A Short Essay On Morality And Atheism.
There is a certain duty of atheism and of atheists. That duty wears the collar of logic. They need to be logical, intelligent and morally superior. They need to adhere to a certain code that features all the moral features of traditional religious beliefs, perhaps even more of the positives, simply because they are fighting more than 2,000 years of bigotry and propaganda.
And therein lies the issue. Thanks to their heightened need to show themselves as better, thanks to the logical language that they use to form their arguments, they can never appeal to the religious mind set because of the limitations of their logic. Spiritualists, religions, believers; they respond to conjecture, emotion, morality defined by fear, not morality defined by logic.
I do not believe in spiritual things. I will not lie and say that logic has no place in that statement, but the main reason for my lack of belief in traditional, alternative or modern spirituality of any kind is that I find such belief immoral. I think it degrades humanity, as a whole.
The Language of Belief
The first major problem in terms of addressing any argument between the religious and the irreligious is the language we are forced to employ. Immediately, it places one side of the argument, the religious, as the positive and the irreligious or the atheist as the negative. A moment ago, I had to state the fact that ‘I do not believe’; again, placing me immediately on the side of the negative.
After all, simply the fact of disbelieving in and of itself is seen as a negative. Who wouldn’t want to believe in the comforting ideology of a loving god, or an afterlife, or any hope of eternal love or redemption, when compared to the basic facts of life. Rot, decay, an organic circle of life that goes on and on and is half-beautiful, half-sickening.
As our language itself has evolved along the same veins as religious belief, over the same period of time, it isn’t any surprise that there is a certain level of dominance or bias in favour of the ‘positive’ option.
Immediately, therefore, atheism comes up against any and all forms of religious belief, including agnosticism, as the ultimate negative; as the anti-culture; as the spiteful little thing alongside the established beliefs of the predominant religions of the time.
Ideally, we need to develop new terms for faith, perhaps more along the lines of a political spectrum. On the spectrum of faith, belief dictated by fear could be the right-wing, and belief in the proven role of nature and fact and logic could be the left-wing. That brings with it its own problems, of course, but it would be a fantastic way to redefine faith, and the arguments of faith, for the modern generation.
The Morality of Worship; The Logic of Faith
My main argument, here, is not whether the logic of faith is necessarily true. If we, hypothetically, say that Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Karma, Ganesh, Shiva or any other deity you care to name does exist, I would like to address whether it would actually be ethical, or moral, to worship them. For the moment, I am going to primarily focus on the Christian god, Jehovah, as a standard archetype for generalised religious belief – after all, ‘God’ is the mismatched, purloined template from a host of different religions, mainly Pagan religions as a means of cementing control and making their occupation much more palatable.
It is my belief that the idea of worshipping some mystical entity, or even a living thing, an institution, a belief system, or anything at all, in fact, with the exception of oneself, is degrading. What’s worse, however, is that it isn’t just a matter of personal degradation, but of universal degradation. When people place creatures, phantoms – things – above themselves, they are destroying the ideology of equality. They are, intrinsically, lowering the value of a life. Death doesn’t matter because people live on in the afterlife, because it’s all part of God’s plan, because we’re going to see all of our loved ones again in the end. It doesn’t make a mockery of the death itself, but it acts like a coping mechanism which degrades the entire life that has already been lived.
By worshipping a higher power, spiritualists or religious people lower the entirety of humanity. They destroy the efforts, the work and the struggles that people and animals have had to endure because it was always God’s plan. By attributing any glory to a deity, you are taking away the purpose of the struggle; you degrade the value of the human spirit. Fate, or the idea of fate, removes to potential for success. Pre-ordainment negates the reasoning behind any pleasure and joy in favour of the inevitable.
To my mind, simply believing in the existence of a higher power is enough to weaken the integrity of the entire species, but by actively worshipping anything at all, you are aligning yourself with fanatics. Fanatics are the worst possible representations of people; they are deliberately opposed to the ideals of a free, fair society, they are opposed to debate and honest, intellectual discourse and development. Fanatics and followers will ignore the negatives and focus on the positives of their subject and their beliefs. Fanaticism, in the modern era, has largely developed into an attitude towards conversation and debate, with the exception of deluded creatures being used as living weapons in a war that is more political and economic than holy. They will discuss their beliefs with zeal that offers no opportunity to be persuaded, that leaves absolutely no room for the presence of logic.
I believe, if I believe in anything at all, that to call yourself a human you need to adhere to a certain set of standards and morals – not necessarily follow the law as laid down by government and society, but have a set of rules that you, personally, need to live by. One of the most important rules, for me, is the rule of intellectual honesty, especially in the face of weakness. People need to accept the obvious truths, the proven scientific laws, and cannot choose to ignore, adapt or pick and choose these laws to fit in with beliefs. By choosing to ignore fact and favour fiction, by choosing to believe instead of think, spiritualists and religious people are weakening the integrity of the entire human race.
