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All Religions are Fairy Tales


New Zealand’s own Richard-Dawkins-Lite, antitheist Joe Bennet stressed in Holy Week

I have been pointing out in this column for years, all religions are fairy tales

[Apologies to younger readers who have never heard of Richard Dawkins – he was someone who was a good Biologist who thought that being good at Biology meant that he was, thereby, good at Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies also.]

In our post-modern world, when facts and content have been ripped out of discussions and education – including (in schools) out of the subject, English (Joe was once an English teacher), Joe appeals to about half the population who think that Jesus is simply a made up person, a fictional character [you might, of course, have to help them understand what “fictional” means – or they can Google that].

All religions are fairy tales. There was no Jesus. There was no Nazareth. There was no Josephus. The world is flat. We didn’t land on the Moon…

Contrast this with more nuanced thinking that realises that the remarkable life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth weren’t constructed by an anonymous group, and that Christianity hasn’t appeared ex nihilo in history or current day:

Free-thinkers who mock the very idea of a god as a sky fairy, an imaginary friend, still hold to taboos and morals that palpably derive from Christianity. In 2002, in Amsterdam, the World Humanist Congress affirmed ‘the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others’. Yet this — despite humanists’ stated ambition to provide ‘an alternative to dogmatic religion’ — was nothing if not itself a statement of belief. The humanist assumption that atheism and a concern for human life go together was just that: an assumption. What basis — other than mere sentimentality — was there to argue for it? Perhaps, as the humanist manifesto declared, through ‘the application of the methods of science’. Yet this was barely any less of a myth than the biblical story that God had created humanity in his own image. It is not truth that science offers moralists, but a mirror. Racists identify it with racist values; liberals with liberal values. The primary dogma of humanism — ‘that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others’ — finds no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated. The wellspring of humanist values lies not in reason, not in evidence-based thinking, but in the past, and specifically in the story of how a cult inspired by the execution of an obscure criminal in a long-vanished empire emerged to become — as the great Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin has put it — ‘the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world’…

Because of Christianity, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the measure of a man’s compassion for the lowly and suffering comes to be the measure of the loftiness of his soul’. The commanding heights of western culture may now be occupied by people who dismiss Christianity as superstition; but their instincts and assumptions remain no less Christian for that. If God is indeed dead, then his shadow, immense and dreadful, continues to flicker even as his corpse lies cold. The risen Christ cannot be eluded simply by refusing to believe in him. That the persecuted and disadvantaged have claims upon the privileged — widely taken for granted though it may be today across the West — is not remotely a self-evident truth. Condemnations of Christianity as patriarchal or repressive or hegemonic derive from a framework of values that is itself nothing if not Christian.

Thank God for western values by Tom Holland

What we need to recover is a knowledge of facts and an understanding of story and metaphor – without these, antitheists will continue to give the impression that religion is silly, and fundamentalists will continue to give the impression that religion is scary.

[Post Scriptum: Nuance and ambiguity is beyond the fundamentalist – be they theist or antitheist. The frame of this post is Rugby-player Israel Folau’s contention that homosexuals go to hell. The first time anyone used the word “homosexual” in any (mis)translation of the original biblical texts (that Folau claims to be quoting) was 1946! As for hell…]

Image source: Neuschwanstein, Germany (NB – this fairy-tale castle actually does exist!)

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10 thoughts on “All Religions are Fairy Tales”

  1. I have an issue with the claim that all morality in the world comes from Christianity, made here in your large quote by Tom Holland. Are we to believe that there was no morality in the world prior to Jesus? In world faiths that survive today and existed before Christianity? In Judaism?

    The more I read about the morality in our cousins, the great apes, the more I believe that the basis of morality is encoded in our inheritance from previous homo species back to our common ancestor with chimpanzees and bonobos.

    Or am I being obtuse here?

    1. I didn’t read the quote in the manner you do, David – that “all morality in the world comes from Christianity”, rather, I read it that Western, post-Christian humanism doesn’t draw ethics from some scientifically-verifiable reality, but rather from the past, and specifically, from the Christian past out of which this humanism was born. So, I don’t think that your good points conflict with the good points of the quote. Christ is Risen!

  2. Christianity is the result of us. The ideas surrounding the humanist movement and good will towards others isn’t some new idea. People would’ve died out years ago if we weren’t empathic. One might even say that we evolved this way because it was to our advantage not to kill each other.

