Thomas Wictor

Stop being stupid

Stop being stupid

I’m not religious. However, I am a theist. That means I believe in a deity who cares about us and helps us endure the vicissitudes of life. If you’re not a theist, I don’t think any less of you. This is something we all have to decide for ourselves. I would never try to convince you of my worldview. But I like to write about it because the topic interests me, and I think it interests people far more than they’re willing to admit publicly.

A prominent person contacted me and said that what I’ve written on the topic convinced him that there’s something more to this life. He said it brought him great comfort. Could we be deluding ourselves? Absolutely! But who cares? Neither of us proselytize, and we don’t think people who disagree with us are bad, hell-bound, or stupid.

Here’s what I think is stupid. It’s something I’ve heard a million times on discussion forums.

“Religion is the greatest threat to mankind.”

This is a brainless bumper-sticker slogan. It’s so off base that it’s like saying empanadas are the greatest threat to mankind. In fact, empanadas actually do pose a greater threat to people than religion does.

The greatest threat to mankind is ischaemic heart disease, which kills seven million people per year worldwide. Close behind it is stroke, which kills 6.2 million every year.

According to the World Health Organization, the top ten killers are, in order of deadliness:

Ischaemic heart disease - seven million.
Stroke - 6.2 million.
Lower respiratory infections - 3.2 million.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - three million.
Diarrheal diseases - 1.9 million.
HIV/AIDS - 1.6 million.
Lung, tracheal, and bronchus cancers - 1.5 million.
Diabetes - 1.4 million.
Road accidents - 1.3 million.
Prematurity - 1.2 million.

When people make the claim that religion is the greatest threat to mankind, they’re talking about war. In fact, I only see this comment in association with a story about some atrocity committed somewhere in the world. The statement always refers to the physical danger that we’re all put in because of religion. Belief in deities has the potential of annihilating every soul on the planet, goes the theory.

Let’s look at the number of people killed in wars every year during the present age.

Whereas more than a million people lose their lives to violence each year, about half of those are suicides and a third are homicides. From 1950 to 2007, there was an average of 148,000 global battlefield deaths per year; from 2008 to 2012, the average was 28,000.

Got that? An average of 28,000 people a year were killed in wars from 2008 to 2012. And before that, it was 148,000. Now, let’s look at the major conflicts we’ve seen since World War II.

Of these bloody wars, only two were due to religious disputes. The Iran-Iraq War took on religious overtones, but it was mostly Shi’ite Muslim against Shi’ite Muslim. That was a war of conquest, nationalism, and ethnic hatred—Arab against Persian.

Now, how about war in general? Are there more or fewer wars these days?

Not only are there fewer wars, there are dramatically fewer wars now than there were even half a century ago. Most wars today are civil wars based on ethnic or racial tensions. Religion doesn’t play a part.

Stop being stupid. On the scale of what threatens humankind, religion hardly registers. You only say that because you heard someone else say it, and it fits in with your preconceived notions. You have been successfully manipulated.

The people who think that religion is the greatest threat to humankind are also the people who pride themselves on being informed. They think of themselves as realists, and the religious as “brainwashed.”

Look how stupid you’ve been, believing that religion poses an existential threat to humankind. Who’s really brainwashed?

“But what if a religiously motivated group gets hold of a nuclear weapon?” you ask. “Won’t that pose an existential threat to humankind?”

No. Thermonuclear weapons capable of destroying a nation will never fall into the hands of religiously motivated terrorists. Such religious fanatics may acquire smaller nuclear bombs that could level a city, but trust me: If a country is hit with a nuclear device that destroys a city, the whole planet will stand back and let any level of retaliation take place.

If, for example, someone sets off a small nuke in Moscow—God forbid a billion times—the Russians will be allowed to respond with thermonuclear weapons, and that will be the end of it. There will be no interference from the Chinese, the Brits, the French, or the US. We may be unfortunate enough to see a nuclear exchange within our lifetimes, but it’ll be in the context of asymmetrical warfare, not interstate warfare.

The nuclear weapons that a religiously motivated terrorist group can acquire have a yield measured in kilotons. The major nuclear powers have weapons with yields measured in megatons. But it’s not likely that the world’s nuclear powers would simply fire off ICBMs at entire regions. Tactical nuclear weapons would almost certainly be used, resulting in far fewer casualties.

Even in a worst-case scenario, religion poses nowhere near the threat of illness. And the big killer—coronary disease—is mostly self-imposed. The greatest threat to humankind is our own voracious mouths.

* * *

On the Mike Albee, Lura Dold, Sandpiper Publicity front…wow. All I can say is that Mike and Lura will deeply regret defrauding me of $40,000 by exploiting the suicides of my parents. What happens from this point on is out of my hands. Other players have gotten involved, and they have a more…legalistic view of the situation than I do. It’s amazing how many federal laws have been broken.

I’ll play along, since it’s no skin off my nose. And it’ll be pretty fun. I’ll know a lot more next week.

Such a web I’ve spun!

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