Archive for the ‘Relgion & Secularism’ category

07.10.16 Rage

July 10, 2016

Rage about all the black men killed by racist cops (not to mention all the injustice meted out that stops short of outright murder).

Rage at the sniper who killed innocent officers who were protecting protesters, setting back the cause of justice.

Rage at the NRA and the venal politicians who take their money and do their bidding.

Rage at the gun nuts who claim that an armed crowd at that gay bar in Orlando would have saved lives: tell that to the armed and dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at almost all Republicans for almost everything they support, oppose, and lie about.

Rage at the Clintons whose arrogance and paranoia have handed rope to our enemies over and over again for 25 years.

Rage at the right-wing freaks who think that misuse of an email server merits prison but starting a war founded on lies with hundreds of thousands of dead doesn’t.

Rage at the driver who ran over the kitten in the road today and was in too much of a hurry to stop, seconds before I arrived on my bike and held the kitten in my hands as it died.

Rage at the white people who chose on Friday to tell us how much better things are than we think, because violent crime rates are going down and GDP is going up.

Rage at the white people who will never get why Black Lives Matter.

Rage at a judge for putting a rapist in jail for only six months in order not to inconvenience him too much.

Rage at North Carolina for making me carry my birth certificate the next time I need to pee there.

Rage at the Nader and Sanders supporters who value their purity over the need to prevent evil.

Rage at Trump for everything.

Rage at Trump’s Virginia campaign manager, Corey Stewart, who blamed Hillary Clinton for the dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at Kansas for renaming public schools “government schools.”

Rage at Romney, Ryan, and Wall Street for not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t as lucky as they are.

Rage at journalists who enable climate change deniers and supply siders in the name of “balance.”

Rage at ideologues who decry science.

Rage at theocrats who declare Jesus white and bigotry right.

Rage at anyone who stays home on November 8. Rage at the right wing machine that steals voting rights while it proclaims freedom and tries to enforce it elsewhere at the barrel of a gun.

Rage at myself for looking forward to my page-view counts for this post.

Rage at the universe for not fixing any of this.

©2016 Keith Berner


04.09.15 Theology, Theocracy & Ideology

April 9, 2015


I’m an atheist. I’m quite certain there are myriad phenomena in the universe we can’t explain – and don’t even know about. I just don’t see how that proves the existence of god(s), though. That is, I believe there is a “science” – a logical explanation – for all but one of these mysterious phenomena, even if the explanation is beyond our current ability to fathom.

So which mystery can never be explained scientifically? The fact that anything exists at all. Either it has existed forever, which is impossible. Or nothing became something, which is equally impossible.

Theists will say that “God*” (or gods) provides the explanation. This does me no good. You posit a deity? Well, what predated and created that being? All your god construct does for me is to add an unnecessary layer on a still-unsolvable mystery. So why bother?

I respect of spirituality – things like mindfulness and meditation have unquestioned value. And even paranormal phenomena can fall under the rubric of that which cannot presently be explained, but which certainly has an explanation. Telepathy? Telekinesis? Foretelling the future? I don’t pooh-pooh this stuff out-of-hand, even though I may be skeptical of the particular claim or claimant.

I’m tolerant of faith. If you believe in Jesus or Mohamed or the Hindu gods, what is it to me? I get why humans seek explanation for the unknown, rebel against randomness and entropy, and take comfort in ritual. I see how church provides community.


Even though I don’t have a problem with faith per se, once any religion claims certainty and exclusivity, I begin to take umbrage. Seriously, out of all possible explanations of reality, across an infinite universe, what are the odds that some white guy who lived 2000+ years ago provided a correct explanation, nonetheless the only correct one? Given the lengthy odds against any human theology’s being remotely accurate, I don’t get religious adherence.

I suspect that many original prophets and a huge majority of current practitioners are sincere in their faith. But the corruption of a theology is inevitable as men (and it is nearly always men) exploit it and twist it to gain and maintain power (see Jimmy Carter quote, below). Just as the wealthy in modern-day USA use their economic power to control our politics, the media, and education, so have the charismatic and clever used their made-up doctrines to keep slaves in chains, women as chattel, and homosexuals in hell. It is this political religion that is beyond the pale. From Indiana to ISIS, the world is awash in cynical, brutal, hurtful religion.

And the hypocrisy is mind numbing. US Christian fundamentalists condemn Iran’s theocracy as they legislate their bible across this country. It’s not just the “religious freedom” laws, but also the disappearance from our textbooks of evolution or honest American history. (Since god ordained the US as “his” own nation, everything the US does – from its genocide to torture – must ipso factor be beyond reproach.)

Notwithstanding the secularism of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution (church-state separation, anyone?) religion is the law of the land, with explicit theocracy dominant in one of our political parties. Big US cities are islands of rationality and enlightenment. But the suburbs, small towns, and countryside – the vast land area of the country – lives in 13th century make-believe. Or, rather, it should be make believe, but isn’t, for the reason that the Constitution gives undue power to land over population (i.e., rural areas and small towns get huge bonus in our system).


Political ideology is just like religion, except it’s directly about power, rather than pretending not to be. Consider:

  • the Iraq War
  • climate change
  • austerity policies
  • the certainty of a Romney victory in 2012.

In each instance, ideologues knew the answers before questions were asked – no facts or insight required, no feedback accepted. I hardly mean to categorize every person of faith (or politics) as an ideologue. I do mean to accuse religious and political institutions of exploiting doctrine to maintain power at huge costs to humans and the planet.

As Catholicism’s ban on birth control condemns millions to die of sexually transmitted disease or starvation; as al Shabab massacres 147 students in Kenya; as Buddhists, Hindus, and Moslems slaughter each other in Southeast Asia; and as the icecaps melt, it is apparent that blind faith won’t bring peace or progress.

Yet, we are crippled in our body politic; our fear of offending the religious makes the nonobersvant deferential and meek. Even our most progressive officeholders won’t proclaim secular values as such or risk appearing publicly unpious. At least one bow to  religion is practically required in every stump speech and God Bless America has taken over baseball stadiums.

We need articulate and forceful leaders who will address directly religion’s impact on human dignity – people of stature who can reshape the discourse around religion, rights, and progress.

Last Word

After a few days of working on this post, I had left it there, looking for leadership and not sure what else to say about it.

Then today – by sheer coincidence** – I came across the perfect closure to these musings: a 2009 article (“Losing my religion for equality”) by Jimmy Carter. He writes:

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Jimmy Carter is a moral leader, a man of stature. Having left his church, he remains a godly man. In this piece, he holds religion explicitly accountable for hurting women. I might not have thought Carter a comrade in arms on these issues, because our theologies are different. But Carter provides a refreshing reminder that not only atheists make the case for secularism. That makes this atheist a bit more hopeful.

For today, anyway, Jimmy Carter is the leader I was looking for.

*I capitalize “God” when referring to the supernatural being Jews, Christians, and Muslims address by that name. I use the lower case when referring a generic deity.

**Or was it an act of God?

©2015 Keith Berner