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Religion

Theists Are Not Just Their Theology

By | Religion | One Comment

Recently, a Christian man from Brazil reached out to me to apologize for the actions of some of his “brothers” that I’d been interacting with on Twitter. It’s a stark reminder that there are probably millions of theists out there that you could almost categorize at “humanist” – no matter their religious beliefs, they do love and respect their fellow man, and value the diversity in people’s backgrounds and beliefs.

It’s easy to get caught up in the conflict and the perceived ignorance, and forget that those theists you’re arguing with online are more than just theists: they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, students and social workers, sports fans and .. well, you get the idea.

What I explained to my new Brazilian friend is that, on a human level, atheists generally don’t have a problem with believers – I’m friends with many christians, and I even dated one for a couple of years! What angers us is not the people in the church, but their behaviour when representing the church.

Prosthelytizing, door knocking, and preaching on street corners – such behaviour assumes that the theist is coming from a more moral position, or has access to some truth that atheists aren’t aware of. The fact of the matter is that atheists probably know more the theist’s beliefs than they do, because we’ve actually looked into it – we haven’t just accepted what’s been preached from the pulpit.

I know Christians think they are out their saving people’s immortal souls, but they really don’t understand that it comes off as arrogance on their part – they think that they have something to offer that we don’t know about. If a Muslim knocked on a Christian’s door early on a Saturday morning, asking if they know the truth about Islam, would the Christian react any different to an atheist confronted with a Christian?

But that’s not the real issue – in modern society, we’re all confronted with unsavoury elements on a regular basis.

The real issue is religion’s influence on society in general. For example, the rejection of evolution in favour of creation – it is incomprehensible that this idea that the world was created in six days has taken hold with so many people. Here’s the thing – you don’t have to understand evolution, you just have to understand how science works!

In science, something is observed, then once it’s observed enough times, a hypothesis is formed. Once a hypothesis is accepted – after many different people try to disprove it – it becomes a theory. So the fact is, any scientific theory is based on many observations and only survives after many people try to disprove it. Creation just does not stack up compared to evolution, no matter what your preacher tells you.

But it’s the rights of women, the rights gay, lesbian and transgender people, the rights of atheists and even minority religions, that are all held back by religion. This is why atheists are finally standing up and saying “This isn’t right!”

Atheists haven’t just turned up – there have always been atheists – but in the past, it wasn’t safe for them to speak out. It still isn’t safe in some corners of the world, but we have reached a turning point. We are now speaking out, and I really don’t think religion will survive against it.

The point I left my new friend with is one made my Penn Jillette:

“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly the same way again. There might be some other nonsense in it’s place, but not the exact same nonsense. If all science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

And that’s how you know what the truth is…

The Tax Exempt Issue and What We Can Do About It

By | Religion | 11 Comments

Religion’s income is – and always has been – exempt from tax. Sure, some of this money is directed towards schools, hospitals and welfare agencies, it’s true, but not all of it. Not by a long shot.

Churches own vast property empires, manage hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, and operate a wide range of profitable businesses throughout the world.

The most insidious use for this money, perhaps, is prosthelytizing – spending money on actively recruiting people for the church, through youth programs and missions, targeting the weak, vulnerable, young and uneducated.

There’s very little chance that any government around the world is going to take a stand and cancel a churches tax exempt status, and it’s perhaps for this reason, that religion is finding a political voice. More so now than any time in recent memory, churches have an opinion on how everyone should live their lives, whether you agree with their world view or not.

Humanity is treading a dangerous path. After years of essentially leaving it to it’s own devices, religion appears to have accumulated enough money and power to become a political force. And boy, do they have an agenda!

If you are a Christian, you probably don’t see the harm in having a Christian running your country – let church and state bleed together a little, right? Well, what happens when the next leader is from another faith? Christians, what if you were living in a country suddenly run by a Muslim? You’d want some separation of church and state then, wouldn’t you!?

That’s kind of how everyone who isn’t a Christian feels about living with a Christian leader… but I digress.

With revoking religion’s tax exempt status essentially off the table, how can we – as a secular society – make a dent in their bottom line?

The answer is actually pretty simple – don’t spend your money at a business that’s owned by a religious organisation, or donates money to a religious organisation.

By now, you probably all know about the Chick-fil-A incident. No one should begrudge Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy his right to describe his personal views on gay marriage. But he crossed a line when he said his company backs the traditional family unit.

What’s the big deal? When you spend money at Chick-fil-A, you are essentially supporting a company that promotes bigotry, a view that comes from the Christian belief that somehow homosexuality is wrong. The only way they are going to get the message that that’s unacceptable is for people to stop spending money there. And people are already doing that, in an unorganised kind of way.

What I want to do is organise this vague notion that we don’t want to support bigotry, that we don’t our children brainwashed, that we don’t want to see foreign cultures homogenised. If the governments won’t stand up to the churches, we need to! And the nothing makes an impact like money, or the loss of it.

So here’s where we start.

Everyone should educate ourselves about which companies are owned by a church or donate money to a church. We may not see a church’s tax exempt status revoked in our lifetime, but we can stop indirectly funding them by spending money with their supporters and subsidiaries.

I am building a list, and I need your help.

Comment below – let me know what companies in your country are owned, or support, a religious organisation. Send me as much information as you can about these companies, and together, we can start to make a dent in the church’s all-too-plush pockets.