Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Mad Torturer and Me: The Lunacy of the Hell Delusion

As an atheist who debates theists frequently, I often am warned that my immortal soul is in grave jeopardy. A range of religious individuals—not just Christians—have told me that disbelief in God will result in severe punishment after corporeal death. When Christians, in particular, are involved, it is never long before Hell is invoked. For the uninitiated, the Christian conception of Hell is the place in which those isolated from God will spend eternity—being tortured, abused, burned, crushed, maimed and brutalized in perpetuity. Oftentimes, Christians ignore my actual arguments and simply try to frighten me by citing Hell—crafting example after agonizing example of what is in store for atheists such as me.

Although such a strategy might give less secure atheists pause, I never could be converted back to being a believer simply by way of blind fear. There also, of course, are several problems with the whole Hell doctrine. In this essay, I shall lay out four of the main ones: What immaterial soul? Which God must one worship? How could God invent Hell? Why worship a wrathful God?

Whenever anybody warns about the grim fate of my immaterial, eternal soul, I generally respond as such: “I cannot waste a single moment worrying about an immortal soul which, as of yet, hasn’t been substantiated through evidence.” Obviously, the doctrine of Hell depends upon an essence surviving corporeal death, but what that essence is never has been fully elucidated. Some of my previous essays have attempted to lay the primitive “soul” notion to rest, citing scientific research that reveals the brain is the place in which one’s personality, character and memory are stored. Perhaps the other insurmountable problem for the soul—particularly in relation to Hell—is its questionable ability to feel pain. How, exactly, can a soul be tortured and brutalized? Pain is a decidedly bodily phenomenon, involving nerves, tissue and the brain. If a wispy essence, divorced from the body, can feel pain, I want to know specifically how it works.

Perhaps the biggest problem for every religion is the following: There are 10,000 more vying for adherentseach equally likely as every other. Unless an enterprising Christian presents to me some heretofore undiscovered evidence that Yahweh is real, I must classify that deity alongside Zeus, Mithras, Enlil, Anu, Nintu, etc. Given the egocentrism of most gods, I doubt generalized piety would suffice. So, if Anu actually is the One and True God, Christians are pretty much screwed. If it is really Mithras after all, the world’s population does not have a whole lot to which to look forward. Then again, the legitimate deity might be Hargozinu, whose existence shall not be discovered for 2500 years.

At this point, quoting Dr. Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World” might be instructive:


Here, for example, is what is written in a cuneiform inscription on a Babylonian cylinder seal from the second millennium B.C.:

“Oh, Ninlil, Lady of the Lands, in your marriage bed, in the abode of your delight, intercede for me with Enlil, your beloved.

[Signed] Mili-Shipak, Shatammu of Ninmah.”

It’s been a long time since there’s been a Shatammu in Ninmah, or even a Ninmah. Despite the fact that Enlil and Ninlil were major gods—people all over the civilized Western world had prayed to them for two thousand years—was poor Mili-Shipak in fact praying to a phantom, to a societally condoned product of his imagination? And if so, what about us? Or is this blasphemy, a forbidden question—as doubtless it was among the worshipers of Enlil?


Our third problem with Hell is a definitional one relating to God’s alleged properties. For most Christians, God is defined as omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent; that is, Yahweh is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good. The question here is so obvious as to be frequently overlooked: What kind of all-good entity would invent a place such as Hell? Remember that Hell is a place in which humans are tortured and brutalized until the end of time; indeed, Yahweh’s fire pit is far worse than the torture chambers that were Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment and John Wayne Gacy’s suburban dwelling. Speaking personally, I know that I am not omnibenevolent. And yet, even so, I never would want to expose anybody to limitless agony—or any agony at all. Yahweh’s overt sadism seems to preclude simple benevolence (let alone omnibenevolence!) and thus call into question the very definition of God.

Bearing the previous discussion in mind, the time finally has come to tackle the question of whether one should worship a wrathful God. Considering my Dahmer and Gacy analogies, it really does seem rather strange. Those two serial killers are rightly reviled by the public at large (indeed, our tax money went toward murdering Gacy in order to prove the point that murder should not be committed), yet mad torturer Yahweh ought to be worshipped? To continue with our serial killer motif, I will quote a previous essay of mine, in which I argue that God, if existent, booby-trapped Theodore Robert Bundy:


If God were omniscient, he knew Ted Bundy would become a serial killer. If God were omnipotent, he could have created Ted Bundy any way he wanted. If God were omnibenevolent, he would have created Ted Bundy as a decent human, since no omnibenevolent entity would damn his own creation to Hell. For, such would be analogous to a toymaker knowingly making a faulty toy and then blaming the toy for being faulty.


If we, for the sake of argument, make the completely unjustified assumption that God exists, we can draw two possible conclusions: 1. The omni-everything God definition is incorrect. [Thus, we can be certain of nothing about God’s nature, and we have no insight on how to please him.] 2. Hell does not exist, and never has existed. [Hence, even atheists’ infidelic souls are safe.]

Perhaps you have been moved by my arguments, and perhaps not. But, bear this in mind: Whether there is an afterlife or not, the earthly life is the only one that is manifestly in evidence. Enjoy it, and live it to the full.

I suspect no second chance awaits us.

66 Comments:

Blogger Tommy said...

Jolly, another question I ask is "Why would a supreme being require our worship and supplication?"

I mean really, is God such a narcissist that it needs to create humans so that they can praise him all day long and speak to him with such meekness and submission?

One could argue that if there was a God, that it would want us to behave with kindness and charity, but it seems bizarre that (1) the whole purpose of our existence is simply a test run to determine where we will spend an eternity in some afterlife, and (2) that said deity will banish us to eternal suffering in the afterlife not based on whether or not we were good people but rather whether or not we believed in God's existence and kissed his ass to his satisfaction.

7:39 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

Many people will patronise me by saying "God loves you", and some will even say something akin to "You won't necessarily go to Hell for your disbelief." But when challenged about their own beliefs, they will cut in and say "I don't want to question my beliefs." Why not? Are they themselves afraid of being punished? What harm would it do to exercise their critical thought processes? If I'm not going to be punished, why sould they be for using their own reasoned judgement? I suspect that they don't really believe that I won't be punished; it's really just a tool to maintain diplomatic dialgoue and to avoid uncomfortable questions, and hopefully to change the subject.

