Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie — An Atheist Defends Atheism

Initially, I was going to post this as a rebuttal to refute the letter written by Bruce Sheiman and any misconceptions that fence-sitters may develop after reading Mr. Sheiman's book, "An Atheist Defends Religion." Mr. Sheiman's letter to a reader is re-printed in another thread that was posted by Noisican under the Ethics and Morals forum. Since my rebuttal to Mr. Sheiman's position is too long for a reply post on that existing discussion, I believe it merits its own discussion.

Mr. Sheiman's position (in short) is that since religion offeres many people comfort, happiness, and a sense of purpose in life, then it is only right to defend religion as a social good. I find several things wrong with that.

First, in the most well-known religions since the time of the Neolithic Revolution during the time of Hammurabi's Codified Law, religion caused more suffering than it brought happiness and comfort. History and archeology shows us by the excavation of ancient sites and analysis of recovered grave goods alone that for everyone who received "comfort" from religion, many more did not.

From the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution up through the end of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and into the 19th century, women (half the human race) were frequently targeted for becoming fodder for religion — from ritual sacrifice to appease the gods/God, to extra punishments, torture and execution for violating gender-defined roles promoted and dictated by religion. Ruins of ancient ritual sites show us that victims of human sacrifice did not die nice, peaceful deaths. Many were unwilling. For them, the idea that religion brought them "comfort" or "happiness" is highly questionable. They were hewn down before the prime of their lives without getting much of the benefits that makes life worthwhile living.

In polytheistic religions in Meso-America as well as in ancient Europe and the regions known as the "Fertile Crescent", victims of human sacrifice were often violently killed in their youth. This does not even include all the atrocities and human rights violations that have occurred, and which are being occurred today, in the name of Abrahamic monotheism.

Additionally, religion always seemed to explain why some people were spared the cruelties of war and natural disasters, but not others, and this set a lot of people up for marginalization. It promoted an ideology that God (or the gods) favored this or that group, but not others. It's downright despicable when you think about it.

It's selfish and inconsiderate to say, "God spared me/my family" in a natural disaster. What kind of message does that send to others who weren't so fortunate? That they or their loved ones weren't "worthy" enough of God's favor to be spared? Or how about, "God was on my child's team's side" at high school sports events. What about the parents of the children on the other school's team? Why wasn't God on their team's side?

It is more than insulting to hear these kind of statements. But it is even more of an insult to my intelligence to be told that this is all somehow OK just because some people are benefiting from religion, because such "benefits" frequently are not without expense or loss suffered by too many others. Women are still being told today across the US and other nations in the world that any extra suffering they're forced to bear as a consequence of divine decree from god will be made right in the afterlife. A preoccupation with the afterlife dismisses the importance of enjoying the one life you've got right now, and the importance of social responsibility to doing your part to make life suck just a little bit less for yourself and everyone else while you're here.

It is the weighing of benefits v. costs that must be examined honestly and painfully before making any apologia for religion as an overall social good.

As a fellow author, I respect Mr. Sheiman's honest endeavor to produce a book of compelling introspection. But his is not a position I can agree with. As one author to another, I would recommend reading his book but I would also have to recommend reading mine, Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie, which is the antithesis to his noble effort.

As an atheist, and especially as a woman, I take greater comfort knowing that there are other like-minded men and women — from young to old — who recognize the importance of purging harmful dogma from societal influence. A preoccupation with an afterlife diminishes the value placed on the quality of life in THIS one. I would find greater comfort knowing that as a woman, it wasn't my predestined lot in life to have to suffer extra punishment, pain, misery, and injustice with the justification that I'll get my reward in some afterlife. So yeah, having harmful religious influences criticized and estopped from making so many people suffer in this life — knowing that in the end I'll be "worm food" — is a greater comfort for me than any false hopes and empty promises offered by religion ever could be.

