Monday, September 7, 2015

The Universe Through Godless Eyes

"The world is an enchanted place, we just got used to it." - Moshe Orman

A peculiar thing happened to me when I left religion. When my belief in all things supernatural dissipated, I found myself wondering, for the first time, about the nature of the universe. I became thirsty to know the mechanics of the natural world. I attempted to comprehend the staggeringly large universe and peer into the intricate world of the microcosmic. I started to care, in other words, about science.

I suppose my sudden interest in science came from the void left in my life when God vanished. When I was believer, how God made the world didn't really interest me; it only mattered that he did, in fact, create and control it. Of course there are religious people who are drawn to science, for to them it is the language of God. To them, the magnitude of the universe, the complexity of living creatures, the "laws" which seem to govern the universe, all testify to his greatness. Hence William Paley's often cited "Watchmaker Analogy." This is not the place, however, to discuss this fascinating, albeit slightly antiquated, argument. I only mention it here to show that for many theologians, science is a way of knowing the mind of God.

Paradoxically, I had never had such an interest, until I left religion. Of course, the "mind of God" I am now interested in revealing is more closely related to what Stephen Hawking meant when he said:
"Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God."1 
Once on the outside, no longer covered by the blanket explanation called "God," I became mystified by the sight of the stars above me. I knew very little of scientific discoveries, less than I do now, which is still lamentably less than I ought to know.

In a way, my ignorance of science allowed me to experience what it must have been like for our ancestors when they began to learn about the Cosmos. I was awestruck as I learned more and more "magical" concepts that were common knowledge to most teenagers in high school.

Many today are taught science in grade school. As they grow up and the necessities of life stifle their intellectual curiosity and childish wonder, they are no longer intoxicated (if they ever were) by the fact that our sun is one of around 100 billion stars in our galaxy, many of which are much larger than our own humble star, the circumference of which is 2,713,406 miles. I had the experience of learning all this only a little while ago, as an adult. My school days far behind me, I was free from the distractions of the classroom and the pesky schoolyard social hierarchy that makes learning almost impossible if one is concerned with adolescent social status. Diligent students are seldom also the popular ones.

In my school days I had convinced myself that I was "bad at science." This is no doubt, in part, since the heroes the cool children worshiped, never seemed to be scientists. The image of a scientist, to a kid in school, is generally that of a middle-aged, pale-faced man, with poor hygiene and big glasses. Needless to say, those worried about climbing the social ladder will do best to distance themselves from such people and their passions. Far better to emulate, are the muscular billionaires playing basketball for a living. Science also scared and confused me. Two emotions cool kids didn't seem to be having. I, therefore, accepted that I was bad at science as a sacred truth. I was so thoroughly not present in the science classroom, that I honestly cannot recall whether or not the teacher was inspiring.

Years later, upon leaving religion, I fell in love with the universe. I became amazed by her, humbled before her, and infinitely curious to learn all I could about her. I have traded in the burning bush and splitting seas for Red Giants and black holes. I have replaced myth with method, dogma with critical thinking. When the God door closed, another door, that of the universe, opened.

I have a close friend who upon leaving religion felt himself stripped of wonder. To him, the world had lost all its color, all its spectacular majesty. If the Wizard of Oz wasn't real, Oz was no longer beautiful. If the universe had no meaning or purpose then all that we see is simply an ever-decaying transient accident. If there was no Author, the words of the book become incoherent nonsense.

I feel deeply for him, but I cannot empathize. The world has more beauty to me now than it did in the presence of God. In fact, while religious, I looked past this material world to the spiritual realm that was said to lie beyond it. I believed that we were condemned to live a life here, in this Earthly realm, in order to rise at the appointed to time, into heaven, into eternal bliss. "This world is like an antechamber, to the eternal world;" the Mishnaic sage wrote, "prepare thyself in the antechamber that thou mayest enter into the banquet hall."2 This became my attitude towards the physical; it was something to be endured, dealt with, until such a time as I could be free from it.

Since my deconversion, my attitude toward this life has radically changed. Without God the universe may have no ultimate meaning, but I will not let future transience ruin what is now cast before my eyes. And though the words of the Author-less book have indeed become harder to understand, it is precisely the job of curious humans to decipher it. Indeed, where would humankind be, if we had been too afraid or too indifferent to try?

