Muslims demand the killing of Atheists

Horrible story here about Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh calling for the execution of three atheist bloggers.  My anger-filled thoughts today are inspired by both this event and the crap my kids get at school for being atheist in this ‘wonderful’ Christian nation:

  • Religion plays on guilt to shut down dialogue and human rights.
  • Religion allows you to feel self-righteous when looking down on those unlike yourself.

Since religion plays on such deep, scary taboo parts of the brain and can be so manipulative, why not forswear it.  Feel what you will, but stop using God talk! Look what it does.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

43 responses to “Muslims demand the killing of Atheists

  1. I share your outrage about that. However, I think condemning “religion” is a rather broad sweep. No, I will not give up my god talk because of the abuses of some.

  2. Forgive my cynicism, but where was this outrage for the last since-Islam’s-inception as they’ve been doing this to Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and women who appear in public without a male family member escort?

    And I know of no religious tenet which condones, praises or promotes either of your bullet points. Are you just generilizing religion based on how some adherents act?

  3. I think the key word here is “fundamentalist”. The Muslims I know in our region, they’re all Sufis. These types of Muslims consider it to be the original Islam religion. The folks I know would probably kill themselves before harming an ant. They are very passive – and they often hide rather than get in a confrontation with others. They are the persecuted ones, not we secularists.

  4. chaz

    Let’s not forget the wonderful militant atheists of the 20th century who slaughtered thousands of religious folks in Russia with the aim of exterminating religion. You’re smart enough to know that you could replace the beginning word in each of your bullet points with “atheism” or any other group and it would still work.
    I’m working on that website so you can snipe at me soon too;)

  5. anon

    Intolerance seems to be growing everywhere. As a muslim I am concerned with intolerance within my religion—however, I feel fighting muslim intolerance by promoting atheism will not be effective…Intolerance in Islam will be most effective if it is fought with the Quran.

    if Surah 109 (Al Kafirun) can be used to promote the idea that God prefers a diversity of thoughts and lifestyles….it would create a positive force of tolerance and plurality that could work to counter the intolerence and silence it…..?…

    1 Say: O you that reject faith
    2 I worship not what you worship
    3 Nor will you worship that which I worship
    6 To you be your way and to me mine.

  6. It’s certainly not overly cautious to use a pseudonym for atheist blogging!

    Here is how this appears to me:

    Religion 1: “Our way is the one and only true way.”
    Religion 2: “No, our way is the one and only true way.”
    Skeptical atheist: “Neither of you have any acceptable evidence to make those claims, and thus are just attempting to exploit and manipulate others with false beliefs.”
    Religions 1 and 2: “How dare you have such cultural insensitivity towards religions!”

    (To those more liberal Christians out there, do you openly refute John 3:16 and John 1:18, the “one and only” passages? Do you use a modified Apostle’s Creed? It seems that as long as you profess to believe that Jesus was the “one and only” son of God (not made by normal human procreation), you are professing superiority to all other religions. Supernatural superiority, so to speak.)

  7. It’s cautious and wise to use the same psuedonym for Christian blogging. Hate mail is sad but pervasive these days…
    Gotta disagree about the “God talk,” Sabio. Freedom of expression and all of that, right? We must all have freedom of speech in our country, even if we don’t agree with that speech. Threats of violence and violent actions, however? Stamp that out!

  8. Soe

    Dear sabio,

    I share your frustrations about “fundamentalists and their call for blood”. However it is too easy to keep feeding those anger-filled thoughts. About a week back I was fuming from what I considered was unfair action by a business associate and was thinking of was to force him to change his mind. Most of this went in the line of making him regret his decision. However once i figured out i was feeding my own anger, and stopped thinking that way, i was able to see what repercussions might result from my angered response.

    I think Chaz is right about any one group being able to put on that mask of intolerance. I’ve seen it with the Burmese buddhists. By the way several friends from Bangladesh have assured me that the political situation in their country is always riddled with politically motivated strikes and riots. Both major parties vying for power are accused of being corrupt and these are not very conducive conditions for cultivating tolerance, unless you happen to be a a bodhisvatta!

    Back to how generally organisation of religions might allow for such blatant intolerances. I think it is back to the simplistic stance that “we are right and you are wrong” and that is what divides us. The Rhetoric and stance by some religious authority seem to be on the differences, almost as if the survival of the religion depended on it. Some may say the power of their religious authority depend on it.

    During my class on social psych, we discussed a project that was used to overcome these prejudices and discrimination by highlighting similarities. Is it so hard to go the way of saying “we have so much in common in terms of basic needs and the only difference is belief in particular religion?” Would this balance the self-righteous tendencies? And put parties in better position to accept dialogue?

