A very brief conversation I recently had with a fellow realist and the minor to-do over the “Parking-Lot Challenge” have conspired to crystallize something in my mind. It is quite possibly something not worth sharing, but this has bever stopped me before.
Skeptics often nominally or actively assume the position of trying to better society in some way. Those of us who have no use for dishonesty and bullshit no matter how good it makes us feel and have little tolerance for stupidity of a widespread, self-sustaining, but theoretically rectifiable nature — and that’s an accurate if nontraditional definition of religion — are often educators and scientists and hence are seen coupling their vexation more often than not to a need to educate the masses in order to better the future for all concerned, blah blah blah.
I can’t really say that’s where I’m coming from.
I would be no more or no less annoyed by Bible-bangers if I knew for certain the world was going to explode next month. When I argue with a longtime theist, I accept that for the most part I am wasting my time and am merely exercising my proclivity to argue when the facts are plain to me.
To get some of those facts on the table: There are no gods out there who give a f*ck about you, me or anything else. I say this with no more or no less satisfaction than I experience after pointing out that no one will ever run the mile in under ten seconds. If you believe in any of the gods glorified in books, and I don’t care which one, this is not because you arrived at this conclusion after sifting through all of the available evidence once you were old and scholarly enough to bother. It is because someone told you to. If you claim otherwise, you’re lying and deserve a spanking, but to believers lying comes naturally since “faith” is nothing if not the pinnacle of lying to oneself, always a more painful process than lying to me or your wife or the IRS.
If you are religious and live in America, you are convinced that Jesus is the one who, like some robed and cachectic lifeguard, can “save” you; if you were born in Tel Aviv, you believe the Messiah is in fact Abraham. If you were born in Mumbai you believe in a whole committee of vaguely similar superstars, each with his own high-powered job.
That this is no coincidence is as screamingly obvious to anyone who has escaped religious brainwashing as it is troubling to — and therefore beyond the intellectual reach of — believers. People only become believers in things not only unseen and unheard but contradicted by a wealth facts and findings through indoctrination, senility, guilt, or insanity. No one can offer a single good reason to give any of the nonsense in the Bible more than a snicker and a passing glance, only an endless parade of excoriatingly awful ones (note: “because I want to live forever” is not a good reason. We ‘re talikng epistemology, not raw philosophy.) Yet we’re all expected to “respect” this goofiness that has no more bearing on the world than the strangely troubling cartoon I saw the other night featuring a traveling gang of fast-food items, including a floating carton of fries sporting a goatee. (I’ve been waiting to mention this.)
What happens when you point these things out to a believer is nothing short of pathetic, especially if he or she happens to be smart in general. Tell one of them flat out “You believe in this stuff only because you were raised to believe in it,” and amazing things happen. It’s like watching someone have a highly localized stroke, with the embolus or hemorrhage involving not wayward plaques or cerebrovascular networks but a psychic logjam of conflicting thoughts. The victim often lies to you and to himself at this stage, pretending to have discovered that Baptism is a valid belief system entirely on his own despite his having been raised in a rollicking Baptarded home. Or, the victim will furrow his brow in agitation — and you can practically hear the clanking and grinding noises of cognitive dissonance inside his head and smell the smoke it produces — and say that this doesn’t matter, that “just because I was raised that way doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
This is basically equivalent to jumping up, waving your hand around in the air, and announcing in as loud and grating a voice as possible that you are an idiot who should not be taken seriously about anything of consequence. Of course not everything your parents tell you is suspect. It’s the stuff they tell you that later proves to have no evidence to support it that is, to put it gently, highly questionable.
I might feel bad for these fellas and fellatrices if so many of them weren’t compelled to commit themselves to unruly, backward behaviors aimed at trampling the rights of others, but because they do, I only feel scorn and contempt for the whole enterprise and laugh my balls off whenever a new church scandal breaks, with the caveat that I reap no chuckles from, for example, what has happened to the countless victims of buggery-by-priest over the years. That sort of thing we could all do without. And lest you be tempted to comment like an asshole in the space below, I stop far short of laughing at things like church vandalism or attempts on the lives of religious figures, no matter how oddly dressed. No one should vandalize anything…
…most of all young human minds.
I’m tired of the herocially slack-jawed, squint-eyed, and prognathous rising up in consternation, jabbing an index finger into the sky, and demanding that their wrong, worthless idea be given “proper” consideration, and worse, complaining that those who recognize the errancy and worthlessness of these ideas are somehow the ones not getting it; that scripture must be read with care and “in its proper context.” Sir, you believe in the boogeyman under the bed and a 4,000-year-old history book written by cave-dwelling propagandists and itinerant goat-humpers. Take your “context” and hang it where the sun doesn’t shine while it’s not orbiting the earth.
So, no, we don’t need to “consider both sides of the debate.” I only need to consider that, in this modality of thinking, you are one hundred percent asea and that my choices are therefore to ignore you, ridicule you, keep you from meddling in my doings, or all three. The intellectual weight of your spent jizzbag of false hopes and proselytizing is no greater than that of a donkey running from place to place sticking its tongue in and out of light sockets because it was programmed to do this shortly after birth and spend the rest of its pained life getting angry at those who call the behavior into question. Of course you’re an idiot. You are fortunate that for now, there are a billion people just as mindless and defective sharing some element of your purpose.
Above all, it’s ludicrous that in this day and age, we waste time and energy and money bickering about the multifaceted interface of our society’s perverse relationship to imaginary dickweeds in the sky. We have trials like Kitzmiller vs. Dover, where we’re forced to confront the fact that school boards in America are well stocked with prevaricating Jesus-freaks with apparent IQs in the mid-seventies. This is a problem. Yet “faith” remains a shield people can and do use to justify practically any lapse, any solecism.
This is all a set-up for something I’ll post on Friday, if either of us can stomach it.