Arguing With Theists

After having read a rather good blog entry on agnosticism and atheism last week, I was all fired up about religious matters.

So I found myself in a comment thread about religion in an article of The Local (where, I have, incidentally, just published another article).

Anyway, the person I was arguing with began, as these people do, to discuss oppressive communist states and point out that they were and are all “atheist” states. Meaning, I can only assume, that atheists are all mass-murderers (pretty rich coming from the people behind the crusades, I thought).

Let’s look at this more closely. Now, if you planned to install a totalitarian communist regime in a country, what kind of population would you want?

Would you prefer an educated, sceptical population who base their decisions on evidence and reason and can not be convinced of things that are not demonstrably true?

Or would you prefer a population who are used to subjugating themselves to a higher power, who do not ask for evidence and quite happily believe anything you tell them as long as some unelected authority figure told them to believe it?

I won’t insult your intelligence by answering that question directly.

Basically, religion primes people to accept any and all shadowy omnipotent leaders. Atheism, by and large, doesn’t, since atheists are (by definition) better at reasoning.

So if you want to install a totalitarian regime you had better hope that the population is as religious and uneducated as possible. Like, oh let’s see, half the countries in Africa?

And for the record, communist states don’t stamp out religion because they don’t like it. They stamp it out so that their own power can be more absolute. And what is communism, if not a religion? Isn’t it also a set of ideas and doctrines, complete with holy books, which must be followed without thinking? What are Chairman Mao and Kim Jong-il, if not little arrogant gods?

Communists are sure as hell not sceptics, and can only be called “atheists” in the most superficial of ways.

So you want “freedom”? Then you can start by freeing people from all forms of oppression, both governmental and religious, and empower them to make their own decisions. And then we can all live happily ever after.

Until we die, and turn to godless compost and bright little flowers grow from our mulch.

Anyway, have a nice weekend. Free of both communists and sky fairies.

/ paddy

Broadband to Heaven

Because the Swedish Lutheran church isn’t as intrusive and pompous as other churches, and tends to keep its nose out of most affairs of state, one stops noticing it very much or even taking it seriously.

But now it has brought the full attention of the country back to the fact that it is a Christian church and actually does believe in an immortal entity and his zombie demigod son and all the rest of that inane twaddle, and it wants nothing more that to have the rest of us believe it too.

And it has done this in style with a new ad campaign, visible now in Stockholm’s subways and newspapers.

WIRELESS. Prayer is free; a permanent connection; pray when, where and how you want. Free support in all parishes.

When I see this I have to sit back, take a deep breath and wonder if this can have been designed by adults – actual conscious thinking people – or by a daycare class on a bored Tuesday afternoon. Because this is just bizarre and troubling on so many levels.

The biggest mistake that Svenska Kyrkan have made here is to actual point out the inconsistencies of “prayer” by relating it to actual technology in this way. And so it starts us thinking and drawing parallels. Such as:

Is the flow of prayer constrained in some way? What medium does it use? What if too many people pray, what happens then? Does god stop listening? Is there a celestial server outage?

And do the prayers go into a cache? Is there a prayer browser? Can we save prayers on a flash-drive and retransmit them later? And what file format would they be in? .pry? Or maybe .god?

Prayer, if it needs to be repeated, does not, and never has, actually worked, beyond the personal comfort it might give to some people. It has no effect on the actual material world, as all serious studies to date have shown. You’d be better off taking a walk, or making a cup of tea, or buying a dog.

All we can conclude from this is that Christians are severely deluded individuals, people who would be considered slightly insane, or at least very unstable, if their ramblings were not classed as “religion” and were therefore exempt from any and all rules of logic and behaviour.

The upshot of all this is that because the Swedish church now has to advertise, it means that it is in trouble and can’t get new members. And this cheers me up immensely.

As I have repeated on many an occasion, I don’t have much argument with personal religion or spirituality (other than thinking that you are a bit weird). You can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own head (a courtesy that many religions do not give to us non-believers, may I add). But when you start imposing your power structures and your whiny morals on me, and start interfering with the running of the world because some magic book and/or voice in your head told you to, well, that’s where I draw the line.

So, to summarise: You have an invisible broadband connection to your god? Yes, yes, of course you do. Now just take your pills and everything will be fine.

/ paddy