Trying to kick off this thing
So, figure I might want to kick off this blog with a substantial post. So let’s go with this: Here is, in some detail, my problem with Christianity in particular, religion in general, and dogma as a whole. In the process, I get to explain why I started this blog as opposed to going on my usual schedule of, well, playing FarCry 2 or Dawn of War, or having friends over, or reading sci-fi and such.
Sounds good to me.
I argue with Christians occasionally. Almost never in real life — I live in Québec, and no one over here can fault you for being an atheist. You’re not expected to, but nearly. So yes, I argue with theists online, mostly Christians. I have a deep interest in religion. As Douglas Adams put it:
“I am fascinated by religion. (That’s a completely different thing from believing in it!) It has had such an incalculably huge effect on human affairs. What is it? What does it represent? Why have we invented it? How does it keep going? What will become of it? I love to keep poking and prodding at it.”
I seem to be pretty lucky, because most of the debates and arguments I participate in tend to have relatively sensible Christians involved. Usually. And that’s a bit of what led me to make this blog. I guess. I think most atheists who’ve had discussions on the subject with Christians who aren’t robots will agree that a debate is hard to lose. Yet, as much as the debate is a one-sided argument, the Christian twisting every way to make an argument that never works, you can’t win. I’ve been told outright that even if I were to conclusively prove that they were wrong about the existence of God, they’d still believe. I wrote a slightly-too-passionate entry about that and other such cases at AnAtheist.com.
And then I watch large parts of the Saddleback Church presidential forum. And then I read the news. And then, no matter how strongly I think that most Christians are fairly good people, that you have to distinguish between Christians and Christianity itself, and no matter that I can’t deny that religion once had beneficial effects on society, I find myself thinking the following;
Are you motherfucking robots? What the hell do you think you’re doing? I can’t help it. I grew up in a place where religion actually had to earn respect before it was given. More specifically, I grew up in a place where, during the fifties, a man decided that having people with baseball bats near voting booths threatening to break your legs if you didn’t vote for his party wasn’t all that illegal if nobody wanted to report it. And that, you know, if a particular rural county decided that voting Liberal was a better idea, well, fuck them, they don’t really need roads or electricity, do they? And the Catholic Church decided that it’d be pretty cool to back him up, you know, since he favoured rural parishes in which the Church thrived, provided that he give them a little something extra in return for their approval. Eventually, people got tired of hearing that “Heaven is Blue and hell is Red” (guess which color his party was) and, well, the best way I can put it, in a concise manner, would be to say that they, the people, got really, really fucking tired of the whole thing.
So maybe that’s the reason. Maybe that’s why I don’t get that people can pull this kind of unthinking shit right in the face of other people and still be considered as having a shred of intellectual honesty. Because it happened here and people saw it for what it was, that one time, and now they’re not letting it happen again. It’s not as amazing as it sounds; for all their refusing to be sheep to the Church, it often feels like the people of my province are sheep to a whole bunch of other things. Still, we see the Church for what it is, which is an organisation with its own agenda, an organization which has so often reinterpreted its own words, denied its own actions, and liberally revised its supposedly final and divine mandate, that it no longer can be allowed to go forwards unchecked. Not that the Church is universally reviled here, but we refuse to trust it if it hasn’t shown that whatever it’s doing is done in good faith. Needless to say, the Church hasn’t done much here in a couple decades. Couple have been torn down due to lack of attendance, I’m pretty sure. A shame, to be honest, because so much as I find them a gigantic waste of resources, (why erect such a huge, essentially useless building in the honour of a man-God who asks for you to scorn physical wealth?) I find them to be works of art. Made for all the wrong reasons, but art is one of the few things in the world which can afford to be made for no good reason.
But yes, sociology and history lessons are over. Point is, I get annoyed and discouraged. We probably all do. I’ve once heard a Christian say, before I cared enough about my atheism to retort, that atheism drove people to suicide. Bollocks, I say. Other people’s Christianity will drive me to suicide long, long before my own atheism ever does.
