In these potentially unstable times, many people are concerned about religious extremism (in all the forms and guises it may take) and there is a growing perception that these types of attitudes and beliefs systems are a genuine threat to humanity and civilization in general. This view is correct and religious extremism is indeed a threat. But just what is the most effective way to vanquish this abstract enemy? Well, here are my thoughts on the matter, as well as a recipe for eliminating the menace posed by many religions and those who believe in them.
Despite the claims that it is only the most radical minority of believers in various faiths that are a threat to general society, I would argue that all followers of fictitious gods and spiritual religions are potentially dangerous and, more importantly, that these beliefs are unnecessary to society and humanity as a whole. Those who believe have demonstrated time and time again, throughout history that they cannot be trusted to behave themselves and reframe from becoming too fanatical in their devotion to their chosen myths.
Basically, it's my contention that religious fanaticism is only a branch of a much larger problem and the root of the true threat is these types of beliefs themselves. If you wish to put an end the terrible results of religious extremism, faith itself must be blotted out! However, this is easier said than done, as true believers see their gods and beliefs as absolute truth and not as the manmade fictions that they are (which is, of course, is the whole source of problem in the first place).
This is not an issue that could be easily solved by brute force. The reason is that, as history has shown, people have a tendency to cling to their beliefs even more tenaciously during times of turmoil. This is why trying to force people out of their belief systems using overtly aggressive tactics (even genocide) doesn't tend to work very well (granted, a very large genocidal campaign might be adequate enough do the trick, but that has some other very extreme and obvious practicality problems). No, the way to get people away from their gods is not to frighten or kill the true believers (especially since those are the kinds of things that bring people to god in the first place). No, we must take a cue from the myths of the Christian devil and lure people away from their ultimately destructive faiths. When force fails to work, it's time to consider bribery.
It has been noted by many observant individuals throughout history that earthly suffering tends to bring people closer to religion (which should tell you something about the vile nature of these beliefs right there). As I said in my Evil Standards and Philosophical Flaws rant: "It's been observed that religion and spiritualism seems to thrive in places that are hard up materialistically and earthly. Basically, the rule seems to be that if this world sucks, start looking for another one. And by becoming more spiritual, you're able to devalue the standards of this world." And it is precisely this devaluing of material standards that I find so unbearably loathsome about spirituality and many religious beliefs. The vast majority of religious belief systems seem to be designed for the sole purpose of making people, whose lives are desperate or pathetic in some way, feel better about their subpar existences by telling them that this life doesn't matter. Or that there's someone on their side who's ultimately pulling the strings, or that their earthly suffering will be compensated for or somehow rewarded (and, by extension, those who had it better than them, who, incidentally are always seen as being the bad guys; will be punished for living enjoyable lives).
In fact, I would argue that writing off this material existence as unimportant or insignificant is the chief duty of spirituality, in all of its forms. That's why people like it; it tells them that even though their lives suck and they're miserable where they are, there's something else to look forward to or to occupy themselves with. It doesn't take much imagination to see why this could be very dangerous (especially since this material reality, which spirituality is attempting devalue, is actually real and therefore of the greatest importance) and can lead to some extremely destructive behavior.
On a side note, doesn't it seem odd that these believers in spirituality, god or an afterlife, feel the need to dramatically affect things in this earthly existence? Does their god lack the power to create change in this world without their assistance? Don't they believe that this will all be sorted out in the afterlife? Or should we take their dramatic religious based actions as an admission that even true believers have their doubts about whether anything beyond this material world exists or is important? I suspect that, on some level, even they understand the importance of this life (meaning that it's the only thing that matters at all) but are unwilling to admit this significance, even to themselves. To do so would be to admit that this is all there is for them and considering just how desperate their lives are, that would be an impossibly a hard pill swallow. So they must condemn everything earthly and this is what leads to their wretched and destructive tendencies. This is what compels them to threaten what is truly important and what is real.
These observations about how spirituality relates to materialism are not just useful in understanding why these kinds of beliefs are dangerous, but they also give us some clue as to a proper treatment for dealing with these falsely righteous social diseases. Simply put, the best way to combat religious beliefs and spirituality in general, is to promote more materialism and greater concern for secular ideals. Basically, this would require a combination of making concepts like god, spirituality and the afterlife more socially taboo, while simultaneously cultivating greater concern for more earthly matters. Now, the good news is that this has already begun to occur in many contemporary cultures, to a certain extent.
The first part of this equation involves promoting the idea that being extremely religious (or more ideally, being religious at all) means that you're a kook, or that spirituality is a fairly ridiculous thing. When these kinds of beliefs become socially laughable or taboo enough, this will not only discourage people from embracing these ideas, but will also make it easier for mainstream society to demonize these individuals; thus ensuring that those who continue to cling to anti-earthly ideals will find it much more difficult to obtain any degree of social power which could be exploited for disastrous ends. You could argue that this process began many years ago (there are plenty of folks out there who already see extremely religious individuals as being pretty nuts). However, this idea must be cultivated further for maximum effect (of course, I'm thinking that various forms of media influence would be ideal for this).
Secondly, the general public must become increasingly concerned with non spiritual related ideas, issues and priorities. This is where the virtues of promoting an extremely secular society come in. Now it is true that a secular society does not necessarily equal universal atheism, as religion can exist under those circumstances provided it is kept out of mainstream public affairs. But seeing as how god only exists within the human mind, ending him is simply a matter of lowering his status within human consciousness. Or, in other words, if you want to kill god, just make him completely irrelevant to daily human life. Once people ceased to think about him, than they'll realize that they don't need him and other things will easily replace spirituality within their individual lives. This is also where capitalism can really shine, as the system easily lends itself to concern for more earthly endeavors.
I feel that this subject requires more explanation then I can give within a single article. There are other considerations and compromises that must be addressed pertaining to this very complicated issue. So I'm going to be doing a part two of this rant. I feel a little bit bad about cutting things off so abruptly (I usually like to have a more fitting wrap up than this), so just know that I'm going to be picking up the next rant exactly where this one left off. When you're plotting to destroy gods (even fictional ones), you expect to have to put in that little extra time and effort.