Skeptics should be atheists… here’s why.

Skepticon 3 was amazing. Sorry I couldn’t blog from the event. I tried, but somehow the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Springfield thought that building and Expo Center with no Free WiFi was a good idea. No internet access = no posts… sad.

But, with my first post since being back, I wanted to cover a broad topic, on that has been discussed at length in the comments section of a “pre-Skepticon” post from JT Eberhard. Much debate went on at this show (on stage and off) about why we focus so much on religion in the Skeptic Community and if skepticism leads to atheism. I’ll answer the second question first. Briefly, “Yes, it does”. You can’t be a true Skeptic and a true Christian or you are doing a disservice to one of the titles!

Secondly, I wanted to tell you and everyone else why we focus so much skepticism on religion. I asked DJ Grothe, from JREF, about this at the convention and he agreed with me. When you look at all the topics that skepticism approaches (bigfoot, aliens, esp, holistic medicine, faith healers, etc.) you see that some are easy to debunk and have a small following, whiles other do not. Many of us, including this site, use the “HARMS litmus test”. In other words, whatever irrational belief hurts the most people should be triaged higher on our list. Holistic medicine hurts people, but not as much as the church. Religion harms human rights, female equality, gay rights, science education, medicine, and so much more. Religion NEEDS the focus of the world’s skeptics more than other topics. All of them (topics) should be looked at… but we’ll continue to focus where the most harms are.

Let’s look at some of the harms of the church. The obvious ones are the millions of people killed in war over centuries due to religious beliefs. That is a category all it’s own and you can find so many accounts of this it isn’t worth posting here. But, let’s look at womens’ rights. We will have an entire blog on this soon, but, to summarize it, churches, in general (especially the Catholic church and the nation of Islam) subjugate women and have worked hard to “prove” that they are not equal to men. They tell them to stay home, be good wives, and have babies. They are stumbling blocks in the road to equality.

Next is gay rights. The Mormon/LDS church spent more than $22million on Prop 8 in California to make sure gay couples couldn’t get married. That’s a lot of moolah to blow based on religious beliefs. Remember, they can’t produce one shred of credible evidence that gay marriage is wrong other than that their bible tells them so. Again, millions of people are harmed by this bigotry and 99% of all gay bashings and gay hate crimes have been committed by people who did it out of religious anger.

The reluctance of many to accept medical help and rely on god instead is staggering. There have even been numerous HIV patients around the world who rely on prayer to get better. Dr. Matthew Goodwin writs

Unfortunately, many poor patients cannot seem to learn that 0 percent of HIV cases have been healed through prayer alone (even when that HIV is contracted from the mother at birth). While there is no doubt mission work has provided much relief and aid throughout history, it is paramount that missionaries and others understand both the culture they are entering and the role that medicine and logical, evidence-based thinking plays in helping the world’s poor.

I even used to go to a church where a prominent minister opted for a home birth of his two twins. When one stopped breathing shortly after birth, the whole room prayed while the mother screamed at them to take the child to the ER right away. The baby died. It was later discovered that during that hour long prayer session that failed, there was ample time to get the child to the hospital and save it’s life. No one went to jail for this.

The last “biggie” and the one that I feel has the most “uncountable” harms is science and education. The extent to which the church has fought science and the advancement of human knowledge is truly incredible. Science could have come so much further if churches in history hadn’t waged a war on science (something they realized quickly could demolish accepted dogma). Even today, in spite of overwhelming evidence for evolution, places like the Discovery Institute push more and more to “prove” creationism and teach “intelligent design” in schools. Yeah, that’s what we need… another generation of children who think the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Polls from last year by PEW show that when asked “Do you believe god created humans and did it within the last 10,000 years” only 16% of people in the UK answered yes. In America… 47%!!! I hope we live to see a day when that number here is much, much lower. But, until that day arrives, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to promote skepticism, critical thinking, and free-thought dialogs that are based on rational evidence and reasonable logic.