    Another thing to think about is human nature itself. A label of “Athiest, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, Jain” may give one varying degrees of refuge and peace but more importantly it is what we do with our lives with or without these labels that show the effects of our lives. There will always be good and bad humans. But there is always the possibility of change.

  9. To all:

    We can talk about all our feelings and experiences without calling on a god, — be that awe, wonder, love, inspiration, excitement or the negative emotions. Why call on the gods if they are such talk is so easily abused?

    This is not a “freedom of speech” issue, I am just trying to get people to think about their parochial reflexes and how the reinforce negative historical tribal reflexes.

    Yes, yes, everyone does bad. Here I am focusing on one groups horrible use of god-talk.

    @ anon:
    There are lots of ways of fighting muslim intolerance. Since you are muslim, go ahead and use the Quran to fight your co-religionists, but I think Scripture-epistemology is fundamentally mistaken and a huge source of many problems. Treating any written word as sacred is a fundamental source of suffering and control, IMHO. But it certainly may help persuading those who still view the world through a book.

  10. I think it’s horrible when anyone is targeted like this simply for what or how they talk or think. I disagree with a lot of people in a lot of ways over a lot of things, but disagreement is one of the things that makes conversation productive; we can’t just try to silence anyone who disagrees with us.

    I truly hope that these bloggers are safe and that those who wish them harm are kept away.

  11. thank you Jonathan, I couldn’t agree more.

  12. This post encouraged me to read up more on blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy. The most relevant Wiki page is on Blasphemy in Islam ( Here are a few key types of blasphemy from that listing, making it clear that many Muslims (and Islamic governments) feel that most Christians and Atheists are blasphemers:

    [edited by Sabio — Abel, pls do not do long cut and pastes when you have a link to the info as you do above. Thanx]

  13. I think that this, and the unfortunate history of many other majorities throughout history reveals that the problem is, generally, not with a particular group’s ideology, philosophy, or theology; but rather a human tendency to silence dissidents. We need to overcome this urge to push away “the other,” the one who confronts us with inconvenient questions and/or facts; we need to be able to let people speak their thoughts, point out our flaws and the flaws in out thoughts; we need to be mature enough to not react defensively.

  14. @ jonathan,
    However, one of my big themes is that when discussion has “God/Allah/Krishna/Jesus says …” the conversation is quickly twisted. “God-talk” has a huge abuse potential — and since everything can be said, without God talk, I recommend avoiding it in a secular society — and I am very pro-secularism.

  15. Sabio (and others), I wonder, have you seen the movie District 9? It was an eye opener for me. And as we talk about “The Other”, I think it’s a relevant topic.

  16. Loved it ! I plan to watch with my son. Saw it about 8 months ago. Excellent.

  17. Cool. Yeah, I thought it was really unique and Copley just threw himself into the role.

  18. @ Sabio;
    I will respectfully disagree with you, I don’t think that God-talk is the problem. I think the problem is people, groups and individuals who are prone to feeling threatened by differing opinions, who are scared by “the other” or “the different” and who feel a need to gather control and power to themselves. Such personalities will find an excuse to manipulate and twist whatever they need to to get power, and suppress or vanquish that which is different and/or threatening to them. Sometimes they use religion, sometimes they use politics, race, ethnicity, gender, behavior or any other division they can to say “this person/those people are inherently wrong, strange and dangerous; and we must get rid of their threat.” Take away religion and they will find something else to use.

    I think district 9 is an excellent hypothetical example to bring up. I like this quote from the wikipedia page: “Substitute ‘black,’ ‘Asian,’ ‘Mexican,’ ‘illegal,’ ‘Jew,’ or any number of different labels for the word ‘prawn’ in this film and you will hear the hidden truth behind the dialogue”. The problem is not religion; the problem is in our inherent fear of that which is unfamiliar and uncontrollabe.To place the blame anywhere else, in my opinion, simply gives us an opportunity to continue making the same mistakes.

  19. @jonathan
    Using “god talk” taps into the taboo side of human thinking and is a trick that religious specialists know how to abuse. Thus, using that way of talking should be avoided. Manipulation is of course all over the place but God manipulation is very sinister and hidden — all the more detestable. It is manipulation on top of manipulations.

    Take away religion and they may find something else, but that is one less sneaky tool. We should try to strip down all sneaky tools so people can see through each others rhetoric and we can be more honest.

    Yes, racism is another sneaky tool. Racism and God-talk — two of the big ones — they need to always be exposed for what they are.

    So, religion per se is not so much the problem as God-talk or hell-talk or …

  20. Interesting categorization you made there: God-talk vs. religion. That could be a helpful way to think about it. We would have to figure out how to engage in religious and theoligical discourse without God-talk.

