the Oklahoma City bombing, and more recently the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C and the attempt on the life of the president by two men who were going to behead 88 black school children (88=HH= Heil Hitler) and then shoot Obama. People who want to create another Holocaust are real and they are here today. The same can hardly be said of English who want to re-enslave the Irish.
    7. Also, Jews do not, as a rule, hate German people. Just for the record.
    8. @ littlejohn – that last comment was pretty anti-semitic, actually. Think about it – you want Jews as a people to apologize for the actions of an evil financier. He robbed mostly fellow Jews and Jewish CHARITIES so I think he hardly is widely supported in the Jewish community.

  3. While we’re getting over it, let’s put Pearl Harbor to rest too. The Japanese have be our good albeit very competitive allies for a long, long time now. Could we soon just let December 7th be a day in early December and not an excuse to lament what bastards those Japs were?

  4. Put me in the queue for all the above wishes please, but include for me, atheists: get over your crippling experience with religion, get over yourselves and stop playing the battered victim in your pathetic pity parties. And stop abusing all religious people and religions indiscriminately. Stop giving ‘atheism’ a bad name. Get a life and smell the roses.

    Boy, does that sound angry?🙂

    • Hi Stephanie Louise,

      Boy, that does sound angry. At me?

      I wonder although I am an atheist who has missed the parties (dragnat it!), pity and otherwise.

      I passed my childhood in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I still remember the music at my grandmother’s church. Every Sunday I got to fold the mimeographed service handout into a water bomb, and sometimes I got to fill and throw it. Or I’d climb the walls of the church, hand over hand. So I went back, and besides, my family took me.

      But by the time I was twelve (1959) I was a conscious atheist. I ascribe that early awareness in large part to the cognitive dissonance imposed by my experience within the sect. Even then, I could see that it didn’t make sense.

      Now I see my childhood mythos for what it was. I believe all religious peoples and religions believe and promulgate similar myths. Is this abuse?

      P.S. I particularly like the magnificent Fragrant Cloud, don’t you?

  5. Thank you for this article. Unfortunately, it probably will not reach as many people as could benefit by contemplating it, but I am encouraged to know that someone is still open to what is actually happening and not stuck in tying to explain it or justify it. One of my favorite song lyrics points to the fact that it’s about time to recognize that someone will always be first in line and someone will always be last, but the real point is that it is you and me together, it’s all of us or none since Earth is our only home. The divisions you so clearly express haven’t done much but cause bloodshed and misunderstanding. Maybe we could try learning from one another as you suggest in the education of those who do not currently have access. Maybe we could deal with our racial debts and move into the present. Carrying the burdens unto the seventh generation may be Biblical, but it’s not psyhologically or geo-politically very helpful. Well done to you!

  6. Nice article, and a good list for the various faiths to work with. Christians must be doing relatively OK, you had to split them out into varieties to get enough things to work on.

    I’ll give you a short burst of flak from an unexpected direction on your Holocaust comment: You really need to get over the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It (almost certainly) saved lives, unlike Hitler’s death camps.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/nuclear_01.shtml

    • I think you misread that entry, the article wasn’t obsessing over the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, I’m pretty sure it only mentioned it in passing. Yes, the atomic bomb brought a swift halt to war with Japan, saving the lives of many American servicemen who would have fought and died in a continued war effort. But if you’re trying to say that it wasn’t an atrocity against humanity, then you’re out of your mind. They didn’t drop those bombs on Japanese military compounds or naval bases, they dropped them on two cities where they killed 140,000 civilians (women and children) instantly and thousands more over time from radiation poisoning.

      Sure, that’s not as bad as the 6,000,000 innocent people (including many christians) that died in Hitler’s death camps. And the point still stands that we should all try and dwell a little less on the sins of our fathers. But don’t try and gloss over the fact that it was an absolutely nightmarish way for all those citizens of Japan to meet their end.

      • Dear Yukimo,

        Atrocity is atrocity when you count the dead in hundreds. Stalin is supposed to have said “one death is a tragedy, 1,00,000 deaths is a statistic.” The point is we are able to abstract the effect from the cause when the numbers are so great. Thanks for your comment!

      • Yumiko, I read the entry carefully enough I think. It strongly implied that Hiroshima was worse than the Holocaust in terms of a sacrilege against humanity. That is clear nonsense.