For the task of acquiring knowledge about the rock on which we live, the galaxy in which we hurtle through space, and the universe in which we are only an infinitesimally small part, the scientific method stands head and shoulders above any other method that has preceded it. It forces us to look at the Cosmos with pure wonder, stripped of superstitions and suppositions. We are to remain humble yet daringly curious, admit our ignorance while making strides toward knowledge. It compels us to doubt our most cherished myths and our most deeply held convictions and accept the feebleness of man's faculties while simultaneously sanctifying them. Science is a tool we use to learn about our place in the Cosmos, and it has proven itself a most worthy tool indeed.

For those of you who have grown too accustomed to our world to notice it, for those who no longer feel the awe the universe invokes, for those who have forgotten what it means to be childishly curious, I challenge you to look up at the starry night, stare deep into the black cosmic ocean, and remember the most amazing thing, in my opinion, science has ever taught us: "...the Cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself."3

1 Stephen Hawking: Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)
2 Ethics of our Fathers, 4:21
3 Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why Most Believers Aren't Afraid of Epicurus

The paradox of evil has kept theologians busy for years. As hurricanes level cities, as tyrants slaughter millions, theologians have taken on the daunting task of explaining how their god, to whom they prescribe ultimate goodness and power, stands by, either impotent or indifferent to the suffering of mankind. They have cleverly attempted to explain it away with devils, or free will, or human ignorance but they remain ever haunted by this unholy paradox.

Some of the more fierce theologians have purposed that we stand up to God, rebel against his indifference. They say we should demand that the heavens answer the prayers of the downtrodden; the very same downtrodden that God himself told us to mind. These brave religious leaders cite the daring biblical character Abraham, for he stood up before God in an unprecedented way. As God divulged his vicious plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham challenged God's righteousness:

"Will you also stamp out the righteous with the wicked? What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city? Will you stamp it out rather than spare the place for the sake of fifty righteous people within it? It would be sacrilege for you to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked... Shall the judge of the Earth not to justice?" 

Eventually, Abraham concedes when God fails to find even five righteous people in either city. (One must wonder why the children didn't qualify.) After this daring defiance, Abraham becomes the champion for such godly rebellion. It seems odd that several chapters hence, he willfully and without complaint ties his own child to an alter and is prepared to slaughter him at God's behest. I suppose we needn't worry, I am quite sure the theologians have thought of something. 

As more and more tragedies befall mankind theologians are continuously forced to confront the paradox of Epicurus, but to their credit (or perhaps not) they always find a way of quieting their philosophical minds. 

As a non-believer when I am confronted by evil, such as the Holocaust, I am always confounded that people can still hurl praise and worship to a god who stood by and watched as millions of people, including his so-called Chosen People, were gassed, starved, and slaughtered. I have witnessed people thank God for allowing the Americans to defeat the Germans, which simultaneously admits their belief in God's omnipotence and intervention while not being furious at God for allowing it to happen in the first place. I always wonder why, even if an intervening does god exist, he would deserve any praise at all. Shouldn't we take Abraham's challenge a step further and refuse to worship or obey God until he repents for his cruel and genocidal ways? As it is allegedly carved into the side of one of the gas chambers: "If there is a God, he will have to beg for my forgiveness." 

Pondering this I discovered something interesting. While the problem of evil seems to terrify theologians it doesn't seem to bother the other believers all that much. In fact, in times of suffering they turn to God! They claim to be comforted knowing that their suffering is in the hands of a Grand Master who controls their lives, and can relieve them of this suffering at any time. God is their friend, their father; nevermind that he is also the Cause of their suffering. 

This is a peculiar paradox. It would appear that for the average believer their faith is source of comfort to them, not a matter of philosophical consistency. They believe in God because they need to; because in the moments of misery they need someone to whom they can cry out. Leave the philosophy to the theologians, God is love. 