9:36 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the next scientific Darwin comes along, the elucidator of the workings of the mind, what will happen to the concept of the soul? "Soul" will become as meaningless as "vital force". "Soul" only has meaning by way of ignorance. In itself it explains nothing that isn't related to other nonsensicals. It is an anti-meaning.

There is a genetic condition that creates babies without brains, or most of a brain. Do they have souls? If so, where does it reside? Not in the brain? In the heart? Not in the heart? somewhere in the body? No? So there is nothing wrong in disposing of these people? (Actually, they usually perish before long through "natural causes" but that doesn't affect the argument)

One of the biggest absurdities is that "John Wayne" (sheesh, what a clown :-)) could have been totally forgiven and gone to heaven if he had accepted Christ just before being injected. I've always been taught that at least religion has some socially impelled reasons, but what kind of off-the-wall belief system justifies that?

4:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lie of Hell-fire is not even in the Bible.
The Bible teaches of death the same as we see it scientifically, Ecclesiastes 9 says the dead are unconcious, un-thinking. They cease to exist.

5:38 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're an atheist, why do you spend so much time thinking about God and the Bible and all other things religious? Why not take up something productive?

9:47 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the last comment. There are more Athiest trying to prove that God doesn't exsist, why is that? If in fact you believe that He doesn't exsist then why waste your time on that matter. Christians do believe in a one true God and so it is there abligation to get that word out. But if you do not beleiev that it even exsists then why spend so much time on proving that. Live your life and suffer what ever my come in the end, wether good or bad. So if you are going to sit on your side then be happy and stop sitting on ours.

12:26 AM EST  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

One need only remember the events of 9/11/2001 to realize that, much to atheists' chagrin, religious derangement can affect everybody--not just the pious.

If theists kept their faith to themselves, and entirely out of the public sphere, I would not have this site.

12:33 AM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

To the last two anonymous's, two recent segments on Paula Zahn's program on CNN recently illustrate perfectly why atheists like Jolly and myself have blogs in which we offer our critiques of religion.

In the first CNN segment on atheists, one of the panelists, Karen Hunter, began by saying "What to atheists believe in? Nothing." On the second, the "Reverend" Jesse Peterson questioned where atheists get their values from.

It is quite clear that theists have misconceptions about atheists, why we reject religion, what our values are and where they come from. We are speaking up because we are tired of being misrepresented in the media as not believing in anything, that we have no moral values and that we represent some kind of threat to America.

12:42 AM EST  
Blogger Patrick said...

dang, i wrote a long post on here and then accidentally navigated away! shucks!

basically, i had two points: your summary of (at least a Catholic's conception of) is incorrect.
According to Catholics;
God did not create Hell. It is a "place" which is define as the eternal absence of God
God does not banish or cast people to hell. They have chosen through their life, and at "the pearly gates," they will choose hell over heaven (the analogy of people running away from a blinding light sort of works here)

Next: I would say that spiritual torment would be something like "heartbreak" or emotional suffering which we go through: our bodies are fine, but we aren't.

My original post was better, but I have one last point:
If you are tired of people trying to scare you into believing in Hell, I really suggest you read C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" if you haven't already done so. I am a college student and read it a couple years ago. If you aren't familiar with it, don't let the name put you off. It starts with no assumptions and restricts itself to logical arguments. I'd like to hear what you have to say about it.

My Regards,
pbh101

3:37 AM EST  
Blogger Mr. Ed said...

"If you're an atheist, why do you spend so much time thinking about God and the Bible and all other things religious? Why not take up something productive?"

At last an honest admission.

3:38 AM EST  
Blogger Mr. Ed said...

Patrick,
Clive Staples was a pompous bore, a racist, a sexist who forwarded his absurd metaphysical arguments and hand-waved himself into pretended respectability. He had virtually NO scientific ability and probably viewed reality through the lens of a literary critic. As far as I'm concerned he's about as reliable a sage of reality as a second century scribe.

He seems to have been terrified and offended by any kind of sexuality other than heterosexual missionary posture, though there's some indication that he was deviant himself.

He specialized in the usual scare tactics of Chrisianity and went on to write bad fiction with the aim to program children. Even JRR Tolkien hated Narnia. That has to tell you something.

Well, you said you wanted to know what others thought...

3:50 AM EST  
Blogger v.dog said...

God gave us free will, he gave us choice. To be truly free, we have to be able to choose evil as well as good. To be free we must be able to suffer the consequences of our actions, good or bad, and so must others. God knew before the beginning of time that I'd have this conversation with you, but it was still my choice to make it. He knew what your reaction will be as well, but that's still your choice, too.

God didn't create hell for people, but for the Devil and his angles (Matthew 25.41). The Devil will be judged by his actions, and punished accordingly.
God is just, and when people do the same things as the Devil, they come under the same law, and are subject the same punishment.
God doesn't want that. He loves us all and desires that none should perish (2Peter 3.9), but He is a god of justice and the soul that sins must die (Ezekiel 18). The last verse sums it up perfectly: "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,' declares the Sovereign Lord. 'Repent and live!"

But we fail.
We lie, bicker, cheat, and backstab. we steal and we envy.
We disobey God.

Justice demands death for our crimes (I'm just as guilty as anyone, if not moreso). Out of His love for us, God sent Jesus to die in our stead. All we have to do is ask for it, and it's done. That's it- Christianity in a nutshell. God loves us so much that He's done everything He can to save us from Hell. All we have to do is accept the fact that Jesus died for us. For you.For me. There's no fancy diets, no special clothes, no need to pray at set times, face certain directions, all that is left is asking.

A great teacher once said, "Young men, you should preach on hell but let it be with a broken heart and tears in your eyes." That's the way I feel about the subject. I can tell you what, I know, I can plead and I can beg, but ultimately it's your call. Just know this. God doesn't want you to go to Hell, and neither do I.

4:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, religion for one thing can be dangerous but also, there's the grey area when sometimes it helps people too. and a lot of the world's population believes in some deity, and for the peoples that are going through a lot of stress, pain and/or suffering, religion can be a source of comfort and rest. whether or not god exists or not doesn't really matter at this point, when a human has something to keep himself going. maybe god doesn't exist, but at that moment when someone can get relief in some church after some hardship, it does some good. i dont know, the term "opiate" is accurate sometimes, and there are a lot people that would agree to rejecting god, but why would it matter to you? is god someone that important for you to reject. cause really, he isn't as important as other issues that need real solutions. god is imaginary and our thought processes go to it while real problems are going on. as.. i'm responding to this blog.. and so busy "solving" the world's problems.

4:44 AM EST  
Blogger supermonkey mat said...

I am an atheist, but I would nonetheless argue the point that many of your assumptions about Christian perspectives are fallacious. It is possible to come to a correct conclusion using imperfect methodology, but it does leave you very open to counter-argument. Such is the title of your blog, however, that I doubt many religious folks have stumbled across this piece.

8:31 AM EST  
Blogger kickstand said...

Sure, Hell doesn't make much sense, but an eternal heaven doesn't make much sense either. It's all a pretty transparent reward/punishment scheme designed to influence behavior, as one would with a child. All rather patronizing, methinks.

11:02 AM EST  
Blogger new.atheist said...

If god is all good, all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere at once, and we were supposedly created in his image, exactly what part of god are we like then? Humans obviously aren't all good, don't know everything, and are confined by the laws of physics, time and space. Like you said, I don't think anyone but a psychopath would be comfortable condemning another human being to an eternity of suffering after an 80 year test, so if we're supposed to be like god in some way, why would god be comfortable with that?

If god created hell, he's not all good. If god created earth as a "test" for us, he's not all knowing (or else he'd know the fate of our souls before he created us, and this "test" would be pointless). If god didn't create hell, he's not all powerful. If hell is just the absence of god, then god isn't everywhere at once.

If all you have to do to go to heaven is believe, why be good? If all you have to do is be good, why believe? If you're only motivation to be good and believe is fear of hell, does that count? If you need to be both good and a believer, who's really that perfect?

Also, what if someone I love is cast into hell, but I've gone to heaven, but heaven isn't perfect for me without this person?

I'm not totally sure there isn't such a thing as a soul, perhaps there are other dimensions where our energy can continue to exist... but only science could ever tell us for sure. Religion is really just a way of controlling the masses.

And why do us Atheists spend so much time talking/thinking about it? Because since the deists won't subject themselves to these questions, we are obligated by our own search for the truth to question their beliefs. Religion affects our daily lives just as much; blue laws, "in god we trust," and war in the "holy land" are just as much our concern. Christians and Jews are concerned about those people making decisions based on what Allah and the Koran say, why shouldn't we be just as concerned about God and the Bible?

11:49 AM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

oops on the doesnt not in line 19 on my post. I didn't spellcheck to well.

12:01 PM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

Tommy: God created humans so he could have someone to love, and someone to love Him. He gave us free will so it would be honest and true love. That we would willingly give our love to Him.

Anonymous Posted at 4:51 p.m: "One of the biggest absurdities is that "John Wayne" (sheesh, what a clown :-)) could have been totally forgiven and gone to heaven if he had accepted Christ just before being injected. I've always been taught that at least religion has some socially impelled reasons, but what kind of off-the-wall belief system justifies that? "
God does not measure sin. Sin is sin to Him. There is no varying degree of sin when it comes to God's judgement or forgiveness. A mass murderer and a girl who steals money for drugs are equal sinners to Him.

To everyone in general: The whole idea of atheism doesnt not logically work. I have asked and researched and found that the belief system of atheism is that No God exists. That statement in and of itself does not work. God is defined as omnicient. you cannot say that there is no God because to make such a statement would mean you have attained all knowledge, of all things, of all places in the seemingly endless universe. and that knowledge itself would mean, in essence, you are God. Therefore, atheism in and of itself does not logically work.
Agnosticism, however, is a logically sound system, albeit very weak. It seems like agnostics just don't "feel" like finding truth or any real meaning.

12:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Vlad said...

If God knows in advance what we will do there is no free will. If God has already seen what we will do we can only do whatever God saw us do in his vision. If we do something else then God didn't see the future right. What is left now is an illusion of free will created by the fact that WE OURSELVES do not know what we will do until we make that decision. But our lives really are just movies stored on tapes playing out right now and God fast forwarded to check what will happen.
So God can not know what we will decide and do. As such, the arguement about Ted Bundy kind of crumbles. Let's use another definition of omniscience for our arguements: God knows everything as it happens, but not before.
When countering theists I usually take a slightly different approach, namely I judge God.
So far he strikes me as a sadistic, obsessive control freak with at best a very misguided and harmful love. As such, if he exists (and for the record i don't believe he does) I want nothing to do with the guy, no personal relation with him.
As an interesting sidenote sidenote, how do we know he's male? Why do we refer to him as "He" rather than "It"?
I'll explain this in more detail if the debate proves interesting enough.
P.S. I'm not a satanist, I'm an agnostic with strong atheist inclinations.

12:03 PM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

Sorry for double posting. My accident. Please delete the 11:59 post if it's not to much.

12:04 PM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

We, I myself included, believe God as a "He" because in His word, In the book of Genesis, God created Man in His image. Thus meaning, we are his image bearers. And seeing that God made Man, male, in his image, we are shown that God is a He.

12:07 PM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

ok, on the whole topic of free will. God knows what we will do. It is still our choice to make though. And as for you trying to judge God, that won't work either. Because for you to be able to judge anyone, you have to be spotless. You must be perfect. You must have ultimate righteousness, and when people try to "judge" God, it doesn't work, and usually leads to a skewed view of God, or a deep bitterness. Our righteousness are like filthy rags to His.

12:15 PM EST  
Anonymous Adam Schwartz said...

In response to why atheists continue to speak out against religion:

Every person is allowed to make their own choices. If you believe in free will then you accept that your life is not pre-determined.

Atheists are angry because more and more often, they want to make their own choices but are thwarted by people interjecting their religious convictions into the situations.

Common example: Doctors who won't give rape victims morning after pills because their christian doctrine doesn't approve of christianity. Is it FAR from right to make that person suffer, bear a child they do not want, and have to care for it. Often they may have no means to do so.

Atheists are angry because we are not allowed to make our own choices because of someone elses ideals. We are also angry because they are they always get away with it. Now I understand that doctors can refuse treatment. But, if you are refusing treatment because of a religious convition, and not a medically sound reason, then get the hell out of that medical field. You are harming someone else with your ignorance.

