“An unexamined life is not liveable for a human being,” said Socrates in his own defence when charged with impiety. I agree, and lament the lack of philosophical studies in Australian schools. Questioning our personal attitudes and ideas from time to time, and consciously subjecting them to the spotlight of reason and logic, can prevent us lapsing into lazy acceptance of corrupt and dogmatic ideas and values imposed by those who would rule and control us.
My unbelief began at the age of four, when I caught an uncle slipping out of his Father Christmas costume. Having learned there was no Santa Claus, it was no great leap to also dismiss fairies, elves, goblins and other supernatural creatures. This was somewhat of a relief, I recall, as it increased my enjoyment of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Superman, Captain Marvel and other tales involving magical phenomena over the years, because I wasn’t obliged to believe in them. Such fables are a painless method of instilling values, certainly more exciting than the Methodist Sunday school and bible class which, to please Mother, I attended until I was 12, despite considering the teachers to be somewhat pathetic. As Nobel Prize-winning author André Gide wrote: “The closer you get to religion, the further you get from reality.” Luckily, I had honest, decent, hard-working parents who used commonsense, not dogma, as a guide to living.
By the time I was 22, mere unbelief had become full-blooded atheism because I’d realised that the purpose of religion is control, and the earlier the indoctrination starts, the more mind control religions have. “Give us a child until he is four and you can do what you like with him thereafter; he will always be ours!” say the Jesuits with good reason.
Religions control their ‘flock’ by the use of fear – psychological and physical.
1. Psychological fear: – By taking natural instincts such as sexuality, dancing, pleasure in eating… and declaring them to be ‘sins’, control is asserted. This is psychological torment for those who believe, and in the worst cases can result in self-abuse and suicide as the “guilty” attempt to propitiate a demanding, frightening and jealous god. This guilt is reinforced through fear of excommunication and punishment after death in hell, all at the whim of an ever-watchful and omnipotent god who knows everything – even what you’re thinking!!! “Be afraid – be very afraid. You will be tortured by the devil for eternity unless you obey god’s will.” The fact that god’s will is by no means clear, having been ‘interpreted’ in a multitude of ways by imperfect humans, and that there’s no basis either in reason or reality for these scenarios doesn’t bother the priests and ministers. “Have faith!” they cry. “God works in mysterious ways….” “god will be angry if you question his commands.”
You have to admit it’s a very cunning trick. Not only is everyone born sinful, but they can never liberate themselves from that dreadful state. Even death doesn’t secure release. Unless one has abided by the church’s rules, after death there will be torture, pain, and misery for eternity. Truly, the Judeo/Christian/Muslim religions are among the most sadistic creeds ever invented for the psychological enslavement of humankind.
2. Fear of physical force: – Those who weren’t taken in by fear of an invisible warlord in the sky, have to be persuaded with less subtle means through the real and present fear of torture, burning at the stake, the imposition of fines, confiscation of property and goods, physically painful penitence, …
It is a damning indictment of humanity that with few exceptions the fear of force has been the major method of control used throughout human history by both religious and secular rulers, and remains the preferred – indeed virtually the only method of ‘people control’ in all countries of the world.
Two other methods of control, Temptation and Reason, are seldom used by either religious or secular governments.
* Temptation: The makers of consumer goods use temptation to make people consume their products, but revert to fear of force when dealing with their workforce.
* Reason: It was hoped by [mainly French] thinkers in the 1700’s that if people were educated they would use Reason and Logic and Commonsense to see the world as it is, and would behave ‘well’ because that’s the sensible, kind, non wasteful, peaceful, productive thing to do. For various reasons, not least among them the overweening influence of religion, that hasn’t worked.
There are and always have been a small percentage of humans who have used reason, logic and common sense to govern their lives, and invariably [inevitably perhaps] they have denied the existence of supernatural gods and monsters.
Everything existing in our world must be considered “natural”, therefore the supernatural cannot exist on earth because if it did then it would be natural – not supernatural – and available to our senses – we’d be able to see or hear or smell or touch or taste it. This proposition holds no sway with more than half of the citizens of the USA [and probably Australia] however, who, according to surveys, believe in the reality of witches, spells, vampires, angels, and extraterrestrials living among us, despite there never having been a case where they have been seen, heard smelled etc… In other words despite a total lack of believable evidence. The following quote has been attributed to Charles Darwin’s father: Whoever wrote it, it makes excellent sense.
“Man is an eating animal, drinking animal and a sleeping animal and one placed in a material world, which alone furnishes all the human animal can desire. He is gifted besides with knowing faculties, to practically explore and to apply the resources of the world to his use. These are realities. All else is nothing; – conscience and sentiment are mere figments of the imagination. Man has but five gates of knowledge, the five senses, he can know nothing but through them; all else is vain fancy. And as for the being of a god, the existence of a soul, or of a world to come, who can know anything about them? Depend upon it… these are only the bugbears by which men of sense govern fools; nothing is real that is not an object of sense.
