Richard A. Berg WHY I POST WHAT I DO (Atheism is not a religion. It is a personal relationship with reality.)
February 7, 2011 at 3:52pm
I will, in very short order, offend many people. I thought about apologizing up front, but I just can’t do that in this case. I am not much of a diplomat. I am a straightforward, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead kind of guy. I am very opinionated, and something of an elitist. That is, I have a high IQ, a good education including a Ph.D., and I am not very tolerant of stupidity nor of willful ignorance. This is problematic as, by definition, one-half of the population is below average intelligence (IQ 100), and a very large proportion of the population is willfully ignorant.
By willfully ignorant I mean that there are those who have at least “normal” intelligence (normal being IQs of from 85 to 115) who refuse, out of sheer laziness or fear, or some other reason, to use that intelligence, to rely on FACTS, to search for EVIDENCE, to employ LOGIC and RATIONAL thought; but, who would rather just believe things that they are told based upon emotion or having been previously indoctrinated into a particular mindset / belief system. There are those who not only refuse to use logic but who actively fight against its use, who do not want others to use logic and reason either. This eschewing of logic and reason, and ignoring hard evidence often takes place within a single, major area of their lives (religion), but then slops over and creeps into other areas – important areas.
I was raised in a Reform Jewish home, by a Reform Jewish family, and I was sent to Sunday school and Hebrew school to learn about Judaism and to study for my Bar Mitzvah. I spent those years questioning my teachers and rabbi, debating them and sometimes arguing with them about god, religion, the Tanakh (Jewish bible), religious laws and ethics, and related topics. At 13 I did have a traditional Bar Mitzvah, reciting all the traditional Jewish prayers, and giving a traditional Bar Mitzvah speech in front of the congregation.
All along, however, I had accompanied my Catholic friends to catechism classes, and to mass. I went with my Protestant friends to their Sunday church services (mostly Baptist) and with my Greek Orthodox friend to his mass. And, I read. I read books about religion, about god, about spirituality – and I read books about science, evolution, biology, etc. So, right from the beginning I was an agnostic, a skeptic. After a time, I became an atheist. After a bit more time, I became a “devout” atheist. But, for most of my life I said nothing about this to anyone.
At university I took classes in Comparative Religion and in the Bible as Literature. I read books on the psychology of religion, and I read the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and the “holy books” of other religions. I kept my atheism pretty much to myself.
Over time, however, I went from thinking that religion was a bunch of innocuous bologna to realizing that religions (ALL religions) were, in fact, insidious, pernicious conspiracies that inevitably led to extreme human suffering, mayhem, genocide, slaughter of innocents, wars, terrorism, and the like. Religion retards scientific research and discovery, and human progress. It actually “dumbs down” any population that subscribes to it. Religion is EVIL.
Religion inevitably causes the formation of in-groups and out-groups, a we-versus-they mentality. Members of a religious group always come to believe that they, and ONLY they have the one true belief system; that anyone who does not subscribe to their exact flavor of religion is damned and going straight to hell. It does not matter how closely the religions match – if they are not exactly the same they are wrong and perhaps evil. Look at the “Christians”: Catholics versus Protestants caused many wars in history and the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland recently. How about the frictions between Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anglicans, Church of Scotland, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Unitarian, Coptic, and various “Born Again” charismatic churches. Or, the open warfare and terrorism between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims.
And, of course, it gets worse as religions move farther and farther apart: Christians versus Jews, Christians versus Muslims, Muslims versus Jews, Muslims versus Hindus, all religions versus atheists. Every one of these has been the underlying direct cause of wars, terrorism, torture, killing, massacres, genocides, discrimination, suffering, pogroms, and exiles.
What exactly is the basis of religion? Why is it so ubiquitous? In EVERY case religion is based upon fear, ignorance, lies, deceit, delusion, indoctrination of very young children, extortion, threats, and punishments. I know of NO exceptions.
Humans are programmed by evolution to seek out answers to the unknown, to search for patterns, to attempt to turn chaos into order. Humans instinctively hate not having the answers to their questions. They hate not knowing the whys and wherefores of their environment, their world, themselves. Humans want ANSWERS.
Humans are also the only species aware of their own impending, inevitable death. Death is frightening to most people and so humans attempt to assuage their fear of death, of the finality of death. They look for ways to “get around” dying.
Way back in the very beginning of human society people did not have a lot of answers. Why the sun rose every morning was a mystery. Why it set in the evening was a mystery. Why it sometimes rained and sometimes did not was a mystery. What caused the wind, clouds, all the events seen in nature was a mystery. So, in order to pull order out of chaos early man INVENTED forces: gods. Gods could answer any question, especially anthropomorphic gods. What caused thunder and lightning? Gods were angry and
fighting. What caused the sun to rise? A god pulled it up and across the sky.
