Short Stack #4

“Faith” is the belief in something for which there is no evidence. Breach the protective barrier in your mind, the barrier that keeps you from believing stuff just because somebody tells you to, or just because you want to, and all sorts of ugly side effects begin to take place. The first is that you become a sucker for the next 50 con men able to convince you of THEIR seductive lie.

When there’s evidence, nobody talks about faith. Faith only comes into it when we want to replace evidence with blind belief.


It occurred to me recently that open-mindedness is really an expression of adult-like confidence in one’s ability to evaluate new information. And closed-mindedness arises from a childish fear of making new decisions or evaluations.

At some point in the life of the close-minded person, they say, “Okay, that’s it. I’m not letting anything else in. I will never ever listen to anyone else’s thoughts and ideas or learn anything new.”

So closed-minded religious people are really cowards, in a way. They’re so afraid of letting new information into their minds that they’re willing to lie, to hide, to hurt other people, to attempt to shut up people with new ideas, even to sometimes kill people (who might be doing something as innocent as trying to introduce a new dance into the common culture), to keep new stuff from getting into their lives.

This kind of cowardice has a price. Aggressive closed-mindedness is the core of prejudice, of repression, of persecution, of war, of all sorts of ugly things. And it all comes from the exact same mindset as that displayed by people who think THEIR religion is THE one right one, and all the rest are wrong.

For a species such as Man, whose real gift is the gift of mind, of rationality, aggressively closed-minded people are the worst sort of evil — vicious animals in human form.


I think one of the main mistakes that a lot of really devout people make is that they somehow have to believe the whole universe somehow relates to their little personal lives. They can’t imagine objectivity, or immensity.

They have to believe this is all about THEM.

They face the world — the entire vast universe — and all its mysteries and wonderfulnesses, and their only response to it is “Me! Me! Me! It’s all about Me!”

This is their whole approach to life. Most of them can’t even manage to LISTEN to the things other people say. Their own voices are so loud in their heads that other people barely exist for them.

They can’t listen. Can’t think. Can’t give. Can’t let other people be themselves. They demand sameness in others, and the more radical ones want to frighten or kill those who are different. They have to try to rule them with their narrow, aggressive beliefs.


Religious people say we atheists have to respect others’ beliefs. But that’s not quite right, is it? I certainly respect that we all have a right to believe what we want to believe. But the beliefs themselves — who ever said we had to respect THAT? A lot of what religious people believe is just flat-out wrong. And some of it is harmful.

Those polygamist Mormon clowns in Texas, forcing 13-year-old girls to have sex with 50-year-old men, it’s sure-enough their religion, but I damned sure don’t respect it. I not only think they should be stopped, I think they should be held down and kicked in the balls repeatedly by a volunteer line-up of former forced child brides.


Looking for an all-inclusive term for religious people a few years back, a generic word for people who believe in gods, I came up with “godders.” It’s perfect. It describes them simply and shows just the right amount of comic disregard.


Some of us think only religion contains truth, and good ideas about how to live. But you can find a LOT more truth and good ideas about how to live outside religion … and you don’t have to give away your mind to get it.


Satanists seem to think they’re somehow different from all the run-of-the-mill religionists. Instead, they’re like dieters who decide that they’ll lose weight if they stay away from ice cream and candy and only eat Black Forest cake.

To me, Satanism has always had this element of children clamoring for attention. “Mommy, look at me! Mommy! Mommy, look! I’m a Satanist, Mommy! Mommy! See mommy, I’m a Satanist! Grrr!”


Skepticism, doubt, is really about personal freedom. It’s an expression of the yearning to understand things on your own, without some authority figure telling you what’s real and what’s not, what’s true and what’s not.

Skepticism is a statement of belief in yourself, the wonderful idea that YOUR mind is every bit as well equipped to understand what’s true and real as the mind of anyone else.

Skepticism is also one of the simplest, most basic forms of self-defense. It’s the power to protect the contents of your mind from conceptual bullies — someone who would like to FORCE you to accept what they say, and not question it.

And it’s THE thing that no religious authority, no dictator, no con man, can afford to allow his subjects (victims) to have.

The people who use lies to control or enslave others know that honesty and doubt are poison to them, and skeptics are their natural enemies.

Throughout religious history, one of the most awful sins has been the simple asking of questions. For these people, if you attempt to defend yourself by expressing doubts, they will automatically claim that there’s something wrong with YOU.

Christianity once had the death penalty for asking questions, for doubting; there are totalitarian religions that still do. When you think about it, this is the same reason people say “If you don’t agree with the president, why don’t you go live somewhere else?”

To doubt, to be skeptical, to ask questions, this is one of the most basic of human rights in a free society.


“Fundie atheist” is the fundie Christian’s way of saying “I know you are, but what am I?”

Hey, it wasn’t atheists who came up with “fundamentalist Christian.” It was the fundies themselves. It started to be an insult when the rest of us saw what nuts they are.

Were the Jim Jones flock fundamentalists? Well, yeah.


One of my strong feelings about science — well, and just rational thought in general — is that it’s desirable because it’s evidence of something new on the evolutionary scene … and very, very useful. I tend to see science/rationality as something very HUMAN, something especially worth doing because it’s the foundation of free will.

Religion/superstition, on the other hand, is probably older than language. And it’s so limited, so automatic and mindless. Seems very ANIMAL, if you ask me.


If there really was an “ultimate evil” that wanted to get as far as possible before being slapped down, I doubt that it would just appear as the very image of pure evil. No, it would dress itself up as something good. Satan wouldn’t walk out of a sulfury cloud as a 30-foot-tall red-skinned demon with horns and a pitchfork. No, he’d look like a smooth-talking evangelist with perfect hair and nails.

If there really was a Satan, the most likely place to find him would be inside a church. Or on Christian TV.


I know why the Bush White House wanted the Middle East so bad. It was to provide a place for the rabid conservatives to retire to.

Think about it. It’s the perfect conservative homeland. The women are kept in their place. There’s no dissent. No drugs. No gays. And if you decide to leave the church, or talk back to your spiritual leader, they can kill you. All the neo-cons have to do is work out that teeny problem of Islam and they’re HOME.

Somebody like Jerry Falwell could’ve moved to a Middle East address and lived like a prophet. He could have monthly burnings of books, weekly beheadings of sinners. What a paradise!

"Best to you, Mr. Fox, and for your efforts."

Goodbye Patheos—Hank Fox Bows Out
"All the best, Hank! Your thoughts and words have always given me something to ponder."

Goodbye Patheos—Hank Fox Bows Out

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