Long time readers of this blog know I'm an atheist.
I've been an atheist since I can remember, and I mean that literally. My mama sent me to a Lutheran kindergarten, because New Orleans in those days did not have public kindergartens: I remember standing during the religious portion of the school day (we had to stand while we got preached at) standing giving my classmates the side-eye, wondering if the rest of them really believed any of this, and being convinced that none of them truly did.
The Teacher: "Jesus knows whether you believe in Him or not."
Five year old delagar, standing at her bench in her little uniform, in her little braids, hands behind her back, frowning. Looks sidelong at Guy, a red-headed boy with adorable curls, who looks earnest and terrified.
The Teacher: "You can say you Believe all you like. But Jesus sees INTO YOUR HEART. Jesus KNOWS."
Five year old delagar looks the other way, at the dark haired girl who also has braids, who gets in trouble with delagar frequently for talking during naps. She doesn't look worried, just bored. She's chewing on the end of her braid.
The Teacher: "Jesus can see EVERYTHING. Jesus knows EVERYTHING."
Five year old delagar frowns at the teacher: she is pretty certain not even the teacher believes this crap, since this is the same voice the teacher uses when she says things like now we will all be on our best behavior for this field trip won't we.
It took me a long time to be convinced that some people actually believe God exists. Sometimes I am still not convinced, frankly. I mean, I know people think they believe God exists. But it seems obvious to me that they're believing it for the same reason kids believe in Santa -- for the presents, or because they're too scared not to. But then I think about some few of my students, who are intelligent and good at heart, and who sincerely and legitimately believe in God, and I have to admit that people can believe in God who are not idiots and not fools.
Also, while I was watching the documentary Eyes on the Prize, about the Civil Rights Movement, people involved in that movement -- intelligent, good-hearted people, people who were not idiots or fools, people who were obviously not lying and not afraid -- spoke of how God let them do what they did. So that showed me that some people do, in fact, actually legitimately believe in God.
My point: I'm not a particularly militant atheist.
I don't (for the most part) go around arguing with those who are religious, I don't try to get them to see how wrong-headed they are, or prove to them that God doesn't exist, or that their worldview is flawed.
If it gives people comfort to have these religious convictions, then go in peace, I say.
These religious convictions do have a downside -- do create problems, at times.
This is a self-evident truth, and at these times I do, occasionally, find myself wanting to argue with my students and with people on the internet and with people in my life: to show them the destruction they're causing in the world.
I try not to, even then, because people really aren't rational when it comes to their religion, but here is what I think. Religion is destructive and a problem in these areas, in these particular ways.
The first and most obvious problem is when people use religion in a destructive way. Take Doug Wilson, for instance, and Rod Dreher, and those like him: those who use religion to support their oppressive worldviews.
Rod isn't nearly as big a problem as Doug, but nevertheless: this sort uses their religion to support their belief that certain sorts of people can be legitimately discriminated against. This sort once used religion to justify slavery and discrimination against people of color; now they use it to justify the oppression of women and LGBT people and the mistreatment of children. If they did not have religion to back their oppression, they would not feel nearly so justified; nor would they be taken as seriously.
So that's one problem.
But here's another, and possibly even a greater one: the time and the energy and the resources that are sunk into religion.
(Here is a post that touches on the enormous resources devoted to the worship of this imaginary being. But that's hardly even scraping the surface -- think of the billions devoted to building churches, paying preachers, funding proselytizing, all funds that could be otherwise more profitably spent.)
On FB, I watch my otherwise intelligent students spend hours arguing the most bizarre and ridiculous questions -- whether the world is 4000 or 7000 or 9000 years old, based on the interpretation of some verse in Exodus; whether women braiding their hair is a sin or not; what exactly this specific verse in Revelation means. This is enormous intellectual energy which could be spent doing something useful in the world, wasted on what is -- frankly -- nonsense.
(See this site for another example.)
That's not even counting the occasions when the nonsense is actively destructive -- as it often is.
(Not to mention misogynistic -- as it often is. See also here. And here.)
True, it's a free country.
True, if they didn't have religion they would probably just be arguing about baseball statistics or which fishing lure was the best instead.
But I can't help thinking that religion siphons off wealth and intellect and energy, diverting it toward chimera, smoke, and mirrors -- wasting it, in fact: wealth and intellect and energy that could be used to improve this planet, this life, this world here, which is, in fact, the only world that actually exists.
1 hour ago