American Kids Are Becoming Atheists

85% of Americans born between 1928 and 1945 are Christian.  11% are unaffiliated.
78% of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are Christian.  17% are unaffiliated.
70% of Americans born between 1965 and 1980 are Christian   23% are unaffiliated.
57% of Americans born between 1981 and 1996 are Christian.  34% are unaffiliated.

*http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

Notice that with each subsequent generation, Christianity rate declines faster than the generation before, and unaffiliated rates increase.

Why is this?  What are the underlying social mechanisms driving this change?  Is it merely a matter of people finding religion more reasonable as they get older?  Is the problem narcissistic youth rejecting their one-and-only chance at salvation for the sake of appearances?

Literal biblical interpretation implies, or explicitly states the earth is less than 7000 years old, human life originated with 2 individuals, and humans lived a fair amount of time with dinosaurs.  Aside from the bible’s scientific errors, it also tells us we are born sick, commanded to be well, and that we need to rely on constant reverence to god as the remedy for our sickness.

Not a single writer of the bible knew where the sun went at night, nor that microscopic germs were responsible for most of their deaths.  They would have never imagined people would someday build flying machines and movable boxes to travel thousands of miles.  It’s clear there is not a single word in the bible that exceeded the worldview of any person of the time – there is no profound insight that meets or exceeds our current insight.  And you know what?  Kids understand that.

The worldview of every single biblical-age person was narrower than any literate westerner alive today, which is why westerners no longer celebrate contemporary literature which could honestly cast positive light on a protagonist who summons bears to kill children, commands the murder of tens of thousands of people, and who creates scenarios where raping virgins is anything less than an atrocity.

I remember, as a kid, having questions but not being able to find the answer.  Things like what was the name of the actor in that one movie…or what was that one famous book everyone talks about?  In reality, people encounter this all the time, where we try to remember something not quite committed to memory, and we come up short.  Before the Internet, these questions were dead ends – they usually never got answered, and if they did, it was long after we’d had any remaining interest to actually answer them.

Those days are gone.  Those lingering questions are not even part of people’s realities for the most part, because questions don’t need to go unanswered very long.  Topics that required a trip to the library, or access to very smart individuals are now easily accessible.  For instance, if people want to review specifics about the general theory of relativity, they can view Leonard Susskind’s Stanford course where he covers the history of human understanding of gravity, as well as Einstein’s opus – it’s something like 20 hours of lecture.  People can download a Lawrence Krauss or Stephen Hawking electronic book, and within a few seconds, dive into cosmology.

Modern kids’ access to information is leaps and bounds ahead of what anyone would have imagined even 50 years ago.  In a world where there is utility in understanding F=mA and E=mc^2, it’s pretty obvious what’s wrong with a holy book that depicts talking snakes, dragons, and people living inside a fish’s stomach.  This is not rocket science, and I know it’s not rocket science because I googled it.


This immediate access to profoundly deep levels of knowledge is the enemy of religions who encourage, then feast on their congregants’ ignorance.  More than that though, this access to information has the capacity to reveal illogical propositions, such as the notion that humans lived with dinosaurs.  The horror depicted throughout the bible is now on display for the world to see, and even if one risks cherry-picking by limiting their focus to only the most disgusting immorality depicted and celebrated in the bible, they are still likely to come to the most reasonable conclusion about it:  that it’s outdated trash which has been used to oppress, subjugate, and impoverish humans for millenia.

The information age has eliminated the mysteries pervasive for so many generations.  So, when biblical literalists come spouting their nonsense, such as the earth is only 6000 years old, or humans lived with dinosaurs, or human life began with Adam and Eve, kids can immediately debunk those claims with their smart devices.

Of course, this is not the end-all-be-all solution; kids who are taught that skepticism is unhealthy or sinful learn to fear honest inquiry.  The information age does not solve this problem alone; we also need a dogged insistence on secular values in our society.