What also annoys us is the fact that people who do these things on religious grounds always get away with it because of the taboo against religious criticism.

Imagine this: A devout christian who believes the creation story of the bible goes in for her yearly flu shot. The doctor, an atheist who accepts the scientific FACTS of evolution says to her:

Doctor: I will not give you this flue shot.
Woman: Why not?
Doctor: Because you do not believe in evolution
Woman: What does that have to do with this!
Doctor: The reason you need a new flu shot every year is because new strains of the virus develop and adapt. Otherwise, you wouldn't need to keep coming back.
Woman:Huh???
Doctor: Since you don't believe that organisms change and evolve, you are not entitled to this flu shot. I am refusing to treat you.

Now just imagine the uproar this would cause???

When the religious people leave all of their religiously based ideas at home, and out of public life, the atheists will quiet down.

Adam

12:16 PM EST  
Anonymous Adam Schwartz said...

Edit: Doctors who don't approve of contraception, not christianity

12:18 PM EST  
Anonymous Ugly said...

Yeah I agree that there is no hell or God with the definitions that you use, which are similar definitions that most people use. But what if God is not a being in the clouds who controls and watches us and thinks like us? What if God is something different. For example, each cell in us is alive, but together they form a human being. What if each person together forms God? Some people say "God is love." This is a much different idea of God. Surely no one can deny that love exists. Kind of a strange concept, but I think it may be one that is closer to what many great people, like Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Jesus were referring to.
Also, another definition of Hell is that it isn't something that happens when you die. It is simply suffering that happens to you in results of "sins" that you commit during your life. For example, you cheat on your spouse and it could create suffering in your life - a sort of "Hell."
When atheists try to argue against the God and Hell that many Christians argue for, they are just reinforcing this (in my opinion) misconception of God and Hell.

1:34 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Will is a totally bankrupt concept in the Christian worldview.

When God created Ted Bundy, for example, he knew every single action Bundy ever would take. He knew about every murder, every rape, every assault - before Bundy even was birthed. How, then, could Bundy have "free will"? His actions were known before he "decided" them.

If God really were infinitely loving, he would have aborted the creation of people like Ted Bundy, sparing such individuals the agony of Hell. An omnibenevolent God only would create people who, by their own "free will," lived righteously and would end up in Heaven. He would spare Ted Bundy eternal torment by way of cosmic abortion.

And, whether God actually fashioned Hell or not is irrelevant. According to Christians, God is master of the cosmos. As such, every nook and cranny of the cosmos is God's responsibility.

1:43 PM EST  
Blogger Patrick said...

mr. ed:

i wasn't exactly asking your opinion on CS himself, but rather what he wrote. In between your ad hominem attacks (which, yes, is what they were. His arguments are not dependent on his personal virtue), I am a bit puzzled about this part:

"He had virtually NO scientific ability and probably viewed reality through the lens of a literary critic. As far as I'm concerned he's about as reliable a sage of reality as a second century scribe."

I am confused about that part and the part about "absurd metaphysical claims"

could you explain a bit more? Are you completely eschewing metaphysics as a means of gaining knowledge in favor of science? Or are you just rejecting CS' metaphysics specifically?

And despite you trying to be inside his head with the statement about viewing reality as a literary critic, what exactly does that mean?

1:52 PM EST  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Hey guys!

I just wanted to let you know that, as of this moment, this is the number on my hit counter: Unique Hits Today (so far): 2363

Thanks for spreading the word about My Case Against God! I appreciate all the new faces!

--Jolly

2:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Little Pope said...

You say:

"How, exactly, can a soul be tortured and brutalized? Pain is a decidedly bodily phenomenon, involving nerves, tissue and the brain.."

you are so naive. FOR GOD EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

4:12 PM EST  
Anonymous Adam Schwartz said...

Little Pope said...
You say:

"How, exactly, can a soul be tortured and brutalized? Pain is a decidedly bodily phenomenon, involving nerves, tissue and the brain.."

you are so naive. FOR GOD EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.


In that everything, we must include that is he ruled by the same good and evil emotions that we humans experience. If he provides the ability for us to suffer eternally, then he is evil, even considering the fact that he supposedly offers us the path to salvation through a poorly preserved, 2000 year self contradictory manuscript.

4:37 PM EST  
Blogger Tim said...

The concept of free will strikes me as being closer to neglect than love. Could you image a parent explaining that he allows his two year old to play in the street:
"I love him so much, I gave him free will."?

Compared to the knowledge god allegedly possesses, how could we even approach the level of even a two year old compared to him?

And it is very naive to deny that "For God everything is possible"...well except that part where having yourself in human form be tortured and executed in order to save all of humanity. That is obviously the only possible way humanity could be saved.

4:46 PM EST  
Blogger Patrick said...

i agree that a body would not experience pain in hell, but, like i said earlier, something akin to heartbreak might be a more useful analogy. not bodily pain, but a state of mind.

6:33 PM EST  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

I blame Plato for the soul thing and for the concept of dualism being propagated.

"Plato, like Descartes, saw the mind as identical with the soul. However, unlike Descartes, Plato argued that the soul both pre-existed and survived the body, going through a continual process of reincarnation or "transmigration"."

http://www.philosophyonline.co.uk/pom/pom_platonism.htm

That's about where the rot set in. The mind is the soul and the soul is the mind according to both Descartes and Plato, yet Plato pushed the idea of a mind which could survive death.

Minds require matter. In the case of the human mind, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that a mind can continue to exist without the brain or some other matter.

7:32 PM EST  
Blogger Mr. Ed said...

Patrick,
First let me apologize. I hit the merlot a little too much last night and got a little nashtyyyyy. You're right, it was an ad hominem attack. Against any other person it would constitute ad hominem fallacy, but CS Lewis represented himself so virtuously that I can't think the hypocrisy tainted his argument. True, he wrote in the 40's and 50's and sexual prudery and racism were the norm, but let's not forget that Gandhi died in 48.

