Why I Left: Problems and Unanswered Questions Regarding Christianity and theism

Sent in by Benjamin Anderson

First thing's first, this is copied from my blog on blogspot: www.benjamintc.blogspot.com. If what I write interests you, please visit my blog and comment on what I write.

What Keeps Me Up at Night

My childhood and early teen years revolved significantly around Christianity. I was raised by two Lutheran parents, attending church at least once a week, praying before meals and bedtime, and celebrating all the important Christian holidays. By the time I turned 16, (over 4 years ago) I had gone through a lengthy process of expunging my faith in God, Jesus and Christianity. Too many problems with piled up; too many questions were left unanswered. The result, although far from immediate, was me settling upon atheism as the most accurate set of beliefs regarding the realities of our world.

I don't recall what I felt exactly at the time, but these days, from time to time, I almost wish that was the end of the story. I found the truth, so why can't I go on with my life? Why do I dwell on the topic of religion? The only answer I can produce is that religion and religious people are utterly fascinating. It always blows my mind when I read and hear what religious people think, believe and do.

The Silver Dollar Phenomenon

If you are not an atheist, or agnostic, if you subscribe wholly or partially to an organized religion, try putting yourself in my shoes for the moment. Imagine everywhere you go 90% or more of the population believes fervently in the tooth fairy. You, on the other hand, abandoned the tooth fairy myth when you were in grade school, or perhaps, never believed in it at all.

Yet almost every person you meet holds this belief in the tooth fairy. If you ever try to question or analyze the existence of it, you may be scorned. People may think you mad -- and why not? Everyone believes in the tooth fairy. You may hear poor, specious justifications and explanations for the existence of the tooth fairy. Explain how the silver dollar appeared under my pillow when I put a tooth underneath it the night before.

Now imagine different peoples have different peoples have opposing views on the, let's call it: "Silver dollar phenomenon." The belief in the tooth fairy is so deep-seeded, and so crucial to the culture that surrounds us, that any opposing viewpoint on the silver dollar phenomenon is dangerous, alien, wicked, heretical, vile, and stupid.

Now imagine that our disagreements on the origin of the silver dollar phenomenon shape domestic and foreign policy, shape our relationships with strangers and acquaintances, shape how people spend money, shape how people live their lives, and how wars are fought and why.

Can you imagine anyone defending the belief in a tooth fairy to the point of murder? Of course not. That would be absurd. But is it? Turn on CNN. Read the newspaper headlines. Listen to the radio (NPR, Fox, BBC, it doesn't matter.) The cause of much of the wars, suffering, willful ignorance, hate and prejudice is a direct result of a belief that is just as irrational, absurd and childish as that of the belief in the tooth fairy: the belief in a knowable, omniscient god.

Why It Matters

Now I hope you at least understand what I feel, even if you do not agree with my beliefs. I'd be willing to bet many Christians who read this (this is hypothetical; I don't think anyone is actually reading this) would agree in some way that religious people are responsible for much of the atrocities of the world.

But I don't think they understand to what extent. I don't think they understand why. And I don't think they understand what it has to do with them: Everything.

I think the automatic response a well-intentioned Christian has to the things for which they acknowledge religion holds at least part of the blame is to whitewash religion's role. I've heard so many times, "They use religion as a cloak," meaning that it isn't the religion that is to blame, it is an individual, or a group, such as al qaida, or the nazis, who successfully mislead their followers, and bastardize their religion in pursuit of something that their religion would oppose.

This viewpoint is often wrong. I believe that most people do not understand just how perverse, violent, and ugly the books of Islam and Christianity truly are. I have read the Koran and much of the bible. There are things written in both texts, that in any context should disgust and repulse any thinking reader.

Need Proof? Just Open Your Bible.

I bet you wouldn't expect an atheist to encourage people to read the bible. No, really, do it. I remember going to church and hearing the same 2 dozen or so stories again and again over my 14 years attending a Lutheran Evangelical mid-west church. What I found is they left a lot out. But isn't the entire bible the word of God? So why are some parts important, and others not? I think you'll find that if a priest read and taught everything that was in the bible, the listeners would pick up on a lot of the realities of the bible.

The Reality of the Bible.

The reality of the bible is rather simple. It was written by dozens of different, and contradicting authors. It was written over an extremely long period of time. It was pieced together centuries after the individual parts were written by a handful of Hebrews, who kept some texts, threw out some others to form what we know today as the bible.

So when it is said that the bible is the word of God, what evidence is there that these ancient authors had any idea what they were talking about? Or, what evidence is there that any of this was written literally. Probably the writer of Noah's Ark did not write the story the week after a global flood. It is much more likely that perhaps there was a local flood, and after years of oral tradition was exaggerated: The magnitude of the flood, why it happened, and so on. Or perhaps it is entirely fictional and the moral is what we should focus on, not the event. For people to defend the global flood as an actual historical event is absolutely absurd, and stupefyingly ignorant of reality.

But the real danger of the bible comes not from fairy tales of great floods, 9 foot tall men, or a man walking on water. These are benign beliefs; if someone believes them, fine. What is worrisome about the bible are the parts that, thankfully, few people even know about.

I recommend this 8 minute video for evidence, directly from the bible, that proves the bible gives us repulsive commands. For example, we must kill any one who works on the sabbath, a violation of the 4th commandment. This instruction given immediately after the 10 commandments are listed in the book of exodus. (I will certainly address this more in a future entry)



I also recommend www.skepticsannotatedbible.com

This site contains an entire online copy of the bible, koran and book of mormon. It analyzes every word and page. Footnotes are given; numerous contradictions are listed, and analysis of disgusting, stupid and just silly aspects of these holy books are spelled out so any intelligent, open minded reader will realize just what is in these books.

What about God?

All of this is important to realize that the bible is an unreliable collection of childish ancient myths, and horrendous commandments from a vindictive god. So if God exists, and is accurately depicted in the bible, then God is certainly an asshole. A murderous, genocidal, self-centered, bigoted, sexist, pro-slavery, pro-violent death penalty... asshole.