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The Timing of Brainwashing

Why don’t Christians believe 72 virgins will be waiting for them in heaven?  Why don’t Muslims or  Jews believe Jesus walked on water or was the son of god or that they should occasionally eat crackers and wine with reverence?

If you remove the theological underpinnings, and get to the question of what, how, and why humans behave the way they do, you’re left with a fairly simple exposure:  the reason people don’t believe doctrinal claims of other religions is because either they’ve never heard of it, or because the right people didn’t tell them about it at the right time.

Ask any Christian or Jew if they believe that Muhammad was carried on a unicorn (Buraq) between Mecca and Jerusalem, and they’ll say of course not.  Yet, if Jesus or Moses had experienced similarly outrageous transportation, they would believe it without question.

The problem of modern religions, and the horrors they espouse, isn’t necessarily one of plausibility, although they’ve all got their own breathtaking whoppers.  Rather, the problem is one of the timing of the ritual brainwashing.

If kids aren’t indoctrinated with the cultural prerequisite belief framework at a young enough age (which happens to be before they can think for themselves), they have a much higher chance of not believing.  So, like in Nineteen Eighty-Four, assimilation to the Dear Leader’s framework is necessary.

When I was a Christian, ideas like this would occur to me all the time.  I started considering the implications of the brainwashing-religion paradox (failure to brainwash would result in the end of religion).  In a world where tribes have killed each other for millenia, commanded or inspired by these religious frameworks which contain a range of implausible and irreconcilable doctrinal
assertions, it raises the question:  ARE THEY ALL WRONG?

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, their shared underlying mythology, and subsequent divergence, have cooked up an absurd outcome via these tribal allegiances.  People are willing to die because they were told a particular collection of stories when they were the right age, told by the right people, and these stories all urge them to recognize that the other groups will be hell bent on subjugating them, and that they should defend their own ideology at the expense of the other; even if the other is individually innocent, they belong to a collective which is guilty of the worst sort of heresy.

That simple question we can ask ourselves:  why do I believe this?  It’s an important question, and when answered honestly, I think the answer is because the right people told me to at a specific time in my intellectual development.

The Indoctrination Process

There was a time in my life where I would have said “I feel better believing there’s a god looking out  or all of us”.

As I got older, I learned about intellectual honesty.

I eventually considered the idea that there are a lot of things one might believe to make themselves feel better.  Why is it that you believe some things, but not others?  For instance, why don’t you believe that Zeus or Taranis or Perun controls thunder?

There are a lot of implications that come with the idea that there is some powerful and benevolent being who controls such an important natural phenomenon.  Plenty of people over history have believed in one thunder god or another.  Yet, most modern westerners don’t.  Why?

The answer is because we were not told from a very young age that this is so.  If every adult you knew talked about Zeus and his thunder, and you simultaneously were kept ignorant of the natural mechanisms that underly thunder, the Zeus idea would seem perfectly reasonable.  And you would feel better believing that Zeus’ influence was important and necessary.

Indoctrination relies on access to young people, because that is the easiest demographic to “program”.  Western children believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy at enormously high rates.  Why is this?  Because most children believe the things adults
tell them.

In fact, many children experience emotional trauma when they realize that it was their parents all along who planted Easter eggs, put presents in their stockings, and traded their lost teeth for money.  This trauma is due to the fact that children internalize and value the insights their trusted adults give them, and they feel betrayed by the lies they were spoon fed by the people who were supposed to tell them the truth.

On the flip side, many groups whose existence relies on indoctrination recognize that childhood is not the only option for indoctrination.  Many adults are very prone to indoctrination during times of trauma or helplessness.  Consider conversion rates for adults while in prison, or during drug rehabilitation, or after a loved one dies.  It’s no coincidence that so many adults are converted to various monotheistic religions during these times of distress.  And indeed, if you look at the characteristics of cults, they use many of the same manipulation, mind-control, and conversion techniques that religions do.

Indoctrination is a powerful thing, and it’s why all these debates rage on about why the earth MUST be 6,000 years old, or why humans could not have evolved from an earlier species of hominid.  Indoctrination forbids its victims from believing such heresy.

