Thursday, April 2, 2009

On magic water and mumbo jumbo.

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
-George Santayana

I have often been told I am religious. And that I have a religion. News to me because, as an atheist, I really don't possess anything that can be identified as a religious feeling about anything and I do not subscribe to any particular dogma. Still, this does not stop a certain stripe of theist, usually Christian, from claiming that my atheism is just as much a religion as their faith. Usually I will ask said theist to explain what my religious beliefs actually are, what holy books I believe in, what supernatural gods I might pray to and what priests or clerics I defer to on matters ranging from diet to sex.

The answers are invariably bizarre and betray a basic lack of knowledge about science and philosophy. I suspect that many theists simply cannot conceive of living without religion and so assume that atheists have equivalents to the beliefs they hold so dear. If they have a god, so must I. If they have a bible or a pope, so must I. So instead of the Bible, I am told I have "faith" in Darwin's The Origin of Species. I am often told that I "worship" Darwin, that I have "faith" that "nothing created something," and that I will blindly follow Dawkins or Hitchens or whoever. It's a through the looking glass view of atheism that more often than not just makes me giggle.

Maybe the most oft repeated criticism is that atheism is "militant" and just as irrational as the religion I critique. This too is laughable...well I used to think so anyway. Most atheists I know have little interest in "organized" or institutional atheism. Sort of defeats the purpose frankly. Which is why I have such a dim view of the "atheist churches" that have cropped up around the interwebs. Aside from being a contradiction in terms, the idea that I need a special place to gather once a week to be told what I believe and chat in front of others some mindless creed strikes me about useful and trying to play a DVD using a flash light. It is certainly fun to meet with my fellow heathens to chat about things now and again and humanist and free thinker organizations play a useful role in organizing charitable and community work. I even applauded the atheist bus campaign not because it has any chance of deconverting believers (In find attempts to convert others to be rather vulgar anyway.) but because it helps gives non-believers a public voice. But an atheist church? WTF, man.

Sadly, there has developed a strain of "atheism" that seems to thrive on the ridiculous. Recently, some Brits have decided they want to be "de-baptized" or un-baptized or use that red light thingy from Men in Black to have their baptism erased from their memories. They are even handing out baptism-free certificates. Most of these folks were like me and were baptized as an infant incapable of forming a single thought.

Now I quiet agree that baptizing a baby is barking mad as the babe has no means to decide for itself whether it wants to a join a chruch. But if you grow up and abandon religion, what does it matter? Some gruesome old celibate sprinkled water on your head, muttered a prayer and SHAZAM you were baptized. That is what we are talking about here: a bit of water and some mumbo jumbo, none of which the atheist believes has the slightest significance. It is not as if the Anglican or Catholic churches have some voodoo zombie control power over those who have been baptized. The pope cannot make you dance to his tune just because someone sprinkled some water on your head a baby. You were "un-baptized" the moment you stopped believing in it.

It just doesn't matter. Baptism might mean a whole lot to believers but to those us of who long ago left religion behind it has about as much meaning as the latest marshmallow addition to Lucky Charms (which is such a nasty cereal by the by. Blech!)

All this irrational blah blah blah about reversing baptisms just a waste of energy when one considers the far more important battles to fought.One is tempted, watching hese spastic attempts to erase baptisms to quote William Shatner from that classic Saturday Night Live sketch: "Get a life, will you!"


Alberto said...

I agree with you about more important battles to be fought (civil rights and the like), but when, as it happens in Italy (and, for what I may know, elsewhere too) the christian church bases its claim for money and power on how many sheeps their flock is made of, I can't find debaptism useless or naive (btw, I was baptized when I was a baby and when I knew that I could erase its record from the parish book I immediately did it).

miohippus said...

I agree that baptism is meaningless. For what it's worth, I think that a few of the 'evangelical' faiths agree that baptism at birth means nothing- you have to be 'born again'.