But that doesn't prove that god doesn't exist. Maybe he exists as in the bible, or in some other way, such as the one imagined by those who don't know what's actually in the bible, i.e. most Christians. He can still exist, right?

No.

God does not exist. There is no experiment which will reveal the existence of any god. There is no testable hypothesis which could falsifiably produce evidence of any god. The belief in a god is unfalsifiable, now before you get too proud about that, understand what it means. Falsifiability means that we can acknowledge something as true, yet leave the window open for some piece of evidence to come along and prove us wrong.

Example: Evolution is a falsifiable belief; although there are mountains of evidence that all point to evolution by natural selection, if we were to find, say, a primate fossil inside the ribcage of a t-rex, this would certainly call into question much of what we understand about the time line of life on earth (because, of course, primates and dinosaurs are separated in time by tens of millions of years.)

Why I Left

Religion has no such falsifiability. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter what is said, most people will never be shaken from their belief in an unprovable, invisible, yet all powerful deity.

This is why I put no stock in superstitious beliefs such as religion and god. There is no pursuit of truth by means of demonstrable facts in the religious world. There is no questioning of age-old beliefs or practices. Skepticism is not a virtue among the religious; faith is. You are supposed to believe in something, not because it is provably true, but because you are supposed to believe in it. This is exactly what faith is.

What Faith is, and What Faith I Have

Faith is the belief in something that is not provable. All to often, it is in stark contradiction with common sense, rationality, and provable realities of our world.

People who believe the bible is the inerrant word of god willfully ignore most, if not all of the basic fundamentals of science.

As a child, I was tremendously enthralled with dinosaurs. Yet as young as I was, I was immediately able to find a glaring contradiction between what I'd read in my dinosaur books, and the genesis account of the creation of life. My dinosaur books told me about a 65 million year gap between the mass extinction of dinosaurs, and the emergence of homo sapiens. In fact, as Carl Sagan explains, if the time spanning from the big bang to the immediate present, a span of about 15 billion years, were to be simplified to the length of a calendar year, January 1st at midnight being the big bang, and the final instant before new years being right now, human beings only appear on earth within the final minutes of December 31.

However, the bible said Adam was created within the first week of creation, and nothing is said about extinctions.

It was clear to me early that the bible was neither inerrant nor literal. From then on, it was a process of realizing that what was written in the bible was written by people. Simple, ancient uninformed people. No god involved. How could anyone know that there was? We can clearly demonstrate that much of these fairy tales didn't actually happen, therefore either god is wrong, god is lying, or god had nothing to do with it.

Or, you just need faith.

So if I can't trust the bible on important points like the origin of the universe, how can I trust it on even more complicated issues such as the existence of the supernatural, right and wrong or what to believe. I found eventually that I can't. I can trust the bible's content with nothing regarding the reality of our world.

Faith explains away all criticisms, all potential problems. If only you have the faith to believe it. Faith can be dangerous, as we see every night on the news.

What faith do I have? I have faith that sometime before I die, I will at least be able to witness a turnaround in this type of nonsense. I have faith that people will come to the realization that these beliefs would be silly if they weren't so disastrously tragic. I have faith that people will come to recognize science, and reason as the best ways to understand the cosmos.

I believe these things will happen without any proof or evidence on my side. At least I admit my beliefs are just that: beliefs.


Minneapolis
Minnesota
USA
Joined: 0
Left: 15
Was: Lutheran, Christian, monotheist, believer
Now: Atheist, skeptic, naturalist
Converted because: It is what I was told accurately described reality
De-converted because: Its just factually incorrect
email: tobbems at gmail dot com

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben.

Great post. I understand your conflict, I also wrangle with freeing myself from religious questions - and I'm not religious! It just seems so crazy that so many lucid, creative, bright people are lured in by religion and I'm constantly stumped by this riddle. Is there? Isn't there? what do they know that I don't?

I however, do not share your faith that we will see a turnaround in our lifetimes for the very reason I cited above. I'm 50 now and the years go by awfully fast, and people just don't change, and they teach their children what they believe. As long as there is war, economic deprivation and fear in the world tooth fairy will continue to thrive.

Naomi

Dave Harty said...

I agree with Naomi. As much as I'd love to see religion wiped off the face of the earth, I don't see it happening in any of our lifetimes. The gratest stumbling block being that its been with us since man has existed! The idea of christianity is relatively young, but look at how much is exists in our country's, as well as many others, histories. Even the profoundly ignorant can not deny history or tradition. I think it would take a god to delete a god from our social conscience. Look at it this way, not everyone on this site is atheist!

jim earl said...

Hello Ben and thanks for a great read. I'm with Naomi in that things are slow to change. However, we as non-believers should not let that discourage us from doing what we should do. We must do all we can to expose religious belief for the disease it is. This site is great for that. We must do our part in bringing the truth to light. When people begin to lose faith in their faith, we are here to help. Getting the truth out there for all to see is a monumental task. Religious faith is dominate now but it is losing ground to the truth. Let's continue our fight. I'm 61 and optimistic that change can happen. We were a typical family of four just six years ago and attended church and the whole bit. Today, our family consists of 3 atheists and one of weak faith. Change can and does happen daily. Our family is proof of that. Keep up the good work Ben. Cheers,

Jim said...

If religion is responsible for crimes commited in its name, then to what extent is atheism also responsible for crimes committed by atheists.

Oh, I know, they weren't REALLY atheists, or they weren't acting because of atheism, etc, but this is just a variation of the response theists give.

I need a real answer.

Maybe atheists ARE responsible, and we should admit it?

And thoughts.

Thackerie said...

Jim - Can you provide a reference to any crimes committed in the name of atheism? I suppose one could claim that persecution committed under the Stalin regime in the former Soviet Union early in the 20th century were committed by an atheist, even though they were promoting an economic system rather than a position on religion, and I am aware that an estimated .02 percent of convicts in the U.S. prison system are professed atheists though I am not sure if any of this miniscule minority committed their crimes in the name of atheism. So, could you please explain what you are referring to?

