"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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Location: Australia

I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.


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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What? People Don't Trust Atheists?

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
I can't say I am terribly surprised by the results of this survey primarily because large percentages of people equate atheism with immorality. If your worldview is that there is an absolute morality which is handed down to mankind by a supernatural being, then there is a tendency to believe that morality cannot exist WITHOUT god belief.

As a secular humanist, I believe that mankind formulates its own ethics and morality. In fact, that morality evolves through time, cultures and geographies. What constitutes morality is always in a state of flux. Afterall, it was quite moral, albeit not ethical, to have slaves at certain periods in history, and in various cultures. In fact the bible has quite a few pages condoning slavery. This is but one of them:

"Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them." (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

It is pretty obvious to most people who live in western democracies that slavery is NOT condoned today. So what happened? Do christians/muslims/jews cherry-pick the parts of their religious books which they find morally acceptable to their present culture and try and ignore the "yucky bits"? I certainly think so. And if they do, what does this suggest?

It suggests to me that the so called morality and ethics of the bible have been tempered by a couple of thousand years of human experience. In other words, human morality has EVOLVED through time and space. Some of the morality of the bible is only pertinent to the chronology and geography from whence it came.

If we look at Leviticus 20 Punishments for Sin, we can see a list of punishments for sin/immorality, that would be comparable with some of the harsh punishments required by sharia law.

Leviticus 20/10 " If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death."

Obviously the majority of the western world has moved on from "stoning adulteresses" to death. But fundamentalists would still consider this to be required by god/allah. That is, they believe that these rules are ABSOLUTE and god given. Hands up the christians out there who think a good stoning on a Sunday is a fine idea if you get caught shagging the nextdoor neighbour? Stop lying! (Admit it. You only think a good stoning is a great idea if you have rights to the syndication :))

I guess what I am saying is that at least some of the morality of religious books is anachronistic. An anachronism is something that happens out of its proper or chronological order, especially a practice that belongs to an earlier time. And that is why the punishments for sin in Leviticus 20 are NOT part of the law in modern western democracies. We have, thankfully, evolved; and so have our systems of laws and our codes of morality.

Well, some of us have evolved.
Are you one of them?

PS: I guess it is fortunate that I don't collect sticks on the "sabbath".

"While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day ... And The Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." (Numbers 15:32,35 RSV)

As a secular humanist, who is also an atheist, I don't feel compelled to stone anyone to death. I think I have made the right choice; the ethical choice.




Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Excellent post. You make some very good points.

Clearly, fundamentalists, regardless of their particular "stripes," are very scary individuals. I'm an atheist and I'm staunchly opposed to the Death Penalty and equally opposed to any and all forms of torture. It's rather ironic that Compassionate Conservative Christian George Bush supports capital punishment and is wishy-washy on our right to torture people.

People probably distrust atheists because we shake up their worldviews. We're the ones standing up for science and reason and rationality. We're the ones telling the 20% of adult Americans who believe in the geocentric universe model that it's actually the sun that sits at the center of our universe. Just like school is rather unpleasant for children, atheists are rather unpleasant for theist adults.

That's just my two cents, anyway.

4/4/06 1:32 pm  
Blogger Michael Bains said...

Now, I'm with ya on stonin' no one.

But I think even radical rabiis equate 40 days in the desert to a State of War. Extreme times require extreme .. "Whatever we say they need."


6/4/06 8:24 am  
Blogger Michael Bains said...

Just like school is rather unpleasant for children, atheists are rather unpleasant for theist adults.

Well said.

We gots lots of growin' up to do.

6/4/06 8:26 am  

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