Atheism with a southern twang.
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It’s been awhile coming and I’ve certainly been putting it off for awhile now but for me personally, this subject has reached a point where I think it should be addressed. Certainly this has been addressed by others. Far better writers and thinkers. However this post is not directed at theists in general, but at ourselves.
The charge has often been leveled at us that we appear to be angry. Very angry. The charge has never been leveled so completely as it was for Hitchens. This is where theists often mistook him as being angry when it was in fact their behavior that angered him. Read any of his work and you will quickly start to realize that he was anything but an angry and cantankerous badger. He spoke passionately about the things he loved and he never backed down from loving them or loving the human condition. It was one of those rare things to see someone of such unyielding passion protect us, protect our humanity from threats and dangers. He did this at the risk of his own life. Traveling many times to areas that make us wince at their very mention. He battled on every front any single human possibly could. We recognized him as one of us because he took up the fight we all wish we could, with such an extraordinary moral conviction that few of us can ever hope to rival. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Ayaan Hirhi Ali and countless others have never gone to the front lines of this fight. They are our front lines. They embody the ideals that so few of us can ever hope to match.
Perhaps I’ve read or watched or read far too many epics or fantasies when I was younger. Perhaps I really am some kind of deluded idealist. I see a clear fault within us. We are human. As much as we strive to hold to our ideals, we sometimes fail, or even stop trying to maintain those ideals. I’ve noticed a trend lately. Or perhaps, it’s something that has always been there that I have either not noticed or has only recently come into sharper focus.
I’ve always tried to maintain composure, not just in dealing with theists but everyone in my life. This hasn’t been easy to do or maintain. But I haven’t suffered for it. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. My doubts about Christianity sent my curiosity into overdrive and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve inhaled books of every kind that were in my way and I’ve explored sciences and philosophies I never would have even known existed, had I not started down this road. The side effect of this has been in regard to my fellow humans. It’s much different now as I see them. One life to live. One shot at a peaceful and happy existence. No second chances and no heaven or hell either. This is all we have and is all we ever will have. I will never get to have this chance again and neither will anyone else. My interactions with other people have increased in a positive and dramatic way as a result of this realization.
I understand perfectly well that there are some people who are harder to deal with than others. But I do not think that we should revile them. I’ve seen the picture floating around that says you can hate the belief with hating the believer. I not only think this to be true but I feel that this should be an ideal that we all should strive to. Don’t mistake my meaning at this point. I do not say that people who revile or mistreat you should be allowed free reign to do so. I mean to say that they are humans and as such are fallible just as much as any of us are. We may eviscerate their arguments and demolish and lay waste to their particular set of dangerous beliefs, but we must not forget who we are dealing with.
I think as atheists, we must strive to adopt certain ideas into our everyday lives and push at the boundaries every day, of what people claim us to be. Not many times in the history of our species have we been granted such an unprecedented opportunity to make our world so much better, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Not just with reference to religious superstition but in every aspect of our lives. Racism, bigotry, persecution and prejudice are not simply faults in our species but would seem to be living things we are constantly fighting. It’s a two front battle taking part not just in our public discourse, but within our own private spheres. We see the ruin of our neighbors and even civilization every day in these things as well as medical needs, in famine, in wars or pettiness.
We should strive to better ourselves every day. Not just for ourselves but for everyone around us. I don’t see any reason that we cannot be an example to those around us. A simple kindness, that others would not show us, will change minds. Not many at first, but we can all help to roll this boulder up the mountain. That is what, in my opinion, Hitchens showed us. He never offered violence to people that opposed him and he left a wake of touched lives in his path. Never lose sight of what we want. Revel in life and enjoy this precious little time we have.
And touch every one you meet.
Upon hearing numerous incarnations of the following, “…but the bible says x…” for the millionth time, I thought I would set down my opinion on the matter.
First, a slightly innocent observation. Is it too easy to notice that when you start quoting this fact or that, or even this study or that, that the religious employ a knee-jerk reaction–and almost before they think about it–and say defensively “…you just read that in some book!”. As if this somehow clinched the matter entirely. I don’t think I have to go any further with this observation.