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please don't tone anything down, watered down truth is more water than truth. I'm glad I got your attention. I did not mean it. You know more than I do, just different things than I do. I can learn much from you. You just don't have 32 years in the trenches of Atheism. You are a mathematician and a physicist, besides both of us being polemicists. I am a generalist. As for the nice lady Rosemary, she only generally describes the problem. Religions survive because they are all about deadly subjects. Terrorists mention the words, death, kill, murder and allegations about an afterlife because that is what religions are all about. Our enemies are about killing us. Danger is a watered down word. Children's fears are deep seated and not merely peer pressures or cultural concepts. Religion is viceral. Religion is more than a collection of "memes" which is an over blown new "science" regarding how to analyze words echoing in the brains of people. Religion is as the latin root word means: "to tie back" or a restraint system. Conscience, which is a normal function of memory of all our learning experiences, is polluted and tortured and brainwashed by religion, trickign children into thinking their own echoing thoughts are somehow intertwined with demon and angel and Jehovah and Satan voices. To say that religion is confusing is an understatement. We are fighting the cults of death, terror and bribery.
Ralph: "Mostly, keeping the peace, means not really discussing religion very much, except when issues arise that affect society as a whole (priest sex scandals, opposing abortion, gay marriage etc., attempts to establish theocracy through Concordats); but when the subject is related to belief and doctrine, we avoid taking the attitude that the other person has to be mentally deficient. The same principles can be applied on the larger scale, when dealing with everyone else who have a totally different approach to deciding what to believe, and what gives them meaning and purpose in their lives."

Ralph I totally get what you're saying. But isn't there a difference when dealing with someone one on one versus dealing with an entire vanguard movement? I don't go out of my way to boisterously attack moderates, but I do not underestimate them either. THis situation here in the states, especially in rural areas is very tricky waters to navigate.

And don't forget, a lot of those religious liberals *did* go along with their more conservative fundamentalist brethren with that Stupak amendment. Soo...I don't know all the time what to do, I only know what is being done against women and girls in the US where I live, and in other impoverished rural communities across America. That is what I know.

And I know this: were I able to remain in the UK longer than for the limited time I was there to speak at that human rights conference in London, and been able to get to the Hague in Europe; I would have petitioned the ICC on behalf of American women and girls in select states and isolated communities whose human rights are being violated under Article 7(g) of the Rome Statute of International law by acts passed by individual Congressmen (like Orin Hatch, for example) and judges. And I have the documentation establishing the money trails to various religious organizations to indict them for "electionizing" specifically to commit subterfuge of women and girls' human rights, too. I don't take a stick to a gun-fight.
Ralph: "When asked about how to handle the problem of Islamic fundamentalism, Sam Harris has stated several times that we have to somehow encourage the moderates. It's debatable whether his approach of enthusiastic support for U.S. foreign policy and even the use of torture, are any encouragement to moderates -- but, even if they are, why doesn't he advocate the same approach for dealing with Christians? Instead he advises us to shun liberal Christians, and consider them to be enablers for the fundamentalists........and that's why I don't consider Sam Harris to be of any value on this subject!"

OK. I have to confess that I don't know jack about Sam Harris. I heard of his name. From what you're telling me, it seems like a case of congitive dissonance for him to take a position of what seems to be a double standard. I don't get it.

My position is really simple. Because I'm a very simple woman. What I *do* know is that when religious belief intersects with public law and policy, it bodes a very ill wind that blows no one well...especially women and girls in the US. What I *do* know is that human rights violations are being occurred here. And I have proof of that.
Ralph: "Anyway, I don't see where their reasoning, and also this week of Senators, such as Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, and Jay Rockefeller, connected with any religious views that might have."

