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Laugh it up

August 2, 2008

The Canadian National Post has an interview with Dr. Robert Buckman, an oncologist and former collaborator with John Cleese, where he intimates his concern for his fellow atheists.His concern centers around his view that “the godless can be way too dogmatic and far too humourless”.

Try to be more humble. Or as he puts it, “humble up.”

“Stop feeling because you are sure you are right that gives you the power to shout and dominate and be a pill,” said Dr. Buckman, who will be appearing with his good friend Dr. Henry Morgentaler. “Humble up and accept that people may not agree with you.”

This is semi-valid advice that may change if Canada’s religious conservative movement continues to gain ground in their government. The squeakiest wheels in the atheist community at the moment are the ones who are most against religion as a whole and take the most agressive stance in promoting their views. Yes, I thought parts of Dawkin’s The God Delusion were presented in a very arrogant way that made roll my eyes  bit, and I have yet to buy Chistopher Hitchen’s God is Not Great for that very same reason. However, as with any book, you have to incoporate the opinions of the author into understanding the message of the book and why it was written.

There is little doubt in my mind that these books are being written for Americans. Letter to a Christian Nation was not the only book written by an atheist to try to stem the destructive tide that is eroding the secular principles of our government and sometimes, I fear, even the sanity of our populace. Let’s take a brief look:

  • Faith-based Initiates, formerly a republican thing, now with plans for expansion under a “progressive” democrat
  • A war initiated because out leader thinks God told him to do it, and no negative response when he went public with this tidbit
  • “In God We Trust”
  • …”under God”…
  • A group of religious child molesters has had their victims returned to their care
  • Child left to suffer pain and death when parents prefer prayer over medical attention
  • Religion is actually an important topic in our candidates campaigns
  • Religious dogma making it into our science classrooms in the form of Intelligent Design
  • Religious dogma impeding critical research in stem cells
  • Religious dogma preventing all Americans from having the same rights to marriage. This is religion and government-sponsored discrimination.
  • A Louisiana elected official going public with the fact that he believes that an exorcism that he performed on a friend relieved his friend of a demon and cured his cancer

I could go on and on, but all this has been reported in the American media, and for the most part, atheists are the only ones looking at this and saying, “What the fuck?” It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to see the common thread in all of this: religion. The stranglehold that religion has on our country is impeding progress in social, educational, an medical forums, and that is a direct instigator of the agressive form of atheist backlash that we are seeing with the “new” atheists.

Yes, we need a sense of humor, but is this the right forum for it? Every atheist I’ve met so far has a wonderful sense of humor and zest for life, but can you laugh off ignorance, death, and scientific stagnation? More importantly, is it ethical to do so? Should atheists just shrug and chuckle and be understanding of the force that is causing so much ill, or should we be rising up and fighting what is the root cause of it?

I think even the arrogance and ridicule that put forward in the new atheist works serves a purpose. It sends the message that the theistic point of view is far less importnt to us than the plague of stagnation that it is causing. It says to theists that your unprovable belief in god is causing real-world problems, and we’re getting sick to death of it. It says that your bewildering belief in the social principles put forward by books written thousands of years ago is ridiculous to us and means nothing to us until you try to force it upon all of us. Maybe if we can show how absurd we think their beliefs are, they may rethink them in a different light. The article goes on:

Dr. Buckman, the author of Can We Be Good Without God, which lays out the scientific reasons for belief and extends that idea to the notion that morality comes through evolution, would love to see more people suspend their beliefs. But if they cannot do that, he would like them to at least change their behaviour.

And this is the crux of the situation, isn’t it? Yes, I would love to see religion become nothing more than an oddity in the history books, but nothing is going to force that to happen, and I wouldn’t want to see it forced to happen. I’d like to see religion die naturally, replaced with real social and intellectual progress. Until then, we have to fight the theists who want to force their beliefs on us by legislating them or trying to kill us when we don’t submit. I don’t think there would be near as much of a problem if the religious would keep their beliefs as a personal value and didn’t try to force others to live by them.

If I didn’t have to worry Christians making my kids learn creationism, or my money going to relgious charities against my will, or Muslims killing people who are not Muslim, then I would probably leave religion alone, and rightfully so. Until the time comes where religion isn’t aking itself a worry, I will fight against it and I will laugh about other things.

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