To Serve Man

Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all – Linus Pauling

I’ve receive a lot of mail. Most of it positive, but there is a significant amount that is not. I often get accused of being as intolerant as those I write about. I think that my detractors have failed to understand that what I am intolerant of is intolerance, such as it is. I know that sometimes I come across as arrogant and strident, but when dealing with the fundamental mindset, it is sometimes difficult to remain composed, polite and cordial. While I think that people who believe in the existence of a deity are misguided to one degree or another, I do not think badly of them.

However, those who hold to fundamentalism, particularly fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are the kinds of people I call “wrong.“ I do not claim to be right in my unbelief on a philosophical level. Philosophy involves areas that can be subject to a lot of varied stimuli. Being a secular humanist, belief in the supernatural has absolutely no place in my worldview.  There are a few areas where I will make claims to being right in my unbelief, though.

I claim my belief to be right because my worldview does not include killing people for disagreeing with me. I am right in my unbelief because my worldview doesn’t involve the willful ignorance of facts. I am right in my unbelief because the choice to adhere to a system of belief that should be condemned for the havoc it has wreaked upon humanity is consistently ignored. The excuse that the church no longer puts people do death is of no consolation to those who have been its victims over the last several thousand years. What would the reaction of a jury be if an accused murderer used the defense that he or she hasn’t killed for a while?

I speak plainly, and I do so because it is necessary when discussing religion. I don’t mince my words about religious dogma for fear of insulting the orthodox believer because I believe the time has passed long ago for being tolerant of barbarism, be it in action as is with radical Islam or in principal, as is with fundamentalist Christianity. Those who believe in fairy tales need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the post-modern era for their own good. They lack the mental acuity to realize that they are living a lie, that they are placing the trust of their life decisions and the decisions for those whom they are charged with caring for in the hands of a very dangerous and devious mythological being.

Sometimes you’ve got to kick the crutches out from under someone so they can realize that they can actually walk on their own. There exist no problems within the scope of human existence that can be solved through theology.

Contrary to what theology teaches, religion does not strengthen the believer. Without a healthy skepticism and honed skills in critical thought and analysis, believers wander through a jungle of delusion without the tools, strength or knowledge necessary to clear away the tangled growth that enslaves them.

Once these tools are accepted and the gods of our ancestors and all associated dogma and doctrine are abandoned, the mind begins its journey toward complete religious emancipation and the fallacies of religion in its historic, scientific and metaphysical aspects become so apparent that the individual wonders how they ever could have believed such nonsense in the first place.

Religion puts humanity in a place of degradation. Religion teaches that we are nothing but filthy rags in the sight of its gods. It demands that our lives are spent either atoning for all that its gods accuse us of. It demands we obey utterly horrific commands and accept the doctrine of human sacrifice or any combination of these, depending upon which cult one is a member of. And they are all cults.

Religious belief impresses upon its followers that the worth of a human life is not based upon our existence in the here and now, but in the before and after. They fight for the unborn, stating that abortion is the murder of God’s precious creation, but as soon as the child enters the world it is a filthy rag, and does not regain favor in the sight of God until after death. Religion is an active and constant menace to civilization, and in many ways, Fundamental Christianity has no right to condemn the actions of radical Islam. Muslims are only guilty of acting out, otherwise they are kissing cousins. Religion is to the human race as the appendix is to the human body. At one time it was useful, but now it is nothing more than a detriment, and one that can kill in short order.

So, the battle rages on between the religious and the rest of us, whether we call ourselves atheists, secularists, humanists, naturalists or whatever. And as a member of the former group, it is my responsibility to be as outspoken as I possibly can, as clearly as I possibly can and with the intestinal fortitude that is becoming of a member of a group of people who are still very much a minority on this planet. But thanks to the increasing number of those of us who are tired of being nice, we are making headway.  While religious belief is well established and fortified, our consistent and relentless interference is making it more and more difficult for the religious to hold us up to the world as being base and degraded individuals.

