Sunday, December 19, 2010

Believers in the Supernatural

By Dee Newman

Religion is a faith and/or belief system which attempts to explain the cause and nature of the universe and the purpose of life through belief in a deity.

Believers in the supernatural define atheism as the rejection of the belief in the existence of a deity. According to their definition, I am not an atheist for I do not deny or reject their belief in the existence of a deity. I merely hold that nothing supernatural exists in or outside the Universe other than that which exists within their minds. One cannot reject or deny what does not exist.

Circular reasoning in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly within the premise is illogical and fallacious. Conjuring up a mental concept or image and then asserting that it must exist for others to perceive is not only irrational it is insane.

The fundamental difference between those who are religious and those who are not is that those who believe in the existence of the supernatural do so by faith and faith alone.

Faith (when used in a religious or theological context) does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. It implies a trusting reliance and/or confident belief in a supernatural and transcendent reality beyond what is real, self-evident, certain, demonstrable and natural.

Granted there may be an array of reasons why an individual may choose to believe in a transcendent reality. For over half a century I have read, studied and discussed the historical, philosophical and psychological development of religious beliefs, teachings and practices throughout the world. I conclude that most (historically and presently) who believe in a divine presence do so out of fear and ignorance – a fear of the ultimate unknown (death) and an ignorance (lack of knowledge) of the historical and scientific evidence of what is.

I recognize that it is extremely difficult to deal with the absurdity of life and death. The human mind naturally seeks meaning and purpose. I understand how mysticism, a belief in a supernatural omnipotent being with universal authority and power, could provide comfort and support in a meaningless universe.

I have no quarrel with anyone’s beliefs as long as they remain benign and do not inflict harm on others.

With that said, a quest for the truth to understand what is and the questionable conviction that God is the answer are significantly different endeavors. One is intellectually honest and the other is not. For thousands of years we have been told that without religion human beings are no more than ruthless egocentric animals fighting for our share of life’s sustenance. Only through religion and God’s grace and forgiveness can we acquire a moral compass.

Nonsense! In fact, both logic and history inform us that religion actually prevents us from fulfilling our evolved intrinsic moral responsibilities. With our highly developed mental capacity to choose one action over another, our motives (not our theology) are what determine our moral competence. In fact, if there were a god, one would have to ignore its existence in order for one’s motives to be pure, honorable, and just – a mental hurdle which is impossible to accomplish.

What determines whether an act has been morality initiated is motive (the reason one chooses to act in a particular way). A belief in the supernatural (as history has clearly shown) has never guaranteed obedience to the laws of any religious faith, let alone, adherence to any moral standard.

What’s more, it should be obvious that morality becomes corrupted when our motives are influenced or manipulated by the benevolence and/or fear of God or by any reward and/or punishment.

Therefore, the choice of a particular action or course one chooses (if it is to be moral) must always be carefully and cognitively selected. Morality does not require one to be heroic, to disregard one’s interests over the interests of others. It merely obliges that the basic needs and interests of other sentient beings should always take precedence over one’s wanton desires. In other words, reciprocity is essential. We must care for others as we would like for them to care for us.

Furthermore, morality cannot be arbitrary. In order to truly live a moral life one must treat all living sentient beings with the same consideration and respect, and not just the members of one’s family, community, nation, race, ethnic heritage, gender, religious affiliation, philosophical perspective, political ideology, and/or species. I would also add that morally we are obliged to revere and care for all non-sentient elements of the Universe that provide and sustain life.

Clearly the concept of the supernatural and the ethic of reciprocity originate from the human mind, however, one is most often fashioned and formed from fear and ignorance while the other is inspired by a desire to do what is right and just.

Intellectual integrity demands the truth. More likely than not, if the powers of the supernatural were perceived by its believers to be ineffective (unable to reward or punish), the number of non-believers would greatly increase, immediately reducing the theological exploitation of ignorance and fear.

Without the reward of heaven and the damnation of hell Christianity would not have become one of the world’s foremost religions.  It would have remained an insignificant Jewish sect if Saul of Tarsus and other early Christian leaders had not been so successful in convincing gentiles that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Is it not self-evident that there is absolutely nothing moral about that declaration? Though it was (and remains) a highly successful marketing ploy, it is, in fact, a veiled threat, exploiting man’s fears and ignorance and not a moral initiative.

Most, if not all, belief systems – whether they are based on a systematic and logical quest to comprehend the unknown or rooted in some repressive religious faith in order to cope with the absurdity and reality of life and death – have within their constituencies zealots and fanatics.

