So why is faith in nonsensical supercomputers-in-the-sky gaining ground in poor societies (like Africa) and losing ground fast in wealthier ones (like Europe). There seems even to be evidence that as the wealth and educational divide become deeper in the US, so religious faith is gaining ground amongst the swelling ranks of their poor, but declining fast amongst their wealthier segments. The reason, I suspect, is education. Particularly scientific education, not pseudo-education where ideas like Intelligent Design are pedalled to infantile brains as fact, or even a possibility. Based on what evidence?
The evidence, incredibly, is espoused in a bunch of randomly selected books (depending on where you happen to live and who(m!) your parents are) written by no doubt deep-thinking people (exclusively men I suspect) who had no knowledge of science as we understand it today. None. Everything they knew about how things worked was the same as everything their ancestors knew tens of thousands of years before them. Their contemporary knowledge of the world was based on cast-iron evidence that the sum total of human knowledge about the way things work is a constant. Everything that could be known by man, is already known by man. The rest is known by 'the really clever one'. Scientific discoveries simply didn't happen, or at least not frequently enough to be noticed (and if they were, it took centuries for them to propagate. There was no Twitter for Archimedes). So they knew for certain that man had never, and therefore would never solve the mysteries surrounding them. Ergo there was only one possible explanation for it all. Someone or something smarter than them had designed it and was responsible for all the unexpected things that happened every minute of every day. The existence of God was obvious to them and provided a rich platform for an infinite range of explanations about everything. Usefully it also provided a power support structure that offered tribal leaders a relatively cheap and massively effective suite of ordained regulations to control their populations by suggesting eternal purgatory for transgressions of man-made laws and appointments (the divine right of kings etc). What the church and its patrons decreed, you obeyed and you believed. Why not? Everyone around you did. How arrogant to believe you might know more that 'the really clever one'.
By the way. Who checked Mary was a virgin? Joseph? Not a particularly impressive husband, was he, if she presumably had to remain a virgin throughout the pregnancy, let alone before it. Why does nobody worry about Joseph and his problem? Anyway, if Joseph told everyone he wasn't the dad, and probability (science!) suggests there must have been one, if you'd been Mary, what would you have told him, and what explanation would he be most eager to believe to protect his reputation? "I'm a virgin" (praise the lord) or "oops"? Just a thought.
My bet is that had Jesus, or Mohammed, been born into wealthy 21st-century British families, and they'd paid attention in their science classes (oh yes, and Mo had learned to read), they would have questioned the concept of there needing to be a deity to explain the mysteries of the world... and, more importantly, would have realised that we will explain more and more of those mysteries as discovery and learning accelerates - and can be shared instantaneously by every human on the planet. In the times they lived, scientific discovery simply hadn't existed and therefore wasn't an option to explain anything.
Holy books are the start of understanding, not the end.
And that's the point of this post. If atheism is about believing nothing that can't (one day) be proved, it is easy to come up with slogans that sound negative - and therefore unhelpful at best. Or at worst, inflammatory and aggressive towards devout deists who won't entertain arguments that start from the premise 'your god idea might only be an idea'. Slogans like "There is no god" (recently used by Dawkins & Co on London buses), or "Religion is for dummies", will only entrench deists and those who believe in letting them (and therefore their children) believe what they want to believe. They will continue to regard atheism as a negative or nihilist force, even a satanic one. I suggest, therefore, that we need a positive slogan, motto or strapline to sum up why we don't believe what we don't believe. So how about these for starters:
- Question everything!
- The bearded ones started our quest for answers. Let scientists complete it.
- Why invent deities to answer mysteries when we have brains?
- If god is the answer, the question was too easy.
- Jesus and Mohammed were smart. Today they'd be atheists.
- Why are there no revelations in the Book of Revelations?
- Why did god forget to mention atoms and dinosaurs?