A Dallas minister and the members of his religious community were outraged this past week about the national organization of African Americans for Humanism‘s plans to display an atheist message on a prominent billboard in Dallas, Texas. The billboard was proposed by the organization as part of their country-wide Black History Month campaign aimed at encouraging African Americans to look critically at their faith, according to KDAF TV. This, of course, resulted in a deluge of protests by community members who feel threatened by such “ungodly” messages that “[support] gays and lesbians” and else apparently constitute a threat to society and – according to one of the hate emails sent to the organization – “screw up lives”.
The World Through the Eyes of Religious Nut Jobs
I find Pastor Kyev Tatum, who is the head of the Fort Worth chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference who also calls himself “God’s appointed leader” and who is one of the entities outraged by these ads, and his response quite symptomatic of the disease that is plaguing this nation in particular and the world in general: religion. He said: “It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs for us as a community. We got major issues going on within our community that we need to address, and this is an unnecessary debate.” He pointed to things like high incarceration and high teenage pregnancy rates in the black community, issues “that we could be working on that are more critical.” He went on to say that “When you rely on freethinking, [<— I really love that] “and you rely on your own individualism to make your decisions, you oftentimes make unrealistic and irrational decisions. It’s irrational, in my thought process, for them to put those kinds of signs up,” when they could be focusing on more pressing social problems.
He has a thought process? Doesn’t look like there is much going on up there.
I must say it is also quite amusing hearing someone like him, who essentially believes in the talking snake, a man walking on water and coming back from the dead, criticize anyone for irrationality. The fact that most people, including his deluded constituents, don’t get that, is disturbing.
Furthermore, what Pastor Tatum doesn’t realize in his deluded wisdom, just like most religious people I guess, is that those problems he recites, such as teen pregnancy, are a problem because of religion and the actions the church endorses. The Planned Parenthood and contraception debates of late are just two examples to the point. In fact, if it wasn’t for religion these teens would get actual, fact-based sex education instead of being taught abstinence, which we all know doesn’t work. It. Just. Does. Not.
Not only does it not work but by not teaching about contraceptives, such a policy often results in teens coming back with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HPV – which can lead to cervical cancer – as well as the very unwanted pregnancies Pastor Tatum complains about.
So, for this man to step out and quite ignorantly state that religion was the cure for the disease it and people like him create is not only ridiculous but, jokes aside, supremely ignorant.
That he finds “freethinking” a problem doesn’t surprise me at all. Religion is anti-intellectualism and independent thought that allows you to discover facts and learn about new ideas are abhorred. But it is always stunning to actually hear someone spew this much unfounded crap in one go. “How dare you do some thinking of your own instead of relying on fairy tales, anecdotes and hocus pocus essentially to guide your decisions“.
Let me just say that if god appoints someone like him as a leader, I am not sure if I would wanna have much faith in that god.
When Religion Becomes Part of the Problem
Reverend Tatum and his kind are part of the problem. This man is essentially endorsing and encouraging ignorance and has turned intellectual curiosity into a liability rather than a strength and an asset.
It also makes you wonder whether these “religious” folks are actually grounded in their beliefs much given how threatened they feel by some words on a sign. In fact, it often seems like religious folks try to convince themselves more than anybody else that they are right and their way the only way.
It is also ironic to see these nut jobs fear that their right to religious freedom is threatened in any shape by these billboards when it is in fact their faith that has been infesting the public sphere and with it public policy for centuries, making everyone’s life miserable. Attacks on Planned Parenthood, women’s reproductive rights in general, defunding stem cell research, prayer in schools, teaching intelligent design, abstinence and a myriad other public policies as a direct result of religious doctrine represent just some of the few issues that us non-religious folks have to endure at the hands of the religious Right or religion, period.
Insecure, evangelical Christians also seem to need constant visual and verbal reminders and validations. After all, that is why we have “God” on our money and in our pledge and in our schools and public buildings.
It all somehow feels like they are hanging on by a thread, like children trying to keep believing in Santa Clause out of fear that they won’t get presents otherwise.
The same Constitution that guarantees these Churches the right to practice their faiths freely, also guarantees the right of atheists and non-believers to display that Atheist billboard.
