You have asked a question that many on this forum have been asking for several months, but have found few answers. You are right about education; it seems to have little or no effect on the ability to differentiate reality. Participation in popular culture and a need for authoritive reassurance seem to far outweigh the desire for independent, critical thinking in what is reported to be the majority of American citizens. I say reported to be because I have to wonder how many of those people who are polled saying they believe in God or the devil or all those related terms truly believe in their answers. I believe there are millions of people in this country who profess a belief in the supernatural simply because they have been exposed to this system throughout their lives and are simply not comfortable in questioning the sources. They truly don’t accept the dogma, but at the same time don’t reject it. They simply cannot conceive of denying a god and subjecting themselves to a potential eternity of suffering. When in doubt, always take the course of least resistance, and follow the customs of your culture.
These are the people who can ultimately make a difference in the status quo. Wake them up and enable them to feel the power of self-determination, show them the beauty of a life well lived with intellectual integrity, and superstitution will eventually be overcome.
Yeah, sure, you say. But how? Like everyone else, I can’t pretend to have the answers. But I do believe that each person can ultimately make a difference. Thomas Paine was almost solely responsible for waking up the American citizenry with his call for independence of the colonies. Overcoming the taboo of criticizing religion is today similar to his crime of treason against the crown. But the interesting part is that Paine gained the support of thousands of citizens who were thinking the same way but who were afraid to speak out. How many silent Americans do we have now?
I’m still trying to find answers to my own questions. The starting point for me is talking to people. We can all influence family and friends and coworkers. That’s not always easy, as influence cannot be defeated by alienation. I can’t challenge or ridicule people I have personal relationships with, but I can certainly express my thoughts and try to encourage them to think even a little more critically.
Hampsteadpete is trying to make a difference with his support of science and his letters to the newspaper. I haven’t quite gotten as far yet, as outspoken editorials in my community could be detrimental to my well-being, as I expressed in another thread. I haven’t dismissed the possibility, though, just haven’t found the right voice yet.
I have begun writing letters to my congressional representatives, if for no other reason than to identify myself as someone other than a sheeple. As Bill Frist is my senator, I did have the opportunity to express my thoughts directly in regard to his conduct in office. May not make a difference, but it was my voice. In order to express my opinions, I first have to be as knowledgable as possible about what is going on in the world. I do try to follow current events and learn as much as I can directly from the sources. We can’t allow ourselves to be seduced by entertainment news and all the crap represented by pundits and religious figures. Seek integrity in news reporting.
So, the suggestions I might give are: come out of the closet as much as you can, speak your beliefs to all who will listen, write letters, support science and scientific research, especially, vote. Support candidates who affirm secular democracy, regardless of party. Listen to those with whom you disagree, for only then can you expect them to listen to you. Be a positive example of a thinking, responsible human being. If you have financial means, support those voices who have the ability to speak your truths. Distribute copies of The End of Faith (and similar material) to anyone who is willing to have an open mind. Consider writing your own book. Seek out people of like mind. Inspiration comes from sharing of thoughts, ideas, and especially passions.
My suggestions are by necessity, on a very personal level. I’m sure there are others on this forum who can contribute much broader ideas on a potentially much larger basis. The primary message is to do something, anything, to save and improve this society of mankind while we may still have the chance. Whatever anyone does, it has to start with the individual.