Supernatural fantasy

Santa

Like many children I believed that Santa Claus was responsible for my Christmas presents. My parents colluded to preserve this supernatural fantasy until such time as I posed the inevitable question; “it wasn’t Santa, it was you, wasn’t it?” whereupon they acknowledged their part in this innocent fabrication. No harm done, perhaps, but my transition from believer to skeptic included an intermediate period in which, although my doubts were increasingly supported by evidence, like noticing different Santas in each department store or seeing one of Santa’s presents in my mum’s shopping bag, I clung on to the fantasy as long as I could as it was such fun, and an integral part of that pleasurable holiday period. Eventually I came to terms with the fact that Santa was just a myth, just a nice fantasy, the truth had become too strong to resist.

I had been raised in a nominally Christian household and for a time was sent to Sunday School, I imagine in order to teach me some “moral” values. But a few years after my epiphany with Santa I turned my attention to God. My spiritual indoctrination had not been very intense, probably, as I learned many years later, because my mother had been fighting her own doubts but couldn’t bring herself to “come out” as a full blown atheist. Sadly until her death she wanted so much to believe and craved the reassurance and certainty that she imagined faith would have given her. For me it was simpler, having disposed of Santa, God was next in line. I hadn’t been suffused with Christian culture or spent much time in church being indoctrinated and this was the threshold of the 1960’s, I was part of that generation that sought to challenge all assumptions and sweep aside the stuffiness and uniformity that had prevailed during the postwar period. In those heady days I naively imagined the religion was in terminal decline, at least in England and assumed that by the age that I am today it would be of interest only to historians, psychologists and anthropologists, how wrong I was.

Religion is on the agenda

Religion is once again on everyone’s agenda due to the rise of militant Islam. The reasons for this will be the subject of another post but for now the imperative is to confront this threat not by offering potential jihadi’s a counter narrative based on an analysis of their sacred texts which is doomed to failure particularly if its is undertaken by non-Muslims. The solution, although long term, is for us to challenge all supernatural fantasies, that means all gods, all sacred texts and all customs and traditions that support them.

Western governments are loathe to do this as like my mother they that believe that Judaeo-Christian heritage that is embedded in our culture and history is somehow related to our acquisition of moral behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth, Christianity has usurped for itself a product of human development that has occurred without any need of divine intervention and has contributed to much of the misery that has enveloped humankind over two millennia.

Sadly I don’t see any appetite from politicians to adopt this policy particularly in the USA where it would be political suicide or even in the cynical UK where politicians are allowing and even encouraging the establishment of Faith schools that further embed a belief in supernatural fantasy. Even in non-religious schools these irrational beliefs are maintained by acts of worship and religious education that allows ancient myths to be regarded as fact. However as individuals it is important that we make a start by promoting the rational/skeptical mindset wherever we can, at home, at work, in forums like this and other social media and most important of all, in schools so please join our campaign for faith-free education.

Incitement to commit atrocities is not confined to the Koran

Although the Koran has been blamed for inspiring Islamist terrorists to commit the most barbaric atrocities, the Judaeo-Christian religion too is well versed (literally) in incitement as the graphic below illustrates. Many people are surprised that the religion that is celebrated by most of the developed world harbours similarly revolting instructions. Of course the New Testament distanced itself from most of these horrors by replacing them with fresh supernatural fantasies albeit with occasional references back to the Old Testament. This Dutch video is worth a look as is shows how how ignorant most of us are about what we are led to believe is the moral authority of “our” church.

Countering Radicalisation

If triangles had a god he would have three sidesCountering Radicalisation is a noble aim but until supernatural belief of any kind is eliminated from schools children will be subject to religious propaganda. Even seemingly innocuous events like the celebration of the nativity or Easter encourage children to believe in myths and half-truths and the assumption that there is some celestial ringmaster to whom they owe obedience. Only in a rational, secular learning environment will it be possible to challenge extreme Islamist beliefs. The fantasies inherent in all religious belief must be confronted by schools even at risk of offending parents and the scientific explanation of phenomena taught so that they understand the origins of life on Earth and how human societies have come to be. Religion should be explained as cultural/religious conditioning (some might say brain-washing) that has methods of self-perpetuation that ensnare each generation: rites of passage ceremonies, modes of dress, genital mutilation, dietary exclusions, sacred texts etc.

Acts of worship to a non-existent deity (of whichever kind) are a dangerous delusion. Few sights are more pathetic than a hall full of children praying or a teacher telling her class to pray for particular person or cause. The psychology of belief is well understood and yet our education system not only allows it but positively encourages this deception, either because they too are under it’s spell or because they think religion is good for us and will impose moral constraints on our behaviour. Moral authority must not be associated with religious belief, what more evidence is required: the extreme savagery of IS, the despicable conduct of Catholic priests and its cover up by the Vatican, the inter-communal violence in the sub-continent or the centuries of religious persecution that has bedeviled the continent of Europe for a millennia?

Islamism is the result of the inability of large numbers of Muslims living in the West to accept that their beliefs are subservient to the mores and laws of the state in which they reside. Of course their right to hold religious belief (however irrational) must be tolerated in a pluralist, secular society, but they cannot expect it to be respected any more than my promotion of atheism should be. Countering Radicalisation cannot simply be about offering a different narrative to those at risk, it is their very belief system that is the problem.

Atheists have morals, why is that a surprise?

30 Days to prove it

People cling to religious belief for many reasons and one of them is that it provides them a moral framework to live by. Without it, so they would say, there is nothing to stop them reverting to savagery. Putting to one side the savagery that religions have (and still do) inflict on each other, it reveals a profound misunderstanding of the origins of moral behaviour that is simply part of our human evolutionary development. Nine years ago the film maker Morgan Spurlock produced a brilliant episode in his 30 Days series in which an atheist mom went to stay with a devout Christian family for 30 days.

Impervious to reason

At the end of the 30 days the atheist mom was joined by her husband and children, the Christian family were amazed to see that they shared many of the same values as the atheist family, the main difference being that for the atheist holy books and supernatural happenings were not necessary. The Christians were forced to rethink their opinion of atheists but not to the extent that it weakened their own faith and this is the conundrum, religious belief cannot be contested by rational argument, it resides behind a firewall that is impervious to reason, that is why it is called faith.

Check out this film it is well worth watching