Which of these crimes does not belong in a court of law?
Obviously, blasphemy is a victimless crime. No modern court of law in any civilised country would hear the case of the defendant accused of blasphemy. We’ve moved on. Justice and punishment in our evolved society do not deal with actions that hurt nobody, and certainly do not deal with belief or non-belief! Belief, no matter how ridiculous or offensive it might be, is not a crime. On the same line of thinking, speech is not a crime. Speech might be moving, stupid, or offensive, but you can’t arrest someone for just speaking their mind. The moral zeitgeist moves on, and most civilised countries keep pace with it.
Nowadays, we punish people for their actions; for actual crimes.
It hasn’t always been this way though. There were times, and they weren’t so long ago, and they’re actually still present in many parts of the world, when private actions that don’t even hurt anyone were considered crimes, but that is not my concern in this article. My concern is about the “crime” of non-belief. Needless to say, the position that non-belief is a crime is exclusively held by the religious. And this, albeit staggering absurd, is the most revealing thing about religion and faith: the obsession with belief, or lack thereof.
Religion is absolutely fixated with those who don’t believe. Commandments not to steal or kill, I can understand, but:
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” – Psalm 53:1
Why? Why is it foolish to not believe in god?
Why didn’t the Psalm say: “The fool hath said in his heart, I will believe although there is no evidence”, or why not: “The fool hath said in his heart, I am better than that race because of my skin colour.”?
Before we go any further, let’s get this rock out of the road straight away:
THERE IS NO PROOF OF A GOD’S EXISTENCE. THERE IS NO LOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR A GOD.
The Argument from Design, the Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Morality, Pascal’s Wager, the Transcendental Argument for god, etc all fail. They are all fallacious.
Pascal’s Wager illustrates the mind of the believer perfectly: “if you believe in god and he doesn’t exist, you lose nothing. And if he does exist you benefit by believing. On the other hand if god does exist and you don’t believe in him, you risk annihilation.”
For a start, belief is not a choice. I cannot choose to believe in god anymore than I can choose to believe I have three arms. So if I said I believe in god, I would just be lying. Does god want to save people who pretend to believe in him, just so they don’t get hurt? That doesn’t sound appropriate for any intelligent being, let alone one who is supposedly loving.
Also, why would it matter if I believe in god or not? The Wager is not “live a good life, because if god doesn’t exist you’ve lost nothing and if he does he will punish you”. The Wager concerns BELIEF, but why would god be so offended by those who simply don’t believe he exists? It makes no sense. Couple this with the fact that if he exists, he has gone out of his way to make his existence look so unlikely that atheists are fully justified in not believing. And yet, he isn’t necessarily going to punish us for our actions, or how we’ve lived our lives etc. Oh no, he will punish us for the “crime” of simply not believing in him. Why?
Patrick Sookhdeo :
“One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, ‘Any Muslim that denies that terror is part of Islam is kafir’. A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e. a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult…”
But why is not believing such an insult? If you were to call someone a paedophile, a racist, a liar, a cheat, or disloyal, they could rightly consider than an insult. But a ‘non-believer’? Why would an incredibly powerful eternal intelligent being be so insulted by people who didn’t believe in him?
Here is a recent quote from a fundamentalist Christian I’ve argued with:
“After all, it’s our choice, and if we refuse to even believe that God exists, how will we get to Heaven? How will you receive the gift if you choose to refuse that it, or even the One offering it to you, exists?”
But why not get to heaven based on how you’ve lived your life? Does god not care for secular charity causes? What if I care for my friends and family all my life, and I don’t believe in god? What if I treat people like I want to be treated, and never intentionally hurt anyone, and go out of my way to make the world a better place, but simply don’t believe in the “right” god out of all the thousands on earth?
If you were god, on the premise that people of all walks of life and all worldviews can be very nice people, would belief in you automatically trump non-belief?
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” – James 2:19. The message is clear; James sarcastically says: ‘you believe in god do you? Well done! But so what? Even the demons believe that god exists.’ So it’s clear that belief in itself is not a prerequisite for salvation. But if we don’t need religion to guide our actions and belief in itself doesn’t get you anywhere, then what is the big deal with being an atheist?
(Some religious fundamentalists even believe that all non-believers are evil. This position is so absurd and patently untrue it doesn’t deserve further attention.)
Although not directly related to atheism, there is another indication of the religious mind that is interesting to consider. It is the account of Abraham, who was tested by god. God ordered Abraham to take his only son Isaac to a lonely place, and sacrifice him on an altar. Abraham complied; he led his son to the altar, tied him up, blindfolded him, and drew a blade to slay his beloved son. At the last minute, an angel of god intervenes and instructs Abraham to stop. Why? God was only testing.
