Friday, December 23, 2011

"Being an Atheist is like being the only sober person in the car and no one will let you drive."

Reposted from Facebook...

One of the most common questions that atheists hear is "Why do you care about others' religious beliefs?" There are many other common questions, but right now I want to focus on this one. And as I can't speak for anyone but myself, the best I can do is present my answer to the question.

In a nutshell, I care because of Abraham.

We all remember the story of Abraham, but most believers don't realize what a troubling story it is from an atheist's point of let me briefly illustrate the problem. Abraham heard a voice telling him to kill his son, Isaac. And he said something like "Umm...okay."

We all know the rest of the story, but this is the single most important--and troubling--part: Abraham heard a voice telling him to kill his son, and he chose to do what the voice told him. And now literally billions of people look up to Abraham. They love him, they revere him, and they want to be like him.

And this isn't a case like Columbus, where we say "Okay, we're celebrating his discovery of the New World, not his involvement with the slave trade" or like Emperor Charlemagne, where we can say "Yes, his butchery of pagans was obviously wrong, but he did insist that all his subjects become literate."

Abraham is revered because of his obedience to the voice in his head that told him to kill his son.

That is horrifying.

And just as frightening is the willful blindness: when a woman in Texas hears what she believes is the voice of God telling her to kill her children, religious believers shake their heads and talk about how sick this woman is...but they never connect her to the story of their revered 'Father Abraham' in any way. They insist that the two events have nothing in common.

I am an atheist, and I believe the story of Abraham is probably mythological. At best he was based on a historical figure. But the idea that people I know--people I care about--can look at this story and want to be like Abraham...that they can look up to and revere a man who listened to the voices in his head and tried to kill his son horrifies and disgusts me.

That is why I care about others' religious beliefs: because their religious beliefs are horrifying and disgusting. Because any parent who actively admires a man for trying to murder his child is downright monstrous. And because these same people have the sheer, unmitigated audacity to tell me that atheists have no basis for morality.

If I ever heard a voice telling me to murder my child, I would say "Fuck you!" And then I would check myself into a hospital.

That makes me far more moral than Abraham.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of one of humanity's great minds. Christopher Hitchens died today of cancer, at the age of 62.

He was a great mind. A great man. A champion of reason and intellect. I'm glad we overlapped enough that I could learn from him. The man was an explorer in the most important sense of the word. Mankind is lessened by his death...but mankind gained so much from his life that we end up better for it in the end.

To Hitch.