Suppose you were walking down the street one fine day and you came across a young man who informed you that he was from the planet Nog and had been sent down to earth by Jemmin who is, according to the young man, the Supreme Power in the universe. Your new acquaintance then claims to be Jemmin’s prophet, sent to earth to restore its morality. Would you respect what he is telling you, or would you do as we atheists would do, and laugh?
Now, imagine that five years have passed. You are reading a newspaper and you see that a new church is opening near you, called The Temple of Jemmin.” Your mind flashes back to your chance encounter with Jemmin’s “prophet” of five years ago. Would you now respect him and the new church, or would you dismiss them, as we atheists would, as merely another new cult?
Fast forward several more years. You are reading the newspaper again, and you see a full-page article on “The Temple of Jemmin” which claims that the new religion now has over fifteen hundred adherents. Would this fact serve to legitimize them in your eyes?
The next day, you are in a bookstore and notice a new book being advertised entitled The Revelations of Jemmin the Supreme.” The back cover photo looks strikingly familiar: it is the same young man you encountered years before, except that he is now much better dressed and obviously doing quite well for himself. Glancing through the book, you notice many beautiful illustrations, entertaining stories, prophecies, and some rather odd moral injunctions, most notably that true morality can only come from adherence to Jemmin’s laws. Are you now convinced that you have encountered a legitimate new religion, or do you still maintain, as we atheists would, that this is nothing more than a successful fringe religious cult?
Fast forward ten more years. By now, “The Temple of Jemmin” is a worldwide religious phenomenon, with temples and countless devoted followers in every major country. The temple now has enormous financial resources. Numerous celebrities have come forth as followers of Jemminism, and politicians who in earlier years either ignored or attacked Jemminism must now be extremely wary of criticizing the church, as their adherents now number in the millions. The Jemminists have also founded numerous hospitals, charities and other social institutions. There books are ubiquitously available online, in bookstores, and libraries. Billboards loudly proclaim the “truth” of Jemminism. Jemmin’s temples now dot the countryside. Jemminism is now the fastest rising religious group in the world; missionaries travel the world over in search of converts and often come to your front door attempting to convert you. The media, examining the growth of Jemminism, carry numerous non-critical articles and advertisements promoting the new faith, as well as numerous personal testimonials from ex-Christians, Jews and Muslims who now proclaim that they have finally found “real happiness” in the “true faith” and are now spiritually satisfied. The Jemminists vilify these now minority religious faiths, as well as the freethought community, as demonic agents of evil intending to destroy Jemminism and its good deeds. Terrorist attacks on the non-Jemminist “infidels” have begun to take place. We atheists, while condemning the all-too-familiar religious terrorism, are still laughing at Jemminism itself; are you?
You may think this is a rather flippant way to portray such a “profound” issue as religion, but we have real-life examples that parallel the fictitious Jemminist cult above. Many of these have occurred in our own time. Consider for example the growth of the Mormon church. In 1850, no one except a few fanatical followers had anything but contempt for this new religious group, yet today they are a worldwide church with enormous financial and political clout. Despite the hostility meted out at its arrival, critiques of Mormonism are conspicuously absent from political and social discourse. Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, nearly won the presidency in 2012. Any politician referring to Mormonism as a “cult’ would certainly face dire consequences. Is this because Mormonism is unquestioningly true? Or are there other sociological factors entering into play? At what point, we atheists would ask, did Mormonism lose its cult status and become a religion?
Then consider the phenomena of more recent religious cults. The Unification Church, founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012), offers an excellent example of how a new church has attained phenomenal growth in an extremely short period of time. Back in the early years of the church, circa the 1970s, they received extremely hostile press reviews as more and more parents became concerned that their children were falling victims to the brainwashing techniques of the “Moonies.” Yet, the Moonies have proven that they are not a flash-in-the-pan group, since they have become a political force to be reckoned with. This is a reflection on what generally happens with new cults; either they become successful, or they die out. Many of our nation’s top political leaders have spoken to Moon’s various conventions and other functions. In turn the Moonies have provided much financial assistance to these politicians, invariably Republicans. Often, these are the same politicians that thirty-five years ago were condemning the Moonies as a threat to our children and “the American way of life.” While we atheists have tried to expose some of these ridiculous political shenanigans, the mainstream media, supposedly so liberal, has distanced itself from its earlier criticisms. Why?
Is it too far-fetched to look into the near future and envision the Moonies as being as potent a political force as the Mormons have become? In one sense, it doesn’t matter one way or the other, as political clout doesn’t make the falsehood of religious dogma any less false. Fundamentalist Christians should keep this in mind. The doctrines of the Unification church are as absurd as anything that has come down the pike in quite some time, yet they are no more ridiculous, when objectively analyzed, than the claims of any other religion, including Christianity. As atheists, we are morally bound to point out the illogical doctrines and immoral dictates of any religion, no matter how ancient or politically influential they may be. The notion that some invisible super-power created the entire universe without possessing a physical brain or body, and then decided to impregnate a human virgin so that she could have a son that he knew would die a painful death on the cross, to be magically ascended to heaven to await some two thousand years before returning is objectively no less ludicrous than the notion of Jemminism and his prophet. Rational people will reject both.
No doubt you, dear Christian, will reject the all the religions of the world except your own as being false and dangerous. You rightly would recognize Jemminism as being nothing more than a new-age cult. You will dismiss their beliefs even though you most likely have made no effort to study them. Have you read the book of Mormon? How about the numerous writings of Sun Myung Moon? What of Dianetics founder L. Ron Hubbard? Or of the Qu’ran, the Upanishads, or other religious texts? If not, why not? Isn’t it supremely arrogant of you to automatically assume that you are in possession of the “ultimate truth” while the overwhelming majority of humanity is in error? We freethinkers feel the same way about your religion as you do about all the others. Moreover, most of us have taken the time to read the documents of your faith, including the Bible. The difference between you and us is that we did not assume at the outset, as you did, that your particular book is either true or a valid guide to moral behavior. We studied it objectively. Our conclusions are that, not only is this book not the word of any supernatural being, it is an extremely poor guide to moral behavior. This evil book, which you revere, has caused untold anguish and suffering since the time it was written. Whether a religion is twenty minutes old or twenty centuries old, or anything in between, an absurdity is still an absurdity, no matter how many people believe otherwise. Time distance from the source doesn’t make ancient mythology any truer than modern mythology. We reject your religion for the same reason you reject all the others.
As a Christian, you laugh at the absurdity of the Heaven’s Gate religion. We share your laughter, but go further. We also laugh at the absurdities in your Bible. We laugh at the idea of a Supreme Being whose primary concern seems to be the sex lives of his children. We laugh at the silly fables between its covers: A man surviving after being eaten by a big fish/ a snake turning into a stick; all the animals in the world traveling on a single boat; a woman being formed from a man’s rib a burning bush that speaks; a man who walks on water; invisible angels; an actual embodiment of evil called Satan, and countless other absurdities. Our critical study of Christianity and history has led us to recognize that your alleged “savior” was patterned after countless other resurrected savior-gods who preceeded him in antiquity and, in all probability, did not even exist as an actual historical figure.
Atheists and other freethinkers have done what you have never done: we have critically examined your religion and, on philosophical, historical, and moral grounds, rejected it. There is a vast amount of material available to substantiate this conclusion. We invite you to begin your quest for real truth. Many atheists were former Christians, and will unhesitatingly tell you that thinking objectively and using reason as our only standard of truth is the only way to go. Begin your quest. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.