I am not mocking this sentiment. I certainly cannot offer anything in the way of comfort that would be anywhere near as helpful as belief is to the faithful. Indeed, my doctrine could not do what a pastor's could at the bedside of a cancer patient. Not everyone need be philosophers, not everyone is compelled to be so. Why shouldn't people be comforted in their misery in any way they can? I am aware that this essay may come across as condescending toward the religious. I mean no such harm, I am merely attempting to make sense of the believers desire to pray to a god who appears to be either malevolent or not all-powerful. 

Perhaps one day, if there is a God, he will answer the prayers of the widows and orphans, of the hungry and distraught, of the tortured and abused. Until then, I think the religious should follow the advice of Pope Francis: "You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works." The rest of us should busy ourselves with the latter part of this statement and together we can do what no god has ever been able to do. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Uncertainty and Global Democracy

Democracy, so as to protect itself, seeks to prove the democratic method is the best, indeed the only proper form of government. It has a violent rage against those who disagree, for a rebel in a democracy threatens to make it all crumble. It is rage born of fear. Fear that the "savages" - a term given to any whom do not support a democratic government - will attack their civilized paradise. Democracy is founded on compromise. It is the idea that all ideas are to be respected and given voice.

Tyrannies, on the contrary, live by an ideal. They have no interest on comprising on their truth. What they know to be True is to them, the only ideal which matters; the only one worthy of respect. They squash the rebels, silence the opposition. They worship their ideal, their truth, and demand that all bend a knee, or perish.

We, in the West, have been taught that such tyrannies are evil, and democracy, which legitimates all ideas, all truths, is a noble structure upon which to build one's country. However, can one be considered virtuous who comprises on Truth? Can he who bends his ideals to fit snugly with contradicting ideals be thought of as man of truth? Can such perversion of Truth be called a virtue?! Should not all men of truth cling to their convictions and slay all who oppose them? If one lets idolaters taint his place of worship, is he not guilty himself of blasphemy?

What then shall be of the world? Tyrannies of opposing convictions battling for dominance; a jungle of self-righteous bloodshed? A horrible picture indeed. No, I posit that the founders of democracy understood that life has no certainty. They knew that "truth" is a word that should not be used in any ultimate sense. We cannot be certain of anything; we irrational creatures. Indeed to echo the words of the great Socrates, the only thing we can know, is that we know nothing at all.

If our perceived truths cannot be considered absolute, we must allow for the possibility that we are wrong and afford our opposition the same right. The two sides may then humbly compromise on the differing opinions of truth.

It is uncertainty that will unite the world. It is the humility to accept our place in the universe, to stand in awe of its mystery, that will free humankind from warfare. We can strive for truth, we can study the universe, we can formulate beliefs, but we mustn't take ourselves too seriously. We our subjective animals seeking to observe our cage objectively. It is nothing short of hubris or perhaps lunacy, to believe we can ever reach certainty. When humanity internalizes this idea, when we humans are humbled by our own vast ignorance, we shall take several large steps towards real lasting peace.

Therefore, ye advocates of democracy, ye seekers of peace, praise skepticism; for it is the key that will unleash democracy to the world.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Is Religion Evil?

One of the challenges that is facing the great thinkers of our age, is defining whether religion is a force of good or evil in the world. Both sides, atheists and theologians, battle ferociously to show religion's virtue or poisonous nature. In the past it seemed that the debate was focused on proving whether or not a particular religion was true, now we focus on whether it is useful or dangerous.

When one attempts to view religion as a single organism, one quickly realizes that is anything but simple. I always find it strange when a man of a particular faith will engage in a debate as the representative of religion. Even within religions there are a multitude of differing opinions, how then is one to defend all of their disparaging ideas? He has set himself up for defeat before he even opens his mouth.

Religion has played a major role in every moment of history dating as far back as we can tell. It has inspired man to great heights and corrupted him to the greatest cruelties. It has condoned and condemned slavery. It has declared man a servant, and declared him free. It has chosen a nation and made man equal. Religion is ugly and beautiful, sinful and saintly, devilish and divine. It cannot be judged as good or evil, poisonous or virtuous, it transcends such absolutes. We must begin to examine religion in the appropriate fashion if we are to understand why it has been the driving force in all of mankind's history.

When one opens the Judea-Christian Bible what will he find? When he reads its texts, studies its essence, what will he discover? Is there a guarantee, a result every reader will walk away with?  