In the end, my problem with religion is that I love thinking, and that this love of thinking drives me to hate dogma. There is no dogma where there’s truth. Why would there be need of it? What kind of empirical, objective truth has ever needed a dedicated, trillion-dollar institution to uphold it, and its own branch of study dedicated to reconciling it with reality through reinterpretation? Dogma is a convergence of opinions, enforced with varying degrees of force, meant to avoid disagreement on questions there is no definite answer to. In other words, it’s picking a possibility and acting as though it were a certainty, for the sake of convenience. The difference between dogma and consensus is that at least one party always has a gun trained on everyone else, in the eventuality they happen to politely diverge on the matter.
Argue your points so clearly that even they can’t find them to be false, explain why and how their points don’t work, provide a source for every claim that isn’t self-evident, and offer to explain why those are. Do it one step at a time, explaining why their sources don’t work, why such part isn’t nearly as certain as the author makes it seem, why such part is completely illogical, and why such part is simply and patently false, and do so plainly and politely until they simply don’t have a leg to stand on, and…
And you still run into a wall. Eventually, the majority will retreat into “I believe because I believe” or “I’m still right”, or some other kind of absurd untenable stance and usually refuse to have any further meaningful discussion on the subject.
That’s not always the case. I’ve witnessed some Christians saying that they would have to think about the whole thing (I question whether or not they went on to really think about it seriously, but what do I know?) and many ex-Christians say this is the kind of thing that got them to question and eventually reject religion, whether it was a book, an acquaintance, or even themselves, who first exposed those arguments.
It’s incredibly frustrating, and I think most any atheist who’s ever been in the same situation, to spend hours getting a point across to someone who usually stands rather reluctant to listen, and find that when you finally confront them with the results of this discussion and debate, they essentially close their eyes, plug their ears and chant fuzzy things in a monotone until their brain goes numb.
This wall, the point at which they stop listening entirely, isn’t the same for everyone, of course. Some virtually keep a battle-axe in their top drawer in case some godless heathen ever dares insinuate that their God might not exist, and that there’s certainly no reason to think he’s anything like they say he is. As I said, though, I’ve been lucky.
But this is why I started a blog, because eventually, people stop listening. The Christians, I mean. And, it’s good and all to have conversation with other atheists (very interesting discussions, usually) but ultimately, it feels less important. That’s a silly thing to say, but, as interesting as it can be, the discussion doesn’t feel nearly as useful as itdoes with a theist. It might have something to do with the fact that it’s a hell of a lot harder to “win” an argument with another atheist, but in the end, the reason I argue is because I feel that the position I argue against has proved harmful and untrue, and still does. Whatever subject I discuss with other atheists, that’s rarely the case. And when the people who hold this harmful and false (in my point of view, at least. If they can prove that it’s neither, I’m more than willing to listen. That’d mean the world is a whole lot better than it appears, after all, and I would love that. Doesn’t appear to be the case, though) belief, where do I go? That’s right, there’s this place that some kind of Web 2.0 smartass decided to call the Blogosphere, and it stuck. Kind of.
And so I decided to jump on the recent bandwagon of sorts and start a blog on atheism. It’s all the rage on StumbleUpon these days.
I don’t really hope to “convert” (ha ha ha, atheists “converting” people, what the hell) anyone, so much as I hope to make some people use their heads. Atheism and using your head tend to go hand in hand rather well. After all, I barelt, if ever, heard of an ex-Christian who became such through anything other than thinking. Even ministers have become atheists through using their head. Being an atheist is certainly not a necessity to use your head, however. I certainly know of theists (not to be confused with knowing them, which I don’t, otherwise I might not be quite as discouraged) who don’t have this “wall” I spoke of, and definitely are not afraid to do some real thinking about their faith. Though I’m not sure at all that this is a position I can find acceptable, I’m more than willing to tolerate it, because I have to admit that their thinking is as free as any atheist’s, and that is the truly important part.
Here’s hoping I don’t completely forget about this in the next few days. I’ll do my best not to.