DG said...

There are some who believe that we create our own experiences and that there are no victims, only volunteers. I guess in many ways that can be the analysis of anyone’s life or journey through one. But it may be a good idea to think along these lines: Desperation has more to do with those who do not have the luxury of sitting around all day trying to achieve a certain goal.

Maybe having no life is fantastic. It must allow luxuries beyond the mind of the average person. Sometimes we all think that we’re diagonally parked in a parallel universe. It’s very possible that depression is merely anger without enthusiasm. Finding that reality could be a life’s occupation.

Then there’s the idea that until we’re relocated to another planet we’re being watched and evaluated. We probably shouldn’t think that by some mysterious superior gift it’s possible to escape the reality of being impervious to time. That’s a good way to fool you.

Here is something to ponder: If you should expire, the marker that informs others that you actually existed but are now gone, could be a reassurance to the reader that they shouldn’t worry, you’ll be right back.

Just manage to keep putting one foot in front of another or as some say, keep passing the open windows. Jumping may be a way to give others some sort of satisfaction. It may be true that living life is the value and best revenge for those who say it’s worthless.

DG
Former Evangelical Lutheran, Minnesotan having well traveled the road you're on. You’re welcome to contact me privately if you think it would be personally beneficial. Being the father of five sons may be added credentials to my experience. I know it would reduce the confusion that others might have because of our shared familiar lingo. DGMagnolia@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

You know, Jim, it's interesting that you question how religions cause acts of depravity. I was talking about how depravity leads to acts of religion.

Naomi

J. C. Samuelson said...

"If religion is responsible for crimes commited in its name, then to what extent is atheism also responsible for crimes committed by atheists."

You will not find an atheist 'holy book' or well-established tradition that recommends/orders atheists to take actions that today we would define as criminal. On the other hand Christians have the Bible, Muslims the Koran, and so on. Each of these holy books does prescribe actions to be taken by believers against others that would today be considered criminal in nature.

Killing in the name of God is a common historical theme that is widely documented. Killing in the name of atheism? Find one instance and we'll talk.

boomSLANG said...

"And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God...." Deuteronomy 13:5

Please find me the "Atheist hand-book" that condones the killing of people who are not Atheist. Also, please find me somewhere on the planet where, right this second, people are killing in the name of the NON-belief in a God. Waiting.

Anonymous said...

DG, I did NOT get what you were saying. Can you restate this in lay English?

Shannon said...

Lovely article, Ben. It seems to me that no matter how many man-hours are spent in showing that our natural world exists without the supernatural, some people just hold on tighter to their supernatural understandings. If it takes believing that the world is flat so as not to be alone, some people will believe that the world is flat. No matter how many images of spheres or mathematical equations shown to them, it’s flat.

Without a god, you’re on your own with no ‘meaning’ to life. God is not there to carry you. Mean people aren’t punished. Suffering is not rewarded. A person becomes merely one of billions on the animal family tree. And when you’re dead: you’re dead.

I’m undisturbed by the previous paragraph because we are ALL stuck in the same boat (tree). We are all alone. None of us has anyone to carry us. All that we can hope for is to have a few people in our life that we can lean on. Mean people suck and sometimes good people suffer more than the bad. And when we’re dead: we’re dead. I’m with the Hitchhiker’s Guide: ‘42’ is the closest answer we have to a universal meaning. Personally, even if I knew what my universal purpose was, I don’t believe that it make the bubbles in Pepsi tickle more, make the giggle of a two-year child sweeter sounding, and make the sunrise over the Grand Canyon grander.

Lorena said...

DG,

I would love to know what the point of your post is. It went completely over my lovely head.

Victor said...

for ben anderson -
i was raised christian,
saw many conflicts,
left with uncertainty about
truth. you mentioned the stories you heard over and over, thats the problem - you never heard all of gods word in a balanced way. now i've been around gods word enough that the fact of its autheticity and it is a great comfort for me.

it's not about how sinful men use "god" or the bible to further their own sinful acts, its about the peace and comfort it brings to those who take it seriously and in context. i wish i could pass it on to you.

it takes more faith to trust that everything is accidental and meaningless than to believe in a purpose set by a benevolent creator who won't force his will on men as he waits to see who will return his love. the world as we see it is the result of his wisdom in giving men free will, not in his willingness to tolerate evil. if we didn't have free will to love and hate, would our love mean anything?

questions welcomed. vscipioni@rochester.rr.com

Jim said...

Jeff, you asked for one instance of killing in the name of atheism

I can give you hundreds: you need to take a look at the Gulag Archipelago series by the Nobel Prize winner Solshenitsyn...just check the index on the subject of religion.

He details and documents the killing of believers because they were believers by atheists for the purpose of advancing atheism...the offcial position of the state at that time...by eliminating relgious opposition that would not voluntarily concede.

It happened.

You have to face it and deal with it; denying it makes you just a fundie for your own cause.

.:webmaster:. said...

Victor said: "it takes more faith to trust that everything is accidental and meaningless than to believe in a purpose set by a benevolent creator who won't force his will on men as he waits to see who will return his love."

This phrase, "It takes more faith to trust..." is often repeated, by Christians. I have a number of problems with phrases like that. First off, how do you measure faith? For instance, how do you know it takes MORE faith for one thing or another? I think what people mean when they say "It takes MORE faith" what they mean is that they are more comfortable with one alternative over another.

Another issue I have with that statement (i.e., It takes more faith...), is that it seems to imply that belief has some influence over reality. In other words, if I believe in something, then it somehow makes it more true. It might be hard to believe that atoms are in continual motion, that the solid steel flagpole in front of the post office is actually a mass of movement on a molecular scale, but believe it or not, that's the way it is. My belief, or my faith, has nothing to do with it.

To continue:

Why is accidental considered to be synonymous with meaningless? A vast number of people were accidentally conceived by their parents. Does that mean those accidentally conceived people are meaningless? I really don't get the point here.