It is us, not them, who hold the vision for our future as a species because we are earth-bound and our ideals are conceived in reality. The believer, in turn, is mired in delusion. They are convinced that they are heaven bound and thus, have little care for the continuation of our race. As for us, science is our weapon and reason is our ammunition. We have no use for gods, holy books, heaven, hell, souls, salvation, sin, prayer, creed, doctrine or dogma, as these things are about as influential to us as an ice-cube on the surface of the sun.

The collective intelligence of the humanity is the sole result of human inquiry.  It is through reason and the exercise of a free mind that overcomes superstition, and if there be a better future for mankind, it will come through us, not through those who are clinging to the last fragments of a decaying system of belief. So, we should not be tolerant, placating nor should we ever forget that religion would have us all staggering backward with a passion.  It is our duty to cultivate intellect because the religious are teaching that intellect should be distrusted.

“Men were born for the sake of men, that each should assist the others.” – Cicero

  31 comments for “To Serve Man

  1. October 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I claim my belief to be right because my worldview does not include killing people for disagreeing with me. I am right in my unbelief because my worldview doesn’t involve the willful ignorance of facts. I am right in my unbelief because the choice to adhere to a system of belief that should be condemned for the havoc it has wreaked upon humanity is consistently ignored. The excuse that the church no longer puts people do death is of no consolation to those who have been its victims over the last several thousand years. What would the reaction of a jury be if an accused murderer used the defense that he or she hasn’t killed for a while?

    My world view (evangelical Christianity) does not include killing anyone for disagreeing with me. My worldview does not involve the willful ignorance of facts (Tell me, what fact am I ignoring? Please be specific.) Your comment about the jury is bizarre—there is no statute of limitations on murder, but we are not responsible for people who co-opted our beliefs as an excuse to commit crimes. Nor would biologists be responsible for someone who co-opted evolution as a justification for crime. White people, some of them secular, have murdered black people—but you, as a white man, are not morally culpable for their acts. Likewise I am not morally culpable for, say, the Crusades. It is incredible that you would even think so—at least that is what I read from your jury comment.

    Religion puts humanity in a place of degradation. Religion teaches that we are nothing but filthy rags in the sight of its gods.

    Not mine. It teaches that we are made in the image of God and that God so loved the world… It does teach that our righteousness is but filthy rags, but not our personhoods.

    They fight for the unborn, stating that abortion is the murder of God’s precious creation, but as soon as the child enters the world it is a filthy rag, and does not regain favor in the sight of God until after death.

    What religion are we talking about here? It sounds horrible. I’ll take negative stereotypes for $1000, Alex.

    Fundamental Christianity has no right to condemn the actions of radical Islam. Muslims are only guilty of acting out, otherwise they are kissing cousins.

    Bullshit. I have every right to condemn the actions of radical Islam. I also condemn Christians who murder. And the self-identified atheists of the world who murder, such as some of the students who massacred their classmates. Or the uber humanist, secularist, rationalist, anti-religious Ayn-Randians for willful neglect of the poor.

    But thanks to the increasing number of those of us who are tired of being nice, we are making headway. While religious belief is well established and fortified, our consistent and relentless interference is making it more and more difficult for the religious to hold us up to the world as being base and degraded individuals.

    Who cares if you are nice. Be as nasty as you want to be. Just make your criticisms intelligent and new–or at least clever. What doesn’t fit in that characterization is the oh-so tiresome atheist victimhood. I have one of the greatest jobs on the planet—tenured university professor. At my university, here in the American south, in the bible-belt, the majority of the profs are atheists. Some victims. Granted upper middle class for life, with summers off. I know you guys (like, alas, many of my fellow Christians) like to play the victim card, but as far as I can see (apart from anecdotes that either side can muster) that dog don’t hunt.

    • Sandman
      October 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

      So, pray tell, as an Evangelical what is your position on homosexuality?

      The rights of gay couples to get married?

      The right of a woman to choose whether or not to bring a child into this chaos we call Earth?

      And while you are at it what is your opinion on the current anti-gay pogrom that is going on in Uganda sponsored, facilitated and cheered on by members of YOUR faith?

      Witches….are they real? If not why do members of YOUR faith in churches from Africa to London keep beating and killing kids for being one?

