It's come to my attention recently that Bill Maher has gotten into the Neo-Atheism scene with an upcoming Moore-esque documentary movie called Religulous. The trailer looks fun, and I'd be more than happy to watch this one in a cinema were it not for the fact that this will probably be haram in Malaysia.
Bill Maher has been an outspoken critic of organised religion for quite a few years now, but I doubt very much he'd have made such a bold move as Religulous before the release of Dawkins' God Delusion. Dawkins always had a flair for the dramatic*, as was apparent in his Christmas Lecture and his writings, and the God Delusion marked a turning point of sorts in the conflict between faith and reason. In it, we find an eminent scientist speaking out against religion with a ferocity unparalled in the history of science, backed up with strong, consistent arguments leading up to the conclusion of pretty much all atheists, i.e. There is no Abrahamic God, and even if there were any sort of God, Supreme Being or Prime Mover of any sort, quite likely he doesn't actually give a shit about us little humans or our problems.
I've been following the conflict between faith and reason for quite a while now, and it's heartening to see more and more people openly declare themselves atheist and stand against the dogmas of scripture. For literally thousands of years, organised religion has hobbled the intellectual advancement of civilization, fueling corruption, racism and ignorance. I must say, though, the Abrahamic religions have performed the most incredible feat of marketing, somehow managing to shift the focus on the afterlife and use that as a selling point. In marketing terms, I'd say that's the equivalent of making a fortune selling dehydrated water (just add water!).
Do as I tell you, because I am your one and only path to Heaven. Become one of us, because if you don't, you're going to Hell. Give me your money, and I will pray for you and make sure you spend less time in Purgatory. Fight and die for me, because you will surely be rewarded for all Eternity after you expire. More recently I've heard of preachers denying global warming and encouraging their followers not to bother with environmentalism and sustainability, because the Rapture is coming.
The entirety of organised religion hinges on promises of the afterlife, for which there is, as yet, no empirical evidence whatsoever. To pad out the rest of theology, they nick the catchy bits off some older religions and introduce the concept of "sacred" to silence dissent. "Good" is whatever they tell you it is. "Evil" is everything else and, in many cases, everybody else. Suffice it to say, this also includes atheists and their devil-worshipping evolutionist ways.
The RDF forums bear witness to many ferocious (but civil!) arguments between theist and atheist. Being what it is, the debates are often highly intellectual, but one will soon find that the theist argument always comes back to faith in that which is not empirically verifiable. What I personally observe in those still arguing the cause for organised religions is:
a) Using the Bible to back your arguments is worthless. The Bible is so full of contradictions, historical fallacies, mathematical errors and outdated values that it in fact makes for a very, very weak argument for the existence of God. And going by the Old Testament, even if he did exist, he's really not worth respecting.
b) It is possible to be highly intelligent and a theist at the same time. Many moderate theistic regulars of RDF are very skilled debaters and make excellent use of metaphysics in their rhetoric. Personally, given Ayer's, Russell's and my own views on metaphysics, I think most of said rhetoric is a lot of intellectual masturbation.
c) Reason alone is not quite enough. While the moderate is still in possession of his faculties of reason, the fundie is quite happy to refute the most eloquent and compelling arguments with "LalalaIcan'thearyoulalala". Which brings me back to Religulous and the whole business of having a good laugh at the expense of religion.
While the Four Horsemen** continue to wage the culture war on the intellectual front, we find there is a growing trend in pop culture to ridicule religion. The concept of "sacred" is slowly falling apart. And I think this is fantastic! Atheists have long been aware of the sheer absurdity of religion and the mind-numbing stupidity it causes. As such, I like the idea that people are feeling less and less intimidated by the "sacred" card and looking honestly and unflichingly at the glaring inadequacies of organized religion.
So rock on, Bill Maher. I can't say I agree with him on everything, especially not his membership on the board of PETA***, but I definitely stand with him against religion.
Oh, I suppose I should explain the title of this post. Pronounced "Wagahai wa mushuukyou de aru." More or less translates as "I am an Atheist" in very pompous and formal Japanese. It's a reference to Natsume Souseki's famous novel, I am a Cat. You can find the full Japanese text of it among the links to the right. I read the English translation of it and decided that I had to learn Japanese to enjoy this novel in all it's glory. I swear, if a cat could speak, it would not be in lolspeak, but in Japanese. Nya.
* As mild-mannered scientists go, anyway.
** Daniel Denett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, if you don't already know.
*** What can I say, I'm speciesist!