I won't pretend to have read as much Lewis as you seem to have, but here's an example of where his metaphysics sticks in my craw (this is from memory, but his argument, simplified, is as follows): "I yearn for God and all yearning must have an object, thus God must exist." Frankly this sounds like an argument off that 300, or whatever, reasons God exists website. Well, I yearn for chocolate marbel cake made by green aliens, but I'm not expecting any miracles... And before you say this isn’t metaphysics, yes it is: he’s saying human desire creates things in this world. And if God isn’t in this world, then where in heaven or hell is he? Oops, I answered my own question. You get the point.

Reading Lewis I can't help feeling that he was so convinced of his intellectual superiority that any absurd line of logic could be sold to the gullible public. I really think he's overrated, that it was actually the simplicity of his wit that made him palatable to everyday readers. His books were bestsellers, and well, the rest is history. But if you have a particularly sublime passage, please...

The "God just forgets you" thing he got from Whitehead's process theology.

What did I mean by viewing reality through the lens of a literary critic? How the hell should I know, but if CS had said it you would have thought it was brilliant… come to think of it, THAT is what I meant!

I can't really fathom Clive Staples (which really sounds like a 1920 Chicago gangster...ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, I just can't hide my dislike for the man...).

On the way to the zoo or something he suddenly converted to Christian, and spent the rest of his life trying to convince others how sooooo, sooooo wrong they were about just about everything.

I’m sorry Patrick but I just can’t help it. He seems to have some meaning for you, and I’m not out to offend. If I’m missing something big, if you can show me where he was a great man, I’m open.

Actually this is one of the more amicable atheist sites I’ve visited. At least we're having fun. No?

Best wishes,
Mr. Ed

4:50 AM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

Where did all of these new people come from btw?

9:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Drebaw said...

Adam Schwartz: The theory of evolution and evolution are very different things.
Evolution: The change in a population's inherited characteristics or traits from generation to generation.
Theory of Evolution: The theory of evolution is that we all developed from little microbacteria, which is what christians deny. Christians do not deny that things slowly change over time, but that to say that all things evolved from a puddle of bacteria, that goes against the Christian faith.

10:25 AM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

drebaw,

it's against the belief of more than just Christians. I have friends who are not Christian and think the theory of evolution is far fetched and bogus. It's hard to image that one day there was a puddle of goo and millions of years later here we are. It's hard to imagine that one creature is the common ancestor to all, who came from a complete sea bearing creature or was a complete sea bearing creature itself, that had gills, not lungs became amphibian like, grew a lung and over millions of years became a reptile than another millions of years or so became birds and mammals and millions more years later here we are discussing the theory. Like I've said before a bit far fetched and hard to believe and in my opinion takes more faith to believe that story than to believe in God and Jesus.

Now tell me this how does a animal go from egg laying to live birth?

Because correct me if I'm wrong, fish lay eggs, amphibians lay eggs, reptiles lay eggs, birds lay eggs and mammals give live birth.
It's quiet a leap to go from egg bearing to baby bearing.

10:56 AM EST  
Blogger Tim said...

The answers to your questions regarding evolution can be found at this site:
http://www.talkorigins.org/

However, you might want to take any evidence in favor of evolution with a grain of salt considering the fact that your friends think it is bogus. I am personally very distressed by this new information.

11:19 AM EST  
Anonymous Little Pope said...

Tommy said:

"...Where did all of these new people come from btw?"

Are you the owner of this blog btw?
you are going to hell for being an intolerant idiot..!

Who am I? I AM WHO I AM.

11:19 AM EST  
Blogger new.atheist said...

All the new ppl came from digg or reddit... I forget which, but that's how I got here.

And pgc1981, can we introduce you to the platypus and the echidna?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidna

I think if some people just took the time to educate themselves (or if schools weren't too scared to bring up the subject) on the workings of evolution, the time lines, and the scientific evidence found, more people would see how obvious evolution is.

2:23 PM EST  
Blogger lynn's daughter said...

I'm with you. Why would any omnicient/omnipotent/omnipresent god give us free will and then condemn us to everlasting torment when we exercise it? It defies all logic.

7:47 PM EST  
Blogger Patrick said...

unfortunately, i haven't read that much CS. I will go back and read Mere Christianity again (the first 3 books are good, the 4 is less clear).

thanks for enumerating, btw, and I'm glad there are some places on the net where civility even among disagree-rs can be found.

FWIW, I've read a (very little) bit of Sam Harris and found him intolerable.

Also, I guess I can't really fault atheists for this, but lots of times I see them (like on this blog) attacking the "easy" tenets of Protestantism: the literal fundamentalism, the creationism, etc. As a Catholic, there's a lot of this stuff I find just plain stupid too.
As I said, can't fault 'em, b/c too many people believe and tout this stuff

1:57 AM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

“If you're an atheist, why do you spend so much time thinking about God and the Bible and all other things religious? Why not take up something productive?”

Don’t flatter yourself. An atheist reaction is inevatiable, given that fundamentalists are the ones who wabnt to impose their beliefs on others. We’re just trying to stop that from happening.

“They have chosen through their life, and at "the pearly gates," they will choose hell over heaven (the analogy of people running away from a blinding light sort of works here) “

What a bunch of self-congratulatory bullshit.

“All we have to do is accept the fact that Jesus died for us. For you.For me. There's no fancy diets, no special clothes, no need to pray at set times, face certain directions, all that is left is asking.”

Fine, he died for us. That doesn’t mean he was the son of God. The Allied troops of World War 2 died for us also. Why should we not revere them just as much as Jesus?

“God loves us so much that He's done everything He can to save us from Hell.”

Except make the Bible clear and unambiguous instead of so vague it can be used to justify almost any policy one chooses (as has happened throughout history). That would have saved a lot of lives, but apparently that was less important than making it long and convoluted.

“God does not measure sin. Sin is sin to Him. There is no varying degree of sin when it comes to God's judgement or forgiveness. A mass murderer and a girl who steals money for drugs are equal sinners to Him.”

I’m sorry, what? That doesn't disturb you just a little?

“Thus meaning, we are his image bearers. And seeing that God made Man, male, in his image, we are shown that God is a He.”

Thus, the loathing of women for 2,000 years.

“Our righteousness are like filthy rags to His.”

So then how can he expect us to live up to his standards? How can he condemn someone to Hell (or deny someone access to heaven, which amounts to exactly the same thing) if he created us in such a way (in “His image”? I don’t think so) that we would sin by our very nature?

