Sometimes I forget that I’m no longer a competitive debater (a high school activity I adored, but which sadly ended more than 20 years ago), and will spend more time than I care to admit engaging with total strangers about random topics (usually about religion, politics, or cooking). As a self-involved blogger, I sometimes find it necessary to post some of my rants here. Go me.
Here is my controversial statement of the day: Deep down, religious and superstitious people–the educated/intelligent ones, anyway–know it’s all bullshit. I really believe that. At some point in your conversations with them, they all say the same thing: that they choose to believe in it because they find it comforting. Underneath it all, they know it’s as much of a fantasy as a Harry Potter book.
They are so brainwashed by stories of gods, angels, demons, ghosts, heaven, hell, and all manner of things supernatural that they become convinced that not believing in those things is “cold” and “closed-minded.” They live in a constant state of existential insecurity; their superstitions are like drugs that treat the symptom without really curing the underlying illness. They spend considerable amounts of time seeking out other superstitious people in order to continually reinforce the tenuous beliefs they have. It is no wonder so many of them have such a visceral, angry reaction to atheists: we refuse to play their game.
Science is solving for our questions every day. It drags those folks and society in general–often kicking and screaming–into the future, while religion and superstition holds us back. Science and logic ask that we constantly question the world around us and challenge what we’re taught. Religion/superstition tells us to believe the same unverifiable facts and fantasies from millenias past without the tiniest shred of evidence. So to call atheists and skeptics closed-minded is rather dishonest. We follow a thought paradigm that demands an open mind and constant change. Believing in myth stories from a time when most people couldn’t read and thought the earth was flat does not.
I would argue that superstitious people are the closed-minded ones. When faced with something odd they don’t understand, they simply say “God did it” or “It was a ghost.” Logical people are not satisfied with that, and seek out real world explanations. So which of us is being closed-minded?
Calling us cold is ridiculous as well, and points to an ignorance of the really amazing things that DO exist in the universe. Look at the things we have discovered in medicine, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, computers, etc. just in the last 30 years, let alone the last 1000. Is that not wondrous? We built a satellite in the 70s that flew through our entire solar system and continued sending us signals for more than 30 years. We built powerful touch-screen computers you can carry in the palm of your hand. We can take photos of stars so far away you can’t even grasp their distance (look at the photo above, taken by a telescope that brilliant scientists engineered, built, and launched into space–that is pretty fucking awesome). A girl in high school recently discovered a way to treat cancer! We have walked in space, cured deadly diseases, mapped the human genome, etc., etc. On and on.
We are an amazing species when we are not consumed with the trappings of religion and superstition. Real life and science are magnificent and uplifting. The physical world will give you so much to marvel at that you won’t want to spend a moment sulking that you don’t get to live forever.