Dawn of religion

Imagine a world, different from ours. You are dropped there, all you know is that it can be dangerous. You have seen others killed, maimed, devoured, you are not sure what by. You hear a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind, or is it a dangerous predator. If you trust that it is just the wind, and you are mistaken, it could end very badly. If you steer away, just in case, you are safe, and nothing is lost. You find a broken body near a cave. Did he fall or is there something there that is dangerous? To survive, you must treat every snap, crackle, pop as a monster out to get you. If there are dangerous things in the shadows, there must be helpful ones too. Did you just find those fruit, or did someone, something leave them out for you? To try to understand and make the best of your surroundings, you try to find patterns in what happens.

Animals are also very good at recognizing patterns. That is how we teach them tricks. Every time I sit when he makes that sound, I get a treat, pattern! Not all patterns are on purpose, or even real, but we still like our patterns. Your cat shows up when you are opening a can, even if it is only peas.

Obeying your elders is natural, you have a better chance of survival. You teach your children that there are unknown forces out there, to hurt you or help you. Certain things you do put you in danger, so they become forbidden. Other things seem to bring beneficial outcomes, so they become compulsory.

At some point, someone speaks up and takes control of these rules. witch doctor, shaman, priest.

Unknown powerful forces, rules to make the best of them, a special class of person that tells you what to do or not do.

Religion.

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End the week with a cartoon: You were a believer, yes. But you skipped the not-being-a-jerk-about-it part.

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Are you sure you are not an atheist?

Let’s take a few everyday “beliefs”.

  • You believe that if you jump off the bridge, you will die. You do not jump.
  • You believe that your friend will be angry if you stand him up. You respect him.
  • A thug threatens you with a gun in your face and demands your wallet. You believe that if you do not comply, he will kill you. You give him your wallet.
  • You believe your good work will get you paid. You show up at work.

Compare them to some religious beliefs.

  • You believe that if you sin, you will burn in hell forever. You sin.
  • You believe god is watching you and expects you to behave in a certain way. You don’t.
  • Your priest (or whoever) threatens you with damnation if you give into your urges. You give in.
  • You believe your good deeds will earn you eternal bliss. You sin.


To not be an atheist, you have to really believe in god. Your live choices have to strongly reflect that belief. This a life defining position, the foundation of reality. Actually believing in god must influence your behaviour.

  • If you don’t jump, but you sin, you believe in the consequences of your fall more than those of your sin.
  • If you are more respectful of your friend’s time than of god’s will, you believe in the importance of human relations more than divine consequences.
  • If you are scared into obedience by a gun, but not by the promise of hell, you believe your life is more important than your afterlife.
  • If you do good actions to get rewarded in this life, but not to get rewarded in the next, you believe in this life more than you believe in the next.

Believing in god should be like walking a tightrope. You watch every step you take. Click To Tweet

You don’t let your attention waver, even for a second, because you know that the consequences will be bad.

If your belief does not affect your actions, how can you pretend to really believe?

We are all atheists.


Why do we all lie to ourselves like this?

Religion, from childhood, teaches us to stop thinking, to not question. We develop a split personality. Every time reality contradicts part of the fairy tale, we put that part in the fairy tale box. And we keep on living. In the end, we learn to act rationally, to function in our everyday life, while hanging on to our fairy tales, but kept at a distance. Asked if we believe, we take the answer from the fairy tale box: “It is the literal truth”. When we act, our rational brain functions normally, disconnected from the religious injunctions.

It is called cognitive dissonance.

To be able to keep our fairy tale box, we must pretend that it is part of reality. On the surface, everyone acts as if their belief is true. We have developed a social standard where appearances are paramount. God isn’t watching, society is. When someone breaks the spell and refuses to act according to the rules of make-believe, our fairy tale box could be shown for what it is! We are outraged. So, the sinner that cannot be hidden, the atheist, the gay, are chastised.

A priest molests a child, he doesn’t really believe. The church hides it to preserve the illusion, more important than saving the child.

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Start the week with a quote: Chris Rock

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Pedophile priests

With child abuse scandals in the catholic church worldwide, a few questions come to mind:

1. Why are there so many?

2. Why did the church not handle the situation?

3. Why has this not been considered organized crime?

4. Why have devout catholics not fled the church in droves over what has happened?

1. Roughly 4% of catholic priests in the US were accused of child abuse between 1950 and 2000. 4% is actually only slightly over other professions dealing with children such as school teachers. Of course we would expect better from representatives of god. Forced celibacy must add kindle to the fire.

2. So, men are men, priests are the same… In any other institution, the abuser would be forcibly removed from the children and turned over to the authorities for judgment. But why did the church put its (short term) reputation before the safety of the children in its care? Is the church so scared of scandal that they choose to knowingly deliver innocent children (are there any other kind?) to recidivist child abusers? What other reason than protecting their reputation could there be?

3. Hiding and protecting serial child abusers from the law and directly delivering more children to be abused in an organized manner with knowledge and responsibility going up to the highest levels of the church. It sounds like human trafficking, right in front of our noses. Why is the church hierarchy not the target of criminal prosecution? How can any organization be above the law? How can we accept lame excuses and promises of reform?

4. So, society is cowardly, the church is too powerful. But individually, how can a devout catholic continue to go to her local church, knowing that they would have delivered her children to child abusers without remorse? How much power does the church have over people’s minds for them to accept such … evil?

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End the week with a cartoon: Jokes don’t kill people

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Polygamy is poison to society

Numerous religions allow or have allowed polygamy, basically giving in to biology. Polygamy is one man with several wives. Never the opposite.

Polygamy is a coherent evolutionary outcome. If you made a simple program to organize behavior:

  • Males should try to procreate as much and as widely as possible
  • Females should pick the « best » male to be the genitor of her children

We can understand the male urge from current stereotypes. The females would rather have part of the attention of the « best » genitor for their children than accept second best. One tenth of a rich sheik provides more than 100% of a (sexy) poor beggar.

Polygamy is poison to civilization. Even in the animal kingdom, for one lion king with twenty wives, there are nineteen frustrated males roaming the savanna. Do you really want to bump into them on a dark night? In a polygamous society, there is an important portion of men who have absolutely no chance of a relationship with a women (mating). This can drive to desperation and destructive tendencies such as suicide bombing. What do they have to lose?

But there is this little thing called civilization. Equal rights for women and all that. With more women working, they are less dependent on men and are less prone to accepting the lousy deal of polygamy.

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800 pound GORILLA in the room

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Start the week with a quote: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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How do you know it is a metaphor?

When god explains how to treat your slaves, it must be a metaphor. When he says to love your neighbour, it is the literal truth.

When something is particularly clear and nice in your scripture it is the literal word of god. When something is particularly obnoxious in your scripture, it is a metaphor.

How do you know which is which? The whole point of your scripture seems to be to help you make sense of the world and make the right life choices. Understanding when something is literally true or a metaphor seems pretty essential to actually using scripture as a guide for your life. Shouldn’t this guide help you in that? If you have to know by some other means – « obviousness », gut feeling, empathy, hearsay – which is which, those other means are even more important than the scripture itself.

Say you are looking for « morals » in scripture. Once it says « do not judge », then « kill the adulteress ». Which is the literal truth, if either, and which is the metaphor? It seems you would need a good sense of morality to figure out which to believe. But then, you don’t need the scripture…

Or you just believe what someone tells you – a priest, rabbi, imam, talking rabbit – and that just pushes the question to where they found the information.

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