Atheism Central for Secondary Schools
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"There are in fact so many strong biblical, doctrinal, and logical arguments against the existence of a literal hell that this question naturally arises: Why do the churches teach it and why do people often believe it? ... The churches tend to believe that fear, rather than love conquers all."
Robert Short, Methodist clergyman, U.S. Catholic magazine, April 1980 pp. 37-40
"Religion is based... mainly on fear....fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand.... My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race."
"Control of god is the very essence of any religion. Through incantations, spells, prayers, penances (offering suffering in return for influence), payment and the surrender of power to the spiritual authorities who claim to control god, we hope to gain a little of this control ourselves. And to the extent that we control others, we become little gods in another way."
Witnesses, this page.
I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
"I do not consider it a sign of divine love to consign to hell people who live good lives but make an honest mistake in belief"
"How many times have you heard that Christ died for you for your sins? This is a heavy responsibility, especially for children. The guilty induction can vary in intensity, depending how the message is presented, but the bottom line is that the Son of God had to come to Earth and die a horrible death because of our failings."
Marlene Winell, Leaving the Fold
"There are ten church members by inheritance for every one by conviction."
"Among all mental diseases that have been systematically inoculated into the human cranium, the religious pest is the most abominable."
Johann Most, "The God Pestilence"
"He is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong."
"The expression 'free thought' is often used as if it meant merely opposition to the prevailing orthodoxy. But this is only a symptom of free thought, frequent, but invariable. 'Free thought' means thinking freely -- as freely, at least, as is possible for a human being. The person who is free in any respect is free from something; what is the free thinker free from? To be worthy of the name, he must be free of two things: the force of tradition, and the tyrant of his own passions. No one is completely free from either, but in the measure of a man's emancipation he deserves to be called a free thinker." Bertrand Russell, "The Value of Free Thought: How to Become a Truth-Seeker and Break the Chains of Mental Slavery"
Bertrand Russell On God and Religion (1944)
Religions deal with powerful human fears and drives - the fear of death and the drive to sex. A religion can become very successful by manipulating these forces.
By talking constantly of death the charismatic leader or priesthood of a religion can appear to control death. When the priest offers sacrifices of dead people or animals he can give the impression of controlling death. A death is right at the heart of Christianity in the crucifixion - a fascinating and barbaric spectacle of pain and suffering which Christians are asked to contemplate in their weekly or daily worship. The call to 'drink this blood and eat this body', which is the message of the Last Supper, is strange at the least (no matter how symbolic), and a rather unhealthy idea. Certainly, it has as its central focus the notion of control over the forces of mortality.
A particular instance of 'death control' is found with the Jehovah's Witnesses. According to their priesthood the Bible does not permit blood transfusion and members of the religion are not permitted to accept blood, for themselves or their children, even in life-threatening circumstances. What a powerful tool for manipulating people's minds! How impressive it is for the individual Witness to think that his priest and his religion has the power of death over his congregation! How impressed must be the individual with his control over the forces of life and death when he takes that power to himself and denies life-blood to his child! What anxiety the priest can constantly manipulate to ensure compliance (with God's Will, of course)! How strange it is that for some reason other Christian denominations do not interpret the Bible in the same way!
This approach can be seen in the bible itself:
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:26
Weilding such awful forces (or rather pretending to) impresses greatly. Cutting oneself off from family is a big thing and is made to seem quite heroic too. The impressionable are led to a point of no return - once they have cut themselves off from their families it is impossible for them to contemplate their mistake and their dependence on the church is increased. This mind-game was clearly practised in the early church. Similar mind-games are now practised by the Scientologists.
In the same way, sex can be used as a potent means of social control. Many religions have encouraged promiscuous sexual behaviour in order to gain converts. This was often the case in ancient times and in more recent times a religion gained converts by encouraging its female members literally to lure them in. This was called 'flirty-fishing'. However, the following quotation from George Orwell's '1984' illustrates both why promiscuity is not as successful as you might think and why the opposite, sexual repression, is a much more effective tool for social control (here in a political context - many can see the parallels between politics and religion):
"Unlike Winston she (Julia) had grasped the inner meaning of the Party's sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation caused hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was' When you make love you're using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don't give a damn for anything. They can't bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you're happy inside yourself why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?'"
"Sex gone sour" is certainly a better way of keeping people in line than sexual freedom - the worse you can make people feel about their natural instincts and behaviour the stronger the control you can have over them. Perhaps the most extreme evidence of this in popular culture was the widespread belief in the last century that sexual desires, and masturbation in particular, led to mental and physical illness. Although this idea masqueraded as science, it had its origin in religious culture. 'Too much sex makes you short-sighted' was not originally a joke - people believed it to be true. One of the neatest religious sexual tricks was practised by an ancient Chinese religion. It taught that when a man ejaculated into a woman he gave some of his life force to her. This had the effect of shortening his life and lengthening hers. Of course, the emperor wanted to have sex with as many women as he could - all he had to do was to avoid ejaculating! It is not hard to imagine what effect this nonsense must have had on the relationship between the sexes. What power it must have given to the priesthood!