Human history beginning after the Bible was written, testifies that no two people experience the same thing, nor conclude the same idea from reading the Bible's cryptic text. Indeed is not every book merely a mirror in which one can see his own reflection? When one views the Bible, when he reads its stories, he will really be peering into his own soul. The text will enliven him, verses will cling to his mind while others will be forgotten. If he is cruel than he will learn cruelty, if he is loving than he will find love.

The Bible has been the book called on by tyrants and revolutionaries, activists and the complacent, to justify their deeds. The Bible has shackled the world in darkness and demanded the light. Adolph Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr. called on its texts to gather the masses, to inspire their followers. The Bible has given life to the Earth while threatening to annihilate it.

How are we to approach this book of paradoxes, this text of opposites? Is it dangerous? Is it inspiring? Such a debate will bear no fruit, it will but make enemies. Each camp will claim to know the truth distancing themselves further from one another. Atheists learn to hate religion, religion begins to hate its attackers. Each side believes they are right, and they are.

Religion is evil, religion is beautiful. Religion teaches hate, and it teaches love. Religion is neither the problem nor the solution, we are.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cyber-Misery Loves Company

The 21st century, and particularly the invention of the internet, has vastly changed the way humans interact with the world. The internet, I dare say, was probably one of the greatest inventions of all time, right along side the wheel and sliced bread.

Knowledge, that in the past would have to be sought in books, some accessible and some not, is now available to all at the few clicks on a key board. Indeed, in the past knowledge many times was afforded to those who could pay its price. Books were expensive, and therefore the acquisition of knowledge was as well.

With the invention of the internet that all changed. Now, knowledge was accessible to all who sought it. Not only could one find the answers to his questions but he was able to find several sources to compare from, and to be certain that the information was up-to-date.

The internet, in addition, connected the globe in an unprecedented fashion. People from across the world could now, for the first time, send instant messages to one another. Since the invention of the internet and up until the present day, all the conveniences here mentioned, in addition to the great many that I have not written here, have become better, faster and more accessible.

There are, of course, many ills that have accompanied this fine invention; as always is the case. The enormous amount of misinformation that clutters the endless libraries of the internet, the inappropriate cyber-stalking that is easily done, and the many evils that are now only a click away from the innocent eyes of children, are just a few demons that were released with the creation of the internet. However, that is for another essay, and even perhaps, another writer entirely.

There are other goods which come to us via the internet that are perhaps less noticeable at first glance. It is a fascinating activity, and one I repeat often, to type the beginning of a question into a Google search bar, and let the most searched options pop up as Google attempts to guess your question based on the first words typed, and the popularity of the questions beginning with the same words.

A moment ago, and for the sake of this essay, I typed the words: "Why is life" into Google. The following popped up as the most searched questions beginning with these words:
Why is life so hard?
Why is life so tough?
Why is life so pointless?
Why is life expectancy so high in Japan?
Why is life so amazing?
Why is life so unfair?
Why is life so boring?
Why is life worth living?

In other words, the internet has enabled us to ask life's most pressing questions from behind our safe and anonymous computer screens.

Humans have the strange tendency to pretend that we have it all figured out. That we do not need the advice or, even the comfort of others. We are taught that to be successful at life is to have a great job that rewards you with a large paycheck. We are taught that adults shouldn't be asking questions like: "Why is life so hard?". Those types of questions should be buried deep inside oneself, for they are childish and stupid.

We put on our carefully designed masks in order to hide the child quivering within us. The child who, ever since the invention of the internet, has been able to reach out to others, to ask the questions that he would have otherwise buried, and to receive the comfort of company that he would have otherwise not had. The internet gives us the right to be human again.

The other comforting reality we were given through the invention the internet was to see just how many people are feeling the same way as we are. The most popular search result informs us just how many people are suffering from the same deep existential fears or emotional wounds that we ourselves are suffering from.

If only we could internalize this lesson, understand the pain that our fellow human beings are experiencing, how much pity and love we would we instantly feel for them? Why, we would be hugging everyone we met, with the hopes of comforting and being comforted by them!

Sam Harris in The End of Faith wrote in regards to the simple truth of of empathy-based morality: "Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?"

