Why stop at ten?
by Mike Floorwalker, March 23, 2013
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It is not our purpose to belittle the beliefs of others, nor to declare any one point of view on such a dense and divisive topic as religion to be the correct one. We assume that our readers are intelligent, well-informed, and capable of thinking for themselves, and that is the end of this disclaimer.
It’s been reported recently that atheism is on the rise worldwide, while religiosity is declining. The relationship between the religious and non-religious has always been a tricky one; while many from each group eventually find themselves forced to admit that there is much to learn from the other, atheists still generally have a tough time accepting the role that religion plays in society—and are of the opinion that humanity would be better off leaving it behind, for a number of reasons. Here are ten of them.
Reason: The Messiah Story Has Been Around For Thousands Of Years
It should be noted that the idea of a divine savior of the human race is practically as old as the human race itself, and has resurfaced continually, echoing throughout our culture for thousands of years. That it continues to be a theme of popular works today is no surprise, but there exists a bitter debate over whether many or most of the major elements of the story of Jesus Christ were co-opted from other sources—some that originated hundreds or even thousands of years before Jesus.
The general assertion by the skeptical is that all of these elements—the virgin birth, significance of the solstices, the miracles, disciples, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection—along with many even more specific elements like Heaven and Hell, the soul, holy communion and others, were all seen before in multiple ancient pagan religions. Many Christians contend that these similarities are a distortion, or the result of ancient records being taken out of context or simply being inaccurate; atheists similarly will point out that practically all ancient records are of questionable accuracy to some degree, including those non-Christian references to the historicity of Jesus.
Modern scholars can only agree on two things about Jesus: that he was baptized, and that he was crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate. All of the other details are disputed by some group of scholars or another, and an examination of the ancient pagan religions predating Jesus—those surrounding Horus, Mithra, Dionysus, Krishna and many others—yields an astounding number of similarities that cannot be explained away as coincidence. These stories seem to be a part of ancient Mediterranean culture, which leads us to the fact that . . .
Reason: “Mythology” Used To Be Religion
When we think of the Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies that we studied in school, most of us probably consider them to have the same level of actual historical significance, or value to our modern culture, as The Lord Of The Rings. That is not to say that they have little or no value—these mythologies were an important part of the development of human intellect and understanding of the world, of which we had very little at the time of their inception.
From an atheist point of view, it can be argued that we still had very little understanding of the the way our world works two thousand years ago, and that the application of different aspects of pagan myth to the Christian gospels makes sense—many ancient mythologies borrowed from each other, as we know from our study of the very similar Roman and Greek mythologies and all of their various analogues (Zeus and Jupiter, Venus and Aphrodite, etc.) of the same deity archetypes. These ancient mythologies weren’t myths to the people who created them—they were religion, their way of explaining the world and its mechanics. Mount Olympus was simply the highest mountain in Greece, and to the ancient Greeks it was their version of Heaven, and Zeus their version of God.
This holds true for all ancient and pagan belief systems, which also illustrates the point that Christianity did not bring religion, the concept of salvation, or even monotheism to the world—these things had been in place for centuries. Christianity, Islam and other such belief systems (and there are many similarities there as well) can be seen simply as the myths that have somehow survived to this day.
Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Line Up With Modern Values
The Bible is, obviously, an extremely old text with dozens of interpretations throughout the centuries. The term Christian itself is a rather a blanket term for a dizzying array of belief systems, very few of whom are in complete agreement as to how the Bible should be interpreted—or even in what context specific passages should be taken.
Atheists do have trouble reconciling that the Word Of God, infallible as it should be, would be so open to such wildly varying interpretations—but what they have more trouble with are the passages in the Bible that clearly have absolutely no bearing on any sane, modern system of beliefs and morals. Most are aware of the passages that provide for the keeping of slaves, the wanton murder of homosexuals and adulterers, the selling of children and other such things which have no place in civilized society, let alone in texts that are considered to be holy.
Yes, these things were common 2,000 years ago, but that’s the point—that these do not appear to be the suggestions and guidance of an all-knowing and loving God, but rather of men—not prophets, just men, who were very much of their time. An omnipotent God would have demonstrated an understanding of basic human rights long before we humans got around to realizing, for instance, that slavery is wrong. This limited understanding of historical context works backwards as well as you will see in this next item:
Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Work As A Historical Text
The above-referenced debate as to whether Jesus was actually a historical person (he almost certainly was) notwithstanding, there are myriad problems to be found when attempting to reconcile the Bible’s account of ancient history with the known historical record. Again, these are inaccuracies which would not be expected from an omnipotent being, but would absolutely be expected from a 2,000 year old author with a limited historical and scientific frame of reference.
Take, for example, the story of Noah and the Great Flood, a significant event that, even if it were not worldwide but localized to one region, would have made the historical records of many ancient civilizations. Many Christian scholars believe that it was localized, not a global flood, which explains its absence from the ancient record. The Bible itself says:
“6 The LORD regretted that he had made mankind on the earth, and he felt highly offended. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-everything from mankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.” … 11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence.”
This clearly did not happen—but it was also far from the first “Great Flood” story of the ancient world, another mythological element that has echoed across cultures for millennia. And while it’s easy to argue for the validity of parables and metaphors as a means to understanding human nature and morality, the opposite case can also be made; that it has become unnecessary for us as a species. We have developed into civilized people that understand the concept of morality simply being good for our continued survival.
I would clarify this atheist's postion at least. I do not mistrust the spiritual life, since I can only use that mistrust for something that is real. I am not angry, and most atheists I know are very happy. I have not been tormented by religion, but history shows too many examples of those who have been.
I am not sure about the last line, but nothing that you write describes me in any manner. =(
The incredibly negative impact of religion on the advancement of knowledge, it's retrograde influence on the vital issues of equality and overpopulation, the cruel fraud of their afterlife promises, all make ME very angry at the religious.
They are detrimental to the world.
I will agree with whole heartedly. Yet I am not angry at people as much as the institution, though there are those individuals who promote the institution that can kiss my ass. My answer was more the the "being and atheist does not make me angry" thought. Some would say just by being who you are must make you angry, I disagree.
It's almost Easter, so let's raise a toast to Jesus!
Origins of Easter:
Although Easter is probably the oldest Christian celebration aside from the Sabbath, it wasn’t always the same as what people currently think of when they look at Easter services. The earliest known observance, Pasch, occurred between the second and fourth centuries. These celebrations commemorated both Jesus’ death and his resurrection at once, whereas these two events have been split up between Good Friday and Easter Sunday today.
Hahaha! A real toast it is
Yeah, jesus appears everywhere these days; as an image on a drop cloth, toast, gummy bears and dog's asses. Miracles happen daily, though my Nikon takes better pics, it's the best the omnipotent ones can come up with.
Religion is like a toy sometimes, and if you dont have toys, you will end up scratching yourself like that Kangaroo!
A neuroscientist once explained religion as a toy..
Example, If a parrot didn't find a toy to play with, then it will end up plucking its feathers.