I did not write this. Rather, it was pointed out to me by a friend. Like any true manifesto, it's a bit extreme, but it has some good ideas if you weed through some of the rants. Before you downvote me, just consider it as an alternate idea.
This is long. Grab a cup of coffee.
From: "Anonymous Atheist" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Atheists Manifesto
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 22:44:38 -0700
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The Atheist's Manifesto
We live in a world full of Gods. Many different cultures have many different Gods. There are two classes of Gods. The Gods of the past, which usually come in groups, which were generally used to explain things that the people did not understand. From the roaming patterns of buffalo, to lightning and echos, people have made up stories to explain things they did not understand, because ignorance of a subject leads to fear of it. Lack of knowledge can be frightening. Still, the people of today look back at these ancient religions and call them "myths". They chuckle when they think of the ignorance required to believe that the sun is a God's Chariot.
This brings us to the Gods of the present. Today's religions are commonly Monotheistic, relying on the belief of a single all powerful God. Today's Gods usually provide us with two messages. One is a social code which lays out a model of society for people to abide by. The other is a explination of the fundamental questions which people tend to ask. "Where did we come from?" "Why are we here?" and "What happens when we die?". None of these questions can be answered to anyone's true satisfaction. Ignorance creates insecurity, therefore the people need to find a way to fill in this gap in their knowledge. The most common religion in the world today is Christianity and its derivatives (Catholicism, Mormon, Islam, etc). Christianity provides the social code, and it also fills in the gaps in our knowledge, explaining the answers to these questions via the written and translated stories of people who lived 2000 years ago.
What kind of people existed 2000 years ago? By our standards today, they were ignorant, violent, socially obtuse, and worse. They treated women as objects, and slavery for both sex and labor was common. The people of this era were far less advanced than the Greeks, who's beliefs we laugh at today. And yet, some how, the words, stories, and beliefs of these people are taken as absolute fact by millions of people all over the world today. Christianity speaks of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the son of God, who was born of a virgin, and walked about the people of the time and performed miracles and preached the word of God. Because of the historical impact of the man referred to, one can hardly deny that a man named Jesus of Nazareth exists, however, in order to believe the rest of his tale, you must take the word of ignorant people of the past as fact with no proof, evidence, or other information. This is commonly referred to as "blind faith".
Millions of people choose to dedicate hours, days, and years of their life worshipping this Christian God. They are so certain that these people of the past, whom they probably aren't even descended from, are speaking the truth, that they are willing to devote their entire lives to this "story". They believe in a God, who in the past performed many many miracles, but for some reason has decided to discontinue his supernatural behaviors. God no longer comes to Earth and speaks with men, as he did in the past.
Why is it people are blind to the fact that they are emulating the same behaviors they criticize the Greeks, American Indians, and others for? How can anyone honestly take this 2000 year old story as fact, with no evidence, and devote their entire life to it? I would like to put forth my theory on that subject.
As we've established, the people of today have the same types of insecurities that need "explaining". The fear of death has made men invent the world of spirituality. The idea that when one dies, that is the end; that one's bones go into the ground and decompose, is too frightening or depressing to people. So instead, they have to believe that some part of them is immortal. That they can always live on in some form or another. I call this an emotional crutch. It's a way of dealing with one's insecurities about one's life. It makes us feel important, like we're something more than a street sweeper or garbage collector. We're all immortal souls with a much more glorious future ahead of us. This emotional crutch helps many people get through the day with a little self esteem and hope, and I don't begrudge them their crutch. What I do disagree with is the ignorance, but I would not be one to demand that others give up their emotional crutches in the name of enlightenment. I believe that enforcing your beliefs on another person, especially beliefs based solely on blind faith, to be the highest crime one human can do to another, short of taking their life.
So if we, the atheist, are going to allow the street sweeper to believe, and we're going to choose not to believe, then what is the problem? What is the purpose of this manifesto? I believe that atheists are condemned by the majority of the population. Those of us who are secure enough in our own existence, and who feel that the 70 plus or minus 5 years on this earth is all we have, are treated like unholy fools. Those who will be punished in the afterlife. Those who are infected with this mental epidemic tend to react to the atheist in one of several ways. One way is to try to convert or convince the atheist that the 2000 year old story is true, and that the atheist needs to change his/her ways, lest they face eternal hellfire. The second way is to simply exclude and disassociate from the atheist, perhaps making comments about the "poor" soul to other believers.
You'll notice I referred to religion as a mental epidemic. Many believers take this as an insult. I label religion such, because of certain behaviors that today's "evolved" religions have.
Questioning the religion's validity, asking for proof, expressing skepticism, etc, are all considered to be "sins" or crimes under the religion. In other words, independent, logical, unbiased thought are not allowed. Back in the earlier times when the followers were a little more "rabid" people were burned to death for expressing such ideas.
Religion is taught to children at a VERY young age. Basically, from kindergarten to adulthood, a believing parent is supposed to enroll the child in some kind of religous program like Sunday School. The reason for this is to expose the child to religion at an early age, before rational, logical thought develops. This way, the child grows up with religion, so that any thoughts, ideas, concepts of atheism or disbelief are completely alien to them. An analogous example would be Hitler's Youth. Hitler also knew this concept well. If you wish to spread an idea, and have it safe from independent or radical thought, ingrain it in the children before they can reason. Today's religions have it down to a science, with songs, videos, and activities designed to make the child a believer before they truly even understand what God is. If people waited until age 13-15 before introducing religion to their children, so that the children could rationally decide if this was what they wanted to believe, religion would not be such a wide spread epidemic.