Although it might seem like a benign position when someone says “it’s nice to believe god has a plan for me,” in reality this is just another manifestation of indoctrination.

There Is No Benign Religion

My first memory of having doubt about my parents’ religion was when I was 10 years old in Sunday school.  The lesson for the day was about the Virgin birth.

As a perceptive 10 year old, I had some understanding of how human reproduction works, in that I understood that it took a man and a woman, and that spontaneous pregnancies are unlikely.  In 5th grade, the boys in my class had 2 afternoons of “human development” courses taught by our math and science teachers, while the girls were taught separately by the reading and history teachers.  The classes covered the basics, such as the changes we were certain to start noticing, such as a changing voice, body hair, and other elements of puberty.

These changes, as our teachers described them, were going to start because of a cascade of hormones that get triggered in humans as they proceed down the path of sexual maturity.  In other words, there was a cause (hormones) and an effect (sexual maturity).

The evolving profile of potential biological risks (such as pregnancy) suggested that one’s behavior mattered.  Condoms and birth control, along with abstinence, were strategies one could use to reduce the risk of pregnancy, which we intuitively know has enormous costs.  At the time (the early 1990s), we had all heard about AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases.  STDs also increased the biological costs of sex.

The virgin birth creates a logical dissonance for astute 10 year olds.  Here Mary had done her best to preserve her chastity, and she still got pregnant.  This is known as a non-sequitor to logically minded folks, although I’d never heard of this logical error at the time.

But the problem remained – It didn’t even occur to me that either of these competing ideas, either the facts of life or the stories in Christianity, could be wrong.  So, I asked the Sunday school teacher “how do we know that really happened?”

It was a reasonable question, after all – Christianity asks small children to believe all kinds of silly parables, so they shouldn’t fault kids for pointing asking questions about Christianity’s biggest whoppers.

My Sunday school teacher replied “that’s what faith is about, Timmy”.

For the time being, that seemed adequate, and I don’t fault the Sunday school lady for not have a more coherent theological response – we were just a bunch of kids, after all.  Had I been in a more conservative church during a more conservative time, I might have gotten my knuckles bloodied by a ruler…or maybe worse.

I didn’t have any major traumatic experience with my church growing up – Lutheran midwesterners are pretty moderate as church folk go.

Pew came out with a religion poll this month, and the major takeaway is that, since 2007, Christianity has been on the decline in America, while the “Unaffiliated” group saw a sharp rise


*Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

My response to this news is cautious optimism.  For the entirety of Christian history, there have been very few safe outlets for the majority of people to consider honest counterpoints to Christianity.  It’s a new world now, where people can watch Matt Dillahunty skewer ridiculous Christian arguments on old Youtube episodes of the Atheist Experience, or they can watch Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, and the rest of the team layout reasons why religion is so unnecessary.

I would not be surprised if the trend continued, but I really expect some kind of leveling-off over the next few years.  A large chunk of the unaffiliated group consist of people who are believers, but who celebrate secular values and are turned off by rigid adherence to Christian doctrine.  The reason I think there’s a chance for a leveling-off to occur is because these “tweeners” are often on the lookout for more liberal congregations more accepting of their secular point of view.  There certainly exists a niche to attract that demographic, and indeed, many churches attempt to cater to them.

The title of this post is “There is No Benign Religion”.  I believe this, despite the fact that I had a fairly normal religious experience, and the deconversion process has also been similarly non-traumatic.

But here’s the thing: When you take smart kids, put them in a room every Sunday, and tell them to believe a lie, you’ve deranged their intellectual compass.  When you tell them that if they don’t believe the lie, they’ll burn in hell at the direction of their dear leader, you’ve deranged their moral compass.  When you tell them that this dear leader requires their complete and undivided love, you’ve deranged their psychological and social compasses.

