September 10, 2011

Tomorrow we remember

In his 2009 book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, Michael Specter very correctly points to the stubborn anti-scientific thinking for which the book is named and identifies this as the root to much of the ills plaguing society. Specter describes denialism as what happens “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality [science] in favor of a more comfortable lie.” We call this woo.

Woo is the term used by scientific skeptics for pseudoscience. Think vaccination denial, crystal healing, acupuncture, herbal therapy, creationism, astrology, holocaust denial, and a host of others. Michael Schermer covered the bases pretty well in his 2002 book, Why People Believe Weird Things.

On the 28th of last month, in the regular Sunday Funnies feature of this blog, I included a You Tube of the 51 Miss America 2011 contestants answering an interview question… “Do you think evolution should be taught in schools?" Only three of the contestants even equated evolution with science, while without exception they all balanced their answer with something related to religion.

Then in his stumbling denial of the science of climate change earlier this week in the Republican presidential debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry blurted that even "Galileo got outvoted for a spell."  But of course Galileo wasn't "outvoted" on anything; he was subjected to Papal inquisition and his life threatened for being a heretic.

This is the level of denialism we are seeing in arguably the most advanced society on the planet, and it is mirrored worldwide as theocrats everywhere work to gain control of the minds of the people. The problem has escalated as if on steroids since that deadly day ten years ago... and with it so have the violence, suffering and the death.

What caused the deadly events that occurred in DC, New York City and in that Pennsylvania field on the morning of September 11, 2001? Listening to the spewing of the pundits and politicians we would believe the answer to be simple; it was those evil, radical Islamics, or “Islamists” as they have come to be known; evil Muslim religious fanatics.

Yet if we listen to Muslim orators it is the United States and our Christians who are the evil society. It is for this reason that they sent their children here to attack us on 9-11-2001.

The key word in this discussion is evil. It is the word we use to separate our fanatics from theirs. If we think “they” are different and evil, it makes it easier for us to hate them. Demonizing an enemy is an age old tactic making war more palatable to the sensitive.

The rise of christianism in this country has led to many wedge issues that are dividing us as a society, not the least of these is a direct result of 9-11. Yet the christianists do not limit their hatred to just those that perpetuated the attack. Islamophobia is at an historic high with some pundits going so far as to condemn entire populations and their religion simply because of the faith in which they were raised.

Extremist dogma of every stripe encourages the denial of science while identifying those clinging to reason as "evil." This kind of thinking led to the rise of radical Islam and the attacks of 9-11, and it is being mirrored in America with the rise of the New Apostolic Reformation.

How could any human perform such unthinkable acts as happened that bright September morning ten years ago? How is it that large elements of a culture have grown to hate us so badly that they are willing to sacrifice their children in efforts to do us harm? Can simple “evil” be blamed?

Here again the pundits and politicians spin a web, and all of it based in dogma. The battle is not simply us vs. them… it’s the “good” us vs. the “evil” that is them. But who is good or evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

Deuteronomy 17:12 tells the good dogmatist, “Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.”  Deuteronomy is the fifth book of Moses, written some 500 years before the Qur’an.

The Qur’an, in Ghafir 40.24-25 states “When the truth from us came to them they said: ‘Kill the sons of those who are with him but spare their women.’ The scheming of the disbelievers is bound to fail. Pharaoh said: ‘Let me kill Moses and let him call on his Lord. I fear that he will change your religion or cause corruption in the land.”

According to the holy books, the worship of God (Allah) seems to require murder of “them” by “us.” If god is good… does this mean murder is also good? The history of religions seems to make it so. Every known religion has at one time or another sanctioned mass murder.

This is the dichotomy religion causes in the minds of simple men. It explains how individuals can be twisted with so much hate as to crash jetliners into buildings and murder thousands. It also illustrates why America must turn away from this New Apostolic Reformation. Science is the only logical path to goodness.

The following must be prefaced by stating that Huffington Post is far from a favorite. In fact, I find HUFFPO far more often distasteful than useful most of the time. The truth is in Michael Specter's book mentioned above; the once respected publication “has emerged as the most prominent home for cranks of all kinds, particularly people who find scientific research too heavily burdened by facts.” See my comments on “woo” above.

Yet as the old folks say... even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then, and a few days ago the HUFFPO did just that. 

In the recently published article by Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service, the author cites works published since the attacks of 9/11/01, but most notably she mentions the Sam Harris book, The End of Faith. I read this book when it first hit the racks and was quite impressed. 

Harris was practically an unknown prior to the publication of this particular tome, but has since joined ranks with notable atheists Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett to become one of the apocalyptic sounding Four Horsemen of the new atheist movement.

Ms. Winston identifies how these leading new atheists... with their writings, websites and public appearances have led to the modern humanist movement and the formation of such groups as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRA) and Secular Students Alliance (SSA). I would add others ranging from the nationally connected United Coalition of Reason (CoR) and the smaller, local atheist “meet-up” groups that have found favor among freethinkers not inclined to participate in larger efforts yet wishing casual, intellectual conversation.

Some mention should go to the Foundation Beyond Belief, which is a totally secular charity which came into being after the world changed ten years ago. In their own words, FBB is “A network of humanist volunteer teams working to improve this world and this life.”

"... to improve this world..."  Should this not be the goal of every human being? FBB is doing this without respect of class, creed, sex, orientation, race or origin. There are no non-secular charities that can make that claim... and certainly no church. 

The crux of the efforts of the new atheist movement is an attempt to slow the progress of denialism and the growth of dogmatism, with the incumbent fear that is the most abundant product of religion through the ages. 

It is the fervent hope of the New Atheist movement that by eliminating religious competition from the national dialogue and joining trends already established in such nations as Australia, that tragedies like 09/11/2001 will become the stuff only found in history textbooks... never to happen again.

Atheists have been portrayed in all manner of detrimental terms. The intent of the New Atheist movement is to display reason, intelligence, and the good works done by people without mandate by some deity. 

By promoting but not proselytizing, new atheists attempt to make themselves obvious and their good works known. People who were raised to be faithful but are now doubtful of the tenets of their faith will hopefully be encouraged to spend more time searching for truth and reason… and less in blind acceptance of dogma.

Like the billboards and bus ads have said, we don’t need god to be good. Being good is a necessity if the race of man is to survive. Science recognizes this... by shedding dogma man can learn to reason the solutions. 

It seems to be the Nine Billion Names of God and the insistence of religious inerrancy that has historically caused man to be anything but good. This burden must be shed. 

Worldwide the number of non-dogmatists is growing. Greater numbers mean greater hope that we might slow the tide of madness that is blind faith. 

There is a need to make noise and attract others. Freethinkers must join with others... participating in volunteer efforts, attending meetings and staying politically active. When religion rears its ugly head... attempting supplant science and reason with dogma and myth... atheists must persistently speak up for science.

The community needs to know that the infidels are here and that we are “Good without God.” 

Let’s all do our part to lessen the likelihood of further atrocities committed in the name of faith. As Arlo Guthrie said in the live recording of that iconic anti-war song of the 60’s, Alice’s Restaurant, “If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta SING LOUD!”


EMSNetwork said...

As always, well written with great references and links, Donn.
Can you imagine the footnotes that bible book would have required? Cite your sources, Jesus!