My metamorphosis from a ‘live and let live’ atheist to a rabid antagonist of religion came with the realisation that the objective of all religions is a desire to create a state in which their prejudices are enforced. Anyone who thinks the Taliban are unusual in this regard should think again. Blood is spilt daily all over the planet in the fight for religious control over the minds and bodies of the inhabitants. Ireland; Philippines; Ivory coast; Nigeria; USA; China; Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon… And past atrocities perpetrated by colonialists on the indigenous inhabitants of all countries with the tacit approval of religion, continue to haunt society in broken lives, drug abuse, impoverishment and misery.
Every year in Australia dozens of men are murdered and thousands suffer abuse ranging from bullying to grievous bodily harm and permanent maiming as a direct result of Christian teaching. And hundreds, if not thousands of boys are thrown onto the streets to live ‘rough’ by parents who are simply obeying the homophobic teachings of religion. Many succumb to disease, brutality, prostitution…
Both the Australian and the USA governments are controlled by ‘devout’ Christians who see nothing wrong with lying to their constituents and waging war on innocent people, destroying civilisations, murdering, maiming and polluting their land with lethal radiation that will last a billion years – for economic gain. And it is the Fundamentalist Christian/Zionist certainty that heaven will not arrive on earth until there’s a Zionist state encompassing most of what we call the Middle East, that ensures ongoing horror in Palestine…
History offers us a continuum of atrocities in the name of religion – wars; torture; murder, maimings, witch-hunts; incineration; the “Children’s Crusades” when thousands of homeless, unwanted kids as young as five were forced to walk, barefoot to Mediterranean ports from all across Europe, piled onto leaky ships and sent to the ‘holy land’ to fight the heathens. All died horrible deaths of loneliness, starvation, drowning, disease, rape, abuse, slavery… in the name of a loving god. And anyone who cares to look at the lives of such sadistic monsters as St. Dominic and his henchman Torquemada, Calvin, Knox and the Borgia popes, or the perfidy of the Jesuits and Martin Luther, to mention only a few of the millions of treacherous men and women who, in the name of their god have committed ghastly crimes against humanity, must, if they have a heart, weep. And when I consider the unimaginable oceans of misery heaped on the indigenous people of The Americas, Africa, Australasia… with the blessing and assistance of the churches, my flesh creeps.
Christianity is a death cult – you must die to attain everlasting life. Human sacrifice on crosses… Sacrifice yourself for god! Inevitably and tragically this will end with the sacrifice of all life because of religious insistence on human supremacy/dominion over nature. People who have spent time with animals in their natural state know that humans are simply animals. We are not better at providing for ourselves. We are not happier, more contented, more peacefully inclined. We do not respect other humans more than other animals respect each other; we are not more generous, caring or thoughtful. In general, human marriages are no longer-lasting than the matings of many other animals and birds. We do not treat or educate our offspring as well as most animals. And, instead of living in harmony with the natural world, our tool-making skills have enabled us change it to the point where there are hundreds of extinctions daily and it is more than likely we will soon render ourselves extinct.
Christians insist that theirs is a “God of Love”. When asked why this loving god allows dreadful things to happen to his ‘children’, they answer: “It’s to test you. To see if you can overcome your affliction and be worthy of god’s love.” In other words, god allows people to go around maiming, laming, murdering and spreading dread-diseases, and sends plagues, pestilence, war and death – to test his flock! To see if they are worthy of his love… A god that organises his own ‘snuff’ movies – chilling!
Perhaps “believers” should exercise their minds on the following proposition rather than condemn a raped woman for having an abortion…
* If god is all-wise and all-powerful he has the power to arrange things better. If he chooses not to, then he’s the personification of evil. A creature so horrible that only the truly depraved would follow.
* If, on the other hand, he isn’t all-wise and all-powerful, then he’s not worth following.
Those with minds uncluttered by fear of gods and monsters can accept that ‘life’ has no ‘meaning’ per se. ‘Life’ simply is, and we can either accept it gratefully and make the most of it, or waste it in the pursuit of false desires. Without gods there’s no imposition of ‘right’ ways to live, but that doesn’t deny ‘good’ and ‘bad’. There are universal values for good such as decency, fairness, compassion… but they’ve been common to all humans in all ages. They are not the invention of religion.
I am responsible for my life and I’ll make it as worthwhile as I’m able. It’s up to me. And when I die, that’s it. That’s what makes life precious.
That’s what makes life bearable. That’s why it’s important to live as ‘good’ a life as possible.
By Peter Taylor