We just watched Bill Maher's Religulous, in which he talks to (and tears into) believers from various religious sects around the world. Let me say straight up, yes, this is a one-sided affair. One quick-witted and well-informed professional comedian blindsiding a bunch of nervous folks on camera. Is this fair? Put it this way : I've been indoctrinated to believe in Jesus and the christian god since birth.
Don't get me wrong, my parents were half-assed christians at best, I wasn't wearing hair shirts or setting witches alight or anything. But bible stories were presented as fact, and not eventually revealed as myths like Santa and the tooth fairy were. Using the lord's name in vain would get you sent to the Principal's office, and god got a shout out right there in the pledge of allegiance. I didn't have Jeebus shoved down my throat every second like some kids did, but I was never exposed to any other options, either. God was never presented as anything but real and good, you heard the movie stars and athletes thank him on tv, now stop asking questions and open your presents.
Religulous is undeniably a pro-atheist documentary, religious figures invited to share their views just so Maher can pick their every statement apart. Which is perfectly fine, because at any time, day or night I can turn on my tv and find christians freely expressing their beliefs, and allowing no opposing viewpoints whatsoever. Religulous is a lone piece of atheist propaganda in a sea of religious propaganda so thick I sometimes feel like I'm going to choke on it, and damn, it's nice to hear these points coming out of someone's mouth besides my own.
Ok, that implies that I'm the sole voice of reason in a world of religious zealots, when in fact about half of my friends are non-religious. But only Justin feels as strong about it as I do, and he's a lot more mellow than I am, so it's me who regularly gets in long, loooonnnggg heated debates with the other half. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you, I love to argue. I'll debate you until the cows come home, then I'll start some shit with 'em. But if my partner/opponent refuses to make any real points or keeps playing the 'that's your opinion' card (aka the 'Imma take my ball and go home' card), I can let it go. Problem is, religious people refuse to admit that they're arguing an opinion. They are RIGHT, praise Jeebus, and no amount of logic or reason is gonna sway them, because they have 'faith'. My lack of 'faith', of course, in no way disproves theirs, because for some reason god has seen fit to imbue them with the light of knowledge and leave me out in the cold, but I should pray to him anyway. And every. single. argument. I've had with a christian has eventually ended with them all flustered and defensive, repeating 'because I have faith' over and over. 'I just know'. The entire christian faith seems to devolve into meaningless under any kind of scrutiny, and they simply refuse to think about it.
"I have faith."
"I just know."
"God works in mysterious ways."
If you're christian, devout or half-assed, I challenge you to watch Religulous. I've read your bible, I've attended your sermons, I've heard your stories, as an impressionable child and again as a young man. Atheism is the conclusion I've come to after years of living in an overwhelmingly christian country, in the fucking south. Christians are notorious for knee-jerk condemnations and rejection of anything that questions the divinity of their savior, and if they're so sure of their superiority, why the defensiveness? I propose that it's because their faith is built on willful ignorance and a need to fit in, and will crumble under the slightest pressure if they stop for just one second, open their minds, and THINK.
Damn, I didn't mean to go off on a long rant here. The truth is, I'm pretty tolerant of people's beliefs, I'm willing to keep my mouth shut if it'll help a person get through the day easier. But it infuriates me that I live in a society where I'd almost certainly get my ass chewed out for saying anything anti-christian in a public place, but I have to hear grown men calling each other 'fag' and referring to anything bad or undesirable as 'gay' all the damn time, and I'm overly sensitive if I say something about it. I passed a sign out front of a church near my house a hundred times last year...'homosexuality is a sin'. I heard that after several months somebody finally snuck up and rearranged the letters to read 'homosexuality is in', which is hilarious, but it was instantly taken down and I never got to see it for myself. If I were to put a sign on my own, private lawn that said 'christianity is a sham', it wouldn't last a day, and I'd be lucky if my car and house didn't get vandalized.
One really good point Religulous makes is that non-religious people make up quite a large minority in the US. There are more people in this country willing to admit that they don't believe in god than there are African-Americans. How many more on-the-fencers might be open-minded enough to call themselves atheists if they heard the arguments for and against christianity and gave it some real thought? Where's our support groups and parades? I want a special month each year where kids in school get to learn about how many other religions there are, how they are equally or more valid than christianity, how they have a choice to believe whatever feels right to them. I want an atheist in the white house.
Sound unrealistic? Sure. For the next decade or two. But we've got a black president, and that was unrealistic a decade or two ago. And by the way...
"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
- Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865).
"Lighthouses are more helpful then churches."
-Benjamin Franklin, American Founding Father, author, and inventor
"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it."
-John Adams, U.S. President, Founding Father of the United States
Faith means not wanting to know what is true. - Friedrich Nietzsche
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. - Stephen Roberts
What’s “God”? Well, you know, when you want something really bad and you close your eyes and you wish for it? God’s the guy that ignores you. - Steve Buscemi (From the movie “The Island”)
Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. - Chapman Cohen
If God created the world, then who created god? and who created whoever created god? So somewhere along the line something had to just be there. So why can’t we just skip the idea of god and go straight to earth? - Ryan Hanson
All quotes found on these two pages.
Tomorrow: Get ready for more Shaft than you can handle.