    I think it’s also worth considering religion’s role in culture. Maybe we’re talking about how people try to enforce/enact cultural superiority over each other, and religion is one part of that.

    Of course, as a Christian, I would argue that Christianity transcends culture; and as a theist more generally, I would argue that true religion transcends culture; but I also recognize that that arguent probably won’t have much traction with an atheist.

  21. @ jonathan,
    Of course you’d want to “argue that Christianity transcends culture.” Every religion I know, wants to say it is not really a religion — that it is different than all the rest; that it transcends all those sociologically, psychologically, anthropologically obvious trappings of all those other folks. Such a claim is generic. At Wheaton College, I took a course on “Christianity and Culture” and listened to all the mental gymnastics on this issue from various angles. Check out this Ngram diagram to learn the history of “Christ and Culture” and “Christianity and Culture”. Ngram is an interesting tool if you are not familiar with it.

    For example, look at this diagram of “personal relationship with Jesus”. Trends can help expose our generic, demographically parochial thinking.

  22. @ Sabio,
    ok, so what are your thoughts on “Maybe we’re talking about how people try to enforce/enact cultural superiority over each other, and religion is one part of that.”

  23. Sabio, I wonder in this respect what is your opinion about Wicca. For me, that’s a religion that’s really avoided manipulating others. I suppose we could also discuss native people’s “religion” although that’s a somewhat different matter. Maybe you could argue that Wiccan adherents are manipulated, but from my experience it’s not really an issue. Can other religious adherents learn from this?

  24. @jonathan pelton,
    I was talking about how “God talk” and “Hell talk” and such is used by religion as a particulary devious manipulation tool. And of course that could be generalized to using the “cultural superiority” ploy — but Christianity and Islam take it a huge step higher by claiming ETERNAL superiority! It is that quantum step higher in manipulation that I am really bugged by. BTW, you can see that my last comment to you inspired my next post.

    @ amelie,
    I know nothing of Wicca — but for me, any religion which is not exclusivist in behavior or in their vision of the fate of non-believers is doing superbly by huge steps — sounds like Wicca and much of Western Buddhism, Taoism and others do just that. Several progressive Christian groups and tons of cafeteria/cultural Christians are also open like that.

    Yes, I will others would learn from that. But I wish they would all drop the “God talk”.

  25. @ sabio
    You and others have used the term “superiority” several times. Could you please define that for me in the context of this conversation; i.e. what is the exact idea you’re wanting to convey in using that particular phrase?

  26. @ jonathan pelton
    You used the expression in your question. Apparently you were quoting Abel. I will not answer for Abel. As for me, I was using your word. If you have a meaningful question for me, go ahead and ask. Otherwise, you can go over the word “superiority” with Abel. If you wish to discuss my points, I am glad to engage. I will not answer to “You and others”.

  27. Gotcha; I ued the phrase “cultural superiority” to mean the aberrant view that any one culture is inherently superior (better, smarter, more efficient, inherently more powerful, gives them a right to look down on others,) than any other culture.

    You used the phrase “eternal superiority;” what do you mean by that phrase?

    BTW (I wasn’t quoting Abel, though I would be interested in his response as well, but, as you said, you’re not abel); and yes, I did notice that your current post was tied to one of your responses.

    If this conversation goes on much longer I might just email you to make it easier.

  28. Get to your point. No time for word games. Lay out your cards. I don’t have the time or the patience for this.

  29. Was it the term ‘supernatural superiority’ I mentioned? Any sort of claim that a particular group/guru/church has the “one and only” path to eternal salvation is clearly a claim to supernatural superiority. Christianity is big on this claim. I used the Apostle’s Creed as an example of a belief statement with “one and only.” In reading more, the Athanasian Creed is another good example. (It begins: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.”)

    I believe it is quite possible for one culture to be superior to another if there is meaningful criteria to compare. This is like the concept of ‘falsifiability’ in science-talk. If a statement is not testable and not falsifiable, it is meaningless. I consider statements as to eternal life in heaven vs. hell to fit into this category. Cultural comparisons of health, longevity, economic output, and even happiness are possible (though it’s common for figures to be fudged).

    So from an atheist/skeptical perspective, it is when religions seek to promote their nonfalsifiable (i.e. meaningless) supernatural beliefs as true/important/superior that they are deserving of condemnation and, yes, ridicule. For example, this is the beginning of the doctrinal statement of a local Baptist church: “We believe the Bible is God’s absolute, objective truth for all people for all times. It is without error in concept or detail in the original writings. It is breathed out in its entirety by God, divinely preserved, and, therefore, trustworthy.” It goes on to say that *only* through faith in Jesus will someone be resurrected and enjoy heaven eternally, and that everyone else will burn in hell.

