I recently enjoyed watching this video of PZ Myers, atheist extraordinaire, and thoroughly affable chap.
In it he discusses how we atheistic, rationalist, freethinking types can pull down the edifice of religion.
He starts with a nice theme. He says that “in the beginning was the word” is not right. First came the blood; blood used to knit people together with a common identity. Support for your kin meant you, or at least your genes, survived. Then the king or pharaoh was the symbol of your identity, and looked after your welfare. But kings died. Next was the city as it out-lives the leaders – get behind the city and you prosper. But cities like Rome fell. So then came ideas. People rally around ideas. This is why christianity has done so well.
He quotes Evey in the film V For Vendetta: “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love…”
However, ideas can be beaten with other ideas.
Christians, even more moderate ones, “believe in some outrageous bullshit. The christian myths of a virgin giving birth to a god who dies are illogical lunacy. And the christian doctrines of original sin and redemption through blood sacrifice by proxy are crippling psychopathological abominations.”
He says he sees three principles emerging among atheists: Truth, Autonomy and Community (though he’s quick to point out that he’s not forcing any of his principles on anyone as that would be to fall into the immoral approach of the religious).
Atheists seek the truth – evidence based rather than belief. We want to know how things work by testing, by looking at evidence. That’s science. We don’t say we’ve already decided how it works because it says so in a mythical story. We don’t say that’s how it works because that’s how we want it to be – that’s just wishful thinking.
Autonomy, as we freethinkers are all different and have a wonderful mix of ideas, backgrounds and personalities. We are where we are because we reject the orthodoxy, we are weirdos and outcasts, we are not sheep. For many years we have been in the minority, “often feeling alone in seeing through the god-awful babble of the church“. We detest people that try to impose rules on us. “People should be free to be who they are with impunity“.
The thing is there are more and more people standing up and speaking out against the taboo topic of the immorality and danger of religion. We are not all geeky nihilists, though there may be some that are part of the community. There are diverse atheistic groups, whether on the internet, or at atheist and freethinker conferences. There is power in community and together we can work better to “free minds from the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth” (to borrow from Morpheus).
I recommend his blog, where he features regular descriptions from people on why they are an atheist. It seems his mission is to make us superstition-deniers feel we’re not alone, that there are many of us out there, sharing the same core view that we are able to throw off the shackles of religion and move forward to a more grown up way of thinking.