You are worth more than many sparrows

Posted by on July 11, 2010 in Thoughts | 5 comments

This is a very brief overview of why I am passionate about the atheist cause, why it is important in this day and age, and why I continue to write about it.

Our world is the only thing we have, and at this time we are destroying it relentlessly with our greed and self-righteous consumption, and by waging wars against each other, using up precious resources and destroying areas of habitat. I don’t blame religion for this directly, but I do blame religion for a state of mind which causes this. The problem with religion is that it takes away from the accountability of humanity for the things we do. Let me give you a few examples.

Firstly, the attitude that the earth was put here for humans to inhabit by a God means that we treat it as our plaything. In the book of Genesis, it implicitly states that the earth and all that walks or flies or swims is here for our use and for us to have dominion over. So in other words, we can kill and pillage and destroy the earth if it suits our needs. We are only asked in return to thank this God for the earth in return, and the God will provide more as we need it. But as we are all now aware, this attitude is killing our planet, and if we don’t have a planet, then we don’t have us. Not only this, but if we are not responsible for ourselves and our actions, because we have a God to protect us and guide us, then what is there in religion that tells us to respect the world we live in?

Secondly, although these religions claim to be religions of love and fellowship, different religions will wage war on one-another simply because the wording of the texts upon which these religions were based differs in semantics from each other. But we claim that God is telling us this is the right thing to do, to protect the integrity of the beliefs and the texts, to make sure nobody ridicules the ideals behind the religion. Christianity has gotten a bit better at not killing for blasphemy, but Islam is still enacting stone-age policies of jihad and fatwa against individuals and countries for just such infidelities.

Thirdly, people can easily claim that what they are doing is what God wants them to do, as if they have knowledge of what an onmipotent, omniscient and omnipresent being might want. The problem is, people become so self-righteous that they can claim that God is guiding them through whatever they do. People may truly believe that what they do is on the name of God, but in their delusions what they perceive to be the guiding hand of God may actually be what they themselves are striving for anyhow. Take God out of the equation, would these people still do what they do?

Fourthly, there is a tendency for people to think that they are special, and that God knows them better than they know themselves. This tendency can cause people to think that they are above others, better than an unbeliever or a believer of a different faith, more worthy and more deserving to be here in the first place. This individualised and personal God is actually mentioned in the bible in Matthew 10:29 through 10:31.

29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

This backs up the whole notion that humans are better than the other animals on earth, because God put us here as individuals and watches over us, as long as we believe in Him. If we pray to him hard enough, our football team may win. If we pray hard enough he will do what we ask.

Fifthly, the idea of an afterlife makes us all far more selfish here on earth. We don’t need to look after our planet because when we die we go to a better place. No need to tend the earth when we will be in paradise soon. And it doesn’t matter what we do here on earth anyhow, because the idea of forgiveness from God means that as long as we renounce our sins before we die, all is forgiven.

Also, the idea of Armageddon and the rapture, where all the worthy will be whisked up into heaven, and the rest will be left here to suffer the consequences of our evil little lives. This implies that it’s all going to end soon, so we don’t need to bother with keeping the earth habitable. There are even people who actively want the apocalypse to come, and are actively trying to cause its eventuation.

And finally, religions actively encourage irrational thought. There is nothing wrong with the fantastical, but when you base your life upon irrational principles, you are prone to make irrational decisions. As I said in my blog “Don’t be a dick”? Sometimes we need to…

“…we are on a teetering point on this planet, where if we continue to make one bad decision after another about the way we evaluate what is important, the way we treat one-another, and the things we hold as true, then we are surely doomed to much further hardships.”

When you take into account all of these tendencies, you can see how the ideas of religion will cause us to act indifferently toward the fragile world we live on. There is nowhere in there that actively encourages humans to look after the planet or to tread lightly upon the earth. All it seems to encourage is for us to be as selfish as possible, to look after number one, and to consume as much of the planet as we can before God calls it over and we all die.

Unfortunately, none of these tendencies are based on any hint of a realistic view of the universe. We only have one planet, and at the rate we’re going we will destroy it. And when we do, there is no heaven or hell, just the end of the human species, and this is not of any consequence to the rest of the universe. Right now, we have the ability to affect the world for the better, to step boldly into the future and make change, make the world a better place, one where we can live together and strive forward with equal respect for one another and the planet upon which we live.

