I write about a great many things, from Linux and open source software, to technology in general, to science fiction, to current events, to religion, and anything else that takes my fancy. Some of what I post is educational and some of it is fluff. For the most part, people seem to like what I write and given that it's hard to get really riled about a tutorial on a Linux appliation, I get very few angry or negative comments. Unless I talk about religion. Suddenly the landscape changes and I get accused of all sorts of strange things. The most common question is something along the lines of "Why are you doing this? Why are you attacking people's faith?" Recently, I received this message from a friend on Facebook.
I find it interesting that you feel you need to put so much energy into insulting Christians and the bible. I wonder why you think it is ok to do so? I guess it would be okay to publicly insult various races, homosexuals, anyone who doesn't think like you. It makes me sad.
The email was private and, as such, I am not disclosing who wrote it, but since the question comes up often enough, this post is an attempt to answer that question without going over the same ground time and again with every person who asks me the same question. Read on and feel free to comment.
I wouldn't ordinarily open a private conversation on this topic since I make my views public and, as such, stand behind them. I'm not looking to offend you specifically, even if I am critical of things you personally believe in. I take no offense if people challenge the things I believe in and I readily welcome and accept that I am wrong when new facts present themselves. That’s not saying that I might not be sad or temporarily upset to discover I was wrong, but I’d rather have the facts than continue working under false assumptions.
Under no circumstances would I attack a person on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. If you follow what I write, you’ll discover that I am a vocal advocate of gay and lesbian rights as well as a staunch defender of gender equality. I routinely champion these causes and I challenge and confront those who would take these rights away or marginalize them. In suggesting that I might “think it is okay to do so”, you’re either reacting emotionally or you don’t know me at all, nor do you take the time to read what I write. In short you are being unfair. As for people who don't think like me, I welcome them and their ideas; I love a good discussion and having everyone agree with everything I think and say would be tiresome to say the least.
Religion, on the other hand, is fair game. It is no different than politics and has no right to special treatment, especially since more harm is ever done in the name of religion than good.
When I write about religion, I don’t do it to be mean-spirited. You’re a believer. I get that. I also understand that you hold those beliefs dear. You probably believe that your religion and its teachings make the world a better place; that it makes your own life richer. I get that too.
Unlike you however, I believe religion (and superstition in all its guises) is dangerous to our world and everyone in it. If the god you believe in serves you, then so be it. But that won't change the fact that I see religion not as a force for good, but a tool for evil and history, both long past and recent, proves me right time and again. There is precious little evidence for a god and even if there is (a huge if), it's obvious he/she/it doesn't care about us. We are children of the universe. Why do we need to worship something? Why not simply do our best to be excellent to each other.
“Religion poisons everything,” Christopher Hitchens wrote. “As well as a menace to civilization, it has become a threat to human survival.”
That’s why I speak out about religion and the evils done in its name, in its god’s name. Because people should speak out when they see injustice being committed; when they see their fellow human beings being harmed, or lied to, or enslaved, or tortured, or any of the countless evil thing done in the name of god. Good people have to stand up to and fight against evil. And that’s what I am doing. If you actually read what I write, or the stories I post, it’s almost always in reaction to someone having done something evil in the name of god. Like that minister who suggest we put gays and lesbians inside electrical fences until ‘their kind’ dies out. Or the pastor who sermon asked that the government hunt down and kill homosexuals because the bible says we should do that in Leviticus. What is wrong with exposing these people? Should we ignore them and let them have their way only because they’re Christians? Is it okay to hate if you hate in the name of god? Should we let these people do and say as they please, growing their flocks and poisoning their minds? Or do you look the other way and remain silent because you fear it will make you or your religion look bad? Are you willing to overlook all of the evil things in the bible because it's scripture?
Is that really what you believe?
If you see evil being committed in the name of religion, don't you, as a believer, have a responsibility (as I feel I do) to speak out against those injustices?
Reality, reason, and science, all trump faith. While I won't deny that faith can help the occasional individual (in ways I don't feel), faith does nothing for the world at large. People are important. Life is important. This world is important. Arguing over what Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha really meant is an exercise in futility. If this holy book or that holy book isn't 100% right, then all of it is up for grabs. It either is the inspired word of god, or it isn't. If you aren't comfortable with that logic, I'm sorry.
The Bible, the Quran, the Talmud, and a host of other holy books are responsible for more pain and horror than any human being should ever be able to defend. People who continue to hold up these tomes as guides for living or for supporting a specific ideology are not helping to further our species. Just as you feel the need to defend your faith, I feel the need to defend human life. The very idea that some father figure in the sky will reward us when we die is anathema to our future. Live this life as though it is precious, as though it's the only life you, your family, or your friends will ever have. Because I'm probably right. As the old saying goes, "life is not a dress rehearsal".
I trust in my feeling that you are a good person. In that respect, you could say I have faith. Nevertheless, if you are the good person I believe you to be, it's not because of your faith. It's because of who you are. And good people will continue to be good people regardless of what their religions or faiths teach them. Faith just gets in the way.
Anyhow, I could go on but I'll leave further comments for future posts. I speak out against religion because I believe it must be done. It was never about you.