The case for atheism (5)

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By Douglas Anele

Compared to all these, together with the technological innovations and possibilities embedded in contemporary science, the God of religion appears vanishingly small and insignificant. It is incorrect to say that science deprives us the sense of mystery which we ought to feel about the universe.

World-renowned atheistic scientists like Albert Einstein, James Watson, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg etc. readily accept the inspirational character of scientific discoveries without the antiquated baggage of religious superstition epitomised in the anthropomorphic concept of God. Therefore, it is quite possible, and desirable too, that people should “tune in” to the awe-inspiring dimensions of the universe, from the very small to the very big, the extremely slow to the incredibly fast.

Each one of us has the potential to contemplate the universe without the obscurantism of religion. But because everyone was born in a cultural background dominated by irrational faith, the notion that one needs to believe in God seems deceptively credible.

The way I see it, belief in God, for whatever reason, is intellectually stultifying, morally crippling and spiritually degrading. It is like a healthy, able-bodied person walking with crutches which she or he does not need. Up to this point, I have argued that there is no good reason for believing that God exists.

Now, I want to disclose why belief in God, and religion generally, is harmful to the pursuit of peace, happiness and well-being. First and foremost, the dogmatic attitude fostered by religion is inimical to the growth of scientific knowledge.

Fundamentally, acceptance of knowledge-claims in science is based on logic and evidence. Therefore a healthy degree of scepticism and critical attitude are prerequisites for acquiring scientific knowledge. But religion, at its best, requires devotees to dogmatically accept propositions as unquestionably true simply on the ground that they are contained in a “holy” book.

By encouraging dogmatic acceptance of propositions which contradict reason and established knowledge, religion tends to discourage devoted quest for truth and knowledge of reality, which is extremely important for intellectual development and enlightenment.

But we stated earlier that religion has contributed to the growth of science and art. Yet, whatever contribution religion has made to science is definitely not in terms of methodology – methodologically speaking religion is anti-scientific. During the Middle Ages especially, some talented believers were probably motivated to investigate nature scientifically as an act of piety in order to understand the workings of selected aspects of God’s creation.

But the contributions of religion to science cannot atone for the irrational obstacles religion placed, and continues to place, on the path of scientific progress and learning. For instance, the Church fought against Galileo in the seventeenth century, Darwin in the nineteenth, and Russell in the twentieth.

Even up to now, Islamic extremists do whatever they can to suppress the education of girls and women. Religion opposes science mainly because religious leaders benefiting from it are afraid that scientific knowledge would undermine dogmatic belief in religious superstitions which is the source of the psychological power they have over believers.

Thus, it is in the interest of the Pope, Chief Imam, Pastors etc. that the faithful should remain ignorant and fearful so that they would continue exploiting the latter by acting as anointed servants of God. Secondly, religion, especially Abrahamic religions, has a very dark side.

Just think of the cruelties, particularly in the form of tortures and human sacrifices, committed in the name of various Gods from prehistoric times to the present. Consider the evils of the Inquisition, Crusades, jihads and other forms of religious persecution.

The “holy” books of dominant world religions prescribe atrocious punishment for essentially harmless actions such as blasphemy, homoeroticism, and sex outside marriage. It is to the eternal shame of Britain that one of its great mathematicians, Allan Mathison Turing, committed suicide in 1954 while undergoing court-ordered hormone therapy after being convicted for “gross indecency” as a homosexual.

On September 3, 1992, Sadiq Abdul Karim Malallah was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia as lawful punishment for apostasy and blasphemy. Recurrent incidences of religious violence and destruction in various countries, including Nigeria, amply corroborate the claim that there is no limit to the degree of cruelty and wickedness believers can perpetrate as long as they are convinced that their action “is for God.”

Hence, it is not surprising that, for religious extremists and fundamentalists, God is a perfect alibi for killing “infidels” and destroying their property. Another reason why belief in God is abhorrent is that it fosters discrimination and intolerance. Different religions worship different deities with contradictory attributes.

Adherents of exclusivistic proselytising religions consider their various Gods to be the only genuine God deserving of worship. As a consequence, the devout who invariably see themselves as “the chosen ones,” feel obliged to convert non-believers.

The feeling of exclusiveness compels them to employ any means necessary, including violence and murder, to avoid being contaminated by so-called pagans and atheists. In this way, religion serves as an instrument of social instability and discord. On the economic front, the worship of God is a monumental waste.

If we discount the number of irreplaceable and priceless human lives (and other living beings) that have been sacrificed to various deities since the beginning of religion and concentrate on the material resources wasted thus far in the name of God, the currency equivalent in pounds, dollars, euros, you name it, would be astronomical.

Again, consider for a moment all the land, extravagant buildings and other physical paraphernalia of worship, together with the productive man-hours wasted daily to worship one God or another – you will agree with me that God (or Gods) is the most wasteful fiction invented by the human mind.

The psychology of utter dependence on a divine being who, according to the British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, “is the suffering companion who understands,” is repugnant. Similarly, the sight of healthy and intellectually cultivated men and women debasing themselves, cringing before a mere fiction because of existential fear of the unknown and imaginary hell fire is utterly ridiculous and tragic.

Belief in God is a classic recipe for self-abnegation and self-enslavement. At a more profound level, it allows parents and guardians to cripple the intellectual and moral development of children by indoctrinating them with nonsense culled from religion.

I am convinced that it is very immoral for parents and guardians to teach children unquestioning belief in the antiquated worldviews of ignorant peoples of old documented in purported “holy” books or handed down orally from generation to generation. The intellectual and emotional damage done to children brought up on a diet of religion is incalculable.

There are other valid reasons for rejecting the God hypothesis. But we cannot present all of them here. The essential point I wish to reiterate, by way of conclusion, is that, contrary to popular belief that atheism makes one sad and hopeless, I testify from personal experience that it is the best way of liberating oneself from the tyranny of God and religious superstition. Have the courage to become an atheist today and experience its exhilarating effect! CONCLUDED

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