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5 Comments

  1. Amen ;)

    They are my concerns as well. I really do think things need to change for our species to survive – and the only way we will survive is if we start using our brains properly.

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  2. As always, very eloquent. You’re so good at phrasing what I’m thinking!! I agree that we are indeed on a turning point. And we will either see a repeat of the burning and pillaging as with the great library in Alexandria, or (hopefully) an end to all the superstitions–similar to what must have happened as people lost faith in Athena and Poseidon. . . .

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  3. The other side-effect is that people are actually looking for signs of the end, instead of accepting responsibility, the threat of global warming, natural disasters, major acts of terrorism, are seen as signs of “the end is nigh” and can therefore be given a quiet nod as if everything is on track.

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  4. As a disclaimer: I’ve been exactly where you are.
    Much of what you said is an understandable misinterpretation of the core beliefs of Christianity, and other religions as well.
    For example, the same passage of the Bible that you said gives humans the right to use the earth as their “plaything” later gives us charge of the earth and our fellow inhabitants.
    The passage about being “worth more than many sparrows” is also talking about you! You, who don’t believe in anything after life, are, I believe, also “worth more than many sparrows.” It’s saying EVERYONE is important to God, not just those who are self-important. So, in other words, I should treat you as someone just as important as me, because that’s how God thinks of you.
    The rapture actually has very little to do with conservation concerns and everything to do with accountability for our actions. This is another point you brought up, asking what our motivation is for doing good if, once we die, they are all forgiven. It is a belief in Christianity that once you die it is too late to “repent” because you missed your chance to make a positive change. In reference to instructions passed through generations of oral tradition among the Jewish people and eventually into the written text of the Bible, our first given duty (besides loving) is to take care of creation.
    I agree with you that religious warfare and extremist groups completely abuse what they claim to represent, and also recognize this to be true of all extremist groups, no matter their religious affiliation.
    Your closing statements about seizing the day and taking positive action in the world can also be found Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 10:30-37, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Acts 3:1-11, Ephesians 2:10, Gal. 5:29, Galatians 2:9,10, Prov. 19:17, Titus 2:14, Titus 3:14 and Galatians 6:10 to name a few. Why do Christians care? Proverbs 14:31. It honors God.
    There seems to be a big misunderstanding especially about the nature of God. But it’s not so mysterious. We’ve all heard John 3:16. But the following verse is also just as important: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” -John 3:17. Hopefully this offers some food for thought. I am not trying to tell you who’s right or wrong, just sharing my view, too. I’m grateful for people like you who have a passion for truth and are not afraid to question authority. If it wasn’t for people like you, I’m sure Christianity would not be here thousands of years later, the oldest counterculture revolution in the history of mankind.

    A fellow atheist has some other questions posted here
    http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

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  5. i think most of us understand that this theoretical god didn’t send his theoretical son to condemn the world. that is apparently the exclusive role of this theoretical god’s followers.

    as a former student of the ministry and as a former lay-minister, i don’t believe there is much that i misunderstand or misinterpret about the core beliefs of christianity. i spent the first 19 years of my life deeply involved in the church, its practices, and its services. i would never say that i know everything about it — far from it — but you assume Martin (or more likely, “we atheists”) misunderstand these core beliefs, as opposed to the fact that we understand quite well that we see that those core beliefs are in no way exercised, by and large, by those who promote and dictate the christian religions, let along by the lay-people who subscribe to, and are led by, them.

    the philosophically rhetorical arguments regarding “core christian beliefs” fail at practical application, and philosophical practicality is very much involved in Martin’s post here. while i recognize the thoughtfulness with which it was presented, to argue the rhetorical view, as if it was the “alpha and omega” of the matter at hand, simply provides a counterpoint to somebody else’s argument: it verges quite a ways off-topic, in other words.

    i very much appreciate this, of what you said: “I should treat you as someone just as important as me, because that’s how God thinks of you.” would that more christians (and also believers of the other abrahamic religions) conducted themselves the same way. thank you very much for that.

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