Indeed, were we humans more aware of the suffering of the woman sitting beside us on the bus, or the man who works down the hall, or the child who misbehaves in class, would not kindness sweep through the world, and pity and love fill the hearts of all men, women and children?

If there is a lesson to be learned from our Google searches it is this: That we are all suffering. We are all asking the deep unanswerable and, at times, childish questions. We all want to be accepted and loved. We are all, in other words, human, all too human.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Critiquing the Zeitgeist

One who would take quick glance at the world today, especially the culture of the young adults, will find a rather horrifying picture. He will see that everything from the music to social interaction to the goals to which we aspire have become meaningless. The music that is produced today is for the most part nonsensical, and that which does retain a level of coherency, glorifies emptiness, worships lust, and deifies money. The mantra repeated by most young adults is "live as if it was your last day." And where this is a fine sentiment to live by, the general attitude is that of partying like there was no tomorrow. That is, making sure that before death's cold hand grips us, we have fulfilled every lustful desire that plagues us; and remaining numb enough, through the aid of drugs or alcohol, as to defeat the fear the we may disappear tomorrow. The obvious fallacy is the notion that desire is something that can ever be satiated. An attempt to placate the screams of desire will only show that it is a like trying to construct a building on quicksand.

Whereas, were it my last day I would wish to spend it in the most sober fashion possible, grasping onto my consciousness with all my strength, the youth preach a numbing of the intellect, so that in effect they are dead already. The very thought of death has the power to make me reach for my loved ones, not a bottle, not so, it seems, of many of my peers. Of course, many of them don't actually think they will die tonight, though some probably wish they would; what is important to focus on is the intention behind the popular sentiment.

It is placing our animalistic tendencies as the zenith of human happiness. "Say as you please, do as you please, live as you please." Respect for the aged has decreased greatly, a sense of duty towards the Earth has almost vanished and "meaning" has become a word so misused and misunderstood as to become the opposite of its own definition.

Yet something peculiar has come coupled with the shallow ideology of the 21st century. As they preach "let me do as I please!" they afford this right to all. And so, amid the decay of the human race their is, arising from the ashes, an unprecedented 'love of thy neighbor.' A certain xenophilia has become the rebellion of the youth.

Perhaps "unprecedented" is not an appropriate word. Indeed, in the not so distant history of America of the 1960's, "love" became the word that filled the mouths of many young adults. However, that generation, drowned itself in drugs and sexual promiscuity and thereby wasted away their chance to bring utopia to the Earth. We should look to their civil rights achievements and be inspired by them, and their decadence and distance ourselves from it.

Religions are staggering to keep their control of a young population that is unanimously screaming for equal rights. The Church who has denied a homosexual the right to marry has simultaneously pushed the youth, who embrace all differences and who abhor bigotry, out of the Church with them. They see no use for systems which exclude others.

The youth are rebelling by loving their fellow human! It is truly a wonderful revolution. Of course, this love is many times misguided, misplaced and crude, but we mustn't focus on the nuances just yet. Let us first revel in the tide that is turning ever so slightly towards global unity.

There is much that must happen in my generation before we can say that we have built on the foundations of the past. We need to deepen our connection to life. We need to relearn the philosophers of the past, not to pass a grade in university, but to excel at life itself! We need a resurgence of discussions about how we are supposed to live. Religions need to reevaluate themselves so as to have some relevancy in the coming years. Secularism has to deepen itself, so as to remain a healthy replacement for religious dogma. Either system, if unaltered will become a poison for the world.

For too long the world has been separated by creeds, flags, and ancient disputes. The youth are demanding unity! They are tired of hate, sickened by war, and broken by poverty. However, even an ideal such as unity can be dangerous to the world if done improperly. Indeed the overzealous sheep who lies with the lion, too soon, will find that unity requires understanding on both sides, not a passion on one.

This is why I am calling for a global enlightenment. A wild change in the way we approach life. Indeed, a unified world filled sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, cannot be considered a monumental step forward. It is our generations turn. We are stepping into the world, and are becoming its leaders. What shall we modern minded, peace craving, members of the human race do? Will we become so openminded as to allow evil to annihilate us? Will we become so shallow as to fall from our noble platform of human intellect to the primal instincts of our lowly origin? Will we, as so many generations have done, waste this opportunity for social justice in our pursuit of comfort and lust? What shall become of us?

