Hardship and Atheism

When a non-believer falls upon hard times, he or she sees it and hears it more clearly, in all its illogical absurdity:

"You should believe in God, you see! Stop being an atheist."

In your disbelief, you go to point out for the hundredth time:

"Religious people get cancer and die like everyone else, no matter the religion,at about the same rate. Natural disasters and disease wipe out scores of adults and children no matter their beliefs, just like churches of all denominations get wiped out or shot up just the same as mosques or secular venues.The most religious countries, with by far the most prayers emanating from them, are the worst, most abject and impoverished places to live. There are countless extremely successful, fulfilled, philanthropic and iconic non-believers. In point of fact, and ever more as knowledge advances, it's in the realms of the most high up and intellectual professions, from universities to entertainment, that atheism most thrives. All the healthiest countries are also the most atheistic in the world. Prayers work at the rate of chance and are illogical (Why let an all-knowing being know something? Wouldn't your misfortune be caused or allowed by this being in the first place? Why petition him to alter his perfect plan? Isn't asking favor inevitably, arrogantly, asking for harm to come to others?). Faith healers are not employed in hospitals for a reason. You'll never see prayer regrow a human limb. What kind of monster requires incessant worship and punishes puny beings for not believing things anyway, why not help all his followers submerged in atrocious conditions instead of leaving them to come up with endless excuses for his absence, silence, and inertness?"

Thus people, people who like to call themselves rational, even analytical, demonstrate blindingly clearly in these situations (situations which pertain to clear and inarguable fact, not opinion), just how much religion and religious faith can distort otherwise clear-thinking brains. Either religious people of all kinds suffer as much or more than the non-religious or they don't. Either there's a plethora and history of successful, world-bettering atheists or there isn't. Either virtually the entirety of prisons are comprised of believers or they aren't. And it doesn't take long, if people can be pried from the fog long enough, to see how dangerous the blind illogic of religious faith can be and has been for the world. Faith and invisible, unverifiable authorities and vague and contradictory ancient texts can lead you anywhere, have no check in reality, and are not reliable means to truth. Insane asylums are filled with faith as much as massacring crusaders who believed they had God and scripture on their side as much as the Jews and Muslims they slaughtered.

The fact is, regardless of the ultimate nature of the universe, what we have is each other. It's up to us. This has always been the case.Things have only ever got better when we studied reality, accurately diagnosed it, and applied knowledge to alter it for the better. Neanderthals had likely the first form of religion and they are now extinct. Read history. All these religions are tales of unrequited fervor and error; man-made comedic horrors, or horrific comedies hardly overseen and guided by any divine hand and the fog of faith and dogma through which they see the world have had to be fought by champions of reason and empathy and evidence.

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These people, witnessing the long history of religious violence, intolerance, and oppression, realized people could think for themselves, ancient traditions could be wrong and harmful, this world can be improved and it's within our capacity to do so, though the Bible sees this as vain.They saw the enormous world-transforming power of science compared with the empty assertions and circular excuses of religion and theology which never advanced or discovered any knowledge or proved any claim. They realized freedom and democracy were better though they're nowhere advocated in the Bible, that the order of things on earth is not divinely ordained despite the Bible and Christianity long preaching that it is (see divine right of kings). They realized there is a foundation of a common humanity in a common world with better and worse ways to navigate it as a social, interconnected species. As the great historian of the Enlightenment Jonathan Israel has shown, it's even the most "radical" and atheistic element of the Enlightenment, the works of atheists like D'Holbach, Diderot, Helvetius, and Condorcet that were large in giving rise to modern conceptions of tolerance and cosmopolitanism that were enshrined in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights and sparked in the American and French revolutions, "Revolutions of the Mind".

It's just a simple fact where it concerns the misfortune that befalls us, if you're standing under a falling tree, you're likely dead, no matter your beliefs and prayers. Being caught up in your beliefs and prayers may indeed provide psychological and emotional comfort (religion is really about comfort), but so do drugs and there are better ways, more useful and less divisive ways: the ways of the Enlightenment, that have brought us so much of what is best in our modern, secular, scientific, democratic and tolerant world in which we bring our sick child to the doctor, not the exorcist. It's a legacy of courage and thought and doubt, spread far more by books than fire and inquisition. It's wars were fought for liberty, peace, and progress, not the spiritual tyranny that Jesus, if he was God, knew would ensue after he was gone in his name. Its investigations uncovered simple facts that if God/Jesus had known and revealed them, such as that unwashed hands and unboiled water spread sickness and plague among other basic health facts, would have saved an endless number of lives and greatly advanced human civilization, instead of insisting as his gospels do that mud can cure blindness, faith can conquer poison, and demons cause illness.

I understand the appeal of the attractive elements of religion on a purely emotional level: an all-powerful friend or father who is always there for you in a cold world full of limited people. Any father as negligent as God apparently is on earth is unfit, but shouldn't fathers eventually go away and allow their children to grow up? Perhaps to value things beyond their own fortune, to have a cosmic perspective that reaches all of humanity and beyond to all of the universe and all its possibilities without thinking the primitive, parochial man-made desert religion on this microscopic rock that you happened to be born into has supplied all the answers already? To find the thrill in its exploration even if it does not satisfy all your emotional wants or needs? And are people so limited? Look at the mind-blowing achievements of humanity over history.

Turn the page in your holy book and is that comforting belief worth the price? Is that comforting belief really worth billions of good people being burned in a hell forever (and the hate and division that will always flow from belief in it), and just for not believing in a being who provides no clear evidence of its existence (but who used to in abundance according to scriptures, which also have various and contradictory explanations for suffering in the same book, and how wise is placing,as all cults do, BELIEF as the path to "salvation" and not say,actions, wouldn't a deity know that authentic belief isn't a choice)? Is the belief even so comforting at this point, is "heaven" and an eternity of endless servitude before this situation, and just how purposeful? Is it worth shunning the means by which progress is and has been made: the process of science (founded on doubt,systematic skepticism, and investigation and to which faith and revelation are poisons) and reason which has so astoundingly made the world a wealthier, healthier, more unified and better place? How much are the same kinds of feelings and experiences that can also be induced by drugs worth? How virtuous and valuable is the capacity to believe in things with no evidence?

It's no surprise that it's among the masses of the poor, the condition of virtually all of mankind for all history until modern science and secular democracy, that faith is most fervent. It's no surprise that in places where basic needs are supplied and there is fair and accessible paths to flourishing, religion always has been, and is now ever more scarce. Why don't we invest far more into the only world we know we have, and not waste time and energy making ridiculous assertions and judgments about those of us who are busy making breakthroughs here and not living for one of a vast array of incompatible, hypothetical other worlds that are all but disproved by science and have not a shred of credible evidence supporting their existence beyond the same fears and ignorance that have created all the other anthropomorphic projections and errors of our species; a species of risen apes, not fallen angels; not lab rats in some game, but with an unknown future before us, according to all the evidence: evidence which is our real salvation and paramount in all our efforts to have leverage on that future.

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

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