Monicks: Unleashed

Thinking Critically

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We can’t save the world.. but, who’s trying?

Every time I hear the phrase “save the world,” I can’t help but think about the superheroes, such as Superman; this implies that only someone with superpowers can save the world. These superheroes and superpowers do not exist in the real world. If you are a theist, then your superhero would be the god you worship, and its super power would be, um.. magic.

But next I think: What does the world need to be saved from? As Sam Harris points out, in a different context, we need to rid the world of bad ideas. This was brought to mind recently by this article by my knowledgeable friend Paul Fidalgo. Please go read it, and come back for more.

Then Paul’s article, as it usually happens in the blogsphere, generated reactions. My friend, and occasional contributor of this blog, Martin Pribble, posted his perspective on the subject, in this article. Please, go check it out. I’ll wait for you to come back.

Are you back yet? Great! Welcome back.

Excellent articles, right?

It is not my purpose to oppose my friends’ points of view on the subject. Now I’ll give you my perspective.

I want to point out that I don’t remember having ever signed up for any movement. I don’t belong to any atheist organization; nor do I desire to to be a part of any organized, official group of atheists; nor do I think such organization needs to exist. However, I do want to be counted among the 22%(?) of unbelievers worldwide, which is why I do not hesitate to speak up, every chance I have, (and seems propitious as opposed to useless and conflictive), about my lack of belief, and the reasons why I loath religion.

I get it: It is tiresome, boring, sometimes repetitive — but it is necessary.

For what it’s worth, it is not my style to have endless debates with theists, nor do I partake in the ‘in-fights.’ It is futile; a waste of time. If you’ve ever checked out my Twitter timeline, I only say things that are, hopefully, eye-opening.

I think we are challenging unfounded beliefs. See, there is something about being wrong that is inherent to most human beings. To realize that one is wrong is, to say the very least, uncomfortable. Therefore, the people who are not religious, smug know-it-all’s, read something we write, and reflect on it, instead of lashing out with disproportionate rage and hatred when their beliefs are challenged, and realize that something doesn’t quite add up to their holy stories, are very unlikely to say out loud: “Oh! I have just realized how wrong I was! Please, teach me more.” No, that’s highly improbable. Someone who feels that something goes *click* in their head, will try to educate themselves, probably driven by an honest desire to prove us wrong. They will find a way to learn more about the subject, and will become thirsty for knowledge; once that spark has been lit, nothing can put it out. Nothing.

That, my friends, is what I aim for.

This silent journey of learning and self-discovery, my fellow unbeliever, might have even been how you grew out of your theism.

As for lacking focus, like Marty says in his post, I foresee our ilk having a really hard time trying to get unbelievers to aim for the same goal. We can agree on many topics, but when it comes to interests and ideals, the whole ‘group focus’ can get blurry…

We need to rid the world from bad ideas, which brings us back to where we started. How can we rid the world from bad ideas? By stopping the early indoctrination of such ideas. By speaking up; by raising awareness; by fighting for the right of every child to receive a proper education.

Every child should have the right to receive a scientific education, an education based in facts and experiments, regardless of his or her parents’ religious beliefs. He or she should learn about Galileo Galilei, Pythagoras, and Newton; that the Sun is a star in the middle of our Solar System; and understand why humans and apes have shared ancestors who lived a few million years ago. For this to be feasible, we need the laws to change, and we need to enlighten the parents.

We have no superpowers.  Unlike Superman, we cannot aim for legendary accomplishments. I would not try to save the world; it would be frustrating and unrealistic. Part of being successful is choosing one’s goals wisely.

Religion may play a small role in the whole problems-of-the-world scheme, but it is an enabler of many, too many terrible things. It is in our laws, in our money, it narrows our rights, and, in extreme cases, stems terrible deeds against humanity.

We can’t sit around and wait for the state of things to get worse. We need to do something if we want to see humanity headed for a better future, even knowing we won’t see this happen in our lifetime.

Have a better plan of action? Let us now in the comments.

