Why Don’t You Just “Believe?”

An Excerpt from “A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth

I get many different reactions from people who discover that I’m not a religious man, which is an understatement. These words are uttered in a gamut of emotion from surprise to anger, depending on how long the person has known me. No matter what has led to our conversation and often ensuing debate on matters of religious belief, their exasperated finale usually ends up with something close to, “Why don’t you just believe?” They don’t seem to understand that they are requesting me to abandon or discount everything that I have learned about the sciences over the past twenty-five years. I am asked to believe in a religion based on a book that, as Dan Barker points out, “has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories.”  This action, to me, is completely unthinkable.

There is a definition of Fundamental Christianity floating around on the Internet. I have been searching for authorship to give proper credit, but the author still eludes me. I laugh whenever I come across it, and thus I will share it with you:

Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree”

As blasphemous as that is to the faithful, there is a lot of truth in it, and it’s in this truth that I find the irony of the philosophical trade that I am consistently asked to make. I am not a superstitious fellow. I am an atheist.  My opinions about religion are based on reason, not doctrines, dogmas, superstitions or other sectarian authorities. I pay no homage to messiahs, creeds or holy books, nor do I consider mystical revelations or blind faith as valid.

I understand truth to be how any given statement corresponds with rational thought and empirical evidence. Reason is my ally and it is a powerful one. Reason and critical thought are my main tools for comprehension, understanding and truth, which is then confirmed only through the strict tests of the scientific method. Truth must be testable, and by virtue, must require evidence and repeatable experiments to confirm it, as well as continued attempts to falsify it. The explanation of what results must be in it’s simplest form and free of contradictions. Contrary to what the religious would like you to think, I am a  moral person. I measure morality in terms of reason and kindness. The belief that Fundamental Christianity has cornered the market on morality has been repeatedly proved false. What is moral is simply what doesn’t hurt others. Kindness sums up everything. I base morality on human needs, not imagined “cosmic absolutes.”  To me, a moral dilemma is one that involves a conflict of values. I resolve these conflicts using reason to weigh the outcome of any given situation.

Fundamental religion, however, promotes a dangerous and inadequate version of morality that is based on blind obedience, objective ultimatums and juvenile promises of a reward in heaven. The disobedient get threats of everlasting punishment in an utterly gruesome, sadistic place called “hell” for disobedience.

Albert Einstein said, “Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”

I prefer to base my actions on the consequences to real, living human beings. The wildly popular “Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren, swept the country several years ago. It offered the faithful a reason for their existence on earth. The problem is that religion cannot give your life purpose.  Not even Christianity. Religion can only give you someone else’s interpretation of purpose for your life, or invite you to explore what purpose a non-existent entity has for you. Both of these are inherently dangerous.

We should not forget that crashing airplanes into buildings, shooting physicians who provide legal medical procedures and the be-heading of  disobedient women are faith-based initiatives. These extreme actions are the only logical conclusions that can come from religious fulfillment, if one believes the Judeo – Christian – Islamic holy books are the literal word of their god.

I am confident that the genesis of meaning and purpose absolutely must begin in my mind. The universe is cold, vast and mindless. It does not care about me, you or anyone for that matter.  The caring must come from within us. My sense of purpose comes as the result of compassion, altruism, joy, love and the progression of human knowledge. The fundamentalists insist that there must be a designer and point to human characteristics and the natural world as proof, but life does not demand a designer.

All we need is a reasonable explanation.

Fortunately, the undeniable and proven facts of evolution, including evolutionary psychology, explain everything from altruism to the existence of chaos, ugliness and pain in the universe

My resistance to religion is simple. There exists no empirical evidence to support the existence of gods, goddesses, devils, demons, spooks, spirits, jinns, ghosts, specters, apparitions or anything else supernatural. As well, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose it.  Religious belief defies reason and cannot be tested. While I believe many fundamentalists are sincere, I also believe they are hallucinating. There is no advantage to believing a lie and there is no excuse for sacrificing logic and reason in favor of superstition. This is unconscionable to me.

I think religion is more harmful than it is worth,  as it has been used to justify almost every war ever fought and is responsible for horrific blights on our society. Only through religion have we come to know slavery, sexism, racism, homophobia, mutilations, intolerance and the oppression of millions of minorities. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes choke progress. If you think good deeds are an argument for the existence of religion, consider that even militant terrorist organizations have social programs available for their followers.