I’ve been reading some Paine lately. I’ve heard people quote Paine and many atheists who have read his writings have always stressed that he was a great writer. After reading his book, Age of Reason, I have to say, I was far more impressed than I had expected. Here is a man who lived some 200 years ago that wrote one of the most no-holds-barred, courageous eviscerations of holy writ I have yet read. The case for scriptural authority was so demolished and the devastation so complete that I don’t possibly see how Christianity survived it.
One of the points Paine made was about revelation. The point has been made by others in a different way since; either the word of God on matters is either final or not, doctrine is either eternal or it isn’t. Paine put it in these terms; no revelation can be given to a selected person who passes it on to the rest of the people. If the revelation is only to one person; everyone who is informed later is not hearing revelation. They are being given hearsay. It would have to be revealed to everyone simultaneously with no possibility of there ever being someone who could interpret anything differently. Looking slightly deeper into this problem, he makes a point so utterly damning as to be a shock to even myself, he issues the following point; no revelation set down by God can be in any human derived language. This simply wipes the floor with revealed religions one and all and leaves smoldering ash piles in the wake of it. A point that many fail to hit upon in discussions. Any revelation from a God must be in a language that has never been, nor ever could be, open to more than one interpretation. In other words, if Islam had truly been a revelation, there would never have been any need for Sunni or Shia Muslims. In turn, if Christian doctrine was the true revelation, there would be no Baptists or Mormons. There would be only Christians.
The language would not be human, it would be something constructed in such a way that would retain no ambiguity to future hearers of the revelation.
In this post, I want to discuss Christianity and will be speaking within the context of that religion and not Islam, Judaism or religions in general because I was at one time, a Christian. A brazenly liberal one, but a self-identified Christian nonetheless. As for those who wish to split hairs and attempt to counter with a logical fallacy by stating that, “You never were a real Christian”(with or without several exclamation points); I would say, don’t bother.
Having been an ex-Christian for quite some time now, I was thinking back and trying to identify the one deformity of my discarded faith that had been one thing in particular that I could never have reconciled with my faith. Now, leaving aside the numberless contradictions, incoherence’s, immoral actions, demented pronouncements, lies, stupidities, and genocidal blood lust that gleefully drips from nearly every page along with the hysterically happy perpetrators; one thing always stuck with me as something that to be true, would be the ultimate deal breaker.
I’ve heard a some atheists say, “I wish I could believe” or that they wished it to be true. I am not one of those who can now look to Christianity and claim with a straight face, that I desired any of it to be true. However, leaving aside the above mentioned offenses, and further assuming that, I did desire it to be, in some way true; I would need plausible explanation, of titanic proportions, detailing the near impossible: The explanation of readiness for Abraham to murder his own son in cold blood and a further detailed explanation, also with the earnest requirement for it to be plausible, that God, should at any time have even asked Abraham for this absurdity.
Surveying the history of this absurd cult, it may be fruitless to ask for consistency and lucidity but it is my right if not responsibility to ask for them, since the believers demand on authority from the almighty himself and under threat of excruciating torment for all of eternity that I believe, and celebrate this heinous atrocity.
The first problem arising from this nonsensical tale of parenting gone awry, that would disgrace even a Jerry Springer episode, is to point out that the believers themselves, if not God himself, claims that he or Yahweh is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. I should not need to, but for the sake of some readers, I will necessarily have to expound. If god possesses these qualities of omniscience and omnipotence, then he, by definition, would already know the outcome since these qualities nullify freewill and bolt the universe into a linear line of past, present and future. All of which is known by god. So, the outcome being already known to the supreme leader, only raises the question, of what use is the test then? Since it’s obviously not a test. “He’s testing his faith and devotion” the believers will no doubt say. But this, as I’ve pointed out, is not an answer since there’s no real test going on. No, there must be another answer. I myself am left with only two possible explanations. This could be a case of sheer malevolence, as in the haphazard case of the luckless Job who found himself in the cross hairs on one of God’s better days or, that, whatever it is that the Christian’s beloved murderous hero is speaking to, it isn’t god. At this point, we’re left with those two possible explanations for this bit of raving lunacy. Malevolent cruelty on the part of Yahweh or, mental disorder on the part of Abraham. In either case, why should this be a prophet or deity that one should even wish to emulate. It’s absurd and viscous to the highest possible degree. If anyone has come up with a better explanation, please let me know.