The fact that so much time is spent deranging young people’s faculties means that they’ve not spent that time learning or doing something useful.  This life is the only one we’ve got.  There is no eternity in a celestial theme park, and the dear leader doesn’t exist.  We ought to spend our time doing something useful, or at least pleasurable.

My intuition at 10 years old was exactly right, and the logical endpoint of this intuition is that the story is a lie, embellished through the decades by illiterate fishermen who were trying to convert gentiles to Christianity, until it eventually got written down, in a different language, by people who never knew anyone in the stories, after the original characters in the stories died.

As I got older, it occurred to me that if something is a good idea, it ought to be able to stand on its own, without apologetics or logical jumping jacks.  The fact that religion doesn’t, coupled with the fact that it needs to indoctrinate children from a very young age tells us just about everything we need to know about it.

The good news is that people don’t seem as inclined to take their kids to church as they used to, and from my perspective, that’s the best outcome we can ask for.

There is no benign religion.  They’re all harmful, because even the most moderate of them forces children to swallow the untruths they peddle while discouraging honest inquiry, and that’s bad for everyone.

A Tale of 2 Hypotheses: Magic Is Never The Answer

Hypothesis 1: A magical supernatural creator, who exists outside of space and time, created himself, and then subsequently created the universe via supernatural methods

Hypothesis 2: The universe, via a collection of *natural* mechanisms, came to exist around 13.7 billion years ago.

Hypothesis 1 is appealing to a lot of people, I suspect, because it provides a clear answer. No more thought is involved if you accept hypothesis 1. It can be your answer for everything, and it’s particularly useful when you’re responding to questions to which you do not have a quality answer.  God did it, don’t you know?

There are philosophical, logical, and psychological challenges when you try to traverse the problem of how a universe might have come to exist via natural mechanisms. Hypothesis 2 is, after all, not very well answered. When you look at the observations humans have collected to support hypothesis 2, you’ll find compelling evidence that gives rise to a much deeper understanding of how the universe works. But, at the end of the day, all hypothesis 2 can give is a natural explanation for what we’ve been able to collect so far, which is a small fraction of the whole story.

But make no mistake, hypothesis 1 (the god hypothesis) commits the special pleading fallacy. Why? Because we don’t observe supernatural phenomena…ever. Magic is never the answer to any problem. So, when we say “oh, it was just that one time that a supernatural creator intervened to create the universe,” we engage in the special pleading that took me the better part of a decade to work through – Antony Flew was never able to put that behind him, despite a lifetime of trying.

The enlightenment and post-enlightenment brought with it a new pragmatism that had been absent from European culture for the better part of a millennium. The magnificent philosophy worked out by Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, and the rest of the Greek gang during pre-Christianity was almost entirely lost by the west due to economic and geographic isolation from the east.

So, it’s no wonder that Christianity was able to thrive during a time of otherwise significant political and cultural upheaval across the vestiges of the Roman empire – there was no philosophical counterpoint that had the freedom to ask questions like “hey, who are Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke, and how the hell do we know they’re telling the truth?” The legacy left over from hundreds of years of intellectual isolation is still felt today, because people indeed feel the need to argue for Hypothesis 1, despite the fact that it is illogical, and is entirely lacking evidence.

Religion’s supporters might ask, “what about the appearance of intelligent design across the universe?”

My response to this notion is a counter-question: what would a universe created by an intelligent designer look like? Contrast that with what a universe that was created without intelligent intervention look like?

Personally, I think an undesigned universe would be big, with a lot of wasted space, with very little life, and a preponderance of misfortune and struggle for the life that does exist. Consider how many animals and human beings starve to death every single day, and how many choke to death, or die from dental problems, or harsh weather patterns, or germs they can’t even see.

In contrast, consider a designed universe. I’d expect a designed universe to be small, absent of many existential problems, where the creator of the universe takes special interest in their creation. Indeed, this is a fundamental concern for many of the bible’s authors, as evidenced by all the revelation in it. Yet, now that we can record audio and video, these revelations are entirely absent. I wonder why that is.

