I Bring The News
I am happy to speak to you today about a profound milestone in human history.
Many millennia ago, the human looked up to the sky for the first time and was confused. Such a vast and dazzling unknown spread out so wide, so far, where does it go? From where did it come? The sun’s nurturing heat guided our aimless wanderings through long days of discovery. At night, though we knew not where we were going, the moon’s great beacon of light guided us on our long journey through the darkness. We put our faith in the heavens, high above and mysterious, and the heavens lead us unfailingly to the joyous daybreak at the end of our long night of confusion.
With our natural inclination to anthropomorphize, we gave that unknown a name. We depended on it in the morning, we thanked it in the afternoon, by nightfall we were praying to it. With our natural disinclination to consistency, we called it by many different names, and over time we even came to expect that it would save us in our hour of need.
Many thousands of years later, we are still confused. Many thousands of years later, we are still sadly crippled by the manacles of messiahs that never come, messiahs we can only read about in the books we wrote, hoping with all our hearts that simply committing our wishes to paper will somehow make them come true. Many thousands of years later, we still live on our lonely, little planet of isolation amidst the vast cosmos of association, walking in tiny circles, hoping that by ritualizing our failures we will somehow transform them into successes. Many thousands of years later, the human still languishes in its confusion, a slave to its faith, ready to murder its own kind rather than give up its beliefs. And so I speak today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense I want to cash a check. I have seen the promissory notes of the priests, the glib promises of the prophets, the ready reassurances of the rabbis, and it is obvious today that theism has defaulted on all of these promises. It is obvious today that theism never had the capital to write these checks in the first place. It is obvious today that all the beliefs in theism’s tiny world will never amount to anything but shackles for the human race, never amount to anything but palliative reassurances on our pathetic frustrations, never amount to anything but a few hopeful words to whisper against the rising tides of our own confusion. Fortunately, sufficient funds exist in the great vault of opportunity that is the universe, if only we have the courage to seize them.
I speak to you today to alert you to the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the sopor of agnosticism, or to ingest the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to cast off the retarding veil of piety and realize the real promises of awareness. Now is the time to rise up from the dark, desolate valley of faith to the sunlit path of rational consideration. Now is the time to lift our species up from the quicksands of fantastic beliefs to the rock solid road of discovery. Now is the time to make theism just an early chapter in the continuing saga of the human species.
It would be fatal for the world to overlook the urgency of the moment. Note the swirling cesspools of faith-based ethnic cleansing, the world leaders/imperious sycophants conducting their war crimes with pious protection, the confused jihadis destroying their lives and the lives of others for empty promises and illusory rewards. This sweltering summer of legitimate discontent will not end until there is an invigorating autumn of awakening. Two thousand and six is not an end, but a beginning. Let the seeds of reason be planted so that we may reap the winds of change and pass through this dark time as the hurricane of revolt shakes the foundation of our society and blows open the doors to a sane, new world.
I speak today also of tolerance. Those of us who would stand on the warm threshold of the sound and reasonable palace of methodical exploration must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for sanity by drinking from the chalice of fanaticism. Our objective is a higher plane of dignity and discipline. No matter how violently our theistic brothers and sisters oppose the coming age of awareness, we must not allow our creative ambitions to degenerate into physical violence. Only tolerance will work.
As we persevere to learn, we must make the pledge that we shall not slip back into the warm embrace of institutionalized ignorance. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of independent thought, “When will you respect our beliefs?” We can never respect beliefs that nurture hate. We can never respect beliefs in extra-planar super beings. We can never respect plans for an illogical “life” after death. We can never respect self-aggrandizing leaders, power-drunk and false, and we can never respect their funny costumes. No, no, respect is too much to ask for these crazy hallucinations that have flooded human culture from its beginning.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here through great trials and tribulations. Some of you have only just escaped the clutches of religion, battered by the storms of easy answers, staggered by the torrents of pre-digested beliefs. Some of you have fresh claw marks on your heals from where your fellow crabs tried to pull you back into the basket of faith. Some of you may even still be drinking from the medicating elixir of theism. You are all veterans of theistic suffering. Continue to persevere knowing that the search for knowledge is its own reward.
Go back to your homes, go back to your jobs, your careers, go back to your town halls and your seats of government knowing that the days of organized religion have peaked. Ideologically, religion reached its maximum centuries ago and has been slowly ebbing ever since. With every passing moment religion becomes a little less useful, a little less relevant. It tries to change its spots and stripes by buying bigger venues and embracing different fads, but it can never grow beyond the brittle exo-skeleton of its sad beliefs. Indeed, the valley of despair is paved with sad beliefs.
And though we have great struggles still before us, herculean tasks to rise above the leviathan of our past dependence on theism, long hours, days, years of work yet to undo the shroud of confusion that it has woven, I bring the news today.
I bring the news that this is the life we have, this is the world in which we dwell; the only joy, love, and happiness we will ever get the chance to share is right here. This is our world. I bring the news.
I bring the news that ignorance can be cured, that discovery is our passion, that learning is our joy.
I bring the news that will lay every mountain low, raise every valley to the sky, and empty the oceans of ignorance. I bring the news, my fellow beings, that we are not a splintered free-for-all of fractious fighting, that we are not agents of alien influence destined to war against one another, that we are not enemies sworn to conflict and chaos. No! We are all members of the same kingdom, the same class, the same species, the same clan of siblings, of parents, of sons and daughters, of friends and lovers. We are fellows in filial fraternity, we are bands of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers; we are family. We drink the same water, we breath the same air, we have the same blood coursing through our veins. I bring the news.
I bring the news today, all these thousands of years later, that the sky is still a mystery, and that is cause for celebration! I bring the news that our stupidity is not a sentence but rather an opportunity. I bring the news that each and every one of us contains unlimited potential and that together we can explore the stars and embrace future. I bring the news, brothers and sisters, that we shall cast off the constraints of sad beliefs and enter a new world of limitless discovery unfettered by faith. Free at last, free at last, good riddance to religion, we are free at last!
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- October 8, 2006 / 8:30 am