I suppose what is intended by the comment is to say that if no god is telling us what our meaning might be, then our lives will be empty. So, the Christian God tells us that our purpose for existence is to slavering worship HIM forever and ever and ever. If we don't fulfill that purpose, then we'll suffer for it.

That's not much of a meaning. I think I could find more meaning on my own.

More:

A benevolent God? I'd say any God who had built as horrific a torture devise as an eternal roasting pit, where the victims never die, but do suffer hideously for all eternity is better defined as malevolent.

.:webmaster:. said...

Jim, you say you can give hundreds of examples of killing in the name of atheism, yet you've provided none. You've cited a book title, but given no examples from that book.

BTW, for those who may be unfamiliar with the book Jim mentioned, click here.

Anonymous said...

So what are you saying, Jim? Atheists are just as bad as believers? That's not much of an argument for religion.

Alan

freeman said...

Here is a website for you Jim. It is an article posted on the Atheist Alliance website.

It explains that Stalin did not kill in the name of atheism, but as a ruthless dictator who wanted to destroy any percived enemies which included the church. He also reinstated the church during WWII. Most of the tactics he used in controlling the people, he learned while he was in the seminary studing to become a priest!

http://www.atheistalliance.org/library/nelson-atheism_communism.php

Dave8 said...

Jim: "Jeff, you asked for one instance of killing in the name of atheism. I can give you hundreds: you need to take a look at the Gulag Archipelago series by the Nobel Prize winner Solshenitsyn...just check the index on the subject of religion."

Interesting theory. So, is Atheism a political position, or a religious position? Can Atheism be defined in terms, that can be used to label people indiscriminately based on subjective criteria, or is Atheism a position that must be self-posited?

The religious use their doctrinal criteria (which has changed since the beginning of recorded history and continues to change by separation of denominations) to statistically determine how far everyone else in the world is from their own personal beliefs. To those religious, who have an insatiable desire to dissect all of humanity according to their religious belief as "The" only True measure... everyone unanimously becomes "religious"... its just a matter of determining how far one deviates from that religious zealots' personal set of criteria.

Obviously, everyone becomes religious to the individual who can only perceive their reality through religious goggles. If a person held an equal conviction in politics, and saw everything in terms of politics, then obviously everyone would be defined according to subjective political criteria.

I haven't read anything from the Nobel Prize winner, but Jim, if you would care to post something from such a notoried person, it may facilitate an intellectual discussion, and exceed the myopic range of religion.

The "Art" of education, is to produce individuals who are capable of perceiving their reality from many different perspectives... in the end, after layers of filters are placed on the goggles, it becomes apparent that a "subjective" person is "always" at the point of perception. An educated person, realizes the amorphous nature in all aspects of human behavior/endeavor, as human nature and each individual continues to evolve and adapt according to their environment, from birth to death.

No person can say, they entered this life in the same psychological, physical, intellectual, etc, manner that they will leave. To make such a sentiment, is to deny the change effects of our natural environment. In short, one is suggesting they wield power that allows them to dominate the Natural Universe, e.g., the person suggests they hold deitical power.

There is what "is", and then there is what "can be". There are those who stick to the "is", and even predicate their education in academic fields to study what "is", yet, there are others who spend their lives in the search of what "can be" (abstract/theoretic), even in the same academic field in many instances. Both have their value in accomodating humanity in my opinion.

I find many times, that people forego what "is", and concentrate all their energy on what "can be". Unfortunately, what "can be" is inseparable from what "is". Its why some psychological theoreticians have coined the phrase "be all that you can be" - Abraham Maslow.

Religion, dictates a person to be "more" (i.e., Gods, as in Mormon belief, etc) or "less" (i.e., Naturally defunct & Damned at birth, as in Catholic belief, etc.) than a person can be. I digress...

One of religion claiming that "Atheists" have killed thousands of people, is no more enlightening than suggesting that people with "freckles" have killed many more people throughout history. Atheism lacks doctrine, thus, it becomes the "individual" who is the focus of any moral wrongdoing. In short, its not Atheism that creates individuals who appeal to Machiavellian rule, people become what they become, because of their potential - regardless of their labels.

Most religions however, are doctrinally based with Absolutist rule, its in the doctrinal history, even if some christians don't practice according to their historical doctrine - the bible.

boomSLANG said...

Victor said: " now i've been around gods word enough that the fact of its autheticity and it is a great comfort for me."

It seems you got that part backwards....you mean, "it's a great comfort" to you, THEREFORE, it is "authentic".

Religious belief: Pure subjectivity.

Nvrgoingbk said...

Victor said: "you mentioned the stories you heard over and over, thats the problem - you never heard all of gods word in a balanced way. now i've been around gods word enough that the fact of its autheticity and it is a great comfort for me."

First of all Victor, the stories he heard over and over were the stories that the church wants us to hear. There is no balanced way to preach on the slaughtering of entire nations by the Jews. There is no way to justify Moses commanding the israelites to kill all but the virgins of other nations for obvious reasons. We only hear sermons preached on "morality".

Being "around God's word enough" doesn't make you an expert on Biblical doctrine. READ your precious Bible again from front to back. Tell us how if it's authentic, Moses could have written about his own death. Tell us why the story of Noah's Ark is strikingly similar to the flood of Gilgamesh, a story written long before the Biblical account. Tell me how "authentic" Jesus' words were after you read the sayings of Buddha, much older than those of Jesus. The Bible's "authenticity" is a joke. We here at Ex-Christian have countless examples to rebut your authenticity argument, but it's pointless, because your circular argument will always bring you back to "faith". It doesn't matter how scientifically inaccurate your Bible is. It doesn't matter that if you read such atrocities in another religion's "holy" book you would burn it. It doesn't matter, because you only see what you want to see. You only absorb the parts of the Bible that your stomach can handle. There is nothing "authentic" about Christianity. It is so polluted with pagan traditions and beliefs that it's any wonder if Jesus ever existed. There is nothing about the life of Jesus that is original. There is nothing original about the Hebrew beliefs either. But then, I'm sure you didn't know any of this, because you look for answers in the Holy Babble and only the Holy Babble. If you find a problem with scripture you just consult more scripture. If you find contradictions with two different scriptures you find a way to justify it or ignore it or conclude that it is a matter for the more learned. You can't try and sell EX-CHRISTIANS on the authenticity of the Bible. We are too familiar with it's inaccuracies, contradcitions, and atrocities. We are well aware it's origins. We once believed the same lies you now do. THere is no way we'd go back to believing fairy tales any more than you would go back to believing in Santa.