        If you read the link I provided, you will see that ironically the atomic bomb saved many more Japanese lives than American. Maybe you should consult the history books on what happened on Okinawa – more Japanese died there than at the two A-bomb cities, and there was every reason to expect a much greater version of the same tragedy in an invasion.

        War is hell. Nobody disagrees with this. The Japanese nation was guilty of quite appalling atrocities which resulted in far greater suffering than was experienced by the civilians in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, so your attempt to usurp the balance of suffering is misplaced.

        Hitler’s extermination camps, incidentally, killed more like 10-11 million people, once we include the non-Jews.

      • > they killed 140,000 civilians (women and children)

        Killing women and children is worse than killing men? As a man, I find that attitude frightening.

        And while bombing military installations can be better justified as an attempt to cripple the war-making abilities of one’s adversary, soldiers also have families.

    • You are incorrect. The article was not saying that Hiroshima was a greater atrocity, only that it was the only other single event that came close in terms of it’s heinousness.

      Also, if the atomic bomb is such a humanitarian device, then why didn’t we utilize it to spare all those women and children in Viet Nam and why are we not implementing it in the Middle East? Are we so desensitized that we do not care about saving the lives of innocent people over there as well?

      • It wasn’t used in Vietnam becuase Vietnam was a war-by-proxy between the US and the USSR. During WWII the US was the only country in the world with nuclear bombs, and even they only had two. Using nuclear bombs in Vietnam could easily have led to WWIII and modern civilization going up in hundreds of mushroom clouds.

        We don’t use them in the Middle East because there is nothing to use them against. Blowing Iraqi or Afghanastani cties off the map would just motivate the guerilla fighters.

      • Yumiko, since the lead author said the Holocaust was “the greatest sacrilege against humanity of the twentieth century, not counting Hiroshima”, he was clearly implying that Hiroshima was worse than the Holocaust; but even allowing your interpretation of comparable sacrilege, I disagree vehemently.

        Your straw-man argument of an atomic bomb as a humanitarian device is frankly pathetic. When you can present a likely scenario from the other conflicts you mention that would put the actual casualties above those of nuclear weapons use, you might have a point worth debating. Until then you are just trying to shore up your semi-religious position.

  7. Nice article, but I wish you wouldn’t have confused “Judaism” with “the Israeli Government”. Yes, the Israeli Government is Jewish, but their policies are not inherently “Judaic” or necessarily representative or world Jewish culture.

    • Gosh, your comment just led me to an epiphany. I’m thinking now that Religion is used by nefarious brutes that want to impose their will on everybody else by covering their disdain for their fellow many with the cloak of a holy scriptures and deities. In the past I’ve felt that religion is the root of all evil but now I see that evil permeates our species and manifests itself best through religion.

      “All of you need to grow up a little.” This should be a new commandment for our time.

      “immerse your soul in love”

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  9. I agree w/ everything you had to say, and thanks for nailing it down so clearly. As far as your Holocaust statement, I do know where you were coming from, and it wasn’t an insensitive place. I’d even like to take it a step further by saying the Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to fight each other for as long as both sides are willing to kill over fairy tales. Additionally, when only 75% of Israel is represented on the country’s flag, I’d say “Israeli Government” and “Judaism” are indeed, through the eyes of millions, interchangable. When a nation’s flag touts the symbol of the religion of “The Chosen People,” that nation just negated their classification as a democracy and couldn’t, any more clearly, give the finger to a huge chunk of thier population, than Israel has. “The Chosen People” sounds an awful lot like “Master Race” to my ears. Man oh man, there needs to be an anti-religion movement, in the name of human progress…

  10. I can see there’s some dispute above over whether or not you have implied that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was an atrocity greater than the Holocaust. I would suggest you clarify if you did not intend to imply that, since I can think of no other reason for you to even reference Hiroshima in this context.

    By any reasonable standard, Hiroshima pales in comparison to the Holocaust. If you actually think Hiroshima is comparable (or, somehow worse?) I’d be really interested to know what kind of logic you are using.

