Why do the most highly religious societies tend to be the most poverty stricken, crime ridden, hungry, illiterate, undereducated, unsafe, violent and aggressive societies on Earth? Even if religiosity is not a direct cause of these fundamental ills, why does it correlate so strongly with the worst tendencies and instincts humanity has to offer? Why is it that when religiosity insinuates itself more strongly in the secular world, that societies seem to tend towards stagnation and decay?
Religion is, at a fundamental level, a means of disempowering the individual in favor of the empowerment of God. And in favor of his alleged representatives here on Earth. Religion stresses the paramount importance of obedience, acceptance and reliance on the Divine Will and substitution of the Divine Will for the will of man. This fundamental disempowerment of the individual lies at the core of all of the Abrahamaic religions and nearly every theology I have ever encountered. So pervasive is this belief, that even groups like Alcoholics Anonymous talk endlessly about the need to substitute the will of a 'Higher Power' for your own.
It is difficult to overstate the disempowerment inherent in this mentality. This fundamental desire to overthrow the will of man in favor of the Divine Will lies at the root of why religion is uniquely ill suited for governance. Obviously, the Atheist does not believe there is a God, so as far as the Atheist is concerned, the idea of substituting our will for that of an invisible spaceman and his Earthly representatives is patently ridiculous. However, MUCH of the world actually believes that the Creator of the Great All is obsessively interested in the mundane trivialities of their daily lives. They believe this despite the fact that few of us lead lives interesting enough to satisfy television audiences for an hour of reality television a week, let alone create obsessive interest in the Sovereign of hundreds of billions of galaxies.
Nevertheless, religion is deeply disempowering because it tells humans, individuals with thoughts and ideas and beliefs and dreams and wills of their own, that THEIR wills are fundamentally unimportant. Even worse, it purveys this idea by pushing the belief that human beings are inherently flawed, broken, fallen creatures who are incapable of and unworthy of salvation based solely on what we are. The corrosiveness of this belief system is staggering.
We are unworthy of salvation NOT because of anything we DO, but because of what we are. Even if we were to live perfect lives, our imperfect THOUGHTS would be sufficient to condemn us to outer darkness. Salvation, whatever that is, may only be attained through reliance on and acceptance of the Divine Will. It is only through the acceptance of the dominion of the Divine Will that humankind can be saved. Only through external means may humanity be redeemed. I have only two words for this mentality.
Such belief systems may have made sense as a coping mechanism during the brutal, ruthless, savage times when the ancient texts were crafted. A means of providing comfort to those who regularly confront death, famine, disease, war, starvation. The ancient world was bafflingly capricious and cruel. In a world full of suffering that would be unbelievable in most of the modern world, it is utterly unsurprising that religious understandings would seek to justify or ennoble suffering. It is unsurprising that religious understanding would seek to explain the capricious and savage cruelty of the ancient world by describing us as fallen creatures deserving of suffering. But we no longer live in that world. Our world has moved on. We have moved on. We have evolved. Progressed. Such beliefs are wholly incongruent with the paradise in which we live.
Do you honestly believe you are a bad person? A sinful person? A vile, wretched, fallen creature unworthy of love or salvation? What is your great sin that requires external redemption? What is in your secret heart of darkness that makes you unfit for God's Love? God IS Love, we are told, so what vileness lives in you that makes you so wholly unworthy of God's Grace and Love?
Is it possible that I, a mere human and little more than a monkey, am more capable of Love than God? Afterall, I have loved many many flawed creatures. I love them both in spite of and because of their flaws, their tics, their idiosyncrasies, their weaknesses, their problems. I love them and many of them even accept that I love them. Some of them even love me in return. How is that possible? How is love possible if we are the loathsome beings we are told we are? How is love possible if we are truly the despicable, vile, fallen creatures theists claim?
