Monday, August 31, 2015

T&T needs to be more godless

Forget good customer service, prison officers who know how to lock a prison cell, or more people telling spoken word poets that spoken word poetry sucks. What Trinidad and Tobago really needs are more atheists. What is an atheist, you ask? Well, atheists are people who believe in a natural universe governed by scientific laws, free from supernatural forces. Simply put, atheists are people who don't believe there is an all-powerful, invisible man who can help pick their Lotto numbers.

Now I know what you are going to say. “Some people say atheism is simply a belief, just like religious belief.” No, it isn't. That's something stupid people say because to them it sounds clever. Atheism is simply the lack of believing in the supernatural because there is no scientific evidence to support it. That's all. It doesn't involve eating babies or worshipping Satan. Well, not unless you're into that.

This is why having more atheists can truly benefit our society. Having more people free from thinking supernatural forces are controlling our lives means having more people thinking clearly. The next time religious leaders call for a “national day of prayer to fight crime”, more people can say: “That's stupid. We might as well call the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while we're at it.”

The next time the State decides to shell out loads of cash to religious groups, more people can say: “Hey, I have an imaginary friend, can I get some money as well?” The next time religious leaders defend the right to allow adult men to marry 12- and 14-year-old girls, more people can say: “Hey, religious freedom doesn't give people the right to be paedophiles.”

It's not surprising, though, few people are willing to openly embrace atheism. In T&T, atheists are very much a marginalised group that's treated with scorn and derision. Not as much as, say, local artists, people who work in the Licensing Office or police commissioners; but close enough. This is because just as bmobile thinks it owns the colour green, and Digicel thinks it owns the colour red, religion has proclaimed “morality” and “ethics” as values solely belonging to them.

Of course I'll concede being an atheist doesn't automatically make you more moral than religious people. After all, Fidel Castro is an atheist; a man who's had no moral compunction about murdering or imprisoning all those who oppose him in the fetid autocracy his family rules. Proof that being an atheist doesn't mean you can't also be a psychopath. But studies suggest adopting religion doesn't make you more moral or sane either.

In 2014, researchers at St Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, conducted a morality study involving over 1,252 adults. In short, what they found was both religious and non-religious people commit similar numbers of moral acts. Also, unlike religious people, non-religious people felt no special self-gratification for having committed a moral act.

The notion that religion is needed to have a safe and prosperous society can be further debunked by the fact that the world's current safest and most prosperous societies are also the most godless. Countries across Western Europe and Scandinavia consistently outrank the rest of the world on every aspect of human development. They have the lowest levels of corruption, the lowest levels of incarceration and absolutely no visits by Benny Hinn.

If atheists in T&T remain a peripheral group, it would mean people who believe in talking to snakes, reincarnation and the idea that having 72 virgins is somehow a good thing will continue to influence social ­policy. Gay rights, abortion rights and the idea that the devil leads people to crime will all be issues we will conti­nue to struggle with.

Politicians from the two main poli­tical parties as well as religious leaders here love using the Latin saying vox populi vox dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God—a stupid phrase people think sounds profound just because it's in Latin.

In a letter to the Emperor Charlemagne, Saxon scholar Alcuin of York warned him not to treat this phrase as some great truth, saying: “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always close to insanity.” We would be far better off as a nation if the voice of the people was the voice of the godless.

1 comment:

NomisTT said...

Very true my friend. I take some solace in the fact that non-religious population in Trinidad is growing.