An essay by – Heather Spoonheim

I used think there was an inherent justice in the way that I was able to simply look at the evidence for the existence of Yahweh and recognize it as nothing more than a collection of superstitious notions that, when combined, had coalesced into a misleading but compelling emotional appeal. That other people were captivated by such an emotional appeal didn’t contradict my sense of justice because they too were free to simply recognize it for what it was and liberate themselves of the fallacy; that they didn’t do so was nothing more than their own folly – or so I thought.

It should be noted, however, that calling the argument an ‘emotional appeal’ is a monumental euphemism; it is an overwhelmingly monumental euphemism because the argument is, in truth, nothing less than emotional extortion, a proverbial offer that one cannot refuse. For you see, fresh indoctrinates are repeatedly instructed or, more accurately, threatened that failure to accept the appeal will result in indescribable tortures that defy the imagination.

Upon first consideration of the threat of unimaginable torture by the devotees of a death cult it would seem that the mind of the victim should be filled exclusively by an overwhelming desire to escape. To combat this survival instinct, the doctrines of the death cult of Yahweh employ a tactic common to other sociopathic predators: a friendly introduction accompanied by an offer of candy. You see, the glossy brochures of this death cult rarely open with images of torture but, rather, dangle the most enticing piece of candy imaginable: the hypothetical possibility of conquering death itself.

Even given the superlative nature of this emotional extortion, I still managed to cling to my belief that justice was available in a philosophical market governed by the laissez faire doctrines of caveat emptor; after all, common sense (another fallacy) seemed to make it readily obvious that if an offer seemed to be too good to be true then it likely was not. Those who were foolish enough to trade their faculties of reason for a bag of magic beans, regardless of the magnitude of the promised returns, deserved exactly what they got – or so I used to believe.

You see, just like all too many people who attribute their own successes to self-proclaimed virtues, I was mislead by confirmation bias. I used circular logic to assert the power of ‘common sense’ by mistakenly citing it as the means of my escape and then citing the success of my escape as proof that ‘common sense’ was all it took. What I failed to acknowledge was the fortunate timing of my birth coupled with my aptitude for science, at least as it was presented in the grade schools of my time.

In my day, the eloquence with which Carl Sagan fueled wonder at the cosmos formed a brick wall upon which the awkward rationalizations of theists splattered instantly. Other scientific minds seemed to find increased courage from this and public discourse in scientific matters became noticeably less apologetic. As if to crown this revolution, the producers of the very popular, prime-time television series, ‘All in the Family’, went so far as to introduce a well-rounded and explicitly Atheist character, Michael Stivic.

All of these factors contributed greatly to my escape from cult indoctrination but my ability to perceive these factors was obscured by my own ego, by my faith in my own ‘common sense’ and my desire to believe there was any sort of inherent justice in life. As the years passed though, I began to learn more about the great minds that had contributed to our modern world and my ego became increasingly tempered. These days I am no longer able to maintain the delusion that my fallacious notions of ‘common sense’ in any way compare to the genius of the real heroes of modern thought who had the courage to declare that their own, original, empirical observations contradicted the highly revered Bronze Age notions of their time.

In this way I owe a huge debt to the courage of such a long list of rational thinkers that any attempt to name them couldn’t aspire to reveal anything more than an even greater list of glaring omissions. In lieu, all I can offer is my solemn acknowledgement of this debt and my embarrassingly inadequate ability to ever repay it. In doing so, I also acknowledge that there was no inherent justice in my liberation, only some very fortunate timing. More importantly, this acknowledgement allows me to realize just how the tables have been turned by modern cultists.

Unable to fabricate rationalizations elastic enough to stretch around our modern world’s ever expanding base of scientific knowledge, the strategy of the cultists has turned to outright, underhanded dishonesty. They have so saturated the very infrastructures by which information is disseminated that it is no longer possible to tune into the information stream without finding it befouled by their propaganda of doubt.

No longer able to credibly assert the certainty of their deity, they now repeatedly chant, “But you can’t prove he doesn’t exist.” No longer able to refute the credibility of scientific truths they respond, “But science doesn’t know everything.” And finally, no longer able to exert their authority to crush the very institution of science itself, they have taken to attacking the integrity of that institution.