The Best Way to Become an Atheist is to Read the Bible
Someone once said that “the best way to become an atheist is to just read the Bible” cover to cover. And it is true. The thing people don’t realize is that atheism, science, evolution or liberals are not the things that give religion a bad name: religious people and religion give religion a bad name.
Studies have shown that people who turn away from religion don’t do so because of atheism or evolution taught in schools, but because at some point they just get fed up with all the backwards, narrow minded crap they read in holy books and their applications in life. They are so appalled by the bigotry, hypocrisy and narrow mindedness of religion and its followers that they turn away. As one reader once wrote me:
“I turned away from religion because I got tired of all the prohibitions and self-censorship involved: don’t think this, don’t read that, don’t go here, don’t talk to those people, etc.
It was like trying to look at the world through just one tiny, limited, mono-colored lens. I knew the world was bigger, more beautiful, more interesting, more dangerous, more ugly and more complex than this little lens would let me see. I just couldn’t sustain the pretense anymore.
It was not until I was much older that I began to really see the dark side of religion and be glad that I left it behind.”
Should We Respect Other Views?
One of the things I often hear from religious people who don’t take kindly to being criticized about their faith is that one should respect other peoples’ faith, as if both views were equally valid and it just so happens that one person believes in Jesus and god while another doesn’t. Or as if this was a matter of taste, like preferring chocolate flavored ice cream over strawberry flavored one, or blonde hair over brown. The difference of course is that preferring one flavor over another doesn’t generally result in detrimental consequences for those who prefer the other flavor.
No one in their right mind should ever have to respect anyone’s fairy tales and backwards beliefs, however, as fact. Especially if those fairy tales and the beliefs that inform them have serious detrimental consequences for society and everyone living in it. And I am not even talking ancient history, such as the Crusades and witch burning. I am talking United States in the twenty-first century. Imagine how many lives could have been saved, for example, if our idiots-in-chief George W. Bush and Reagan before him hadn’t defunded stem cell research based on their….yes, religious beliefs.
Religious people also say that one cannot generalize from a small group of what they call “fanatics” or “extremists” to all religious people. As if their kind of religiosity was rational and made sense as opposed to the “zealots.”
But the truth is that if you are religious there is no grey area: you are automatically disqualified as a rational human being whose views on the subject ought to be respected. I don’t have to respect or accept your faith, I merely tolerate it and that only as long as it does not infringe upon my rights. But alas it does, so I judge you and dismiss you because frankly there is no acceptable level for irrationality, ignorance and bigotry.
Religious people are all insane – there is no difference between the “extremes” and moderates.
Everything about religion is extreme. If you believe in a man walking on water or Noah’s arc and that a woman was made by taking the osteopathic tissue of a man, not to mention the pile of unfounded crap to be found in religious scripture that just reek of bigotry, racism and misogyny, you are fucking insane and that is a non-negotiable. I don’t have to tolerate people believing in fairy tales and bigotry and then imposing it on others and this bad habit of being forced to give credence to peoples’ fantasies that have very real life consequences for the rest of us, is not something to be proud of strive for. It is stupid.
Preaching the Gospel of “I Don’t Know”
Only a fool claims to have all the answers. Religious people are fools.
Atheism is not a “religion” or“faith”; in fact, atheism is irreligion. It simply means that one does not believe in god any more than in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Pink Elephants, Bigfoot or the Healing Power of Crystals. There is no difference in believing in Jesus or in Santa Clause, only that we have been conditioned to believe the former to be true and the latter just a fairy tale. A child born to Catholic parents will grow up Catholic, while that same child, if raised by a Muslim family, would grow up being a Muslim.
Do non-believers have all the answers? No, but that doesn’t mean that the Bible, Koran or Torah are the truth. We may not be able to “prove” that god does not exist, but we don’t need to. The burden of proof is not on the skeptic. It is like saying, ‘there is a pink elephant in the room and if you cannot prove it, then it means it is real.”
The fact that one does not currently know what came before us, if anything, or before the Big Bang or how all the details of evolution work does not mean that one “must” believe in god or Jesus or Mohammed. I, for one, am perfectly willing to accept that I do not know everything and that some things are yet to be discovered by human kind.