  11. How interesting…! a website dedicated to tearing down the foundations of hope and belief. It’s also interesting to me that someone would put so much energy and thought into an “anti-this” and “anti-that” campaign. You must be a joy to work with. I expect that you would like to erect a “Non-beneficial Suggestion Box” in most work place. I’m sending you here a url for “Non-inspirational Quotes” Should be right up your alley.

    http://positivesharing.com/2003/10/non-inspirational-quotes/

    • Based on this comment I can’t imagine you’ve read this piece. Doesn’t seem to stop you from having a reaction. I am certainly against (anti-) the monstrosities that religious extremism and dogmatism create. It would be hard to justify any of the actions here as “sources of hope and belief” unless you (a) believe any action perpetrated in the name of God is justified because it’s religious or (b) believe that none of these actions has anything to do with anyone’s religion-which is an assumption I challenge as being foolish. Thanks for the link. I will look at it when I’m bored out of my mind.

    • A wonderful example of why education must be high on the list. Religion has brought so much death, hate and sadness to our world, not what people say they do but rather the reality of what they actually do. Ah yes, reality.

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  13. Oddly, whenever the Holocaust is taught, other examples of genocide are not. There is less focus on the horror of the pracise of genocide, and more on that of a single group that has been singled out in the history of the world. Our species has made great strides in slaughtering the other. I saw little effort in the early days of the Balkan “ethnic cleansing” to stop the killing. Even less in the civil wars in Africa.

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  16. More time would have let you move as well to those non-Abrahamic faiths that also hold all of us back. And the pseudo-religions in the political arena (Nazism, Stalinism, Teapartyism). But what you said so eloquently I agree with.

    On Hiroshima, we should remember that some of the scientists tried to get Truman and our military to demonstrate the bomb on an uninhabited island. That result might well have ended the war! Having been at Bikini for the postwar test, I can readily agree.

    • Sadly, Robert, I tend to think that a “harmless” demonstration of the A-bomb would have had zero effect on the leaders of Japan, quite apart from the impossibility of arranging their full observation of such an event in the context of all-out war, and the difficulty of effectively “discarding” such a potent weapon in the same context.

  17. The main problem with the Holocaust example was the “Jews were killed for their beliefs” phrase that isn’t exactly true. Also, there’s the issue with Jewish secular nationalism and Jewish nationality as opposed to their religion. Many Jews support Israel – sometimes even too much, being willing to excuse the most blatant atrocities and hypocrisy on Israel’s part – on nationalistic, not religious grounds. Many former Soviet Jews especially belong to that category.

  18. It is mow 2015. Why didn’t i gst my wish
    That is what happens when you make negative wishes:

    It is time for a list of things religions must give up, forswear, abandon and forever repudiate in order to be what they want to be–or say they do: mechanisms of peace, justice, compassion and love of humanity.

    Positive wishes are the way to go:

    It is time for a list of things atheism must do, embrace, cling to and forever practise in order to be what they want to be–or say they do: mechanisms of peace, justice, compassion and love of humanity(???)

    In a spirit of goodwill, I am assigning the noblest of motives to atheism. Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence. So let’s talk about the evidence, shall we?

    1. Start establishing atheist soup kitchens for the starving. It is ridiculous that this good work should be left to the religious hypocrites and in any case atheists have a large pool of enthusiastic volunteers, eager to give up their time for the good of others.

    2. Establish atheist aid distribution centers. By letting religions monopolise this activity we give up a huge propaganda opportunity. And in any case, appearances are misleading. Atheists are much more generous people, they only need the opportunity to show this.

    3. Build, establish and run atheist schools. Once again, it is ridiculous that we let the Catholics monopolise the good work of brainwashing young children. Atheist are far better at brainwashing. They could turn out cookie cutter freethinkers by the million. There is no reason why the best schools in the country should be run by the religious. Afterall, atheism can do so much better.

    4. Establish atheist universities. Yet another lost opportunity as atheists yield the field of excellence to the Catholics. Atheism should establish at least one university so that Richard Dawkins can be made Chancellor. The glory of his illustrious name will give the university an incomparable advantage.

    5. Build and run atheist hospitals. It is incomprehensible that we let the Catholics muscle in on such a lucrative activity. Atheists are far more caring and compassionate. They would tell dying patients the simple truth, this is the end of the road, pal, no more hope for you. They will die in gratitude, transported by this final vision of the ultimate truth.

    6. Establish atheist medical clinics in the poor townships and slums. Religion dominated this field for a long time as they realised it offered great opportunities for proselytising. It is time to change this and draw on the vast body of enthusiastic, sincere and compassionate atheist volunteers at our disposal. By giving atheists a useful outlet for their energy we can once and for all put an end to the nasty mudslinging that characterises idle atheists.