How is it possible that I, a mere human can love a flawed creature while the being that IS Love cannot? Priests and Clerics will, of course, object, saying that God loves even those who reject him. He simply cannot or does not not to love them enough to stop himself from condemning them to an ETERNITY in a pit of damnation and torture. Indeed, as God is theoretically omnipotent, he clearly COULD choose to love them enough to make up for their rejection, he simply will not. Indeed God must clearly CHOOSE to condemn those who fail to love him sufficiently. Do theists recognize how silly that kind of thinking is?
Our lives are measured in decades. A few of us are lucky enough to reach the century mark. Is it possible that God, the Creator of the Great All, the Eternal Sovereign over the Entire Universe whose dominion will extend for countless quintillions of years is SO petty and small that He would condemn a human being from some tiny blue planet at the back end of the Cosmos to an ETERNITY of suffering, pain and torture based SOLELY on the fact that they didn't love Him? Or didn't love Him sufficiently or properly? Is God so petty and small?
I have cared for a number of women in my life. A few, I have loved deeply and totally. Some of those I loved did not love me back or never loved me to begin with. To be sure, such a thing is heartrending, painful, sad. It results in grief and loss and disappointment. But never in my wildest dreams have I ever wanted to condemn any of the women I've loved to even a moment of TORTURE simply because they didn't love me. Let alone condemn them to a lifetime or an ETERNITY of despair and wretchedness and pain. To the contrary, I still love those I loved because of what they meant to me during the time we had.
The thought that God, that the Creator of the Great All has less perspective than me, a mere monkey is laughably egocentric. The thought that God, the Sovereign of the Universe has less perspective than a stalker ex-boyfriend is just pitiful.
As previously discussed, if there is a God, that being is unimaginably vast, unimaginably powerful, unimaginably ancient. That being presumably oversees the workings of the entire Universe, of everything. Of 400,000,000,000 galaxies, 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and the innumerable planets and civilizations bathing in their light. Such a being would have had to wait over 13,700,000,000 years before the first human being even drew breach. Is it really plausible to believe that such a being, that has lived for countless BILLIONS of years would be willing to condemn another sentient being to Trillions or Quadrillions or GOOGLE years of damnation based solely on the fact that a petulant monkey didn't LOVE him or didn't accept his love for a couple of DECADES? Can anyone possibly explain why such a being would even have the slightest interest in judging us based on one of the myriad contradictory and mutually exclusive tracts allegedly containing His will. Or would be willing to condemn such beings to ETERNAL pain and suffering based solely on our humanity?
A being who would do such a thing is cruel. A being who would do such a thing is heartless. A being who would do such a thing is utterly unworthy of worship.
To a being that has existed for BILLIONS of years, our individual lifetimes are utterly inconsequential. And our alleged crimes, our alleged sinfulness, our alleged impurity even less so. One would assume that a Just God would want the punishment to fit the crime. A few decades of rejection cannot possibly warrant even a lifetime of torment, let alone an eternity.
Is it really plausible that the God of Love, could be so filled with smallness, pettiness and jealousy that it would condemn a human for all eternity simply for the crime of exercising the simian brain God supposedly imbued it with? For engaging in sex? For masturbation? For foul language? For doubt? For any of the countless other petty infractions set forth in the Abrahamaic texts?
Are we truly so awful? So vile? So reprehensible?
Is our civilization truly so wretched?
Of course not.
Human civilization is beautiful. Human civilization is majestic. Human civilization is wondrously adaptable, fantastically flexible and relentlessly strives for self-perfection. Just as individuals strive to better themselves, to better their circumstances, to improve and advance and evolve, human civilization does the same. And we have succeeded marvelously. Our world has never been more at peace, never been more filled with plenty, never been filled with more hope and joy and light and love. We have freed our fellow man from millennia of bondage. We have recognized equality between race and gender and sexual orientation as a virtue. We have created a system of justice that strives for equality. We have created systems of education and science that strive for understanding in all things. Where the collected knowledge of thousands of years of human development is available at the touch of a button, where we can share thoughts and ideas without boundaries. We have built wonders that vastly exceed the wildest imaginings of our forebearers and we inhabit a world of peace and light unlike anything that humanity has ever seen before. And this is just the beginning.