The time for universal unity has never been so ripe, We stand at the threshold of a brand new world. A world where people are accepted for who they are. Where people are embraced no matter how different they appear to us. But, if we are not careful our season will pass and we will fall into the pages of history and vanish as a speck of dust in an ocean.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Danger of Atheism

Fanaticism is not unique to religions. It finds itself in any dogma, in any in-tribe loyalty, in any idea that excludes others. Fanatics can be found in every group even those as seemingly benign as sports teams. In Europe, but it is true all over the world, fans of rival sports teams will brawl with one another and will generally hate passionately anyone who happens to root for the opposing team.

Whenever humans align themselves with an idea, and they hold that idea as a sacred truth, that is, a truth which requires no evidence and that frightens the holder of the idea to even consider, fanaticism rears its ugly head. Of course, this makes religions ample breeding grounds for fanaticism as well as many other species of evil.

Understood simply, when an idea becomes popular to a group of individuals, it means that the idea, whatever its original form had been, must now assume a simpler form in order to inspire and excite the otherwise bored and uninterested masses. Once the masses of individuals come together under the idea that they scarcely understand, they will feel enormous comfort, as they will now feel part of an exclusive and superior group to the rest of outside world. Community has always been the way humans escape the natural feeling of loneliness, which is the true state of man. Phrases like: "I do not wish to die alone." reveals the existential discomfort we all feel when we reflect on the lonely reality of life, and even more so, of death. Community has always been the antidote for such suffering; and communities generally form around an idea. It stands to reason then, that people who attempt to challenge the idea of the community will be met with scorn, dislike, and at times, violence. They may murder countless people in order to protect the idea that binds them, that inspires them, that lets them forget their horrible loneliness. 

This is the paradox of philosophers who wish to inspire. On the one hand what they wish to present is of a complex nature and has taken them long hours of contemplation to formulate. On the other, the masses are generally disinterested in difficult intellectual pursuits, and want their wisdom made chewy and easy to swallow. This is why we have not seen many philosopher kings, and why the most successful rousers of the otherwise drowsy public have been simple yet devilishly clever. Simple, for their thoughts are dull and ill-thought out; clever for they pander to the crowds giving them the bite-size inspiration that they so crave. The American Televangelists are a prime example of such rabble-rousers. They possess the unique ability to appear profound, while making sure not to say anything that will confuse the group they wish to inspire. In other words, they have leadership qualities.

Here lies the danger of the growing atheistic movement. Atheism has never caught hold of people as it has today. Atheism has moved quietly, stealthily through the ages. Religion has always been easy for the masses to gather around. Though many of its concepts are truly of complex nature, the clergymen have simplified for either their own benefit - that of power - or because they themselves did not understand the nature of the texts they were preaching. While the church was inspiring the masses to kill men accused of being apostates and burn women accused of witchcraft, the atheists have been quiet*. They have been philosophers, scientists, writers, poets. They have not ruled, they have not united. They drifted through the world, isolated wanderers, living almost entirely within their own minds. Whatever has slipped out from their writings and entered into the public sphere has generally been quotes pulled from much larger essays, and almost by necessity have been wildly misconstrued.

[*It is important to note here, that when I say that atheism has been a quiet idea, I am referring to the idea that we cannot know that God exists and therefore live as if he does not. I have not forgotten nor overlooked the cruelties and atrocities committed by regimes led by men who were atheists. Stalin, Mao, and Lenin, among others, though certainly atheists, did not do what they did because of atheism, they simply replaced the dogma of religion with there own self-serving dogma. This is also why they hated religion and wanted it expunged; for it is far easier to give a dogma to an otherwise dogma-less person, but it is a near impossibility to convince a person who already subscribes a dogma, to give it up for another one. As proven, tragically, by the many religious people who died as martyrs at the hands of these very regimes.]

