This is an excerpt from The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion by Dan Dana, a short, FREE e-book available at Smashwords, Goodreads, and Amazon ($0.99).
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A quiet revolution is underway. We hear no gunfire. No armies are engaged in battle. No violent overthrow of political regimes is occurring. This is a peaceful evolution, a slow-motion, though accelerating, transformation of a world order that has been in place for over 2,000 years.
Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed were revolutionary leaders who established the contemporary monotheistic world order, supplanting the theologically fragmented era of Neolithic, Egyptian, and Greek religions. The three primary Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), combined with South Asian (Dharmic) and East Asian (Taoist) faiths, comprise a supernaturalist bloc of belief systems that has held sway to the present, but is beginning to lose its grip on the hearts and minds of people.
By definition, supernaturalists contend there exist forces beyond scientific understanding of the laws of nature. The Reason Revolution is occurring as the supernaturalist bloc yields to atheistic naturalism. Advancement and dissemination of knowledge gained through science is the engine of this revolution.
Although Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, and other cultures must be credited with earlier scientific contributions, Galileo (1564-1642) is widely considered the father of modern science. His dispute with Pope Urban in 1616 regarding whether the Earth is the stationary center of the universe (heliocentrism was considered heresy) was the first skirmish of the Reason Revolution. Galileo wrote privately to his friend and fellow astronomer, Johannes Kepler, “I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd”—a rude comment, but an understandable sentiment even today.
The Reason Revolution has been underway for about 400 years. Newton, Einstein, Darwin, and Hawking are prominent among the many scientists who have contributed to our understanding of the natural universe and its earthly inhabitants. Gradually, religious authorities have been forced to concede truth to science, some of which is presented in the “Reasons for skepticism” section below. The Catholic Church discontinued its prohibition of books advocating heliocentrism in 1758, but not until 1992 did it officially vindicate Galileo—Papal fallibility is a hard thing to admit!
The pace of the revolution has quickened in recent decades. Astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996), the great popularizer of science, laid a foundation for subsequent authors to publish popular books and other media that explicitly refute religious orthodoxy. In today’s more accepting atmosphere, atheists are coming out of the closet in droves. Supernaturalism is crumbling as the “god of the gap” (explained below) shrinks. A global 2012 poll reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious and 36% is not, with a 9% decrease in religious belief from 2005. The trend is clear.
The Reason Revolution has no formal leaders, no central planning, no headquarters, no founding documents, and no funding. It is an organic movement whose participants envision a better, more humanitarian world without religion. As our numbers and proportional representation increase, and as the supernaturalist theology of religionists arcs toward irrelevance, reason will overtake faith. It is only a matter of time.
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I recently came across a blog post of one Christian woman’s non-existent sex life and how proud of herself she is for denying herself physical intimacy outside of marriage. And before you ask, no she doesn’t double click her own mouse, the sinfulness of which is detailed in another holier-than-thou post so repressively titled “The M-Word.”
I’m not going criticize her for her complete lack of explicit scriptural reference in her writings. As anyone familiar with the Bible can tell you, almost any passage in isolation can be used to justify pretty much anything. What disturbed me about this whole article is that there are people so deeply in love with an ancient text that they will intentionally defy their biology. They don’t mind accepting the blanket assertion that they are inherently flawed and must always seek approval from their father and that all of their actions must be in pursuit of that approval, but they can’t entertain any sins of the flesh in their mortal chase of an unattainable standard.
Christians have created a weird cult. The concept of “sin” gave religious doctrine its mandate. Without sin, there is no need for ridiculous lists of rules and barbaric punishments. What normal, free-thinking people see as an intimate, physical act Christians see as some kind of pact with Jesus. The act of intercourse is strictly interpreted as a means of procreation and never merely as an act of recreation. Even pleasuring oneself is seen as a selfish undertaking. So even if she owned Christian-approved sex toys, it would still be sinful to use them.
What a sad, frustrating existence. And for what, exactly?
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to avoid church, now “avoid contracting HIV” joins the list. Juan Demetrius McFarland, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Mongtomery, Alabama recently admitted to having had sexual relationships with females in the congregation KNOWING that he had AIDS. He also admitted to mishandling church funds and using drugs which may or may not have been purchased with aforementioned church funds.