Television networks that are supposedly devoted to the dissemination of scientific knowledge are riddled with programs that point out anecdotal transgressions of scientific fraud or bias; they do this without pointing out that such transgressions are repeatedly rooted out and expelled within decades rather than being upheld unapologetically for centuries. Newspapers fallaciously cloak themselves in anachronistic notions of journalistic integrity while adhering to nothing other than capitalist greed as they design sensational headlines of scientific folly while simultaneously ignoring profound, although usually more mundane, revelations of how genetics is solidifying the certainty of the evolutionary tree. Radio commentators repeatedly substitute editorials for news and assert that science is arrogant for not giving due consideration to ‘alternative theories’ without a single mention of the fact that these purported ‘alternative theories’ are generated by scientifically illiterate cultists.

Preschool indoctrinates are told that scientists are liars, without even an attempt to justify that claim. Biology teachers are compelled to assume a tone of apology when discussing evolution. When scientific curriculums are publicly debated the floor is left open to those who have absolutely no understanding of the subject matter and children are sent forth to make emotional appeals for cultist ‘values’ rooted in ignorance.

Where they can’t elicit doubt in scientific observation they try to insert reinforcement of any superstitious predilection they can identify. The recent barrage of ‘investigative’ television programs dealing with ‘scientific observation’ of paranormal phenomenon is almost overwhelming. Otherwise perfectly rational people are left to wonder if there might not be some validity to the concept that ‘life energy’ can leave a ‘metaphysical fingerprint’ in certain geographic locations. Failure to acknowledge at least a modicum of authenticity to these ‘investigations’ is maliciously labeled ‘close-minded’ prejudice.

It has become nearly impossible to evaluate the integrity of ‘educational programming’ without taking the time to google the credentials of the ‘experts’ that are paraded forth. For any single rational individual this tidal wave of misinformation presents an insurmountable battle of debunking. For those not yet liberated from superstitious indoctrination, however, the odds of recognizing this volcanic spew of fallacies for what it really is are infinitesimal.

In this challenge, I think I may have finally found the means by which to make a payment towards the debt I owe for my own intellectual liberation. Looking back, it wasn’t one voice of reason that guided me out of intellectual subservience, but a veritable chorus of rational voices. Every voice was important, even the droning, boring tones of my grade eight science teacher, and I know I can carry the tune a little better than he ever did.

The internet has given me a platform for self publication coupled with the resources to easily debunk inane cultist ‘documentaries’. It may seem like a chore to sit through a painfully ignorant program that asserts some holy book to be an archeological treasure trove, and even more of a chore to cite its obvious shortcomings in a well thought out blog entry, but I owe at least that much, even if I can only carry the tune of reason for just a few more bars.

Furthermore, I don’t have to debunk everything myself because there are plenty of Atheist and skeptic bloggers who are much better at it than I will ever be. By simply keeping tabs on some of their blogs, I am slowly gathering a nice collection of links that provide quick rebuttals to online friends infected with various superstitions and cultist misinformation.

Even in daily my daily encounters with the superstitious, nothing seems to shut some of them up faster than pointing out that there is one million dollars awaiting them if they can prove their claims to be true. Before informal exchanges head south of the boarder of rationality I can often infuse some rational thought by talking about the latest news of satellites orbiting distant planets – satellites that were put there by profoundly accurate scientific knowledge.

Finally, through the various online Atheist communities I can try to encourage other Atheists to continue the chorus of reason as well. I think I’ll start right now by posting a blog that might inspire others to consider ways of paying off some of the Atheist debt.

Views: 12

Comment by Jacob LeMaster on April 7, 2011 at 6:34pm
Keep em coming.. Good read!
Comment by Ron V on April 7, 2011 at 10:30pm

Nice piece.

As someone trained and experienced in genetics and molecular biology, it is painful to watch as our leaders, with public support, continue their efforts to undermine science and perpetuate ignorance.  Unfortunately, it appears those with little to no understanding of science seem to be influencing policies related to the education of our children as well as making laws that affect us and our environment.  For the most part, I don't think these people can appreciate the harm they are doing with respect to misleading/undereducating our children or destroying the planet, but it seems to be okay as long as their precious holy beliefs and faith survive/prevail.