Today however, the atheist community (as they are now called) is growing. The numbers of young adults casting aside their faith and grasping onto atheism is unprecedented. Discussions and debates are erupting all over the globe. Atheism has become a movement that wishes to see religion abolished or at the very least, tamed. Presumably, the Muslim extremists who are threatening to destroy the human race or submit them to Shariah law have caused the almost sudden surge of people wishing to do away with faith. Either that, or the bigoted Christians in America fighting with a violent rage to forbid the marriage of consenting adults of the same gender. Or perhaps, it is the rising death toll in the Middle East over Israel between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. With members of both sides calling it a "holy land given to them by God," people have begun to scorn the idea that seems to be playing so large role in the endless conflict. It may be a combination of all three, perhaps it is something I have not here mentioned; either way, atheism as a movement is on the rise.

The danger of this is clear. As I wrote above, the masses generally do not get inspired by full ideas. Ideas, profound ideas, are multifaceted and require careful analysis if they are to be understood correctly. Atheism, as an idea, is complex, as is religion. Whether we wish to admit it or not, religion has within its tainted chambers many deeply philosophical and frankly, wonderful ideas. Many of those ideas are misunderstood by their practitioners but theologians have been pointing them out for ages. My own childhood faith, Judaism, is a magnificent social system, much of which could serve to benefit mankind, and much of which has! Christianity and Islam, though I am ignorant of much within their texts, have certainly caused a great many people to become refined and sensitive to the needs of others and the world at large. Allegory though it may be, it may still hold deep truths that could help us in the quest toward happiness.

Atheism, in its complexity, is not simply a system of ridicule against religion. It is a vision of mankind, free from dogma, coming together as fellow discoverers of a mysterious and awe-invoking universe. It seeks to perfect the highly evolved intellects of the human race with the goal of creating a better world not just for humans but for all the Earth's inhabitants.

Atheism and religion as ideas, though antipodal, are branches of the same tree: the curiosity to see what is behind the curtain. They are different conclusions to the same mystery. They are not partners, but they are certainly not enemies! Life is an unsolved mystery, and may remain so forever. It stands then that deciding how we should live should be the primary concern of conscious beings.

Atheism as a movement however, runs the very real risk that from within the intellectual garden will grow the wild weeds of fanaticism. Could we not imagine an atheist regime rising and banning religion out of fury of what dogmatic religion has done to the world, or out of fear of what it might do?

It is true that atheism can boast a purity of action in the blood-stained pages of history. Whereas religion must bow its head in shame and talk about moderation or reformation within its texts and practices, atheism can claim, rightfully so, the morally superior past. Denis Diderot rightly said: "The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers." This has been the case in the past centuries, but what of the near future?

One who reads present day atheists speaking of religion will find their words are generally filled with disdain, mockery, or dripping with hatred of religion. The young adults, as is always the case, are filled with even more passionate hatred. The hatred, they always claim, is not against religious people, but religious ideas. That may be, but how long before the line is blurred or all but disappears? "Where they have burned books," the German journalist Heinrich Heine wrote, "they will end in burning human beings." The hatred for an idea does not take long before those who possess the idea are hated.

I must admit, that what I write so far as I know, has never been fulfilled. I have yet to hear of a case against religious people fueled by atheistic passion. What I write then is a warning to those who wish to see a world free of religion, who view that as the only true method to achieve global peace. For when one believes that to be the case, it is not long before he feels obligated to help it along. If discussions and debates do not do the trick perhaps violence would? To rationalize a minimal amount of violence to establish world peace would be a incredibly easy thing to do. Unless we calm the the stirring ocean of anti-religious hatred brewing in the hearts of many young adults, a war waged between the godly and godless seems like a horrible, yet plausible outcome.

This is not to say that we should not criticize ideas that religion promulgates. It does not mean that we should not debate, discuss and critique religion, or any other idea for that matter. Rather we should do so with humility that certainty cannot be met on these topics and that both sides have a voice that should be heard and considered. To claim that any idea is nonsense without first investigating it with an openmind, is arrogant and foolish. Such an attitude will not lead us in the direction of cohesive coexistence. A direction every human should be striving for.

The need then is to return to the journey. Return to doubt about our convictions. Realize the complexity of both religion and atheism as ideas, study them, contemplate them, and finally, and most importantly, realize that no one knows the truth, and we are but fellow travelers down the long and foggy road of existence.