    If such people would keep to themselves, I wouldn’t feel motivated to condemn and ridicule them. However, they teach this stuff to children and also seek political power to control other people. Many openly want to make the USA a theocracy. Inherent in their doctrinal claims is the claim of superiority, both now (as they have the only truth and path to salvation) and eternally (supernatural superiority).

    My Lutheran father, who goes to church less and less as he ages, is a “liberal Christian” who thinks that Jesus’ message of “love your neighbor” is more important than arguing about details. I feel that all of the Christian mythology is excess baggage, and that it is simply logical to be kind and loving to one’s neighbors (respecting their privacy and property rights, lending a hand when possible). As soon as you bring a Virgin Birth and the “one and only” doctrine into play, it’s unhealthy magical thinking.

    Same can be said for many Buddhist, Islamic, and Jewish sects…

  30. This news makes me supremely sad. The comments and conversation too. In the end, it makes me so sad when God-talk, what we believers say when we mean the “expansive, infinite, ground of being” gets narrowed down so much that it fits in the front shirt pocket of our prejudice, bigotry, and ding-a-ling rivalries.

    Keep raising my consciousness and I’ll keep working on the inside to keep my tribe open.

  31. @Abel
    The reason I ask is because the words “superior” and “exclusive” can be taken in different ways.

    I like to think of myself as a philosopher and find it quite helpful to use analogies to discuss ideas; so, if you’ll indulge me . . .

    Let’s say there’s a group of people in an unfamiliar town, with no gps or maps to help them. They want to eat and one of them thinks that they saw a mcdonald’s sign over to the west; so, they pile into a van, pick a road going west and follow it. Soon they come to a 4-way stop and have to make a decision: go left, right, or straight.

    Some of the group say “The only way to get to McD’s is to go left.” Others say “The only way to get there is to go right.” Still others say “These roads all come out to the same place, any direction will go to McD’s” Who is exclusivist? Who professes superiority?

    On the one hand, the rightist and leftist are both claiming that only those who follow their directions will get to McD’s; so they are professing that their route is superior in a factual way. They are also saying that those who follow a different route will not get to McD’s, so they are, in this sense exclusivists.

    At a different level, though, all three groups are claiming that their particular version of reality is more factually correct than either of the others. Even the third group, the pan-directionalists, claims that they understand reality better than the other two groups and that their version is superior. In this sense all three groups claim superiority and are making exclusive truth claims (a claim that one particular version is true in a way that precludes other versions from also being true i.e. if the third group is right, then the leftist can’t also be right)

    One could posit still other groups, a group that claims that McD’s doesn’t actually exist; or a group that claims that it is impossible to know whether or not McD’s exists; or a group that claims that it doesn’t matter whether McD’s exists because it’s the process of searching that is really important. All of these are particular versions of reality that claim the exclusive right to be called “correct” and in this sense they all claim to be superior.

    As I see it, the only way to approach this issue in humility is to say “I don’t know; I believe such and such, but I could be wrong.” Anything less is pure arrogance and an improper claim to superiority.

    As to your ideas about falsifiablility, testability and meaninglessness. I disagree with you. I don’t think that testability = meaning. There are plenty of meaningful ideas that are impossible to test. You can’t test wether something is just or unjust; beautiful or ugle. When the ancient Greeks were thinking about atoms, they were in no position to test the idea, but the idea was still meaningful; in fact, it seems to me that pretty much all modern scientific knowledge is indebted to ancient philosophers thinking through matters of ontology, epistemology, and logic that were impossible to test; yet were no less meaningful.

  32. @ jonathan I am sure Abel will be back to discuss with you. Here is my two cents:

    Argument by analogy is loaded with pitfalls and often avoided for those reasons, though it is a favorite among salesmen and religious folks (for obvious reasons).

    Let’s say 4 guys are in a car. 3 guys sleep while the other drives. At a rest stop, the driver tells the guys who were sleeping:

    About 20 miles back a saw a pink Zebra who communicated to me by telepathy that we need to worship him and believe he can save us for being tortured for eternity. He also said we have to go back there to drink his urine to prove we believe this. The other guys say, look, John [just coincidence], none of us has ever seen a pink Zebra, yet alone a telepathic one. In fact we have no signs that we are under any threat of being tortured for eternity. We’re going to keep driving.” Johnny is flabbergasted and very sad and leaves them. A year later, they meet Johnny and he is still going on about the pink Zebra. Johnny tells all his former buddies that there lives are meaningless without the pink Zebra, that he tells his kids not to associate with theirs least they be corrupted. And offers them a chance to meet the pink Zebra again. You can imagine what the former friends said.

