I would like to dedicate this article to all of my friends. To Jawbreaker Savior, for her warmth and thoughtfulness. To Ooglie, for her kindness and affection. To Beast of Atheism, Liz, Ely, and all those who have helped me. And to everyone who helped make www.Punkerslut.com a reality.
Should Atheism be defended? This is a question that every inquisitive skeptic has asked themselves. After all,Should Atheism Be Defended? Articles if there is no god – or no proof of a god – then should this claim be defended? The zealots who wage holy wars, slaughter men, women, and children, can at least point to the omnibenevolence of a god of sorts to excuse their actions. The clergy who indoctrinate children and ban literature will be sure to state that it is for ultimate divinity that their actions are committed. And even religious figures feel the need to persecute minorities because anybody who believes differently does not feel the warmth of their god. These figures, characters, who have molded history in their own way can all claim to have found their beliefs on the belief in an almighty god. However, to those of us who cannot make such a claim, what can we say is the motive of our actions? And to those of us who defend Atheism, what can be said of those motives?
It is an intriguing question. The religious crusader will say that he is filled with the glory and rage of god, forcing him to do the will of his master. The impious thinker, however, cannot claim such a moving force that initiates his actions. It can easily be seen why some men and women may be so unrelenting when it comes to spreading their gospel. They are inspired by the divine, by the ultimate powers that govern the mechanics of the Universe. However, to those who are unholy and irreligious – those of us who find no value or inspiration in any scripture – we cannot claim to be filled with such awe and amazement. We can only claimed to be moved by the far inferior force of reason. To those of us who defend reason and rationalism, those of us who feel that there is an undeniable power in logic, there is nothing to fill us with inspiration that is divine. The same force that motivates the theologian does not motivate the philosopher. If this is true, then to why would a philosopher feel a desire to destroy the construct of faith? Why would the philosopher feel the need to debunk the power of religion? Should Atheism be defended?
Of the Benefits of Religion
One particularly interesting question when it comes to arguing the value of belief over nonbelief, is the question of reform. Over centuries, we have seen that there has been an obvious change in the attitudes of men from different cultures. There has been praise and hate for slavery, reward and punishment for murder. Different ages and different generations brought with them different ideals, all incorporating what they believed into the framework of government and society. There have been times when people questioned the rights of women and there have been times when people questioned the virtues of mercy and tolerance. Reform is perhaps one of the greatest questions when deciding if we wish to stand amidst the camp of belief or nonbelief. Has the church – has religion and its followers – befriended the cause for reform? Or have those who befriended reform been typically of an irreligious background?
Religion has been the base of abominations. It has destroyed lives, blighted futures, and tortured the innocent. In its greatness and power, it has gone unquestion as it killed relentlessly and its power went undoubted as it celebrated on the graves of its victims. There has been no institution so universally responsible for so much when it comes to suffering and destruction. The cultures relinquished, the hopes smothered, and the joys crushed — the tender moments torn to pieces, the affectionate touches demolished, the brightening emotions desolated — the memes and ideas propogated that taught men and women to be cruel to each other, to love vice, to hold vengeance against those who believe otherwise — these ideas can be drawn back to the solitary source of religion. Happiness was sacrificed so that the church could become massive. Mercy was traded for vice; sympathy swapped for cruelty; and charity immolated for viciousness. These all done so that religion and its leaders may grow in power and wealth. There is nothing so debaucherous of compassion and humility than this overgrown vestige of greed and cruelty.
The inclinations of man have run the gamut from natural compassion to corrupt hatred. It was the purpose of the church, the synagogue, the mosque, the temple, the shrine, the baslica, to exploit the superstitions and bigotry of the common man so as to benefit itself. The prejudices of the common man was condoned, as well as fostered and promoted, when it came to the teachings of organized religion. Hate and religion went hand in hand. There was no kinship of all living creatures, no love of each other. When religion exploits the masses, by embracing a bigotted hate of the people and enforcing it, by theft, by murder, by whatever foul and ruinous means, it becomes destructive of happiness. Religion permeates the world with fear, plants the seeds of destruction, and clamps down on independent thought. Reformers who have stood up to say that slavery, or inequality of women, or the rights of children, have always been denounced by traditional religion. Those who oppose cruel and vicious atrocities have always been the target religious oppression. Reform and infidelity are parallel. Orthodoxy endeavors to destroy both institutions.
