Today we will discuss the existence of God and the relative merits of various religions. Ha-ha, no, we’re not that crazy, but the other day we did encounter a guy who was what you might call a militant atheist. He made some interesting points, too, about how dumb it is to believe in something you can’t see and how religious people have caused a lot of grief over the years. The funny thing was that we found ourselves treating him like the religious people who proselytize door to door, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon missionaries. Let me hasten to add that I have always found the former Witnesses to be really nice folks, and the latter Latter Day Saints are always charming and polite young people. We actually rather admire their zeal. But you sort of nod, listen, take the literature and send them on their way with good wishes. Except with the atheists you don’t wish them Godspeed.
I guess part of the problem the atheists have is that they’re not arguing that what they believe is right so much as what you believe is wrong. Some people find this annoying, but we didn’t because as a married person of the male persuasion we are used to being told we are wrong. Anyway, here are some of the points our atheist friend made:
Religion is just superstition and science can be relied upon to explain everything. Every time science is this close to explaining everything, a whole new area of science opens up that they didn’t know squat about before. Remember when we learned about protons and electrons and neutrons. They explained everything. But then they discovered photons and neutrinos, megatrons and beefarinos. And one day this Scottish guy, Peter Higgs, noticed that despite all the pizzas being consumed galaxy-wide there wasn’t enough mass to keep the universe from flying apart. Scientists in white lab coats started scratching their heads and switching to new pocket liners and saying to each other, “Whoa, Nelly, we better start looking for the Higgs boson.” Which they did, by building a multi-billion dollar race track called the large hadron collider and smashing stuff together at nearly the speed of light. Result? We now know that ninety-five, that’s 9-5 percent of the universe is made of dark matter or dark energy. It appears to be invisible so far and no one knows what it’s made of unless you want to call it the Higgs boson. Which they named it the “God particle.” Hey, at least they’re not superstitious!
All the wars and suffering in the world are caused by religion. There’s a book entitled The Black Book of Communism. by two guys who studied the newly opened Soviet archives – the Venona papers and that sort of thing – that documents the upwards of one hundred million human beings murdered by atheist regimes in the Twentieth century while they were attempting to create a socialist workers’ paradise. The Spanish Inquisition is a pillow fight by comparison.
What about the jihadis? That’s an example of violence in the name of religion. That’s not a religion; that’s a mental illness. You don’t see the Presbyterians forming militias and beheading infidels in the churchyard. The Catholics can get feisty, but only when Notre Dame loses two in a row.
The number of people unaffiliated with religion is rising. You couldn’t tell from the Sunday brunch waiting lines at EnP. Hey unaffiliated people, Wednesday’s a good day for brunch too. Anyway, we religious people will be there to take back you unaffiliated when you’re ready. Apart from its deep and impenetrable theological aspects religions are a way to mark the significant events in life, like births, weddings, deaths, (which we once heard a clergyman describe as “hatched, matched and dispatched”) with special ceremonies. Other than that, you meet once a week or so, read the Book, sing some hymns and participate in a liturgy. The readings generally encourage you to be kind to one another and to help the less fortunate. Then you pile into the station wagon and take grandma out for the breakfast buffet. We may be unsophisticated and superstitious but surveys show religious people are happier and better adjusted than their non-believing brethren. And we hope to stay that way, God willing.
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