It would appear that all extant religions and their offshoots derive their credibility and moral philosophy from a particular person. Names that come to mind are Confucius, Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Paul, Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, William Booth and Martin Luther. They saw a need for a change in the culture of their period and claimed that they had received a supernatural revelation.
Today thoughtful people can find no evidence of any supernatural realm or entities. They no longer believe that the human race has a supernatural element that survives death and spends eternity in bliss or torment and this fact alone ensures the ultimate death of religion.
Civilisation is an ongoing process. The codes of practice of the hunter-gatherers underwent dramatic change when people began living in permanent settlements. There was a similar shift when humanity moved from oral tradition to written text.
Today older people can look back and see the great changes that have taken place in our culture over a lifetime. When civilisations or circumstances are changing rapidly, people often find this unsettling. They have to change ideas that have been formed in infancy and this they are loath to do. The choir or altar boy, even after abuse, does not readily reject religion and the social life that goes with it but clings doggedly to beliefs, which are clearly false, by refusing to think about such matters. It is so much easier and more comfortable to close the mind and go with the old ideas, no matter how ridiculous they are in the light of present day knowledge.
Being bonded for life as infants to an organisation does not appear to concern many people, yet as adults they would object violently were they denied the right to change their membership of a political party, sporting movement or employment.
What does religion offer to offset these drawbacks and impositions? It can provide a regular meeting place for social contact with like-minded people. It can provide an avenue for charitable and altruistic activity. It obviates the need for the individual to think through moral and philosophical questions, for the authority has already provided the relevant answers. It can supply a counsellor and a shoulder to cry on when the need arises and, at a price, a shelter during the declining years of life.
The teenage period of hormonal surge and the times of grief and stress open Windows of opportunity for emotional exploitation for purveyors of religion. They make full use of emotion to secure converts.
Above all, religion assures all its members that death is but the threshold to a new and wonderful life where one meets up with dead loved ones and friends. It guarantees forgiveness for all past misdemeanors and a return to full health and perfect happiness free from care and pain.
The only trouble is that these claims and assurances have no factual basis. They are an exploitation of the ignorant and gullible, for the benefit of those who are making the claims.
There is no possibility of a future life, so there is no possibility of any retribution or pay-back to the perpetrators of this scam — a perfect crime where you receive your reward in the never ever!!
What, then, are the positive inducements available to those who repudiate the religious system?
As freethinkers, they can profit from all the thinkers of past ages and weigh the arguments of both religious and secular on matters of moral and philosophical importance, then accept or reject. Moreover, they remain forever free to up grade and alter their viewpoints as circumstances change, for they realise that no question requires a black or white answer but that the answer lies with the situation. The freethinker is a person who is morally responsive and responsible.
As a freethinker, an atheist is an individual who has considered the absence of evidence to support the proposition that any supernatural realm or entity exists and who acts on that basis. Henceforth they must determine their moral and every other code according to their ability to reason logically and follow the path with honesty and integrity for their own benefit and that of the family and society at large.
Though there is a very great measure of consensus among atheists on matters of importance, there is no obligation for that to be the case.
The one thing that atheists have in common with religionists is the absence of any evidence for the existence of any god or anything supernatural.
Atheists realise that law is the defining feature of civilisation and that our code of civilised values relies on courts of law to uphold it. The law cannot work without both in place.
It is a matter for each person to decide which system of law they prefer to accept. They may choose the one enshrined in a religious system administered by a male hierarchy and considered perfect and unchangeable – or they may choose the one that is drawn up by a society working under the democratic principle which grants every individual the right and opportunity to express and enshrine their viewpoint. The secular and atheistic system acknowledges that no law or code is perfect and set in concrete.
Laws must forever remain flexible and free to be changed according to the changing situations and the knowledge and requirements of the citizens. It is the system that recognises the equality of men and women and the needs of both society and the individual. It is the system which grants each person the right to think and act for themselves and to be responsible for their own actions. The only curtailment is when individual activity adversely affects the society and the welfare of the planet.
The atheist secular system recognises the need for, and the value of, co-operation for the betterment of all. Atheists concede that we miss out in the recruitment of new members because we reject the appeal to the emotions and consider that appeal to reason is the only valid avenue for gaining membership.
The atheistic value system is worthy of universal support.
By Keith S Cornish