I wrote this book because the truth matters. I realize most individuals believe they share this sentiment. What is often overlooked or not well understood are the critical thinking skills required for justifying or dismissing truth claims. Reason, logic and the scientific method have proven to be the most reliable tools for arriving at qualified truths. I say “qualified” because these methods are more or less imperfect systems, subject to biases and error. Yet, they are still the most robust methods of investigative inquiry, for discovering how the world actually operates. Belief, faith, or some book, written who knows when or by whom, are inadequate paths towards objective truth. Furthermore, when pressed, many religious individuals appear to not care about truth in any objective sense. When their claims are demonstrated to be false or when they cannot adequately justify their beliefs a common theistic practice is to dismiss contradictory evidence. Valuing truth means following the evidence where ever it may lead, no matter how uncomfortable the conclusions may be. I wrote this book because how one arrives at qualified truths is just as important as the truths themselves. The means are ends in themselves.
I wrote this book because I’m tired of freethinkers being viewed in a negative light. Numerous studies have shown that we are among the most distrusted groups in America (Edgell, 2006 & Jones, 2012). At worst freethinkers are often harassed, imprisoned, sometimes murdered, often viewed as evil deceivers bent on destroying values and morality, or even simply ignored (which may be the most vile attitude). The worst that can be said about the so-called “militant” atheists is that they are vocal in their opinions. In order to be a militant theist one has to quite literally fly planes into buildings. At best religious folks are sad for us and say they will pray for our souls (which can be annoying and condescending but relatively harmless).
I wrote this book because I cherish and love mythology and many forms of religious practice. You may be thinking: “whaaa? How is that possible?” I am primarily a lover of art and psychology, both of which I have M.A. degrees in. I think we can gain important insights into the human condition through a study of religion. However, these are psychological insights gleaned through the metaphors of myth. I wish to help rescue humanity’s religious culture from the clutches of ignorance, fear, the doldrums of childish fantasy, and those who have and will use religion to take advantage of others. Literal religion is at best a misunderstanding and at worst a collective self-delusion containing the seeds of widespread harm.
I wrote this book because am disheartened when individuals and groups takes such stories literally and miss out on the great heritage of self and collective understanding at their disposal. Reality, as it has been uncovered, is far more interesting, vast, and wonderful than any self-aggrandizing literalized myth. Reality is… just check it out!
I wrote this book because I am upset at the atrocities sanctioned and committed by religion and religious believers. Need I make a list?
I wrote this book because freethought is one of the only life-stances entirely compatible with freedom and democratic values. I wrote this book because mental slavery (literal religion) is just as disgusting and immoral as physical slavery. Most of the god characters of the world’s religions are depicted as dictators to be appeased, unquestioningly obeyed, and unjustifiably worshiped. How is that acceptable and compatible in a nation which values freedom, justice (is infinite punishment for finite crimes justified?), and a government by the people and for the people? And please don’t counter with the “then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” nonsense. Simply put, the two ideas are contradictory and dangerous. Our democratic nation has succeeded in spite of not because of this strange coupling of freedom and dictatorship.
I wrote this book because change is possible. Where once it was seen as acceptable to own slaves, justified no less by numerous passages from the “Good Book,” it is now almost universally condemned. This is either because people have rejected scriptures as a source of morality or they have cherry-picked parts of The Bible which do not conform to their secular morality (yes, secular) whether they realize it or not. Freethinkers ask “why cling to ancient goat-herder morality at all?”
I wrote this book to inspire and inform freethinkers of every stripe. Knowledge may be power, but most importantly it is freedom!
I wrote this book because of things I do believe in rather than the things I don’t. I have often heard people say, “if you don’t believe why do you even care?” I care because the values I do hold are very often in flat disagreement with a literal religious world-view. I value human beings and all of our animal brethren simply because they are alive. I value freedom of mind and body. I value not accepting a claim until it has been adequately verified. Therefore, I value honest and open inquiry into any and all subjects. I value all intellectual pursuits. I value a government unimpeded by superstition and dogma (a value which protects all perspectives including religious freedom). I value the metaphors of religion and other forms of art. I value integrity. I value truth and solid means to reach it in order to improve our individual and collective well-being. I value the experience of life, accepting those things I cannot change, and striving to make better those I can. Indeed, I value most of the things held dear by my theistic sisters and brothers, and disagree on just a few but admittedly significant issues. I value much more.
On all the above points I would be happy to elaborate on why I think they are in disagreement with most of the world’s religions.
I wrote this book for all these reasons (and many more). The structure of the following list was inspired by Greta Christina’s awesome little book Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless (2012). I recommend the book because I agree with every single point she makes (a rare thing). Justified anger, she contends, can be very constructive and necessary. All social and political justice movements are motivated by a sense of a wrong(s) being committed and feeling compelled to do something about it. I am angry but also hopeful that the Freethought Resource Guide will help make the world a better place.
Christina, G. (2012). Why are you atheists so angry?: 99 things that piss off the godless. Dirty Heathen Publishing.
Edgell, P., Gerteis, J., & Hartmann, D. (2006, April). Atheists as ‘other’: Moral boundaries & cultural membership in American society. American Sociological Review 71, pp. 211-234. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from soc.umn.edu/~hartmann/ files/atheist%20as%20the%20other.pdf
Jones, J. (2012). Atheists, Muslims see most bias as presidential candidates. Retrieved September 22, 2012, from gallup.com/poll/155285/Atheists-Muslims-Bias-Presidential-Candidates.aspx