When you consider the damage it does, the pain it provokes and the risks it involves, one should have some pretty good reasons to do it. “Primum non nocere” : however you try to justify it, it cannot but hurt people. And it remains to be proven that it can ever succeed in effectively destroying the world’s religions. So why bother ? Why this Blog ?
Before I attempt to explain my motivations, a word on what militant atheists and former believers like me tend to think of as “collateral damage”. In war, the term is a convenient cop-out for military commanders and the pols behind them. It makes the damage sound like a regrettable but inevitable by-product of justified aggression which unfortunately kills and maims and impoverishes innocent people and leaves them homeless if not hopeless. In the domain of ridiculing religion, the damage can involve the loss of life, but it is the aggressor who is likely to be assassinated, not the people whose beliefs he attacks. But the damage suffered by the ridiculed believers is very real, cruel and devastating. “How COULD you … ?” is the polite, pained reaction from good, honest, sincere people whose life-long beliefs and practice are not only put into question but shaken to their very foundations.
Any reasons I offer will be dismissed out of hand by committed believers who – I must repeat – are not the target-readers of this Blog. The latter I have defined as Believers on the Brink (q.v. passim). But the ones who will suffer most if they read my posts are the rock-solid faithful. To them I owe at least an attempt to explain why, in spite of the pain I cause them, I am committed to my double mantra : “Ridenda – Delenda – Religio”. My main reasons are :
- Because, like everyone else, I am conscious every day of the terrorist threats and their increasingly frequent realization in massive assassinations motivated directly by religious fanaticism. Ridicule may at least make some radicalized recruits revise their terrorist intentions.
- Because, unlike most other people, I am a theologian, having studied Theology in a seminary for four years as an undergraduate and for three years in post-graduate studies in the Catholic University of Paris. I know what makes religion and religious believers tick. I know the sources of their superstitions and credulity. For seven years, as a priest, I preached religion, and for ten years was a lay parish and diocesan Religious Education Director as well as a Professor of Theology in an American University. I know, at least in this domain, what I am talking about. And I know – and deeply regret – the damage I did to people by propagating the Faith.
- Because, apart from terrorism, I have seen the damage religion can do. For some it is mere scruples, a permanent guilt-complex over peccadilloes, brought on by the imposition of rules dictated by religious texts and teachers. For others it is the visceral fear of Hell, which can cause nightmares in children and psychic trauma in adults.
- Because it makes people vulnerable to the most outrageous claims not only on their credulity but on their cash. (Scientology, Evangelical Tent Revivals and Catholicism are the Big Three.)
- Because it gets people to take seriously silly injunctions concerning underwear (Mormons), the way they hang their curtains (the Amish) and what they do in bed (churches and sects everywhere).
- Because it is used to inculcate racism and other forms of intolerance.
- Because it is used to brainwash children and adults into believing nonsense ranging from Guardian Angels to sadistic devils, from literally incredible “miracles” to doctrines which contradict not only common sense but proven scientific data.
- Because . . . well, for all the reasons Christopher Hitchens said “Religion poisons everything”, in his book “God is Not Great”.
I could hold my tongue and burn my Blog. I could just ignore the religious phenomenon and get on with my life. I bother to ridicule religion because I want to help people to see how ridiculous religion is, to abandon it and to discover the liberation and the serenity atheism has given me.
RIDENDA , DELENDA, RELIGIO