A desperate need for rational thinking


Chuck Doswell

Posted:  08 February 2012  Updated:  14 February 2012: some minor revisions and added a quotation:

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. - Thomas Paine

This is my personal opinion.  If you like, you can let me know what you think about this. But if you're not willing to have your comments posted on here, along with my response, don't bother me. For contact, use cdoswell_#_earthlink.net - use the email hyperlink or cut and paste, replacing "_#_" with "@".


In today's world, torn by political and social strife, there are many participants in that strife who believe sincerely that what the world needs is more of that "good old-time religion".  In this view, the world’s troubles can be attributed directly to their chosen deity's displeasure with our lack of faith and abject worship of said deity.  As they see it, it's those never-to-be-sufficiently-damned disbelievers who are responsible for the mess we're in.  They must be evil to have doubts about the faith the believers have accepted without any tangible evidence, and so are worthy only to be cast aside, killed if they persist in their wickedness, and doomed to eternal torment in hell.

I’m rapidly becoming an "aggressive" atheist.  By this, I mean that I no longer choose to hold my disbelief mostly within.  Instead, I'm openly proclaiming my atheism and trying to explain it in terms that should be understood by anyone who chooses to engage in a rational thought process.  Contrary to the viewpoint I described above, I believe a descent deeper into irrational religious beliefs would endanger all of us, believers and nonbelievers alike.  I'm not trying to convert believers into unbelievers, but I'm saying that if we give full vent to irrational beliefs, where the believers claim to have all the answers in their supposedly sacred writings, then the result could be an attempt to install a monolithic theocracy world-wide.  The only issue left to decide would be which set of beliefs will prevail in this global jihad!  None of the major abrahamic religions is immune from this sort of radical evangelism, although judaism seems rather more rational on the whole than christianity or islam.

A thought experiment in gullibility

Let me illustrate the irrationality of the existing religious beliefs with a thought experiment.  Imagine that I (Chuck Doswell) start to proclaim that I'm the human embodiment of an all-knowing, all-powerful deity that is otherwise invisible to virtually everyone.  I used to make my power tangible through supernatural acts experienced by thousands if not millions, but for reasons of my own (reasons, by my own design, you're too stupid to understand), I stopped doing these things in the late Bronze Age.  That deity and I really are one and the same, even though I talk to him from time to time as if he were my father.  Everyone in the world needs to be beholden to me because I'm here to allow everyone to escape everlasting agony in a really, really awful place I created especially for people who choose not to believe in me!  Oh yes, and I created those people and I know in advance what their choice will be because I know everything about everything!

It would be too easy for you to believe in my divinity if I did supernatural miracles for all to see!  If you have any doubts about my ability to do these things, it turns out you can read about them in the works of some ancient authors, who never actually met any of my friends (those who actually saw me do those miraculous things), wrote some chronicles of my earlier self when I was performing supernatural acts routinely in order to convince my friends at the time.  These authors wrote their accounts of my activities long after all my old friends died, so it's a bit unclear just how they heard about such events - the tales of my earlier life must have been passed on to others by word of mouth, which must be accurate, of course.  After all, I managed the whole process.  You can believe pretty much everything said in those chronicles - just ignore any historical inaccuracies, outright logical nonsense, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, contradictions, and so on.

If you don't believe I can do all these wonderful things written about in those ancient accounts, or even entertain any lingering doubts regarding the truth of my assertions, I'm asking that you cast all those concerns aside.  Just trust me.  Would I lead you astray?  After all, I love you so much, I'm giving you this chance to stay out of infinite torment and have a great time worshipping me in a wonderful place I've created just for my faithful followers.  Of course, I know what choice you're going to make because I know everything, but don't ask me to tell you what your fate's going to be.  I prefer you not know - call your fear of eternal torture a form of extra "motivation" to do what I demand.  I have the ultimate carrot - eternal life in heaven - and the ultimate stick - eternal agony in hell.  Just believe in me before all others and do whatever I command.


