To celebrate the launch of a new Atheist bus campaign, this time in Chicago and with the excellent slogan, “In the begining, Man created God”, I thought I’d leave you all some gentle reading for the weekend.
This extract from my book is in the section on secular humanism and how to research evidence for yourself. Enjoy!!
When All Else Fails, Cheat
The last resort of the religious is an appeal to the power of prayer. There is nothing quite as embarrassing and desperate as watching someone silently contemplate their repeated failures to channel either God himself or his offspring, immediate relations and their minions. These acts of prostration are rarely rivalled by anything the terminally religious might allow to come out of their mouth, in what must be a difficult life of feeling such abandonment, loss and disappointed—no-doubt felt ever more deeply in the deafening silence where even a gentle whisper of a reply would embolden already extraordinarily high levels of credulity.
Perhaps the deep embarrassment which must be felt in these private moments of clarity, offers some kind of explanation for why a certain breed of hook, line and sinker Christian can detach themselves from frontal lobe reasoning so completely, as to deal with this emptiness by a game of self-distraction, which some get drawn into far more than others. Donning the persona of a super-converter, literally evangelising to easy targets who, more resilient to (or entirely ignorant of) the apostate rationale, are more likely to absorb something of what is being peddled. This certainly goes a way towards explaining the extroverted affectations predominant in evangelical Christianity, such as talking in tongues, excessive arm waving and the open hand held aloft praise-stance, sometimes accompanied by other physical movement such as violent shaking, yelling, sweating and deliberate inducement of trance-like states—highly visible beta personalities masquerading alpha qualities—or little man syndrome transposed upon look at me, child-like playacting.
It doesn’t even matter, to the Christian activist, that what counts as a hit in the pursuit of lost souls with this behaviour is only of any real significance to those who abide by a certain set of entirely arbitrary rules. Fellow believers, already on-board, as well as those don’t rock the boat enablers, within a general society largely defined by sleeper-cell social Christianity. Those who barely set foot in a church between the forceps and the stone, but who nevertheless consider themselves under the all seeing eye of “something” and who are, perhaps because of reaching a certain age, more likely to respond to the enlightenment by numbers given so energetically in a charismatic church service, punctuated with Hallmark moment one-liners, lifted from some work of Christian apologetics.
These modernised tokens go a long way towards smoothing the way towards what Christian worker-drones refer to as witnessing—the deliberate act of targeting their proselytisation methods at someone with a number of tactics—such as starting conversations on religious topics with random strangers at the bus stop as well as perhaps deeper conversations about doubt and wonder at the majesty of the cosmos, with friends and family. The goal, regardless of the topic, is to plant insecurities in the mind, with the hope that an artificial kind of anxiety will germinate and bring another lost soul (hopefully one with a large wallet) through those temple gates, come Sunday morning, seeking artificial answers—of which there is an abundance.
The religious equivalent of Nigerian e-mail spam, witnessing is both as transparently obvious as a tactic for recruitment, as it is a great insight into how the hive-mind of the religious works its syrupy magic upon a world eager for false comforts and saccharine statements of intent—even if it is rather blatantly obvious to those of us immune to and outside of that spherical way of non-thinking, which I like to call the Cliff Richard school of Christian apologetics. What happens as a result of these occasionally brazen sales tactics, is both entertaining when it occasionally works on the gullible (who are immediately held aloft as proof that His word is mighty) as well as being a tremendously powerful way to show-up the top of the pyramid salesmen for what they really are—because the next step, following the initial success of bringing a new soul into the fold, requires two further blatant give-aways to then take place.
The first is an immediate scaling back upon what the new recruit can realistically expect by way of results, until they have been fully induced. With most Christian religions, this gradual back peddling, from earlier made big promises (such as the healing of serious ailments or reconciliation with a deceased loved one) takes place in the lead-up to the mark first confessing their sins, then partaking in holy communion and adult baptism—where, in the case of evangelical Protestant churches, the person is now pronounced, born again. This training period leading up to the landmark sacraments should take a sufficiently long enough time period to fully complete that the mark has invested enough of their emotional energy into the various books on the meaning and tradition behind this ritual and that sacrament, to make them feel as if tuning back to their old life would impact upon their spiritual aspirations to such an extent, that even serious doubts they may have about the verisimilitude of some of what is being claimed, such as miraculous assertions like the apparition of Mary to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes, or the resurrection of Lazarus, for example, cannot override the now almost entirely suppressed instinct to silhouette their teaching with rational enquiry.