So to this I say, this is my deal breaker. I found it bizarre as a child, cruel when I was a teenager and after becoming a father, revolting to the point of causing me nausea and raging in a way I never thought possible. This isn’t the worst offense to human dignity among the many wicked stories contained in the bible but for me it encapsulates the point of inhumane cruelty in such a manner that no further investigation into the stories should even be necessary.
Since I’m often asked this question, I thought it might be wise to make an answer available for everyone to reference. As in a previous post, this will not be an in depth debunking of every religion, but a summarized if brief, overview of my position.
The Atheist Position
No sufficient evidence has ever been adduced to suggest that any deity is real. From the Greek Gods to Christianity and Islam, no evidence has ever been produced by the proponents of these religions to think that they are any more likely than any other mythology.
What evidence we do have, in fact, goes the other way. From the early books of the Christian Old Testament, the evidence immediately starts to diverge from the accounts posited by Christianity. From the science of biology which shows that the species we see today, were not created in their current form but the result of a extremely long and complex process of trial and error, extinctions and explosions of life. From recorded history, archeology and other disciplines, the evidence clearly shows that most of the events of the Christian religion, simply did not occur and show signs that parts were probably borrowed and assimilated from older civilizations and religions.
There are moral difficulties with religion and the deities they describe as well. The salient fact of the matter is, that even if the bible and koran were true, it would make no difference to myself and many other atheists. We would acknowledge that Yahweh does exist, but we would still not worship him. The god Yahweh, as described by the Christians, is an immoral character of horror and indiscriminate cruelty. The Muslim version of this character is just as bad off.
This is not to say that, no god can exist. I and many other atheists will tell you that, we can not say that a god, somewhere, doesn’t exist. It’s an unfalsifiable claim and there is no way to disprove that premise. But I have no problem saying that the Jewish deity, along with it’s Christian and Islamic instantiations, do not exist.
This is a letter that I plan to send to a pastor in my area. The pastor had sent me a friend request after a brief discussion on the subject of criticizing religion. We’ve had many exchanges over facebook since then and one of these exchanges has now resulted in the pastor blocking me from his facebook account. I have come to the conclusion that he sees atheism as a personal attack on his deity and that his intent the entire time had been to win me over for Jesus. I think this exchange might be useful to other atheists who are discussing religion with devout believers. Some might see this as a violation of etiquette but I don’t see it in the same light. Almost all of our exchanges were public and I don’t believe anything here is private. His message directly following his blocking my personal account was as follows, nothing has been altered except blocking out his phone number:
it seems the only thing you are against is God. You will believe we came from a worm with no doubt just because someone said it, you believe two grown men doing unspeakable things together in “normal” , and yet you will deny that “feeling” you get when you look at the Heavens as they declare God’s glory.
I have handled you the best I know how out of love and compassion for a human but with the things you continue speak about my God with absolutely no proof and only fueled by hatred of Christianity, I must take you off my friend list. I am not gonna stand by as you continue to take jabs at me and the God that saved me, and yes you did. I thought you were more of a “scientific” type person, but I realized in your last post it is just hatred, much like the “religion” you hate. I read a book “Tortured for Christ” and the pastor that wrote the book witnessed many atheist convert upon their death bed as they realized the truth at the last moment. I hope someday you will see. I did not want to defriend you without first giving an explanation, but I refuse to continue these fruitless arguments on Facebook, its not the place. I will continue to pray for you and I pray you will change. If you ever need to talk to me in person, that offer still stands of breakfast and my contact #xxx-xxx-xxxx
My reply that I will be sending via email as soon as his sister-in-law supplies me with his email address. Here is my reply:
First off, I’d like to extend what I think is a due apology. I feel personally, that you are a kind and honest individual. Please do not see the following letter as a personal attack on yourself. I in no way intend this. I only wish to articulate my position and why I think what I do. I believe you have completely misunderstood the atheist position. I don’t think this is any deficiency on your own part. I blame myself for not articulating my position more clearly. I also think the atheist position is just something that is completely foreign to you and not something that you have ever had a need to understand before. Furthermore, I am not simply an atheist, or one who does not believe in any deity or supernatural force of any kind; I’m also a rigid anti-theist. Meaning by this that, I am absolutely convinced that, religion is the primary cause and source of the division of our world and humanity.