    7. Write The Really Good Book(tm) to supplant the Bible. Yup, this has been tried before but nobody could be bothered to read Grayling’s soporific nonsense. I recommend that Dawkins, Harris, Coyne and Myers collaborate on this book. The synergy of their vitriol is sure to produce a best selling masterpiece to rival even Shakespeare. Atheism must play to its strength and stop trying to compete with the sickening, cloying stuff written by the religious.

    8. Establish Atheist Assemblies in every village, town, city and suburb. There is a vast body of atheists anxiously waiting the opportunity to gather, share stories, read The Really Good Book, sing non-hymns and support each other in the great missionary work of attacking religion. These are the recruitment centres that will sustain activities 1 through 7 above. Do not be afraid to borrow good ideas from religion since atheism can always do it better.

    9. Establish Atheist Seminaries in major centres. This is where atheism’s leadership cadres will be trained. They will become the full time organisers, spreading the good work of atheism across the planet. Within the recruitment centres(Atheist Assemblies) one will find many enthusiastic young people, eager to give up the rich rewards of business so that they can live a life of sacrifice to spread the good word of atheism.

    and finally, most important of all

    10. Create a unifying leader, the Unpope, It is long overdue that atheism also had a leader of great stature to confer with the leaders of the world and to inspire huge assemblies of millions of the atheist faithful. Now that atheism has its very own satyr, er martyr, Avijit Roy, the Unpope could create atheism’s first Aint by demonising him. Wait, is that the atheist alternative to ‘canonising’? Language is a tricky thing.

    Time to be positive, but that comes naturally to atheism, its in their DNA (Delightful New Atheism)

    • I agree with this comment-completely. But surely not everything I say here about the religious traditions is negative. This older blog actually needs updating four years on. In some ways, the activities of Christian evangelic las is far worse, as they have sided with the gun loby and the voices of unreason in America. The Jews have done no better, and violence in Islam is proportionately worse. I do agree with you that atheism is not on afast track for moral superioriity and the relihgion has done phenomenal good in the worlds of education, charity, and humane values. That does not mean we should not look at the whole picture, and the whole picture is rather depressing. But FYI I have argued exactly this case against atheism on this site–and more than once.

      • But surely not everything I say here about the religious traditions is negative.

        Quite so. You generally adhere to the principle of charity. You are also very much an equal opportunity demolition agent when it comes to disposing of the pompous, the vain and the misguided. And you do it in such a well informed way, with terrific style, which is why I read you, even as I dodge some of the blows that come in my general direction.

        That does not mean we should not look at the whole picture, and the whole picture is rather depressing.

        While I agree with this, it does also create something of a conundrum for you, as an atheist. Let’s, for the moment, grant your position that there is no God. In that case religion is simply another expression of the host nation’s culture(what else could it possibly be?[1]). Now if that is true, religion must be understood, not on its own, but in the context of the surrounding culture in which it is embedded. It is a continuous and seamless part of that culture. Its behaviour and abuses are then an expression of the prevailing culture in the host society. Given this, it makes no sense to criticise religion as though it were an independent thing, grafted onto the society but somehow independent of it.

        This is a major change of perspective but it is inevitable if you do not believe in God’s existence.
        Seen from this perspective, Islam is a movement created to reflect the cultural values and aspirations of Arab nations. Then understanding Islam requires one to understand Arab culture and history. Criticising Islam is to miss the point. The real target of the criticism must be the Arab culture. Once that is understood, the criticism becomes broader, more nuanced and context laden. It now becomes possible to see militant Islam as an expression of frustrated Arab nationalism.

        The moment this point is understood it immediately becomes obvious how something like the Crusades could have happened and that Christianity could not, of itself, be considered to be the cause. The cause has to be found in the culture and context of the times.

        But I suspect I am preaching to the choir! Your earlier writings have shown a deep sensitivity to context, culture and history.

        [1] You could argue that it is like a tumour, self contained, with clear boundaries between itself and the host, but feeding off the host. The evidence does not bear this out. It is shaped and coloured by the host culture. It serves an important role in the host culture and functions very much as other parts of the culture do. There is no major difference of kind which would mark it out as being something foreign, grafted onto the culture.

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