Russell Blackford, an atheist activist and transhumanist, and Udo Schuklenk, who is Joint editor-in-chief of Bioethics, the journal of the International Association of Bioethics, and released the October 2009 anthology ’50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We are Atheists’ with Russell, have published an article in The Guardian, “Stand up, stand up, against Jesus”. It describes the unfortunate schism in atheism between the “accommodationists” and the people who say it like it is. Here is an excerpt:
Religious teachings promise us much â€” eternal life, spiritual salvation, moral direction, and a deeper understanding of reality. It all sounds good, but these teachings are also onerous in their demands. If they can’t deliver on what they promise, it would be well to clear that up. Put bluntly, are the teachings of any religion actually true or not? Do they have any rational support? It’s hard to see what questions could be more important. Surely the claims of religion â€” of all religions â€” merit scrutiny from every angle, whether historical, philosophical, scientific, or any other.
Contrary to many expectations in the 1970s, or even the 1990s, religion has not faded away, even in the Western democracies, and we still see intense activism from religious lobbies. Even now, one religion or another opposes abortion rights, most contraceptive technologies, and therapeutic cloning research. Various churches and sects condemn many harmless, pleasurable sexual activities that adults can reasonably enjoy. As a result, these are frowned upon, if not prohibited outright, in many parts of the world, indeed people lose their lives because of them. Most religious organisations reject dying patients’ requests to end their lives as they see fit. Even in relatively secular countries, such as the UK, Canada, and Australia, governments pander blatantly to Christian moral concerns as the protection of religiously motivated refusals to provide medical professional services demonstrates.
Homosexuals are demonized thanks to religion. The God of the Gaps serves as the most notorious curiosity-stopper there is. Homosexuals are routinely murdered in places like Iraq. According to the predominant interpretation of the Bible, it says that homosexuality is evil, but how do we even know that “lying with” a man means sexing them up? Christianity is the fuel in the engine of the fantastically evil and wasteful Drug War. More Christians back torture.
More subtly, religion, especially Christianity where I come from, discourages counterculture and brash intellectualism in general. If the Bible is immune from higher criticism, then the notion of erecting other curiosity-stoppers elsewhere comes naturally.
I am quite interested in Christianity for the large, convoluted memetic complex that it is. I have over 173 bookmarks for Christianity on my del.ic.ious account. If there are any atheist transhumanists out there with as much interest in Christianity as I have, people step forward, and we can discuss the authorship of the Pauline epistles together over wine and bread.
As Russell points out, it is our right to make mockery of religion. If you are religious, it is my right to disrespect you all day long if I feel like it. In America, a free country, I can do any damn thing I want as long as I don’t break the law (and sometimes even then). You can feel free to disrespect me back. But I see Christianity unraveling, and it’s our obligation to pull on the threads.
Most transhumanists are afraid of Christianity and want to be buddy-buddy. Not me. I respect some theists, like Lincoln Cannon and the Mormon Transhumanists, but I think that Mormon theology is extremely unusual in its flexibility and apparent relatedness to transhumanism. Mormonism is one of the most exotically unusual Christian sects anyhow, so when I am speaking against Christianity in general you can assume I am not talking about Mormonism. Most mainstream Christians consider Mormonism to be heresy anyway. My priest in the Russian Orthodox Church made fun of Mormonism to me when I was an altar boy. It seems like Mormonism can almost be twisted and pulled and warped into something that makes sense, but not quite.
I am part of what you’d call the Penn & Teller school of atheism. Except that I don’t think that people should use quotes from Michael Shermer. Michael Shermer is played out.
However, I think Jesus was pretty fricking interesting. He was damn smart and confident. He reminds me of others sometimes.