“While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society. Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about.” – Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation
Each day we are bombarded with article after article, news report after news report of the horrors that religion inflicts on the world. From Muslims throwing homosexuals off the tops of buildings, widespread female genital mutilation, and the censorship of ideas in the name of “religious liberty” just to name a few. As egregious as the above examples are, and I could write a number of articles enumerating the barbaric acts of the religious, these all pale into insignificance when one considers the greatest lie of religion: the idea that death is not the end. When Christopher Hitchens talks about religion poisoning everything, the idea that death is not the end is how the poison is introduced. There is a stark contrast between how an atheist and a religious person views this life. As an atheist, I understand fully that the few years I have on this planet will come to an end and so will I. This makes every single moment we have here precious. Contrast that to the religious person who, when faced with an appalling situation will rationalize it and say, “When we get to heaven, all wrongs will be righted.” The most pungent example of this occurred during a discussion panel. Christopher Hitchens had this to say:
“What about Fraulein Friesel in Austria, whose father, unwilling to get out of the way, kept her in a dungeon where she didn’t see daylight for twenty-four years and came down most nights to rape and to sodomize her, often in front of the children… I want you just to take a moment to imagine how she must have begged him. Imagine how she must have pleaded. Imagine for how long. Imagine how she must of prayed everyday, how she must have beseeched Heaven. Imagine, for twenty-four years. And no. No answer at all. Nothing! No-thing! NOTHING! Imagine how those children must have felt. Now, you say, ‘That’s all right that she went through that, because she’ll get a better deal in another life.’ I have to ask you if you can be morally or ethically serious and postulate such a question. No that had to happen, and Heaven did watch it with indifference, because it knows that that score will later on be settled. So it was well worth her going through it – she’ll have a better time next time. I don’t see how you can look anyone – ANYONE- in the face, or live with yourself and say anything so hideously, wickedly immoral as that, or even imply it.”
I hope the reader understands that the response of the religious makes sense only if they believe the lie that death is not the end; that there is a life after we die where all wrongs will be righted. Implied in this idea is the poison that we are morally released from doing anything to alleviate the suffering of others as “god will right all wrongs in the great by and by”. Nothing could be more corrosive to morality than this and the above example shows how effective that poison is.
3 thoughts on “Religion’s Greatest Lie”
This makes every single moment we have here precious. How could it possibly matter to us in the slightest what we see, what we achieve, or what we learn in this life if in the end, it’s lights out… period? True there are no gods, but does that mean there is nothing at all? Not only would that violate the laws of energy, but it’s even more strange than imagining life in heaven at the feet of a god. Atheism may not be the last stop on the tracks, but merely an awakening—a clean slate to see the universe for what it is. This short blip of time we call life is not our normal existence. We have spent vastly more time dead than alive, which is our most natural state of being.
While this life here is an odd presentation, bookended by two voids, the mere fact that we don’t know is the only thing that could possibly entertain an infinite being. Welcome to the show.
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I despise the argument that judgment awaits, even if justice is not done here on earth. It makes as much sense as saying, “You will get as much food as you want to eat after you die of starvation,” to a famine victim. I have no objection to death being the end but I’m no longer sure that it is. I believed that it was for many decades, until I had an experience which made me question that. At the time that experience occurred, I was nowhere even close to being of a mindset open to it, much less seeking it. I met someone I had known in a previous life. He was my brother in that life. The experience unfolded over a period of about a year. Nothing like that had ever happened to me previous to that and nothing like that has ever happened since, and it’s been quite awhile. Suffice it to say that the idea that death is the end still doesn’t bother me at all. I just can no longer say with certainty that I believe it is.
Thank goodness we still have Sam Harris!
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I despise the argument that judgment awaits, even if justice is not done here on earth. It makes as much sense as saying, “You will get as much food as you want to eat after you die of starvation,” to a famine victim. I have absolutely no objection to death being the end but I’m no longer sure that it is. After many decades of believing that it is, I had an experience that made me question that. At the time that the experience occurred, I was nowhere near to being of a mindset open to it, much less seeking it. I met someone I had known in a previous life. He was my brother in that life. This unfolded over a period of about a year. Nothing in any logic or science I understand can explain it. Nothing like that had ever happened to me previous to that and nothing like that has ever happened since. Suffice it to say that the idea that death is the end still doesn’t bother me. I just can no longer say with any certainty that I believe it is.
Thank goodness we still have Sam Harris!
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