Friday, May 20, 2011

David Silverman's Post On CNN's Belief Blog

The equation for the Rapture:
I like reading CNN's Belief Blog. Typically it's a bunch of theists defending their Sky Fairy in one way or the other. Yesterday David Silverman, president of American Atheists wrote a good piece about the current installment of the Rapture Delusion that is upon us. I only have one disagreement with him, which I'll point out. Here is the article.

Let nobody doubt that religion hurts people. Good, intelligent, caring people suffer every day and everywhere at the hands of religion, the happy lie.

Religion is used by dishonest people who claim to know the way to the one thing humans want most: immortality. To combat fear of death, religious people ignore their intellect, believe the lie, and follow the preacher, usually blindly and sometimes to the point of insanity.

We are witnessing one very good example of this right now, as a group led by Christian ministry leader Harold Camping prepares for the end of the world, May 21.

Of course, the weekend will pass without incident and thousands of Camping's followers, having spent or donated huge amounts of money on his behalf, will be gravely disappointed. Victims will be broken. Families will be damaged. Lives will be ruined. All because someone made a good pitch, and followers believed.

I am not sure if Camping is a liar, but I think so. He realized that religion is a great way to make tax-free money off the backs of well-meaning people, through donations to his ministry, all without fearing eternal damnation. You see, I suspect that he, like many others of his ilk, doesn’t believe in God at all.

It may seem odd that I would accuse this man of being an atheist like me, but rest assured that he is nothing like me.

Like most atheists, I’m a pretty nice person and would never scam someone out of his or her life savings or convince someone to quit a job just to line my pockets. The truth is that religion and ethics are completely independent of one another.

Consider how Newt Gingrich could campaign against President Bill Clinton's adultery as the darling of the Religious Right while actually being an adulterer himself. Consider how evangelical superstar Ted Haggard could preach against homosexuality, in God’s name, while hiding a gay lover. And consider Camping, who can get donors to cough up what appears to be a lot of money in God’s name while ruining his followers’ real lives on Earth.

These are not people who fear God or hell. In my opinion, they know very well that gods are myths. They are just bad people. Atheists have bad people, too, the worst of whom feign religion for their own personal gain.

Next week, Camping’s victims will ask our forgiveness for being so foolish, and we will forgive them, because we’ve all done stupid things. They will ask for money and we will help them, because most people are charitable (emphsasis mine).

And then Camping victims will ask us to forget all about this whole ugly scam. That is something we must never do.

We must remember that Camping, atheist or not, is no different from any other preacher. Religion thrives on fear–the constant threat of any-time-now Judgment Day coupled with eternal punishment in hell for those who don’t believe strongly enough.

Since rational minds question irrational things, believers constantly have doubts, and therefore fear that they don't have enough faith to pass muster during the eventual Rapture, when the righteous will be saved and the unrighteous will be damned. Fear of hell makes believers desperate to ease those doubts so they can be sure to get into heaven. It’s a recipe for fear-based obedience, which is exactly what religion craves.

It’s the method used by Camping, and by the rest of Christianity, too.

If we forget about Camping, this apocalyptic madness will happen again. Next year is 2012 and, just as was supposed to happen in 2011, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1994 and other years that the world is supposed to end according to one religion or another.

What will we do in 2012? Will we sit still while preachers take advantage of the gullible again? Will we refrain from confronting the fools and continue to revere religion? Or will we, as a society, demand that people use their intellect and pay attention to their preachers, priests, rabbis or mullahs and see them as the scammers they really are?

This weekend, preachers from coast to coast will talk about why they are right and Camping is wrong, and I ask you all to listen closely. They will try to justify why one interpretation of the Bible (theirs) is right while the others are wrong. In the end, they are all interpreting the “perfect word of God” in their own imperfect way so that God agrees with their own agenda. It’s obvious if you look for it; no preacher ever says "God disagrees with me."

Yes, this weekend we will giggle at the fools who follow the preachers that earn their living spreading happy lies. Religion will have been proven wrong yet again.
But we all must remember that people have been hurt this weekend. We hope the victims of this year’s end-of-the-world will lift themselves back up, dust themselves off, and come out of this as better, less gullible people. Hopefully, they will use their experience to help others avoid future scams by shouting loudly at tomorrow’s victims, without fear of being irreverent about something which deserves no reverence at all.

A good article which covers the bases without being too adversial. However, let's be real for a moment, please. 

They will ask for money and we will help them, because most people are charitable.

In the immortal words of that famous sidekick: What's this we stuff, Batman? Because that we isn't me. 
Don't Panic!
It's not I'm some cold hearted meanie (my close associates may disagree - don't listen to them!), but I'm not in the habit of throwing my money away. As Dr Drake Chisolm, my old Behavioral Psych Professor, would say: The best predictor of future beahvior is past behavior. Or to paraphrase the saying Fool my once shame on me, fool me the next twenty or thirty times then I'm an idiot. The case that immediately comes to my mind that demostrates the cyclical nature of poor decision making is from Leon Festinger's observations about a Jesus/space alien cult the Seekers. Just like so many cults the Seekers knew the Earth was about to perish, but lucky for them the mother ship was going to wisk them all away.
Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Some of Martin's followers quit their jobs and sold their property, expecting to be rescued by a flying saucer when the continent split asunder and a new sea swallowed much of the United States. The disciples even went so far as to remove brassieres and rip zippers out of their trousers—the metal, they believed, would pose a danger on the spacecraft.
I know, the aliens could travel light years to get here, but their transporter would get messed up by cutting edge zipper technology.

Guess what? The Seekers never got transported away to Never-Never Land!  So, did the adherents see this as evidence that their belief system was full flawed in some way? No, not at all.
At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they'd all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials' new pronouncement: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction." Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!
And so the Seekers were never wrong. In fact, they were so right that they saved the planet! Afterwards, they became much more assertive in converting the nonbelievers.

I will not offer the followers of Camping any help on May 22. I won't be cruel, though mocking their belief system will be the order of the day. My money and time is going to assist those inflicted with a disability, fellow atheists, and disabled veterans.

*Personally, I think Mr Silverman placed that line into the piece in hopes to destigmatize atheists in America.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for speaking up for reason.


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