John Shook has a great piece on the Center For Inquiry blog about how religion isn’t about hope, but personal wish-fullfillment, control, and our secret desire for revenge. Here are two paragraphs that nicely sum up what I want to talk about today:
Heaven and hell are more about enforcing moral retribution upon everyone, and not about loving consolation for everyone. I said earlier that religion personally is largely about private wish-fulfillment. But at the social level, religion is mostly about imposing a public moral system. And not just any moral system – religions with heavens and hells have moral systems about obedience, vengeance, and retribution. With heaven and hell, private wish-fulfillment nicely pairs up with public moral-expectation. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.
When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others. These are the kind of people who can’t feel truly loved unless someone else doesn’t get that love. Such a childishly selfish attitude, barely tolerable from the three year-old pushing the older sibling away from the parental lap, is entirely despicable from adults. Yet religious societies take this to the public level, effectively frightening members into obedience, and warning outsiders not in that good company that they will suffer for it. Join our religion, the message rings out, or else you’ll get hell for it!
I’ve read several blog posts today about this subject of heaven and hell and how you can’t have a heaven without a hell. Except for Unitarian Universalists, all most no religion, especially forms of Christianity, has a concept of Heaven without a corresponding hell. The problem with this, besides the horrific fact that so many people seem to take pleasure at the potential eternal suffering of others, is that hell just doesn’t fit in with the concept of a god of love. God is seen as a parental figure, someone who makes the rules and rewards or punishes and who we always want to try to please. What parent would willingly send their child somewhere where they would be tortured and tormented? Only an sick, sadistic parent would. So if there is hell, then god is a sick sadist.
Religious belief like this is, as John says, childishly selfish. It has pain and punishment for those we are jealous of built right in. The only real love there is the love for those we choose to love and for ourselves.
This is why I take a humanist approach to life. Humanism has at it’s core the wellbeing of all people, everywhere. When you put all people on a level playing field and treat them all equally, then you can’t help but act in the best interests of everyone. Of course we have to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but humanist ideals say that we shouldn’t do that at the expense of others.
As John sums up in another of his posts on the same subject:
Give me a morality, a humanist one, that finally centers on the one life that we all know we have.
I had an amazing, day-long conversation on FB with an old, dear friend and a new friend of hers that she introduced me to. The conversation was about sex. It ranged from the innate beauty of the penis, the importance (or lack thereof) of penis size, the the sensitivity and depth of the vaginal canal, female ejaculation, what constitutes real intimacy, the consciousness shattering of shared mutual orgasms, to my new friend (a woman) giving me male masturbation advice that included interesting and clever devices.
There was mutual agreement that the shame associated with sex in our society is almost always motivated by males trying to maintain their supposed privilege where they feel that they have control over women, especially their sexuality. This we all also agreed is complete and utter bullshit.
I’ve said it before here, anything that happens between consenting adults, regardless of gender, orientation, or numbers of people involved, is perfectly OK and, more importantly, perfectly natural.
In the end, intimacy, both physical and emotional, come down to the following: openness, honesty, and respect. One of these lovely women mentioned to me that she had problems with men because they viewed her openness as a invitation to hit on her. She said that she never could figure out the rules. I told her that I have three rules, which are stated above: openness, honesty, and respect. And those rules apply to all relationships of all types, not just sexual ones.
It was one of the most fascinating and stimulating (pun intended) conversations I’ve ever had. I found it so refreshing to be able to talk to women who were so comfortable with their sexuality and so confident in themselves. They are both also very articulate and intelligentand they showed great respect to myself and each other. I find these traits in a women to be irresistibly attractive.
The problem with many men is that they find these traits in women to be highly threatening. They can’t deal with a woman who is so secure and comfortable in her sexuality. I believe it truly frightens them. It is because they have this false sense of privilege that leads them to believe that they must control the women in their lives.
Personally, I find it liberating, fascinating, and beautiful.
Oh and I learned something else very interesting in the discussion yesterday. One of the women has studied the sexual practices and mores of ancient societies. Did you know that women in ancient Greece loved small penises? They considered large penises grotesque. As Spock would say, fascinating!
How comfortable are you with your sexuality? How about with the sexuality of others? Comments are most welcomed and encouraged.
Last November in Cleveland, Texas 18 young men and boys were charged with raping an 11 year old girl. The act was recorded on a cell phone video and discovered by the girl’s teacher who reported the crime.
While this is a heinous enough crime in and of its self, the reporting of this story in no less a paper than the NY Times compounded the the pain that the girl and her family must feel by perpetuating the myth that the victim “had it coming”.
“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”
While bringing up what a woman was wearing, how she was acting or what she was doing to try to justify that “she had it coming” is disgusting enough as it is, to even ask these questions about an 11 year old girl is beyond the reason. An 11 year old has no real concept about how the way she dresses or acts will effect men. To even hint at the ”she had it coming” myth is simply irresponsible reporting.
But that isn’t all that is wrong with the article. The reporter goes on to state:
“The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?
It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.””
Not once in the article is the girl’s welfare even mentioned. Nowhere do we hear about the pain and trauma that an innocent 11 year old girl endured at the hand of 18 males. That is 1.6 males violating her for every year of her life. Where is the community outrage and concern for this poor girl? Who there is talking about how she will have to live with this the reset of her life? There is something seriously wrong with a society that has more concern for the male perpetrators than the female victim.
Change.org has a site where you can sign your name to a letter that will be sent to the NY Times protesting their editorial decision to publish this sexist perpetuating article.
There is an article at Physorg.com that discusses the peaceful bonobos, a species with which we share more than 98% of our genetic material. Violence has never been observed within bonobo communities and it seems that they have perfected a wonderful way of dealing with tension among members.