    Now that Zebra analogy has more in common with the issue we are discussing than your McDonald analogy.

  33. @Jonathan Thanks for the fun analogy. Naturally, it leads me to a few more questions in response.

    “How do you know that there’s a McDonald’s over there?”
    “I have this map from 2000 years ago, it says we just part the sea and find the guy who can feed thousands on one all beef patty and 2 sesame seed buns…”

    If there are two routes to a destination, anyone who says they have the “one and only” path can be proven wrong. It would only be correct to say they have “one” path to a destination. The “only” part creates the exclusivity and superiority.

    If you are starving and only have enough energy to travel a few miles in one direction, and there are multiple people telling you they’ll get you to a restaurant in exchange for 10% of your net worth, it’s fair to ask for evidence that they do know how to get to a restaurant. That evidence should be compared and evaluated with some sort of criteria. After all, there are scam artists who would take you out into the wilderness to starve to get your money.

    Regarding falsifiability, here is a short quote (I got the message, Sabio, no long pastes) from

    “The concern with falsifiability gained its great attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper’s scientific epistemology falsificationism. In this, Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—sorting the scientific from the unscientific—and lays the demarcation criterion falsifibility, such that the unfalsifiable are unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory proved true by scientific method is pseudoscience.”

    I personally have found no good evidence to support the (supernatural) claims of most religions. The existence of disincarnate entities (consciousness without matter) is a good example. The ability to influence those entities through spells/prayers/rituals is another example.

    Given that I’m interested in learning the truth about as much as possible in my lifetime, I’ve chosen the scientific path and method as my tools of choice (after many less productive paths). Thus, for me, most religious myths and pseudoscientific claims are meaningless if they cannot be tested.

    If others want to privately believe in ghosts, gods, and gurus, that is their business. But if they want to get involved in a public discussion, force their beliefs on others, or kill people who believe differently or criticize them, I will do my best to point out the lies, errors, illogic, pseudoscience, fallacies, and consequent harm of their false beliefs. Calling out for proof and evidence is fair play, and is why so many skeptics use Sagan’s maxim “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.”

    @Sabio–thanks for the encouragement to start a blog of my own, which I’ve already done. My newest post is: “Bible: More Pro-Choice Than Abortion Rights Activists?”

  34. I’m working on a response, but don’t have much time tonight, I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

  35. @ Abel
    Thanks for your response!
    To answer your hypothetical questions:

    “I don’t know, and that’s the point, none of us knows, and I think any categorical statement of certainty is also a statement of superiority and exclusivity.”

    “I will consider your map, as none of us has a better map, but reserve the
    right to make my own choices.”

    The “only” part does indeed create exclusivity; so, at one level, saying “my route is the ‘only’ way that leads to McD’s” is a statement of exclusivity; but on another level, any statement which purports to be the “only” faithful approximation of reality is just as exclusive, just in a different way.

    If you are desperate for God, and someone wants to make you pay money before they’ll let you get to Him, then that person does not represent God, in my opinion, and does not have the ability to keep you from God.

    It is fair for anyone to ask any questions they deem appropriate; but I don’t think that theists are the only exclusivists with an attitude of superiority.

    Regarding falsifiability: I am familiar with the argument(?) of falsifiability. Generally, as the Wikipedia article says, falsifiablility is a scientific method for scrutinizing the usefulness of a particular hypothesis. I think it has great merit when used in scientific endeavors; the idea can be easily misused, however, in metaphysics. So when thinking about ethics, morality, theology, aesthetics, ontology and epistemology, it is naïve to think that no idea is meaningful unless we test it.

    At a second look, it doesn’t appear that you are claiming that nothing is meaningful unless it can be tested; rather, I think I hear you saying that, in science, nothing can be counted upon with certainty unless it can be tested; and that this is important for you since you have chosen the scientific method as your personal tool of chose in searching out the truth. I don’t agree with that choice and I think that your search will be poorer for it; but I don’t have to agree with you to respect you and the logic of your thought, or to see value and worth in your viewpoint. You seem quite intelligent (at least from the limited interaction we’ve had) and I recognize that; so, if the path of scientific materialism is the path you choose, then by all means the standard of falsifiability seems like a logical tool for you to use, and I wish you well in your quest to learn truth.

    As for me, I feel that a more philosophical bent will be more profitable, and can’t, therefore, confine myself only to ideas that may be tested, for justice, good, right, and beauty can’t be tested.
    I appreciate your statement “If others want to privately believe in ghosts, gods, and gurus, that is their business.” And I agree that if someone wants to force their belief on others or kill people who believe differently, then they should be opposed. I don’t, however, think that people should be disallowed from public discourse because of their belief system.