22 Responses to We can’t save the world.. but, who’s trying?

  1. Beast says:

    I don’t have twitter so i like it when you post some of your tweets. The pen is mightier than the sword especially when wielded by a fully loaded open mind. Despicable atheist terrorists; love it.

  2. Paul Fidalgo says:

    I think you’re right on about what Johann Hari wrote as “introducing doubt” — it’s not a wholesale shift in ideology, but planting the seed of thoughtfulness. On my blog a few years ago, I quoted Hari heavily, but here’s the meat of it:

    “These events are also a reminder of why it is so important to try to let the oxygen of rationality into religious debates – and introduce doubt. Voltaire – one of the great anti-clericalists – said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” If you can be made to believe the absurd notion that an invisible deity dictated The Eternal Unchanging Truth to a specific person at a specific time in history and anyone who questions this is Evil, then you can easily be made to demand the death of journalists and free women and homosexuals who question that Truth. But if they have a moment of doubt – if there is a single nagging question at the back of their minds – then they are more likely to hesitate. That’s why these ideas must be challenged at their core, using words and reason.

    [ . . . ]

    The solution to the problems of free speech – that sometimes people will say terrible things – is always and irreducibly more free speech. If you don’t like what a person says, argue back. Make a better case. Persuade people. The best way to discredit a bad argument is to let people hear it.”

  3. Ricardo says:

    I, also, largely agree with you, Monica.

    If all movements were totally honest, they would encourage their would-be-followers to read as much as they can, to question everything which seems irrational and even that which seems rational, to not only check one side of the story but to really try to find opossing arguments, to compare and analyze them and then reach one’s own conclusions. This is actually the reason I consider myself a critical thinker; I don’t like taking ideas for granted just because they have existed for centuries. As a matter of fact, the longer an idea has existed, the more it should have been questioned and researched.

  4. Al Kordesch says:

    I sent all of my 3 kids to Christian schools. I feel western kids need to learn about Christian (bible) culture because they must live and function in a Christian culture. Once they realize it’s just another myth like Santa and Paul Bunyan, it becomes a powerful inoculation against the religion meme. They are now immune to that stuff.

  5. Colin Mackay says:

    Rant!
    We’re not angry, we’re apathetic! We don’t rage against the machine, rail against our oppressors. It’s an academic exercise for us; we’re right, the’re wrong soon, if we just change education, people will realise!
    It doesn’t work that way! This is about power and control. What sort of power – political power, coercive power, economic power and cultural power. Control, they have it.
    Can anyone name one of the 193 UN member states which is constitutionally secular to the satisfaction of an atheist? Probably not. In every jurisdiction that I know of, not a lot admittedly, religion retains a tax exempt status through political power. While the irreligious and secular are denied the same.
    We need to self organise but even that is almost impossible. The declaration of human rights decrees the right of religious proselytisation yet denies us an equivalent freedom, so easily stated as the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’. The same declaration establishes religious, unsupported in fact, family structures as both primary and necessary.
    A simple pro choice contest Roe V Wade [1973] it’s not over yet the religious will tie up resources, both public and private, in court battles well into the foreseeable future, funded in large at public expense in every jurisdiction possible: federal, state or local across all 193 nation states. The same with id, chaplaincy services, marriage, gay rights,…10s of thousands of court battles, ongoing forever. And we, with our tax dollars, fund both prosecution and defence.
    A mere distraction as the religious consolidate power, to the point where the largest military force in the world (you know the one, you’re either with us or against us) may well fall to the hands of the theocratic right as early as next year. Whoohoo Perry/Bachmann as a double. And what can the greatest constitution ever written do to prevent it nothing, hopefully it will manage to curb the excesses through the judicial branch but then consider Scalia in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. Doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?
    This is happening here (Australia), there (USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Canada,…), everywhere. And democracy, without principle, is helpless to stop it.
    The UN doesn’t support the secular community, I know of no national constitution which supports the secular community; all the ones I know of actively allow religious discrimination; yet the religious globally pursue their theocratic agenda. Central to which seems to be, on the public teat, taking over our schools, taking over the delivery of welfare services, taking over our courts and taking over our governments.
    But we are not angry yet. The fact is we don’t have to join anything; but we do need to collaborate on developing a principled alternative.