I advocate complete practicality when it comes to this particular form of mental illness. If someone chooses to live in a fictional world, at the cost of humanity, then they should be helped to overcome their problems. If there are regular functions where people can gather to be converted and controlled, there is no real reason why something similar could not be arranged for their treatment.
For those who refuse to admit that they have a problem, or those who are blatantly obsessed with their own fictional world, I would continue to advocate in favour of practicality. If you have a limb that turns gangrenous, the only way to limit the damage is to remove the limb. If there is a sub-section of humanity degrading the rest of us in terms of thought, and honesty and even morality, then for the good of the majority they need to be treated. If they have gone so deep into their delusions that they are beyond treatment, then they need to be isolated or dealt with in such a manner that they cannot spread their infection to others. In extreme circumstances, I would not call for re-education, but for damage control via quarantine.
Preaching Hate, In Favour of Equality
I am opposed to people being treated differently because of things they cannot control. When it comes to race and sexuality I will not accept anything less than complete and utter equality. When it comes to gender, I am in favour of equal pay for equal hours, longer maternal leave than paternal leave and the same job and educational opportunities based on talent and predilection for the job.
I am in favour of people being treated differently for their beliefs. I have often wondered if that makes me a preacher of hate. To me, it is no different than someone being treated in a certain way because of their actions. If someone chooses to believe in the existence of a higher power, and abandon Humanist morality, then they should be treated differently to someone who has respect for human life and beliefs that there is nothing, or few things, worse than taking a life. Just like someone who has never murdered someone should be treated differently to someone who has.
I believe in judgement, but not the judgement of imaginary creatures. I believe in horrifying, human judgement; as fickle and unfair and unfounded and spontaneous as it is, I believe in human judgement.
Religion as A Weakness
Belief in nonsense is not so bad, but belief in nonsense that degrades humanity, that tries to paint us, as a species, as weak and in need of shepherding, is morally wrong. It is also selfish, as it projects internal guilt, imagined sins and all too real weaknesses onto other people. Because these worshippers have a low self-esteem and little in the way of confidence, it seems to me that they are trying to overcome their weaknesses by declaring that everyone suffers them. How could we not, after all, when there is something big and unknowable and fantastic out there, amongst the clouds, smiling down on us benevolently.
John Lennon once sung that ‘God is a concept by which we measure our pain’, whereas I would amend that to say ‘God is a concept by which we measure our weakness’. People, real people, do not turn to faith, their imagination, when they suffer a setback or a tragedy. Instead, they deal with it themselves and emerge the stronger for it. Suffering, as the old saying goes, builds character. To me, it seems a waste to spend that suffering on building up the perception of an imaginary character.
People turn to God in their moments of weakness, when they need help or they’re frightened for their lives; when people believe that things are completely out of their control, they surrender to the whims of an almighty being. They neglect to take responsibility for their actions, simply because they don’t need to. ‘It’s in God’s hands now’, is a common enough saying when waiting outside an operating theatre, or when you hand in an exam paper, or when you’re waiting to hear back from that job you applied for – it’s not; it’s in the hands of people or as a direct result of the actions you took, or neglected to take. Having a crutch, for that is all faith is – a painkiller for weakness – doesn’t really strengthen a person or, if it does, it strengthens them at the expense of their mental health. Any and all belief in a higher power is directly opposed to self-respect and awareness and love.
Religion allows people to avoid the obvious truths; the unpleasant truths about existence that should be beautiful. We have a finite amount of time; we are not given it, but it is ours and something is trying to take it away from us. Nature is our greatest ally, for it provides us life in the first place, but it is also our greatest enemy for it immediately tries to take its gift back. Nature is not God; faith in science is not faith; thought is not belief – if we, as humans, need to believe in something, then we need to believe in ourselves. The rest doesn’t matter.
From a moral perspective, ignorant of science and logic and fact, religion is abhorrent. It stunts our growth, or leads us down pathways of mental illness and irresponsibility. It can be used to control us with fear, or with promises of paradise. It stops us, as a species, from realising our full potential and creating a paradise amongst ourselves. If paradise is external to us, as is eternal damnation, then what choice do we have but to exist in a fluctuating half-and-half world, where there will never be complete joy, just as there will never be complete misery.
It sickens me to see spiritualists and the religious as the moral backbone of a society. Anyone who believes in themselves, who does not adhere to the laws of decency because of rules laid down thousands of years ago by an imaginary creature, is to be applauded far more than those who bow down to fear and conformity. People who believe in a personal code, and stick to it, and are able to look themselves in the mirror at the end of the day, are made of much sterner moral fibre than anyone obeying the whims of a fictitious deity.