Some days I find little I can write about. Other days I go brain waves knock me overboard. This is a continuation of an opinion piece dissection started earlier today. My “muse” is Pastor C.A. Cowart of Winter Haven, Florida who shared his thoughts about atheists and prayer recently.
Atheists fail to realize that religion is expressed every day in schools, within government facilities, and by government officials.
Atheists are well aware of religion being “expressed every day” and the issue here isn’t the fact that it happens, but how it happens. Personal expressions of faith by government leaders or teachers is one thing. Expressions of faith being mandated by government or public schools is something else, and that’s the issue atheist groups protest against.
Be Christian if you want. Overall we don’t give a shit. We may scoff at your clinging to outmoded superstitions, but believe if you want. It’s your life, and hopefully it was your decision. But just make sure you’re keeping your life choices your own business, and not using them to bully or badger or legally demand that others do things your way. This includes prayer in school, abortion issues, gay marriage, and anything else where your religious beliefs might interfere with another person’s right to choose.
Consider this: If atheists don’t believe in the existence of the “God” Christians pray to, then they are simply causing confusion by suggesting we are talking to ourselves.
That’s a confusing statement. We think you’re talking to yourselves. You don’t. If you think there’s a god on the other end of the line hearing what you say, keep believing it. We don’t think that’s likely is all.
A few years ago The Freethinker quoted from an article about anthropologist Maurich Bloch who posited that the reason human civilizations have flourished is because we evolved the ability to imagine things to be other than they are. This would tie into the very recent (geologically speaking) development of art and storytelling and religion.
Bloch believes our ancestors developed the necessary neural architecture to imagine before or around 40-50,000 years ago, at a time called the Upper Palaeological Revolution, the final sub-division of the Stone Age.
At around the same time, tools that had been monotonously primitive since the earliest examples appeared 100,000 years earlier suddenly exploded in sophistication, art began appearing on cave walls, and burials began to include artefacts, suggesting belief in an afterlife, and by implication the “transcendental social”.
Once humans had crossed this divide, there was no going back.
I’d seen an article at some point suggesting that talking to God is akin to talking to anyone we think is in the room with us at the time. Our brains apparently react like a person’s really there. It works with invisible friends, too. I can’t find that one now but the Daily Mail reports on something kind of related from New Scientist.
studies suggest our minds come with an overdeveloped sense of cause and effect, which primes us to see purpose and design everywhere, even when there is none.
Children as young as seven or eight believe that rocks, rivers and birds have been created for a specific purpose.
Taken together, the two traits mean were are perfectly programmed to believe in god.
Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in the US, said: ‘There’s now a lot of evidence that some of the foundations for our religious beliefs are hard-wired.
‘All humans possess the brain circuitry and it never goes away.’
Acquiring imagination/God-belief was one hell of an evolutionary leap for our species, that’s for sure. [Edit 4:34 pm, same day: apparently so was language, which helped us explain abstract thoughts, and is thought to have come into its own around the same time. Awesome!]
Back to Cowart:
So with this in mind, are we being harassed, taken to court and faced with legal challenges for talking to ourselves?
Again, a court case like the one the Freedom From Religion Foundation set up against the National Day of Prayer was not a request to have all prayer eradicated. It was a request to have the President stop encouraging people to pray. Pray whenever the hell you want, as much or as little as you want. It never should have been part of the President’s duty to ask you to, though. Why did that happen in the first place? Was it reaction to fear of ungodly communism? A desperate need for Truman to patriotically unite through a faith in order to counteract the enemy?
However, if there is a God, we have a bigger problem than prayer.
To believe in a God that does not exist causes no harm, but if there is a God, think of what danger unbelievers face.
If the Christians are wrong to believe that God exists, we lose nothing. If the Christians are right and he does exist, atheists have lost everything.
Pascal’s wager is a tired cliche and the quickest way to deal with this stupidity is to remind the pastor that maybe we were supposed to follow Quetzalcoatl instead. What if that god of intelligence and self-reflection takes us to task the day we kick it for not believing in him? Think of all the popcorn we’ve eaten in our lives and not thanked him for. He’s the god of corn too, you know. Holy shit, movie goers around the world are in serious trouble if that’s the case. Repent now, you gastric sinners! Repent!!
I think I’ll keep talking to my imaginary friend Jesus, whom I happen to believe is real and much alive.
Nobody’s going to stop him, least of all atheists. I know some atheists would like to see all churches left empty and nobody doing anything religious at all any more but I think that’s not really the best solution to the problems. I think religions can be useful if people want to believe they’re necessary. The issue isn’t the belief per se but what they do with them. Are they using their faith to promote inequality and injustice? Are they praying for all good things to happen, or doing like Westboro and calling for afterlives filled with hellfire? Are they using their religion to promote a better world or to keep people stupid and in the dark? Are they using it to ruin science education? Are they using it to guilt women into keeping kids they can’t afford at the risk of their own health in the process? Are they perpetuating beliefs in demons and witchcraft and allowing people to be killed by stoning?
There are a lot of problems that religion is the root cause of and Pastor Cowart must be aware of that on some level, even if he’s reluctant to admit it. Atheists have the right to and should continue to point these things out. As far as problems go, a Day of Prayer is one of least of them, I’ll admit. Prayer alone might not help or harm anyone but it does take time, time that could have been spent doing things that would benefit society in a more immediate and noticeable way. To my thinking, that’s where the ambition should lie, not just in saying hello to one’s god for show, but showing that god and that community what we are capable of as people.
We can do more than speak a few words in a day, no matter what kind of Day we want to call it.
edit Sunday am: I see my link to the original article doesn’t work anymore. Curses.