Steve said...

Hey Dave8,

I read Gulag Archipelego many years ago. Jim, of course, is dishonestly portraying the information in that book. There is nothing that indicates Stalin persecuted people in the name of atheism. He targeted intellectuals and professionals, and anyone he considered to be a threat to his regime. Indeed Solzhenitzyn said that he got best education in the gulag because of lawyers and engineers and highly educated people he found himself surrounded by there. An honest reading of the book reveals that Stalin had an ideology that was not atheism, but supremacy of the state, of which he was the supreme leader.

Steve said...

Naomi,

Unfortunately I also agree with your observation that the tooth fairy will continue to flourish into the unforseeable future.

I'm over 50 and, like you, have seen a lot. Coming out of the '60s as a young man I was pretty hopeful about the changes I was seeing. The civil rights movement, environmental consciousness, and the moral outrage over fighting an unjustifiable war. Call it the naivety of youth or what you will, but I was hopeful.

Now, as we so graphically saw in Katrina, social justice is a laughable concept. In the face of global warming we see environmental protections are being rolled back. And we are bogged down in an unthinkable war of religious ideology. (Make no mistake about it, the neocons wanted this war any way they could get it.) To be sure, I wasn't hoping for any sort of Utopia, but I thought we could keep moving in a good direction. We are 180 degrees off course.

It's pretty sad.

Steve

jim earl said...

A message for Victor:

Please share with us what else it is that your all knowing "God" doesn't know. You have admitted that your god doesn't know who loves him. Pitiful god.

J. C. Samuelson said...

"He details and documents the killing of believers because they were believers by atheists for the purpose of advancing atheism..."

Negative. Anyone - intellectuals, scientists, religious adherents - who was viewed an enemy of The State was imprisoned and subject to all the horrors that the Gulags had to offer. It was not atheists vs. Christians, or atheism for atheism's sake.

In other words, the ideology being advanced was a political and economical one - Communism.

I will not deny that all people have the capacity for committing horrible crimes against one another, regardless of worldview. However, to my knowledge there has never been a time when atheists tried to advance atheism for its own sake by committing genocide or starting a war. On the other hand, history is replete with examples of the church doing just that, all to advance their faith, stamp out heresy, or in the name of their god.

Try again, Vic.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Oops...sorry that last post was a reply for Jim, not Victor.

J. C. Samuelson said...

"...he waits to see who will return his love..."

Victor, you do realize you're engaging in heresy here, don't you? The Bible says God is omniscient. If he must "wait and see," then he doesn't know, and if he doesn't know, then he's not omniscient.

Good call, Jim Earl.

Dave8 said...

Steve: "I read Gulag Archipelego many years ago. Jim, of course, is dishonestly portraying the information in that book. There is nothing that indicates Stalin persecuted people in the name of atheism. He targeted intellectuals and professionals, and anyone he considered to be a threat to his regime."

If a political leader is threatened, they will defend their position, it only makes sense. Those who are of the religious persuasion that can only perceive reality in religious terms, are typically the ones to suggest that there "must" have been a political agenda associated to the leaders' cause... as if people can't make decisions in life, outside the bounds of religious dogma.

It would appear that Jim may not be aware of such political insight, especially if Jim is so caught up in religion, that Jim can't see anything without tainting it with religious hues.

Steve: "Indeed Solzhenitzyn said that he got best education in the gulag because of lawyers and engineers and highly educated people he found himself surrounded by there. An honest reading of the book reveals that Stalin had an ideology that was not atheism, but supremacy of the state, of which he was the supreme leader."

So, Stalin would appear to be the antithesis of a theocratic leader. I agree, that doesn't make a political leader an Atheist, Stalin's political profile is more towards an Autocratic Dictator... which inherently exudes Absolutist rule through a machiavellian strategy/framework.

The religious seem to overlook the stark similarities between Stalin and other religious leaders throughout history... The motives were predominately the same - power to influence the masses. The difference, though, is that Stalin didn't use a bible to justify or marginalize his cruelty.

Lacking a "deitical excuse" to commit atrocity, doesn't default "everyone" throughout history, to an Atheistic position. However, there are many religious people, who can't seem to see past their dichotomous views.

An Absolutist uses whatever means, can be used to attain a desired end. Even if Stalin stood up, and suggested that he was an Atheist... it would add little meaning to his actions, as Atheism doesn't hold to a religious creed. Thus, Atheism is not an enabler or motivator for atrocity. One would have to suggest that "Atheism" as a "discovery position", reduced Stalin to a physical/mental state, that led him to commit atrocity without a conscience.

To suggest that the lack of a "Specific" ideal, causes harmful effects, is to say, that that "Specific" ideal makes a person less "harmful" and more "capable" of living a positive and productive life. Too much of "anything" is not healthy. One can not "have" to much Atheism...

To me, Atheism is an "origin" on an informational plane, from which to start discovery, as well it identifies the perception of ones' confidence in the effort to attain knowledge/truth.

Relgionists believe they can find knowledge, but it must come from an alternative source from themselves. As well, there is no "Origin" of discovery for them, their beliefs are grouned in the belief that they have the Absolute truth, and thus, no further insight or enlightenment is possible in regards to anything that challenges such beliefs.

Anonymous said...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life" Jesus came to die to take away your sin so that you could be in heaven with him when you die. If you want to reject that - then fine, but one day "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord". He holds out his hand to you, and beckons you to come.

R. Shelby said...

Benjamin,

I enjoyed reading your post. You said:

I have faith that sometime before I die, I will at least be able to witness a turnaround in this type of nonsense.

