Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This is the reason I stopped going to the pictures

For Aimee's cousin John

I have been reading some things about atheism lately.

And I'm convinced.

No, just kidding, I've been an atheist all my life. I'm real comfortable with, as they say, witnessing to it. But there's this recent discussion about evangelizing for atheism.

I'm reflexively against that. Independent thinking is what got me here - why would I try to influence someone else's train of thought? However. The articles that I have been reading, by Richard Dawkins and others, make some interesting points:

  1. Religion is bad. It can lead people to murder. The worst a lack of belief can do is get you murdered for your impertinence.
  2. God is not true.
  3. A population that believes something that is not true - in the face of contradictory evidence - is a psychotic one.

And most persuasively: teaching little children "that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real experience" (Dr. Dawkins, at a recent conference called "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival") seems, when you put it that way, to undermine our other attempts at educating them. To subvert any potential for a rational society. Certainly it serves to establish precedent for the kind of mulish credulity that has allowed great swathes of our nation to put their trust in people who have demonstrably lied to them about matters in the public interest.

I've seen this with Big Man's friends. At the risk of alienating some of the other moms, I will say that it is tremendously disturbing when a five-year-old contradicts a factual statement by an adult with some Christian claptrap.

Furthermore, it's not like the claptrap is limited to moral or peripheral issues. I might roll my eyes but I would have no essential objection to a kindergartner telling me that if she punches her brother Jesus will be disappointed. We'll all be disappointed. We allow little children to be incentivized by mythical figures - if it'll just keep her from punching her brother between now and Christmas, say.

No, we're talking death, babies, and the creation of the world - big stuff.

I have held off talking about god to my kids. Death, babies, the creation of the world - and god - when they're ready to know, they'll ask. And I fully intended, when I had to address the question of faith, to speak of diversity of belief, and appreciation of the world's mysteries, and different approaches to explaining things that seem hard to understand.

The religious of the world, however, take the opposite approach. I've had a 4 year old sing out, "I know why Jesus died!" Big Man greets this revelation with concern: "Somebody died? Was he sick?" Not only that, but these kids are learning that I - along with my unbaptized children - am going to Hell.

So fuck it, maybe I will throw in my lot with the more radical atheists here. Why shouldn't I tell my kids that god is a myth? That their peers who speak of god are being taught things that aren't true? And why shouldn't I start now?

Persuasive evidence:

1. Two recent articles, one in the NY Times and one in Wired

2. Ann Coulter

3. A song I heard out of a preschooler:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G,
Jesus died for you and me