    @ Sabio,
    I think you’ve proved my point quite nicely. I’m trying to point out that dogmatic atheism is just as closed minded and arrogant as any dogmatic theism. By comparing belief in God to belief in a pink zebra you have flippantly dismissed the serious thought and sincere beliefs of, oh, I’d guess somewhere around 80-90% of all humanity that has ever lived.

    Socratic humility approaches theology and says “I don’t know if God exists or not; but I do not believe that He does and here’s why;” or “I don’t really know, but I believe that God exists and here’s why;” and uses that humility as the foundation for open dialogue and honest, mature discussion. It takes “the other” seriously; and respects opinions and beliefs that it disagrees with. You, on the other hand, have just dismissed anyone from the conversation who doesn’t already agree with your position of atheism. How can I be taken seriously as a conversational partner if I’m no more intelligent than a lunatic seeking a pink zebra? How is that not exclusivism? How is that not an attitude of superiority?

  36. @Jonathan Thanks for the thoughtful conversation. I can appreciate the general philosophical belief in a spiritual consciousness pervading the universe (and beyond), but when narrowing down to the earthly reality of religions which promote their book as having special insight into Truth (and their rituals as having special powers for eternal salvation), it quickly leaves the abstract philosophy area.
    The historical reality is that virtually every major religion, from Christianity to Islam to (yes) Buddhism have worked hard to stamp out other religions (as well as doubters) for centuries. Each such group only has money, real estate, and members today as a result of the crimes they committed in the past. As a westerner, Catholicism in particular is an important study. The Inquisitions may seem like ancient history, but really were not so long ago. Accusations of Heresy, Blasphemy, and Apostasy all are based on the notion that the religious powers were Right and the ‘others’ were wrong. Torture, extortion, murder, and many other atrocities accompanied this supernatural superiority. Islam’s story is not so different. Even today, as this blog post shows, this method continues.
    I don’t know what you believe about the Bible, but I feel it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was written by humans, contains multiple contradictions, recommends horrible behaviors, and makes ridiculous supernatural claims. The people I’ve met who take the Bible most seriously seem mentally unstable, with various combinations of anxiety, guilt, and convictions that the Bible is the actual “Word of God.” It’s still somewhat taboo to criticize religion openly, but in my opinion the need is great for the benefit of future generations.
    Today’s religions mostly make supernatural claims for the afterlife which can’t be tested. That is due to some sort of ‘evolution’ of religious dogmas, where the claims easily disproven were abandoned in favor of abstract beliefs more easily defended by complex apologetics. It’s pretty clear that Jehovah doesn’t reliably protect children, cure diseases, or regrow lost limbs, even when asked nicely. The ‘out’ by the believers is to look for ‘deeper meaning’ in these horrific events. Well, what you look for, you will likely find (even if it isn’t really there).
    Salvationary religious dogmas are thus left with claiming that a simplistic ritual (i.e. saying a deity’s name on your deathbed) has the actual power to eternally modify what happens after one dies. Frankly, I’d rather drink pink unicorn pee than eat the flesh and blood of a god-man; at least it has the power to make me laugh in the present time. If the Pink Unicorn Cult had attained political power and stolen property, money, and lives from everyone who disagreed for a few centuries, then developed a solemn sounding priesthood with libraries full of convoluted arguments for why the Pink Unicorn was the One True God, it would today be as popular and ‘sensible’ as the Christian myth. Frankly, since the Golden Calf was popular before JHVH, it may have been an easier transition to the Rose Golden Unicorn.
    I do appreciate your attempt to encourage everyone to get along and be more humble. But the ‘I don’t know’ crowd is not behind most pulpits (well, I do know some ex-clergy who realized that they didn’t know and thus could no longer preach). When heliocentrism came along, it was an important split between religion and science. Religion tried to win with threats, torture, imprisonment, etc. Heliocentrism won with facts, science, and testable/provable theories. Fortunately, those early scientists felt superior enough with their observations, pursuit of truth and knowledge, and desire to share it with others that they risked and gave all to speak out against the religious dogmas of the day.

  37. One last thing I’ll say, which speaks more to the point of the original post, is that the types of behavior pulled out and scrutinized to talk about the brutality of dogmatic religion seems quite consistent with the type of behavior that has been prevalent throughout the world regardless of religion or a-religion, and prevalent throughout pre-christian Europe. This is why I argue that the problem is not with religion, but with basic human fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, instinctual need for control, and selfishness. The Vikings, as one example, were raping and pillaging from Dublin to Moscow centuries before Christianity came to Scandinavia. For the Vikings, it actually seems that their conversion to Christianity is what provided the impetus to stop raiding. (got that from Wikipedia, btw)

    The brutality of the Christian era was simply a continuation of problems that had already been plaguing Europe. The cultural powers at be saw the political power Christianity was gaining and realized that it presented an opportunity to align themselves with powerful leaders, to legitimize and consolidate their own power, and to get rid of their enemies. Christianity didn’t cause these circumstances; the despotic, fearful, and manipulative character of cultural leaders, along with the mob mentality of their tribes, was the root of their barbarity. Chrisitainity is just what they used to legitimize their behavior; marching in the name of Christ, without regard to the actual teachings of that Christ, helped them to justify their own behavior.