And to “get around” death – gods had a place to take everyone after they stopped breathing where everything was wonderful, food abundant, life easy: heaven. People needed no longer fear death as it was just part of life and led to an afterlife that was even better.
Questions answered; fears assuaged.
Okay, if there were anthropomorphic gods then they could surely be bribed to provide more food, more water, nicer weather, fewer dangerous animals, less disease, etc. But, as most people did not know how to properly offer these bribes they had to turn to the few who did – the shamans. Some of the brighter people figured all this out and decided that they would be the shamans and live an easy life by having the rest of the (ignorant) people work to provide the bribes to them for their transmission, in a proper way, to the gods. Of course, the shamans were too busy intervening with the gods to actually work themselves, so the people supported them with offerings, gifts, and . . . tithes.
In exchange for intercessions with the gods the shamans got a nice place to live, lots of food, and assorted virgins for sex partners. NOT a bad deal for them. In order to keep it all coming they then invented HELL as punishment for the recalcitrant and nonbelievers, and thus were able to extort whatever they wished from the rest of the group. Their houses became temples. Their bullshit grew and took on all kinds of new and different meanings that allowed them to control every aspect of the lives of their “flock.” You may eat X but not Y. You may have sex with A but not B, and only under certain conditions, after saying “prayers.” You MUST give the shaman the best of your (newly domesticated) animals for his sacrifice to the gods (Sunday barbecue was born — why do you think that we still have church picnics and potluck dinners?).
And so it went. And so it is today.
But, now it is more complicated because people, over much time, began figuring out that many things in nature did not really require the force or intervention of gods. Even primitive “science” could figure out why some things happened all by themselves and could predict the future (seasons, rainy times, dry times). People began to realize that it did not require a god to pull the sun up and across the sky each day, that something was revolving around something. They got it right sometimes and wrong sometimes . . . the sun revolved around the earth or the earth revolved on its own axis and the sun stood still. But, they were making strides.
The shamans and priests had to stay one step ahead of the masses in order to remain in power and maintain their easy lifestyles. They set down rules that made further scientific discovery harder and that set in stone those ideas that benefited them. Those bucking the system were heretics and were reviled, tortured, burned alive at the stake, or at least excommunicated. Ex-communicated: sent far away so that they could not communicate with the believers and tell them the truth. And so, science was slowed down, the population dumbed down, and religion given time to reorganize and regroup to stay ahead.
The priests made religion ever more complicated, rituals ever more complex and mysterious (for example, by using a language only known to priests – Latin). They concentrated their power by changing from multiple gods to monotheism so that there was only one god, a god so far removed off into a far away heaven that only the initiated and educated priests could ever hope to directly intercede with him. They evolved stricter and more encompassing laws and regulations backed up by ever more frightening punishments. Not only could a lone “sinner” be killed and relegated to hell after death, but god could come down at any moment and smite him and his whole family, clan, or city; turning them into pillars of salt, inflicting upon them plagues of nasty frogs, flies, boils; having them slaughtered by other groups more pleasing to god; or if that did not work, by flooding the entire earth and killing off all but a chosen few humans. Pay attention, bow down, be obedient, or cause the extermination of the human race! Pretty drastic consequences. This way, not only were individuals frightened into obedience so that they would not end up in hell, but those around them made sure to keep each other in line so as not to call down another calamity upon the clan as a whole.
Whatever it took to control the masses, the priests INVENTED. They also co-opted natural occurrences: earthquakes and floods and droughts and wildfires were signs of god’s displeasure – requiring, of course, the intercession of the priests (for a fee). Ancient myths and legends were repeated, expanded, refined, reinterpreted, and finally written down in books so that the priests could more uniformly enslave the ignorant, naive, gullible masses. Anyone questioning religion was referred to the infallible source of answers, “the holy books” that had all the answers to everything. The sheeple never noticed (or consciously chose to ignore) the massive circular reasoning, or the total lack of reasoning, inherent in answers such as: “god works in mysterious ways.” Duh! It was that mysteriousness that prompted the question now answered by mystery! The books had to be taken as is with total belief based solely on faith as there was NO OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE presented for any of its answers . . . NONE . . . ZERO.
And, therein lies the major problem that we now see all over the world today: the religious masses have been inculcated, indoctrinated, brainwashed into thinking that hard objective EVIDENCE, RATIONAL THOUGHT, and LOGIC are unnecessary when making even monumental life and death decisions.
