Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Gnu Atheists - Why so openly critical of Religion?

PZ Myers recently gave his definition of "gnu" atheism:

The Gnu Atheism is a positive movement that emphasizes the truth of a claim as paramount; it is our number one value.

Remember that, we'll come back to it later.

Another well known figure, Bart Ehrman, is about to release a new book, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, on March 22nd. He has written other books that clearly show not only that the bible is not the book we think it is, but has been added to, taken from, changed and altered to the point that even the experts don't know what is original and what isn't.

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)

Not only do these books tell us how false and unreliable the bible is as a source for truth, but they clearly show that the clergy KNOWS it is false, yet continues to foist its mythology on the world as truth, indeed, as the only true route to an eternal life after death in a paradise to avoid eternal torture.

I don't know about you, but having been raised in the great and sovereign State of Texas, my parents taught me to revere the truth - largely by ensuring that avoidance of it was painful! I was also taught to use my brain in ever more creative ways to think, to be sure that things I was being told were not some kind of fiction. (Alas, that last was NOT obtained from the Texas school system, but a private school!)

So it wasn't hard, once I realized I no longer believed in a deity, to find that I was thinking much like the new atheists, with a strong aversion to belief systems based on untruth. My upbringing in Texas exposed me to an equally strong aversion to confidence men (or women), because that old game is based upon lies and subtle misdirection to completely fool someone into falling for a false story designed to deprive them of, at least, their money.

But the situation is worse than that, much worse.

Constantine made the Christian Church the official State religion of the Roman Empire in 324 CE. In other words, for the last 1,686 years, the RCC (or its splinters) have oppressed, lied to, imprisoned, burned at the stake, meddled in the political affairs of, stolen money from millions of people and used a false, partially forged collection of documents of uncertain origin and virtually unknown authorship to perpetrate the longest and most successful confidence game in the history of the world.

Think about the Vatican for a moment. It's been around for almost all of the period of the existence of the RCC, at least since Constantine made it official. According to the World Fact Book, it is small, less than half a square kilometer. That is .7 times the size of the Mall In Washington DC. It has no natural resources, no arable land, no export industry. Its government is a theocracy, and suffrage is limited to cardinals over 80 years old. It is, therefore, a dictatorship, with executive power invested in the Pope, granting him virtually limitless power. Its population varies, but averages a bit over 800. None of them are reported to have HIV, and all of them are reported to be literate. It has 5,120 telephone lines in use. Its budget is around 350 million dollars per annum.

Sounds pretty modest, huh? Not much to see on paper.

But in person, ah! It is a major tourist destination, and the target of religious pilgrims from around the world. Its churches are filled with fine art worth billions of dollars, and one can only imagine the value of the gilt on the architecture alone. That architecture was built by some of the finest minds in the world, the value of which is virtually incapable of enumeration. It has been collecting this art and architecture for 1686 years on the backs of millions of Catholics who have often tithed themselves into poverty. In spite of the official position of the RCC that priests are supposed to be bound by a vow of poverty, the clergy in that city live in an opulence once known only to kings. (Yes, I know, it isn't THEIRS, but the Church's, so officially, they ARE poor. But they use it like it is theirs, they control it as if it were theirs, so the distinction is minimal.) In reality, the accumulation of wealth in that .44 sq. kilometer is probably the greatest per square foot in the entire world, given the period of time they've had to accumulate it.

All collected through the fiction that the money was being given to God for God's work. Millions of people, over the last 1,686 years, have given of their hard earned money on the word of the RCC that it would literally buy their way into heaven.

And that is only in Vatican City, the Holy See. Around the world, the RCC has been collecting property, much of the oldest by force of arms, for that same period. Some of it is located in some of the most valuable real estate areas, while, admittedly, much of it is in poor rural areas. Collectively, the value of the real estate alone is worth untold billions, maybe trillions of dollars, not to count the furnishings, which are again, often quite valuable and rare art.

In many countries, churches are not taxed, so all of that real estate is tax free, and does not add to the tax revenues of the countries involved, no matter how poor. This amounts to probably more billions PER YEAR, so the savings (or loss to society) accumulates annually, resulting in countries with little left for such fripperies as education.

This state of affairs has been going on for 1,686 years. Leaving aside the political implications, the economic affect of this theft is staggering. The policies of the RCC (and truthfully, many of its splinter groups, too) have resulted in grinding poverty for many more millions in the developing world, as the insistence of the RCC on banning contraceptives and condoms has resulted in huge families that the poor are mostly unable to properly feed in the numbers that result from those policies. On top of the tithes, is it any wonder that they are poor?

Now, back to PZ Myers. His definition of the gnu atheists is that we are sticklers for the truth. That is true. We are, therefore, sternly opposed to organizations that publicly proclaim and teach what amount to lies. But these are, as we have seen, not mere lies that equate to social white lies, or even equal to that favorite of the Ten Commandments, giving false witness before a magistrate. No, these lies are, literally, something much more complex, since they support, defend and propagate the greatest, longest and most pernicious confidence game the world has ever seen. A game that has killed, oppressed, stolen from and ground into poverty millions of people over as many as forty or more generations, based on nothing but fiction.

You should be surprised that more people aren't angry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

[...] "millions of Catholics who have often tithed themselves into poverty" [...] "On top of the tithes, is it any wonder that they are poor?"

While I'm an atheist who agrees with your main contentions here, as a fellow believer in truth and accuracy, I have to point out that Catholics don't tithe. See 2Cor 9:7 or here:

Any Catholic reading this might conclude your knowledge of Catholicism being suspect on that score, the rest of your post could be dismissed also, as founded on ignorance.

In addition, and again while agreeing with your criticisms, you might also recognize that aside from the failings you describe the RCC is one of the largest organizations doing legitimate charitable work in the world today.

While there are many things to denigrate about the Church, true, there are things to laud as well. They're misguided, in need of major purge and reform as a spiritualistic group, but they're not an evil empire.

Describing them in purely negative terms helps no one.