The Obsession With Non-Belief

Which of these crimes does not belong in a court of law?

Theft

Murder

Blasphemy

Rape

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!

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12 Responses to “The Obsession With Non-Belief”

  1. psiloiordinary Says:

    Your arguments are logical and rational.

    This is precisely why they will not reach the already committed believer.

    It is after all impossible to use reason to change an opinion reached without it.

    However, there are many people out there who are not yet committed, who have not yet chosen to believe, who will still listen to a rational argument, the look in a young JW eye’s when I offered him a book by Dawkins or Darwin told me that.

    – – –

    Good post.

  2. curtismchale Says:

    I must disagree with your statement that “Believers are genuinely intellectually threatened by non-believers.” Not all believers are threatened. I am a believer and read many blogs such as yours. I read them and feel challenged to further work out my beliefs agains the challenges you give. Thanks for the post.

    http://struggleswithfaith.wordpress.com

  3. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    That’s funny. I’m an atheist, and I also disagree with that statement. The difference is that I don’t think believers are intellectually threatened by non-belief, I think it’s a visceral reaction to non-belief they experience. Faith has very little to do with intellect.

    You might find that insulting or condescending, but if you agree that you know there is a god via faith, and that faith needs no evidence, tell me where the intellect comes into play.

  4. evanescent Says:

    Hi Spanish and Curtis, thanks for the comments. I went back and re-read that statement, and I doesn’t come across at all I intended it to mean; I’m not sure what I was trying to say but I think I just got it wrong. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Thanks for the link too curtis, I will read what you have to say on your blog as you’ve had the courtesy to read mine.

  5. Darren Says:

    I agree with that statement except for the word “intellectually”. Religions, and by extension their adherents, are threatened by non-belief in the same way a criminal is threatened by evidence – if correct, it totally disproves the position they’re trying to maintain.

    In the case of the latter, he goes to jail and loses his liberty, but in the case of the former, one’s self-respect is on the line, and the prospect of realising they’ve been fooled, or just wrong, their whole life. Understandably, people don’t want to realise they’re a fool, so everyone else must be wrong.

    “Memetic virus” – I love that term.

  6. jarome Says:

    I thought when I read your heading that you were going to talk about our culture’s obsession with not wanting to believing in anything, but I apparently was wrong.
    We live in such an ego obsessed world, and I think that this insistence on focusing on ones ego is the primary source of most of the imbalance and injustices prevalent in the world today. That has also fuelled a passion for atheism so strong it conflicts in it’s own insistence on challenging those who do believe. I think it takes a certain lack of ego to say, “look at all the galaxies, sciences and environments that exist in our universe, there is no way we could create that and therefore something much greater than us must have created it”
    But that would require understanding that, much like a 3 year old that can’t understand calculus, in our current, limited, infantile existence in this world, we cannot possibly understand the worlds beyond this one any more than we can understand the entity that created it.
    It just doesn’t make sense to think that we who do more damage to ourselves and our planet than good could be capable of creating it. It doesn’t take scientific proof to realize that.

    And when I’m talking about the damage we’ve done, you have to include religion in there because man, yes, us, we are the ones who made religion and spirituality a totally corrupted, confused and distorted product of man. But it didn’t start out that way.

    The confusing thing is when you are talking about religious ideas that were meant for a time when man was illiterate and could not understand advanced concepts. Do you tell a baby that “now you need to start balancing your finances and learning about the scientific realities of the universe”? So how can you do this with spiritual realities with man?
    This is discussed at length in the writings of Baha’u’llah so I don’t need to get into in here, you can read his works if your really interested in these ideas.

    But regarding your annoyance with the persistent of belief, I think we live in a world of free will given to us by God to help us evolve so we can understand greater concepts in the worlds beyond this one. In order for use to attempt to embrace these ideas, there is the persistence in believing new teachings from God which if you look at history, come approximately every 1000 years. if your looking at the teachings from 3000 years ago, of course they don’t make sense, they don’t fit what humanity needs to know now in it’s evolved state. That is exactly the reason for persistence of believing in this new information, so we DONT keep confusing things by following outdated ideas.

    It is our choice to believe this new information, if we decide not to, we will be stuck in the current corruption and confusion, and it will be more difficult for humanity to progress, AND, we as individuals, will not be prepared for the worlds beyond this one, like a fetus that doesn’t get proper nutrients; it ends up crippled and not able to function properly in the world, and cannot live to it’s real potential and fully enjoy what this life has to offer us.

    The information is out there to help us understand these ideas and our universe, however, they may not be found in science (yet) and they certainly can’t be found in beliefs that are thousands of years old, meant for an illiterate humanity, in my opinion.
    Are you illiterate? Then why do you look for the answers to your questions and proofs for your inquiries in texts meant for an illiterate person, or those that have been corrupted by people who are really more interested in power and ego than the world of God?

  7. evanescent Says:

    Hi Jarome,

    thank you for taking the time to comment. Your post was certainly interesting and very different to what I usually come across.

    Specifically, it’s not really just belief that annoys me. People are free to believe whatever they want of course. What annoys me is when people who believe certain things think they can dictate policy for others, and when this manifests itself as other people being affected and hurt, which it nearly always does, then I have a problem with it.

    Your opinions seem to be divergent from mainstream religion and I’d be interested in what you class yourself as, and what kind of god you believe in.