  6. willbonds says:

    A Christian fundamentalist tenet (taken from the Bible) is that man cannot rely on his own wisdom. That is a lynchpin of Christian thinking. Undo that one, and you’ve made a lot of progress.

    I agree, some collaboration is helpful to the cause, but it may be best used to disseminate ways to undue these fundamentalist thought-anchors.

  7. “It is tiresome, boring, sometimes repetitive — but it is necessary.”

    Maybe, maybe not. When people justify their behavior as necessary, it’s sometimes a cover. Christians justified the Inquisition as necessary. If you loathe religion and want to undercut it, then own that mission. Pursue your calling. It doesn’t necessarily help your position to justify it on the basis of necessity. If your passion is to save the world, then think up the very best way to do so and go for it. If your passion is to spread open-minded doubt, then do it, and there’s no need to couch your efforts as a contribution to saving the world.

  8. Keith Draws says:

    The key to change is a comprehensive education. I attended Catholic schools but we were also taught about other religions as well as real science etc. That is made me think. That is what works.

  9. nedmyers says:

    I follow Christ. Now you are thinking, “Strike one against this guy.” I loved the way you talked about challenging unfounded beliefs and eradicating stupid ideas. I thought you conveyed it well, and I plan to keep practicing that. Now you are thinking, “Strike two, stupid Christian hypocrite.” Before I strike out, let me ask why it is so obvious to all of you that God does not exist?

    Keith says that science works. I get that; that is why it is called science. Humor me by assuming my shoes and walking with me for a mile (I will walk barefoot next to you). God created science. Of course it makes sense. Everything God does makes sense.

    Jonathan says that we should follow our passions. I agree with him. God gives us passions to do good (and all good comes from Him since good is defined by Him), and we would spiritually die if we do not follow our passions.

    Willbonds says that orthodoxy is messed up because we do not rely on our own wisdom. Yet we have already talked about how a lot of people have bad ideas. Where would you have humans take their wisdom from? There is a God, and I would rather have His wisdom than mine.

    I was too apathetic to read Colin’s argument because it was so long.

    Al says his kids are immune to Christianity. I don’t think you could possibly be immune to it if you ever let yourself see it in its true form. Just because a person knows the facts about something or someone, it doesn’t mean that they know that something or someone.

    I like Ricardo’s words. In fact, I agree with him to a large extent on the church. I follow Christ. I will be part of a church, but I will never follow a church. The people that run and are in the church are human, like everybody else, and they will have their problems.

    If you have read to this point, I thank you for taking the time to do so. I imagine several arguments are welling up, and I would very much like to hear them. By arguing, perhaps we will obliterate a few dumb notions we cling to, and I don’t just mean yours. I am sure I have plenty of them. If you can prove to me that God does not exist, I will believe you. However, note that a couple of years ago I asked God to prove to me that He does exist, and I think you can tell what my beliefs are now.

  10. Keith Draws says:

    I said that education works. An educated mind becomes very skeptical when faced with the unprovable.
    Once a person realises that religion is nothing but myth its pretty difficult to go back. You cannot unlearn.
    It always irritates me how you people give credit to god for everything. God did not give us science, we created it all by ourselves.

  11. nedmyers says:

    If (and I understand it’s a big if, but roll with me for a second) you were convinced that an all-powerful creator did exist, you would have to give him credit for everything.

    You say we created science all by ourselves, but I think that science has been a experience of discovering how our world works. Gravity existed long before Newton figured it out. The chemical elements have always made up our Earth; we are just now coming to understand them. Even with our own creations, I make the argument that we are merely discovering that, if you put a and b together, you get c. You always would have gotten c; it just took us a while to try putting a and b together.