This regime of nonthinking, naïve, gullible acceptance in one major area (religion) slops over into other areas, important areas, vital areas. SCIENCE is relegated by the sheeple to second or third or fourth place after faith and ridiculous religious belief and their corollaries. LOGIC and RATIONAL thought are seen as unimportant. Discoveries, important discoveries, which are based on real observations, repeated research, replicated experimentation, hypothesis testing, statistical analysis, peer review, and LOGIC are blithely set aside in favor of the partial, highly edited, Bronze Age mythology of ignorant, nomadic, illiterate, goat herders.
This slop-over from religion to the really important aspects of life causes the sheeple to do the same sort of thing in all of their decision making. It distorts their understanding of all the sciences, history, psychology and other social sciences. It causes them (and their indoctrinated children) to reject modern education. Instead of getting a thorough, up-to-date education many of the children of these sheeple are kept out of school to be home schooled – spending countless hours not studying actual academic subjects, but rather learning to regurgitate long bible tracts, counterfactual fantasies about creationism, medieval mythologies and legends, science-fiction stories about talking snakes and donkeys, people being swallowed by whales and then days later coughed up alive on land; and, magicians being crucified, dying, being buried, and returning to life (aren’t these undead folks called ZOMBIES?).
How can anyone with this level of disbelief and distrust of modern science expect to become a productive member of a modern scientific society? In a crisis these sheeple do not attempt to think their way out of a tight spot – instead they fall on their knees and begin conversing with a supernatural spirit out of their delusional fantasy world.
Okay, so we live in a free society and religious sheeple should be allowed to make this choice, BUT . . . they make this choice not only for themselves but also for their infants and young children. Instead of vaccinating their children against diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, etc. they have the kids baptized and blessed by some preacher who never got out of the eighth grade. And then, they are astounded when the kid comes down with these diseases and gets really sick – maybe dies or is paralyzed for life. (“It is god’s will.”) Instead of taking very sick kids to the hospital or doctor, they pray over them . . . over and over and over . . . even when it is obvious that it is doing no good . . . they pray and pray and pray until the sick child’s dead body turns black, bloats, and decays before their eyes. THEN they decide that they didn’t pray hard enough and so their supernatural god didn’t hear them. It was their fault that the kid died because they did not pray properly! (Or, “It was god’s will.”) God is still loving, compassionate, perfect. WHAT A BUNCH OF CHILD ABUSING, CHILD ENDANGERING MORONS! This is the outcome of religion.
This idiocy affects not only the kids of the religious sheeple, by the way. It means that because their kids are unvaccinated they are providing a reservoir of the viruses to keep that disease alive and transmissible to others. (Smallpox was eradicated only because smallpox vaccination was made mandatory by law in almost every country in the world. There is no longer ANY smallpox in the world as every possible reservoir was eliminated.)
Look around the world. Where are kids still dying of polio, measles, whooping cough? Only in those countries whose RELIGIOUS leaders forbid vaccination. Where is HIV/AIDS most prevalent, killing off large percentages of the population? In Catholic countries where the sheeple are forbidden by the church to use condoms. Where are kids dying in huge numbers of malnutrition and preventable diseases? In countries where the uneducated, illiterate, naïve, religious populations are forced to have six to ten children per family because their religious leaders forbid the use of any kind of birth control.
RELIGION IS EVIL.
I am constantly amazed by religious sheeple. For a decade now I have been asking the same questions of them: What objective EVIDENCE do you have for the existence of god(s)? What objective EVIDENCE do you have for the existence of an afterlife? What objective EVIDENCE do you have for the existence of heaven or hell? What objective EVIDENCE do you have for the universe, life, man being created in seven days, less than 10,000 years ago? What objective EVIDENCE do you have for the existence of angels and devils?
They have NONE. They NEVER have any. All they can say, in essence, is:
“God said it; I believe it; that settles it.”
EVIDENCE needed: NONE.
LOGIC needed: NONE.
RATIONAL THOUGHT needed: NONE.
COMMON SENSE needed: NONE.
HYPOTHESIS TESTING / EXAMINATION needed: NONE.
DISCONFIRMING HARD EVIDENCE: REJECTED.
DISCONFIRMING LOGIC: REJECTED.
DISCONFIRMING RATIONALES: REJECTED.
DISCONFIRMING COMMON SENSE: REJECTED.
DISCONFIRMING RESULTS OF COUNTLESS SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS AND DECADES (CENTURIES) OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: REJECTED.