The U.S. in it’s current state, and especially in what’s typically referred to as the “bible belt”, has seen an immense resurgence in religiosity. Especially in Mississippi, our culture has been completely self insulated against anything that isn’t white and Christian.
The atheist position.
The atheist position, no matter what you hear from your Christian peers, is this; no sufficient evidence has ever been produced to warrant belief in any deity. We never say that a god does not exist. Only that evidence is insufficient to believe. This is applicable to all Judeo-Christian religions(Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and also, every other of the thousands of mutually exclusive religions in the history of humankind. Christianity and Islam are both built squarely on top of the Jewish religion. Therefore, if Judaism falls, both of these collapse as well. Jewish scholars have been at attempts to prove their own religion far longer than the Christians and Islam makes no attempt to prove anything, since they(more or less) kill, threaten or torture anyone who disagrees.
We know from archeological, geological, biological and cosmological evidence, that most events of the OT never actually happened. The most obvious example of this being the book of Exodus. Jews didn’t arrive in Egypt until much later than this episode takes place and when they did arrive, they weren’t slaves. They were a garrison of Soldiers allied with the Pharaohs army during the Nubian campaign. Plus, they owned slaves themselves and not the other way around. No Jew ever moved a single block to build the pyramids. We know now, exactly who and, more or less, how the pyramids were constructed. Even recent discoveries have only solidified our knowledge in this area. There are, of course, further complications to this narrative as well. The logistics of a flight from Egypt with well over a million Jews, tens of millions of heads of livestock for food, all the tools of their individual trades and all of their worldly possessions. This monumental event that would have been a moving carpet for hundreds of miles in all directions, slowly moving through kingdom after kingdom is never mentioned anywhere, by any historian or accounts by most of the area that should have been plowed under by the rolling mass. Going even further than strictly a complete lack of any historical and archeological evidence to support this episode; God himself is the actual culprit for every single immoral act in this tale. Repeatedly, the Pharaoh is prepared to concede to Aaron and Moses when God himself “hardens Pharaohs heart”. What is this? This serves no purpose other than malicious intent on the part of Yahweh and this is only after the supposed genocide of thousands of infants murdered by Yahweh for things to have progressed this far.
You have stated that I believe that man evolved from a worm, on no evidence and only the word of someone else. This is both wrong and right. Not only do I believe that man evolved from this “worm”(it’s not a worm actually), I believe that all vertebrates can trace their lineage back to this creature. If you removed this creature from history, all of us would be wiped out, fish, hawk, shark and primates alike. I do not take this on the word that it’s simply been told to me. It’s place in our family tree has been peer reviewed and discussed by experts in the field and the literature on it is available for all to see. It’s also fairly easy for me to see and understand in all it’s historical and biological implications. To say that I believe that humans evolved from a worm is a gross oversimplification of what we’re really discussing. We’re talking about millions of years of biological evolution. It’s at first, fairly difficult to wrap ones head around, but after getting the initial gist of the concept, it’s really quite easy to understand. Almost all biology hinges on evolution as well as most of our medical field. If evolution were not a fact, the medical industry would simply not work. The continued evolution of the influenza virus causes enough trouble every year by itself. Not even taking into account the agriculture industry that feeds and sustains our population. The modern banana is an example of evolution by human design.
No creature shows optimal design. If anything, we have countless examples of design flaws, our vestigial organs and tail, as well as problems with the reproductive systems of both sexes and child bearing issues. As well as the light shed on our history by advances in our knowledge of our genomes, which has had an enormous impact on the fight against disease and genetic conditions.