    I also consider myself educated and skeptical. The thing I am most skeptical about is how much we, as humans, truly know. As an example, we take for granted that the sun is a burning ball of gas. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but how do we truly know? We believe what other people have told us. You are probably aware that people can be wrong. People can lie, and people can make mistakes. They tell me in history class that the declaration of independence was signed in 1776, and I believe them, but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. I am choosing to believe them. What we are able to truly know for ourselves is extremely limited. You get to a point where you can question existence itself (Descartes did). That being said, how can you say that you have realized that religion is a myth? Even if it is, can you assert that myths are false? I believe in God because He has proven to me His existence to the point where I believe Him. I also believe in Him because even if He isn’t real, I find my belief in Him to be far more satisfying than any disbelief in Him that I could muster (which, at this point, I don’t think my soul could muster much).

  12. Keith Draws says:

    “You say we created science all by ourselves, but I think that science has been a experience of discovering how our world works. Gravity existed long before Newton figured it out. ” blah blah
    sci·ence   [sahy-uhns] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
    2.
    systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
    3.
    any of the branches of natural or physical science.
    4.
    systematized knowledge in general.
    5.
    knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.

    Discovery followed by confirmation is science. Gravity is something studied by science.
    You said:
    ” As an example, we take for granted that the sun is a burning ball of gas. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but how do we truly know? ”
    We know because it has been confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt by the study of a great many scientists over a great many years. All the studies have been subjected to the rigorous testing of the scientific method.
    Then you say:
    “They tell me in history class that the declaration of independence was signed in 1776, and I believe them, but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. I am choosing to believe them. ”
    That’s history and is not subjected to the rigors of the scientific method. While I agree that historical accounts may not be entirely accurate we know them to be basically true because of confirming accounts by multiple historians as well as the discovery of archaeological evidence that backs up the accounts in varying degrees.
    The bible has no such evidence to help prove its truth. It in fact has no more evidence to back it to than Greek myth or the myth of the knights of the round table.
    While I cannot assert these myths to be 100% false I can judge them to be very unlikely to be true.
    you also said:
    “I believe in God because He has proven to me His existence to the point where I believe Him”
    What evidence?

    I suggest you study the scientific method because you do not seem to understand the concept of proof and evidence as it is defined by science.

  13. nedmyers says:

    First of all, I believe in God by my own application of the scientific method. We all test our way through life, and here is a very brief summary of how I tested my way to God. I originally thought God was highly unlikely to exist. I was miserable. I got desperate enough to start thinking things outside of the box. I thought, “What if God does exist?” Then I thought, “Oh crap, that would change everything.” I prayed. I told Him that if He was real He had me for the rest of my life. So I tested out following God. Things went insane for me. Everything I did was blessed. I suppose you would call it luck, but I am the type of guy that if somebody has to be put into a position to get hurt, people nominate me and I go willingly because I am “lucky.” I understand you cannot prove that God exists or doesn’t exist, but I believe He exists because it makes my life awesome. The mentality that I have adapted since deciding to follow God is one that I enjoy so much that, even if God does not exist, it would be worth it to be wrong about. I keep benefiting from it every day. With something like that, it becomes more of a logic of the soul. I believe in what prospers me. You could throw up a million great arguments, yet still, my soul would never let me believe them. If they are good enough, I can adapt them into my schema, but that is about it. That being said, it is probably the same way for you with christians talking to you. I’m down with that. I just love arguing about this stuff. It’s a lot of fun.

    One thing I will say is that much of the Bible is in sync with what they teach in history. It has the same rulers and events. Christian scholars would argue that a lot of the faith stuff has evidence to support it too, but non-christians who have read the Bible in all of its different languages backwards and forewards argue otherwise. I figure that type of evidence is based on what you want to see. Actually, most evidence is. Anyway, have a happy holiday season.

  14. Ned,

    With all due respect, the only thing you proved with your previous post is a complete ignorance of the scientific method. The process you followed would be better called introspection and as such has no scientific value.

