I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because notice it always coincides with their own desires – Susan B Anthony
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. This is completely unthinkable and I find it quite ironic 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 pay homage to truth, and obviously I understand truth a little differently from Christians. For me, truth is how any given statement corresponds with rational thought and empirical evidence. Reason is my ally and it is a powerful one, at that. Critical thought is my main tool for how I comprehend the world around me, and this comprehension 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. The explanations of the results must be in it’s simplest form and free of contradictions. But most importantly, truth also requires continued attempts to falsify it.
My resistance to religion is simple. There exists no empirical evidence to support the existence of gods, goddesses, devils, demons, spirits, jinns, ghosts, spooks, specters, apparitions or anything else that has been tagged with the illogical term, “supernatural.” Religious belief defies reason and cannot be tested and as the good Dr. Dawkins often states,
“I believe you [believers] are sincere, but I also believe you 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 inscrutable 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 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.
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. Religious belief is blind obedience to bronze-age superstitions based on ignorance, and propagated by divine tyrants and 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.