In all rational considerations, it is best to fear the man who claims that god is behind him. It is not that this godly man will be more merciless or malicious with the accompaniament of religion. It is that when a man follows what he believes god tells him, and nothing else, he is ignorant of reason and oblivious to logic. There is no evidence that you could use to convince him otherwise of his convictions. We are often told by the clergy and the other religious officials of our time that without religion, this world would tear itself to pieces. There would be no common code of ethics nor would there be any morality — there would be no purpose to act good and no motive to behave kindly. However, rarely do leaders of religion see the errors of their ancestors. And even more rarer still is when they proclaim the errors of their religion. In this deep and dark insidious way, the ecclesiastical leaders have kept their followers ignorant and blind, incapable of making choices for themselves, and reliant upon the church to guide them.
What the scholars and historians of all centuries have failed to recognize is that religion puts a monopoly on morality. Within its borders, religion evicts reason and evidence. Once this is done, there are no ethics based on rational or comprehendible reasons. If an individual is inspired by god that all individuals of a particular race are inferior and ought to be punished, then they will believe that. Any argument that a philosopher can conjure up will be rendered useless. If a churchman agrees with slavery because his god agrees with slavery, what can we say to him? Can we avail to his sense of compassion, or perhaps his faculty of reasoning? We may simply and logically explain to him that every conscious being is fuly capable of feeling suffering as he is, and therefore none ought to be in the chains of slavery. But what good would this explanation do? The religious churchman can always fall back on the argument of the divine. It has long been conceived within religion that reason is inferior to faith. If the faith commands slavery and the rational demands emancipation, then the faithful will remain slavers and rationalists will remain abolitionists. When religion condones cruelty and barbarity clamps down on opposition, progress has come to a standstill and compassion has been traded for faith. It has been with triumphant leaps and bounds that reason has smashed through the cage of religion, delivering some poor victim from the vindictive, torturous ways of faith.
“Therefore, I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” [Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler.] The words of Adolf Hitler are etched on to history. He did what he did because he believed that faith was stronger than reason — that blind acceptance of intuition and dogma held more value than open investigation with reason and logic. I do not believe that it was religion alone that convinced Hitler that the existence of Jews harmed Christ. It has also been his natural bigotry of being born in a Europe that was highly anti-semitic for over hundreds of years — which of course is the result of Christian thought. Perhaps, though, Hitler found appeal in the institutions of prejudice of his time. When he was young, he was like the others of his class: patriotic and pious. He was like everyone else, as he shared on the same prejudices and the same bigoted fears. Like his comrades, he was also deeply religious. Christianity cannot be entirely blamed for the way Hitler developed. The point I am trying to make, is that by using religion as an argument for your side — or by declaring that god is on your side and not on the side of your enemies — an individual then becomes distant to reason and irreconcilable with logic. In can be said, in this respect, that religion is the origin of unsolvable conflicts. Compare science to religion. Science is not based on any unworldly power. It is based on natural observation and analysis. One can argue with evidence. There is no arrogant or haughty claim about how the ruler of the Universe feels about these subjects. It is pure reason-based claims. Religion, on the other hand, is unable of finding any objective truth. There have been thousands of religions all through the ages, and as men educated themselves they found themselves less in appeal to such old superstitions. The fact, though, remains: by using religion to defend your philosophical position — particularly one which includes the murdering of millions of beings — you inevitably make an inscrutinizable and unquestionable position, because rarely would anyone believing in a higher power desire to question those who call themselves prophets.
Many conflicts are the result of religion. The Crusades, for example, shed an insurmountable amount of blood. Jerusalem, the target of the Crusades as well as other wars, has been the bloodiest city on the planet for the last two thousand years — many of the battles resulting from religious conflict. Muslims have a similar concept yet it is called the Jihad. This idea of slaughtering without caprice, killing and maiming with thoughts of your master, can undoubtedly be found to have originated amongst the most religiously-minded. Pope Urban II, at the Council of Clermont in France in 1095, made it quite clear his position — or “god’s position” — on the topic of a crusade…
For the Turks, a Persian people, have attacked them, as many of you already know, and have advanced as far into Roman territory as that part of the Mediterranean which is called the Arm of Saint George. They have seized more and more of the lands of the Christians, have already defeated them in seven times as many battles, killed or captured many people, have destroyed churches, and have devastated the kingdom of God. If you allow them to continue much longer they will conquer God’s faithful people much more extensively.