Religion has been, and will likely always be, a significant factor in human oppression, in environmental destruction and excessive consumption via the misguided belief that some god gave us the planet to exploit without consequence, and in the suppression of knowledge.  Religiosity is, however, inversely related to higher levels of education.  It may be a sign of hope that the proportion of those of us who in the US are "Nones/no religion"  reportedly almost doubled from 1990-2008 (refer to http://b27.cc.trincoll.edu/weblogs/AmericanReligionSurvey-ARIS/repo...).  I/we can only hope this is a reflection of an increasing proportion of more intelligent people (assuming, of course, that a higher education correlates with higher intellignce) who seek to advance knowledge, promote equality and peace, protect human rights, preserve the planet, and strive to make the world a better place for us all.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on April 7, 2011 at 10:38pm
I agree, RV, but as I pointed out the theists have taken to a strategy of mis-education by volume. It is no longer enough just to be educated, you either have to ignore all information that isn't from a source that is very well documented as trustworthy, or spend more time sifting through the bullshit than it takes to actually watch it. They are turning all the greatest developments in information technology into one giant propaganda machine. It's getting really hard to separate the bullshit from the news these days.
Comment by Walter Maki on April 8, 2011 at 12:32am
Another excellent blog entry you have made Heather. Gives the mind something to digest.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on April 8, 2011 at 12:47am
Thanks, although I noticed that Gaytor made a much more direct case for what I was trying to say. LOL!
Comment by Walter Maki on April 8, 2011 at 1:37am
Well between the both of you it gives me plenty to read. Please carry on I'll be watching....lol :)
Comment by Ava Wilson on April 8, 2011 at 3:02pm
RV, I bet it's even more painful for you as a molecular biologist to know that biology teachers in schools 'teach the controversy' and give it equal credence to evolution, if not more.
Comment by Ron V on April 8, 2011 at 9:48pm

In my opinion, "teachers" who "teach" evolution and natural selection as controversial with equal credence as creationism or "Intelligent Design" are incompetent - they shouldn't be attempting to "teach" science.

For the most part, I agree with the AAAS position on ID (refer to http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/evolution/qanda.shtml).  However, I have some issues with the following:

 

"Are science and religion inherently opposed?

No. Science does not take a position on an intelligent designer, which is a matter of religious faith, and is not testable scientifically. AAAS and other scientific groups do not want to create the impression that religion and science are inherently in conflict. They live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.

Science and religion ask different questions about the world. Many individual scientists are deeply religious. They see scientific investigation and religious faith as complementary components of a well-rounded life."

 

As long as religion continues to make extraordinary claims, we must continue to ask for and critically evaluate any evidence to support any extraordinary claims based on religion.  Ultimately, I do believe science and religion are inherently opposed since, fundamentally, they both attempt to explain the natural world- science has done a much better job, and religion has failed miserably. 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on April 8, 2011 at 10:01pm
I have to agree with you except for the part about those teachers being 'incompetent'. Unfortunately high school biology teachers are not professional in the scientific field of biology, they are professionals in the political field of teaching - and typically happen to have undergraduate degrees in biology. It doesn't matter what the 'right' answer is when teaching, it matters what the 'politically mandated' answer is. This is horribly sad, but unfortunately plenty of teachers are forced into teaching inaccurate or just plain false material because it is politically correct. Refusal to do so has no effect on what the students will be taught, only on who will be doing the teaching.

This problem isn't limited to biology classes, but teaching in general. I have a lot of teachers in my family and every one of them other than my paternal grandmother either left the field because of this, or retired early because it hurt so bad to swallow their pride over and over as they gave out patently false information. Issues revolving around sex education were extremely common, being forced to say 'carbon 14 is really just a guess-timate' lasted for a few years, and acknowledging false claims like, "Yes, there have been studies that showed statistically measurable results of prayer" was a real doozey. Bleh
Comment by Morgan Matthew on April 8, 2011 at 10:09pm

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