We can follow the evidence, and see, over and over again, that the world is simply not guided by supernatural intervention, despite the human tenacity to claim it is.

But, as I’ve said before, we know what humans do when they don’t have an answer and have no way to get it: they make stuff up.

So the fact that we’ve got a lot of stories surrounding the bible is no more compelling to me than the fact that there are a lot of stories surrounding Zeus, Thor, or any of the other thousands of gods humans have invented.

Humans have a tendency to put trust into people who are charismatic, even if they are demonstrably wrong. In light of this, it’s interesting, and completely expected, that the most popular and compelling religious leaders often have a high level of charisma. Attach a narrative to the charisma, throw in some carrots and sticks, and an aggressive marketing campaign, and you’ve got yourself a cult.

Here we arrive at the psychological shortcoming of atheism – atheism doesn’t have cheap hope to offer, or much advise to give about what it means to exist without post-life existence. There’s no promise of celestial fairy tales or infinite life as a trade-off for permanent reverence to the invisible god who somehow manages to exist outside of space and time. The universe we see is what we get, and there is no permanent fairy tale or reverence to a dear leader.

Atheism, to me, is simply a pragmatic viewpoint that tentatively rejects (or at least, it should) claims made without evidence. To put it another way, becoming an atheist is about the psychological process of rejecting answers that lack evidence and plausibility, even if it means that the fairy tales you were told as a child are irreconcilably violated.

Yes, Hypothesis 1 is good to use for bedtime stories, provided that you omit the horrendous crimes of the dear leader, but at the end of the day, after the kids have gone to bed and you crack open that beer and take a few minutes to use some of the grand technology that was bankrolled by evidence-based observations, hypothesis 1 is just fiction

Scientific Theories Are Better Than Crackpot Ideas

What are we certain we know, and what are we fairly confident is so?

For religious people, science can be hard.  Where religion is conservative and unchanging, science is tentative and progressive.  Where religion claims absolute answers, science gives the best answer we have for now.

Some people take this scientific framework to mean that science isn’t good (“oh, it’s nothing but a theory”), but the truth of the matter is that science is the best tool humans have come up with precisely because of its tentative nature, and because it’s so good at eliminating ideas that are clearly incorrect.

The trouble with humans is that we’re pattern seekers, we’re hard-wird to “solve” problems quickly, and we’re prone to equating correlation with causation.  This psychological phenomenon constantly gets humans into trouble, because we do it over and over again.  When our Heidelbergensis ancestors heard leaves rustling, that might have very well meant that a lion was stalking them; however, what’s the cost for our caveman ancestor who assumes they’re being hunted, when in reality, they are not?  The cost is very low; however, if our caveman ancestor ignored the rustling, and it turned out there was a lion stalking them, then he’s pretty much dead meat, along with Mrs. Caveman and baby caveman.

We’re programmed to think correlations important, even when they’re not, and even when there is a lot error in the relationship between two events, because historically, the cost of ignoring relationships was very high. I suspect this is why theological constructs, such as Pascal’s Wager, don’t set off BS alarms with a lot of people.

Because we live in a secular age that emphasizes pragmatism and improvement, we as a species, have developed tools to overcome our faulty biological programming, and one of those tools is called science.

Most of the things we know fall into the category of “we’re fairly confident”.  There are problems with asserting that we know very much at all, especially if you subscribe to the notion that science is better at telling us what isn’t so, rather than what is.  For skeptics, it’s important not to fall into the trap of claiming that we know too much, because it causes our brains to take shortcuts, and ignore important facts.

In science, we test hypotheses, and we look for ways to reject them.  The beauty of this framework is that it allows us overcome our biological dispositions, and to throw away ideas that are wrong, so we can build better working theories.  The more our assumptions align with reality, the more confident we become in our working theory.

Most people who are skeptical of science underestimate how well some scientific theories have been tested, which I presume is what makes them so confident in their position.