We are far from perfect, but we are far, far, far closer than our ancient ancestors could have ever dreamed. To be sure, we struggle, we fail, we make bad, sometimes catastrophic decisions, but we endure, we press on, we evolve, and we triumph. We are not fallen. We are not wretched. We are not flawed. We are not despicable. We are human. And we are beautiful. We are beautiful because in spite of our imperfections, we persevere as individuals, as a civilization, as a people. And our civilization will continue to adapt, evolve, grow and flourish.
Humanity does not need external salvation. We do not require external guidance. We do not require saving. Our grace is sufficient for me.
And just as humanity is not a wretched, despicable blight in the aggregate, YOU are not a wretched, despicable, fallen individual. You do not require salvation. You do not require saving. You do not require redemption. Who you are, what you are, the amazing existence that is each and every one of us is more than enough. Because even though you are insignificant in a cosmic sense, even though ALL of us are insignificant in a cosmic sense, it does not matter.
We do not need God for redemption, for forgiveness, for salvation, because we have one another. We have one another to forgive. We have one another to help us in troubled times. We have one another to hold and comfort us. We have one another to share this amazing life with. Through understanding one another and understanding ourselves, we find meaning far beyond anything the amazing invisible sky wizard could ever offer.
The belief in the inherent evil of humanity is a pervasive and thoroughly debilitating creed. When coupled with the emphasis on the substitution of man's evil will for God's Divine Will, it is among the most disempowering belief systems imaginable.
Religion is uniquely unsuited to leadership precisely because its emphasis and focus is not on solving the present problems that exist in the here and now, but on preparing the soul for whatever it is that allegedly waits for us in the next life.
But the reality is that in all likelihood, nothing waits. Certainly there is no evidence that anything awaits us – only vague narcissistic feelings that something of us must survive. Vain hopes that the unrewarded rights and unpunished wrongs of this life will be righted in the next. I wish it were otherwise. It would be wonderful to believe that the wicked would pay penance in the next life, that the righteous (however defined) would be rewarded. But unfortunately, that appears highly unlikely.
Our time on this Earth is limited. And the prospect of anything to right the wrongs of this life is uncertain at best. It is therefore our solemn duty as human beings to make sure that everyone we share this planet with has a life filled with as much light and beauty and love and peace as possible.
This is why atheists are uniquely suited for leadership. Why those societies which have the least interest in religion or God ACT in such a moral fashion. Because after looking at the evidence, we recognize intuitively that there will be no reckoning for the wicked in the next life, so we strive to ensure that the wicked are punished in this one. And similarly, Atheists recognize that there will be no justice or reward for those who suffer unjustly in this life. So we must work tirelessly to ensure that this world contains as little pointless suffering as possible. To ensure that EVERY one of us has the longest most fulfilling, most comfortable life possible. Because this is all we have, and nothing is more sad than a life that comes into being and knows nothing but suffering. Such a thing is heartbreaking. Because there is no light at the end of the tunnel unless other humans provide it. To wait on the justice of the divine in the afterlife, is to wait in vain.
We do not require salvation. We do not require redemption. We need not apologize for what we are. Rejoice in your humanity. Be proud of what and who you are. Be proud of what we have accomplished as a species. And work to ensure that the future is always brighter than the past both for you and for others.
I am an Atheist. I do not believe in God. But I believe in us. I believe in humanity because the entire scope of human history gives me inspiration and makes me proud. The tale of our species is an epic and monumental testament to the unrelenting power of freedom, hope, love, and understanding overcoming tyranny, oppression, hatred and bigotry. And while it is impossible to say for sure, I believe that our future is bright. Brighter than any of us can possibly imagine.