I'd like to point out that churches use these baptismal records to count their 'flock' when doing surveys.

Christianity should be one of the easiest religions to get information on. There is an effort to keep statistical records when it comes to baptisms, etc. For example, the Catholic Church officially records as members everyone who was baptized a Catholic, whether they still want it that way or not.

So, officially de-baptising yourself gets the record expunged, and they can't count you as a member anymore. In the end, these de-baptisms, done properly, might serve a purpose.

miohippus said...

And, according to a letter to the editor in the Peterborough Examiner dated Apr 2, 2009, you have a faith Grant;

Evolution isn't science, it's all about faith

Re "It's simple: religious belief isn't science" (Letter, March 27) -

Duncan Campbell in his response to Ralph De Groot seems to be stuck on the idea that evolution has something to do with science when in fact it is a matter of faith - faith that all things transpired (evolved) in the way that many scientists say it did, faith that Darwin was correct in his assertions.

Atheists treat Darwin almost as a savior or messiah from having to believe in the existence of God.

No, in all this I see a masquerade, an attempt to pass off Darwinism as form of science when, in fact, it is anything but. Real science deals with what can be seen, touched and recorded, perhaps used for improvements in our existence. BOB WIERDSMA

Ramon Villalobos said...

I am inclined to agree with you for the most part but there are a few points that I don't. Firstly, Lucky Charms is not a nasty cereal. They are magically delicious you son of a bitch. Second, I don't mind the atheist "churches" if for no other reason that in the States we have a lot of Christian churches that lobby and do all kinds of shit to get what they want from the government and alone, atheists can not do this. United, preferably in some kind of tax exempt organization, they CAN push agendas that fight the Christian, Catholic, and all those other religious ones.

But yeah, reversing baptisms? I was baptized and I also had a communion and many a confession but I'm not trying to get that shit reversed either. There is nothing that can be reversed.

miohippus said...

Ramon; on the issue of baptism, are you saying that there is nothing that 'can be' reversed, or nothing 'to be'reversed?

And you're right on the issue of Lucky Charms, they are magically delicious. Grant is a bitch if he says otherwise.

Grant LaFleche said...

I'll concede the point that if a church gets public funds on the basis of the size of its baptismal rolls, then debaptism is a useful tactic to defend the separation of church and state.

But it also seems to me that many people want this debaptism as some kind of symbolic gesture of their emancipation from religion - and while I suppose I understand the feeling, I don't give much regard to the splashing of water and the like. It ceases to have any meaning once you divest yourself of theology behind it.

The specific problem I have with atheist churches is that they feel like they are on the verge of becoming awfully dogmatic in the religious sense, and one wonder how long it will be until they develop a more centralized authority structure. In short, I think institutional atheism is as bad as institutional religion.

And Lucky Charms is not fit for human consumption, you bastiches!

miohippus said...

What would you call an atheist church? An achurch? The whole idea is silly. I do belong to a secular humanist society, and i give them financial and volunteer support, but I try to keep it at arm's length. It is just too 'churchy' for me. Does that make me a moderate ;0)?

I think I'm just fine right here, a jobless 35 year old bachelor, living in my mom's basement. See Micky, it's all true!

Speaking of Micky, you keep up dissin' Lucky Charms, and I'm gonna ask him what Yaweh thinks about masterbation. You probably eat Count Chocula, you arrogant icehole.

TomG said...

Like your blog and generally agree with everything you've said. However, you missed a large part of the point of the de-batismal certificates. The church in the UK maintains its undeserved influence by insisting it has a significant proportion of the population as members. Allegedly, it uses batism records to generate numerical evidence. Many people don't want their unchosen 'membership' to support theistic influence and the idea is to have your baptismal record removed from the church's database, shrinking their claimable membership. Now, whether all the churchs will play ball and honourabley remove their 'membership' data on people who had no choice as infants but definitely want nothing to do with them now, is another question.