When push comes to shove some sheeple will try to pawn off as evidence total fiction; purposely misstated, partially falsified facts; facts taken completely out of context so as to seem to mean precisely the opposite of the author’s actual intent; or convoluted circular reasoning. Upon even minimal inspection all of these claims are easily shown for what they really are: TOTAL BULLSHIT. NOT EVEN WELL THOUGHT OUT OR WELL DONE BULL SHIT. Just plain old, obvious to anyone with two working brain-cells bullshit.
I briefly considered giving examples of this bullshit and why it is such a load of worthless nonsense, but in trying to find simple examples I quickly realized that even the simplest would entail refuting reams of abject stupidity and having to explain very basic science to sheeple who did not want to listen to the facts that they did not get or ignored in their education in grades one through eight. So, if you want to understand, for example, why evolution makes total sense and is backed up by hard EVIDENCE I suggest that you go to a community college and take some classes, or just go to YouTube and watch the many very entertaining and informative presentations of Richard Dawkins, or someone using the name “potholer54”. Particularly important and perhaps a place to start is potholer54’s “The Scientific Method Made Easy.” He (or she) has very easily understandable videos on the origin of the universe, the origins of life, evolution, creationist junk debunked by science and logic, Noah’s flood debunked, etc.
See the YouTube videos of Christopher Hitchens for great discussions of skepticism, religion, atheism, and related subjects. Be sure to see “The Four Horsemen: Dawkins, Dennett, Harris & Hitchens.”
And, do not miss any of the videos of Carl Sagan.
These are all men of vastly greater intellect than mine, and it is well worth spending many hours viewing their videos and reading their books.
Yes, there is a lot of truth to what Mr. Berg says, but I wasn’t swayed by his statements. I agree that ORGANIZED religion has for years caused wars and goes against the ten commandments by the killing of those who disagree with the self righteous. Therein lies the problem. Most people cannot think for themselves, as evidenced by our two party system and the continual voting based on family tradition The same applies with religious beliefs. People become fully immersed in the preaching of their faith and fail to recognize that, as in the case of Christians, the Bible was written eons ago for those who lived in a totally different time and environment. The Word of God has been revised and re-published hundreds of times, and probably translated into what the translator believed each passage meant. The scenario reminds me of a game of “telephone” we used to play as children. Form a line, whisper a phrase to the person next to you, and be amazed at how your dialogue has changed at the very end.
I consider myself a Christian, but when and if I go to church, I go for myself, not caring or curious why others are there. I listen to the sermon and apply what makes me a better person. I do NOT believe everything the Bible says because you can see how the literal translations are applied differently by Jehovah Witnesses as opposed to other religious sects. For example: A statement about eating blood is translated to forbid life-saving blood transfusions, while the Jewish apply the same and eat Kosher, salting their meats to draw out the blood. Why is there a separation of the old and new testament? Four-hundred years passed between the writing each book, and because the Jewish utilize only the Old Testament, they do not recognize Jesus as their messiah. Does this make them wrong and unfit for Heaven? I don’t think so, and that goes against what so many hard-core Christians belief. If you don’t come to the Lord through his son, you are damned to hell.
One Sunday, our Pastor,, who uses both the old and new testament, made reference to how much we southerners love our bacon. If he truly believed in the literal word he would remember that in the old testament mention is made of not eating anything with cloven hoofs. Jewish people use only the old testament, and therefore do not eat pork. It is instances like this that make me understand how Atheists exist.
It is difficult to believe that something greater than ourselves exists. Too many people don’t understand the word “faith.” If they can’t see it, feel it, taste it, then it can’t exist. But faith is the basis of religion to me. I only know for myself, if I did not have faith that God exists, how would I explain the beauty that surrounds me and the wonder of life? Faith is the plug that fits the hole in my heart…the one I had before I had faith, and that can’t be a bad thing. I prefer this approach over skepticism and doubt.
As with everything else, the problem with ORGANIZED religions is that there are no free thinkers. You are either with them or against them. I choose my own path, and the world would be a much better place if everyone took that approach instead of accepting verbatim what you’ve been taught by your elders. Respecting each others rights has been lost in the battle of the religions as in our current administration. It’s time to re-evaluate our thinking and be open to new ideas. For me, life without faith would be akin to a fish out of water. I don’t expect people to agree with me, nor do I want to argue the facts. I’m content with my relationship with God and I don’t have to be in a church to experience his presence. All I ask is respect for the right to believe the way I choose, and if more people could do that, we wouldn’t have progressed through the ages to killing people in the name of God, Allah, or whatever moniker we give to the supreme being in which we believe.