But what was god testing? Not Abraham’s moral integrity. Not Abraham’s reason or logic. Not how strong Abraham would be and stand up for what he thought was right. No. God was testing Abraham’s FAITH. But why would god reward this kind of behaviour? Why did god value blind obedience like that of an animal or robot, over moral reasoning? Why didn’t Abraham just say “I’m sorry god, but killing someone I love, just to prove a point is wrong. I can’t comply I’m afraid.”?
Ebonmuse has this to say:
“…but is this really the sort of behavior we should strive to emulate – the willingness to kill in God’s name? Had I been in Abraham’s place, I would have thrown away that knife and let Jehovah know, in no uncertain terms, that I would never serve any deity who demanded such a price. And had I been in God’s place, that is exactly the response I would have rewarded.”
Tests are only there to determine how good somebody is at doing a particular thing. You don’t take an Ontology exam to drive a car. You don’t take a driving test to be a professor of philosophy. So, despite all its claims of morality and love, religion has no real interest in these things. The gods of all religions test their followers in the areas that really matter to the religion: belief, and blind obedience.
But this is exactly what you wouldn’t expect if a religion was true. Think about it: if a loving caring all-knowing powerful god existed, and genuinely wanted people to believe, it would provide indubitable verifiable certain evidence to all people all over the world that it existed. Even the most ardent theist cannot deny that god’s existence is a doubt to the majority of people in the world (because no religion accounts for the majority of the earth’s population there are always more people who don’t believe in a particular religion than those who do.)
If a loving god really wanted to rescue people from “sin”, it would just do so. What would it matter whether people believed or not? Imagine you have a child that is separated from you, say by divorce, and isn’t aware that you’re its real parent. You cannot provide any DNA evidence or birth records to prove your claim, so the child doesn’t believe you. You go for a walk down by the river and the child ignores your warnings about standing too close to the edge. Unfortunately, your beloved child falls in and starts to drown. You have only to extend a hand and save it, but you don’t. Instead you say to the gargling kid: “I’ll only save you if you admit I’m your real parent!”
Of course, no loving parent would ever do such a thing. In fact, in the illustration above I have given god the benefit of the doubt by assuming he exists (the parent), that his warnings are real (don’t stand close to the water), and that his claims are genuine (being the real parent). In the real world, there is no evidence that god exists or that any warnings or claims of religion are true, which only makes the obsession with belief even more puzzling.
We can make sense of the contradictions of god quite easily: he doesn’t exist. But how do we explain the irrational obsession with atheism that borders on paranoia, that all religions demonstrate? Well this obsession makes no sense if religion is true. It actually makes more sense when we see religion for what it really is: a memetic virus.
Religion survives because, like biological organisms, it is good at surviving. It is good at surviving because religion selects (just like natural selection does for evolution) for those qualities that are beneficial to religion and to procreation of belief. This is precisely why the simple accident of belief is so important. It is why non-belief is so offensive and disturbing to non-believers. It is why all religions are so exclusive and intolerant.
Believers are genuinely intellectually threatened by non-believers. The idea of another person reviewing the evidence and simply NOT believing is a threat to the absolute certainty of their beliefs. After all, if even one good honest person can sincerely not believe, perhaps there is something wrong with the belief in the first place? Of course some theists go so far as to deny that atheists really exist! This is a transparent exercise in self-delusion.
If theists really believe that atheists are destined for destruction, simply because they are atheists, they could save the lives of all the atheists in the world by doing what no theist or theologian has ever done in the history of the world: PROVE GOD. It’s really that simple! Prove your god exists, and we’ll believe. All the arguments offered so far have failed, which reinforces the position of atheism.
Yet again we see the real working of the theist mind: since they will not honestly accept the fact that they might be wrong and god might not exist, they are left with only one option: the last desperate ugly underhanded mob-boss terrorist tactic of them all: well if you don’t believe you’ll die! And here we see the real obsession with atheism for what it is: just another memetic trend that religion has selected for; another way to silence the opposition and/or spread the religion further.
Religion is a man-made cultural phenomenon, and the ugliest one of them all at that.
Real gods would have no problem with atheism. Real religion would have no problem with it either.
Atheists are a threat to false religion. What would a wonderful caring god have to be offended by atheists by? What would a true religion have to fear from those who simply didn’t share their beliefs? To a true religion, shouldn’t the most important things in life be happiness; taking care of people; bettering yourself; doing the right thing; independent thought; logical and rational discussion; and loving other people? And if there is a loving god out there, I have nothing to fear from him, because this is exactly the sort of behaviour he will reward!