It's called "follow the money"...all the way to "C-Street" in the DC Beltway.
The tentacles of power and money are very far reaching, Ralph. Very much so.
I have not seen the final vote tally of the Senate. Socialist gawdless Bernie Sanders is not connected to C Street. Burris of IL and Brown of OH stood with Sanders for Medicare and Medicaid for all. Ensign, Coburn , Ishtook, Grassley, Sanford and many others fucking live there on C Street, these insane theocrats are guilty of many many crimes. Feingold is a courageous lone voice against the Patriot Act, war funding and put's spine into Dodd's wishy washy positions. Rockefeller I'm not too sure of in any direction. A speech is one thing. A vote on final passage of making billionaires out of insurance company executives is not health care and is evil and deadly.
Ok. Now that I have read all the posts and my house is less of a zoo than earlier — the rest of the fur-less primates left :). So, let me respond in a way that hopefully addresses the points raised by Doone, Reggie, LCC, and Ralph McRae:

The problem of religious "electionizing" from pulpits has been an ongoing problem for the past 30+ years. It began in earnest as a backlash retaliating against women's newfound rights to have control and ownership of thier own bodies established by Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connectitut as well as by Title VII of the Civil Rights Laws passed in the 1960's.

It was over-privileged white Xtian conservative men leading the charge into battle in the war against women and this nation's poor under the guise of "family values." They cited verse upon verse in the Bible to justify their agenda. Author and theologian scholar and professor Bruce Barron observed a dangerous trend unfolding after he opened the proverbial barn door and let the horses out, so to speak. What he observed and said was:

"While differing from Reconstructionism in many ways, Kingdom Now shares the belief that Christians have a mandate to take dominion over every area of life."

Barron expressed concern that authoritarian intolerance and fascism of a particular aggressive stripe inherent with dominion theology seeped into the broader Christian community. Their obsession with social, cultural, and political issues involving pornography, homosexuality, school prayer, abortion, contraception, etc., prompted aggressive political participation since the 1970's. Given that Christians comprise an 84% majority, that's one hell of a powerful voting bloc. And when you're a member of the majority group who is being privileged as such, the rights, liberties, and basic dignities of the minority is very much in jeopardy.

Atheists are indeed such a minority, as are true-blue godless feminists (you know, us crazy women's libbers that want equal rights and opportunities and to be free from childbirth chattel slavery justified in the name of religion...us guys and gals?). As such, atheists and feminists (which are frequently one in the same) have been subjected to a significant degree of disenfranchisement by a theologically autocratic majority body politic.

Now, the social movement of conservative Christians was mobilized by the Christian Right/Religious Right, who joined ranks with ultra-conservative political operatives to hijack the Republican party. (My grandmother, the daughter of a suffragette, is turning over in her grave!)

Now, Barron and many others have observed a "discomforting triumphalism within theology, especially as take-over rhetoric." Triumphalism means a "my way or the highway" attitude among Christians; that America is a "Christian nation, one God, one people. Love it or leave it."

Pat Robertson, televangelist of the infamous 700 Club has been emphasizing all along the need to "restore Christians to leadership roles in America." Now this reflects what Barron calles a "dominionist impulse" in contemporary Christianity. Tim La Haye (hubby of Beverly LaHaye, a faux "feminist" and spokeswomen for Concerned Women of America); author of the "Left Behind" series, claims that "[secular] humanism always leads to chaos." He is an ardent promoter of the "secular conspiracy theory" and extolls powerful emotive justification for Christians to "establish dominion over sinful secular society."

There cannot be any mistake that these enemies of free-thinkers, atheists, humanists, and feminists and GLBT rights supporters glean their justification for their position from the Bible. And much of it directly from both Old and New Testament stories equally. They presume a "Divine Right" to push their agenda through based on their belief that the Bible is the inviolable word of God and that God is real becuase the Bible says so, etc. ad nauseum.

When Christians who deeply believe this stuff are inundated with messages from the pulpits that they must vote for ceertain candidates because "Plan B is killing babies" etc., it is very difficult for them to question what they're told. Many may very well be uncomfortable with the subterfuge of women's human and civil rights, but being believers, they really think that, although it sucks and isn't fair or just, it's "God's will" and therefore who are they to question it.

