How religions die

How religions die February 14, 2012

A commenter by the name of Zinc Avenger, in response to shrieks of “Stalin!”, produced some absolute gold yesterday.

Because there was no possible reason anyone could have wanted them overthrown apart from atheism, right?

Or maybe their regimes self destructed because they were murderous lunatics. That happens to murderous theocratic regimes too. Atheism isn’t the deciding factor you seem to wish it to be.

But you’re right, trying to stamp out religion with a jackboot doesn’t work. Guess what? There are christians in Saudi Arabia, despite it being a crime. So if a fanatical theocracy can’t stamp out religions, what can?

Time, education, and patience will do it.

Religions can die. Where are the worshipers of mighty Zeus? Where is the temple of Mithras? Who calls upon the legendary wisdom of old one-eyed Odin? History is littered with the insubstantial corpses of gods.

Why did these religions die? Their followers stopped believing. Sometimes they found a “better” god, sometimes they were converted by the point of a sword (religions are rarely happy to coexist). But lately, over the last few centuries, there has been an alternative. Atheism, and simple rationality are an alternative.

We don’t need Thor to explain lightning. We don’t sacrifice an animal to ensure the sun rises after the solstice. The role of gods has gone from movers and shakers of the world, responsible for everything around us, to touchy-feely things you have “other ways of knowing about” and as a catch all explanation of things unknown. Religion may not be dying just yet, but it’s sure getting feeble in this age of reason.

Your god can feed thousands of people with some loaves and fishes according to an unsubstantiated claim. Agriculture and irrigation can feed thousands of people for years – in the right circumstances, indefinitely. Your messiah can walk on water. Aerospace engineers can build machines that fly through the sky. Your god looks down on the earth and sees it all laid out before him. Satellites can do the same – and pick out signs of planets in orbit around other stars. Your god cast out demons. Polio and smallpox have been eradicated by vaccination.

Your god is so feeble even the “amazing tales” told in his holy book are exceeded so often we don’t even think about it. Religion might never die, but one day we might look back at your god and laugh that anyone was impressed by little party tricks.

Hat tip to you, Mr. Avenger.

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