No rational person would ever accept my word for such claims.  They'd demand that I show them by actual supernatural acts that I have such powers.  The whole story strains credibility to the extent that only a fool would swallow such a load of nonsense from me, and start to worship at my feet - essentially just because I said so.  The sad fact is that charlatans like David Koresh and Joseph Smith have fabricated such stories and actually had people swallow their nonsense!  No credible evidence exists for such a supernatural deity apart from the extremely dubious content of the "sacred" writings of the abrahamic religions.  If you accept it, that acceptance essentially has to be on faith in those scriptural accounts, because of the aforementioned absence of evidence you can actually see and experience for yourself.  Why would you be given the ability to think rationally if you're being asked not to use it to assess the claims for the existence of a supernatural deity?

If I were going to pinpoint any primary cause for the political and social mess we're in, it's precisely because of extensive growth of that very "good old-time religion"!  We don't need people who believe they have a stranglehold on truth and reality, to the exclusion of any others.  Such thought patterns are a liability to us now.  They're polarizing and divisive, without any rational constraint on what some believers might be willing to do in order to assure the dominance of their beliefs.

Atheism is not a religion - atheists are freethinkers who basically only agree on one thing: they don't believe in a supernatural deity.  Apart from that one central principle, they're quite diverse.  Atheists have no churches, no rituals, no dogma, no sacred scriptures, no creed, no tax-exempt status, no priests, no seminaries, no governing body, no day set aside for them to worship.  Why would someone openly espouse a cause that leaves them marginalized, hated, feared, and excluded, if they didn't have a good reason?  We get no benefits from being an atheist, beyond the liberation of our ideas from the dogma of late Bronze Age understanding of the world.

Many believers in the abrahamic faiths have a patronizing view of religions that preceded the middle eastern abrahamic revolution in religion.  At best, these ancient religions are characterized by believers as the quaint mythology of ancient people.  Can modern believers not see the obviously mythic character of their beliefs?  Well, the obvious answer is a resounding "Nope!"  They can't see that they're the inheritors of yet another purely human mythological creation, quite comparable to all those other ancient religions and, in fact, borrowing liberally from those other religions.  All the abrahamic religions are nothing more than a  collection of myths that any rational person would have to put aside as having no evident reality.  Not only is there no evidence to back up any of these extraordinary claims, but the sacred writings are laced with historical errors, contradictions, and lack of logic that, if seen at all objectively, would be denied any status other than as a collection of purely fictional tales.

If we allow the irrationality of theism to creep into our lives, it can serve as a catalyst for all sorts of abuse, foremost of which is the command all these faiths have in common to push a particular set of religious beliefs on everyone.  Religion and democracy simply are not compatible - democracy requires rational thinking, compromise, and respect for other humans without regard for their beliefs.  Religion demands acceptance on faith and strict obedience to its dogma, without compromise with anyone having differing beliefs (who are inevitably doomed to death and eternal pain, so they simply don't matter).  The religious right wing (especially the christian and the muslim right wings which are really crypto-fascist groups) wants to create a religious indoctrination process in public schools, and to push their dogma deeply into every facet of American life, public and private.  They want to establish what would amount to a fascist, exclusionary theocracy, similar to what you might find today in places like Iran.  This would be the end of American democracy, even if the pro forma parts of it (e.g., the three branches of government mandated by the American Constituion) were to remain in place.  Any religion outside of the dominant one, including any atheistic freethinkers, would systematically be excluded from participation in governance.  A religious test would be the first thing imposed - you’re with us, or we’re against you!  Clearly, freedom of religion would be the first thing to go in such an event!  The religion would be monolithic - the winner of the jihad would be the only choice!  Do you really believe this would be a better world?  Do you really think that imposing your religious beliefs on everyone would make the world a better place?  If so, then it's obvious you probably wouldn't have read this far into this essay, and would prefer that I shut up, or even that I die.

I will die eventually of course.  But I'll go down as proud to be a freethinker, unshackled by late Bronze Age mythology.  In a world where we humans have the capacity to wipe ourselves out and destroy the world, it seems to me that we have an urgent need for rational thinking, not faith-based slavish adherence to dogma derived from mythology!  How can I remain passive and quiet about the threat from religion to destroy democracy and reduce us to another Dark Age dominated by superstition and fear?