is religion a poison and atheism the antidote?

​the poison in religion is the method used. It is toxic to knowledge.It’s a guaranteed way to fool ourselves, to impose our beliefs on reality and then be told it is a virtue to presume reality must comport to them. The methodology is called basing beliefs on faith.

The harm is caused when evidence from reality that arbitrates the belief to be incorrect is rejected because it is not respected. That’s what faith is: a substitution for reality. It is identical to delusional thinking. It is a way to divorce beliefs held about reality from reality’s role to arbitrate them. (Tildeb)

I’m starting to see why some religious people are mistaking atheism for another kind of faith-based belief system. At its core, atheism is simply rejecting that any gods exist, and coming to the conclusion that the religions developed by humans in times of relative ignorance have natural and traceable human roots, rather than supernatural inspiration. 

But moving beyond these basics, perhaps many atheists do what people have always done – we form into groups of common thinking, based on shared understandings and more frequently drawn from textbooks that start to resemble holy tracts of wisdom. An ideology is created. And, as is all too often the case, it’s an ideology that needs an enemy.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of issues that can either be ‘poisoned’ by religion subsitituting faith for reality, or evaluated logically based on evidence by atheists.

refugees

Christians, using their holy textbook the Bible, are presented with the example set by their man god Jesus. He made it abundantly clear that those who have faith should sell all their belongings and give them to the poor. He told the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ who helped the mugged, foreign stranger at risk  and cost to himself. In the Christian faith, everyone is our neighbour and we are obliged to help them.

Atheists, using evidence based on reality, have to evaluate what resources are available, what risks there are in intervening or not intervening, and what impact the suffering of others has on them. They might want to include the Golden Rule (although no obligation) and consider how they would feel in the situation of the refugees. Or they might just shrug their shoulders and get on with their own lives.

trans people

Christians, using their holy textbook the Bible, are presented with the knowledge that their god created man and woman. However, as the Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about trans people, they will look for other indications, either through their observation of the world (which clearly includes people who are born intersex – with formations of both biological sexes) or personal experiences. They could also resort to basing their conclusions on some foundation messages in the Bible, such as not judging others and loving everyone.

Atheists, using evidence based on reality, have to examine studies and observe the impact of trans people on society in order to come to any conclusion. Or they can just go with a gut ‘live and let live’ feeling or a gut ‘that’s not natural!’ feeling. Some fringe radical feminist atheists might also choose their textbook ideology interpretation that tells them all gender roles are oppressive patriarchy, therefore trans people are evil for choosing one of those roles (not like non-trans people who live a stereotypical gender role).

conclusion

The obvious conclusion here is that people think whatever they think! We all know that there is a large body of Christian thinking that ignores all the ‘faith-based rules’ and wants to avoid helping refugees, and we all know that there are few obvious right and wrong directions in the vast rambling text that is the Bible (everything is open to interpretation!). Christians take differing views on every aspect of life and their opinion in coloured by their own life experiences and knowledge – just like atheists.

Atheism is not some kind of antidote to the poison of wonky religious thinking. Wonky thinking will always happen, not least because we are never in possession of all the facts, not least because there never is a ‘correct’ course of action and not least because we are all always swayed by our own underlying biases and our own personal experiences of life and people within it. 

Religion is at worst an added complication, much like every other form of ignorance in every matter that affects all of us in our decision making. When we start making ‘religion’, this perfectly natural part of our evolution, some kind of enemy, we move into the territory of every other ignorant and intolerant human ideology that has tainted our past. And it’s not a good place to be.

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