The Unholy War

Right now (end of the year 2010), an unholy war is ravaging countries like the United States of America and England. Atheists known now as "new atheists" are attacking religions in all its guises. Some religions are fighting back. Who started all this? Like with all human fights, it is pretty hard to know who started it after sometime into war. And the fact is that atheists have, arguably for millennia, been attacked by "religion" (that is, by some religions and by some religious people). Who can benefit – win – from all of this situation? It is hard to tell. What is not hard to tell is who loses: We All.

That is why I think this one, like so many others prior to this, is an unholy war. People on both sides are highly worthy of respect, highly honorable, and often highly intelligent too. Some basic demands from atheists are fully legitimate. The separation between state and religion is perhaps the basic idea that sums it all up. Some religions, or better, some people in some religions, have damaged severely this tenet for countless decades, especially in the USA and UK, I believe. Also, some specific religions, and some specific religious practices, are truly in clash with "modern life" and "modern values." Are we to allow a kid to die because he/she cannot receive blood due to his/her parents' religious convictions? There are several other examples. Like, for example, the teaching of the deceitful "intelligent design" in classes in the US.

The reaction from some non-believers has been, likewise, pretty much bizarre. They have created a new religion: New Atheism. However, unlike most religions, this one claims to be…Science (and scientific). To me that has the potential to be the greatest of all harms. When people like Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger – or  far worse: Sam Harris – step forward and write books where they declare Religion (all of it) is the cause of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and when they say it carrying their badges where one reads "I Am a Scientist and I Am Speaking in the Name of Science," serious problems loom in the near horizon. That is why I have often been so harsh on "new atheists" and on people who behave in ways similar to "new atheists."

There is no doubt that this war must be fought. The question, instead, is how the contenders are best supposed to move through it, to fight it. Perhaps the best way to start is not to misevaluate the opponent's true views and value. Atheism is much much more of a virtue than of a vice. Likewise, religiousness has many merits in it. Perhaps Jesus (or "Jesus," if you will – for some people believe Jesus actually did not exist, or at least not the way we think of him; he might have been a pretty normal fellow whose story got embellished over some decades to the point of portraying him as a God.) was not always right in his "teachings." But if there is one of his sayings that seem truly correct and, topmost, fully applicable to this specific situation is the one where he teaches: Love Thy Enemy. So, in science, as well as in religion and in emotion and in rationality, let the truth be heard, accepted, and followed.

This last phrase seemed so messianic that I decided to have someone offer some wine and bread to you readers...

Julio Siqueira
December 29, 2010.