I don’t normally watch the local TV on Sundays, but yesterday I made a short exception. I was waiting for my son to get dressed as we were about to return some video rentals, so I put the TV on to kill some time.
Lo and behold, an Afrikaans preacher appeared, in a puff of joke. He asked his congregation his loaded question, “Do you believe you are taking part in a spiritual race?”, and then immediately answered it with a resounding “Yes!”. He went on to explain that everybody is in this spiritual race, with Heaven as the finishing line, whether they accept it or not, even if they never heard of it. According to him, you don’t know if you’re in the right lane, or the right race track, or even if you showed up at the right stadium, but you are in this race, and a select few will make it to Heaven.
Firstly, that’s a shitty analogy. It’s always the case that these guys make up stuff that doesn’t resemble anything in their Bible and the believers will swallow it up as long as it conforms to what they want to hear, but if an atheist mentions one thing that is in there and doesn’t make sense, we’re “taking it out of context”.
Secondly, what kind of god puts you in this spiritual race without letting you know that you’re taking part? There is no evidence of this or any other god, just claims made by various groups of people over the years. If the claim were true and if this deity cared, surely there’d be actual evidence that the race is on?
Thirdly, this is just a rephrasing of that old chestnut, “Accept Jesus or burn in Hell forever”. I’m not going to explain how stupid it is or how this argument is only convincing to those who already accept the belief system, but it is worth pointing out that there are those who repeat the same argument with Allah in place of Jesus.
Fourthly, to elaborate on the point raised in the previous paragraph, this man and his entire congregation only accept Jesus because that’s the religion of their birth. That is, he credulously accepted what he was taught during his childhood and he is saying that it is the one true religion, even though others credulously accepted different ones and have equally sincere beliefs.
And lastly, by claiming that you are in this “race” whether you accept it or not, he is claiming the moral high ground. It is an excuse to impose his religion on other people, whether they want it or not. (After all, in the minds of people like this, your very eternal souls are at stake, so there is no reason to let little things like your rights get in the way when you are automatically wrong because you don’t accept Jesus. In fact, any argument at all is taken as evidence that you are a sinner.) If governments include people like him, they will have no problem imposing their religion on everybody, from school systems up. And we know where that leads… Intolerance of other religions, while imposing a religion that includes homophobia and misogyny, on everyone, while demonizing the other religions and lack of religions. This leads to violent unrest and war, which believers like him would see as a war not against his oppressive religious views, but a war against god – justifying that the religion should be imposed with force. And this not only has happened in the past… It is happening, just not with Christianity. But it might… It could in a certain country where Trump is president.
People like him remind me how important secularism is. There is no way of dealing with people like that preacher, no rational discourse to be had. We need laws to prevent the harm that religion does, and to prevent people like that in power from Trumping all over our rights.