Reason Is A Religion…
…with none of the defining characteristics of a religion. It is because Vox Day says so in Chapter 4, entitled “The Religion of Reason.” Aside from the humorous comparison between an atheist politician and a “toothless, illiterate, homosexual Afro-Hispanic crack whore with a peg-leg,” his opening salvo misses the point when he adds in the footnote that “it appears that telling people how evil and stupid they are may not be the best way of convincing them….” (p. 61) The reason that atheists are distrusted and, in some cases, despised is not because of intellectual elitism and snobbery—it’s because atheism has been caricatured and stigmatized as a pseudo-Satanic cult in most popular media. It is still not socially acceptable to be as open with one’s non-belief as those who believe are. Walking or driving around with merchandise that announces one’s lack of superstitious belief still draws glares or snide remarks mixed in with the head shaking and sympathetic looks. Meanwhile, almost nobody looks askance at people wearing jewelry depicting crosses and dead crucified men, and Jesus fish are practically ubiquitous. Nonetheless, atheists are unpopular—just not for that reason.
Vox relies on many non-scientific studies done by news organizations to prove his points in this chapter, which is fine as they can be a legitimate gauge of popular culture, but one must be careful to remember that these surveys are subject to many confounding factors that limit their usefulness—the most obvious being selection bias and lack of randomization. When a person chooses to call in to a place and voluntarily take a survey about an issue, they tend to have very strong feelings about the issue. People who don’t find religion to be an issue are not likely to waste their time. With that out of the way, he claims that people use the religion of a politician to have confirmation of their personal morality. Given the fact that within Christendom, people’s morality can vary widely even on issues such as abortion, capital punishment, and war, it wouldn’t seem to be a very accurate or reliable tool. With our current president displaying extreme bellicosity and having the honor of putting more people to death than any other during his gubernatorial term in Texas, his conversations with Jesus don’t appear to have had any effect. Life is precious and sacred—until it comes out of a vagina. After that, fuck turning the other cheek. Is anybody else confused? What happened to praying for those who persecute you and giving the thief your shirt after he steals your jacket? It seems that people are talking to lots of different Jesuses. Or the Jesus they are talking to suffers from dissociative identity disorder.
Day admits that these moral boundaries are theoretical, and thus nullifies his own argument. We have already figured out that religiosity is no guide to an individual’s behavior, whether they are engaged in politics or not. The Jimmy Bakkers and Ted Haggards of the world only confirm the hypocrisy that is evident in the actions of most every believer. Given these facts, perhaps we need a better moral determinant. Maybe we could try some less nebulous ways of getting this information—such as asking them? I know, it’s a radical change from assuming that they hold to a set of beliefs handed down to fictional characters millennia ago, but it just might offer more insight into the personal morality of our leaders.
Day then uses the absence of defining characteristics of atheism, aside from lack of god-belief, to bolster his argument that there is no way for a person to know what particular pursuits will be undertaken by the politician with no religion. While I agree that this is the case, it seems ironic that he (admittedly) reverses his opinion in this circumstance. Isn’t this chapter called “The Religion of Reason?” If it is in fact a religion, then there would surely be some tenets and guidelines. Moreover, he proceeds to go on and claim that, by and large, atheists “parasitically” adopt the morality of their “hosts”, AKA the religious people around us. Could it not be the case that the similarities in ethical belief systems lie in the evolutionary origins of morality? Humans have been selected for traits such as reciprocal altruism and empathy, and while the details may vary over time and cultures, the tendencies that lead one to believe that some standards must be adhered to have been hard-wired into the brains of those most successful at reproduction. The specific indulgences, such as premarital sex, prohibited by religion are just as easily discarded by the religious as the non-religious. It is not random, as he asserts, but rather based in our nature as social creatures dependant on one another and the maintenance of stable societies. Religion may have played a role in the establishment and development of these groups, but we have moved past the point where punishment from sky-daddys is necessary. That’s what the justice system is for, and if that isn’t enough of a deterrent, neither is god. As he again conflates atheism with communist fascism as proof of the willingness of atheists to kill, need I remind anybody of the violence inspired by religion throughout history? Oh wait, that only applies to atheists. When it’s religious people doing the killing, they’re merely power-hungry humans lying about their religious belief to attain the trust of the populace. It has nothing to do with religion. And leaders who claim a religious affiliation are still more trustworthy, despite all of that. Special pleading, anybody?
To be continued…seemingly ad infinitum. Seriously, there’s so much material here that just begs for a response, I’m practically swimming in notes. Well, as they say in Japan, with the closest English equivalent lacking all of the sentiment, がんばります.*
*ga-n-ba-ri-ma-su - I will persevere.