Transcription follows after the jump.
If you criticize religion then every so often someone will say to you, quite disapprovingly: “You may not have faith in God, but you could show a bit of respect for those people who do.” And you might find yourself thinking, “Well, actually maybe they’re right. It wouldn’t hurt to show a bit more respect. After all, nobody likes to be told point blank that their religion is a crock of delusional garbage and a force for evil in the world. That what they call ‘faith’ is merely fear dressed up as virtue, and their pure-heart beliefs are a straightjacket on the whole of humanity. That’s bound to put anybody’s nose out of joint.” So, yes, maybe I could show a bit more respect.
The only fly in the ointment is—I don’t actually feel any respect. I have tried, I really have, and I feel terrible about it, but it just isn’t there. I suppose I could lie to myself and pretend, for the sake of people’s feelings—because we all know how delicate and tender they can be these days—but the bald truth is I don’t actually care about their feelings—at all. Not even slightly. And, of course, I realize that should weigh heavily on my conscience—but, luckily, my conscience knows when it’s being bullied and manipulated, so it doesn’t care, either.
My conscience knows that there is no earthly reason for anybody on this planet to respect religion in any way. Indeed, purely on the evidence religion itself provides in such regular abundance, is every reason to actively disrespect it to the point of outright abuse. And quite frankly, the fact that religion gets so little abuse, compared to what it really deserves, I can only attribute to the unbelievable tolerance, restraint, and plain good manners of atheists and secularists everywhere.
So, if you are a religious person, and if you’re thinking of demanding more respect for your beliefs, please try to bear in mind that you and your religion are already getting way more respect that you’ve ever deserved.
Your faith is a joke. God is a joke. He’s so absurd he’s an embarrassment even to people who don’t believe in him. And he and you, still have it all to prove. So far, no proof has been forthcoming, nor is it likely to be—as we all well know. So, respect, I’m afraid, is out of the question. The best you can hope for is amused incredulity; and that in a good day.
People say, “Well, you can only truly understand faith when you have faith.” Which I take to mean, “When you’ve suspended your critical faculties and hypnotised yourself into believing a lot of fascist nonsense about your eternal soul, then you’ll understand faith.” Well, I certainly believe that.
Faith-peddlers like to put themselves beyond question by claiming that their faith ‘transcends reason’, the very thing that calls it to account—how convenient! Yes, faith ‘transcends’ reason—the way a criminal ‘transcends’ the law. The word ‘transcendent’ is very popular with religious hustlers because they never have to explain precisely what they mean by it, other than some vague ‘superior’ state of understanding more profound than mere reason, which is crude and simplistic next to the subtleties and profoundities of belief without evidence.
If you hear a senior clergyman—and you will—using the word ‘transcendence’ to explain the nonsense he claims to believe, then you know two things. One, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about; and two, he doesn’t want you to know what he’s talking about, either. Faith doesn’t ‘transcend’ reason at all. Faith sidesteps reason. It runs away from reason because reason threatens its cosy bubble of delusion, so faith disqualifies reason the way a Dutch criminal court disqualifies truth and witnesses—and for much the same reason.
If you’re a believer, your faith allows you to adopt a set of beliefs that make absolutely no sense, knowing that you won’t be measured by whether they make sense but by the level of piety you exhibit in believing them. In other words, your willingness to deny reality becomes a measure of your virtue. (No wonder religion is so popular.)
But what a price you pay for this virtue! You’ve been persuaded that believing the impossible is your only hope. (How did that happen?) And that your purpose is to worship something beyond your understanding, defined by and only accessible through self-appointed intermediaries. Your thoughts, your words, and your identity are no longer solely your to decide but are subject to the approval of those who have assumed authority over you through your faith. The people who’ve told you that you were born with something wrong with you—come on!—in a state of sin, no less. A condition that can only be cured by complete submission and obedience to them—surprise, surprise!— from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. And if all this doesn’t exactly flatter your ego—and why should it?—don’t worry, you can give it a special name to make you feel better and persuade you that you’ve still got some dignity. Let’s call it ‘faith’, and let’s deem it to be the highest and most noble and profound of all virtues; and let’s pretend that it comes from within, when we all know that nothing about your religion is allowed to come from within because that would give you strength and freedom—the two things your religion wants as far away from you as possible.
Faith is the grip that clergy have over you. [It] is the invisible rope around your neck that pulls you along the road they want you to travel—for their benefit, not yours. It’s a dead-end word. It’s a word of bondage. It’s a word that lets you believe what you’ve been told to believe without feeling that you’ve been told what to believe—but you have, and you can stop pretending any time you like. It’s not a virtue—that’s the last thing it is. It’s an abdication from reality. It’s a dumb act of self-hypnosis. It’s a cowardly cop-out. It’s gullibility with a halo, and hiding beyond it is like pretending to be an [invalid?].
So I don’t really understand exactly what it is that I’m supposed to respect. It seems to me I’d need to be some kind of moral contortionist to respect something that noxious, something that depends for it existence on a closed mind and is clearly dragging humanity in the wrong direction, giving us false ideas about ourselves and about the nature of reality. I feel if I respected that, I’d be needlessly contributing to the stupidity and ignorance of the human race. And that is one thing I don’t want on my conscience, no offence.