Religion and Atheism: Cultures in Conflict
The danger and the pain of the conflict between pre- and post-Enlightenment cultures were illustrated in a recent court ruling fining Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, £5.2 million.
The church comprises around 70 members of the pastor’s (Fred Phelps) extended family. For years the church has denounced homosexuality and picketed the funerals of Aids victims. However, they later extended their pickets to the funerals of soldiers, who they say are being punished by God because of America’s tolerance of homosexuality. Last year, they caused outrage when they attended the funeral of Matthew Snyder with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “You’re going to hell”.
Matthew’s father, Albert Snyder, wept when he heard the verdict. “I hope it’s enough to deter them from doing this to other families. It was not about the money. It was about getting them to stop.”
Daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper – co-defendant along with another daughter, Rebecca Phelps-Davis – vowed to continue picketing military funerals.
The Economist Special Report on Religion and Public Life (3/11/07) reported that Christians in Kenya recently denounced the exhibition of the Turkana Boy – the most complete prehistoric human skeleton – because he inconveniently lived thousands of years before Adam is supposed to have met Eve.
A lavish new $27 million Creation Museum in Petersburgh, Kentucky, aims to set the record straight, showing how dinosaurs could have mingled with humans shortly after time allegedly began in 4004BC, and how Noah squeezed pairs of all the world’s animals into a boat only 135 metres long.
In the early hours of October 25, 2007, 22 year old Emma Gough, a shopworker from Telford, UK, died. She had recently given birth to twins, and held the babies as her life ebbed away.
She died, despite being in hospital with a team of doctors and nurses around her. She died, even though her life could have been saved. She died because she refused to have a blood transfusion which would enabled her children to have a mother, and would have enabled her to continue to be a wife to her 24 year old husband. She died because she was a member of a religious organisation that prohibits the eating of blood. She died in the twenty-first century because of health regulations relating to a near stone age society. She died because she was a Jehovah’s Witness.
Despite the advances in the sciences, the social sciences, and in textual criticism that have taken place since the Enlightenment, the religious people want to be left alone to believe as they believe. They question why organisations like the National Secular Society, and people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so angry with them and advocating that people should speak out against them.
The simple atheistic stance, as I understand it, would question why should we go on listening to people who believe things which are so irrational and absurd? In America or Iran (at least) these people, who have a medieval or pre-medieval mindset and persist in believing in the myths, are the same people who have access to nuclear weapons. In my opinion, the whole world should be concerned, not just the atheists.
– A Thinking Man