Noam Chomsky is another example. Like a lot of intellectuals, he seems to think that the God question is sort of an embarrassing but essentially benign phenomenon of the human experience. He takes the position that many people who are religious are motivated to do good things, and so some of its effects are positive, but that, on the other hand, religion trains people to avoid thinking critically, which has serious consequences. "People shouldn't live according to superstitions," is about the strongest comment he has to make on that score.
The reason that intellectuals like Chomsky are so polite when it comes to religion is, I think, a result of their not taking it seriously, because it is so transparently stupid. Few serious critical thinkers are very much intimidated by the prospect of proving that there isn't such a thing as a three-tiered afterlife, a heaven, a hell, and a waiting room called purgatory. There are obviously more difficult problems to tackle. So they blow it off. And in the meantime, religion keeps hanging on and prospering even, so that there hasn't yet been a President of the United States who wasn't terrified to be caught not going to church regularly. In an age when the human genome is almost completely mapped out already, 70% of Americans believe in the physical existence of angels. It is not yet safe for an atheist to be an influential public figure. The idea behind belief in God is not a powerful one, from a logical standpoint, so our best thinkers ignore itbut the phenomenon of belief is more powerful than ever, and becoming a bigger and bigger bummer all the time.
We at the eXile feel that it is time to start taking a more pro-active stance on the religion thing. This means more than merely not believing, but actively attacking the God culture. Otherwise, it simply will not go awayever. In any case, here are seven deadly ways you can do your part to depress God people as much as they depress you:
(1) Don't celebrate Christmas.
This sounds like a small thing, but in fact it is - to quote Dan Quayle, referring to his anti-"Murphy Brown" campaign - "a real winner, trust me." You wouldn't celebrate the resurrection of Osiris, would you? Then why celebrate the birth of Christ? The best part about not celebrating Christmas is the reaction it inspires among friends and family. In most families, Christmas is the warmest time of the year, the one true annual homecoming, where everybody gets together and feels like a family again. Most people have overwhelmingly positive associations with Christmas, and would not even suspect that it could inspire the icy, deep-seated hatred that, given the proper opportunity, you can demonstrate upon your announcement that you will not be celebrating around the yolka with the Fam this year. For most people Christmas is mostly devoid of any real religious content, but some bone always gets thrown little baby Jesus's way during the holiday. Usually it's a midnight mass, or the purchase of a little nativity scene, or a reading from Mark or Matthew before opening presents, or some similarly loathsome activity forced upon everyone by some family member who is seeking to retain some credibility as a believer, despite the fact that he or she does not attend church 50 weeks out of the year. In steps you: you announce that even though the whole thing isn't religious anymore anyway, you're not going to celebrate it, or buy anyone presents, or go caroling, or take part in the big dinner in any way except to do the dishes and sit mute, because you don't believe in Jesus and do not want to celebrate his birth even in a meaningless and superficial way. This will seriously depress everybody, and if you are at all loved in your family, it will likely ruin everyone's holiday. As an added bonus, your little revolt will make people feel silly and nerdy for believing in God in the first place; you composure and confidence in bringing about this family catastrophe, compared to their despair and confusion at being on the business end of it, will make them feel instinctively that they are the ones who are mistaken or in the wrong. The effect may seem best in the first year you pull this trick, but it actually gets better with each passing year, as your family goes off to buy the tree and then, thinking of you, realizes unconsciously that another year has passed, and they still haven't learned anything.