Saturday, October 18, 2014

We Are the Problem

Courtesy of Paul Smith's blog, link
While I’ve already taken on the more stridently anti-Islam viewpoint from the recent Maher-Harris-Affleck controversy, there remains a more generally anti-religious viewpoint that I think should be addressed, which has come from some of those defending Maher and Harris but who appear to disagree with them that Islam is necessarily uniquely bad as a religion. It’s essentially the attitude that, “If only organized religion didn’t exist, humanity would be so much better off.” It’s a common attitude from the secular movement today, best captured by a popular picture: the Twin Towers with the caption “Imagine a world without religion.”
And, to be honest, it’s a tiresome, annoying attitude that needs to go away. I don’t say that out of some great love for organized religion, but just in the interest of intellectual honesty. The fact of the matter is that people don’t need organized religion as an excuse to commit the worst atrocities. For instance, millions die each year from starvation. This isn’t a necessary evil, either; we have the capacity to grow enough food to feed everyone. So why do allow this major atrocity to continue? Is it because of some religious belief? No. It’s because of greed. It’s because of corporatism.

And, to all the atheists out there who haven’t yet accepted this fact, here’s a newsflash for you: atrocities have been committed in the name of atheism, too. The reason religious people have been persecuted in Communist countries is not because their religion was some direct threat to the existence of the state, it was because those governments were militantly atheist and set forth as their goal the destruction of religion. When you are persecuting people because you want everyone to be atheist and they’re religious, you’re persecuting in the name of atheism. I’m sorry if this is a fact that some atheists are uncomfortable owning up to, but it’s a fact.

But it’s time to stop blaming atheism, or Christianity, or Islam, or anything else for the atrocities people have committed. You know who’s really to blame? People. And I don’t just mean the people who commit the atrocities, I mean humanity as a species. For millennia, humans have been able to come up with some deranged justification for whatever horrific action they want to perpetrate against some other group of their fellow humans. So the violence and hatred and misery in the world isn’t the fault of religion, or government, or capitalism, or any of those things. Those are just ideas, and we’re the ones who had them. So, as a species, we have only ourselves to blame.

The biggest issue we face as a species is not that we are plagued by external problems; it’s that we are the problem. We have the resources to overcome virtually any issue in the modern world, and it’s our fault that we haven’t done that. Instead, we’ve devoted huge amounts of resources, time, and energy killing each other, oppressing each other, exploiting each other, and so on and so forth. As Arthur Schopenhauer put it, “human existence must be a kind of error.” As Bill Hicks would remark later, “We’re a virus with shoes, okay?” No ideology or lack thereof is going to solve that. It’s really that simple.

We just need to own up to the fact that we, as a species, do not want peace. We might claim to, but our claims are unconvincing. We have wars constantly, we put in place systems that oppress and persecute others, and we just generally devote a lot more of our time to materialistic, self-centered bullshit than to anything that’s going to achieve some kind of peace for humanity. At the very least, there’s a minority large and powerful enough within humanity that it’s always kept us from achieving peace.

So that’s reality. Enough with fantasy worlds where we’d all live in some utopia if there weren’t religion, or governments, or capitalism, or whatever else. Those things weren’t handed down to us by some external entity; we made them. And, in spite of all the reasons to do so, we’re not abandoning them. And guess what? Even if we did, we’d probably find some new excuse to start killing each other over. The only solution to humanity’s ills is probably some kind of benevolent tyranny that keeps everyone from murdering each other while it develops medication against all of the worst traits people have, but of course, realistically, that wouldn’t work either, because tyrannies don’t tend to stay benevolent for all that long.

So all I can really say is, let’s acknowledge the real problem here. As they say, the first step to solving your problem is admitting you have one, so maybe if enough people can actually come to grips with the fact that we are the problem, we can at least move toward bettering humanity itself, however we end up doing that. I’m sure there’s a way. We’re a very innovative species, and if we didn’t devote so much of that innovation into finding new ways to terrorize each other, we might have actually accomplished something by now, aside from an environment that’s becoming increasingly worse and world where injustice runs rampant to this day. Just a thought.

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