    Of course, even the phrase “Christian Europe” is a misnomer. Europe has never been Christian. Whole tribes “converted,” thousands strong at a time, simply to follow their leader’s example, when the leader themself wasn’t even converting for religious purposes but merely political. Clovis is an excellent example. The Franks who followed him probably didn’t even know who Christ was when they converted, they just knew that Clovis was a Christian so they were all Christian too; and with Mass performed in Latin, who was there to teach them what Christianity was actually all about?

    Middle Age violence was not caused by the Christianization of Europe; it was caused by the Europeanization of Christianity; and by misplacing the blame on the religion instead of humanity, we have given European tendencies toward conquest an opportunity to continue into the modern age under the guise of globalization and corporate colonialism (McD’s, Starbucks, Wal-mart; Google=skynet). By blaming religion we fool ourselves into thinking that if we can just get rid of religion, then everything will be ok; we’ll think that brutality is ok as long it’s done in the name of capitalism or America instead of the name of Christ, Allah or Buddha; that it’s ok to treat people like trash as long as we label them terrorists or illegal immigrant first.

    We need to be careful about diagnosing the problem correctly so that we can appropriately treat the disease.

  38. @ jonathan:
    You make a big mistake. Without defining “God”, we can’t say my analogy is inaccurate. See my post on “Arguing for a Tiny God” to see if you understand my point. You are welcome to carry on that part of the conversation on over at that post. When you use the word God, you mean a much bigger, highly packed, miracle-working, sickness curing God. There is no evidence what-so-ever for that sort of god and the analogy works.

    You are being fooled by abstract notions and identifying them with warm fuzzy feelings you get.

    I you want to be taken seriously. Then define the sort of god you are talking about — what did it do and what can it do. Then tell us your evidence. If it is an abstract god that is merely an initial cause, then the conversation is entirely different — and almost unimportant.

  39. Soe

    @Abel, I think it may be a bit of over simplification to say each group has it’s wealth, members only because of past crimes. By crimes I’m assuming you mean dishonesty about the certainty about salvation and atrocities carried out in the name of belief.
    I do see the point about finding ‘deeper meaning’ or reason to explain away the gaps in the big picture through the lens of belief. A few my friends were just discussing this happening in popular ‘buddhist’ superstition. I think the human mind is compelled to find reasons to fill the such gaps. The trouble is not many know the difference between sound and unsound reasoning. A kind of shortcut, one dimensional gap filling is done most often. This may result in the discrimination of different groups as people and things external to the individual are treated as objects to be manipulated customised to one’s ideas of happiness and comfort. The shortest and simplest solutions that we are familiar since we as children started to manipulate our surroundings, to remove stuff that irritates, discomforts, brings fear to us. This is also seen toward the environment. When proper reasoning is not applied to understand the factors that affect us, external and internal, and to the old comfortable knowledge and belief lenses we already wear, it’s almost as good as going through life blind to reality. Reality which we perceive only partially through our own individual perceptions, the rest of which we can fill in with our own imagination, after regarding and investigating what other’s have shared of their experience or completely ignoring it from the get go. I would think the latter choice would be foolhardy and a great loss of opportunity toward accuracy of knowledge.

    Your point about heliocentricism and religion, presents an interesting question to why the religious authority of that culture opposed it. There have been other cultures with beliefs in a universe very different from what is presented in current science. Is it because other cultures do not take their origin stories as literally? That their cultures teaches them that they should be humble about what they know thus preventing a rigid acceptance of it? That knowledge is not limited to one source? Because the powerstructure in their societies did not place too much power in religious authority? It could be a combination of all these factors and more but it’s effect seemed singular; little attachment to the meanings their story gave them when it no longer served it’s purpose. If we do a survey of meaning to an individual, it may be emotional effect, and usually it is a model they have used to encapsulate their lives with. But logically it can be seen individuals can do this with a variety of things, like hobbies, work, intimate relationships.
    From the nature of things, there seems to be no meaning to the lives of human beings beyond the biological imperatives nature intended just like the countless species before us, and likely after us as well. It is the remarkability of the arising of human intelligence that has set us thinking upon such questioning. Is there meaning to life? If there is where would one find it? Who/what would have set that meaning? If there isn’t, shouldn’t there be? How could one give meaning to life? Should one lead a meaningless life? What could be defined as meaningful? Although such questions may have sparked our human imaginations since our brains developed enough mass to develop concepts, we can objectively see that out of the billions among us, many more before us and after, it would be impossible to for us come to a single, or even ten ideas of the ultimate meaning of our lives. The variables at play in each individual life stacks the odds too high for that. If there was a singular or ten, meanings of our life, and our purpose was to find it, most of humankind have been doomed to fail. It is a rather attractive sounding idea though and it can motivate us to get together and do stuff, which can lead to great positive or negative change in our collective lives.

