By Dave Foda - Guest Writer
It’s not often I disclose anything about my close interpersonal relationships, but due to events of the last twenty-four hours, there’s something I feel like I need to say.
I have a good friend, whom I’ve known for about a quarter-century (since middle school). Several years ago, while on a long-weekend vacation at Topsail Island, North Carolina just before school started for his kids, he did something he’s done a thousand times before: He dove over a wave into the ocean. But this time, the force of the water caught him just so, and the sandbar was in the just-right place…..he snapped his neck. C5-C6 injury, and his (at the time) seven-year-old son pulled him out of the water to keep him from drowning.
He’s paraplegic now.
His condition is such that the medical inroads that science could make into stem-cell research have a distinct possibility that he could be helped to walk again, and be out of his wheelchair, permanently; but, in the United States of Jesus, we have former President Shrub to thank for the fact that our medical advancements are so far behind where we could – and SHOULD – be, that it’s unlikely my friend will ever benefit from any forthcoming achievements: He’ll die before success happens.
So, yeah, this kind of thing pisses me off, and I talk about it. Yet, often, I hear, “Why can’t you just leave the theists alone? I know you disagree, but is this contest really all that worthwhile?” Yes, it is. Not only do I see it as worthwhile, I see it as absolutely necessary.
The question of why can’t I just “live and let live” is asked by those who want everyone to just shut the hell up. More times than not, it’s asked of me by someone who is a theist, and commonly, someone who has a rather calm nature. However……
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, gave a speech called, “Citizenship In a Republic,” on April 23, 1910 at the Sorbonne (Paris, France). In it, he says:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Those who ask me the question of why can’t I just “live and let live” are the very “critics” that Roosevelt mentions. They are not in the arena. They are not on the front lines. They are the ones sipping tea at four o’clock in the afternoon from their terraces, watching the fireworks from afar, and commenting to each other as though they are trying to impress each other with their knowledge about the entirety of the battle.
They are not experts. They are not participants. They aren’t even spectators. Most importantly, they refuse to “police their own.” If they did actually do this, people like me wouldn’t have to do it.
I do what I do because of the injustice that is caused when people take their holy texts into the voting booth as a supplement to their sample ballots. I do what I do because people who vote with their Bibles in hand do a disservice to democracy, social justice, the environment, and to basic logic. Personally, I don’t give two shits what you choose to believe. However, when you decide that I have to believe what you believe, you and I have a problem. In the words of Matthew Shultz:
“You’re allowed to believe in a god. You’re allowed to believe unicorns live in your shoes for all I care. But the day you start telling me how to wear my shoes so I don’t upset the unicorns, I have a problem with you. The day you start involving the unicorns in making decisions for this country, I have a BIG problem with you.”
(Oh, and unicorns ARE mentioned in the Bible.)
On Monday, September 16, 2013, the Randolph County (NC) Board of Education voted 5-2 to remove Ralph Ellison’s book Invisible Man from the summer “required reading list” for high school students. Why? ONE PARENT complained because it had sex in the book, and she didn’t want her child reading about “dirty stuff.” Well, I read Judy Blume’s Forever when I was twelve, and it didn’t screw me up. I doubt very seriously that Judy Blume’s teen pop-fiction compares in any way to that of Ralph Ellison, but this parent is intellectually inconveniencing not only her child, but the entire student population of Randolph County, and it really bothers me that one commissioner said that he found “no literary value” in the book. (As if he would know!)
Here’s the thing: Religion, particularly Christianity, has been at the forefront of most of the worldwide strife that has occurred in the last fifteen hundred years. The Crusades (all of them), the Inquisition, the abandonment of science in general, the systematic suppression of the works of Galileo and Copernicus (among others), and replacing them with what?
Perhaps Malleus Maleficarum, which is a textbook on how to torture witches and sorcerers, in use for nearly FIFTEEN HUNDRED YEARS of Christian influence on society? It was a Standard Operations Manual for oppression and dominance, second only in importance to the clergy as the Holy Bible itself.
THIS is what religion brings.
“No! Wait! Religion brings people comfort in times of stress and strife! Religion also does some good! Religion isn’t like that anymore!”
Bullshit arguments. The religious may get comfort in depressing situations, but this is a function of their community relations, and not Superhero Jesus, with his white cape and his golden halo. Devoutly religious persons are still against the USA’s Affordable Healthcare Act’s provision on contraception, led – in part – by the industry of the Catholic church. We still do not have the environmental controls in place that we NEED in order to sustain life, because in the Book of Genesis, God told Adam and Eve that humanity was to have dominance over all the creatures of the earth, and the world in general. We still do not give a woman the right to choose abortion, even when it would save her life. For the most part, we still do not allow homosexuals the acceptance or satisfaction of a legally-recognized commitment, because it violates both Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
And, my good friend will not get the help he needs, because we are so far behind scientifically and medically.
There is a difference between “malum in se” (bad in itself) and “malum prohibitum” (bad because it’s prohibited). Theists of ALL types would do themselves intellectual justice to understand the difference, and how those differences manifest themselves in the theists’ beliefs.
On vacation at the beach a couple of years ago, I purchased my yearly “vacation T-shirt.” This particular one had screen-printed on it the saying, “Your bait sucks, and your boat is ugly.”
Now, read that saying again, and, in your mind, replace “bait” with “Bible” and “boat” with “religion.” That ought to tell you everything you need to know about where I’m coming from.
I will never shut up.
Dave Foda is an atheist, a writer, and a researcher, and sometimes-activist. He has a background in risk management, information security, and protective services; has some formal training in law, law enforcement, and linguistics; and is an IT systems engineer by trade. He has interests in physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, archaeology, anthropology, history, languages, law and legal systems, and politics. His library shelves are stocked mostly with non-fiction.
Having been raised Lutheran; he forayed into evangelical Christianity in his teens, but was soon cognizant of the inconsistencies of faith, generally. He understands the nature of the perceived religious need of many individuals, but also understands that religious belief as a form of governance is damaging to the whole of society.
Dave lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dave.foda, or follow him on Twitter @DaveFoda.