Wherefore with earnest prayer I, not I, but God exhorts you as heralds of Christ to repeatedly urge men of all ranks whatsoever, knights as well as foot-soldiers, rich and poor, to hasten to exterminate this vile race from our lands and to aid the Christian inhabitants in time.
I address those present; I proclaim it to those absent; moreover Christ commands it. For all those going thither there will be remission of sins if they come to the end of this fettered life while marching by land, crossing by sea or in fighting the pagans. This I grant to all who go, through the power vested in me by God.
Let those who have been hirelings for a few pieces of silver now attain an eternal reward. [Council of Clermont, France, 27 November 1095, By Pope Urban II. From: Fulcher of Chartres, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem: 1095-1127, Book I, Chapter III, translation: Frances Rita Ryan, 1969.]
From reading this speech given by a vicious person, it can easily be seen that they were not a friend of mankind, nor were they a friend of reform. They provoked perhaps the bloodiest wars in history. Of what institution, of what belief, of what foundation can all this mass murder be blamed? Religion. With its foul motives and unconscionable behavior, it has allowed the most horrendous and vindictive behavior all over the centuries. Pope Urban II was not the first to condone such a massacre. In 1154, Pope Eugene III called another crusade, “We, moreover, providing with paternal solicitude for your tranquillity and for the destitution of that same church, do grant and confirm by the authority conceded to us of God, to those who by the promptings of devotion do decide to undertake and to carry through so holy and so necessary a work and labour, that remission of sins which our aforesaid predecessor pope Urban did institute” [Summons to A Crusade, Dec 1, 1154, by Eugene III. Given at Vetralle on the Calends of December. From: Doeberl, Monumenta Germania Selecta, Vol 4, p. 40, trans in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 333-336.] In 1215, Pope Innocent III made a declaration for a crusade…
To those that refuse, moreover, if any by chance shall be so ungrateful to our Lord God, they (the clergy) shall firmly protest on behalf of the apostolic see, that they shall know that for this they are about to answer to us, at the final day of a strict investigation, before the tremendous Judgment. First considering, however, with what conscience, or with what security they will be able to confess in the presence of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, into whose hands the Father gave all things, if they shall refuse in this matter, as if it were properly their own, to serve Him who was crucified for sinners; by whose gift they live, by whose benefit they are sustained, nay, more, by whose blood they are redeemed. [Given at the Lateran, on the nineteenth day before the Calends of January (Dec 14th) in the eighteenth year of out pontificate. Trans in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 337-344.]
It is a cruel confession to have been responsible for the murder of others because of their creed — but to what level of inhumanity does the bar rise when you ardently condemn those who do not join in your sickly pleasures? Nothing has been no statement in human history that was so degenerative. Any individual who finds virtue in the murder of masses is nothing short of a brutalitarian. These men, religious leaders who promoted one of the bloodiest movements – and proudly – that history has to offer, were each an ignoramous without the sympathy to understand the plight of the “infidels.” There are numerous eye witness accounts of the Crusades…
Many fled to the roof of the temple of Solomon, and were shot with arrows, so that they fell to the ground dead. In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.
This may seem strange to you. Our squires and poorer footmen discovered a trick of the Muslims, for they learned that they could find a gold coin in the stomachs and intestines of the dead Muslims, who had swallowed them. Thus, after several days they burned a great heap of dead bodies, that they might more easily get the precious metal from the ashes. [The Capture of Jerusalm, 1099, by Fulk of Chartres, chapter 27-28. Edited for clarity. (“Byzant” changed to “gold coin” and “Saracen” changed to “Muslim.”)]
However, when the hour approached on which our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer on the Cross for us, our knights began to fight bravely in one of the towers–namely, the party with Duke Godfrey and his brother, Count Eustace. One of our knights, named Lethold, clambered up the wall of the city, and no sooner had he ascended than the defenders fled from the walls and through the city. Our men followed, killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles….