So, their beliefs (which they have every right to have) end up resulting in judicial and legislative outcomes that brutally oppress women. How do all of you here recommend we defend the human rights of women, gays, and non-believers without pissing Christians off given that many are indeed uncomdortably jammed between the "horns of dilemma" in all of this? This is not a rhetorical question.
now you are nailing the problem on the head doone, good job on the C Street Congressional Cult, don't forget that Sanford still belongs, though he is our first homeless governor, as Jenny Sanford owns all their properties and he only has the executive mansion he should be impeached and jailed for stealing tax money to fly to Argentina to fuck his mistress there. Don't forget that for almost 70 years, there have been national prayer breakfasts that Presidents attend run by the C street cult. Theocracy is deep and McCarthyism is the more open direct version of it. Fucking Pete Stark has done next to nothing to slow it all down and he is the "out" Atheist who has sat on the west coast Unitarian theological seminary trustees board for decades while in Congress. Theocracy IS TREASON. These creeps have been funding religious businesses long before the F.B.I. faith based initiative of boy Bush. A Valley Forge case tried to block the gift of former military bases to church businesses and we lost that one 6 decades ago as well as Chambers v Marsh, Atheist Senator Ernie in the Nebraska Unicameral vs the "chaplain spending money just to pay preachers to pray with travel and per diem in 1983. Fuck the US Sup Ct theocrats.
How do all of you here recommend we defend the human rights of women, gays, and non-believers without pissing Christians off given that many are indeed uncomdortably jammed between the "horns of dilemma" in all of this?

I don't mind pissing them off. But there is a difference between pissing them off by going after them directly and pissing them off by fighting for and defending the rights of women and gays.

Religion did not make misogynists. Misogynists made religion. This is important to remember because treating the symptoms is not the same as curing the disease. Attacking religion will gain nothing but a hardened foe. But fighting hard to make women, gays, and lesbians a strong voice in this country with equal rights will give us strong allies and undercut the foundation of oppression in all forms, religious and otherwise.

LCC is not completely wrong about getting down and dirty in the trenches. This is why organizations like the ACLU and Americans United are important to ensuring that religion encroaches no further on our laws and government.
But the problem as I am seeing it, Reggie, is that religion and oppression and human rights violations and the thwarting of education and progress all operate in synergy.
But the problem as I am seeing it, Reggie, is that religion and oppression and human rights violations and the thwarting of education and progress all operate in synergy.

This is true. But how I see it is that by elevating those that would be oppressed would be analogous to finding the chink in the armor. We need not pierce the armor at it's toughest part to kill religion's oppressiveness, merely find the weak spot. I think the weak spot is influencing how most of society view women, gays, and lesbians which in turn encourages progressive laws. We are already seeing this happen which is why the religious bigots are getting more desperate, to the point that they are trying to legitimize their bigotry with apologetics.
I am not saying we should reject Christians like Frank Schaeffer. What I am saying is that we should really encourage them to question where their tithes are going, and what belief system they are truly supporting. It's fine for moderates like Frank Schaeffer to say to our faces that he is an ally, but what he supports through collection-plate giving and his voting for Congressional candidates and judges is an entirely different matter! See?

Look at Pastor Rick Warren, who says one thing but does another. What I am saying here is that it is incumbent on us to have a our *BDU's fully charged and functional at optimum capacity — especially when we're engaging discourse with "moderates."

I am not going to call a liberal or moderate Christian an idiot just because they cling to a belief that defies logic and reality. I will, however, come out blazing with both barrels like Sarah Connor when moderates make apologia for the suborning of human rights violations and abuse of women and girls (and gays, and non-believers, etc.).

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, it is unavoidable that some moderate religionists will feel miffed no matter what because there isn't always a polite way to tell someone that they've got a booger hanging on the end of their nose.

*[BDU = Bullshit Detection Unit]


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