Name: Robin HenryBirth Year: 1947Location: Alice Springs, NT AustraliaLabel: Secular Humanist/atheistFormer Religious Affiliation: Nominal Presbyterian, but only attended church compulsorily while at boarding school (three years)
Quite late in life I began identifying as an atheist. For some decades I had considered that I was probably an agnostic as I thought there could be a supreme being, but I considered that as we had never see or heard from it, him or her, it was unlikely that he, she or it existed (he for simplicity).
Although I had attended Sunday School on a few occasions when I was very young and gone to a faith-based secondary school for three years, my parents weren’t church-goers and weren’t religious. My father had some terrible experiences with his mother who was a Pentecostal and had shunned churches and religions since returning from World War II.
Looking back, I’m glad they didn’t indoctrinate me with a lot of nonsense and thankful that they let me find my own truths.
I’ve always had an inquiring mind. At around 14 years old I read “Doctor from Lhasa” by Lobsang Rampa. It fired up my imagination and curiosity and I began a 30 year study of comparative religions.
During that period I read much of mythologist and philosopher Joseph Campbell’s work. Most memorable was “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” which discussed the numerous people throughout recorded history who had been in roles similar to Jesus Christ. It was clear that the concept of a savior/god who does wonderful things and is here from some other place to help humanity, is a theme that repeats itself throughout history.
Of course, I had read the “Holy Bible” several times. Every time I re-read it, or parts of it, it seemed more like the work of groups of people hell bent on controlling their fellow human beings. After all, the Bible was written during times when people were more superstitious and either illiterate or poorly educated, so those in authority could bamboozle them with medieval nonsense. If it came to the crunch, the ruling elite could “persuade” people with the threat of decapitation, death by fire, or some other disincentive, and often carried out the threat.
The degree of violence initiated by the God who claimed to love us astonished me as did the thought that any god would create something with “original sin” and then plague its short life with threats of eternal damnation. The more I read, the more heinous it became.
If an individual told you he believed some of the stuff in the Bible you’d classify him as being a mental defective. Because millions have been brainwashed to believe it without any critical thinking or rationalizing, it becomes less loony and more accepted. When will people awaken?
Lately I’m convinced that if I was God I would be heartbroken and disappointed to think that billions of people held me responsible for the nonsense espoused in religious texts and practices. Not to mention the appalling grammar, syntax and expression. My religious texts would update themselves to reflect contemporary terminology and automatically appear in different languages and dialects. They would be so well written and convincing that even a person with half a brain would know immediately they were my work and understand them and accept them without question.
Perhaps the loveliest story I read was the “Baghavad Gita”, the main religious text of the Hare Krishna religion. At least Krishna had the balls to claim to be God, not the son of God, a prophet of God, or anything else but the legitimate creator and maintainer of all.
According to the Gita, he incarnates in various forms every so many hundred thousand years to visit us and help us on our way. The Gita precedes Christianity and Islam by many thousands of years and makes much more sense than the Bible or Koran. Although it makes sense, it’s still based on superstition and the supernatural.
In all the religions I read about, I found that women, the people whose important role it is to ensure the continuation of our species, are either treated as goods and chattels or are considered inferior to men. Would a supreme being of love want women to be of less value than men? I doubt it. If there is such a thing as natural justice, it goes right against the grain.
When I lived for three years in the United Arab Emirates, I saw Islam first hand. It is Islam that is most oppressive to women and although women are becoming more educated thanks to the benevolent dictators that run the country (and teachers like me), there is still a sad waste of female intellectual potential missing from the country’s collective human capital.
The rights women have in the UAE are those granted to them by their religion and their male family members. Even a five year old boy has more authority than a 40 year old woman. Men can have four wives, but women can only have one husband. Domestic violence against women is rife.
When I asked a cab driver why he doesn’t wear his seatbelt, he told me that it’s offensive to Allah because Allah takes care of muslims. I asked him about the many hundreds who die from motor vehicle incidents and why Allah didn’t take care of them. He simply said that they died because it was the will of Allah.
Allah is responsible for everything in muslim communities with a large following of faithful who can’t read the Koran and who are brainwashed to follow like sheep without thinking. To question the Koran is blasphemy. In some muslim countries the penalty for blasphemy … as it is for apostasy, adultery and other “offences” is death.
Recently, some half-wit Islamist in Saudi Arabia tried to get the ruling elite to agree to execute women who spoke to men who weren’t family members. If the idea of killing women who talk to men isn’t a sign of mental illness, what is? Sadly, the proponent wasn’t joking.
If you don’t like our ideas or do as we say, we’ll kill you. So take that!
Look anywhere in the world where there is trouble today and Islam, the religion of peace, isn’t far away. This week, two female Islamists blew themselves up on Russian trains killing at least 38 other people. Innocent people. People who had done nothing but be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
How this progresses the Islamic cause is a mystery to me. Pissing people off has never been a great way to achieve anything. Even the Nazis couldn’t get rid of all the Jews and in hindsight, killed the wrong people.
Interestingly, new creation and religious philosophies arise periodically. Among a cornucopia, we have the Raelians who believe Rael was spoken to by intelligent beings from another planet (our creators) who asked him to prepare the way for them. Then there’s the Wingmakers who are also our creators and who left a repository of information for us in several underground complexes. Tomorrow there will be somebody else. Humanity has a penchant for wishful thinking.
It is a very human thing, to wish for a supreme being who is there to look after us, comfort us when we need it and to explain everything that has ever happened, or will happen in the universe. Similarly, we all want to be loved. The thought of being loved by a supreme being, is very attractive. It is disappointing to know the truth which is probably why many people remain deluded … by choice, because the truth is too unhappy for them.
If there was a personal god who looked after all seven billion of us 24/7, wouldn’t he be doing a much better job? Wouldn’t it be a much happier planet?
If there was an omniscient creator, why are there so many design failures? Why is it that I am programmed to grow two sets of teeth to accommodate my growing skull, but not additional sets when my teeth wear out? Why is it that my midwife wife sees so many still births and birth defects or failures in the reproductive process?
In the bright light of day, it’s clear that the hundreds of gods created in the minds of humans since we became cognizant enough to think about them, are simply that; figures of our imagination to make us feel happier about who we are and our common dilemma i.e.; we are born, we live a short while, we die, all without knowing why.
Because we are happy to just roll along living and letting live, accepting our presence in the universe for what it is, we atheists have been slow to set up groups and to push our cause. I mean, we don’t have a universal Atheist Manifesto that tells us to hound people to think rationally and logically about the great questions. (Although several people have written atheist manifestos).
More people are learning the messages of science and using their rational thinking skills to consider the truth about the universe and our presence here. Atheist organizations are now beginning the Rise of Atheism. Eventually, atheist organizations will be on as equal a footing as many of the mainstream religions whose advice is sought by decision-makers in government and elsewhere.
Eventually I hope that atheism spreads sufficiently to make the world a safer, happier place where we can celebrate the spectacular occurrence of life and all the beauty that evolution has provided us.
I’m happy to accept the universe as it is, to accept that I will never understand most of it and to live life without the shackles of guilt and shame that religion imposes upon millions of our human family.
“Religion poisons everything and threatens the very survival of humanity”.
- Christopher Hitchens
Robin C Henry