This originally appeared on http://matthewfunti.me
As the expanding world of scientific inquiry grows with exponential understanding of the natural world, it's getting easier and easier to simply dismiss the nonsense comprising organized religion.
In 2011, you need not be a biologist to understand that evolution is a fact. You need not be a historian to understand the laughably false propositions of the holy texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. You need not be a doctor of physics to grasp the incredulity of the aforementioned claims of supernatural providence. In 2011, the most bleary-eyed skeptic can analyze the readily available evidence and dismiss religion as witchcraft, hucksterism, demagoguery and altogether full of shit.
Before Darwin and Hitchens and Wikipedia, the majority of people were devout believers. The lot of humanity bought stock in whatever denomination they were born and indoctrinated into and vigorously accepted the folklore of their familial line. Mormons are descendant from the ancient white peoples of North America (lol) and the Eucharist is literally comprised of the body and blood of the Christ (though, as if set up to refute any naysayers, the physical properties of crackers and booze remain unchanged). Without modern science or rational thought, there was no way to undermine the claims of those perceived to have a hotline to god; most thusly assented to their claims. The peril of speaking out against the church is an altogether different discussion, though another important part in the understanding of how/why these inexplicable traditions protect themselves and propagate.
As the days march forward and the historicity and validity of religious claims are undermined at every corner, it is getting increasingly harder to keep a shackle on the feeble minds of the faithful. Religion used to be characterized by deep liturgies of rich practice, but the tenets of many faiths have meddled down to dogmatic talking points that betray primitive ignorance and exploit the visceral fear of humanity.
Still palpable on the hearts and minds of all peoples is the fear of death. The promise of infinite paradise, therefore, is a very strong positive for 'believing,' and perhaps, the fear of eternal damnation even stronger. The guarantee of 72 non-corporeal virgins is an amazing thing to ponder if the concept of sex itself has been purposely perverted in one's mind. Whatever the afterlife affirmations religion titillates its followers with, the goal is the same. These salesman of the sacred stop at nothing to stimulate a human's fear of the beyond in order to stuff the coffers.
The world, though, is catching up.
Repressed nations aside, it's the growing portents of science that debase the physical claims of religion and force these antiquated superstitions into efforts of philosophical reorganization. What used to be a history of the world is now a parable. It's not important that Noah, an ancient Palestinian, would not have been able to successfully acquire two of every arctic animal. Nor were there fresh water aquariums aboard the ship capable of sustaining the sea creatures who would perish in a great salty oceanic flood. These details seem silly to even ponder but serve to show the utter preposterousness of believing such a fable as true. Though, there are some who maintain this delusion as historical fact, just as they picture winged angels playing harps or 72 naked chicks kowtowing to the every sexual need of a scraggly teenage suicide bomber.
(These people are not worth debating, by the way.)
As science's exponential grip firmly squeezes the possibility of religious divinity from the planet, a schism naturally occurs. A side of theology, among those who we can deem to be literate in the fields of science and history, have moved towards the rational. They have studied Darwin and can, too, accept our gradual climb towards homo sapien as the proven fact all conscientious students of world history do.
The other side, however, presents an ignorant world view affirmatively spitting on science and are conservative in their selective understanding of reality. These are the people dangerously heralding the 'end times' and pointing their hatred at supposed outcasts of society. It is these people who rile the tenets of fundamentalism towards bigotry and play on the fear of those whose trust they have wrongfully earned. It is these preachers who knowingly use psychology, eschatology and various other trickery to petrify congregations of devoted worshipers into submission. It is these people who manipulate the darkest fears of human existence for some religious end and it is these people who are impeding the progress of the world.
The first group of rational believers would not place themselves among those who can easily and accurately be labeled fringe extremists and fundamentalists, but there is some gray area to examine. Another full discussion could outline how even moderate religious beliefs foster the type of outlandish behavior that constitutes the second bunch of lunatics. I, and many other like-minded antitheists maintain this position. Remember, those who would identify themselves as moderate Christians and those positively malignant slugs who picket funerals and pray daily for Revelation still believe the same basic tenets entrenched in their individualized faiths. No honorable Christian would declare the Westboro Baptist sociopaths to be upholding the values of Jesus Christ, but if you are preaching the gospels, apologies, but you are playing on the same team as an entity the U.S. government has characterized as a hate group. Some might even argue that the Westboro Baptist Church are actually biblically sound as they, without question, derive their hatred directly and accurately from the bible.
In an email to a supposed believer who lists his position at some bible-bumping Jesus college as Instructor of Christian Theology and Church History, I wrote this: