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An autobiographyAuthor of this text: Bernard Katz
Editor of the American Rationalist
as long as I care to remember, religion, like the striptease, has always been a display of the power of suggestion. Like the Virgin Birth, it has all too often
supported an immaculate deception.
As a boy, I remember the hypocrisy of Catholic school kids who, after peeling off
like dive-bombers from the end of a long line walking to church, disappeared
into the local candy store to gamble by playing blackjack. Their church had
little hold on them. I remember that at the height of the Great Depression, when
folks hardly had enough to eat, a rabbi from Brooklyn, N.Y., would visit our
community in South Jersey to collect money for Yeshiva students. No doubt they
felt it was more important to buttress rabbinical studies than to help those who
had empty wallets and emptier stomachs. Such experiences left a sulfuric taste
in my mouth.
WWII, I volunteered for the U.S. Navy. My first job was to learn how to use and
repair the first top-secret, all-electronic fire-control equipment. This gear
was designed to shoot down enemy aircraft by directing the anti-aircraft guns on
the battlewagon at attacking Japanese planes. I spent most of my service in the
Pacific where my battleship, the U.S.S. Arkansas, fought the Japanese. I recall
vividly the Japanese all-out kamikaze attacks on the fleet. Another indelible
memory was when, during the month-long battle for two Jima, I proudly saw our
flag unfurled at the top of Mt. Suribachi.
the war, I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I got
my degrees in an experimental program in which undergraduate and graduate
classes were mixed, the purpose being to reduce the number of years it took to
get I those degrees.
my business life, I daily confronted the irrational. After all, I was a commodity and stockbroker who had worked a lifetime at making a living by
trading, say, pork belly futures and IBM. As such, I and my clients went through
many boom-and-bust markets. These could not be explained until after the fact -
often not even then. Even though Jesus proclaimed that you cannot worship both
God and Mammon, and even though most of my clients were Christians, they ignored
their Savior's admonitions and stayed with me through all the market gyrations.
Because of the business boom-and-bust cycles, I concluded that I might learn
something helpful by studying religion, an even more irrational area than the
markets I traded in. I learned a great deal about the irrationalities called
religion, but unfortunately, it was of no help in beating the markets.
Like a hound dog on the trail, I went wherever the scent took me. Nothing was too
bloody, too bizarre, or too embarrassing to stop my investigations. In over
fifty-plus years I've researched just about every area pertaining to religion.
What follows is a brief evaluation of the many divisions of religion as I've
categorized them in my mind.
first area concerns the ideas of god and the gods, their gender, power and other
human characteristic people assign to their deities. A study of these
inconsistencies alone was enough to convince me that deities sprang from the
minds of men, not the other way around-not
like Athena from the brow of Zeus.
Likewise I found revealed religion, the religion of the Bible, and natural religion, as
disclosed in the arguments of philosophers, equally faulty. This includes the
latest gasp by the faithful called „Intelligent Design." Those who
still persist in using these ersatz arguments only prove that they tailor their
religion to suit their own prejudices.
the religions of the West have their Achilles' heel in the problem of evil. Of
the many attempts to explain evil, none has been successful. Fundamentalists of
their political representatives-want
us to regain our alleged loss of morality by following God's Word as revealed in
the Bible. That this is impossible is easily proven by an objective reading of
their „sacred" books. They will find it full of immoralities,
obscenities, and stories unfit either for their children or their grandparents,
its contents more suitable for a bawdyhouse than that of a place of worship.
Contrary to the current outcry for political correctness, the book of books, the
Bible, is the most „politically incorrect" series of instruction ever
put together in one source.
all western religions, including that of Islam, are replete with magic and
miracles, this alone should be damaging enough to turn people from them.
these religions ridicule-employed
much the same strategies to keep their own followers in line. Any decent study
of the history of present religious artifacts, symbols and practices will show
that the ghosts of the pagan past are now resurrected in the Christian present.
there have been a few „experiments" that have concluded that „faith
is good for your health." These test results are doubtful. Has faith been
good for the Roman Catholic Church with its history of abusive priests and its
current „cafeteria-style" and „half-believing" congregants?
Did faith prevent the Protestant movement from instituting its own jihad-inquisitions-after
the Reformation? Why are there always far more criminals in our jails who are
professedly religious and „twice-born" than there are atheists and
agnostics? Why is the jihad still such an integral part of medieval and modern
has „love" been espoused by believers more in the breach than in
practice? Why are the Christian scriptures schizophrenic, on the one hand
showing Jesus to be so loving while on the other so hateful? Why does Jesus tell
us to love one another in some portions of scripture while in others he promises
eternal torment to those who do not believe in him? Why is the murder of humans
condemned, while the murder of Jesus is praised as necessary for the salvation
of mankind? Why have the Jews been condemned for eternity as deicides since they
were merely instrumental in carrying out God's plan? In view of all of this, can
we truly agree that Jesus was „Mr. Nice Guy"? Archie Bunker was wrong
when he said: "Jesus Christ is who's great, little girl. I knew that long
before them rock and roll freaks made him a 'superstar.'"
read many times that Jesus was the first-and
some say the last-Christian.
As Cesar Chavez put it: „I'm sure Christ wore a mezuzah. He
certainly didn't wear a cross." This brings up a most embarrassing
observation about Christianity: How can so many diverse Christian institutions
claim Jesus as their own when their theologies not only differ but too often
contradict one another? Is this what God and his Son, Jesus the Christ, intended?
important area has suffered a sea-change: the archeology of the Bible. It used
to be said that archeology „proves" the Bible. No more. In fact, it's
just the opposite. For the last one-hundred and fifty years a war has been waged
over the historical reliability of the Hebrew scriptures. Recent dramatic
discoveries of biblical archeology have cast serious doubt on the familiar
accounts of ancient Israel and the origins of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Though the Bible credits Abraham as the first human to realize there is only one
God, we now know that there is no evidence for monotheism for many centuries
after the reported time of Abraham. Nor is there any archeological evidence for
the Exodus, for Joshua's conquest of Canaan, or for the vast „united
monarchy" of David and Solomon. Each of the leading characters of the
testaments, Moses and Jesus, is a composite character, not an individual hero.
once the most sustaining evidence for belief in a benevolent Providence, has
been all but destroyed in the eyes of many of the faithful by arguments advanced
by Hume and Kant. Thus the spade has been more useful in digging the grave of
biblical events than in resurrecting them.
there is a renewal of the argument that there is no
conflict between religion and science. According to Stephen Jay Gould, each
area has its own „magisterium" which do not overlap, hence no conflict.
To refute this, Gould and others of the same mind ought to reread the Bible; it
is chock-full of „scientific" statements that have been upended by
science. To name a few: a cosmos created by a deity in six days; the age of the
earth only about 10, 000 years old-utterly
refuted by geology; the creation of all species at one time-utterly refuted by
evolution; a world-wide flood as punishment for the sexual sins of the sons of
God with the women of the world; the translation of Enoch to heaven-a miraculous
feat repeated by Jesus; the many miracles enacted during the Exodus by Moses and
Aaron; the physical location of heaven and hell-now
admitted by Pope John Paul II to be merely a condition of the mind; the mistaken
view of the biblical writers of the geography of the world; the virgin birth of
Jesus, a miraculous birth repeated much earlier by three other women in the
Jewish Bible; water changed to wine by Jesus at the wedding in Cana; the
multiplication of a few loaves and fishes by Jesus to feed a large crowd; the
first resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion; Jesus' raising the dead
Lazarus; his cursing of a fig tree because it would not grow fruit out of season.
This list could easily be expanded but I think the listing is sufficiently
convincing. No conflict between science and religion? Is this the age of a new
are my main reasons for being an atheist. Have I substituted anything for my
rejection of religion? Of course, it's called „secular humanism." And
what is secular humanism? I like to summarize it as the
philosophy of our American Founding Fathers-less
read that Pope John Paul II thinks Catholicism to be the greatest humanist force
in today's world. This is a fine example of the kind of creative semantics
religion has resorted to from its beginnings. John Paul's definition of humanism
and our definition butt each other like two Rocky Mountain goats fighting for
supremacy. Although he didn't state it, the pope's definition clearly included
God and the supernatural; ours emphatically does not. Secular humanism has no
truck with the supernatural or the superstitious. Being scientifically oriented,
secular humanism is focused on this world, not on the next. Religion has told so
many lies that you couldn't believe its spokespersons even if they told you they
were lying! Just as our containers must now have the proper labeling, so should
religion. Its label should contain the statement „Read between the
humanism is completely people-oriented. It's convinced that we would be better
off, much better off, by ignoring the „pie-in-the-sky" rewards
guaranteed by clergy, faith healers, televangelists and religious con artists.
is politically democratic. Its emphasis and demands for constitutional rights-with
free inquiry topping the list-stems
from the bloody and repressive history of Western religions, including Islam.
It's a sad fact that after many successful battles, we are still faced by many
anti-secularist trends: dogmatic, authoritarian religions; fundamentalist,
literalist and muscular Christianity; rabid and uncompromising Islamists;
nationalistic Jewish orthodoxy; and the resurrection and creation of the
so-called New Age religions.
deplore the growth of religious groups that foment hatred and religious
intolerance. No religious organization must be allowed to impose its biased
views on the rest of us about what they consider to be proper morality,
education, sexual behavior, marriage, divorce, birth control, abortion, stem
cell research by legislating their private prejudices on the rest of us. Our
ethics are based upon critical analysis.
secular humanists think that those who want to require that creationism be
taught in science classrooms are either ignorant, mad, charlatans, or a combination of these. Instead, we insist that evolution, as well as all other
scientific disciplines, be taught in all levels of education.
trust the head more than the heart, yet we do uphold the arts and humanities as
an integral part of life.
of the most noteworthy personalities in history have been secularists and
humanists: Epicurus, Lucretius, Spinosa, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Diderot, Mark
Twain, John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Thomas Edison, Albert
Einstein, H. L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook, Isaac
Asimov, Walter Kaufmann, B. F. Skinner and Francis Crick. These and many other
notables furnish a brilliant genealogy for our movement.
have much to celebrate, but also much to be done. Remember the steam kettle:
Though it's up to its neck in hot water, it continues to sing!
in the 2002 July/August issue of the American Rationalist ©.
« People, quotes (Published: 06-06-2003 Last change: 21-09-2003)
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