Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A moderate Christian named Lyn posted a comment on a blog post at irrelgion.org earlier today, and the reply I gave deserves a space at Prose Justice, so I'm reproducing it here.  The original post features a youtube clip of President Obama being particularly level-headed* regarding the role of religious thinking in public policy.  It's worth a quick view.

So, without further ado:

Lyn Says:

I have a question, why do athiest need to form groups and organizations just so they can say they don’t believe in something? If in your opinion God doesn’t exist, then why this site? Why spend so much time fighting something you don’t believe in? Why fight a God and his followers if he is nothing more than a figment of believers imaginations? I know if I don’t believe in something I am not going to waste time fighting it. I myself believe in God and I saw on this site a little sketch about the earth being only 6,000 years old and we all know that can not be true. There is nothing in the Bible that confirms that. In fact it reveals quite the opposite in Genesis. But people, epecially ‘Bible Beating’ Christians never take the time to see what is actually being said and they also fail to understand that the Bible was translated from greek to english. This means that the meanings they have for word and phrases are different. For example, in the greek ’serpent’ meant ‘Shining One’ not snake as it means in english. Who is referred to in the Bible as the ‘Shining One’, Satan. Another thing that I saw was a comment on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath day can be any day of the week. I usually take mine on a Friday because I am free all day, no school or work for me. When people continually work everyday, all day they become shell of human beings. No one can function correctly unless they take a break. People will actually work themselves to death. They sentence themselves to death, just like drug addicts, alcoholics, etc. Is God doing this or are people doing it to themselves? I tend to go with the latter. As far as the war that is going on in the middle east, that itself can be traced back to the Bible. Ishmael and Isaac are still fighting til this day over their fathers land. They are feuding brothers who most likely will never be at peace. Like yourselves I am also irritated with some ‘Christians’. Irritated because they don’t take the time to actually examine the Bible and research it before they shoot their mouths off and say something that is not accurate. Feel free to hit me back with a response.

And my reply:


As you surmised yourself, we aren't spending any time attacking a deity we don't believe in. 

But when a majority population of Americans behaves as if a deity exists and has prescribed a particular standard of living, their actions and beliefs have a real and significant effect on all of us. That's what we're spending all this effort fighting. When the legal system and social architecture that govern over all of us is subjected to the massive influence of the religiously-minded majority, much of it succumbs and becomes compliant with (or at least tolerant of) religious dogma, and that scares the hell out of us. 

The words attributed to your particular deity have been successfully used to justify atrocious prejudices and to glorify willful ignorance in a time when it is very dangerous to do so. 

This is no longer a world in which a small tribe may only have to worry about a land quarrel against another almost indistinguishable small tribe around the corner. It is instead a world in which one high-ranking government official can make a single decision that ultimately results in the destruction of the entire surface of the planet in a matter of minutes. 

This society won't do well to live according to outdated and rudimentary ethical codes when thousands of years' refinement have given us much more effective and informative tools. We have to live with a level of responsibility, rationality and maturity that no ethical theistic religion can provide. We're fighting for our wellbeing on the personal scale, and for all our lives on a global scale. 

Religion's public influence is an impediment to that goal.

As I reread Lyn's statement, I realize that I just latched onto the first few sentences of it, and that's squarely where I aimed my entire reply.  I think I should go back there and address the remaining content; if anything, I'll have to thank her for her honest inquiry and clearly good-intentioned followup.

* - That's not to say that this level-headedness is atypical of President Obama.  Just atypical of a president.

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