The battle raged throughout the day, so that the Temple was covered with their blood. When the pagans had been overcome, our men seized great numbers, both men and women, either killing them or keeping them captive, as they wished. On the roof of the Temple a great number of pagans of both sexes had assembled, and these were taken under the protection of Tancred and Gaston of Beert. Afterward, the army scattered throughout the city and took possession of the gold and silver, the horses and mules, and the houses filled with goods of all kinds.
Later, all of our people went to the Sepulchre of our Lord, rejoicing and weeping for joy, and they rendered up the offering that they owed. In the morning, some of our men cautiously ascended to the roof of the Temple and attacked the Muslims, both men and women, beheading them with naked swords; the remainder sought death by jumping down into the temple.
Among those who entered [Jerusalem] first were Tancred and the Duke of Lorraine, and the amount of blood that they shed on that day is incredible. All ascended after them, and the Muslims now began to suffer.
Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.
Now that the city was taken, it was well worth all our previous labors and hardships to see the devotion of the pilgrims at the Holy Sepulchre. How they rejoiced and exulted and sang a new song to the Lord! For their hearts offered prayers of praise to God, victorious and triumphant, which cannot be told in words. A new day, new joy, new and perpetual gladness, the consummation of our labor and devotion, drew forth from all new words and new songs. This day, I say, will be famous in all future ages, for it turned our labors and sorrows into joy and exultation; this day, I say, marks the justification of all Christianity, the humiliation of paganism, and the renewal of our faith. “This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” for on this day the Lord revealed Himself to His people and blessed them. [A.C. Krey. The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-witnesses and Participants. (Princeton: 1921), pp. 256-262. “Saracen” changed to “Muslim” for clarity.]
Were these men Atheists? Were they fluent in the works of Epicurus? Did they consider Democritus to be a hero? Were they Materialists, holding account natural causes for natural phenomenon? The answer is a resounding no. They were Christians, full of pride in their religion and committing such actions at the command of Christianity. They were only fluent in what the preachers taught them and what the Popes told them. They held Christ to be their only hero. These men, incredibly superstitious and heartless, were vicious and relentless. They attacked the Jews on account of religion. Had religion been eradicated by the ancients, such a conflict would not have arisen. If only these men had the mind to reason, such bloodshed would have been spared. Instead of focusing on religious quarrels – unsolvable quarrels – they could have focused on endeavoring to make each other’s lives better, to promote creativity, to become more affectionate of each other. But their primary goal was not sympathy. At the command of religion, they beheaded, they slayed, they murdered, they raped, they pillaged. Even so, these Christians were made cruel by their religion. What can be said of the Jews who defended Jerusalem? One observer noted, “Yet because of the many troubles and the fasts which they had observed they had no strength to stand up against the enemy.” [The Crusaders in Mainz, May 27, 1096, Soloman bar Samson.] Their religious rituals had made them weak. They were unable to fight off the crusaders. The Jews were afraid of Christians raising their children, so when realizing that they were outnumbered and weak, they slaughtered each other. One eyewitness claims…
The women there girded their loins with strength and slew their sons and their daughters and then themselves. Many men, too, plucked up courage and killed their wives, their sons, their infants. The tender and delicate mother slaughtered the babe she had played with, all of them, men and women arose and slaughtered one another. The maidens and the young brides and grooms looked out of the Windows and in a loud voice cried: “Look and see, O our God, what we do for the sanctification of Thy great name in order not to exchange you for a hanged and crucified one….” [The Crusaders in Mainz, May 27, 1096, Soloman bar Samson.]
In the name of religion, these Jews fasted, made themselves weak, and then were unable to battle the onslaught of the crusaders. Once the crusaders had taken their city, they slaughtered each other with great propensity. Those who were unable to kill themselves were given aid from family and friends. In the name of their god, they were unwilling to accept another religion. They sacrificed their own lives and killed their children just so that they would not have to trade one mental illness for another. The Crusades certainly were not the only instance of a religious war. In fact, Italian city-states once organized a revolt against Rome. In response, unspeakable atrocities were committed…
When Italian city-states organized and revolted against Rome in 1375, Robert of Geneva hired a mercenary band to reconquer the area for papal control: Swearing cle