Religions instruct their people to attempt to convert (or in some radical cases, kill) any disbelievers. The kinder, more passive religions will simply ask their congregation to bring new people into the church every week. Once a person visits the church once or twice, the church has them added to their mailing and phone lists. They attempt to get the person to regularly attend. Then they attempt to get the person to participate in a ritual, such as baptism or confession. These are relatively benign activities, and usually can only trap the weak minded. The more "active" religions send people out to visit your home. They want to come in and talk to you about God and convince you that the 2000 year old story is true (because they say it is). They run commercials, and give your free literature or free copies of the Bible. They'll do anything to convert you to their way. Why? Because their religion specifies it.
Religion requires that you disbelieve anything scientific that might possibly contradict the religion. We've all seen and heard religous people sit and argue about how the entire sciences of Biology, Genetics, and Physics are just plain wrong, because the 2000 year old story contradicts it.
Religion covers every base. No matter what kind of argument or evidence you can bring up to attempt to contradict religion, the believer can always simply make up a little story or "possibility" of how God, using his supernatural powers, can simply have "made it that way". Take for instance the dinosaurs. Either they didn't exist, and the bones "are really from contemporary animals, which are being fitted together incorrectly to look like a creature that never existed", or "God put those bones down there." No one knows why. Or how about how we are all descended from Adam and Eve? Adam and Eve must not have truely been human, or mankind would have died from inbred genetic diseases (insufficeient gene pool), after the first couple hundred generations. And how did those people in the Bible live for hundreds of years? Were the laws of physics and the nature of human biology that different back then? Religion fields these questions with ease. "God made it that way." "It's all part of God's plan."
Beyond the grievances I have as an atheist living in a belief based society, I also have grievances as a human being. I have a personal care and interest in the well-being of my species. I would like to see mankind reach out into space, establish colonies on other planets and systems. Become something more than the proverbial 2 day mold on a piece of bread (before it is thrown out), before conditions in our solar system change and erase us from existence. Truthfully, everyone should care about mankind's development. The problem is this. The religions are "anti-science" in many respects. There are many things, like cloning, which we should not do because that is God's territory. "Playing God" is not allowed. Add that to the fact that many of man's best minds, people who could be possible Einsteins of certain fields, are robbed of their potential because they are infected with this mental disease. If John Doe grows up believing that evolution, biology and genetics are in conflict with his religion, he certainly wouldn't exercise the possibility that maybe he would have become one of the best Geneticists in the history of the science. Not only that, but those who don't believe, and wish to advance mankind's knowledge are restrained by the believers. They are forced to move at a slow enough pace so that the religions can re-adjust, re-evaluate, and re-interpret the words of their religion so that they don't reach a point in which they cannot explain how their religion can be true with science showing the opposite.
Then there are such fanatics who spend every waking hour worshiping God, to the point which they're throwing away the most valuable thing they own. Life. Real life, here on Earth. One only has so much time. If one spends all of that time trying to get ahead on the "next" life, they are throwing this life away, and not contributing to the society and species as a whole. Religion is a serious drain on mankind's most important resources, manpower and time. And no matter how much science proves that the world is 4 billion years old and not 15,000 years old, and that the universe was formed through the mixing and spreading of elements, and not by the wave of a magic wand, and no matter how many times scientists try to show that life on Earth was formed by the interactions of nucleic acids (and it still is every day), it's absolutely impossible to convince a believer that the simplest answer is the correct answer. The world is as it seems. There is no second world, second life, greater power, or magic that makes it all possible. And it's sad, because we need every one of those believers with us, here on Earth, helping out, not praying in some church or temple in front of some clown in a suit or fancy religious outfit.
I am an atheist. I live in a world full of people, blind to their own ignorance, dedicated to a 2000 year old story written by people who's intellect doesn't even compare to an 8th grader. I have to live with these people, respect their beliefs, and endure their constant attempts to convert me into one of their ilk. I have to watch as millions of man-years go down the drain, wasted away in foolishness. I watch as other atheists have to hide their beliefs, to avoid being condemned by the believers and ostracised from society. But as I'm watching, I'm waiting. I see with every generation, more and more people are simply "going through the motions". They take part in the process, but they don't really believe in it. They simply do what is expected of them. Soon, they reach a certain age or time in their life in which they no longer attend the church, but they "still believe". They don't pray anymore but they "still believe". They go about living their real lives, pretending to themselves and others that they believe. These are a kind of "Casual Christians". This behavior shows the deterioration of the true believers as a whole. A pattern author Frank Herbert referred to as "rot at the core". As parents become more and more lax about their own religious patterns, they begin to spare their children the foolishness of church and Sunday School. Slowly the religious base of mankind is deteriorating. People are giving less and less credability to the 2000 year old story, as they grow up in a world of computers, cloning, genetic therapy, and microbiology. It's only a matter of time until, hopefully, enough of us break free of this mental disease and begin to live life for the here and now and not to please some imaginary God in order to gain entrance to some fantasy land. I am not alone. Talking privately with many others of my generation, I know I'm not the only one who thinks religious people are foolish. While most will tell an adult they believe in God, it's simply because they don't want to experience the social punishment of being a disbeliever. So we watch and wait. Wait for the world to wake up from this 2000 year old dream.
Some day people will look back on Christianity the same way people look back at Zeus and Apollo. They'll ask how a people who've mastered genetics, computers, atomic physics, etc, can possibly believe in such childish nonsense. The answer is, most of us don't, we're just afraid to admit it, because we've seen what kind of violence the rabid religious can bring forth when their beliefs are threatened. So rather than rising against religion and preaching against it, we watch and wait for it to die of apathy. If we're wrong, we'll be condemned to hell for all eternity. If the religious are wrong, then they'll have thrown away the single most valuable thing they possess. Their life. I am an atheist. This is my manifesto. It is the first step in curing the disease.