Time for a new Reformation, which eliminates religions with overt secular power

By Donald A. Collins | 15 April 2015
Church and State

(Photo by Brad Dodson on Unsplash)

As the announcements from those running for the US Presidency cascade into the main stream media, the pundits are making conjectures which should suffice to please everyone of every political hue. Except we atheists.

I noticed as Senator Marco Rubio appeared on the Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Today Show on NBC, he was asked by Host Matt Lauer how and when Marco came to this decision. When? “3 or 4 weeks ago”, he said, “Right before Easter we prayed about it.”

Rubio and Jeb Bush are long time friends despite the fact that they are contesting for the same nomination. Both men are heavily religious.

In short, no one including Hillary Clinton will mount a Presidential campaign without assuring their audiences that they are somehow connected to God! No atheists need apply.

So what is my point? Simple. Listen carefully. Since all religions are created by humans, not divines, we can expect no more or less than human foibles in the pursuit of any religion.

It is quite obvious that such pursuits have been overall an unmitigated disaster for the human race. The histories of every religion are filled with occurrences which prove my point.

The bottom line is clear. Those humans who would profess special access to a fantastical connection with an un-provable, unreachable, unreliable entity are truly either socially pleased with the company they are keeping, seeking to keep their delusions or as is evident with those in control of any given sect, the religious leaders, are all too often, humans without scruple.

Now this sounds pretty harsh to most ears, but that is because most people do not want to confront reality nor chance being accused of being non believers. Fortunately, there are many brave voices and they continue to speak out as you will read below.

Since the dawn of human history, fantasy about un-seeable beings has frequently been the norm. So what is different now?

Science. As you ride in one of today’s jet airplanes, remember that on “December 17, 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day with Orville’s brother Wilbur piloting the record flight lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet.”

Yes, the vast and rapidly increasing human ability to make wider views of the seemingly endless space our orb resides in. And to delve more deeply into all matters about our earth close at hand. This comment of course has given the fantasizers ample room to talk about Intelligent Design and the unsolved limits to the spaces near and far that we can now view.

Ok, scientists haven’t figured out all the mysteries, but the progress since 1903 has been mind boggling. And, unlike the living in the past religions who seek to tell us how to live and love, our scientists don’t seek to impede discovery! Senator Rubio is claiming he wants a new America but he would undoubtedly foist the dangerous old doctrines of his religion on us without question.

As Wikipedia tells us,

Galileo Galilei (Italian pronunciation: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi] ; 15 February 1564–8 January 1642), often known mononymously as Galileo, was an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the father of modern science”.

His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots. Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing an improved military compass and other instruments.

Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism was controversial within his lifetime, a time when most subscribed to either geocentrism or the Tychonic system. He met with opposition from astronomers, who doubted heliocentrism due to the absence of an observed stellar parallax. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was false and contrary to scripture, placing works advocating the Copernican system on the index of banned books and forbidding Galileo from advocating heliocentrism. Galileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII, thus alienating not only the Pope but also the Jesuits, both of whom had supported Galileo up until this point. He was tried by the Holy Office, then found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, was forced to recant, and spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest. It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he wrote one of his finest works, Two New Sciences, in which he summarised the work he had done some forty years earlier, on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials.

So cite me a positive case where “keeping the faith” has invented new knowledge, added to human well being, or accurately exposed positive avenues for human improvement. And don’t tell me that the 10 commandments was the definitive example, when the first commandment is “thou shall put no other gods before me” which immediately promotes tribalism and strife with other sects!

Those among us who feel redeemed by their faiths—and there are obviously billions of humans in that category—can still practice their beliefs, but hopefully without forcing us non believers as at present to cede our freedoms to the autocracies of organized sects who have managed to impose on our laws their creeds.

Go ahead and be born again, ye of overwrought faith, but let us infidels alone!!!! That was certainly the intent of our Founding Fathers. Again, I recognize the enormity of getting these onerous religious monkeys off our backs, but small steps now have begun the evolution.

What is the solution? A secular humanist reformation. The forces for repression of progress, the large, venial religious citadels of secular power who specialize in attacking, for example, the human rights of women (only one example of their attacks) have many powerful symbols at the moment: you know, the cathedrals or other so called holy sites, in short the tribal club houses where their dangerous catechisms or doctrines can be promoted unquestioned.