I’ll say that when I look at those magnificent pictures of the wilderness of outer space, I don’t see anything that event remotely suggests design there either. We’re in a shooting gallery of celestial bodies that can at any point be wiped from the face of the universe by any number of random and typical events that devastate and destroy vast stretches of that wilderness. Our place in the universe is so precarious and unimportant that even the most modest galactic event would wipe us from the universe as if we had never been. I simple gamma ray burst would destroy all life on this planet and leave no trace of behind. I hiccup not too long ago from a star(I forget which one but I will go back and look it up if you request) that was 50,000 light years away was enough to compress our planets magnetic field badly. The history of our species is perhaps 200,000 years, a blink on the cosmic timescale. Another blink and we’ll be gone.
Some atheists say that they wish that it was true. I am not one of those. I can’t bring myself to desire that any religion would be true. If you read 1 Samuel 15, you will get a glimpse of what I mean. Other passages are just as horrific. The genocide of Jericho is one other such example. God’s commands to routinely kill women and children and infants is not something I can bring myself think are moral. I’ve read apologists and theologians on this point and even some of them are honest enough to admit there are no explanations or logic that can be applied here. One of the most celebrated atrocities of the bible is Abraham’s willingness to gut his own son to prove his love and devotion to god. Even if I threw evidence to one side and said, it was all true; the moment god commanded me to do this would be the exact moment I would unhesitatingly tell god where he could go. No self-respecting human could do otherwise. There are further difficulties here as well. God by definition is omnipotent and omniscient. So, this is not a test to which the outcome is unknown to god. Either god knows the outcome in advance, in which case the test is unwarranted or malevolent, or, whatever it is that Abraham is talking to, it isn’t god.
Legal issues. There is a collision between religious faith and the right to Americans to live unhindered by the religious dogma of others. In other words, if we grant the right for you to interfere in the lives of others by way of legislating morality, we must extend this right to all other faiths as well. The first amendment to the constitution states unambiguously that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. There is no wiggle room in this statement. Article six echoes this theme in stating, “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”. The constitution expressly protects me from compulsory belief and grants me the right to be free from others ideas about how I should live my life in a moral and ethical fashion. You might ask, and rightly, “ok, granted, but what is your point?”. Well, if we allow religion to legislate the rights of citizens, we will inevitably end up having to deal with amendments to state constitutions like the recently defeated MS Prop. 26. Which would have amended the state constitution as follows:
SECTION 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
You will notice there are no clauses in the wording of this amendment to differentiate an abortion or a miscarriage. Take into account some forms of birth control for instance. Some of these medicines do not prevent the egg from fertilizing, only stopping it from attaching to the wall of the uterus. In other words, legally speaking, there would have been absolutely no legal distinction between taking a birth control pill and preventing a pregnancy in this manner or, putting a loaded pistol to the head of a two year old and pulling the trigger. They would legally be the functional equivalent under the law and both subject to first degree murder charges. Doctors who intervened in ectopic pregnancies, attempting to save the life of the mother from an already doomed pregnancy, could, by legal definition, be subjected to manslaughter charges. Allowing religion into our government and courts will do nothing but subject our citizens to outrageous intrusions into their private and personal lives as well as the destruction of our society.
Setting aside the aforementioned MS Prop 26, we can read about the opposition for the introduction of the HPV vaccine. HPV, a well established sexually transmitted disease which effects an astounding number of our youth population and which is well known to cause cervical cancer in women, which kills a number of women in the U.S. and untold numbers all over the world every year, now has a vaccine. This vaccine was opposed by the religious right in this country for two reason. The first is that it interfered with God’s design and secondly, that it’s a deterrent to pre-marital sex. I myself even had a heated verbal discussion with a coworker years ago in which he emphatically stated that if he denied his daughter this vaccine and if she contracted this lifelong and sometimes lethal disease, then that was her punishment from god. I simply stated that, after this confession, that I was thankful that he, was not my father.
We know what happened in the attempted eradication of the polio disease from the poorest third world countries in Africa. The vaccine was opposed by the Muslim clerics as a conspiracy by the U.S. which would, when administered, cause impotence and sterility. After this fatwa was issued by Muslim authorities, that stated no one was allowed to administer the vaccine to infants, polio came back in these countries with lethal force.