      Brutalising children? What is your position on that? Because its members of YOUR faith that write and distrbute books and pamphlets about how and when to beat kids….and sometimes the faithful who follow these teachings beat them to death as a result.

      And as a fact and reality loving Evangelical….answer me these questions:

      How old is the planet Earth and the Universe it sits in?

      Did man evolve from earlier lifeforms, or were we created as is, along with every other living being?

      The Bible….literal word of God, or set of iron age foundation myths,allegorical morality tales, non historical propoganda, and badly plagarised material from earlier non Judaeo-Christian sources written by a long series of Hebrew, Hellenic and Roman scribes, edited by a power crazed tyrant who killed most of his own family, then continually edited for the next 1700 years?

      Well? Im waiting……

      • Sandman
        October 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

        Sorry for the double bubble but I did miss a coulple of points out:

        As an Evangelcal you are no doubt familiar with the Prosperity Gospel. Please explain that to us….how exactly does that align with the teachings of the character you claim to follow. The one who said the rich can get into heaven a bit less than a camel can go through the eye of a needle. The bloke who supposedly drove money lenders from a temple and told his followers to give away all they owned. After all…the PG is an Evangelical philosophy….

        So you, as an Evangelical Christian, have the right to condemn do you? Seems you forgot that bit of said blokes teachings about not judging lest you are judged yourself. Also seems to loop back into that anti-gay and anti-choice stuff I asked you about earlier.

        You as an Evangelcal are supposedly pro-life. So…how do you feel about capital punishment? Is it OK for a state to sanction the killing of a criminal? If so, why is it not right for the state to allow a mother to be the choice about whether or not to continue a pregnancy that she may not want.

        Your “good book says its OK to own slaves, and says its OK to kill unbelievers. It also says its OK, when a city resists siege, to kill every living thing in there when you eventually break in. IF those bits are not OK any more, and no longer relevant….why is are the other bits about homosexuality still relevant?

        Y see….. we can keep this up aaaaaaallllll day.

        • October 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

          I believe that the prosperity gospel is an utter abomination. As for the OT laws you mention, i believe they are gone and replaced by the sermon on the mount. As for not judging, like most infantile critics you don’ t keep reading. A few verses later we are told not to cast pearls before swine or give what is holy to dogs. This presupposes we judge some as swine & dogs. Later in the chapter we are told how to judge. Elsewhere the practice of excommunication is taught. Again, that reqiires judging. Yes you can keep this up, but maybe someone a bit more knowledgable could step in?

          Again, sorry for typos.

          Oh, i oppose the death penalty

      • October 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

        I think that, most likely, homosexual activity is sinful. I don’t dwell on it much. I support full equal rights including marriage for gays. Even if it is a sin the NT does not instruct us to make sin illegal for unbelievers. I am against abortion with some exceptions. I think the extreme activities of churches in Africa demonstrate, anew, the dangers of syncretism. I think the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. The universe is about 14 byo. I think evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of species and that man evolved but that it was never outside of god’s sovereign control. I think spanking a child can be an acceptable form of discipline. As for the bible you as a dumb question. It is not literal or metaphorical. It uses all figures of speech. It uses different genres. It is meant for an intelligent reader. It can’t be pigion holed as you atr attempting. As for your common 2 cent “history” of the bible, Dan Brown doed it better.

        Sorry for all the typos. I am typing on my phone.

        • AlanMacandCheese
          October 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm

          Another cafeteria Christian heard from.

          • October 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

            And another person heard from who has nothing more intelligent to add than prroting the “cafeteria Christian” charge.

            If you scroll down here, you will see that is covered under The Ruby Tuesday Law

    • Tom Clark
      October 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

      Why the hell are you on this website?

      • October 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

        What a stupid question.

        • AlanMacandCheese
          October 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm

          So your answer is…?

          • October 27, 2011 at 11:53 am

            To look for interesting discussion. Why are you here? For nothing more than to seek confirmation?

