Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Religion is the answer (they're selling)

Did you ever notice that whatever the problem, religion is plugged as the answer? Case in point: last week's Virginia Tech shootings. A student goes haywire and kills a bunch of people--not good. Religious leaders then get asked by the faithful, “Where was God during all of this?” It seems like a reasonable question to ask of someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god.

Atheists would answer it simply that God is a figment of people's imagination. Such things more often cause killings than prevent them. For example, 9/11, Andrea Yates, stem cell research bans, Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, Inquisition, Gott Mit Uns, Heaven's Gate, etc., etc., etc. In this particular case, figments of your imagination are irrelevant to the reality of the shooter, so it’s obvious that your God can’t intervene. Next question?

Religious leaders know that if you're asking such questions, you’re thinking. And if you’re thinking, you're not blindly believing, which is bad for their business. So religious leaders shut down the line of questioning and instead promote their magic cure-all elixir: religion.

For James Kennedy, the answer to “where was God?”, is “He was hanging on the cross. (Just passing time flapping away, apparently.) “The cross is God’s ultimate solution to sorrow and suffering.” Pay attention grieving Virginia Tech students: you are vile wretches that deserve to be tortured for all eternity for your lack of faith. Kennedy will gladly sell you the cure, though, the smilin’ bleedin’ Jesus for the bargain price of a tithe. Ah, that Christian love is in the springtime air.

Ken Ham, the Answers in Genesis creationist used-religion salesman, used the tragedy to point out that if you think the answer to the tragedy has anything to do with sin, you damn well better believe in that 6-day creation he’s been flogging. The Bible is literally true, don’t you know. To translate his point, if you don’t believe in that 6-day creation crap, why should you believe anything about the concept of sin. Atheists would certainly agree with this line of reasoning. Perhaps this is why his posting was removed from the AiG web site. (Oh, and by the way, he says, isn’t it great that creationism was launched at Virginia Tech by a civil engineering instructor? Let's pour a little embarrassment into the wound.)

For gall, Franklin Graham is hard to beat. Out of the goodness of his heart, he’s ready to send hundreds of “grief counselors” trained to convert to Christianity those who are emotionally vulnerable, “as we have done in many situations since 9/11 in New York City.” He’s even got some VT students on his web site helping to promote his extreme generosity with strings attached. I wonder if those “grief counselors” think that converting people to Christianity helps their chances of going to heaven. Franklin Graham also runs one of the groups distributing federal faith-based AIDS relief in Africa where they can get their “good news” across because their victims know that they need the provided medicine to live. Charity, indeed.

Does religion have anything to offer in the VT shooting? No. Does religion have anything to offer in any situation? No. These people are plugging religion because they make money from it. It’s all just self-serving promotion at the expense of others, just as Martin predicted last week.


  1. Don,

    While I sympathize with your abhorrence over the self-serving gall of many people rushing to enrich themselves via this tragedy, I don't think you can honestly say that religion offers nothing in situations like this. If that were true, if religion offered no survival advantage at all, it would have been eliminated thousands of years ago.

    Clearly, religion offers something to people in situations like this, or those involved would stop using it. Some do, of course, but others actually embrace it even harder.

    Now, to you and me that seems incomprehensible and completely illogical. But religion isn't a logical enterprise, it's an emotional one. If I'm in a callous mood, I'll compare it to a Stockholm Syndrome kind of deal, where the hostages become sympathetic to their captors, against all reason. If I'm in a generous mood, I'll say religion offers the hopeless some kind of hope, no matter how distant and unknown.

    Maybe that's the survival advantage to religion, that it makes people keep going when otherwise they'd just lie down and die.

    I don't know about that, but as I said, I don't think it can honestly be said that religion has nothing to offer some people, at least. Or else it wouldn't exist, you know?

    Anyway, thanks for the blog, it's good to know there are other Austin atheists around (I'm in Bertram, about an hour northwest of the city depending on traffic).