“Doctor: I will not give you this flue shot.
Woman: Why not?
Doctor: Because you do not believe in evolution
Woman: What does that have to do with this!
Doctor: The reason you need a new flu shot every year is because new strains of the virus develop and adapt. Otherwise, you wouldn't need to keep coming back.
Woman:Huh???
Doctor: Since you don't believe that organisms change and evolve, you are not entitled to this flu shot. I am refusing to treat you.”

This scenario is indeed less ridiculous than what does happen, because of the free ride that religion gets, simply by virtue of being religion. Creationists are hypocrites because they benefit from the scientific discoveries that form the basis of evolutionary theory, but somehow they think they can talk down to others about the facts, just because they happen to harbour some evidence-free beliefs that they find convenient to believe.

“When atheists try to argue against the God and Hell that many Christians argue for, they are just reinforcing this (in my opinion) misconception of God and Hell.”

Actually, I think you’ve only succeeded in giving “love” another name.

“Christians do not deny that things slowly change over time, but that to say that all things evolved from a puddle of bacteria, that goes against the Christian faith.”

Which of course doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Science clearly shows that all life on this planet has a common ancestor, and whether anyone “likes” that or not, is absolutely irrelevant to the fact of the matter.

“It's hard to image that one day there was a puddle of goo and millions of years later here we are.”

Thank you for making it crystal clear that that all you’re invoking in support of your argument is simple personal incredulity. “It’s hard to imagine.” Yes, it might be hard to imagine, but that’s why we don’t stop at what we can imagine; we use mathematics and science to go further. I can’t imagine how an electron is both a wave and a particle; nor can I imagine space-time. But physicists can model these phenomena using the language of mathematics to yield remarkably accurate predictions, even though these concepts are utterly counterintuitive to our primate brains, which evolved not to see things on a subatomic or extra-dimensional scale, but on the scale of lions and wildebeests in the African savannah.

“Like I've said before a bit far fetched and hard to believe and in my opinion takes more faith to believe that story than to believe in God and Jesus.”

Well, it does if you’re completely ignorant of how it could have happened. Of course, you have no such excuse, unlike the people who lived during the Bronze Age, because you have every modern resource available to you, and because I’ve more than sufficiently gone into this, showing how your incredulity doesn’t translate into scientific evidence. I won’t do so again, because you seem genuinely indifferent to learning.

“Now tell me this how does a animal go from egg laying to live birth?”

The premise here, of course, is that evolutionists are incapable of answering this question.

The three birth strategies that I know of are:

Viviparity: “Giving birth to live young.”

Ovoviviparity (lecithotrophy): “Embryonic development nourished by the yolk when eggs are retained with the reproductive tract until they hatch.”

Oviparity: “Depositing eggs that develop outside the body.”

(Vertebrate Life, 7th edition - Pough, Janis & Heiser, 2005)

The presence of ovoviviparity alone should give you pause, because it suggests an intermediate.

And then, of course, you have the platypus and the echidna, two mammals that not only lay eggs, but according to genetic and morphological analysis, represent the earliest still-surviving branching of the mammals. And there are different birth strategies that go on within groups of fairly closely relate organisms.

2:13 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One need only remember the events of 9/11/2001 to realize that, much to atheists' chagrin, religious derangement can affect everybody--not just the pious.

If theists kept their faith to themselves, and entirely out of the public sphere, I would not have this site.


Come now. If we're going to be honest with ourselves, then we're going to realize that people will fight, terrorize, and start wars because they are the sorts of people who fight, terrorize, and start wars. Religion is merely a convenient excuse.

3:41 AM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

Lui,

I could make a good arguement by saying that the muslim jihad religion is more political than it is religous. I read and article about that statement I made and it made complete sense when you start to look at how they do things. Their goal is to destroy freedom, take over and inflict their belief system onto all the people of the world. That sounds more political to me than religous.

12:11 PM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

Sorry Lui didn't mean to put your name on the above post. it was in response to Jolly and what anonymous said.

"One need only remember the events of 9/11/2001 to realize that, much to atheists' chagrin, religious derangement can affect everybody--not just the pious."

I could make a good arguement by saying that the muslim jihad religion is more political than it is religous. I read and article about that statement I made and it made complete sense when you start to look at how they do things. Their goal is to destroy freedom, take over and inflict their belief system onto all the people of the world. That sounds more political to me than religous.

12:20 PM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

Lui, (this is what I meant for you)

"And then, of course, you have the platypus and the echidna"

it's not everyday I think of a platypus and I have never heard of the echidna

Here's one for you.
I found this dinosaur book that my niece has and I was looking through it and they talked about the extinction of dinosaurs. Now the book said dinosaurs died off when a giant medeor hit earth causing an ice age. Allthe dinosaurs died off while mammals, birds and some reptiles lived on.

One, is this a correct statement made by the book?
Two, what is the difference between reptiles and dinosaurs because I thought dinosaurs were reptiles?
Three, how would any reptile survive an ice age if the dinosaurs couldn't?

One thing about the book is that I never hear anyone say that mammals and birds lived along side dinosaurs. You always hear only about the age of the dinosaurs with no mention of any other creatures.

12:30 PM EST  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Both political and religious regimes try to inflict their worldview on other people. Christians do this, too. If Christians truly were tolerant, they would allow people to make up their own minds about abortion, homosexuality, pornography, contraception, euthanasia, prostitution, etc. Nobody is forcing Christians to do anything against their beliefs. But I, as an atheist, DO NOT want to live by Christian ideals anymore than I want to live according to Islam or Mithraism. Part of "freedom" is having the liberty to reject Christian life and live as a "heathen."

Do you support policies allowing me to live as such, if I choose?

9:36 PM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

Jolly,

yes you can live your life how you want. You have a right to stand up for what you believe in as do I as a Christian.

People do make their own rules about abortion, I don't support it but if people want to do it that's their choice and they have to live with the consequences. I don't support those right wing groups who get violent over the subject. Pornography is pretty much unlimited on the internet and no one is stopping you, so have fun. I do think it should be more full proof than it is to keep minors away from it. I don't have a problem with contraceptives/birth control, especially now days with all the divorce and crap that people are doing. Euthenasia is wrong, if people want to do it on their own with no involvement of another that's their choice. Prositution, I think you can move to reno if you want or maybe you can move to amsterdam.