    As always, I might ask you to prove whatever concept of god you have in mind and what your reason for belief in it is, but I can tell already I think that you’re not the kind of believer I targeted in my original article.

  8. Misanthropic Scott Says:

    evanescent,

    Your post makes a number of very interesting and valid points. However, right at the top, you speak about blasphemy being victimless. I certainly agree. I do, however, have to point out that we prosecute for victimless “crimes” all the time in this country. It may even be the majority of the people filling up our prisons. Prostitution and drug use are completely victimless. Though, of course, drug dealing is not victimless, nor is forced prostitution. But, for the simple case, we do prosecute these all the time. Feel free to read my recent post on drug use for my opinion on that. I do not personally believe anything victimless should be a crime at all.

    Secondly, I would like to point out, for any that believe our society to be one of the mature societies of the world, that it just may be legal to hunt atheists in Massachusetts. Certainly atheists are second class citizens according to several state constitutions.

    Other than those minor points, I agree with the bulk of your post wholeheartedly.

  9. evanescent Says:

    Hi Scott,

    you are, of course, quite right. Drug use and prostitution are victimless and personally I believe they should be legalised.

    My point was more generally that we’re moving away from prosecuting people for crimes that hurt nobody. For example, the legalisation of homosexuality in most civilised countries in the 20th century.

    The reason prostitution and some drugs are illegal are not because they are hurt people, but because of our societies’ taboos on these issues which border on superstition.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  10. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    @jarome

    I think it takes a certain lack of ego to say, “look at all the galaxies, sciences and environments that exist in our universe, there is no way we could create that and therefore something much greater than us must have created it”

    That’s interesting, because for one thing, I don’t think “we” had anything to do with creating the “galaxies, sciences and environments that exist in our universe”. Most non-theists would agree. OK. All non-theists and theists would agree. So where does our ego come into play here, if we had nothing to do with creation?

    I actually think it’s an extreme manifestation of human ego to believe that the universe was created (by whoever) especially for us, a doctrine embodied in Genesis and which you’ll find in many of the major religions today. The universe actually has no idea we exist, and if humanity is successful in snuffing itself out, the universe will continue on unaffected. So if your implication is that atheists are egocentric, I’d respectfully disagree.

    The confusing thing is when you are talking about religious ideas that were meant for a time when man was illiterate and could not understand advanced concepts. Do you tell a baby that “now you need to start balancing your finances and learning about the scientific realities of the universe”? So how can you do this with spiritual realities with man?

    I agree to a point though I’m not sure I know what you mean by “spiritual realities” (some might call that an oxymoron). In our infancy (to continue with your metaphor) mankind needed something to help us cope with those things that had no reasonable explanation – lightning, fire, disease, drought, the sun rising, bad weather, etc. Illiteracy had nothing to do with our inability to understand nature around us. Ignorance was the culprit. But like a maturing infant, knowledge is gained slowly, but it is gained. Much like a child’s shedding of belief in Santa Claus, once humanity reached a point where it could explain the previously unexplainable, our supernatural beliefs should also have been shed.

    Children shed Santa Claus at what could be called the cusp of the age of reason, say around age 10. Humanity has far surpassed that cusp, yet we still cling to our irrational beliefs when we know they are not valid. Why do we do that?

  11. jarome Says:

    Inquisitor, really, if you look into human history and the writings of recent experts on humanity such as Baha’u’llah, humanity is just starting to enter into adolescence from it’s infancy. That is why there is so much confusion and chaos in the world. Adolescence is a tough time and there is still a lot of ignorance and ‘irrational beliefs’.

    Evanescent, you asked about my beliefs, I personally believe there is only one God and has always been, and concepts contrary to that are man made. Since man is limited, and cannot understand the spiritual realm, or as some call it the realm of God, I don’t believe in spiritual ideas created by man. I believe in the messengers of God who I believe were sent here to bring us new guidance and insight as we as humanity are ready, and if you look at an accurate religious timeline, you can see there is approximately 1000 years or less between each of those messengers, so that is proof of this idea if progressive revelation to me.

    I used to be an ignorant lemming following the beliefs of the masses in the ancient dogma of catholicism, but over the last 15 years, I have been studying the writings of Baha’u’llah who I believe to be the messenger of God for the next era of humanity, our adolescence. So yes, I don’t follow mainstream religion since that has been corrupted by man, I believe there is new guidance and information that if we are going to progress that we need to study, and that means massive changes to what we think of as spirituality and living as human beings.

    It basically means moving away from being told by someone what to believe and starting more to use our own common sense, intellect and reason which man was born with. But to understand the things which can’t be proven in this world, we need messengers such as Baha’u’llah who have a unique link to that world, and being that Baha’u’llah’s mission was only 150 years ago, this is really profound information.

    It is too much to be able to answer the rest of your queries in this blog, but I would like to address those things if you are still interested in studying more, privately.

    There are some great articles online about the existence of God with some proofs that I can send you.
    The information is out there if people really do want it! But it seems many are happy with their own personal theories.

  12. Darren Says:

    Jarome, I agree with this bit:

    “It basically means moving away from being told by someone what to believe and starting more to use our own common sense, intellect and reason which man was born with.”

    but then you immediately contradict yourself in the same paragraph:

    “But to understand the things which can’t be proven in this world, we need messengers such as Baha’u’llah who have a unique link to that world”

    Same nonsense, different guy.

    “I used to be an ignorant lemming”

    Agreed, except for the tense.


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