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Believers and Unbelievers

Charles W. Webb, M.D.

"This is a war between Believers and Unbelievers." -- Osama bin Ladin.

"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." -- Voltaire.

Where is the virtue in Belief? The Taliban suicide bombers believed that Allah keeps virgins in heaven to reward them as martyrs. Moses and Mohammed each believed that God commanded them to murder and enslave thousands of innocent men, women and children. Christian Crusaders believed that God approved when they marched to Jerusalem and killed thousands of innocent Moslems and Jews. Hitler's motto was "God is with Us" as he murdered millions of innocent people.

"God" has always been a scapegoat for the self-righteous. True Believers want us to believe that they alone have a direct line to ultimate power and truth, i.e., to God.

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson want us to believe that God bombed the World Trade Center because of feminists, gays, and unbelievers. Osama bin Ladin would be proud of these boys!

True Belief is not true religion any more than a flock of sheep is true humanity. True Belief requires that we discard honesty, reason, doubt, freedom, love, bravery, and self responsibility... that is to say, our humanity.

True religion is simply the life we live. Words are cheap, but actions are real.

If one commits murder in the name of his God, is he excused because he is a Moslem or a Christian? If another lives a life of love and truth, does she deserve to be punished either here on earth or in some imagined afterlife simply because of her beliefs? Of course not.

Each and every form of fundamentalism believes that it has a monopoly on truth for everyone. Voltaire saw the danger in this: "The man who says to me, ' Believe as I do, or God will damn you,' will presently say 'Believe as I do, or I will assassinate you.' "

Given that we can never find absolute Truth, what should we believe? Only the evidence.

No amount of evidence will convince someone wearing the blinders of True Belief. But if dogma conflicts with the truth of evidence, it must be doubted. If political or religious authorities speak of love but act with hate, they must be doubted. We must be true to ourselves and refuse to believe the incredible.

In the politics of life, it is belief that has closed the eyes of mankind. Only as we dare to question and doubt do we begin to see clearly for ourselves.

Most religions demand belief without evidence, i.e., faith. Fundamentalist religions even call us "infidels" if we do not blindly swallow their faiths. But we should have more respect for ourselves. If we are true to ourselves, we will remember the words of Thomas Paine, the father of the American Revolution: "Infidelity does not consist in believing or disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe."


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