    However, if you truly believe having an imaginary friend makes your life better, good for you. If you think it makes you a better person, great, just stop trying to convince others about what some of us clearly see as a delusion.

    If I were to create a religion which worshipped an invisible flame-throwing dragon, you would call me crazy, not only for following it but just for postulating it. My question is, what makes your religion better than one that has an invisible flame-throwing dragon? It’s a rhetoric question, just in case you didn’t notice.

  15. nedmyers says:

    You know, I have always thought the name Ricardo has some type of flair to it. So, before we get into this, nice name. Ok, I am not on this site to convince others of anything; I am here because I want to learn. So, let’s see what you can teach me. Please note that I do not say any of this sarcastically, and I really want to know the answers to the questions I am about to ask. I am fully aware that I am ignorant in many aspects of life, but as is the way with science, we must ask questions (correct me if I am wrong there). You say introspection has no scientific value. Why? In your opinion, does it have any value and where is it valuable? You say I am ignorant of the scientific method, and I admit my view of it has always been that it is basically guess and test, but isn’t it? These are not rhetorical (you missed the -al in your rhetoric earlier, but that is me just being a stickler) questions. I actually want to hear your answers.

    Finally, please don’t say “with all due respect” at the beginning of an argument if you plan on talking down to the person throughout the duration of the argument. It shows that you have no respect for whoever you are talking to. Out of respect for you, I will not answer the question about the flame-throwing dragon (actually, I think that is out of respect for both of us that I don’t answer it), even though it would be a lot of fun to answer because it has an invisible flame-throwing dragon in it and is a question that is very easy to answer for me.

  16. Keith Draws says:

    you say: “One thing I will say is that much of the Bible is in sync with what they teach in history. It has the same rulers and events. ”
    NO..its actually totally inaccurate.But even if it were not, take a novel like War and Peace. It also has real events recorded in it but it is still a work of fiction. I think you need to read your Bible and study it against real history. I also think you don’t really want to.
    Believing in God may make you feel better but it doesn’t change history or reality. I don’t understand how it could even make you feel better? I look at world and see all the injustice and suffering and if there is a God it leads me to think that he must be an uncaring psychopath, since he would have the power to prevent such stupidity without compromising free will. But of course its all these events combined with a total lack of evidence that makes me realize there is no God, and this makes my life better since I know there is no super powerful psychopathic sadist making life miserable for millions deliberately. It would be the same for you if you would only open your mind to reality. Look at actual evidence, look at things that can actually be proven. Its not that hard really.

  17. nedmyers says:

    I understand that as atheist, you think the Bible is largely inaccurate, but “totally.” The old testament has several rulers in it (nebuchadnezzer, darius, xerxes, to name a few) that are in every historical account I have read. I would guess that you would say the Romans controlled Judea around the supposed time Jesus walked the Earth. I wonder if you would say that Jesus, the twelve apostles, and Paul didn’t exist. That is what I meant when I said that the Bible is in sync with history. I didn’t expect you to take it as anything more than that. And please don’t imply that I don’t read the Bible. I read it like I eat food.

    (as a side note, would you recommend War and Peace. I have read Anna Karenina and several of his short stories and still am on the fence about if I want to undergo that endeavor.)

    Finally, you gave me a reason that would make sense to me for not believing in God: injustice and suffering. For a while, I did turn away from God because I thought He was a jerk. I never have come up with an answer for it, but I found that I was just angry with Him. Deep down, I never doubted that He existed. I accepted that terrible things happen and that, as God, He would have an answer for them, even if I am not smart enough to know it. Once I accepted that, pain lost its sting on me. If I die, I am with God. If my fellow warriors die, they died in a fight where they knew the risks, and I will see them in a few years with God. Most pain I feel is because I prioritized something over God. For me, I wake up every morning ready for war, and that is wonderful because I was born to be a soldier.

