My daughter, a chip off of her dad's churchless block, gave me The Quotable Atheist for Christmas. Organized alphabetically, I'm all the way up to "B." Lots of more great quotes to enjoy.
I could tell I was going to enjoy the book as soon as I started reading the Introduction by Jack Huberman. He's got an engaging "take no prisoners in the war against religion" attitude. Here's some Huberman quotes.
The world (not just America) is deeply divided. The main fault line is where the tectonic plates of religion and of reason/ secularism/ modernity/ science/ Enlightenment meet and grind against each other, making an absolutely unbearable noise. It's sort of like...forget it, I can't describe it.
My aim in compiling The Quotable Atheist was to heal our broken planet, essentially by eliminating the religious part. Not with nuclear weapons or lesser acts of mass murder -- no, that's the religious style, nowadays, in certain quarters -- but through argument, persuasion and most of all (since I know perfectly well that argument is utterly useless against dumb, blind faith, and just wanted to pay it lip service), the steady application of powerfully abrasive ridicule which will slowly but surely erode away the offending continent.
Well, good luck with that, Jack.
I'm with you on this, and have been doing my best on this blog for the past five years to help with the erosion. But there's still a hell of a lot of crazy religious ground to be reclaimed for sanity.
We need to change the cultural climate so as to make supernatural, occult, and faith-based claptrap feel unwelcome and to make adults ashamed of the blithe surrender of their otherwise sound minds to idiocy. We need climate change. Bullshit levels are rising globally, threatening to submerge intellectually low-lying areas. Much of the United States is already inundated. Temperatures are rising: IQs are dropping. Four of the five stupidest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Nice writing that got a right on from me. As did this disturbingly long paragraph.
If a thinking person of a century ago were told that the next hundred years would see a war in which millions of Jews were murdered out of an originally religious hatred; another war, basically over religion, on European soil (the former Yugoslavia); Middle-Eastern countries still under theocratic rule; enormously popular Islamist groups waging a worldwide jihad; millions of Chinese Falun Gong devotees following a self-appointed savior who also claims the ability to levitate and to become invisible; arena-sized churches springing up all across the United States; as few as 28 percent of Americans believing evolution is a fact, and 13 percent or fewer believing it occurred through natural selection, unguided by God; the U.S. government dominated by professed evangelical or born-again Christians [this book came out in 2007]; Christian fundamentalists holding effective veto power over Supreme Court nominations; and the Oval Office occupied by a man [George Bush] who has affirmed the impossibility of a non-Christian entering heaven -- that thinking person might well feel that all the intellectual progress of the previous three or four centuries had been for nought.
Depression and apathy isn't the appropriate response to all this crap, though. Fighting back is.
We must also count false belief as in itself an irreducibly bad thing, and regard respect for truth supported by reason and evidence as a fundamental human obligation. We should view willful ignorance and stupidity as -- I almost said a "sin"; call it an offense against life.
And to my mind, to fail to learn about and feel reverence for what science has discovered -- to refuse to see in the 100-trillion-mile, 100-billion-galaxy extent of the observable universe, the strange-beyond-comprehension subatomic universe, and the possibility of other universes (separate God for each or same one for all?) -- to refuse to recognize there the proper objects of our religious attention, if you will, and instead continue to hold barbaric tribal myths as sacred -- I call that willful ignorance and stupidity.
Here Huberman defines some terms.
I'm using "atheist" as shorthand to indicate any nonbeliever in the existence of a deity or deities. This includes both the agnostic, who thinks there's not enough evidence to decide one way or the other -- and therefore remains a nonbeliever; the atheist proper who goes further and believes the Supreme Being does not exist -- i.e., disbelieves; and the nontheist, who considers the question meaningless and irrelevant (whereas an agnostic may consider the question unanswered but very important).
Reading the following passage, I knew where the guy is coming from. I've come to feel almost exactly the same way. There's no need to embrace religion to worship at the Altar of Mystery. The mysterious is all around us, and indeed is us.
Yet, I confess, I've got a soft spot for "spirituality." Why those quote marks? The trouble with "spiritual" is that, at least according to the diagram in my manual, there aren't two kinds or levels of reality -- a physical world and a second, separate, spiritual one. "The supernatural does not exist." Or, if you prefer (and I rather do), it's all "supernatural." The very fact of existence feels supernatural. At least it cries out for explanation. We are here, apparently, and we don't know why. You can't just call that "natural" and go on your merry way.
And here's Huberman's call to arms. Don't accept religious B.S. any more. Stand up for truth, freedom, open-mindedness, and the genuinely "spiritual" way.
The problem, however, isn't that science, secularism, and Enlightenment ideas have become the modern religion, but rather that they haven't... What's needed is more than just the discrediting and utter humiliation of religion as we know it, but a counter-religion, if you will -- a positive, assertive, science-based secularism that amounts to, and isn't squeamish about being, an alternate way forward "spiritually."
Science, after all, arose out of mysticism and sorcery, with which it shares the thirst for higher knowledge and for mastery over nature. In fact, in many ways science has been growing more mystical again. I believe that, just as certain eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spinozists envisioned, science is destined to replace, or if you prefer, remerge with, religion. It may need to be called something else. (The First Church of Something Else? Has a nice tax-exempt ring to it.)
Actually, there's nothing wrong even with that word "religion." Put a new engine in it, clean it up, get rid of that smell, and it'll be good as new. All the word means, after all, is "re-tying" -- reconnecting with our cosmic origins, with the LST (Larger Scheme of Things) -- and nothing's wrong with that. LST will open your mind, man.
...Atheism should mean getting, and laughing at, the mother of all jokes: that we're animals -- animated mud -- agglomerations of molecules that have evolved the ability to reproduce themselves and have formed into large colonies that we regard as plants, animals, people (but which our selfish genes "regard" as cities and vehicles) -- colonies whose Weblike web of neural interconnections can even produce an impression of consciousness.
We, the "most evolved" of these colonies, anointed ourselves the center and purpose of the universe, only to discover that we're not, but that the likes of us have apparently been left in charge of a planet in a universe without purpose, center, leader, or moral authority; that we're all, as the Firesign Theatre once put it, "just bozos on this bus." Which suggests we'd better put aside tribal myths, absolutist truths, and obsessional mass neuroses and learn to get along.