One of my favorite bloggers, Greta Christina, recently (May 13, 2011) asked (and answered) the question, "Are All Religions Equally Crazy?"
"No," I thought upon reading this headline, "some are much more equally crazy than others." Of course, any sensible debate on the relative Orwellian equality of pious lunacies requires agreed-upon criteria to objectively assess levels of craziness. It might be hard to gain such a consensus, especially if believers were to participate in the process. Their contempt for miracle claims and the historical record is deeper than that distain common among us infidels - except, of course, for their own myths. The latter seem totally sensible and beyond question, which is possible when you have faith, faith being the capacity to fervently believe what you know ain't so.
Ms. Christina notes that we non-believing skeptic rationalists extend the courtesy of polite restraint about those religious beliefs that seem moderate and progressive. We only "trash the low-hanging fruit of hard-line fundamentalism." But, she argues and I agree, they are all wacko (or "nutty" or "batshit" or "lunatic" or what have you). Consider:
Mormons - magic underwear, retroactive baptism of the dead, becoming a god on your own planet after death, secret magical golden plates through a magic hat and so.
The rest of Christianity - talking snakes, living inside giant fish, a single boat that saved two of every living creature on the planet from a flood, magic crackers that transform into the body of your god when eaten, a fruit that seriously diminished the quality of life of everyone who was born on the entire planet after one person ate it, a virgin birth, water made "holy" that inoculates babies so they won't have to burn forever in Hell, a 6,000 year old earth and a god who commits suicide to save the world from the punishment he himself would otherwise have to administer - and so on.
Other religions (including but not limited to Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam) - ritual washing in a polluted river, shifting sins to chickens, covering women head to toe, compulsory hats, no drawing pictures of real things allowed, cutting of the clitoris, trimming the tip of the penis, etc. ad nauseam.
All this and a great deal of other beliefs are not "out of step with cultural norms" but are "out of touch with reality," as Christina sees it and I certainly agree. Nevertheless, where religions have a large following, their sacred truths, dogmas and rituals are safe from ridicule, most of the time in nearly all places, for many reasons, including these:
* The religions are popular and powerful - and do not take dissent gracefully, let along irreverence ("blasphemy").
* Most people are polite and nice, and try to get along by going along and, if amused or horrified by religious beliefs, keep it to themselves.
* When so many believe something, you have to wonder - there must be something to it.
* The really weird stuff gets reinterpreted to make it seem a bit more plausible, and most believers don't fully understand or even want to know about the lunatic stuff that was part of the program in earlier times.
But, let's face it - Christina's right - they are all equally crazy. Superstition is nonsense, period. The supernatural is implausible. Believing that which is supported by no evidence is irrational. Most beliefs conflict with science. Most distort verifiable history. Reality deserves our respect, improbably claims do not.
Ok, enough already. If all this is just common sense, totally consistent with what you have concluded long ago (or even recently), wouldn't it be nice to say something, to make a point about religion that would actually be seen by lots of people? Want to come out of the closet and go public with a statement about the bare-ass emperor that is all religion? If so, I have a suggestion.
Make a billboard. Put up a comment next to your name and photo picture. Of course, it must be brief! It's a billboard, not a book. Go to the website of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and set one up - it's free. Here's a summary from the FFRF billboard campaign:
"Declare and share your non-belief! Although the nonreligious — including one in six U.S. citizens — are a significant segment of the world population, many Americans have never knowingly met a nonbeliever. You can help dispel myths, educate and promote reason by adding your voice, face and message to FFRF's friendly neighborhood freethinker campaign. FFRF's 'Out of the Closet' billboards and bus signs are going up around the country. Although we can't put everyone on a real billboard, every nonbeliever can participate in this unique 'cyberboard' campaign. (Yours might even be chosen, with your permission, for an actual billboard.) This is your chance to proclaim you're a freethinker and why. It's working for the gay rights movement. Now it's time for atheists and agnostics to come out of our closet. Many faces make Enlightenment work."
I did, Here's my billboard. Now show me yours!