Thursday, 17 January 2008

Infidel & proud

There were parts of 2007 that I enjoyed immensely, the major one being the worldwide discussion about religion, god and the fanciful nature of both, thanks to the likes of Christopher Hitchens with God is not Great and Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (I struggled with Dawkins’ book - but still, at least he was out there talking the talk).

Due to my illness last year, the thought of death was understandably at the forefront of my mind, as I am sure it was for everyone I knew - some would talk about it, others would not. I thank those that did talk - it couldn't have been an easy discussion for them at the time, although it was a great relief for me to articulate my thoughts and plans.

There is a saying that goes "there are no atheists in foxholes" implying that atheists deep down believe in god when put under life threatening conditions. Having been in that metaphorical foxhole I can with 100% certainty say there most definitely are atheists in foxholes - and I’m one of them. Although I did not want to die so young, I was not afraid of dying. But my lack of fear is not why I’m an atheist, even if I was terrified at the prospect of dying, I’d still be atheist. I'm an atheist because that is the only rational possibility.

I actually think I could turn the foxhole scenario around and say that on a sunny day at the beach all believers are atheists. The only reason I can fathom that they cling to their belief, is fear: fear of dying, or fear that life does not have that certain meaning, or fear that without religious structure life would be too chaotic, or fear that their family and friends would shun them should they not follow like sheep.

What kind of horrible mental gymnastics must this take - to dispel all the facts around you and cling to the impossible, just because you are afraid - sounds like a quick path to mental illness.

Many New Zealanders at this point would say they are not religious and in the face of such atrocities perpetrated by catholic priests – and really just the sheer stupidity of the bible – many New Zealanders have turned away from organised religion and god is definitely on the out. One would think that this was fantastic and New Zealanders were now free to turn to rational thought patterns. But alas no, many are turning to psychics, star signs and other such new age crap and yes I do hold the opinion (based on observations of my mystic friends) that these people suffer mentally for these pursuits. It is also unfortunate that women are more likely than men to wallow in mystical and spiritual fantasies.

Then there is a fraction of these mystic types that actually declare that they are atheists. They do not attend a church and do not believe that there is a god, yet they still hold the opinion that there is some kind of super-natural force that or that there is life-after-death and yet they label themselves atheists. Please everyone an atheist is one that “denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings”.

And I’d just like to say to all those that are wondering:
* no, your pleadings with god did not cure me of cancer - the doctor did;
* no, I did not get cancer because of some bad Karma in this or any non-existent previous life;
* no, stress does not cause cancer - if it did I would be dead by now from the stress of listening to believers for the last year;
* no, having a positive attitude does not mean I'm going to survive, and being negative will not mean the cancer will win. The pressure to always be “up” was really just rather annoying and stressful;
* no, I did not suddenly catch religion during my chemo and I'm not suddenly in touch with my spiritual side;
* no, I did not appreciate you trying to convert me over to the dark side - I am enlightened and will stay this way until my dying days.

And on that last point: I’m sure that one of the jobs of hospital security guards is to throw out religious vultures that prey on the scared and venerable in times of stress.

PS: No, taking large quantities of vitamins or aloe vera will not cure me of cancer and there is no, none, zilch evidence that it does. Your new age herbalist/natropath did not cure your uncle, aunt, mother, friend of cancer it was the chemo, radiation or medical treatment provided by their oncologist or hematologist.

Yes, I did have and still do have an almost impeccable diet (better than anyone I know) and a healthy lifestyle, I do not smoke and drink very little. I use beauty products that don't have nasty chemicals in them, never use normal deodorants and eat mainly organic food and yes I still got cancer. There is nothing that I can conceivably have done to prevent this - that fact that I got cancer and you guys didn't is a big mystery to me. There is a possible (and unsubstantiated) linked between pollution and Lymphoma, but since I run a very energy efficient car and can only think of about 3 people that consume less than I do, I think I've done my bit to keep the pollution levels around me down.

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