Two weeks ago I submitted a full-blown 25 page, 13,000 word book proposal on “The Obsolescence of Religious Thought” (TORT), to a book agent that publishes religious titles. Previously, since January, I’d sent out about 1/2 dozen 2-3 page query letters to agents via email which proposed re-publishing my self-published “The Arrogance of Religious Thought” (TART), and had gotten rejection letters back on each one. No surprise there.
As an unknown author, you can expect dozens, maybe pushing 100 rejection letters before you find an agent who likes your writing and ideas enough to agree to represent you to mainstream publishers.
The blockbuster-international best-seller “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was shopped to over 100 publishers back in the 70’s until one of them took it on-and the rest is history. I don’t have any delusions of hitting a jackpot like that….
However, also in February, through a connection with my sister, I was able to have a 30-minute conversation with an ex-book agent who through his experience and expertise, put me on completely different track. He politely explained few agents would be interested in re-publishing a self-published book-which I wrongly assumed was my best first step. Agents want NEW BOOK proposals, he said, and that I should develop one, and pitch that to them. He also gave me the lead to the agency I eventually submitted the idea for TORT to.
Sage advice…and it generated a lot of work! All to the good.
So, from the original sketchy idea for a new book, as briefly surmised in a post here from last MAY, on The Obsolescence of Religious Thought I had to develop the idea fully and produce an extensive book proposal that required an overview, bio, target market, marketing plan, chapter layout, review of 8 comparable titles and why this book is different, 10 takeaways from the book on why it is important, AND a full sample chapter of roughly 8,000 words. I had only a rough idea and a bunch of disconnected writings in my notes and on my website on various topics that would fit under the new proposal…so it was a rather busy 4 weeks to say the least, of compiling, editing, rewriting, adding new material… So worth it.
The challenge really made me get my shit together and think through the details of the idea on how and why religious thinking is utterly obsolete in our modern world. And it occurred to me that bashing religion again (tho, well-deserved) was not enough. I needed to offer the antidote to, the replacement for, religious thought-hence the whole 2nd half of the book has become:
the SSP- Secular Science Perspective
(which coincidentally, is the name of the podcast I’m finally going to get off the ground now that Spring Break just started today for me, and the monster-proposal project is complete and submitted. I got enough book proposal material that ANY agent would want, so Im set).
The Overview of the new book is included below, and then a short excerpt from the Introduction.
OVERVIEW -The Obsolescence of Religious Thought:
This book takes the perspective that the unquestioned thinking behind all religions, which assumes ancient mythologies are exclusive revelations from some god, is an outdated bad habit from the infancy of our species which can be dropped just like slavery and torture.
The claim that so-called “scriptures” are true for all time, supersede any later human knowledge, (science in particular), and divide us all into arbitrary and often intolerant groups, is now utterly obsolete and nothing but destructive in the modern world. In addition, most if not all misogyny, homophobia, and science denial disappear when religion does. There has not been a solid, popular, attack on religion in 15 years since the “New Atheist” books were published. It is time for another broad-appeal critique on religion and this book takes a bit of a different angle than those previously published.
The book is proposed in 2 sections. The first 5 chapters will detail the absurd and utterly obsolete teachings of the largest ten religions on earth. Religions make not only imaginary spiritual claims about gods and worship, but put forth historical fictions and creation myths, making empirical claims about how the world works that have been proven ridiculous and utterly wrong. A new generation that hasn’t read Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or Dennett, needs to know this same information that spring-boarded the New Enlightenment.
The second half of the book, chapters 6-11, will outline the Secular Science Perspective-which is a reasoned, data-driven approach to life here in the 21st Century, that is at once the antidote to, and the replacement for, religious thought.
It is time to replace the pervasive “things are always getting worse” outlook that frets that “temptation, sin, and the devil, are always lurking around the corner” or that “disaster is but a breath away” (or hell) with a more reasoned and completely realistic perspective which ignores the 2,000-year-old religious pessimism of doom and gloom that is yet so ingrained in our modern culture. The new and reasonable Secular Science Perspective (SSP) stems from an in-depth analysis of human history and its very measurable and formidable progress, in both the scientific and the social advance, especially in the last two centuries. In promoting such an optimistic, problem-solving, can-do attitude we can make the world incomparably better, adding to the significant progress in science, technology, human rights, and human flourishing, that we have already accomplished in the modern era.
