Friday, May 15, 2015

The Internet Killed God

And there are fewer liars than there used to be
Lots of talk about the latest Pew findings on religion in America. And it's pretty much all good news. Fewer Christianists, fewer Christians, fewer participants and fewer believers overall. As toxic as religious mythology is to modern societies, its decline can only be welcomed and its ultimate demise will remove one more barrier to a community wherein the Human species can actually live together in peace. There have been many explanations and justifications for hatred and warfare, and we're a long way from solving all of them, but once the millstone of religion is removed from around society's neck, we'll all be substantially better off.

But what's the cause of this trend? How is it that suddenly religion is getting the treatment it so richly deserves? I submit that there has always been only one narrow path to sustain such ridiculous and unsupportable beliefs - early childhood coercive indoctrination - and all it took to break that generational cycle of 'faith through fear' was a global instant communications platform. That's right - the internet is more powerful than god. It allowed scattered voices of reason, from Dawkins to Harris to Hitchens to Hawking to Maher to Jillette, to point out that the emperor not only was naked, he was imaginary. It allowed us join in, to mock and blaspheme and argue, pointing out the obvious flim-flam involved in these just-so stories. It permitted - even encouraged - the one thing that religion could never allow its adherents to do - to question their faith. To ask why an all-powerful god who created the universe cares who I fuck? To ask why if god loves humans so much, why he made a world with so much disease and misery? To ask why, if god demands that we believe or suffer eternal torment, he doesn't make matters simple by appearing every few years to assure people that he's actually something that deserves belief.

The internet is a safe place for people to ask questions that would get them shunned by their families and communities. It's an opportunity to learn how  much humans actually know about the universe and our place in it. And while the religious leaders, with so much to lose in terms of wealth and power, push back against science and modernity, the internet provides an offsetting voice, a voice that says you don't have to KNOW, you just have to ask basic questions. And as Penn Jillette points out so effectively, once you ask those questions you are effectively an atheist. Religious mythology requires you to believe without question, to KNOW without evidence - once you are no longer certain, you are no longer a believer.

By enabling fully democratized two-way and one-to-many communications, the internet has created a global platform where communities could grow unshackled from geographic constraints. Rational, secular voices can be heard in the most oppressive, theocratic communities, and with that people can begin to question their indoctrination. Instead of just asking their families, neighbors and clergy "what do we know?", they can ask the whole world "HOW do we know?" And at that point their lives change for the better, and the world changes a little bit more.