The Need for Hope: why atheism fails

Hope, where can I find it?

It occurred to me last night, while watching a Sci-Fi episode of Firefly where years ago one of the main characters accidentally drops money on some poor people, and then comes to find out that those people build a statue of him and sing songs about his greatness. He of course lets them down because of his human attributes and they discover his intentions were not to help them but because he was trying to escape the police. He becomes really upset, and asks, why do these people honor me so? The answer he receives from the atheist character, it has nothing to do with you. Its what the people need. Of course I knew this powerful fact of life all too well when I was involved in the different religions of the world. The best example of this type of behavior is best exhibited in the poorest people of the world. Similarly you can find that type of behavior at times even with the richest people in the world given the right circumstances. When we attack religion of any kind, people think were attacking their hope and their unquenchable need for hope.

To use an example happening today the war in Iraq is being fought mostly over power (fear of losing control), and money (fear of being poor). The reason religion (fear of death) comes into play is because most of the poor people of the desert donít really understand the first two, but tell them its about religion, and attacking their god, thus attacking their hope, then its something worth dieing for.

Are atheists that committed to their choice of not believing in an abstract being, or an organized dogma centered on an abstract being, that they are willing to die to protect that choice? One can argue that doing so would automatically qualify it has an extremist point of view. Iíve long wondered whether or not atheism is just not another extreme point of view, and thus will suffer the same fates as fundamentalism does. Is atheism just another extreme point of view? Is atheism hypocritical when attacking fundamentalism? Should atheism dissolve completely into agnosticism, secularism and humanism?

There is a book called, The Twilight of Atheism, written by Alister McGrath, in which implication and sometimes more than an implication that religion is set for a revival as atheism wanes. I think weíve seen that revival starting to take shape, and it looks to encompass the whole of this society at least. On the other hand, atheism has not waned. In fact the amount of non-believers in this country as grown over the past 10 years from 10% to around 14%. Unfortunately this feeds into the divisiveness that the United States has become so good at, either between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, and Religious and Non-Religious. The more vocal atheists become, the easier it is for the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists have tremendous will power (such as faith and action breaking the law and its founder Rob Schenck being arrested many times), as well as a strong enough belief to compel them to die for their belief.

You all remember the movie Terminator in which Sarah Connor is targeted for termination and someone is sent back from the future to protect her from the robot. A true romance to be sure. Anyway Sarah realizes sheís in big trouble when her protector tells her, he has no feelings, no remorse, no morals, and he wont ever stop hunting you. That sentiment was echoed in another Sci Fi movie called, Serenity, based on the Sci Fi series Firefly where the man hunting the fugitive called himself a heartless monster, who believes so strongly in what heís doing, that heís willing to die for it. Sure the movies always have the good guys winning in the end. Then again theyíre works of fiction.

Needless to say that our recent defeat against the hands of Rob Schenck of Faith and Action, coupled with the will power of Alliance Defense Fund, American Center for Law and Justice, and the Christian Legal Society has got me thinking twice about what position Iíve put myself in. Its not like I did not now the resolve of these people, or what they are like. All I have to do is look in my past to see that I was one of their leaders. A lot has happened over the past 6 years, and all those people that I once supported and gave a lot of money to, have become very powerful. So you have all these people with a tremendous amount of will power, a willingness to die if necessary for their beliefs, and now they have been given national recognition for their victories in court. Do you see the wall Iím seeing? Were headed directly towards a brick wall, and its close enough to see the writing engraved upon it. It reads, Pound your fist against me, and Ill break your hands; Try to run thru me and Ill bloody your head into a listless pulp; try to knock me down, and Ill crush you like a worm.

In my life, there have been a few times Iíve found myself in a position to lose where Iíve had to accept it begrudgingly and Iíve had to move on for my own health. They are as follows:

1. My family: theyíll never change

2. The Roman Catholic Church: to powerful to change

3. Money: I have to be miserable, suffer, and fight thru the depression of poverty, to earn money to survive

I think its time to add a forth

4. atheism: itís fighting against humanity

Actually Iíve always known that atheism is fighting against a certain foundational principle of humanity. Iíve always chosen to recognize that fact and to state that itís perfectly normal to construct and to believe in an abstract being. The need for hope is a powerful principle that directly feeds from that mental construct. Dogmatic Religion for a great many years has been powerful enough throughout the whole world where it was easy enough for people to not question authority in this matter, and put their complete trust in an abstract being, which was upheld and nourished by various human organizations, most of all the church. Then came the 20th century and a large amount of people began questioning authority, especially the church, coupled with technological advances, the rise of capitalism, and science. The church began its dramatic decline in Europe, and parts of the world that were rich, and had an easier way of life.

Unfortunately, the greater you have a rise in capitalism, the greater the disparity between the rich and the poor. The more people who are poor throughout the world, the more inevitable it is that the poor will have a greater and greater need for hope. The greater the need for hope, the greater the influence that dogmatic religion plays throughout the world. Its no coincidence that in the last 6 years that Europe is being taken over by the Muslim world, and that America is being taken over by Fundamentalism. The poor of this world view the rest of the world as having lost its religion and replaced it with science and progress. They see us has wicked, evil, and selfish. The me generation as they like to call us. Right now we happen to be living on the excesses of capitalism and life is too easy. Apathy has set in at an alarming rate across the country. People just donít care about the rest of the worldís problems anymore; they only care about whatís on TV that night, or whatís on sale. Do you realize that a large proportion of this world canít afford basic materials to survive? Its no wonder they are so desperate for hope, because we offer them none. If there is a rise in fundamentalist religions throughout the world WE ARE TO BLAME!

You would think atheists of all people would realize this all too well. Some do, but the majority of atheists do not. You donít understand what its like for these people. To have to kill to survive. They need hope more than you and I could ever need hope. That need for hope is so strong, that they will readily, without question, lay down their life in order to protect it. So you wonder why atheists are the reviled people of the earth? I donít. Not at all. What has atheism done for people? Have we tended to the poor? Have we spent money on institutions to help those who are in desperate need of help? Have we done outreach programs of any kind?

You know the answer to all these questions.

Do you really want to influence the world positively? I think its time to start. Money should be spent on cases that involve the civil rights of atheists, but should money be spent on cases that challenge religion itself?