An idea can take over the world - until it is replaced by better ideas!
The Global Atheist Convention has just wound down, but I am sure that there will be amazing material - speeches, ideas, videos - coming out of Melbourne, Australia for weeks to come. I complain a lot about computers and the internet, but I am very thankful for the technology that allows us to see, read and listen to the ideas presented at this and other conferences and events with such ease and almost instantaneously.
P.Z. Myers spoke last night and he posted his "talk" on Pharyngula this morning. I'll be eagerly watching for the video, but for now, you can enjoy reading it. Here is an excerpt:
"The most brilliant thing Christianity ever did was to take that idea of the Word, that concept of identity wrapped up in an abstract set of ideas and stories, and to open it up to everyone. Aww, Rome fell? You're all alone? Here, we can help you find yourself, we can give a new meaning to your life, we have a standard that you can hold high and find unity with a greater people. It’s called the Bible.
I repeat, absolutely brilliant. It made Christianity bulletproof.
Cities fall. Kings die. Bloodlines fade. But ideas can go on and on and on. Now, a 21st century person can feel continuity with a 5th century priest; an American can share a central element of their self with someone in South Africa, with someone in China, with someone in Australia; heck, with someone on the space station, or walking on the moon. We can have the concept of an ecumene; people tied together by a common belief that crosses borders. It’s a powerful tool. It’s widely used, too; what is a United States citizen but someone bound by a set of documents, the Constitution?"
He went on to challenge atheist stereotypes, Christian assumptions about themselves and about atheists, harms done to humanity by religion and finally how the small, but growing segment of humankind who have shaken off the dehumanizing shackles of superstition and embraced reality has begun to make an impact. Religionists are enraged because they know that their grip on the psyche of humanity is weakening at long last - and that it is weakening because of the hard-won advances made by science.
P.Z. Myers zeroed in on exactly why religion fights science so ferociously - why it has always hated and feared science. He discussed how science has been the true savior of humankind over the centuries - with religion fighting progress and useful knowledge every step of the way, of course - and he finished with a rousing battle cry:
"Yesterday I was listening to our Christian protesters outside, and I thought, “Huh. So that’s what you get when you give a sheep a microphone, amplified bleating.” There they were, calling on everyone to deny the richness of human experience and join the flock in the narrow boring confines of the sheep pen, so mindless they didn’t even realize they were calling to the wolves.
I have a different metaphor for us, my brothers and sisters in atheism. We are not sheep; there are no shepherds here. I look out from this stage and I see 4000 pairs of hunter’s eyes, 4000 hunter’s minds, 4000 pairs of hunter’s hands. I see the primeval primate hunting band grown large and strong. I see us so confident in our strength that we laugh at our enemies. I see a people thinking and planning, fierce and focused, learning and building new tools to conquer new worlds.
You are not sheep. You, my brothers and sisters in atheism, are a fierce, coordinated hunting pack — men and women working together, and those other bastards have cause to fear us. So let’s do it: make them tremble as we demolish the city of god."
Here is a link to P.Z. Myers' speech at GAC. Take the time to read it. It is worth every minute.