Religious teachers play powerful mind games with the children in their care:
Children are often given the most frightening threats to prevent them questioning religious teaching: "If you don't believe in God and do what He says you will go to hell when you die." These threats are really a form of child abuse and often ministered outside parental control. "When you are older you will meet people who will tell you that their god is right and yours is wrong or even that there is no god. Their arguments will seem so reasonable and they'll tell you all sorts of lies they'll call evidence and it will just be Satan tempting you and the more you want to believe their arguments the more it will be Satan tempting you. And if you believe them you'll go to hell." Sooner or later there is the likelihood that we will question our beliefs or hear the arguments of others who question them and then the mind game comes into play. This is often described as the 'Virus Theory' because it is like being infected by a computer virus.
Another mind-game is characteristic of the Moslem religion, and of Christianity (it is less common in the UK now). It goes like this: 'If you have never heard of our religion you are all right. It is not your fault you have not heard of us so when you die you will go to heaven - depending on whether you have lived a good life or not. But if you hear of our religion and do not accept it as true and become a believer (and follow all the rules etc.) then you will go to hell whether you have lived a good life or not. Oh, by the way, you have heard of our religion now, because I am talking to you, so if you do not become a believer you are doomed.' Both the Bible and the Koran contain texts to this effect. It is difficult to imagine a more immoral argument in favour of religious belief and also it is a bit tricky for a gullible individual who hears the same argument from more than one religion!
Children are particularly vulnerable to indoctrination. As children we are given an interpretation of the universe around us by a variety of factors in the environment in which we develop. We do not know of the existence of these factors because we cannot see the wood for the trees. We might, for example, grow up with a low sense of self-esteem because of the way we are treated by our parents, or conversely, feel that we are better than anybody else because that is the way our family behaves. It is not necessary for anyone specifically to say these things - we pick them up naturally. It may not be until quite late in life that we discover that we have suffered from low self-esteem or behave like snobs. We can absorb a religious notion of the universe in much the same way.
Those people who are brought up in a religious tradition and who question it successfully often have a kind of 'road to Damascus' flash of understanding which changes their whole perspective of life. Curiously, this can happen even to a convinced atheist when he realises that it is the religious people around him who are crazy and not him. It is a very rewarding experience and I sometimes wonder if my children are missing anything by being brought up as atheists in a non-theistic environment.
It happens in Israel too.
"The tactics used to recruit new haredim include explicit acts of fraud and deceit which subtly drain from the young and curious the ability to make choices. Throughout the process, psychological and sociological techniques are applied to the youngster's unconscious."
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Religion is traditionally the child of ignorance and poverty and it is significant that there has been a drop of 60% in the number of women entering religous orders in the Catholic Church as a whole over the last 6 years (Sunday Times, 15 August 1999, 'Nuns put faith in their shrink', John Follian, Rome).
However, we must not be complacent. What we need to look out for is new religious groups with new techniques for achieving social power e.g., the Scientologists, who were banned here in the UK during the early 1970's because of their brainwashing techniques, but have now been allowed back in. Founded by Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who famously declared he would found a new religion to earn some money, the Scientologists are brilliant fund-raisers and target those in politically and administratively sensitive positions. In the US they have been very successful in targeting film industry celebrities such as John Travolta.
Older religious groups are capable of learning new tricks. In Turkey Moslem fundamentalists are targeting local government and a disproportionate number of them now hold posts as Kaimakam (forgive my spelling) i.e., Mayors (not British style Mayors who are mere figureheads in an emasculated local government system, but individuals with real power and influence).
In the UK religious prejudice can mean that staff appointments are made along religious lines even in non-denominational schools. However, there is no indication that this is widespread (nor has it been investigated). 'Fish' symbols on teachers' cars would be the sort of thing to look for (the fish is an early symbol of Christianity).
Most significantly, in the UK Freemasons (who used to have the approval of the Church of England but no longer do so) have infiltrated the Police Force and the judiciary. Membership of the Order of Freemasons may well be conducive to promotion within these groups. As a result, it is now a legal requirement that membership be declared in these occupations.
In the former Soviet Union the population is especially vulnerable to religious quackery of all kinds - not having developed the natural skepticism that can result from living in an open democratic country. American religious fundamentalist groups have been doing very good business.
Title: 'Atheism Central for Secondary Schoolsl' Copyright © 1998, Alan Urdaibay visit our sponsor.