Archive for the Idiots Category

Faith Is A Disease

Posted in Faith, Idiots, Rant'n'Rave, Religion with tags , , , on July 2, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

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Why, you may ask, is faith a disease? Religious apologists would often say ‘Faith is what gives people the peace of mind to get through life’s troubles.’ I agree with this statement. Faith can help people overcome obstacles and problems – SOME of the time. But it does more harm than good. There are multiple problems with faith, and I will explain why faith is a major detriment to the progress of society and the health and welfare of the world’s population. By the way, you’ll probably notice some sarcasm in the headers. These are some of the responses that religious people would actually make, so I wanted to partially address them.

Islam

Christians will most likely agree with me that the beliefs of Muslim suicide-bombers are a key factor in the decision to blow themselves up and take the lives of innocent bystanders around them. Now, what most don’t understand is that to the bomber, the bystanders are anything but innocent. They are either infidels, members of opposing Muslim sects, or others who need to be killed in accordance with a jihad or fatwa. What reasoning do these men use to justify such a heinous act? It is so that the person in question can reach eternal bliss for himself and his family by becoming a “war hero” of sorts.

This seems incredibly foreign to Christians, whose idea of reaching heaven is through… well… every Christian sect has a different idea of how to get to heaven. Regardless, Christians rarely cite any “suicide” clause which rewards one’s death with eternal bliss.  However, in the Islamic religion, this is quite the fact. The issue here is that these people actually believe the unfounded claims made by their holy books that when they perform these actions they are benefiting themselves and their families at the expense of people who would otherwise poison them with heretical beliefs.

FAITH is what creates these insidious beliefs. There is no evidence of any “life after death”. Anyone who says otherwise is using circular arguments that will be based on faith and scripture. That or they’re bat-shit crazy new-agers or ghost-hunters. No one can know if there is something after death unless they’re dead. Obviously this creates a communication issue. But these religious terrorists “know” what they will receive based on faith in Allah and the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad. Just as Christians, Mormons, Hindus and many other religions claim to know from their holy books.

That is an extreme; what about “good” faith?

This is a question that really denotes the lack of understanding that many religious people have as to what faith really is. They like to think of faith as a virtue and a loyalty to a positive message. Obviously from the definition below loyalty is certainly an aspect of faith. However, this is only AFTER someone effectively accepts the idea or belief in something that is based without evidence. I can be loyal to the tooth fairy or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but we all know that they don’t exist and there’s no evidence for them so they can be dismissed*.

Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:

Faith:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

So the question I have is when is it a “good” thing to believe in something without evidence? If someone can point one out I’d like to know. Maybe I’m a bit pessimistic, but I can’t really see how believing in something without proof can be productive. If I get a letter or email that offers something “too good to be true”, I immediately delete it. I would imagine most people do the same. Unless gullibility is involved, does anyone view an offer like this with anything less than skepticism? Is the offer legit, or is it most likely a scam? Such is religious faith. A scam.

Take a look at how you approach other things in your daily life. Are you skeptical until you have enough evidence to believe something? You probably are. So why would someone have a dualistic approach when it comes to what is often seen as the most important thing in their life?

Religions use faith to control the uneducated (and in modern world even educated people fall for it). It goes like this: Don’t question anything we say, just follow blindly and have faith despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense. It’s when a person starts to focus and question what is logical and reasonable that he or she understands that religion does not have answers, only smoke and mirrors. Truth comes from open inquiry and scrutinizing details (using things like the scientific method and basic critical thinking) which results in understanding or a scientific theory. Please be aware of the differences between a scientific theory and a “theory” (‘my theory is…’) that someone makes up without evidence.

My biggest complaint with faith is that it prevents otherwise rational and skeptical people from working towards creating a better world. Far too often, people “have faith” that their deity will fix problems or make things all better like a parent to a small child that skins its knee. Here is an example on the recent oil spill in the Gulf. But, you say, it does no harm to be positive and pray for help! It may do no harm by itself, but it does nothing productive. It is offensive when the religious throw up their hands in defeat and wait for their magic-man to fix the problem. Faith that a deity will solve problems, whether you believe he/she exists or not, stalls progress and wastes time/resources that could be better used by physical beings capable of problem-solving.

