This is the first thing Facebook showed me when I logged on:
In light of the recent bombings in Libya and Egypt, there has been a lot of blowback from the people of the West, using their most powerful weapon: super clever Internet memes! Most of these condemn the violence of religious fanatics while (mostly explicitly) lauding the peacefulness of atheists.
I am writing this to explain, as usual, why everyone is wrong.
First of all, atheism is not strictly defined. There are many subcategories of atheism: strong atheism (active belief in no god), weak atheism (no active belief in god without rejecting it as a possibility); these extend even to agnostics and, my personal alignment, ignostics (those who assign no logical value to the question “Do you believe in God?” since the word ‘God’ is so nebulously, if at all, defined — personally, I feel like whatever we do mean by “God,” we can’t mean the actual thing since it is by definition beyond human understanding so I find the whole discussion to be a waste of time as it is inherently unanswerable). Behind all of them, however, is the encouragement of independent thinking. But when atheists engage in this pseudo-evangelical march, it makes it extra hilarious to watch as if their specific brand of like-minded, self-congratulating mob mentality is so much more enlightened than that of their friends, “the believers.” The group-mindedness of atheists mitigates or otherwise completely eradicates their own credibility as autonomous thinkers, which, is the valued trait of atheism.
Atheists have taken to the Internet (their true god) to get across the message that religious fanaticism is directly to blame for specific incidents of violence and everyone should therefore join Team Atheism for a smooth ride to Utopia. The problem with this – besides how fucking petulant it is – is how it completely misses the point. People act as if organized religion is the only possibly case of mass propaganda or subconscious occupation, which could be used toward violent aims. And these people live in America, the advertising haven of the universe! Sure, organized religion is beyond stupid. No argument there. But not because of its tenets, but because of what drives the “believers.”
We can start with religion, since it is the obvious example of dogmatic belief. This is where atheists have it right. Religion is inherently irrational and divisive. I was never suggesting it wasn’t. The religious beliefs are, at least in part, driven by a fear of death. Death is a horrifying notion that we are unfortunately very aware of. We die. That’s frightening. Crippling. Paralyzing. I’ve lost sleep over it many nights and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So people flock to the Church, shuls, mosques, and other places that claim to have answers and solace, all having their own culturally specific uniqueness. But within this desire to escape a very human reality lies its own solution. I said it earlier: we die. Or, more specifically: we all die. Look at that! A commonality! Something true to all of us. How the fuck have we not let that bring us together? Why don’t we, instead of fearfully running from death and hiding in our own separate corners, embrace it as a unit? I worry that people think that notion is scary. Total unity is very intimate. And people seem to be too afraid to get that close. Yet I get labeled the cynical misanthrope. Hilarious.
But so what? You think religion is bullshit? Congratulations. You don’t believe in a 2000-year-old, physically impossible man. Bravo. What a genius you are! Now take that same “free-thinking” mind of yours and apply it to the things in which you soak yourself on a daily basis.
Modern politics. It’s total nonsense. If you can’t see that, then you are a “believer.” It’s been pounded into our heads since we were five-years-old. America this, America that. Heroes. Presidents. Democracy! The political system is holy. But it’s not. It’s a farce, like any other power-driven human institution. It’s not based on compassion or even intelligence. It’s sheer manipulation. Who can run the best campaign? Who can appeal to the most people? So, why not reject that too? Why are atheists so quick to reject this absurd notion of Jesus but they are ready and eager to participate in Hope and Change? How is that not blind faith?
Even in the comedy or entertainment world, so many “atheists” still subscribe to the arbitrary authority structure of television or corporate approval. If someone is “on TV,” even the most scrupulous of atheists will still submit a certain level of respect or even adulation toward this person, just on the sole basis of them being on television. This implies an embedded indoctrination in the idea that being on television means anything. (It doesn’t.) All it means is that a few corporate executives decided that that person would be the best person for a show which is designed to sell ad slots. It means nothing more than that. But we’ve been fooled. We’ve been taught, systematically, to buy into the system of television, the mind-control mechanism of the string-pullers. We buy into it and adopt it. We set our DVR’s to record ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ the same way a Muslim drops to the floor five times a day. You onlythink it’s different.
You might say, “But watching ‘Game of Thrones’ never made me blow up a skyscraper!” True. While I argue that 9/11 was not explicitly religiously motivated, but rather politically motivated and perhaps, in part, used religion as the propaganda du jour, I will still take this at face value.
First, it’s very easy to show that religion is not necessary for unnecessary violence. What religious doctrine led to the bombing of Vietnam? How about the invasion of Iraq? Afghanistan? What god were Bush and Obama killing for? (If you’re thinking “Satan,” congratulations, you are so clever. I can’t wait to see your newest meme.) This is U.S.-led violence, and we are supposedly an enlightened society, remember? The catalyst there was not organized religion (unless, of course, you consider power and control of world commerce to be gods), but something else. No, all that violence is possible because we have a social structure which allows it, one which is nearly unanimously accepted, often ardently by atheists themselves.
So how does that violence happen? All of the things we do accept – politics, television, status quo, social mores, etc. – all have consequences. When we submit to the authority of television or buy into the horseshit left/right debate of politics, or do things just because we’re told to or say things just because our friends do, all of that adds up. What we get is a society subject to the whim of anyone brave enough to point us in whichever direction. When people watch Fox News or MSNBC and have discussions based on the questions they pose, we are adopting their parameters. That is what modern indoctrination is. This sort of indoctrination creates a social ethos that allows certain behaviors (political violence, eradication of freedom) to not only be tolerated but often defended. It’s somewhat Orwellian and it is almost completely faith-based. The only difference is that it seems like there is a valid, rational dialectic behind it. No, we aren’t consuming a cracker that we are told is superhuman flesh, but we are consuming the puerile mode of thought being spit at us from the ugly mouth of society. These sorts of “beliefs” are ubiquitous and not specific to religious people. It is this type of belief that is the most pervasive, the most troublesome precisely because it is the hardest to detect and therefore the most difficult to address. Where atheists fall short is nearly everywhere outside of organized religion. We need not just religious atheists, but non-believers of all facets to bring, at the very least, an intense level of honest skepticism to even the most taken-for-granted aspects of our society. And this has to be done outside of the established framework. Supporting some platitude that you read in the Huffington Post is (usually) a complete waste of time. We need to apply that same level of non-belief to the very cores of our society. In essence, we, together, need to take potent, sociopolitical DMT and clear our collective consciousness of the nonsense that pervades and mars what should be our temple of human freedom.
Some people, possibly atheists, might read this and think, “Well, you don’t know politics is like that. You don’t knowthat television is like that. That’s just your personal belief.” Yeah. Hm. I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before…
This will be continued. Somehow.