Response to Bruce Walker's "The Godless Delusion"
Bruce Walker's anti-atheist diatribe, printed in a magazine that touts itself as The American Thinker, is the ultimate in irony. This story is the clear byproduct of one who appears to be incapable of rational thought and instead chooses to regurgitate rhetoric that was likely force-fed to him in those weekly indoctrination camps known as churches.
Mr. Walker starts out his vitriolic falsehoods with the contention that all people instinctively know right from wrong and that people choose evil. If that is so, then why the heavy Christian emphasis on child-rearing? If we are all born instinctively knowing right from wrong, then any kind of instruction or discipline would be completely unnecessary. This is a shining example of Christian compartmentalization. It is clear from their behavior that even they don't believe their own nonsense.
He continues with the classic argument (if it can be called that) that "evil" is more alluring and easier than "good". Apparently, he has never studied Euthyphro's Dilemma. Before we can start assigning qualities to "good" and "evil", we need to understand what it means for something to be good or evil. How can he claim that it is easier to do evil deeds than good deeds? If that were true, and assuming that humans generally follow the path of least resistance, we would not have survived as a species, much less prospered as we have. Reciprocal altruism and social cohesion are based on treating others well-at least as well as they treat you.
The Christian definition of evil, of course, equates to sinning against god. The inclusion of the repression of human sexuality and the subsequent guilt for things as trivial as thoughts would be what Mr. Walker calls "alluring". It is alluring because our biology is geared to operate in that fashion. Our ultimate purpose in life is to procreate and ensure the continuation of our genetic lineage. Sex is just as necessary for our survival as eating, breathing, or sleeping. Imagine a world in which monolithic establishments make you feel guilty for thinking about food. The Christian proscriptions regarding sex are just as ludicrous as that hypothetical circumstance.
Walker goes on to claim that, "All people-especially militant anti-theists-are religious." Clearly, he doesn't know the definition of the word "religious", so I'll attempt to enlighten him.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
5. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice. (from dictionary.com)
The widespread misunderstanding that atheism is just another religion in which we worship science instead of god is so asinine that it barely warrants a response, but since so many people are swayed by it, hopefully I can clear up some of Mr. Walker's confusion. The first definition concerns "a set of beliefs" that "usually [involve] devotional and ritual observances". The only thing that atheism entails is the lack of belief in deities-there is no positive belief or ritual associated with not believing in something. I assume that Mr. Walker would also classify those who do not believe in Santa Claus as "religious". There is no "fundamental set of beliefs...agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" either. Atheists come in all different varieties with the sole common denominator being that we do not believe in supernatural entities. Likewise, there is nothing to which we all adhere, no rituals, no faith, and no mindless devotees.
Next, he uses everybody's favorite fallacy and asserts that "No crimes of Judeo-Christians remotely approaches the holocausts of Aztecs, Japanese, Nazis, atheist Russia or atheist Japan." It appears that a history lesson is in order here, although I'm sure that whatever proof is presented will be systematically ignored. The most glaring mistake here is the reference to pre-WWII Japan as "atheist." He himself had previously attributed the atrocities committed by the Japanese to their "national religion". Which is it, Mr. Walker? The main impetus behind their superiority complex was their Shinto background. Apparently, the imported Buddhism hadn't had enough of an impact on their desire to dominate all of Asia. Since they were created by the goddess Ameterasu did specifically create them, and their emperor was a direct and divine descendant of her, they felt that they had the right to take over China and Korea. They were willing to die for their belief as kamikaze (which means "wind of the gods" in Japanese) much as Muslim suicide bombers are today. This is just another example of the violence caused by religious beliefs and further demonstrates the danger of failing to critically examine your personal beliefs.
Despite what he believes the statistics are, for there is no way to know with any accuracy since the Christian regimes didn't tend to keep records of all the heretics, witches, and blasphemers they killed, the atrocities of various so-called "atheist" despots do not validate their belief in god in any way. People of all faiths, or the lack thereof, are vulnerable to being seduced by power, particularly absolute power. The best explanation for the Stalinist, or even Nazi, regimes is power-hungry megalomaniacs removing religion in order to ensure the allegiance of the people.
The next statement is downright laughable-crediting Christianity with abolition, prison reform, animal rights, equal rights, medicine, and "systematic intellectual inquiry." (Is an *LOL* inappropriate here?) Some Christians did support abolition-just as many supported slavery. It is explicitly permitted in the Bible, so I can see why they may feel that there is nothing wrong with owning human beings. Prison reform? Unless they consider reform to be adding more priests and chaplains to prisons, I can't fathom how the biggest proponents of the death penalty and the members of the Religious Right who want to take public funding away from the already overcrowded prisons are responsible for making them better. Equality? Walker obviously has forgotten the women's rights movement, when Christian husbands were fighting to keep women under their thumbs because of the biblical command to be the spiritual leaders and its inherent misogyny. I won't even address the medicine and intellectual inquiry points, since I must assume that they were made in jest or disingenuous. The Church was adept at forcing heretic scientists to recant-under penalty of torture and death, that is.
I don't understand how Mr. Walker could propose that not only do atheists worship science, but that it debunks itself because of universal constants, such as the speed of light. First of all, science is a method of determining how the world around us operates using empirical data, observation, and experimentation. Nothing more. Certainly nothing to "worship" in a methodology discovered by man; although, it is similar to his god that was also created by man. Secondly, nothing in science is "absolute." Unless Walker has developed prescience, how can he know what will or will not be discovered in the future? To claim that god has created an "absolute, irrevocable bar" to human knowledge is ludicrous. That's what nay-sayers have been saying for hundreds of years-man will never fly, we will never get to space, we will never have microchips...you get the point. He further claims that it is "highly improbable" that we will learn anything new about the universe. Somebody needs to buy this man a subscription to Scientific American. New discoveries are made every day, and it will continue to progress. At least if the rapture happens, most of the credible scientists will be "left behind" to continue developing new technologies for the rational people on this planet.
To sum up, this was a long response to a short article. It continually amazes me that it takes twice the time to show how these people are mistaken than it does for them to spew their irrational assertions onto the general public. It is a pity that so many people are sucked in by this kind of ignorance. I can only conclude that Bruce Walker is projecting his own delusion onto us when he labels us with the "Godless Delusion." Although any delusion would involve some kind of belief that was unsupported by facts (sound familiar?), I would take the "godless delusion" over the alternative.