The fact that our legislators were wasting time to devote a day of appeal to a mythological being is pathetic. Yes, the oil spill is disastrous and unfortunately we have had difficulty containing it effectively. But does holding hands and talking to our devoted invisible friend do anything to fix the problem? Absolutely not. We are not telekinetic creatures. We do not move things with our mind. We develop ideas with our minds and then carry out those ideas using our hands.

Religion and faith are the antithesis of open inquiry and truth. Because the holy books of the most common religions are supposedly written as concrete “Word of God” documents, modifying or updating these beliefs only occurs when society’s progression will no longer tolerate certain dogma (slavery, racism, polygamy, etc.). So in essence, religion keeps us from moving forward and leaves us in the past, while honest inquiry helps us progress. Think about the extensive progress that can be made in the field of medical science if the general public could understand that the cells used are not a human child. Faith in the idea of a “soul” has caused religious pressure on the governments of the world to withhold funding for stem cell research, despite its incredible potential. The faithful seem to think that these cells are more important than the rights of the person whose body they are in, and more important than finding cures and relief for the suffering of actual human beings who could benefit from stem cell research.

But… But… Faith in the Bible is good!

The major improvements in life throughout the last few hundred years have been made DESPITE religion, NOT because of it. Does the Bible tell us that slavery is wrong? Fuck no! Even Jesus condoned slavery (Luke 12:47-48 NIV) and the Bible is rampant with horrendous advice on keeping, trading, beating, and killing slaves. There was no “Bible 2.0” that came out around the time of the Civil War indicating that god changed his mind about slavery. No, it was because of HUMANS, secular AND religious, who understood that other people do not deserve to be treated as less than human. Faith in scripture allowed these despicable practices (among MANY others) to continue for waaaaaaay too long.

When a person’s belief-system of how the world works, both socially and physically, derives from writings of desert nomads from thousands of years ago, we are left with bronze-age beliefs in the modern world. This is unacceptable when we have minority groups struggling for rights. These groups will stay oppressed due to divisive scripture in the world’s religious holy books. Does anyone truly have a legitimate reason to deny gays equal rights that it NOT based on religious discrimination? How about a woman’s right to control her own body? Are these things really anyone else’s business? No, unless of course you believe through faith that there is a magic-man up in the sky watching everyone and reading their thoughts.

If it wasn’t such a serious issue, I would find it hilarious that people believe some creator of the universe (the size of which is unfathomable; the human brain cannot comprehend the distances involved) gives a shit about peoples’ private love lives. Again, unfounded faith, without evidence, in religious dogma is a deterrent to social progress. Just a few more examples of the impediment to peace and progress found in the “good book”: witch burning, anti-Semitism, tribalism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism.

Put Your Views Under Scrutiny

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last few years is to constantly question myself and things around me. What is reasonable? What is logical? Does ‘this or that’ make the world better, or does it only serve a select few and cause suffering to others? As I mentioned previously, religion ultimately describes this type of inquiry as a sin. Do what you’re told and you’ll get to heaven. Wow… I am utterly amazed at how often this works. I imagine that childhood indoctrination plays an important part in this lack of critical thinking.

My challenge to anyone would be to truly put their beliefs under scrutiny. Think critically and skeptically about your own beliefs in the way you would in our hypothetical “too good to be true” situation. Ask yourself if you really believe the following:

  • The universe was ‘created’ 6,000 years ago – Humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth together – Evolution is “just a theory”
  • A man was born of a virgin, walked on water, turned water into wine, and then rose from the dead to fly into space without propulsion
  • A flood wiped out every living creature on Earth except one family – and two of every species (millions upon millions) that somehow managed to refrain from acting on their hunter/prey instincts on the boat
  • You will live in paradise after you die for all eternity because you happened to choose the “right path to salvation”, while others who did not will be sent by your all-loving deity to suffer in torment for eternity
  • God is a man who lives on Kolob and you are the offspring of his sexual encounters with his many wives
  • Joseph Smith was directed to the “real” truth in golden-plate form and translated these plates using magic rocks in a hat
  • Slavery is okay – Native Americans can have their skin lightened if they convert to Mormonism

You may think I’m just being facetious, but these are the tenets of Christianity and Mormonism. These are the ridiculous “truths” that religious faith keeps alive. I say it’s time our species grows up and sheds the “flat-earth” tradition of religion.

– Jay

For more information on the topic of faith, please read “The End of Faith” by author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. It’s an excellent book.

*Side note: “…what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens

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