I feel dirty for using it, but to be honest, that image sums me up absolutely perfectly. Fuck knows how many stupidly late nights I've had purely because I've been up debating shit with people. I wouldn't say it's an addiction, because I hardly go out looking for this stuff, but people seem quite inclined to drag it in front of me. It's a bit mean really. It's like offering a fat person some cake when they're not even really that hungry.
Most people say religious arguments are a complete waste of time, because one side is never going to get the other to see things their way. I'd say they're probably right for the last part, but with the first part they're completely misunderstanding why we argue, and why we debate things. If I'm arguing with someone I'm not trying to necessarily win them over to my point of view. Sure, that'd be the best outcome from my perspective, but I don't expect it to happen. You don't play the lottery expecting to win the top prize; you're just happy if you can come away with something from it, and that's a far more achievable goal.
Most of the time I'm just arguing to prove why whatever they've said is wrong. I don't expect them to believe me, or admit they were wrong or anything, but when people post arguments for things like Creationism which are fundamentally flawed and/or based on things that aren't true, I don't like the idea that people might read it and believe it. I'm not trying to reduce the ignorance out there, I'm just trying to stop it getting any worse.
I also find I learn things about myself when I debate things. I don't think you can truly realise and appreciate your own point of view until you've explained it to someone else. I've learned a lot of things about myself which I never really knew before, just by arguing with people online. Things I didn't think I had an opinion on, until someone asked me what my opinion on it was. Debating things, especially things which are more conceptual or philosophical, is extremely mentally engaging. It forces me to think, to understand why I think the things that I do, and to confirm to myself the own reasons I have for thinking that way.
The main thing I've learned about myself in my various debates on religion is that I am an Atheistic Fundamentalist. I seriously don't think there's much that I could be shown that I wouldn't attempt to rationally dismiss. Even a second coming of Christ would probably, in my mind, just be religion tacked onto some sort of Darren Brown or David Blaine figure. I'll have an immense power to be sceptical about pretty much anything that would go against my current beliefs.
I guess in a way this is a pretty bad thing, and it makes me no better than half the tools I'm arguing against, but I guess it's just the way I am. I at least have the benefit of not having to be tested and demonstrate my fundamentalist nature, which is more than can be said for a lot of Religious Fundamentalists.
Another thing I've learned is that I do look down on people who are Religious. Now, I've gotten a lot of shit from people in the past for the style in which I argue, in that I come across as being under the impression that everyone else is a complete retard and that my opinion is the only one that can possibly be correct. Usually this isn't the case, I'm just presenting my own side of the argument with as much conviction as possible, and I believe you can't really argue something properly unless you're fully certain of your own correctness. I'm not saying you need to go into it with narrow-mindedness and never doubt yourself, but I mean that when you're saying stuff, at the time that you're saying it you need to fully believe it.
The difference I think comes with religious arguments, where I generally do actually hold the position that the people I'm arguing with are maybe not complete retards, but at least under-educated, ignorant or easily-led. Fact is, the more religious someone is, the more I'm likely to be inherently prejudiced against them, and frankly I think this just comes from life experience as much as anything else. They can be nice people and all that, but I've yet to come across someone who was a proper creationist and yet had decent understanding of evolutionary biology and most of the things they were actually arguing about. Their beliefs are founded on ignorance, and very little more than that, and it's hard for me to not mentally link the two together. People who are just standard Christians, I don't think too much of, but the moment people start delving into the "Jesus loves us" realm, then my opinion of their intelligence and how in touch they are with the real world drops pretty quickly.
The notion of religion feeding off of ignorance to affirm it's beliefs has been strengthened by some recent news. It's been revealed in this festive and largely religious time of year, that the Church of England has devised a new tactic to try and get more people to go to church. This tactic being to preach to children as young as two, which frankly just seems a little bit desperate. I'm also really not a fan of the idea of religion pushing itself onto kids before they're even really aware of the world.
Frankly, I believe kids should just be left to develop their own views on the world. My Dad is something of an Agnostic or slight Atheist (I've never really talked to him on the subject), but I was hardly raised as an Atheist. I went to a CofE school, and I'd say if anything I was raised to be casually Christian. I had a reasonable interest in religion when I was younger. I'd pray (usually, as I'd expect is true for all children, with fairly selfish requests), and I'd say I generally tried to live as close as I could to the Christian guidelines. Not that it's really possible to sin all that much when you're an 8 year old.
The thing is though, most kids when they're of the ages of about 12 and below don't really know much about anything as far as the world goes. When I was that age, I cared about cartoons, video games and that was pretty much about it. I didn't give that much thought to religion, politics and all that crap. I mean, who did? The only people who seemed to have any real impression of religion were the ones who had had it massively imposed upon them by their parents.
Which is wrong, frankly. I understand that a parent wouldn't want their child to burn in hell, but at the same time it's not a good thing for parents to be imposing their views upon their kids. Half the fucking social issues in the world would probably be long since solved by now if it wasn't for kids being institutionalised and corrupted from birth. Would separation of race had continued for so long if white kids weren't explicitly taught not to mix with black kids? Frankly, I find it hard to see why religion would continue for so long if it wasn't for people being brought up that way.
The problem the church has is that the youth in the UK isn't interested in the church any more. But the solution to that issue is not for the church to just force it upon the kids from an earlier age and with even more pressure. All they're doing there is needlessly imposing religion on kids before they're even old enough to really understand it.
What the church needs to do, if anything, is establish why the kids of today aren't going to church, because it isn't that they've never heard of Jesus. The fucking Christian Soc in Cambridge puts posters up all over the damn place preaching us of religion, and it's fucking stupid. I don't look at those posters and think "Oh wow, I've never heard of this Jesus dude before, I think I'll check it out.", but instead I take a view more akin to Peter Saunders of "man, there'd be a nice view out of that window if someone hadn't stuck a poster over it".
Maybe the church should inspect itself a little more closely. Maybe it'd realise that the main reason people aren't going to church is that they're not buying into religion any more. If it wasn't for people fearing for their own mortality and the church providing quite a nice solution to avoiding death, I doubt many people would buy into it. Fact is that there are too many things recently that have given the church a bad press. All the homophobia stemming from the church in America and sects in the UK don't fit in with modern society. Most of the Bible doesn't fit in with modern society. It's all outdated and mostly replaced with other comforts in life, or modern science.
I don't really understand how the church can justify this as anything more than brainwashing people into Christianity. If you're forcing them to learn about God before they even start learning how to add and subtract, then what else are you trying to do? I believed in a ton of rubbish when I was a kid. I believed in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, in witches (specifically Roald Dahl's) and various other monsters and all that sort of crap. Maybe not when I was quite as young as two, but I was reasonably gullible for that sort of stuff, as are all children really. If they'll believe that there's a big fat dude who goes around the world once a year and gives everyone presents, then most of Christianity doesn't sound that absurd...