The gurus and monks have contemplated for millennia and gotten what out of it? Not a damned thing…revered for their monastic withdrawal into prayer and worship of imaginary beings-I’m supposed to be impressed with that from an intellectual standpoint? Fuck that. Gimme some dedicated lab tech peering under her microscope identifying the pneumococcus that would otherwise kill me – and it is just part of her daily routine, she did it just before lunch – and my doctor, your doctor, doctors all over the world who then prescribe an antibiotic, and the suffering ends, and a life is lived another couple of decades. Religion gave us none of this. New knowledge trumps old speculations every time. Progress does NOT spring from pessimistic, fatalistic, foolish religion, full of childish 2,000-year-old attempts at explaining how the world works, with an unmatched arrogance in claiming they got it all figured out, for all time, and in their book only.
Religion teaches you to have your own reality, one without any evidence of God(s), and demons and angels, heavens and hell, that only exist in some unspecified ethereal place. It sets you up to ignore real knowledge and accept all sorts of fantasy as your real. It is no accident that Q-Anon followers, anti-vaxxers, and believers of Trumps Big Lie are largely not moderate, liberal Christians, nor non-believers, but are overwhelmingly Evangelical Christians of some sort who take their religious beliefs very seriously.
Thinking, imagining, planning-ahead, imagining better times and figuring out how to make them happen has been our schtick for hundreds of millennia. It’s not a spandrel, not a sideline, not an accident. It’s what we do: and since the Scientific Revolution it has changed our prehistoric and historic worlds into this barely 100-year-old modern world we take for granted as our new normal.
Know-how, savvy, problem-solving, we bought into this early on with implicit, practical innovation, but add in the theoretical understanding the Greeks gave us that we adopted as unquestioned habit in past 200 years or so of the Scientific Revolution and BAM!-we can fix one hell of a lot more stuff. We went to the moon, developed vaccines for disease when plagues used to kill tens of millions, we got smart-phones, lasers, A/C in the home and office, TV dinners, microwaves, MRI, and open-heart surgery, and on and on and on. After millennia of religious hegemony, the SSP has transformed our lives. Information does kill religion-eventually. The data slowly wins, grinding on until the inevitable reality sinks in. Isn’t it silly that we have to fight 2,000-year-old thinking to make progress?
A secular science perspective (SSP) and a problem-solving, can-do attitude is borne on the success we have had since the Scientific Revolution of the 1600’s with Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and then the ascent of modern science in the 1800’s. All we know, everyone’s underlying worldview, here in the 21st Century is not a religious one. The mode we function in from minute to minute throughout the entire day, is not full of ghosts, goblins, omens, rituals, prayers, offerings, superstitions, or worship-as it once was for all on the planet. Even the most religious among us today, use a smartphone and the internet, electric light, and antibiotics. Our understanding of how the world works around you is no longer full of gods and spirits causing rain or thunder, plagues and epilepsy, or any manner of misfortune due to sinning against some god or another. You drive a car and turn on electric lights, check the weather on your smartphone, text your kids you’ll be back soon using GPS to find that new grocery store in the next town, you take prescription meds made in the insides of mice. We are all (well, mostly all), vaccinated against a dozen or more diseases that people for millennia suffered horribly from before dying – all the while begging some nonexistent god for forgiveness.
Going about your day and comprehending what goes on around you is built on the secular worldview you carry in your head provided by science- Heliocentric Theory, the Germ Theory of Disease, Cell Theory, Evolutionary Theory, Electromagnetic Theory, Atomic Theory, General and Special Relativity, the Standard Model, Plate Tectonics, and Quantum Field Theory-all of which affect your 21st Century life and accurately portray the world around you-NOT Bronze Age myths or medieval musings upon them. We could continue to outgrow the tribal mythologies of religions that do nothing but divide us and deny knowledge.
We have to go to the heart of the problem: religious thought: that any so called “scripture” is the words of some god to be followed. It is time we dropped silly worship to non-existent gods and the separation of all of us into Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, and others. We are all in this life together. We are one species. We could be one tribe-without religion.