      • 'Tis Himself, OM
        October 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

        heddle is a Calvinist Christian who used to visit Pharyngula until he decided we weren’t playing nicely with him. I think he’s a physicist, but certainly he’s some flavor of scientist. He’s intelligent, a decent writer, and compartmentalizes his religious beliefs from reality. He’s not a creationist or a fundamentalist, but his god is a real asshole.

        Calvinists do predestination. Their god could care less about believers making it to Heaven. The chances for a Calvinist to escape Hell are about the same as winning the Powerball and for the same reason. The Calvinist god runs a lottery. You can be chief torturer at an extermination camp and if god smiles on you then it’s harp lessons in the hereafter. You can be the nicest, kindest, most altruistic person who ever lived but if god shits on you then you’re really shat upon.

    • Tom Clark
      October 28, 2011 at 12:40 am

      We don’t care what you think, because as a Christian, you can’t possibly have any interesting positions.

      • October 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

        Tom Clark,

        We don’t care what you think, because as a Christian, you can’t possibly have any interesting positions.

        We? While I grant that most people would disagree with my positions, I doubt you speak with any authority for all the readers of this blog. Perhaps I’m wrong. But I’m guessing that some do find interacting with Christians interesting, and at the very least I supsect some would back off from such a sweeping, negative generalization.

        Do you make sweeping, negative generalizations about other groups? African Americans? Jews, Mexicans?

        I’m guessing that intelligent atheists on this site would find you a rather unworthy spokesman.

        Also, could you explain what is wrong with using terms like “cafeteria Christian?” If you behave like one, we will call you one.

        I’m not sure you even know what it means. And if you do, I’m sure you have no arguments against someone who could make a substantive case that the Mosiac law was replaced by the fuller revelation given by Christ. No, you just use “cafeteria christian” because you heard it somewhere and you think it makes you sound sophisticated–but in fact it marks you as a lightweight know-knowthing. You use it as if it is an argument stopper, and it is, but not like you suspect. You use it like someone calling Obama a “socialist” as if that settles everything and no further discussion is required.

        And again with the we. As I said earlier, I seriously doubt anyone would want you as their spokesman.

    • Tom Clark
      October 28, 2011 at 12:49 am

      Also, could you explain what is wrong with using terms like “cafeteria Christian?” If you behave like one, we will call you one.

    • Rumtopf
      October 31, 2011 at 1:40 am

      Gotta love the No True Scotsman type arguments.

      Listen, it’s great that you ignore fundamental parts of your religion, that you pick and choose from the bible based on what you personally like/have reasoned with(apart from the misogyny, ugh, feels kinda gross talking to someone who doesn’t think I should have bodily autonomy as a woman). A lot of evangelicals -don’t- do that, some of them in political poditions trying to get this shit into schools ffs, we’re talking about these people. So… instead of blathering on about yourself, when you’re clearly not the type of person being discussed here, how about, I dunno, agreeing that these people are messed up? You’re in a better position than us to change this backwards way of thinking amongst your peers, so at least accept that it’s a frikken problem.

      • Rumtopf
        October 31, 2011 at 1:45 am

        1. Address problems with fundamentalism
        2. Have a moderate complain about misrepresentation.

        JUST what

  2. colubridae
    October 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    “intolerant of intolerance” Wow does that mean you are intolerant of yourself?

    “Religious tolerance” surely qualifies as an oxymoron?

  3. Beth
    October 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I claim my belief to be right because my worldview does not include killing people for disagreeing with me. I am right in my unbelief because my worldview doesn’t involve the willful ignorance of facts.

    You must live near some very unpleasant and scary believers if such attributes are common charactoristics there.

    Sometimes you’ve got to kick the crutches out from under someone so they can realize that they can actually walk on their own.

    This statement seems very intolerant to me. Do you realize that you can do great damage to an individual by kicking their crutches out from under them even if your judgment is correct, and they can walk actually walk on their own?

    Is there some reason that you feel entitled to impose your own judgement about what is best for someone else in such a potentially harmful way?

    I realize it’s just a metaphor, but I think my questions are equally applicable to your behavior/attitude with regard to religious beliefs.

