A while back, I wrote about being bored with atheism. For some reason, I started to re-read some portions of Carl Sagan’s excellent book, The Demon Haunted World recently. It’s a book I’ve always loved, but as it was published in 1995, nearly 20 years ago now, you’d think that it would be somewhat out of date. However, as I found odd initially, it just isn’t. In fact, it made me think back to a still older book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, written by Martin Gardner back in 1952, which covers many of the same topics and proposes many of the same solutions. It just goes to show that in the land of skepticism, nothing ever changes. Humans are not getting any more skeptical, they’re not getting any better educated and they’re not getting any smarter. The same human gullibility that Gardner wrote about in 1952 was present when Sagan was writing in 1995 and will be around when the next firebrand author pens the same kind of book in 2020. People just aren’t that bright.
The same is true in the realm of religion. The same beliefs that poisoned human minds in 1950 are still here today. They haven’t changed significantly since 1850 or 1750 or 550 for that matter. It doesn’t matter how much human science and knowledge increases, the same kind of emotionally-coddling nonsensical beliefs remain. People, by and large, aren’t interested in what’s actually true, they’re interested in what makes them feel good. This results in the same ideas being written over and over and over again. Martin Gardner’s excellent ideas showed up again in Carl Sagan’s book, not because he copied them, but because the situation hasn’t changed a bit in more than 40 years.
That’s really why I don’t spend a lot of time reading the latest atheist book that comes down the pike. It doesn’t matter who writes it, be it Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris, it’s all the same because it deals with the same subject matter as dozens or hundreds of books that have come before. Invariably, it demonstrates, once again, that the faithful are laughably wrong, but this doesn’t change anything for the faithful, they don’t care that they’re wrong, they don’t care that their views have been disproven, either evidentially or logically, any more than the people who believe in ghosts are interested in the reality that their beliefs have no rational basis. Debating a theist is likely remarkably similar to debating a theist two centuries ago, with the possible exception that a theist today cannot call for your death for heresy, and that’s only limited the the religion and region in which you’re operating.
As anyone who routinely debates theists will tell you, virtually all debates are the same, the theist enters with a heartfelt position believed only on faith and, regardless of what happens in the debate, leaves with the same thing. It’s not really possible to change their mind because they never arrived at their beliefs using their mind to begin with. It’s been said before in many different forms, those beliefs which are arrived at without reason can likewise be rejected without reason and most, perhaps virtually all religious beliefs are adopted on an emotional, not a rational basis. I know lots of people like to think that they’re debating for the audience, but I think most of us realize that the chances of a similarly adamant audience changing their mind is about as likely as the theistic debater doing so. Anyone who is questioning their beliefs has a wealth of information at their keyboards, they really don’t need you to help them along. They’re going to change their mind or they’re not, atheists shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that they’re leading people to reason in droves. At best, they may release an individual from the grips of religion, only to have that void filled with two other gullible souls. People are not coming to reason, they’re just rejecting one silly belief, often for another.
And that’s really why atheism gets so boring. As I said in my last article, nothing new ever really happens. Atheist blogs cover a limited number of subjects over and over again, even here, I find myself unknowingly recycling old content and trying to present it in a slightly different light. How much is there to say? “Yup, theists are still stupid and gullible!” How many different ways can you say that? Even the Religious Horror Show gets old. Oh look, another priest raped a kid! This time it’s a Muslim! Next time it’s a Jew! After that, it’s a Hindu! Time to get back to the Catholics! Lather, rinse, repeat. Now, a theist wigged out and killed a bunch of people because he thinks God told him to! Insert name of a dozen different religions and start over. We’re not really changing the landscape, we’re just changing the names. It’s depressing when you look at things over the long haul. I remember having these same debates 30 years ago and they didn’t go anywhere then either.
Should we expect to make any major changes? I honestly don’t think so. We see short-term gains and short-term losses but we really don’t see any massive course corrections. Maybe people reject organized religion at a higher rate for a while, but start believing in alien abductions or Bigfoot or ghosts. Is that a victory? I don’t think so. So long as people are willing to be credulous about any topic, so long as they are not willing to use reason and logic and evidence as their basis for making decisions, it’s ultimately not a worthwhile fight. We’re destined to lose and our children and our grandchildren will be sitting here, just as frustrated as we are, fighting the same enemy that we fought. And it’s not just the theists we have to worry about, we all know that atheists are just as messed up as theists are, they are just as credulous, they are just as emotional about their beliefs and react in the same way as the theists. If our own “movement” can’t buck the system, why should we think anyone else will?
So I guess it’s back to the boredom and the frustration and the unfortunate knowledge that 2020 will come soon enough, invariably with it’s own “new” book about the irrationality of human thought. Wonder how much deja vu I’ll feel?