Neither of us will see the turnaround you are hoping for, at least in this country. In Europe the number of people attending churches has been slowly dwindling. With all of the stupid and needless wars fought on European soil, the population has slowly dismissed the bible as ancient babble. Unfortunately, there has been a surge of radical Islam in Europe, but as has happened before, the Muslims will be expelled. It will undoubtedly cost the lives of many Europeans, many of them fellow agnostics and atheists.

Extremism tends to burn itself out. As I mentioned on a previous post the number of super churches are on the rise near my home. They are massive structures specifically designed to herd in as many sheep as possible. But there will be a breaking point. These churches know that there are only so many Christians to go around. As of now the sheep are being squeezed for every penny. Now that home equity has been tapped out and the economy is slowing, the churches will soon reach a point where they can no longer sustain their ravenous appetite for cash.

Our president, a Holy Roller, is naturally a war monger. He is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans with his megalomaniacal holy war in Iraq. Perhaps this will be a trigger for Americans to flush out the religious fanatics voted in by fundamentalist Christians.

If worst comes to worst there is always Scandinavia.

R. Shelby

Carmen said...

Hello Everyone,

This is my first time here...I stumbled upon this website by accident - not realizing what it was about until I started readed the comments. I'd just wanted to say a couple of things in regards to everyone's thoughts.

First, I am a Christian and I am sorry for any negative experiences you might have had in the past that brought you to your current way of thinking. I sincerely wish I could get to know you personally - just to try and understand better, not to "save you from yourselves". I would just really like to understand.

Secondly, although I could probably (for lack of a better word) debate and provide feedback/support for just about every view listed here, I think that what I lean more towards is this...

WHAT IF, there IS a God and a Heaven (and I believe that there is)? WHAT IF, you're wrong - not for the mere sake of being wrong, but from being misinformed or that Christianity was misrepresented to you? WHAT IF, the stakes are far greater for NOT believing? I don't think I'd want to leave any of that to chance.

Just something to think about. Maybe, just maybe, there is something more to believing than thinking it's just a way to make others feel "Holier than thou" (because I don't).

Anyway....

.:webmaster:. said...

Carmen, please insert ALLAH in every sentence where you said GOD. This is one of the same apologetics that Islamics resort to using.

Still feel like you've made a good case for belief?

Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Carmen,

We have heard your little argument thousands of times. You'd think an all knowing super intelligent being could give you guys more to work with to save us lost souls. (snicker)

J. C. Samuelson said...

"WHAT IF, there IS a God and a Heaven (and I believe that there is)? WHAT IF, you're wrong - not for the mere sake of being wrong, but from being misinformed or that Christianity was misrepresented to you? WHAT IF, the stakes are far greater for NOT believing? I don't think I'd want to leave any of that to chance."

Carmen my dear, take a moment and read about Pascal's Wager. And just to add a little food for thought, is faith based on self-interest really faith, or just self-interest? You'll understand the question if you read the article.

Anonymous said...

R. Shelby: "Our president, a Holy Roller, is naturally a war monger. He is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans with his megalomaniacal holy war in Iraq. Perhaps this will be a trigger for Americans to flush out the religious fanatics voted in by fundamentalist Christians."

I wonder if the next president will have a religious association?

When religious presidents make "good" decisions, does it mean that religion is the default reason for their great insights?

Religious belief doesn't rely on fact. Consistent good decisions do. Perhaps, the more salient point, is that some politicians make decisions without the facts, for a myriad of reasons.

Dan Gillis III said...

THis is amazing stuff, im so glad someone is saying it. does any one REALLY sincerely believe in their hearts and minds that Jesus really, really rose from the dead. Cause that's some zombie ass shit if i've ever heard.

Harlequin said...

I've always found that Politics and Religion are pretty similar creatures, with catechisms, relics and articles of faith (The Thatcherite Dream in the UK... which was actually a boom funded on credit... you'd think the daughter of a Grocer would know better than that but she raped the country) Thus, the 'atheists' in the case of Solzhenitsyn had just replaced one blood soaked demon God (in the case of Mother Russian, the Christian one) for another (The State)

After all Belief is just opinion backed by sentiment and emotion... be it in a God or a Football team or an economic system or a way of playing the horses that can't fail...

And religious rhetoric,if read long enough, all sounds the same... whether is Christians on Gays, or Nazis on Jews. As shown, its gets even more interchangeable when people start pulling apologetics out of some orifice normally associated with waste elimination and placing in their mouths with relish seldom found outside a De Sade Novel...

One the subject of Presidents... most of the Signatories of the Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution of the United States wouldn't be considered since they were atheists or Unitarians. Ben Franklin would have no chance today!

Love

Grandpa harley

jim earl said...

Grandpa Harley, you are so right. The signers today would be outcasts among the political and religious leadship we are stuck with presently. Religion defines who we are in America and if you're not Christian, you're not gonna get any respect from the population at large. I am quite vocal but most of the time, atheists would rather remain quiet and unbothered than take the chance of being discovered without religion. I mean, everybody has to believe something, right. Frankly I am fed up with religion but there is little I can do about it except expose it for the lies and deception it really is. But that doesn't work with most people because they WANT a GOD in their lives and won't listen to anyone who has anything to say that is negative to that idea. We can only blame ourselves as the country becomes more and more religious simply because we are doing nothing about it. Now mind you, if I knew what to do I would do it but we will remain in this problem simply because most people WANT it. Those who know the score have very little need of playing the game. Until religion loses face we are not gonna see much change. When religion is ridiculed in the public arena and people don't care, then we shall know the times are changing. I hope I live long enough to see it but I'm not counting on it.

Anonymous said...

As long as someone can profit from religion, it will always exist in a capitalistic economy - period. Profit includes, economic, political, social, psychological, etc.

