Fellow Witanagemot member, L’Ombre de l’Olivier has bought to my attention a debate taking place in the Washington Post between Michael Gerson and our old friend Christopher Hitchens on the nature of atheism. I am not about to quote any of these articles but they are all worth a read.
What really rankles with me is this old hogwash perpetually pedalled by the religiously inclined that an atheist cannot possibly have a strong set of moral values and that only an adherence to a religious faith can provide the moral platform, teaching and structure that we all need to live a peaceful, law-abiding and productive life. Far too many people implicitly believe this bullshit and far more are taken in by it and are ready to shout ‘I believe’ to show the world they are grounded in religion and therefore must be ‘good’. And compared to those people I am more honest. I am an atheist. It’s not something I am proud of and it’s not something I preach – I just am.
I am an atheist on two counts. The first, and the major reason, is that I have never been presented with any compelling argument to believe in what Hitchens calls the ‘Heavenly Dictatorship’ whereas I have been consistently presented with arguments that make common sense, have scientific evidence to back them up and that do not rely on a far-fetched belief in the supernatural or ethereal. And I feel in absolutely no way diminished by this stance. The second reason, of course, is having been bought up in a predominantly Christian tradition, any research into the history of this established religion makes it obvious to me that it is not a club I wish to belong to. It is, in short, morally corrupt. It is, in fact, more corrupt than any atheist I have ever met.
In the last week alone we have seen the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Church payout $660 million dollars to the victims of priestly abuse and a wave of Christian protest because a Hindu chaplain said a prayer at the opening of the US Senate session. Abuse, lies, violence and intolerance. And these people have the nerve to be critical of atheism. We all know that if Jesus turned up in Bible Belt America he wouldn’t last five minutes before, at the best, being run out of town but at the worse seriously assaulted and probably shot. And Christians are not, of course, alone. Muslims slaughtering fellow Muslims is daily news around the world.
Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he’d rather not belong to any club that would have him as a member. In the opposite way, I don’t want to be a member of any club that has those Los Angeles and Boston priests – or the repressed bible thumpers – claiming the moral high ground because I’d pitch my own set of moral values against theirs any day.