    @jonathan, your term ‘europeanization of christianity’ is an interesting one. I guess similar terms we can look at are romanization of christianity, or nationalization of a religion. The former can be interchanged with any group of authority and the latter to any group or ideology without consensus by others who also identify themselves with the labelled ideology. The interesting thing is, if we blame the former group for misrepresentation, and disagree with the acts it carries out through this, shouldn’t here be proper condemnation and greater concern from the leaders of those proper ideologies? It is a phenomenon that plays out against logic since honesty is in line with the characteristic of truth that most authoritative ideologies align themselves with. Sweeping the wrongdoings of another under the rug, one who has clearly violated the right to keep representing the group, clearly demonstrates those refraining to clarify and separate wrongdoings from the ideals of the group, are poor leaders. Is the concern over outsiders questioning your authority more important than those coming from your own group? Why isn’t there more outcry from those decent ones who want to disassociate from the wrongdoings? This seems to highlight the relative unfairness of the case in the original post. A willingness to jump at the throat of ‘inferior beings’ at the slightest disagreement and trying to reason out the wrongdoing of those using the ‘immunity necklace’ because they were once considered to be harmless members of the ‘superior’ tribe.

  40. @Soe, this passage from Joshua was the main reason Copernicus’ heliocentrism was considered heretical: “10:12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
    10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”
    Unfortunately, the same sort of reasoning is at work today with Creationism, bias against homosexuals, witches, etc. I’d include abortion in that list, but the Bible is actually quite pro-choice.

  41. @Soe, regarding the oversimplification of history, I agree that the word “only” wasn’t the best phrasing. However, today’s dominant religions would not have reached the same level of influence and power without violent coercion. Many Islamic groups are still involved in violent coercion, as the arrest and potential execution of atheist bloggers shows.
    Personally, I find the threat of eternal damnation to be a coercively violent belief (Supernatural criminal threatening? Intimidation? Terrorizing?). It works particularly well on children.
    Blasphemy laws are obvious tools to stifle free speech and prevent conflicting beliefs from gaining social traction. Britain’s last execution for blaspheming Christianity was in 1697 (poor Thomas Aikenhead). 20 year old Thomas dared to state that he thought Old Testament wasn’t true and that Jesus didn’t really perform miracles like walking on water and turning water into wine. Depending on your perspective, 316 years is either a long time ago or not so long ago.
    Native American boarding schools and mission schools prohibited speaking of native languages and used violence or the threat of violence to shape native children into English speaking Christians. Apparently, this still goes on today (Miranda Washinawatok).
    Abortion providers are under constant threat of religious violence in the United States and elsewhere, and several have been killed (to protest killing).
    I think that generations of coerced religious beliefs have led many people to subconsciously be afraid to declare themselves free from religion and speak out about religious untruths. Politicians know that they should be known as churchgoers to increase their votes, and I think that mentality is why many parents choose to take their kids to church and Sunday school even if the parents have strong reservations about religion.
    So yes, the phrasing could have been better in my original statement, but I do stand by it as being an accurate statement, in that most of today’s dominant religions “only” have the power they have because one component of their strategy was to use violence and threats of violence (both in this world and the “next”) to gain and keep converts.

  42. Soe

    Some may claim that mafia-like elements of religion and other institutions of power that have it only persist because their authority is unchecked. But in today’s age of information, if clear-reasoning can be properly cultivated and the usual symptoms of relinquishing the emotional reigns to media elements, that play out like puppets to power, are checked, we actually have a better shot now than there ever was to demand accountability in these institutions.

  43. you're all lucky

    A question for religious people, you die then go to heaven, the what? you spend eternity in heaven bored out of you’re mind, even if heaven has things to do and acquires new knowledge and skills to master. there’s only so much stuff you could and want to learn, then you’ll spend eternity bored out.
    A god would never make eternal life, it’s cruel. After x amount of years you would be begging to not exist anymore and that’s what really happens luckily for us all. I’d like to live for a long time but not forever as religion would have it.

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