The problem I have is people like Dawkins coming to this country and and saying Christians are crazy and wacko's and whatever else he says and tries to inflict his doctrine on us. And telling us how to raise our children. If we don't like we have every right to stand up and fight it, just like you have the right to stand up and fight for what you believe.

Is Dawkins even a citizen of the US?

11:19 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

PG, Dawkins is not inflicting anything on you or other Christians. He is merely stating his beliefs just as you state yours.

Have you lost the ability in any way to express your religious faith as a result of anything Richard Dawkins has said or done? I should think not.

Dawkins is not a US citizen of course. But the reason he probably devotes a lot of attention to the United States is because (1) we are the most powerful country in the world, and (2) if our leadership is influenced by a more fundamentalist Christianity it has an impact on our foreign policy decisions and our interactions with the world.

As you are fond of pointing out, Christianity thrived and grew in spite of persecution. If Christianity is true and Richard Dawkins is wrong, then Christians should be welcoming the chance to engage Dawkins. But instead, what I see is that Christians cannot bear the thought of someone publicly proclaiming his disbelief in Christianity. I see the same thing on atheist blogs. For Christians, the mere thought that there are people who openly express that they can live their lives without a belief in Jesus, is seen as some terrible affront. "How dare they speak their minds!"

2:08 AM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Tommy,

"PG, Dawkins is not inflicting anything on you or other Christians. He is merely stating his beliefs just as you state yours."

I beg to differ. If he gets people to follow him and believe in what he is saying he is inflicting his ways on onto people.

"Have you lost the ability in any way to express your religious faith as a result of anything Richard Dawkins has said or done? I should think not."

Me personnaly, no. But he does bring controversy and people of the high school and college age that buy into what he says about Christianity can and probably has cause animosity in homes. I've seen interviews with this guy and his passion seems to be to turn all he can against Christianity.

"Dawkins is not a US citizen of course. But the reason he probably devotes a lot of attention to the United States is because (1) we are the most powerful country in the world, and (2) if our leadership is influenced by a more fundamentalist Christianity it has an impact on our foreign policy decisions and our interactions with the world."


Here's my problem with this, if he isn't a citizen who gives a flying frick what he thinks about America and what we do. It's not like you see me going to the UK and telling them what they should and shouldn't do. I heard him say in a interview that he thinks it's dangerous to have Christians on office because they believe in armagedon and yearn for nuclear war. Now me being a Christian, I don't yearn for nuclear war. In fact far from it. My point is, he is not a citizen so what right does he have to come here and tell us how to live? I think he should stay in his own country and try to do things his way their. One thing I might add is that this country has prospered with Christians at the wheel in office.
For all those who rip on Bush, look at this country right now, unemployment is the lowest it's been in a long long time, the stock market is very high, national security is going very good, business growth is good, other than peace what more can you ask for?

"As you are fond of pointing out, Christianity thrived and grew in spite of persecution. If Christianity is true and Richard Dawkins is wrong, then Christians should be welcoming the chance to engage Dawkins. But instead, what I see is that Christians cannot bear the thought of someone publicly proclaiming his disbelief in Christianity. I see the same thing on atheist blogs. For Christians, the mere thought that there are people who openly express that they can live their lives without a belief in Jesus, is seen as some terrible affront. "How dare they speak their minds!"

Yes they should open the chance. Debates like that are usually pointless though because both sides tend to be closeminded going into the thing. People can proclaim their beliefs all they want, but when I have a problem is when people call me crazy, arrogant, ignorant, wacky, we abuse our children by indoctrination, etc I upset and I have the right to defend myself. If people left it simple and didn't bash Christians then fine I wouldn't have a problem, I have a problem when I get bashed for believing what I believe. Everyone has the right to speak their minds, they just have to think of the consequences that their speaking might bring.

1:24 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

"I beg to differ. If he gets people to follow him and believe in what he is saying he is inflicting his ways on onto people."

Yeah, but one can say the same thing about Christians proselytizing non-Christians and converting them. What you are essentially saying is that the system should be rigged so that the promotion of your viewpoint should have some special privilege, while the promotion of the views of someone like Dawkins should not because what he says is inflicting something bad on people.

As for Dawkins not being an American, I would argue that his viewpoint is still valid, just as would a British Christian's observations about American culture as well. Sometimes an outsider's perspective helps us to realize things we might not have noticed in its absence.

I would also argue the converse, that we as Americans should be free to criticize intolerance in other countries. In predominantly Muslim Indonesia, for example, the legislature has been considering a bill that would ban public kissing, even between married couples. In some of the outer provinces where sharia law holds sway, such laws are already being enforced. As an American who might one day wish to visit Indonesia, I have every right to condemn the proposal to ban public kissing. Such a law might conceivably effect my wife and I were we to engage in a public kiss while visiting there.

As for changing peoples minds about religion, I must also respectfully disagree with you there. People do change their mind about many things, including religion. If you told me when I was 17 years and a church-going Catholic that I would one day become an atheist, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. And yet here I am today an atheist. On the flipside, there are also undoubtedly people who were atheist or agnostic who underwent some change in their lives and became religious believers. It does happen. What you don't see in the blogosphere though is someone in a position of disagreement with you on religion suddenly adopting your position. I did not turn from Catholic to atheist overnight. And neither will you become an atheist and adopt secular humanism overnight either PG! :-)

2:17 AM EST  
Anonymous pgc1981 said...

Tommy,

"Yeah, but one can say the same thing about Christians proselytizing non-Christians and converting them. What you are essentially saying is that the system should be rigged so that the promotion of your viewpoint should have some special privilege, while the promotion of the views of someone like Dawkins should not because what he says is inflicting something bad on people."

Yes you are probably right. So who then sets the standards? Who says what is right and what is wrong?

"As for Dawkins not being an American, I would argue that his viewpoint is still valid, just as would a British Christian's observations about American culture as well. Sometimes an outsider's perspective helps us to realize things we might not have noticed in its absence.'

Yes you have a good point here. I do believe they should have no say or influence when it comes to making policy or law if they are not citizens. If he wants to give his opinion, fine, but that's it. I wouldn't expect to have the right to go to the UK and try and make policy or tell the public what to teach and not to teach and tell them how they should and shouldn't raise their children, that's all I'm getting at. I just don't like his approach because it seems to me from what I've read and seen on him in interviews, that his goal is get people to fall away from Christianity. You don't see it that way because you are already on his side.

