ATHEISM â€“ WHY?
It doesn't take long, trawling through the worlds of posts and blogs on the Internet, before you get the idea that there are quite a lot of people finding it necessary to proclaim their atheism in often quite aggressive ways.
I, myself, sometimes gently enter the arena, though I don't think I'm particularly aggressive. But why is it that people who find the whole ideas encompassed by most major religions to be so in need of attack? Surely we all have inalienable rights to believe what we want to believe and to hell with the rest of the world. Our beliefs, after all, are in our heads, and if our heads are peculiar then our beliefs may well be equally peculiar.
I get confused by the issue. I can see, through my own interpretation of some events in history combined with a layman's understanding of Darwin's theories regarding evolution, how religion came to be the force it is.
It probably happened like this â€“ and here we've got to accept the iceberg theory of human life, with the vast part of it, unrecorded and lost, out of sight whilst the tiny bit we can see, the recorded, historic part, available in varying degrees for our inspection. And I believe it's what happened during the lost millennia that lay down the building blocks of who we, as a species, are today.
All sorts of fanciful tales can be proposed, maybe tales incorporating generation after generation of obedience to mystical tribal leaders until it became a matter of racial survival for Owongo Ugg to believe the unbelievable or else. No matter how it happened, it did happen. At the start of the submerged bit of the iceberg we have proto-man, still with a fondness for swinging from trees, maybe with the odd thought forming inside his head, but not much else going on. At the end of it we have the early human-type hominids, not quite us, but getting there. And thousands of years in which the growing brain learned the best way to adapt to its environment, and that learning laid down the foundations of religion â€“ and very much more, as we can hypothesise.
It is not an instinct for our species to want to practice genocide, yet from time to time it has, even in the twentieth century. People with a German passport have no more propensity to tolerate the holocaust in which the genocide of the Jewish people was attempted, yet quite a few (by no means all) not only tolerated it but took part in it. It wasn't a hatred for Jews, I believe, but that strand laid down in prehistory that provided normal rational human beings with the flaw that led to mass murder on a grand scale, following a leader who had supplanted, by his very being, true religion. After all, there must have been some deep and probably lost reason why good, decent, honourable people (most Germans are all of those things) got lost in an ancient rut and followed it to its horrible natural conclusion.
And the same strand that led to the acceptance of the holocaust was the foundation of most modern religions. They have their roots way back in time. They attempt, after all, to explain the creation of the world, and the fundamentals of them are passed down the generations in much more than formal lessons. Simple things, like different hours the law allows shops to open on a Sunday (the Sabbath in my neck of the woods), the fact that this spell checker requires Sabbath to have a capital S, the fact that illogical, irrational and impossible things are taught to children as being irrefutable, the fact that there's usually hymn-singing somewhere on the media on Sundays, the fact that most major holidays have been grabbed by religions until they're identified as religious festivals, the fact that births, marriages and deaths are often in the province of the church, the fact that vicars and priests find it necessary to wear absurd costumes whilst at work (no health and safety, just absurdity), the very existence of a Sunday timetable for public transport, all these things in their own way reinforce a god that if he was truly omniscient wouldn't need reinforcing at all. But the requirement to believe, to accept judgement, to prostrate ourselves before the impossible, was laid down in the vast number of years that are totally lost to us, of which no trace remains, no missing-link appears, and yet that consume so many people with a passion that leads to suicide bombing, the greatest possible personal sacrifice for the least obvious purpose.
That's why you often find aggressive atheists in blogland. Because they've seen past the cultural absurdities to the underlying primitive forces that gave them their birth countless thousands of years ago. But they're (we're) also subject to the same ancient imperatives, which is where the aggression and the passion comes from.
It's all theory, of course, by a layman using a layman's ignorance, but it makes sense to this particular layman, who, if he were more articulate, might have expressed it better.
Â© Peter Rogerson 07.02.11