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Sample text for: Fear Faith Fact Fantasy
STAY IN THE CLOSET
For those who agree with the logic, reasoning, and opinions expressed in this book, yet must depend on the public for income, votes, or good will, consider this advice. Stay in the closet.
When the author asked some of his close friends to evaluate his first book, GOD-COM – A Deity for the New Millennium. Several thought it was worthwhile and encouraged publication. Several others advised him to bury the manuscript, better still, burn it. All advised him to change his phone number to protect his family and himself from the hostility and intolerance of fanatical believers. They realized that, “Hell hath no fury like a man whose god has been criticized.” When logic meets dogma, you can never predict the consequences.
If you had ties with a church in childhood but no longer have, it is better that you continue to name that church as your religious preference. It will save many explanations. If you profess “none,” you may be labeled an atheist with all the pejorative notions and feelings that go with that label. Many religious folks have been taught that you cannot be moral without religion and a fear of god. They will look down their nose at you if you do not profess to believe in god or profess to have a religion. Some will try to convert you to their wonderful, loving religion. Others will try to make your life a hell, as they can’t wait for their god to make your eternity a hell.
This author finally worked up the courage to put his thoughts on paper. It should be noted that he did not do it until his children were grown and out of the nest, his fiancial future secure, and the need of public approval was not a prime consideration. The author was in a position to withstand the heat. However, he cannot recommend that those who are younger and more dependent on public opinion come out of the closet. If it were not for the author’s strong opinions on the harm resulting from religion, neither this book nor GOD-COM would have seen the light of day. Of course, this author has also been known to suffer from mural dyslexia – the inability to read the handwriting on the wall.
Even today, in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, it is against the law for an atheist to hold public office. As more people emerge from the closet, the majority will come to realize that those who do not believe in the supernatural can be worthwhile moral citizens just as can gays, lesbians, blacks, Jews, women, and other minority groups. As time goes on, perhaps more nonbelievers will feel safe to emerge into the daylight. The prejudice against nonbelievers is as pernicious as the prejudice against any other minority.
One has only to observe the fates of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine to see the difference between keeping your mouth shut and expressing your opinion. They both had similar beliefs. Ben was advised to tone down his criticism of religion and did so, and died with honor. Tom continued to publicly question religion and died in ignominy. Not much has changed in over two hundred years in this respect. Even those in the closet should get in a barb now and then or ask a sensible question when the religious expert expresses the harmful dogmas of his religion. As science and knowledge expands and as more people become educated, more will be able to gain insights into religion, god, nature, and life. It is a sign of gross intolerance when a nonbeliever cannot express his opinion in a society of believers.
There are many dropouts from the dogmas of religion. Those who study comparative religion recognize the many differences and inconsistencies. Others, who find they cannot believe the dogmas of their religion, drop out or shop around for a group they can feel comfortable with. As time goes on, more and more may be able to fearlessly explore alternate dogmas or even profess nonbelief in a god without worrying about their personal safety and reprisal. Not yet for most people.
Freedom of speech is one of the greatest gifts of our American democracy. In a society where the majority believes in a god, the freedom that questions or criticizes god may come at considerable personal cost. One must weigh the risks and as Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” If Bishop John Shelby Spong, a believer and author of Why Christianity Must Change or Die thinks he has problems as a “believer in exile”, he should appreciate what nonbelievers in exile must suffer. One must always take into account people’s beliefs, whether they are true or not. Successful politicians, public speakers, even writers, are well aware of this. There has never been an avowed atheist elected to public office.
Thirty million Americans have no specific religious affIliation but far fewer will admit to having no religion. Still fewer will criticize even the most ridiculous description of god’s actions, wishes, desires, and commands. It is politically incorrect to criticize anyone’s god, no matter how silly or harmful it is. Most do not want to suffer the fate of David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, who was criticized unmercifully when he wrote of his disbelief in miracles and immortality. When Hume applied for the chair of moral philosophy at Edinburgh in 1744, his objectors alleged heresy and atheism, which then and even today was enough to keep him from getting the job. Unsuccessful in his quest for the job, he left Edinburgh.
One can understand how a frightened, uneducated person might create a god or a goddess. One can imagine oneself in Africa five thousand years ago struggling to survive with predators, enemies, floods, sickness, and droughts. There is little knowledge and few support systems. One then creates a god to give psychological sustenance and hope for the future.
One can understand how a vengeful person could create a hell for his enemies and for those who disagree with him, but most cannot understand how any humane person can continue to believe in a god who murders, kills, aborts fetuses, and wreaks havoc on mankind with disease, pestilence, and natural disasters. Many do not believe in such a god but they are reluctant to speak out because of childhood fear and an unwillingness to take on the dogmatic intolerance of the believers. They follow a wise admonition – Don’t get in a pissing contest with a skunk.
All of us live within a social group. We must abide by the rules, mores, and laws of that group. (The Dixie Chicks can attest to this.) The members of a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim society are expected to conform. If one does not, one is criticized and ostracized. When religion is in complete control, you may even be killed for expressing your opinion. For those who are dependent upon the goodwill of the public, it may be better and safer to stay in the closet.
Nonbelievers remain quiet for several reasons. Most do not want to start an argument about religion, sex, or politics. Some feel that religion may perform a worthwhile service even if it is untrue. Some people think that humanity needs the fear of god to control mankind’s evil intentions. Some others are concerned with tearing down a belief system without an adequate replacement. Others, as a point of etiquette, do not want to start an emotional discussion about religion. There are times when one allows people to believe what they want to believe. For example, what does a surgeon say just before an operation when a patient asks him, “Are you a Christian?” Or what does one do when their hairdresser or butcher starts a diatribe on god and what god wants? Little white lies are frequently required to oil the machinery of interpersonal relationships.
Why should people get angry with someone who doesn’t believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful god? Nonbelievers don’t get angry with those who believe in such a god, though they may be disappointed and frustrated from time to time.
Many great philosophers have stayed in the closet. Rene’ Descartes published his works anonymously as he wanted to avoid conflict with the church. Most people will not share their true beliefs publicly. In fact, many politicians in American public life walk around ostentatiously with a Bible in their hands. Family members often will not express their true beliefs to the believers in their own family. Even Mark Twain, the great cynic, would not discuss religion with his believing wife. The saying, “You can’t handle the truth” Is reason enough not to express truth.
Thomas Jefferson compiled what he believed to be the sayings of Jesus and it became known as The Jefferson Bible. He cut out many supernatural elements from the apostles’ accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. But he kept that Bible to himself for years. He said, “Religion is a matter which solely lies between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship.” The Jefferson Bible was not published until 1904, over a century after his death.
Skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism arouse displeasure in many and may interfere with one’s position in a society of believers; a good reason for remaining quiet except when harmful, hateful views are expounded. Many have stopped thinking, asking, or caring about god, as they do not believe that god is relevant to human behavior, but only a few carry the banner of atheism. Believing or not believing in god should be a private and personal matter.
Most believers are unable to describe their god and explain its actions or inactions without making excuses. If one were to point out the many excuses made for god, some people would strike back in hostility. A fear of god since childhood will not allow many to Consider alternatives to their dogma. If religion did not do so much harm, we could ignore It. Many do anyway.
This author contends that humanism is an adequate replacement for religion. Humanism cannot compete with a god who will give you an eternity of happiness or an eternity of hell, but humanism can make your he and that of your fellow man more pleasant.
Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of public life.Lord Melbourne