Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In the face of disaster

Most atheists know, and loathe, the term "there are no atheists in foxholes." The theistic analysis is that when one is truly in the face of danger, the hate/mistrust/disdain that one has for religion such that they call themselves atheists loses its prevalence and the person becomes desparate enough to start praying/believing again. The atheistic analysis of the people making this theistic analysis is twofold: 1) they obviously don't understand true atheism, and 2) they have just accidentally explained that their own beliefs are due to a general feeling of desparation and lonliness. Fortunately many theists understand us better than that, but as with any demographic, there are those that are blinded by their own truthiness.

Recently, known atheist Richard Stallman was in Peru during a tragic earthquake. Stallman, known in some circles as simply rms, is a software developer and activist in the Free Software movement (pretty much the same as Open Source software, such that they are commonly combined in the acronym FOSS -- Free and Open Source Software). In fact, rms is considered the father of the movement, and remains one of its most influential characters. Simply put, he's a pretty big name among computer geeks like me. When it was discovered he survived the earthquake, he was asked to write about his experience.

The last paragraph is what caught my eye (enough that I paused my ongoing insane work schedule to write this!).
I read that a church collapsed on worshipers during mass; later I heard that the
priest had been rescued. Believers surely attributed the rescue to the good will
of a benevolent deity. They probably did not attribute the collapse to the ill
will of an evil deity, but it would be equally logical. In the 18th century, an
earthquake destroyed a cathedral in Lisbon, killing thousands of believers. Many
in Europe began to doubt religion as a result.

What a well-aimed shot at religion! These tragedies are typically accompanied by even doses of "Thank God we survived!" and "How mysterious are the ways of God!" that it's good to see a rational point.

But even more importatly, it was from a survivor of the event itself. One that did not suffer the foxhole-conversion predicted by so many theists.

Thank reason for that!