When a belief system requires an acceptance and affirmation from others – beware! Proselytizing will only be the first of many perverse tactics employed to try and convert non-believers. Ultimately, if all else fails, the definitive tactical strategy becomes intimidation through terrorism and murder.

Despite the fact that nearly every religion (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, as well as the teachings of Confucius and other ethical philosophers) has proclaimed that the most concise and fundamental principle of morality is the Ethic of Reciprocity (more commonly known as The Golden Rule), most religious leaders have (in the name of God) used reward of salvation to win over converts and the fear of everlasting damnation in order to intimidate and “scare the hell out” of their followers.

The members of most of these religious faiths are able to site numerous religious passages and texts to validate and defend there depraved actions. The U. S. slave trade, for example, was justified through scripture. There are many passages within the Bible that clearly promote and approve of slavery, informing the reader of how to obtain slaves, how hard to beat them, and even when and how one may have sex with them.

There are countless passages from the Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an that provoke and encourage their followers to subdue and murder their religious rivals. When the fundamentalist believers in the supernatural unequivocally believe that their sacred text is the divine word of God almighty, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do or say to prevent their holy wrath from venting itself.

Besides, they are only following the lead of the supernatural fathers of their faiths. Revealed within all these sacred texts is a manipulative and sadistic being with a serious personality disorder. A being that has demonstrated time and time again within the pages of these revered writings a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning and aggressive behavior, using physical cruelty and violence for the purpose of establishing dominance while seeming to be amused by and taking pleasure in both the psychological and physical abuse and suffering of all living sentient creatures.

No wonder throughout history most human cruelty has been initiated by proponents of one religion or another. Despite what they wish for us to believe, morality does not reside with the believers in the supernatural. In fact, unlike non-believers, there are (as I have tried to articulate) some daunting self-imposed impediments that must be overcome in order for believers in the supernatural to fulfill their moral responsibilities.

Though they may be sufficient to keep you in line

Though they may be sufficient to keep you in line,
Reward and punishment are never divine.
For there's nothing more deceitful or insincere
Than honor or favor based upon profit or fear.

So, if you adhere to a straight and narrow path
Simply because you fear the fate of pharaoh's wrath,
Or worship a deity so that you might live in
Some celestial city for the freely forgiven,

You might as well sell the devil your soul
For all his apparel, his revel and gold.
For if fear's your motive or gain's your aim,
However you so live, the verdict's the same.

For in truth, the only truth there is to live by,
Isn't a tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye.
It's never let your fear, your desire, or your greed
Ever interfere with another's dire need.

Although actions, for sure, speak louder than words,
If your motives aren't pure nothing else will be heard.
So, whatever your fate, your reward, or your plight,
Choose love over hate, never wrong over right.
                                                         by Dee Newman


Stickup Artist said...

I admire your position and ability to stay the course. You do well to point out the horrors committed in the name of religion. Personally, I am not prone to argue with anyone's faith, but am capable of decrying outcomes of that faith if it transmutes itself in ugly behavior towards self, other, and the planet. If faith does not include the well-being of all these elements, then, to me, it has not worth. These are ponderous thoughts I have just begun to wrestle with in earnest and appreciate this input.

mythopolis said...

In Hawthorne's novel, Hester Prynne wore the scarlet letter "A" to stand for her adultery. Today, it may be said the same letter is worn by Atheists. From the dominant religious point of view, it is like a 'dirty word'. It is right there next to Communist...or Satanist. That's just the way it is. Shifts away from the "In God We Trust" way of viewing life are slow moving, almost imperceptible in a single generation. There is a cosmic reality show going on. From the polytheism of long ago, to monotheism, we are now down to a handful of gods and none want to see their torch extinguished.

For me, the only use I can make of the 'god' concept is that it is just an ambiguous metaphor for what we have yet come to understand about ourselves as a singlular unity. Humankind remains divided. Taking sides with the remaining gods; looking for tanscendence or transformation in a particular belief.

"The transformation of self is deeply rooted in the joint act of a community transforming itself." - Amitai Etzione. I think 'all of humanity' should be substituted for the word 'community'. But, that's how he probably views it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ballin as usual, like the poem. Keep up the good work! love you.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and sadly necessary.

I know it has been said that only the pretentious quote the famous, but I'll save the time it takes to paraphrase what is essentially a vague outline of my thoughts on the subject: "all movements go too far" and "I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong"(Bertrand Russell), "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence . . . All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability" (Hume), "a human being is part of the whole, called by us, universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something seperate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self".