But the major problem with these people’s alternative explanation is that it lacks the most important tenet of what makes science so good:  there’s no way to test it, and therefore, it has no precise explanatory power.

For instance, if I ask a question like, why is it that only the liver can metabolize fructose in the human body?

If your answer is “God made it so,” then it raises the question: how do you know that, how do you test that, and what does that allow us to predict?

As it goes in science, one of the competing theories for why it is that only the liver can metabolize fructose is because earlier organisms could only metabolize glucose (and maybe protein, and fatty acids).  So when some organism developed the ability to metabolize fructose, that gave rise to a symbiosis between plants and that organism, where the plants most effective at coupling fructose with seeds would have been the most successful at reproducing; likewise, the organisms most effective at metabolizing fructose would have had easier access to food.


*Source: thepaleodiet.com

In this theory, there is quite a lot of explanatory power, and it would be possible to prove it wrong by finding fossil evidence, or even evidence in living organisms that cast doubt on this idea.

The potential vulnerability the scientific paradigm exposes is that it allows us to be imprecise.  For a long time, I saw this as a problem, but when you work through it, it becomes clear why it’s not a problem at all.

The example I like to use to demonstrate this is the Newton vs Einstein story.  Newton’s classical theories worked really well for hundreds of years.  It was not until our tools improved that we realized there was a slight error in Newton’s model with regards to the motion of Mercury, and science was tasked to develop a better theory.  Einstein and his contemporaries contributed the appropriate improvement.

Another example of how science can be temporarily incorrect is demonstrated in the history of pi.  The Babylonians were able to get as close as 3.125 around 3500 years ago.  1500 years later, Archimedes computed pi to 3.1428.  The Chinese got as close as 3.1547 by the 3rd Century, and within a few hundred years, got it almost right.  The point is that the exact measurement of the variable pi was imperfectly defined for thousands of years.  It was not until our tools improved that we could improve precision on its true value.

To the naked eye, the implications of pi=3.1428 are imperceptible.  It takes a serious and precise investigation into the matter to determine that the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius (squared) is not 3.1428.

Here we arrive at a conundrum:  the problem isn’t what might be wrong, but what might be substituted precisely in place of it.

Herein lies the reason why there’s no problem when we appeal to scientific consensus to formulate our opinions, and why there is a problem when we go looking for views espoused by tiny minorities of scientists, such as D. Russell Humphreys, who advocates that creationism can explain the origins of our world and universe.

If a large majority of scientists hold a view that is plainly incorrect, and the refutation to this incorrect belief is well-established, that puts downward pressure on the belief, because it creates a niche for scientists to publish papers that easily demonstrate what’s wrong with the consensus, and why the incorrect belief disagrees with experiment.  When the refutation to the incorrect belief is scrutinized under peer review, and then is eventually published, the refutation propogates.

Most scientists would love the opportunity to debunk a commonly held belief, because doing so would increase their prestige in the scientific community.

If theories like evolution and the big bang were as plainly incorrect as creationists claim, there would indeed be a larger and growing number of scientists who dispute them, because our measurement tools are better than they’ve ever been, and the speed at which information propagates has never been faster.

Science is full of examples of superceded scientific theories .  For instance, it used to be held that bad air was the cause of disease.  It was not until the germ theory of disease was developed that superseded this belief.  Similarly, prior to Newton’s work, Aristotle’s physics were the primary tool that physicists had to measure the world.  Chemistry replaced alchemy, astronomy replaced astrology, Neptunism replaced Plutonism (with regards to the age of the earth).

Science is indeed the antithesis of religion for precisely the reason that religion exists – humans want an unchanging solution.  That’s not what science does.  Science is self-correcting, and anything that does that is, by definition, evolving.

Secularism vs. Religion

Why is it that acts like killing homosexuals, adulterers, and witches are so abhorrent?  Why is it that we do not accept such barbarism anymore?  Why is it that when we see these acts happening in places around the world, we recognize it as a serious problem?