In the twinkling of an historical, or especially a geological eye, the years of emersion in the befogging of human progress can be lifted. The birth control pill was only approved in 1960, just 50 years ago, about 1/2 the expected lifetimes of people born today! Yet, according to the Center for Disease Control, still about 49% of those births to US women are unintended, 38% of those unwanted births to women who already had the number of children they wanted.

My final advice about what to do is beamed at those of you out there who basically “get it” about religion but who don’t want to ruffle feathers, cut sales in your business or end up with some crazy shooting you for saying something about the evils of one of those monotheistic male dominated religions that have so much power over our governance and that of other countries in places where nuclear mischance remains a true possibility.

You can start small by pointing out examples to family and friends of the utter moral bankruptcy of those religions. One blatant example came from the Roman Catholic Archbishop in St Louis who last year said he didn’t believe 25 years ago that priests having sex with young boys was illegal, but now “I understand today it’s a crime.” It took his sect hundreds of years to absolve Galileo.

Of course the people who are brave enough today such as reported in an April 13, 2015 article in the Weekly Standard by author Joseph Loconte entitled “Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the Jesus Movement”.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial Muslim-turned-atheist, told a National Press Club audience last week some hard facts about Islam and its propensity toward violence. But her remarks about Christianity—about its capacity to soften sectarian hatreds—may prove an even tougher pill to swallow. The New York Times best-selling author is promoting her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. For over a decade, Hirsi Ali has argued that Islam is not a religion of peace and tolerance. Although Islamic belief does not make Muslims naturally violent, she says, the call for violence is explicitly justified in the sacred texts of Islam. “This theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses,” she writes, “including but not limited to apostasy, adultery, blasphemy, and even something as vague as threats to family honor or to the honor of Islam itself.”

In her National Press Club talk, Hirsi Ali admitted that her initial hope for many Muslims was that they would convert—to Christianity. “Back then I was promoting the idea, if you’re a peace-loving, tolerant Muslim and you want to be religious, why not convert to Christianity?” She confessed to sending “a very naïve letter” to the Pope, imploring him to “capture the hearts and minds of all of these millions of people who are spiritual, in search of redemption.”

Hirsi Ali no longer believes that strategy is practical; it is not easy for people to reject the religion of their birth and their families. Hence her agenda for reform: what Islam needs now, she says, is a revolution akin to that which transformed Christianity in the sixteenth century.

Sadly, while she took an amazingly brave path in eschewing Islam and embracing atheism, Ms. Ali apparently doesn’t understand that while some of the excesses of Christianity no longer occur, the levers of temporal power still controlled by the Catholic hierarchy (e.g. 6 of 9 justices on the US Supreme Court are Catholic, 3 of them alleged to be members of Opus Dei, a group which demands loyalty to the RCC over loyalty to one’s country) are as destructive as ever. It can be clearly argued that its campaign and those of many other religions to deny women the option of modern contraception including abortion has created more deaths by far than those affected by the infamous Spanish Inquisition.

Remember Hitler was a nominal Catholic and the Vatican, which Gerald Posner noted eloquently in his recent bestselling book, “God’s Bankers” was willing to ignore his misdeeds during WWII in order to preserve its secular (read ‘financial’) well being. His exhaustive use of valid archival material leaves no doubt about his conclusions. Why settle for any form of religious fantasy, Ms. Ali, when all religions use their bully pulpits to divisively to create tribalism and ensuing hatreds??

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not predicting that eliminating the temporal power of religion would make many humans behave without all of the same evils which have manifested themselves in religions.

However, without the drag of their fantasies, we could go forward clear eyed in the understanding that goodness does not come out of “the Good Book”, but from a balance of governance that offers the most people in any society a fair shake.

John Locke’s concept of the Social Contract meant that the vast majority of the people in any given society behaved within its rules because it gave them a better deal than anarchy and/or dictatorship. By and large our founding fathers gave us the framework for that kind of society, not under God, but under a balance of power which allowed a majority of us to thrive.

Yes, there were horrible anomalies such as slavery and racism which still bedevil us, but progress has occurred. Human progress, like biological evolution, hopefully can occur.

A secular prayer meaningful to me, one which I often use, wishes that the barnacles of religion can be excised from our listing ship of state before too many generations have passed.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.

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