Religions are ephemeral & short-lived but Atheism is eternal

How long has religion existed?
Since the beginning of human thought - hundreds of thousands of years ago. When the first humans ran in fear from a bolt of lightning; felt the horror of a mother and baby dying in childbirth; witnessed a mountain explode in a fountain of molten rock; saw a comet plough through the firmament; watched one friend survive an unlikely accident when others perished; noticed the changing of the seasons;wondered where we came from and where we are going - they asked for an explanation.
 
Gods, Godesses, demons, angels, spririts, ghosts and goblins have long been the standard answer. Every year, a new god is created. People find a new Holy Object to bow down to, begging for luck, healing, blessings or for a message to be passed to a dead relative. During your lifetime, how many people have claimed to be the incarnation of one god or another, and gathered a following of thousands of devout believers? I remember one such person. He was Puttabarti Saibaba. Also how many psychics are available to communicate with the spirit world on your behalf?
 
For as long as people have had questions, there have been holy men and women ready to provide answers. Priests, priestesses, druids, shamen, witches, witch-doctors, vicars, monks, mediums, spiritualists, nuns and a thousand others - all claiming to have some mysterious link to the Unseen World, all claiming to know the Unknowable Truth.
 
Since the beginnings of human thought, the supernatural has been given as an explanation of the natural. Before the development of microbiology and space telescopes, all these mystical notions seemed to be perfectly reasonable. People prayed for rain, and eventually it rained. People made sacrifices, and they survived another year. Appease the Gods and the earthquakes will stop. Do as the priest says, and the Sun will appear again from behind the moon. Believe strongly enough, and the child will recover.
For hundreds of thousands of years, people have thought this way. And they still do - old habits are hard to break.
 
But what about atheism?
How old is that? A few decades? A few centuries? Atheism came into being with the first life-forms in the universe. For billions of years, creatures have had no belief in deities. Trilobites, dinosaurs, stromatolites - all atheist by definition. Did God reveal himself to early lizards? To early primates, sponges or fish?
 
Before the advent of human thought, it was impossible for gods to exist. Surely, sabre-tooth tigers and triceratops witnessed the same things then that we blame on gods today. A mother would see one of her offspring snatched by a predator, whilst it's sibling lived on. A herd of now-extinct herbivores would be startled by a fireball streaking across the sky. All were beyond the comprehension of the non-human minds that experienced them.
The events that drive us to create religions today have been going on for thousands of millions of years.
 
All the witnesses to those events were atheists, but they had not the brains nor the language to create a God to explain them. Wildebeest do not build an altar before testing the waters of a crocodile-infested river. Zebra do not light candles around the skull of a lion, praying for deliverance from predation.
 
Only we Homo sapiens, in this last tiny fraction of the planets history, have had the wit and intelligence to realize that all of these things that have been happening for countless centuries without us are the result of a Divine Will. Only humans have decided that the course of these events may be altered by closing our eyes, pressing our hands together and focusing really hard at the sky. Only the human brain is capable of establishing a two-way connection with the spirits of long-dead animals (also human, coincidentally).
 
Before humans, all life was atheist. Thousands, possibly millions, of spirit-beings have been thought into existence, thanked or blamed for natural phenomena, and then forgotten. In a blink of geological time, all current gods, godesses and assorted spooks will be gone - probably to be replaced by even more exotic and unlikely creations to take the credit or blame for everything. And so the cycle will continue.
 
End Note
 
As long as there are intelligent beings who remain ignorant of the workings of the world, or are not satisfied with those workings and wish for something more, there will be theism. Gods by the truckload will be created, worshipped and then forgotten - assigned to the waste-bin of mythology.
 
All current religions will die out or evolve, to be replaced by new ones, and the followers of those will look back and laugh at the fact that we could have been so primitive in our worship of Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Yahovah, Jesus or Allah, while they bend their knees to the latest supernatural invention.
 
There always have been, and there always will be, atheists. From the first self-replicating molecules, to the last galaxy-crossing machine intelligences, there will be creatures that have no belief in "Spirits of the sky". Religions come and religions go, but atheism outlives all gods!

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Comment by Gerald Payne on December 11, 2015 at 11:40am

Magic has always been the answer to unexplained phenomena; it needs no mental effort. How long people will accept miraculous explanations for scientifically proven natural events is anybody's guess, but I doubt, given the human susceptibility for the marvellous, that it'll be any time soon.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on December 11, 2015 at 9:34am

>but I firmly believe that if you can beat the fear, you've got a pretty good foot in the door.

An excellent point, Loren. As C. L. Putnam put it,

The biggest threat to religion is not science or secularism or communism or atheism or even dirty dancing. The biggest threat to religion is education, specifically, literacy.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 11, 2015 at 8:03am

The thing is, Michael, when believers attempt to cite the supernatural as explanation for natural phenomena, it is virtually without exception a case of an argument either from ignorance or incredulity.  They either can't believe that a given aspect of reality has a rational explanation or they haven't bothered to do any research about it, and sadly, I suspect more times than not, it's BOTH.  Of course, this is also sometimes the product of their wanting to preserve their all-important faith and not wishing to question it, faith being the fragile thing that it is, because questioning may lead to heretical thought and from there it's straight to the hot place.

And once again, we come back to fear as a motivation for self-delusion.  Fighting faith is a multiphasic process, but I firmly believe that if you can beat the fear, you've got a pretty good foot in the door.

Comment by Michael Penn on December 11, 2015 at 7:31am

                                             Using your own words here:

      " the supernatural has been given as an explanation of the natural."

That's not a full quote but I find it disturbing that this is indeed how things are. This is how the believer thinks and is the battle that humanists have with them on a daily basis. In other words, magic explains everything.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 10, 2015 at 7:55am

Religions may be ephemeral in the long view, but in the short term, they are in our faces, and I for one am sick and tired of it.  I just learned about the following via The Friendly Atheist:

And no, I'm not about to blow it off, especially not when it is, relatively speaking, in my own back yard!  Oakwood Village, fasten yer seat belt, 'cuz the Northern Ohio Freethought Society is ON YOUR CASE!

Comment by Gerald Payne on December 10, 2015 at 4:07am

As always well said Kumar.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on December 10, 2015 at 1:55am

>From the first self-replicating molecules, to the last galaxy-crossing machine intelligences

You said a mouthful there. Maybe the culmination of the galaxy-crossing machine intelligences will be the first self-replicating molecules.

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