The second tactical follow-up, and the fourth stage in the proselytisation, recruitment, apologetics phased model of religious indoctrination, is to make clear what happens to those who reject Christ—despite having been given the opportunity to embrace his perfect word; the might of His wrath upon those who reject His love and instead embrace the eternal fires of hell. This is the theological equivalent of zero-sum game theory—the tic-tac-toe illusion of participating in a game designed to appear fair, but in which the only winners are those who cheat.
In logic, the Nash Equilibrium, named after it’s architect the genius mathematician John Forbes Nash, was used to understand strategic situations in the development of the RAND corporation’s economic models, which transformed the post-war European and North American systems of governance, from being quasi-autonomous democracies, into the tightly meshed, market driven, capitalist economies they are today. What Nash’s equations show is that no matter how much two rivals in a competitive game might want to trust that their opponent will play fair, once they realise that by cheating they stand to gain more than they do by being honest, the chances of their opponent also thinking the same way becomes not only more likely, it makes cheating the only way to be certain of a decisive win. In economic theory, the killer cheat is that this somehow makes things, if not fair, at least balanced—when in reality, of course, Nash allows for no accounting of human desires, such as the want to play fair and act with altruism and compassion.
With religion, the killer cheat is that His wrath upon the unbeliever is real. This is often underlined by non sequitur and ad hominem, which narrow the rationalisation against His existence down to articles of faith; that all you must do to see the evidence of His mighty wrath is look at the world around you. Religion has no choice but to point to things like man-made and natural catastrophes in this way, as so-called proof that His anger is great and his judgement swift, because the alternative to admitting that such events are explained by natural, unguided, unflinching phenomena, is a logic call antithesis to unquestioning blind faith. It is better for religion to alienate anyone capable of rational criticism, and play along with the deceit that He is real and capable of actively intervening in Earthly affairs, than it is for it to play fair and admit that sceptical enquiry and logical calculative reasoning have done more to enlighten humanity in the last 100 years than Rick Warren style fan fiction dating back thousands of years has ever done and could ever hope to do—even if that was the aim—which to anyone who has ever read such works, it should be obvious it most certainly is not.
Indeed the definition of fair, in the analogy of game theory, would be for religion to yawn a breath of intellectual honesty from its lungs which deists are by definition incapable of exhaling; that scientific methodologies have achieved things that, despite having a two thousand year head-start, God has utterly and completely failed to come close to besting. Having rejected everything from the work of Galileo Galilei, to Dr. Anthony Atala, the religious are unlikely to awaken to this reality any time soon, but just as it was later discovered that there were flaws in Nash’s equations, which failed to take into account variables such as human emotion (Nash suffered from a persecution complex) so too must secular humanists be reminded that while playing dirty may be the tactic of the fatally wounded; David’s last ditch attempt at eye-gouging the Goliath of scientific reality, so to speak—there is nothing more likely to fan the embers of the burned out bush, than the smug satisfaction of I told you so intellectualised retribution, stooping to the same level of immoral dishonesty, largely unique to religious dogma.
There is no danger of the rather happy prospect of what to do with the formerly religious, occurring any time soon, however. Those who once released from the bondage of externalised paranoid delusions, deserving nothing but the best psychological post traumatic care, are a health service expenditure the exchequer can be 99.9% sure aren’t about to burden the tax payer any time soon. It took, after-all, almost 400 hundred years for the Vatican to accept that, far from being a heretic, Maria Barbara Carillo was burned at the stake for no other reason than her physical appearance, being as she was 96 years old—and not, in fact, a young woman excessively wizened by witchcraft.
Imagine how much longer, then, it’ll take for the Pat Roberson’s of this world to wake up to their okser miserable existence and accept that there is a more profound beauty and light of truth in an understanding of the natural world, than anything which the misogynistic Burka of greed and hatred has pulled over the eyes of blind faith for far too long.
“Because you’re afraid of what you’ve learned, you’re afraid to learn.” – Todd Rundgren