There may be a method behind the madness, but deeper down there is madness behind those methods, especially the methods of control and dominance used by religion. Just take a look around and you can clearly see that madness seems to rule the landscape. And while the vast majority of religious people are quite sane, except maybe for the acceptance of a perpetuated mass delusion, the men who lead them and stand as the “poster children” for these various religions seem to have embraced madness whole hog. And boy, are they ever running with it!
The Moments Which Define Us
When we examine each other as groups, such as how atheists and theists look at one another as rivals, we can only really judge what we see. Arguments arise over the actions of past representatives of either group, and No True Scotsman fallacies fly like birds heading south for the winter. “Those aren't true -insert religious group-!” And even us atheists do it. We denounce men such as Stalin and Mao and the likes as not actually being atheists, but the truth is we can only go by their own words and these men CLAIMED to lack a belief in any deities. The sad truth is that this is the only requirement to call oneself an atheist. Now I can give you plenty of reasons why they are the poorest examples of atheists in all of recorded history, but they claimed to be atheists and whether or not their actions reflect this or not, all I can do is take them at their word. But you best believe that I'm going to do the same for men such as Hitler who professed a belief in God (and although he thought Christianity to be too meek in its approach, he held the Bible as his source of belief in a deity, and also used it as a justification for many of his actions). Don't bitch about it, Christians... just read some history books and take it as an example of how NOT to be a Christian.
Now, the past is the past. It's a stepping stone towards the future, and we have the choice of blacking it out as if it never happened or learning from it. And let me tell you that if you're embracing the Scotsman fallacy, you aren't learning anything at all. These moments in our past have set the tone for what we see today, and for who we've become. They also set the tone for how others perceive us both as groups and as individuals. Many Christians I debate with truly think that all atheists are Stalinesque megalomaniacs with a “God complex”, and while that isn't true in the least, I only have Stalin's own words and deeds to thank for the assumption. You see, men such as Stalin and Mao have set the tone for what madmen can do and they used enforced atheism as a tool for control and dominance. To deny that would be a flat out lie, and I'm not too keen on dishonesty. But I think it's time we really examined some things and started looking at things a bit differently.
Individual Actions and Group Mentality
Each of us is an individual and our actions are our own to wear. For better or worse, the things we say and do have an impact and all consequences are OURS to bear. I don't blame the doctrine for the actions of the faithful or devout, and I believe each man should be held accountable for what they've done as individuals. Not all Muslims are terrorists...not by a long shot. And not all Christians are hateful bigots like those Westboro Baptist nut jobs. And very few Hindus follow the Thugee cult of Kali. So why on earth would I use those most irrational and mentally unsound among these groups as a viewpoint for a blanket judgment of the WHOLE religion? I'm sorry, but I don't deal in myopic mindset and vision. I can clearly see that those are the worst examples of the extremist side of religion. BUT...we still have a problem.
You see, my entire argument against religion is that it is the ultimate FACILITATOR for atrocious and unjust actions and thoughts. Hitchens said, “Religion poisons everything”, and I think many people mistakenly think that Hitchens was saying that religion itself is the one ACTING, when in fact the statement matches my assertion perfectly. After reading his entire body of works, I believe that Hitchens felt as I do that religion has offered a justification for some of the most horrible ideas and actions of mankind's bloody history. These doctrines are so open to interpretation that nearly any insane idea a man could have can be justified with a tilted interpretation of scripture. Religion is not the gun itself, but rather it is the friend who OFFERS the gun to a madman and sits back to watch the carnage. Slavery, misogyny, homophobia, racism, sanctioned murder and rape... these things haven't been CAUSED by religion at all. They were born in the sick minds of men and then men went looking for God to give them the divine “Okay” to follow through with them. Unfortunately God isn't really very vocal, and he apparently left only cryptic parables behind for men to decipher and draw their own conclusions. A perfect example of this is how so many republicans here in the U.S. seem to have no problem telling us we must all live by the Bible, yet when we go to war, somehow we're doing God's work...unless a democrat took us there, and then suddenly it's back to “thou shalt not kill.” Uh…hypocrite much, bro? The book says “Don't kill,” not “Don't kill unless you think you're trying to help someone or if you want to steal some oil.” If you can't follow the book, then don't expect ME to follow the damn book. I've seen more wisdom on a goddamn fortune cookie than 90% of what's in ANY “holy” book!
The real problem comes when the bat-shit crazies start shouting and others start listening. It starts with one asshole who starts talking and then impressionable folks come along and hear the idiocy being spouted. Soon you've got a bunch of assholes and they're on a mission...a mission from God. At least that's what they believe, and they've got a book to back it up. “See here, this verse says God hates homosexuals...so let's go picket the funerals of dead soldiers!” And at the head of all these groups is at least one flat out madman bent on implementing his ideas on the world around him.
We are Social Animals... and That's How Mobs Start
I really enjoy studying sociology as a hobby. I'm no expert on the subject by any means, but anyone who's familiar with sociology has a pretty good understanding of mob or herd mentality. The most prevailing ideas on the subject shows that when people get together in groups we have a tendency to look for a leader and quite often that leader is simply the most vocal individual in the group. We tend not to even really notice when this loudest individual shifts from coherent thought into a drone of madness. By that point most people in the group are already enthralled and hyped up. This is how even the most peaceful of gatherings can turn deadly violent in the blink of an eye. People get caught up in the moment and the words of the charismatic man out front. And most people never even notice that once the group gets hyped up enough, that charismatic front man slips slowly and quietly to the back to watch the mayhem.
Osama Bin Laden is one of the great examples of the charismatic front man. Posing time and again for a camera to hype up his followers and send them to their deaths all while waiting in the wings to watch the horror unfold. But he stands out because he brought about death, that doesn't mean he's the only example. Pat Robertson is just one of many equivalent Christian evangelists that uses his charismatic attitude and words to influence so much of this nation to embrace ideas of bigotry and hatred, but he has learned to wrap that bigotry in prayer and call it righteousness. And all of these men stand to gain a great deal from influencing others to follow them. There is a method to the madness they set in motion... but there is a much deeper madness behind the methods themselves.
The thing I think that disturbs these people so much about us atheists is that we don't tend to indulge in the herd mentality. We value our individuality far too much to simply jump in with any group and as long as we exist these madmen will always have a voice of opposition against them. When I see insanity I just can't help but point it out to everyone who will look or listen...and the most wonderful thing is happening in this world today... more and more people are looking and listening. They're starting to wake up to the idea that if a man CAN use these doctrines to justify horrible actions, maybe the doctrines aren't as unerring as we've all been led to believe.