  2. I agree with Jeff that religion is primarily emotional in its appeal, and does in fact offer something to bereaved people: a sense of community and comfort. Religion is able to provide that sense expressly because it is an emotional and not intellectual exercise. If one prefers to think (as we atheists have an annoying habit of doing) about the actual ramifications of tragedy and how real life almost always conflicts harshly with the rosy promises of faith, then the whole house of cards comes crashing down. But it's true that when believers are bereaved, they don't think those thoughts; they are merely seeking an emotional shelter, the comforting feeling that a benevolent, loving parental figure is protecting them from the big bad world, even if he isn't.

    In one of his novels, the world renowned science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke speculates you would only find religion among intelligent species in which a two-parent family unit was the norm. While I'm not sure much of a difference would be had between one or two parents, I can see how concepts like God might originate in such a culture. To a small child, its parent(s) is very much like God, all-knowing, all-seeing, making rules and doling out rewards and punishments. That people who were the products of such a culture would create gods as an extrapolation of that experience is quite plausible.

  3. >they are merely seeking an emotional shelter

    While I read Jeff and Martin's posts, I had to also agree. I do see Don's point that it offers nothing materialistically--but the emotional comfort factor is huge to some people.

    Last night we had a thunder storm. I have 4 cats in my house. Some hide under the bed when there is thunder and lightening. Does this really protect them from the thunder? It's their instinct to seek refuge if they perceive danger.

    In this case, there is no real danger to them; but they have the instinct just the same; and so they hide under the bed--which really can't save them from a loud noise.

    It's logical from an instinctual standpoint: They percieve potential threat, they hide.

    But from a reality standpoint, it's nonsense: The thunder isn't any more or less a threat to them in the overall house than it is for them under a bed. They aren't "escaping" or "hiding" from the thunder by moving locations in the house.

    Another example is that someone sent me to a blog recently where a person suffering from severe depression was posting about how they didn't think they could possibly go on if not for their belief in god being there to care for them. The person who directed me to the blog asked me not to contact the blogger to argue. After reading the blog, I wrote back to the one who directed me there to say (paraphrased): "While I udnerstand your need to warn me--there would be no chance I would contact such an emotionally frail person and try to take away their only perceived security blanket."

    While it saddens me that this person doesn't recognize that if _anything_ is actually keeping them going, it's their own strength of will, and not their external imaginings, I'm not going to try to convince them of this when they're obviously on precarious ground emotionally--and potentially capable of self-harm. That would be completely irresponsible of me.

    So, it does offer _something_ to some, I agree. But I also share Don's implied wish that those who find that "something" in it, would recognize they actually have that "something" in themselves, and they don't need to pretend their strength comes from some other source.

  4. I think the sad part about religion is that a lot of well-meaning people that I know- my parents, many of their friends- honestly believe there is a benevolent god out there watching over us. They base this belief on what they are TOLD of the bible, what they've read in devotional books, etc... without reading ALL of what the bible says.

    And- from personal experience growing up with this- even the parts that are appalling that DO get mentioned, do not get presented as appalling, but as "righteousness" from a "just god". For example- killing all the first born of Egypt. Assumptin->
    Egypt = Bad
    Death of First born = Just

    Whenn I look at this concept from OUTSIDE the faith, it is horrifying. god is credited with annihilating hundreds of thousands of infants & children (and presumably the adult first born as well- kind of gets weird and shaky there) and I never heard a single person in church say, "wow that was mean".

    Now I look at the same killing spree and think "Holy crap what an evil thing to do."

    They turn a blind eye to this and all the other atrocities and cling to the father figure. Somebody out there won't give me more than I can handle.

  5. Ya know, I could get silly and say that god was punishing the creationist crappers. But I'm sure religion already has a spin on that one.
    "(Oh, and by the way, he says, isn’t it great that creationism was launched at Virginia Tech by a civil engineering instructor?)"


PLEASE NOTE: The Atheist Experience has moved to a new location, and this blog is now closed to comments. To participate in future discussions, please visit http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/axp.

This blog encourages believers who disagree with us to comment. However, anonymous comments are disallowed to weed out cowardly flamers who hide behind anonymity. Commenters will only be banned when they've demonstrated they're nothing more than trolls whose behavior is intentionally offensive to the blog's readership.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.