Ancient history shows that the religious leaders profitted via prestige. Their prestige garnered them stability when they were sorely ignorant of science, etc. Religion provided them with easy answers to unanswerable questions in their era... unanswerable questions that ordinarily would have left them looking impotent as a powerful leader/ruler. The followers gained a feeling of security and structure to some degree, some would suggest that it was a blind security, supported by the blind faith of their religious leader.

The same game is played today, except that some nations have chosen to reward religious leaders by labeling them as non-profit business owners, so they can receive tax exemptions, etc. The followers are able to tithe, which is tax free money that goes directly back to the people of the church in which they invest.

In short, if one were looking for a tax shelter, they'd become religious, and place all of their tithe into a church fund, that is willing to give them material benefits in return, i.e., the use of a church car, buildings to host parties, etc., for special occassions, socials where refreshments are served and the members who attend are hand-picked/selected.

I know this sounds anti-intuitive, but... if someone really wanted to derail religion, they'd push every tom, dick, and harry to throw a shingle out of their door, and claim church status, and increase the tax burden of the nation. If everyone is getting away with stuffing money into tax shelters, etc., then the country would no longer be capable of offering such a benefit.

As long as there are Atheists, etc., who aren't profiting from such economic tactics, there will always be a pool of citizens that a nation can count on to make up the tax losses - the Atheists etc.

I suppose one could find other alternatives to shelter their money, but of course, other alternative organizations aren't going door to door telling people they are going to hell if they don't support their business.

Of course, in order to compete with such "tactics", one would have to lower themselves. Many special interest groups, have come forward, in order to defend themselves by seeking representation. If one group is allowed to run their political agenda, that group will receive presidential benefits. Grouping people, allows politicians to easily calculate which groups they want to cater to.

I hate to say it, but if one wanted to get over on these type organizations, the strategy is quite simple. 1-Join them, and don't rise in power in the group. 2-Use them for their benefit while they are receiving special gov't benefit. When they fall, move to the next group that gained dominant political favor.

Of course, one must weigh their material benefit with their ability to look in the mirror. Uh, many politicians don't own mirrors.

Harlequin said...

"Uh, many politicians don't own mirrors."

I'm pretty certain a lot don't cast a reflection, so it's a moot point >:D

GH

Philosopher said...

Interesting post. However, some of your lines of thinking are a bit off. For example, your comment about proof and evidence is not entirely true. There is absolutely positively no way to proove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one can proof where they ate dinner last night. They can produce evidence to substantiate a claim...but no one can provide proof. They can provide witnesses who, if deemed credible, would be believed. That is not proof, that would also be evidence. It seems your entire theory is based on a false premise of "needing proof".

Your comments about the writers of the bible indicate too much time passed between writings. Unfortunately, the old testament is also a historical document recounting the history of an entire nation of people that actually do exist (I can't prove it, but I think there are enough credible witnesses). To say that their history never took place becuase you believe it is too incredible to have occurred is really a rather bold statement. It would be like saying, you don't believe England's history, or China or India's history (both nations are over 4,000 years old and have a fantastic history) ever took place because it's too incredible to believe" or "...because the historians that documented it differed in their documentation". Wow...now that is a stretch of the imagination.

boomSLANG said...

"Philosopher" said: Interesting post. However, some of your lines of thinking are a bit off. For example, your comment about proof and evidence is not entirely true. There is absolutely positively no way to proove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Right Phil, there's no way to... "proove" that planet Uranus isn't actually hollow and home to a race of Buttmunchkins who control the universe by invisble satelites, so in turn, it MUST be true, right? OR...could you, Phil, say that you DO know "beyond the shadow of a doubt", that it is false? I think the latter. Nonetheless, outrageous claims demand outrageous evidence. Please adopt this addage into your "philosophy".

Phil said: "To say that their history never took place becuase you believe it is too incredible to have occurred is really a rather bold statement. It would be like saying, you don't believe England's history, or China or India's history (both nations are over 4,000 years old and have a fantastic history) ever took place because it's too incredible to believe" or "...because the historians that documented it differed in their documentation". Wow...now that is a stretch of the imagination."

Um, history is one thing; claims of the supernatural...i.e.."magic", is quite another. Also noteworthy, there are no conditions attached to whether one accepts England's "history" as fact, or not. George Washington has had his life documented based on manuscripts of family members and other people who knew him first hand as well as manuscripts written by the man himself. He was claimed to be a man of great physical strength and was even claimed to have thrown a silver dollar across the Potomac river, yet, as reasonable adults, we KNOW that THAT part was embroidered and amounts to nothing more than an old wive's tale...i.e..a "fable". We know this because the Potomac is over a mile wide. We don't need to "prove" that it didn't happen for it to be commonly accepted that it didn't happen.

Best regards.

Dave8 said...

Philosopher: "For example, your comment about proof and evidence is not entirely true. There is absolutely positively no way to proove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Really? Can you "prove", your statement, absolutely and positively? Or, are you going to offer "evidence", i.e., your words?

Philosopher: "They can produce evidence to substantiate a claim...but no one can provide proof."

Kind of like your words again, the evidence of your thoughts/ideas.

Philosopher: "They can provide witnesses who, if deemed credible, would be believed. That is not proof, that would also be evidence. It seems your entire theory is based on a false premise of "needing proof"."

It seems your entire statement, requires some type of evidenciary support to "prove" its validity. What have you to offer to persuade others to believe your words?

Philosopher: "Your comments about the writers of the bible indicate too much time passed between writings. Unfortunately, the old testament is also a historical document recounting the history of an entire nation of people that actually do exist (I can't prove it, but I think there are enough credible witnesses)."

Another startling revelation... Its not the history that some people challenge, its the dictation of the history from a "god", to a select number of authors. There are as many "books" or historical writings, that challenge the statements made within the bible, as historical fact. Obviously, the objective truth, is in the physical matter (physical paper with words), the "proof" as to how well the writing captures reality, is another matter entirely.

As well, a human limitation is the ability to direct attention to multiple facets of reality at any one time, equally... if you need an explanation, there are applied/natural physics and mathematics aficionados that can shed more light on this topic. Quantum enganglement, superposition, neurological wiring complete with delimition filtering, etc.