Of course, during his confessions, he pulled stories from the Bible to parallel his actions and struggles. The congregation told him to hit the bricks, but he showed up the following Sunday to give a sermon. The deacons of the church plan to file a suit to bar him from the premises and gain control of the church’s finances. (h/t USA Today)
In celebration of Freedom of Speech Week (observed October 18-24), I would like to illuminate the life of one of America’s first prominent, outspoken atheists, Charles Chilton Moore, a man who was jailed for blasphemy because the sensitive Bible Belt dwellers of his time just couldn’t stomach a little competition.
When one considers prominent United States atheists, depending on the social circles with which one regularly associates, the list is likely to be rather short. While there are many prominent Americans who consider themselves atheists, very few make their atheism a vocal part of their public dialogue. Such people include authors Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens; entertainers Penn Jillette and Bill Maher; and university professor PZ Myers. Charles Chilton Moore was a trailblazer for all atheists in the United States, though sadly his story is known by few.
Moore was born in 1837, the grandson of prominent Restoration Movement preacher Barton W. Stone. Moore became an ordained minister, but he lost his faith in the Bible over time, in part due to geological evidence that was contrary to the commonly-held belief in a 6,000 year old Earth. In 1884 Moore founded the Blue Grass Blade, a sporadically-published journal containing articles promoting agnosticism, women’s suffrage, old Earth theory and outing illegal distilling operations and the antics of those he considered religious bigots in his community.
Moore was jailed for five months for blasphemy before his sentence was commuted thanks to a pardon from Republican President William McKinley. As Americans, we often look at blasphemy laws in other nations and scoff at their barbarism. Sadly, many forget the despicable record our own country has with respect to equal treatment of those with different or nonexistent religious beliefs. One need only look at the Salem Witch Trials, the jailing of people for expressing dissenting religious opinions, and the destruction of Mosque construction equipment to catch a small glimpse of our less-than-progressive past.
Moore’s legal battles set many precedents with regards to free speech and the free distribution of publications that contain sentiments contrary to those held by the majority. For those that face hardships today because of their lack of religious belief, it may be comforting to remember the plight of one man who suffered jail time for his lack of belief. Perhaps the next generation of Americans will never experience any form of religious discrimination. We can hope.
To learn more about the life of Charles Chilton Moore, read his biography Kentucky’s Most Hated Man: Charles Chilton Moore and The Bluegrass Blade or his autobiography Behind the Bars (available sparsely).
Seven Tennessee pastors have pledged to endorse various political candidates in their September 26th sermons. This action could endanger their tax-exempt status with the IRS, but that is not stopping a group of pastors of various denominations from encouraging their congregations to vote for their pre-selected candidates.
The issue has raised First Amendment questions about why a church’s tax-exempt status should be linked to its political partisanship and that restricting what a preacher can say to his congregation is a limit on free speech. Jeremy H. of Brentwood said, “Churches have been allowed to spread their misinformation with lies and scare tactics for generations. The last thing they need is the ability to politically indoctrinate their followers as well.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission told The Tennessean that “the mixing of the sacred nature of the church with the exceedingly worldly nature of politics is … unseemly.”
“It puts congregations in an awkward position. It’s not a wise thing for churches to endorse candidates. We think candidates should endorse us,” said Land. Land also expressed reservations about potentially alienating members of their churches with differing political views. “I’m supposed to minister to everyone.”
Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, commented, “Clergy serve as spiritual advisers, not political bosses. Pulpit politicking violates federal tax law and offends the vast majority of church-goers.”
This rebellion by clergy has rekindled the debate of whether churches should be tax-exempt at all. In 1881, President James Garfield said, “The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt for equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.” [emphasis added]
See About.com for more information about tax-exempt status for churches.
Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and popular wiki question sites often humorously ponder what exactly an atheist is supposed to do should they find themselves in court preparing to testify. Obviously an atheist cannot swear on the Holy Bible, so what prevents atheists from perjuring without fear of eternal damnation?
