Or So The Story Goes

From Nick Spencer’s Atheists, The Origin of the Species

“Once upon a time there was a terrible monster that lived in the sky. No one had ever seen it because it lived a long way away, and because it was invisible, but everyone knew it was there because a long time ago it had shown itself to some very clever men.

“These very clever men explained how the monster had one head, three bodies and 1000 eyes, with which it could see into people’s souls. They told terrible tales of what the monster would do if it got angry but also of how kind it was if people would only worship it without thought or question. They explained how the monster had given them a powerful magic, which, if used rightly, would protect the world from evil.

“Sometimes the monster would get angry and when it did the clever men would offer it sacrifices, dragging people into the market squares where they would burn them alive, just to show the monster how much they loved it.

“The people listened to the very clever man and believed them. But they still yearned to be free of the monster.

“And then, one day, a few brave men, who had only ever pretended to believe in the monster, unearth a chest of strange metal. The chest had been hidden by in earlier, wiser, freer people, who had lived in the land before the monster came, and had known a better way of life.

“Ever so slowly, the men began to work the metal, which they called ‘reason,’ using it to forge a new weapon, which they called ‘science,’ and in the used ‘science’ to attack the monster, and the very clever man. They had to be very careful because at first if anyone was caught using ‘science,’ they would be dragged into the market squares where they would be burned alive, and indeed this was how many men lost their lives.

“But these brave men were not fooled by fables or cowed by threats. Their band multiplied and their weapons grew in number and power until one day, a brilliant, reclusive rebel invented a super-weapon, which he called ‘evolution,’ which could punch clean through the monster’s armored scales.

“After that, the attacks increased in frequency and ferocity until one day the rebels were able to show the people what they had long known themselves. The monster had never actually existed. It was just a tale told by the very clever man to keep themselves in riches and power. Slowly the truth spread and although some very clever men still cling to the riches and power, and some very stupid ones still believe them, gradually, wonderfully, the world is being set free.

“Or so the story goes. Every culture has its ancient creation myth, and this is atheism’s, albeit one that is only about 150 years old.”

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