    So my question that I legitimately want to know the answer to is this: What gets you out of bed in the morning? Any of us could die any time; there is no point in building up riches or a legacy. It will mean nothing later. Love without God only leads to pain. It may take a while, but it always comes. Where is your hope? What is the point of your existence? I do not say these things in a demeaning way; these are the questions that I ask myself and that God fills in for me. So I am wondering, if God is not there, what is?

    It would be the same for you if you only open your mind to God. Look at the actual evidence in your heart, look at things that matter to you. Its not that hard really.

  18. Scott says:

    . The sad thing is, that's one of the most poitsive discussions I've ever had with a deist or theist on the topic of religion.

  19. Keith Draws says:

    Hi nedmyers
    Sorry this took me so long to answer. I had important stuff to do. Anyway to answer your questions:

    “What gets you out of bed in the morning? Any of us could die any time; there is no point in building up riches or a legacy. It will mean nothing later. ”

    I enjoy my life. I was going to say more but I have no need since enjoying life is reason enough. When I was a Christian I was constantly depressed, feeling I had let “God Down” because its not humanly possible to emulate the life of Christ. That made me want to stay in bed. I’m sure it does you too. You are fooling nobody.

    “Love without God only leads to pain.”
    Where is your evidence for this? That’s an opinion not a fact and in my opinion its a bullshit opinion.

    “Where is your hope? ”
    Hope for what exactly? Why do I need hope when I am happy?. If I want to see something happen I do everything in my power to make it happen. What do you do? Pray and hope your imaginary friend listens and decides to do it for you? That’s called false hope.

    ” What is the point of your existence?”
    This is a human concept. What is the point of the existence of the universe? There is no point. Unless you count reproduction. Perhaps that’s the point.. to pass on my genes. I don’t really care. For me I made my own point. That is to be happy and not to be another’s servant.
    As a Christian I felt the point of my existence was to please God. That just made me depressed since I never knew if I were succeeding. And I would never know since how can something that does not exist ever communicate anything ?
    Of course the other point here is why should I be trying to please anybody? If there actually were a God and he wanted people to please and worship him then that’s a pretty insecure selfish bastard right there, and there is no way I would do such a thing. I would prefer eternal damnation. I am nobodies slave and any creature that desires slaves is either mentally unstable or evil since nothing else can explain such selfishness.

    ” If God is not there, what is?”
    The universe (and possibly, but not yet proven conclusively the mutliverse) is there. It is a vast complex thing that we currently have very little understanding of but are learning more every day about. Its an amazing and beautiful place and we are all a part of it. The very atoms in our bodies have been forged in the hearts of stars billions of years ago and when we die our bodies break down until our atoms finally rejoin the rest of the universe mixing and blending into other things.The particles that make up our atoms will exist for all time and its quite possible they will travel the entire universe. That is plenty for me.
    As for my consciousness? when I die it will cease to exist. I wont even know . I have no awareness of anything when I loose consciousness, death will be the same but permanent. How can that be anything to fear? I wont even know it has happened.

    Now I do not know if the universe itself has a consciousness or not? And even if it does, will it have any awareness of us or anything else. Perhaps its like you and I. we are filled with independent life:- Our cells, bacterial life, viruses and so on but we have no awareness of the individual organisms.
    Or perhaps its just the universe with no independent consciousness.

    Currently I have no way to know and I really don’t need to know to be happy. I enjoy learning and exploring. I don’t need anything to tell me what to do. I am mature enough to do this for myself.

    One thing I do know though. God as described in the bible is a ludicrous idea… and, judging by his behavior in the bible, could only be described as psychotic. How can serving an imaginary psychopath possibly make you happy?

    You are not a child, yet the idea of needing someone to tell you how to live shows a great level of immaturity. Perhaps it’s finally time to grow up.

  20. Lata says:

    Awesome,I love Mr.Jackson! He was the best to ever do it! We will never ever have senoome like him! RIP to the KING!

  21. Pingback: “Militant Atheism” — I don’t think that means what you think it means. – Monicks: Unleashed

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