    There exist no problems within the scope of human existence that can be solved through theology….religion does not strengthen the believer….Religion puts humanity in a place of degradation….It demands we obey utterly horrific commands and accept the doctrine of human sacrifice or any combination of these, depending upon which cult one is a member of. And they are all cults….Religion is an active and constant menace to civilization…The believer, in turn, is mired in delusion. They are convinced that they are heaven bound and thus, have little care for the continuation of our race.

    Didn’t you just claim your unbelief doesn’t involve the willful ignorance of facts? You don’t seem any better at accepting facts you don’t like or that don’t mesh well with your worldview than believers. The statements above are all untrue IMO. Some may be true of a few small cults, like the Westboro Baptists, but they are simply not apt descriptors of the majority of the world’s religions or religious people.

    • October 26, 2011 at 3:46 am

      One of the basic tenets of christianity is that we are all sinners — original sin and all that. Right? [Or does your particular cult not believe in this?] I think that very ugly doctrine supports Mr. Stefanelli’s expressed views that we are but filthy rags to your god.

      “I am right in my unbelief because the choice to adhere to a system of belief that should be condemned for the havoc it has wreaked upon humanity is consistently ignored.” Your comment (You must live near some very unpleasant and scary believers if such attributes are common charactoristics there….) just proves his point doesn’t it?

  4. Dionigi
    October 26, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I would like to thank you for well reasoned views in an insane world.

  5. Isabel
    October 26, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Hahaha I just saw this Twilight Zone episode for the first time last weekend.

    • Tom Clark
      October 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

      Ah, but it also is referring to the secular humanist goal of literally “serving mankind.”

  6. colubridae
    October 26, 2011 at 5:26 am

    For Heddle #1

    You can’t bootstrap your beliefs up from a holy book that reads like mein kampf and then calmly claim ownership of the meagre shred of worth therein, blowing it out of all proportion.

    That you think and do ‘good’ works is to your credit, but don’t associate your positive attributes to an immoral historicity and claim a whitewash.

    Cliché it may be, but in this case Godwin’s law applies. Join the nazi party because Hitler painted a few pretty watercolours by all means, but don’t expect the rest of humanity to accept Nazism, on your say so, because you’re a nice guy. Reality and real people don’t work that way.

    “Historical figures Co-opted your beliefs”? Try reading your holy book, that upon which your beliefs are founded. It’s stuffed to the gunnels with violence, murder and genocide. If you don’t believe in such things then don’t be a Christian, be a humanist.

    • Tom Clark
      October 28, 2011 at 12:46 am

      Excellent comment; in reality, Hitler’s paintings are crap to most critics. I actually kind of like them, however.

  7. Tom Clark
    October 26, 2011 at 9:06 am

    HALLELUJAH!

  8. sumdum
    October 26, 2011 at 11:50 am

    If you have to ignore half of what the bible says because it’s immoral or plain wrong, you might just want to start from scratch. Ignore the whole silly thing and go with reason, the thing that told you half of the book was immoral in the first place.

  9. October 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Al (if you read these),
    Just started reading a couple of days ago. Atheist here in Ga. also. That makes two of us.

  10. Tom Clark
    October 28, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I love the double meaning of this post’s title.

  11. David
    October 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I am an atheist. I made contact recently with an old friend from 50 years back who has become “born again” Our short time together was too valuable to spend arguing but I established that his faith was not interested in the scholarly discussion of the inconstancies of the Bible but in the sense of belonging to a caring community and his psychological state; having a “friend” in JC which was very real to him. So I understand Heddle’s POV but do not agree with it.
    As I read many of these FTBs, I wonder what our lives would be like without our past religious cultures; would there be those magnificent buildings, musical compositions, literature and other works of art? Are faiths essential to the progress of civilization?

    • 'Tis Himself, OM
      October 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Are faiths essential to the progress of civilization?

      You might ask Galileo that. His contemporaries in Germany and Bohemia might also have an opinion, considering the last of the religious wars, the Thirty Years War, was raging in Middle Europe at the time. It’s estimated that during the war about one-third of the population of Germany and Bohemia died and German unification was set back about a hundred years.

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