Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Atheists in foxholes

Anyone heard that old saying, "there are no atheists in foxholes"? I should say, has anyone not heard that saying, 'cos it's everywhere.

Well I contend there are ONLY atheists in foxholes. Because if you really believe god's watching over your every move, that he's omniscient and cares for every fallen sparrow and knows all the grains of sand, then a religious foxhole-dwelling soldier would get up and yell, "I'm over here, hey, look at me!". They'd be comfortable in knowing that god would make the bullets bend around them, like on Pulp Fiction. I mean if god can do it for John Travolta, he can sure as hell save you right?... But I digest.

Every time you stop at a stop sign you're saying, well, you know I'm not sure god is going to pick the exact time of my death so I'm gonna look both ways before I walk. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (because by their fruits ye shall know them) most people 'say' they believe in god, maybe to tow the line or because they really think they believe in the whole thing. But very few of them act like they have such a belief.

Having a 'relationship' with the all-powerful god of the universe would come with some pretty obvious personality and life changes. Do any of you Christians here buy insurance? Car, house, contents, life, doesn't matter. Do any of you go to the doctor on occasion? If you do, can you see why it's just a little suspicious for the rest of us when you say there's a god that you clearly don't trust at all? You believe in a god that supposedly created the entire universe, yet you trust other talking apes to 'cure' your illnesses and you worry about silly little things like speeding cars and potential house-fires? What does that say about you? What does that say about your belief? What does that say about your god?

In fact, the funny thing is you religious guys live almost identical lives to us non-religious guys. So similar are we that it would take a long, long, LONG list to hit on something we do differently. What makes us different though is that you guys sometimes, kinda, sorta believe in god and the afterlife. But only on occasion. I can tell, because like the examples above, you act every day like those things don't exist. You hedge your bets and tow the line hoping your doubts won't ever overcome you. Because you hope for god and the afterlife to be true, but you don't believe it.

Basically, it’s not “some kind of god” that I’m addressing here. It’s the one in the bible. The one that watches sparrows, knows every hair on your head, has a plan for you, sends miracles, and other such things. You might have a more nuanced view of your god but I can’t address that, that guy’s in your heads. I can only go with what it says in the bible, the whole bible remember; Jesus was a fulfilment of the old parts not a change-out. Unless I’ve misinterpreted things.

It may be a straw man argument in the real world, but I’ve certainly heard it said that god cured them of some disease or saved them from a motorbike accident or stopped a bullet with a curiously placed bible.

Who here knows what effect capital punishment laws have on offender rates? It’s not huge, somewhere around 10 – 12% decrease in offences compared to other places without said laws. Again, I’m not certain of the actual numbers but it’s pretty similar. Psychologists understand these phenomena to be a direct reaction in a population to an imposed threat for an offence. People do less crime if the punishment is very severe, more crime if the punishment is less severe. You get it. Also, if the conviction rate is high then offences drop measurably further. If the criminal thinks they can get away with it and actually avoid capital punishment then they’re more likely to do the deed. Simple really and, most importantly, empirical.

Now, consider what we’ve been told is the punishment for not just the worst crimes, but any crime no matter how small (even simple non-belief) by the Christian god and through Christian doctrine. The punishment is eternal torture, and you can’t weasel your way out of it. You will be convicted NO MATTER HOW HARD you try to fight the accusation by god. There’s no getting away from it. If you ‘sin’ you’re being tortured in the most horrific way upon your death.

So, humans are a funny species, we’re somewhat predictable. We would expect people that believe this stuff to be the most well behaved people on the planet, given the consequences outlined in their belief structure. There’s good quantifiable evidence to show how people react to real or imagined threats. Everyone’s heard of the empty tower in the prison yard that threatens to watch everyone’s moves. They would be hermits in the hills just to completely escape the potential ‘sins’ in the world.

But they don’t and aren’t. They live in the world and ‘sin’ just like the rest of us. In fact the divorce rate and affair rate (both are ‘sins’ in the Christian god’s eyes) are higher amongst Christians than in any other group. What can we make of this? Two things. I think it shows these believers to be either without actual belief, sort of an a-la-carte belief, or they treat this doctrine as different to reality. They can’t believe in this consequence for ‘sin’ because they don’t act like they do.

Now, what about the other consequence: Heaven. People also show certain responses to real or imagined potential positive results. Take drug addicts for example, they quit jobs, divorce their wives or husbands, leave their houses, sell their possessions, and sometimes even kill other people just to get their fix that puts them in a temporary state of bliss. Heaven offers a constant state of bliss (not like a high, but you get what I mean), a place where they never have to worry and the experience of existence is a million times greater than anything possible here on earth.

Simple psychology suggests that if a person were to truly believe in such a place and that they were unequivocally going to go to such a place, then we could expect certain actions of such a person. Nothing, I repeat nothing, could EVER be worth the wait if such a place was guaranteed for a human. No matter how hard a person like this tried to rationalise not committing suicide and going straight to heaven, it would never be enough. Heaven is better if you’re going.