The Obsolescence of Religious Thought- a short excerpt from the Introduction: the first words I want the reader to see:
You already know this: Mohammed did not fly to heaven on a winged horse, the Buddha was not born out of a slit in his mother’s side, Jesus did not come back from the dead, and monkey and elephant-headed gods don’t exist. There is a good chance you were raised in one of the four largest religions on earth today, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, from which these four claims were taken, respectively. You were most likely taught that one of these four are undoubtedly true: Mohammed did journey to heaven, the Buddha did have such a miraculous birth, Jesus was of course raised from the dead, or you may pray regularly to gods with animal heads. Yet, they are all myths: pure fantasy, and you probably think at least three of these claims to be as silly, childish, and absurd as they sound. You weren’t born believing these things. Depending on where you were born determines greatly what you were taught to believe, often under the threat of damnation: hellfire in Islam and Christianity, an eternity of endless suffering in Buddhism, and a plethora of possible eternal torments in one of the various hells described in the Hindu scriptures. Children all over the world, while cognitively immature and emotionally vulnerable, are subjected to indoctrination into one of these four faiths or any number of regional religions-with no chance for questioning or refusal.
Religion still looks backward-to old books and old men who know little of the world but those old books, be they a Pope, a Mormon President, a Dalai Lama, a Hindu priest, an Imam or Buddhist monk. For most of human history, the world was stuck in that “ancient wisdom” mindset-that all we need do is examine scripture and the ruins of past civilizations to rediscover the wisdom of the ancients. Since the Renaissance thinkers, the Enlightenment natural philosophers, and the scientists of the Scientific Revolution, much of the world turned instead to studying nature itself-no longer relying on the old books to tell them how the world works. The books were wrong. They are more wrong today, yet the religions carry on – stuck in 2-3,000-year-old thinking and primitive explanations. ”God did it, does it, OUR GOD does it-yours is a fantasy”.
You already operate in most moments throughout your daily life with a secular and scientific perspective. You don’t pray to spirits for good fortune, you don’t make gestures and incantations to ward off evil spirits (you grandmother DID believe in the evil eye-but you don’t). You don’t sacrifice animals in burnt offerings. You function under the 21st century worldview which is secular and wholly scientific. You expect your 5G cell phone to work better than your 10-year-old flip-phone did, even if you don’t understand or couldn’t begin to explain how the electromagnetic radiation bouncing off those new gizmos installed on the water tower in your town to your phone and back make it all happen. You know your GPS device will get you to that new restaurant miles away-without any inkling of Einstein’s two relativity theories that make it work.
And just a few more ideas to expand on in the INTRO-these are notes for finishing the draft…
Religious thought is also obsolete for its pessimism, doom and gloom predictions with temptation, sin, the devil lurking around every corner-the remaining version of the doctrine of Innate depravity.
Religious thought is also obsolete from arbitrarily dividing humans up into competing sects.
Religious thought is obsolete in teaching faith: belief without evidence is some sort of virtue.
Religious thinking in believing unfounded, childish mythologies set people up for all sorts of unwarranted belief in equally un-evidential conspiracy theories.
Religious thinking is obsolete in that no gods from any culture in any time frame of human history has ever showed up.
The idea that “God did it” as an explanation for anything we experience has been proven wrong and worse than useless, in fact, terribly damaging.
Microscopic, naturalistic, explanations have often been proven to be true, mythological explanations – always false.
It is time religions stop lying to children that god(s) exist.
A secular perspective is the outcome of the failures of religions to explain how the world works, employing gods as their causal agent, and the phenomenal success of godless, natural explanations, especially in the last 200 years since the scientific revolution. A scientific perspective is also warranted for its ability to expand human flourishing to all on the planet.
The final chapter of TORT will be on Secular Scientific Humanism and how the SSP leads directly to placing human rights, human flourishing above any ideology-political or religious. Through a scientific and not religious or philosophical study of human nature, we find that our normal human empathy is stifled by ideologies of any stripe other than Humanism (think nationalism, Marxism, racist, Communistic, religious, utopian, authoritarian), which have caused all the self-imposed suffering in this world. Once you put some ideology above the rights of others-all hell breaks loose. And religion has been the longest standing and worst offender in that regard. It is time to drop religious thought like the bad habit it is, and stop teaching it to children.
Zeus with his thunderbolt-throwing never showed up-he never existed-and nobody teaches children to believe in him anymore. The Greek religion of old is now on the mythology shelf where it belongs. And like the banner to this website depicts above, all the world’s religions need to be relegated to the mythology shelf along with Zeus and his buddies.
end religion now.