There has been discussion after discussion on atheist message boards about the nature of religion, whether it is a mem-viru (Or mirus, as I like to call it), a con game, a method of control, a delusion, or simply wishful thinking.
There has also been discussion about what, if anything, should be done about religion due to the damage it has inflicted upon the world.
Some have suggested an active campaign to eliminate religion, and some well known atheists actually do act towards that end. The lunatic fringe have suggested the same kind of violence that religion has prompted through the ages, but, thankfully, they do not get much traction. Some, on the other end, urge just waiting it out as the world wakes up from the thousands of years of superstition that have led us here.
In my journey, I have realized that, like alcoholism, all that one can do is treat religion and help people from getting involved in it in the first place. One such treatment is science fiction.
“Science fiction?” you say, incredulous. Hear me out.
One of the primary roles of religion is to try and take the uncertainty out of the future. The future is a scary place, full of unknowns, and that is what religions deals in, providing easy answers for unknowns. The future is a favorite subject of religion, usually taking the form of a deity coming and enacting vengeance/justice on those that were bad to the followers of the religion, or broke the rules in some way. Sometimes, the future of everything is not a focus, but the future of the self. Either way, the future is assured by religion. Or, at least, if one does or believes specific things.
Then there is science fiction. It offers up possible futures, some good, some bad, but all without demanding belief. The reader enters the illusion knowing it’s an illusion. Even so, the futures are still possible. Religious futures used to be compelling and possible, but as time goes on, the amount of mental hoops one has to jump through to keep it believable increases. Yes, the same is true of outdated science fiction, but there is always new science fiction. New religions are few and far between, and are usually based on previous religions. When they are not, there tenets are usually hard for the majority to swallow, and have to rely on hiding what their tenets actually are behind cargo cult science and trying desperately to keep their beliefs under wraps, such as Scientology.
But science fiction doesn’t have to hide. Bony heads, tentacles, warp drives, and light sabers galore; science fiction has it all. And we’re not ashamed.
So, if you want a certain future that is increasingly silly and mostly bleak, stick with religion. If you want a future of hope and promise that can change based on what we know, and that no one takes seriously enough to kill over, turn to science fiction. We have conventions. Many of us are into DIY. We are geeks. And, we let you sleep in.
And we fill the same mental place as religion. You can be as serious or as relaxed as you want. You can argue about it online, or even in person. But, the likelihood that someone will kill you for your opinion is nearly nonexistent. Star Wars fans do not kill Star Trek fans. Babylon 5 fans don’t blow themselves up on buses full of Firefly fans.
Chill the fuck out. Relax, have a Pangalactic Gargleblaster, pick up some Niven, and stop fighting over whose Supreme Being is the most peaceful.