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.

The Cambridge Secular Society Blog

Although the Cambridge Secular Society was founded to champion secular issues this blog has a wider remit than simply confronting religious privilege and bias. It will encourage all who challenge the status quo, will not accept received wisdom, are skeptical of authority and are very likely to be atheists. It is important that the secular mindset be brought to bear on all issues that affect human well-being: politics, economics, education, health, equality etc in order to frame the debate using rational, evidence based argument as opposed to ideologically driven or partisan opinion. You only have to listen to the US Republican Presidential candidates debate to see how necessary this is.

A dangerous world

The world in 2015 is a very dangerous place, not simply the turmoil in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the rise of Islamism and the alarming evidence of accelerating climate change but global political insecurity with Russia and Israel violating UN resolutions and trampling upon internationally agreed boundaries. The global economic system is still at the mercy of mammoth and largely unreformed financial institutions that caused the crash of 2007/8, the EU is struggling with a massive immigration crisis and even in the wealthy developed world, anxiety or at the very least deep dissatisfaction is eroding belief in a democratic system in which all stakeholders can benefit.

Reason not Religion

So what is to be done? Religious fundamentalism as been allowed to flourish in developed nations by the misguided policy of multiculturalism that regards the values and culture of every minority group as equally valid rather than measuring each by the value it brings to individuals and to society as a whole must be challenged. We must re-assert our democratic, secular values and expose all those who oppose or undermine them. Politics cannot continue as usual and it is too important to be left to politicians, they have proved incapable of pursuing long term goals and see every issue though the outdated prism of Left and Right. This is examined in The Future: for Better or Worse?

We are floundering in a fast changing world of immense complexity, the old certainties like a job for life or communities of like-minded people have vanished to be replaced with anxiety and insecurity. There is as yet no road-map, ethical, political or economic that will get us out of this mess. It will take imagination and courage but let’s at the very least give it a go.