The thing, dear readers, is that many believers would be good people even if they had no religion. Religion has no monopoly on good deeds. In fact, the lion’s share of the progress we enjoy is the result of work done by those who are not religious. Edison, Einstein, Darwin, Stanton, Curie, Freud, Russell, Dawkins… The list goes on and on. Contrasting this is the fact that religion has a history of consistent resistance to progress.

Atheism is largely misunderstood. It is not a political position. All of us are not progressive socialists. We come from all walks of life and we don’t have a cohesive organization.  We are Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, Socialists, Capitalists, Conservatives, Liberals, etc.  A cross section of humanity.

Atheism is not a religion, either. It is just a lack of belief in the supernatural and it only requires a commitment to skepticism and reason. Religion requires the acceptance of the supernatural,  holy writings, and the conformation to absolutes.

I keep my mind free from religious dogma.  I test ideas and then retest them and then either adopt or discard them based on evidence.  I’m not without emotion, but I am suspect of what contradicts science, refutes reason and is not open to question.

What the fundamentalist Christian regularly refers to as  “freedom in Christ” is nothing more than credulous servitude.

It is  blind obedience to bronze-age superstitions based on ignorance, and propagated by divine tyrants.  The individuals who brought us these dogmas were from a primitive time in our history. They had no concept of anything even remotely consistent with modern science. They did not know where thunder and lighting came from, what caused drought, why an animal had more than one color, why disease existed or what “line of sight” was.

Religion was borne out of the terrified infancy of our species. It is an insult to the collective knowledge of human thought.  It misrepresents the origins of humankind and the cosmos. It demands unreasonable suppression of human nature, inclines people to violence, requires blind submission to authority and is hostile to free inquiry.

Only the freethinker is truly free. 

  2 comments for “Why Don’t You Just “Believe?”

  1. July 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    if you look at the teachings of Jesus Christ from the three gospels, Mark, Luke and Matthew, it would seem that there is a fundamental problem with “just believing”

    the whole point of christianity (I can’t speak for other religions, i’ve only rejected one religion, and from that experience, that was enough, thanks) was to be a good person, that’s what many christians claim when they say that atheists can not possibly be moral people, because atheists are non-believers.

    the central message of Christianity is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” … aka “love thy neighbour”… aka. “the golden rule” .. this is the second commandment that JC taught… the first being “love thy god before all others” ..

    at this point, it’s pertinent to mention that these commandments are actions that you must *do* … unlike some of the ten commandments where you can do nothing, and follow them… ie. “thou shalt not kill”, I’m following that one right now, and i suspect that at least six billion other people are doing the same right now as well.. but just because we are all following that commandment, that doesn’t make us good people

    the point being is that if one “just believes”, then how does that make you a good person when your messiah taught that you must *do* good things in order to be this good person?

    this is a fundamental problem if you are claiming to follow JC, as it would seem that “just believing” in Jesus is idolatry: as that turns “Jesus” into a thing or an icon that equates to being a good person..

    and in spite of what people have read from the book of John (esp John 3:16) the other three gospels state that you must do good things in order to be a good person in order to gain salvayshunn in da heavenuh, so thinking that “just believing” in JC makes you a good person, goes against the teachings of Jesus. ie. JC taught that you take actions to be a good person, “just believing” is not taking action so it is not what JC taught.. eg. the three gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew, beats the one gospel of John, right?

    so if you think that you are a good person by “just believing” in Jesus, then you are not believing in the Jesus from the bible, you believe in a *false* Jesus that you’ve made up. It may be similar to the “real” Jesus from the bible, but it’s not, because you just can not ignore the two commandments that Jesus taught and claim to be a christian.. so if you “just believe” in this Jesus version of yours that supposedly said to “just believe”, and you insist that he is the son of god, then you are worshipping a false Jesus, which is a false god and thus breaks the first commandment …

    just because the icon is in your mind, it’s does not negate that it’s still idolatry, in fact, the easiest place to commit idolatry is right there in your mind; ironically the non-believer is inherently not capable of idolatry, so when they die, they could therefore end up in heaven *accidentally* if they are not careful

    the USA, with its having “god” on currency and in the pledge is a massive example of idolatry on a national scale, it turns god into some icon that you see all the time, and i have no doubt that would lead to more of that “just” believing stuff where you simply think you are a good person because it says “in god we trust” on money, or that you pledged allegiance to god the flag and country or whatever for the ten years you went to school

    “just believing” in JC would seem to be a massive problem if you think your eternal life is dependant upon it, especially in the USA; and even if the other person is actually kind and follows the teachings of Jesus to the letter, if they say to you that you should “just believe”, then they are asking you to commit idolatry, because you can’t “just believe” unless you go and do good things in order to be saved, or so the story goes

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