When burning witches and stoning adulterers was accepted in the western world, it was because religious doctrine required it.  There is a linear relationship between the doctrine of Christianity and these outrageous murders.

There came a point during the Enlightenment when people realized that religious solutions gave rise to bad ideas and bad outcomes, and they were not isolated to killing little children for being witches; rather, an enormous collection of scientific observations led us to the realization that the bible was wrong about almost everything, notably its notions of creation, Geocentrism, a flat earth, and overall human decency.

In other words, the enlightenment gave rise to the notion that the bible is not inerrant, as its most zealous adherants would claim.  This fact was, and is, horrifying to religious idealogues, but a great relief for anyone who believes human rights should not be impeded by arbitrary Bronze and Iron age fiction.

Most moderate and liberal religious practitioners don’t seem too concerned about the dichotomy of religious barbarism, and the secular institutions that keep it at bay.  I always found this interesting when I was a Christian, because it was literally all I thought about when the topic of religion came up.  I know many Christians who have no problem rejecting old covenant ideas such as the gleeful acceptance of rape and slavery and conquest, as described in Moses’ law.  They also have no trouble accepting evolution, heliocentrism, the idea of a spherical Earth, and other modern scientific theories to which the bible seems oblivious.

The process of collecting information, making observations, testing our guesses, and honestly assessing whether our presupposed ideas agree with consequences in the natural world is technically called science.  More generally, this honest framework of pragmatism gave rise to secularism, or the separation of law-making bodies and religious institutions.

When we consider acts of barbarism, such as stoning and killing witches, through a secular lens, it allows us to ask questions like:  does this make sense?  Is it reasonable to kill someone because we think they are a witch?  Is witchcraft real?  Can people invoke supernatural mechanisms?  Does it make sense to kill homosexuals or adulterers, just because some religious text tells us to?

Unless you’re a psychopath or ignoramus, the answer to all these questions should be no.

We’ve considered these questions, absent of the urgings of religion, through a secular lens, and determined that there is no good reason to practice this barbarism anymore.

When Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and other historical figures were advocating for a secular balance, it was because they were historically close enough to an imbalance to know what happens when religious doctrine runs amock.  In fact, one of the major challenges Jefferson had as president was dealing with the Muslim world kidnapping Americans, holding them for ransom, and justifying this behavior with their religious doctrines.

I watched a Thunderf00t video on Youtube a couple days ago, where he tried to interview a couple Westboro Baptist church members, and failed miserably in the process.

It really is a painful video to watch, but what struck me was not the level of inconsistency with which these church members practiced their faith; rather, they were incredibly adherent to their faith.  They had strong grasp on the scriptures, and I have no doubt that every single public act or display Westboro Church members have made were completely supported by religious scriptures.

The problem with the major religions, particularly Islam, Judeism, and Christianity, is not that some are better than others, or more palatable than others, or more compatible with the comfy secular world we’ve built for ourselves.  Rather, the problem is that when you investigate the central doctrines of all the major religions, it becomes quite clear that the authors of those doctrines lived in a world we don’t want to live in anymore, and they advocated policies that are disgusting.  The fact that we celebrate these doctrines, and give reverence to them, is puzzling.

Quality of life is a function of how well we implement secularism, coupled with how much weight we give to the notion that all people deserve the same rights under the law.  It happens that one of the modern implementations that gave rise to this quality of life was birth control, and the general notion that women should be able to have more control over their reproduction – a fact that most religious adherants lament.

One of the most troubling issues of our time is how religion is creeping back into our secular paradigm, and that it continues to be an engine of hate and intolerance, namely in Indiana, and other states that are currently sponsoring similar legislation that institutionalizes bigotry.

Religion does not deserve respect, and it should not be given a special place in our society.  We’re at a point where we’re beyond religion, and there’s nothing religion solves for us that isn’t better solved with science, secular morality, and maybe a fucking hint of empathy.  As for the nugget or two of truth religion managed to concoct in its thousands of pages of fiction…well, even a broken clock can be right twice a day.