    1. Sure, Terry. I don’t see anything in your comment conflicting with my points. I regularly see evolution as being the survival of those who cooperate rather than of the fittest. I don’t see you saying Jesus is a fictional character. Blessings.

  3. I once viewed a Live debate on UKTV between Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins. The most telling thing for me was Dawkin’s statement that “He was 99% convinced that there was no God”, thereby, still leaving 1% crack in his arguement against God, as he is not 100% convinced that there is no God.

    And perhaps many others who are humanist or just agnostic towards God, might also possess doubt about their own proposition. Just in case there is a God?

  4. Can’t believe that in the year 2020, people still insist on hanging onto these absurd myths and fairy tales as fact. All this nonsense does is divide us (most believe THEIR myth is better than everyone else’s, and that only THEIR imaginary friend is the true “GOD”). It won’t ever happen in my lifetime, but I look forward to the day when people finally wake up, get past this, and realize that this is the one and only life that we have, and that we need to get past this “My invisible man is better than your invisible man” crap and start working together to make our planet the very best it can be.

    As for Christianity itself…oh please. I’ve seen firsthand how they operate, having been to Sunday school and services as a child. They indoctrinate and brainwash children too young to think for themselves that if they want to be “good people”, they’ll buy into the silliness that there’s a Heaven that awaits them. They don’t dare question the fairy tales that get jammed down their throats, no matter how increasingly ridiculous they all seem. Those that do are shut down and made to feel worthless and horrible, and told that they’ll burn in Hell and/or won’t see their loved ones in the afterlife.

    Of course, I’ve heard plenty of Christians make fun of Scientology, the Muslims, tribes who practice far more “primitive” religions, etc, but spin it as you may, Christianity is no more or less absurd than the rest. Most (not all, but most) hardcore Christians that I meet fall into two categories: those who were brainwashed as very young children who never questioned the nonsense being fed to them, and former party boys/addicts who simply traded one type of extreme behavior for another. The latter is unable do anything in moderation, so of course he becomes a “born again” and is oblivious to the fact that his sudden over-the-top commitment to religion is just the latest example of a pattern of behavior.

    God does not work in mysterious ways and does not have a plan for us all, because there are no gods. Man invented god.

    1. It’s strange to me that someone who is so convinced that there is no God and that it’s all false would literally waste time searching the internet for posts almost exactly a year old about Christianity & God to make this kind of a trash comment.

      Methinks thou dost protest too much!

      And there is that old adage, he can leave the Church, but he can’t leave the Church alone.

      1. Thanks, David. In the post I wrote, “Nuance and ambiguity is beyond the fundamentalist – be they theist or antitheist.” Eric has helpfully illustrated the latter. Blessings.

  5. I am a Hindu by birth but not a believer in of the ancient fairy tales.
    What I find astonishing that there are people with scientific technical education believe in these fairy tales and in every religion.
    Rama is a popular Hindu God or an incarnation of God. In the Ramayana epic, he was exiled to a forest for 14 years and his wife Sita was kidnapped.
    How does God gets exiled and how can someone dare kidnap his wife is beyond my imagination.
    Krishna is another popular incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu. He took birth on earth to slay his evil maternal uncle Kamsa. He did that at age 16 meaning it took him 16 years to do it. Why he took birth on earth when God can accomplish any task in a moment from the heavens is a puzzle. Krishna performed incredible miracles but in the end he died from a stray arrow from a hunter hitting his foot.
    The Lord Ganesh was created by Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati who needed protection from intruders while Shiva was out meditating (prayers?). When Shiva came home, Ganesh would not allow him to enter the house so he chopped his head and realizing the mistake of killing Parvati’s son (and therefore his own), a baby elephant head was chopped and installed over Ganesh’s. Why God’ wife needed protection from intruder and who does God pray to are puzzles and why could an omniscient God did not know about his own son’s existence? And why couldn’t be the head repaired with the same mud? Nobody seems to even think about these issues.
    In fact almost every single line in every religious scripture Hindu or others is incredible or inconsistent with the concept of God as a creator, omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent being.
    The Bible is no less of a fairy tale with the sun revolving around the earth and God creating Adam from dust and eve from Adam’s rib (ouch!). And who could have witnessed it if Adam was the first creation? Then there is all the nonsense about talking serpents and the forbidden apple. Finally God watched his son crucified, from the heavens. There is no limit to the madness.

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