Madeline Neumann died a tragic, painful and miserable death from easily treatable diabetes because her parents used prayer as medicine. Laws put forth by the religious are designed to protect the parents of children who die horrible and needless deaths by neglect and maltreatment and they continue to die.
Communities in uneducated, third world communities infected by a combination of superstition and religion, kill, torture and exile female children for being witches.
Certain communities of Hasidic Jews, practice a form of circumcision that involves the circumciser cutting the skin loose and then sucking off the amputated flap with their mouths(no intention of attempting to be vulgar here). This has resulted in the transmission of genital herpes to infants and causing the deaths of several of them.
Religion is an urgent and direct threat to public health.
All of this barely scratches the surface of the problems with Christianity by itself. I can go in depth on any subject that you care for and can supply further explanations if you would like. There are far larger problems with religion itself. Where can we look at the worlds conflicts even today and not see that the problem is faith and religion? Religion is an enormous multiplier of divisiveness and conflict. Faith is not a virtue and humans pay the price for their own and others faith on a daily and hourly basis.
I cannot look at our world and see the hand of a deity at work. I cannot look at children and infants starving by the thousands and see the handiwork of god. I cannot look at lethal legislation that is put forward in our nation that will kill to keep someone from being offended.
I do however deny your claim that I hate god. That is not possible. I can not hate something that I do not believe exists. That would be the same as attempting to hate unicorns or the tooth fairy. God plays no more part in my misfortunes any more than my accomplishments, there can be nothing to hate, and nothing to hate him for.
One final thought. You say that god saved you. I think you don’t give yourself enough credit. A fault which many humans share. You and others are far stronger than you give yourselves credit for. You can endure more heartbreak and misfortune than you know. I know this from horrible lessons learned in my own life. Be proud of your own accomplishments and how fiercely you can weather the storm.
Having had this blog for awhile but never truly deciding what to do with it; it seems now I’ve found a great use for it. I’m now going to use this as a way to combat the badly behaved religious fascists on facebook. Everyone should know, or have been witness to at least several incidents in which theists have had content removed, admins banned or pages shut down entirely because they believe that they should not be criticized in any form. This has now happened to my page as well.
On my personal account, I follow a page called Calling All Atheists. As the name suggests, this is a page that, at least used to, make an attempt at discussion between atheists and theists. It has progressively devolved into an all out page for religious proselytizing, and a general hateful diatribe against atheism in which criticism or argumentation will get you banned. I’ve watched many comments deleted and users banned.
I watched as a post went up to on CAA and screen capped the status:
So, I watched with a passing interest and posted the image to my page with the description “I’m almost convinced this page is a Poe”. Keep in mind, CAA is a public page which anyone can see. Then the following topic arose with this post to the CAA page:
Now this is where the trouble starts…
The second comment is the one I took exception to for two reasons, the first and most obvious, it’s absurd to say that anything you don’t believe is therefore a lie. Secondly, Wayne Curry( a commenter on a status) had been banned for calling out a lie just previously to this. Rhonda then proceeded to report the above image, which facebook dutifully removed. Now, she didn’t even address the image, she stated that I was lying that someone had been banned from CAA. So I posted this screenshot I took directly from the CAA wall:
So, Rhonda did the only thing that was available to her, she reported the image. Which was again dutifully removed by facebook which initiated a 24 hour ban of my posting abilities. I couldn’t even like statuses on my personal account.
What happened next was a long drown out conversation between a friend acting as an admin, my wife(another admin) and Rhonda. The entire conversation was mind numbing incoherent vomiting of inconsistency, hypocrisy, conspiracy theory, and lunacy that ended with a thinly veiled fascist threat from Rhonda:
That’s right, a threat that says that she will be watching. That her arguments lack any merit of their own and that she cannot take any critisism at all. That if she sees anything she doesn’t agree with or criticizes her, she will have it removed because she can’t defend herself.
You are a coward Rhonda, of the worst stripe. Fearful, childish and insecure.
Still not quite sure I really want to start a’ bloggin’.