There’s a common fear that ripples through the masses of believers whenever a group of atheists does anything to draw attention to itself; the fear that the evil, soulless Satan-worshipers (although why we’d worship something we don’t believe in is never explained) will take away people’s religion. That a bunch of jack-booted brownshirts under the Dawkins standard will start kicking in doors and arresting people for praying in their living rooms. That children will be forced to make public confessions of their belief in evolution and logical positivism, or be forced out of school in humiliation.
I try not to call things “stupid” when I can avoid it, but sometimes there’s no other term. This fear of atheists is stupid. If there’s any atheist out there who is actually suggesting these things, then he/she is stupid too, and would be laughed out of the room even at an all-atheist gathering. The whole point of the secularist movement is to enshrine the civil rights of all people, and give everyone equal access to government services, with all the associated privileges and responsibilities inherent in citizenship. A major plank of that is to remove the special status of religion, which is hardly the same thing as legislating against thoughtcrime.
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, but the atheists aren’t going to force you to stop believing if you really want to.
So then who should religious people be afraid of?
At least 24 people have been killed and 25 injured in a bombing at a mosque in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan, officials say… Officials in Wana told the BBC it was carried out by a suicide bomber who walked up to Mr [Maulvi] Mohammad and detonated his explosives as they shook hands.
As if Pakistan didn’t have enough problems to deal with already, they’ve also got to deal with al-Qaeda suicide bombers destroying mosques in the name of religious belief. Mr. Mohammad was a former member of Parliament who was an outspoken supporter of the Taliban (a real sweetheart angel, for sure). He was targeted by the terror group for allegedly providing information that allowed authorities to kill three al-Qaeda operatives.
But even barring terrorist attacks on sites of worship, religion is self-defeating by embarrassing itself horribly:
A Saudi judge is reported to have asked hospitals if it is possible to cut the spinal cord of the man, found guilty of paralysing another man in a fight. Under Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, retribution sentences can include eye-gouging and, for murder, beheading.
How could any reasonable, moral person think that it is appropriate to intentionally cripple someone for the act of accidentally crippling someone else. Even if the assault was intentional, the whole point of a judicial system is to model the way that humanity should behave. In a base, twisted sense, I suppose one could call revenge “justice”, but the greater justice is in showing restraint from animal and primitive urges to lash back, and modeling good conduct. Should assault be met with punishment? Absolutely. Is is reasonable to perform life-altering surgery on someone as a means of extracting the pound of flesh? Only if you’re a Saudi judge, I guess.
Yes, how could any reasonable and moral person tolerate such things? But I forget, we’re not talking about reasonable moral people, we’re talking about religious people. When an unobservable, immeasurable and constantly-shifting standard is granted special status by virtue of the fact that it’s couched in magical language and old books, this is the result. Sure, we could bicker and nit-pick about whether al-Qaeda was striking a military target, and whether or not Islam is to blame for Saudi Arabia’s corrupt and intellectually bankrupt legal system, but the justification for these things is appeal to religion.
The more these atrocities continue to pile up, and the more we are willing to call them what they are – religiously-motivated crimes against humanity, the faster religion itself loses its special status and becomes ripe for criticism. And atheists don’t have to lift a finger – the Jesus fish rots from the head.