It is difficult to talk on the subject of religion without sounding, to some, like a fanatic. Some people I have encountered in life think I am as fanatical in my disbelief as a fundamentalist Christian might be in theirs. Some even say that my Atheism is a religion in itself, or at least that my fervour for atheism is on par with religious fanaticism. So let me put this to you.
Because my atheism is a lack of belief rather than a belief, what exactly am I writing for? If there’s nothing to write *about* as such, why do I keep writing? Why do I care so much about something that doesn’t factor in my understanding of the universe?
I hope this blog entry will answer this question.
In my previous entry, I spoke about the Global Atheist Convention and my initial thoughts on the convention weekend. The weekend was very intense, a lot of people spoke, we all laughed, we all cried, we all ate and drank. It was a merry time had by all. But the main point of the weekend was sharing information, for every person who spoke had a different story to tell and a different point to make. If I had to give you one single thing that they all had in common, I’d have to say it was “a strong desire for change”.
Well I guess it doesn’t take a genius to know that we live in challenging times. There’s a lot going on in our little planet, and we can see everything going on in the world at any given time, with newsfeeds, Twitter, blogs, online data coming from millions of people all at once. We know that climate change is real (whether it is caused by man depends on which “independent” study you read), and that economies are false (just look at the Zimbabwe dollar). The challenges we face are huge, humanity will go through some pretty tough times in the future. One could easily just be overwhelmed into inaction, which is a challenge to overcome in and of itself.
“Change from what?” you might ask.
The problems are many and varied, but the BIGGEST problem humanity faces is inequality. The reason for inequality is very complex, but when you boil it down to its essence, this inequality stems from the very place that so many base their lives, and deaths upon. And of course that base is organised religion.
But organised religion is a very soft target, and too many people write off the religious masses as “stupid” or “ignorant”, which is a sweeping statement, and is simply not true of all religious people. The REAL problem is what are the rudimentary elements of the religions themselves; the nature of religions to place one person above another based on arbitrary differences, in defence of the religion, and to the advantage of the male gender.
“WHOAH!” I hear you say, “That’s a big statement right there!”
I’m not going to write about or cite the individual passages in The Bible or The Koran that implicitly say that some men are better than others, and that women are barely human, because that would be a book, or a series of books in itself. But I can summarise these points for you. So let’s look at that “big statement”;
Placing one person before another – Religions say that a person who follows THAT religion is to be favoured over one who follows another religion. In some cases, the person of the other religion, if they don’t convert, should be put to death. This is the cause of, or at least the excuse for many wars, crusades and other altercations.
Arbitrary differences – This includes the belief in another deity or no belief at all, clothing, geography, skin colour, sexuality, life choices, language, culture and political standing. Organised religions feed on the differences between people, amplify them and then nurture a culture of “US versus THEM”. This amplification leads a religious person to feel threatened by the differences in people. This kind of attitude also feeds xenophobic reactions to others, and violence against those who are “other”.
In defence of religion – Religions can take this xenophobia to an extreme by stating that anyone who does not follow this “one true god” should be shunned, excluded, exiled or killed.
To the advantage of the male gender - this is the “elephant in the room”, religion’s treatment of women; religious texts state that man is superior over ALL women, that women are to come second, if at all. These texts treat women like possessions, breeding machines to deliver sons and to keep out of the way and servile. Some would say that this is an antiquated notion, that these kinds of prejudices toward women are a thing of the past, that anyone in a western “1st World” society doesn’t believe for a second that this attitude toward women holds any sway for us. Unfortunately our societies have been build on this rotten foundation, and once can’t simply say that “this attitude is wrong” to undo the damage that it has caused. It’s more deeply ingrained than we would like to believe.
This injustice to women can be seen in many facets of western society, in pay rates for women vs men, in the objectification of women as sex-objects, the beauty and fashion industries, and in corporations where CEOs and top-paid executives are for the most part men. It’s deeply rooted, and will be difficult to address.
The biggest injustice is served, however, to “3rd world” populations, where the men not only treat the women as possessions, but will regularly beaten, mutilate and kill women in the name of their god. This is written in their scriptures. It is abhorrent.
Time to grow up.
Religious texts were written “by men for men”, to control people, especially women, and to keep the followers in line. One does not need to be a theological scholar to see this. We need to work to keep religion out of politics and the social sphere. We can’t make decisions based on the words of the scriptures, as this will just lead to more hatred, more inequality, more genocide and more war.
The convention was a fantastic experience, and I hope that all in attendance were able to walk away with something of value. But remember, the convention was not what we are striving for, rather it is the first step on a very long and difficult journey. Let’s not become complacent and feel that we have achieved our goal.