“One way bonobos deal with conflict and tension is to have sex. Yes, they’re the ultimate hippies–they make love, not war. “Whenever things get tense in the bonobo world, they’ll usually have some kind of sociosexual activity and this seems to really help everybody get along. But another one of the ways that they sort of have this peaceful society is they’re naturally more tolerant. They share more, and if one of them gets upset, it’s not just sex but they can also hug and comfort one another.”"
Let us all take a page from the bonobo play book. Hugs and sex for everyone! Get out there and spread the love!
…during (Timothy) Dwight’s tenure, since he personally delivered more than two hundred sermons to undergraduates on the dangers of religious infidelity. One of his most memorable perorations proclaimed the immorality of smallpox vaccination, introduced by Dr. William Jenner in 1796. An earlier form of inoculation against smallpox had been employed by progressive, educated New Englanders like the Adams family since the 1760s. In a departure from the general eighteenth-century approval of scientific advances—a predilection of many orthodox believers as well as freethinkers—Dwight argued that if God had decided from all eternity that an individual’s fate was to die of smallpox, it was a sin to interfere with the divine plan through a man-made trick like vaccination.”
The above quote is from Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
pedantic and extreme, has real relevancy. The quote above illustrates this nicely. Mr. Dwight’s lack of empathy for the suffering of his fellow human beings is corrupted by the fallacy of “God’s Will”. When put into practice, millions of lives are adversely affected.
This is just one example of the corrupting influence that religion can have on society. This is why we need a popular movement based on the values of humanism. Values that put the welfare of all human beings first and foremost.
A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.
I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.
Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.
While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.
Here is an illuminating comment on my earlier post from a reader, Sas, and my reply:
- Thanks for this . I have been appalled by some men’s attitudes – I left Christianity hoping for an equal world and was horrified to see the same old crap in the atheist camp. ” girls are naturally less intelligent that’s why they go to church ” No you twat, church has free childcare and you don’t get touched up. Treat women right and they’ll join you. Also try to understand that liking men and sex doesn’t mean they will sleep with any man – ESP not the older ones who think we are gagging for a father figure… Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Ps lots of men don’t like sex and will make you feel bad for asking for it. Strangely they lie about that to their male friends. Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Sas, I agree with you completely. Men need to understand that just because a woman is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she will sleep with everyone, especially them. Yes, biology is powerful. Yes, males evolved to try to have sex with as many females as possible in order to pass on their genes. But to use this as an excuse to treat women solely as sexual objects is disingenuous and wrong. This only supports the theists’ contention that atheists are all amoral darwinists. We are moral creatures who have the benefit of intelligence and rational thought to rise above our evolutionary imperatives, especially when they interfere with our ability to responsibly interact with each other. Comment by Jay Walker | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
I read a guest blog post at Blag Hag by Sharon Moss, President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio with Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing at the Secular Student Alliance, about their experience at the American Atheists’ Southeast Regional Atheist Meet in Huntsville, Alabama. In it, they explain the sexism they encounter while there.
What is ironic is that the sexist attitudes were most evident at a panel about how atheist organizations can attract more women. I’ll let them explain in their own words:
A panel of five guys and one woman discussed what an atheist group should do to attract more women. The all-too-common problem came up of a woman showing up to a meeting and every dude there hitting on her. First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.
Then the moderator asked the women in the audience, as if it were a rewording of the same question, whether they would feel harassed or flattered if they showed up to an event and a few guys started flirting with them. We women in the audience, pressured to respond to the question at hand but feeling duped because we knew it wasn’t the same thing, gave an honest response. Sure, a few guys flirting with us is sexy. BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud) 20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
It was extremely frustrating. So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using – “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I – a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers – went after her. While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
…From there, the conversation wandered into a weird discussion about how men’s biology drives them to frequently (if not constantly) pursue sex, and since it’s biology, no one should get upset at, judge, or think less of men for any skirt-chasing they might engage in. (Because we never intellectually overcome our animal instincts in other areas of our biology, right?) The attitude in the room shifted: suddenly women were the bad guys for saying no to men’s propositions because it denies the men’s innate biology. Most of the guys in the room loved it, but as a woman in the audience – it was really uncomfortable. It was demeaning, frustrating, and not what you want to say to attract more women into this movement. And the attitude stuck around.
All these people got presented with a totally skewed perspective on our movement’s views on gender equality and sexuality. The message was loud and clear: it’s totally ok for guys to be assholes. Women should just STFU when men treat them like sex objects. The appropriate way to solve the problem of gender imbalance is to ask a bunch of guys about it (oh, and the entire problem is just because women won’t let men have sex with them whenever they want to). The way to handle women’s input is to ridicule them.
This whole experience would be laughable, like something from a bad Saturday Night Live skit, if it weren’t for the fact that it really happened, and happened in the context of a discussion of how to attract more women to the atheist movement.
This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a man, not to mention a white, middle-aged, male atheist, and rightly so. The insufferable sense of male privilege permeates the description of the conference and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in attendance. I can tell you that had I been there I certainly would have, for one, apologized for my insensitive and idiotic fellow white males, and then I would have ripped them a new one for being to fatuously insensitive to 30% of the audience present.
I believe that if atheist organizations want to make their organizations more open and welcoming to women, they need to, first and foremost, actively seek out women to be, not just members, but organizers. I know, that is putting the cart before then horse, but they must at lease try to truly understand the discrimination and sexism that woman face in our society. They need to educate themselves on this subject and take what they learn to heart.
There is no excuse for these kinds of sexist attitudes or behavior at an atheist conference, unless these are some kind of male only atheist organizations, in which case, who needs them?