Before the question of an atheist lying under whatever oath they may or may not take is addressed, please open your mind to the possibility that just maybe there have been Christians that have lied despite their sworn oath to God on the Bible. Most people, regardless of their religious denomination, engage in “sinful” behaviors because it suits their basic needs at that very moment. But that’s okay. Christians have accepted that they are forever flawed beings that fall short of the glory of God and can easily ask for forgiveness. (Spoiler Alert: Forgiveness is almost always granted by the voices in their heads.)
Having considered that, does it really matter if anyone swears an oath to a deity on a holy book? If lying under that oath will best serve their interests at that moment, they will do so. And in the case of Christianity, there is an easy method of redemption already in place if they should bear false witness. Compare this to the plight of an atheist, who cannot so easily wash their hands of their intentional deceit. An atheist must live with the consequences of their decisions unlike Christians, who can blame their misdeeds on Satan or mumble some conciliatory words with clasped hands to make their problems disappear.
In conclusion, any person, believer or otherwise, will lie under oath if it serves their needs. The key difference is that an atheist will carry the burden of their decision to do so for the rest of their life. The Christian on the other hand can distance themselves from their deplorable act of hypocrisy by calling upon the death of a martyr two millenia ago. How convenient.
I was just looking in my neighbor’s yard. There is a large wooden crate behind his deck that hasn’t been touched in the last 6 months. As far as I can tell, it is there to stay. This got me thinking about people’s belief in god.
If my neighbor told me that inside his crate was $1 billion, I would probably call him crazy. But if he told me that I could have the $1 billion, he might pique my interest for a moment. I’d want to see some sort of proof or obtain some form of collateral, but he would have my attention. Here’s the bombshell: he tells me that to obtain the treasure, I would have to spend an indeterminate amount of time cleaning his house, mowing his lawn, doing other various chores, and finally giving him 10% of my annual income.
Well, screw that. Sure he lets me play basketball on his nice court, gives me a meal once in a while, and takes me on his annual ski trip with his family, but I’d still want some sort of evidence that the $1 billion actually existed before I donated vast amounts of my time and resources to obtaining it.
I know this isn’t a direct parallel to the god belief that so many among us hold, especially considering that the rewards of most modern religions don’t come until after death (if at all). Add in to that the uncertainty of whether our actions are predetermined or based on free will, and you have an even stickier situation which should give more people pause before devoting their livelihoods to the religion of their choice. Unfortunately, it does not.
People, for the most part, tend to carry on the beliefs of their ancestors and hold them dear without ever taking a moment to question them (After all, questioning those beliefs is a sin in itself.) What does it take to actually get someone with such a deeply internalized belief to question it? A traumatic experience? A trip to rock bottom? Too often, these events further entrench beliefs rather than diminish them.
I guess atheists need to start having a ton of babies.
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is offering a $20,000 reward for leads that result in the arrest of the arsonist who set fire to construction equipment at the future home of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
Police and firefighters responded to the blaze on August 28. The BATFE has confirmed that the incident is in fact arson and that chemical accelerants were used in the fire. The fire occurred in the wake of a media storm surrounding the proposed construction of a similar Islamic center in Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero.
Gubernatorial candidates Democrat Mike McWherter and Republican Bill Haslam have chimed in on the subject condemning the violent actions while stating that the crisis can best be handled as a local zoning issue. Apparently, the ability of people to legally acquire property and develop it for worship should be decided by local zoning boards. As an atheist and antitheist, I never enjoy seeing more houses of worship being developed, but the thinking that goes behind the statements of both candidates are laced with an air of moral superiority that has been typical of outspoken anti-Islamists in the preceeding weeks.
The Christian high and mighty in Middle Tennessee have been very quick to lump the small, peaceful Muslim community in Rutherford County and surrounding areas with the radical jihadists of Al Qaeda. This only shows them for the bigots that they are. A commenter on my last article insisted that establishing any moral equivalency between Christianity and Islam was absurd. Obviously that commenter does not believe that Christianity has any blood on its hands, and he would be well served by reading up on the Crusades and the Salem Witch Trials, just to name two high-profile instances of hate, rash judgment, and persecution perpetrated by his own faith.
To those that set fire to the construction equipment, we must wonder if they know that what they did is in fact the very definition of terrorism.