Albert Einstein, in a letter to Schrödinger dated 1950:

"You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality - if only one is honest."

People do live, they do exist, and perhaps there isn't objective proof, as from a Universal stance, one has to claim omniscience, and from an individual stance, its a subjective observation. It appears somewhere between the Universal and Individual the absolute truth resides - a balance of sorts, if one wanted to spend enough time doing research.

Philosopher: "To say that their history never took place becuase you believe it is too incredible to have occurred is really a rather bold statement. It would be like saying, you don't believe England's history, or China or India's history (both nations are over 4,000 years old and have a fantastic history) ever took place because it's too incredible to believe" or "...because the historians that documented it differed in their documentation". Wow...now that is a stretch of the imagination."

History can't be proven absolutely, however, credibility can be established by showing the possibility for replication of a fact. When someone makes a claim, that can not be replicated or even modelled in a natural environment, they have removed all possible evidence, that can be used to support a proof for a fact. In short, they have a self-refuting assumption.

I can entertain the notion of natural phenomena, even when claims stretch natural laws to their limits, etc., but... supernatural claims made throughout history require proof by replication of an "action", "physical state", "empirical testing", etc. in the present, and that... is impossible.

True, those who accept that they are not omniscient, also assume some measure of doubt when speaking of Universal truths, but supernatural claims in history, leave the metric of doubt, and enter the metric of impossible. Doubt, can be used to propel individuals into research and searching for truth, etc., and be a positive factor in ones' life. However, doubt left untended, and not used productively/positively stagnates growth/maturity in all facets of human endeavor. Clinically speaking, an individual with elevated levels of doubt in regards to other individuals, can manifest itself into paranoia.

Some take doubt, and pursue academia, research, and just plain reaching out and experiencing the world as an elixir for such stagnation - its healthy.

Well, speaking of Asian history, Haji seems to have been busy today, a few deaths, but of course that is a replication of what has happened throughout history in this region... the soldiers who lost their lives, were part of a cause that seeks to prevent groups from controlling and enforcing stagnation to the detriment of entire generations of people... History seems to repeat itself, perhaps a few thousand years ago, its not so far fetched to believe that an entire groups' level of doubt was exploited and used to perpetuate the belief that they needed to worship specific god(s), in order to escape from eternal torment.

Dave8 said...

Harlequin: "I'm pretty certain a lot don't cast a reflection, so it's a moot point >:D"

;-)

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Anderson: "we must kill any one who works on the sabbath, a violation of the 4th commandment."

Lets keep our facts straight. Yes the OT tells us to kill people who work on the Sabbath. But Jesus had other ideas:

"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" 3 Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." 5 Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Luke 6:1-5).

boomSLANG said...

So what...is that supposed to HELP the Christian argument, or something?...those "God bequeathed" TEN COMMANDMENTS saying one thing, and "Jesus"(God) doing quite another? So we're just tossing out the OT because it's been "fulfilled", and now running with Jesus, are we? Seems like God's "unchanging word" has clearly changed if abiding by the Ten Commandments isn't "sticking to the facts".

.:webmaster:. said...

God never changes, except when He changes, which is frequently or never, depending on the Sunday sermon.

Hmm.

Dave8 said...

Chopton: "Lets keep our facts straight. Yes the OT tells us to kill people who work on the Sabbath. But Jesus had other ideas:

The Christian, "I want my cake, and eat it too."

The OT "must" be valid: It substantiates Jesus' coming by some pretty far fetched prophecies (Jesus is never mentioned in the OT once).

The OT "must" be invalid: Chopton Says, "But Jesus had other ideas."

The same OT that is used to "prove" jesus' existence (for modern fundamentalists), is the same exact OT that is preached against by a character named Paul back in the day.

Modern christians try and reconcile this obvious paradox, by stating that not "all" of the OT is true, that it has undergone editorial errors. Of course, that leaves them with the task of "determining" which parts of the OT are true, and which parts aren't. And, of course, that is why there are so many christian denominations today, no one can justify better than any other christian denomination why "they" believe they have the absolute "truth".

freeman said...

Dave8
I though Jesus was clear as to were he stood on the laws in the old testement.

Matthew 5-17 (New International Version)
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

How can these christians re-write the scriptures? Either it is the literal word of the sky daddy or it is mere folklore.

This inability of christians to decipher reality from fiction is the cause of christianity becoming dangerous!

"Revealed religions" are a joke!

Dave8 said...

Freeman: "This inability of christians to decipher reality from fiction is the cause of christianity becoming dangerous!"

Agreed, reality seems to be far removed for many. Somehow, I find literacy and the ability to link expression to reality to be correlated.

The CIA shows the literacy rates as follows:

Literacy > Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.

Total Literate Population: 82%
male: 87%
female: 77%

Note: over two-thirds of the world's 785 million illiterate adults are found in only eight countries (India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Egypt); of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women; extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in three regions, South and West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab states, where around one-third of the men and half of all women are illiterate (2005 est.)"

Knowledge is power. The areas where there is the highest illiteracy, are the areas targeted by terrorists, etc., to find followers. Obviously, no one needs to be educated to have "faith", either faith in a person or ideaology/religion.

Interestingly, religions that pose "faith" as the ultimate way to truth, find themselves in a position of trying to explain why their religious "faith" is more truthful than another religions' while proselytizing, which is absurd. Hence, the reason some religions attempt to use science as a smoke and mirrors act to sway those who don't have enough knowledge to know different. There's been more than "one" book burning festival in the name of religion... Take care...

Anonymous said...

As much as i agree with everyone that christianity and the bible is a heap of crap, i still believe in a creator god of some kind... maybe because i think evolution is just ridiculous and without solid proof, and the big bang... well where did that come from? Personally i beleive it is just as ignorant to beleive in a universe that sprang from nothing as it is to believe that water could change to wine, or a man could survive in the belly of a whale for three days... so you "atheists" believe in a "magic" all of your own...
Am i wrong? Shred me.
Daniel

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