"I would also argue the converse, that we as Americans should be free to criticize intolerance in other countries. In predominantly Muslim Indonesia, for example, the legislature has been considering a bill that would ban public kissing, even between married couples. In some of the outer provinces where sharia law holds sway, such laws are already being enforced. As an American who might one day wish to visit Indonesia, I have every right to condemn the proposal to ban public kissing. Such a law might conceivably effect my wife and I were we to engage in a public kiss while visiting there."

I don't agree. I feel if you go to another country you obey the laws of their land, you don't have to like them but you should obey.

"As for changing peoples minds about religion, I must also respectfully disagree with you there. People do change their mind about many things, including religion. If you told me when I was 17 years and a church-going Catholic that I would one day become an atheist, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. And yet here I am today an atheist. On the flipside, there are also undoubtedly people who were atheist or agnostic who underwent some change in their lives and became religious believers. It does happen. What you don't see in the blogosphere though is someone in a position of disagreement with you on religion suddenly adopting your position. I did not turn from Catholic to atheist overnight. And neither will you become an atheist and adopt secular humanism overnight either PG! :-)"

You have some good points. I guess I just don't like seeing people fall away from God, that's all. I've been on the line before or even possibly on the other side and I don't intend to go back. I've seen my life without Christ and I've seen it with Christ and I'm much, much happier and better off as a person with Christ. People can say I'm not a free thinker all they want, it's a pretty absurd statement to make since the only thing they know about me is that I'm Christian. I think what had me debating Christianity when I was in high school was the rules of the denomination my family was in (reformed). I saw the judgementals and people who thought they were perfect and quiet frankly I wanted to do what I wanted at the time. Now after the fact I see that it was mostly selfishness and stuborn that made me feel those things. I still don't belong to a denomination, I just don't agree with them, I follow God how I feel He guides me, thats all.

11:13 AM EST  
Blogger Dawn Treader said...

How would you deal with a Christian who does not believe that there is an immortal soul, that Hell is a temporary, cleansing event that only happens because of mercy, and that God's attributes remain to people who exercise free will and choose Him?

Fact: the Christian Bible does not teach that there is an immortal soul.
Fact: the Christian Bible does not state that there is already a Hell where those non-existent immortal evil souls go.
Fact: the Christian Bible have always asked man to choose.

1:55 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason faith believers react so vitriously to Dawkins is because his views are so unflinching. I've even met left-leaning people who label him fundamentalist. I think they're correct, but fundamentalism with regard to reason and logic and rational historical interpretation is quite different than fundamentalism based on faith. Belief based on faith will alway free-float in the land of irrationality.

Dawkins violates the prohibition against criticism of religion. The crime of apostasy would, in the past, get a person killed (still will in parts of the world). But even today the remnants of that judgement lingers in our collective subconscious, even for the unbeliever. For atheist readers, just note your barely audible gasp at some of his amazingly brash statements. He really is the little girl telling the king he has no clothes.

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Steven Weinberg

Does anyone need a better reason for why anyone, of any nationality, should be able to ridicule the religions of anyone else?

That being said, why does Dawkins address American religion so much? Duh, you know how many books he sells here? He may be principled...but he ain't dumb either.

5:29 AM EST  
Anonymous brad said...

pgc1981 said:

Here's my problem with this, if he [Dawkins] isn't a citizen who gives a flying frick what he thinks about America and what we do. It's not like you see me going to the UK and telling them what they should and shouldn't do.

No, it isn't like the USA has dragged the UK into some sort of useless war against Muslims or anything is it...?

12:05 PM EST  
Blogger Tim said...

pgc1981 said:
"I just don't like his approach because it seems to me from what I've read and seen on him in interviews, that his goal is get people to fall away from Christianity. You don't see it that way because you are already on his side."

I don't think there is any question that his goal is to get people away from Christianity, and every other religion. Who doesn't see it this way?

"If he gets people to follow him and believe in what he is saying he is inflicting his ways on onto people."

Huh??

What he is doing is making an argument. If people believe in what he is saying it is because he is persuasive.

I hope I wasn't too clear, I wouldn't want to inflict my ways on you with the scary power of discussion.

8:43 AM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

What we see here is a totalitarian reflex; we can argue about politics, economics, or virtually any other topic, but when it comes to religion, we're all supposed to back off and walk away quietly. Somehow, religion is supposed to be off limits to criticism. Why?

10:10 PM EST  
Blogger tina said...

I don't know that much about god and the bible, but I'm learning. (reading lots of blogs and posts)To me, religion is dangerous stuff. Is anyone familiar with John Hagee? Kind of off subject but not really.

10:54 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, I would be an aberrant Christian who does -not- believe in a fundamentalist version of Hell (rather, Hell would be the state of willed distance from a relationship with God). Also, I believe much in the Bible to be symbolic, allegorical, poetic, the rantings and frustrations of actual people in difficult times, and so on. There's even some wisdom literature in there, if you care to look for it.

People make the mistake of thinking that if God were all-(insert characteristic here), that God would then do X (where X = the thing they wish God would do). That's like my mom saying if I was truly a gifted writer, I'd have a bestselling novel out on the shelves right now. What one is capable of and what one chooses to do are different things. Also, people frequently say, "Ah hah! Then how can you say God is good?"

Look, I respond, our lives are short and our perspective limited. If there -were- a plan that spanned generations, odds are we're not capable of seeing it. We are very short-sighted, self-interested creatures. It is possible that God allows certain tragedies to occur for a greater good. We may not even really have a strong grasp on what "good" is. (See Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger" for a better, darker discussion of that.)

Who created most of the institutions that people associate with God? Humans. That's who. And yet, when you get a sage or someone touched by God, what does God inevitably say through them? God says, "Love one another. Just like you claim to love me, show that love to each other. Stop with the stupidity already. The letter of the law is meaningless if you can't follow the truth behind it when it counts. You can find everything you need in each other, if only you'll reach out to each other." That's it. There's nothing else that matters. The rest is simply posturing created by people with their own self interests at heart.

Can an atheist follow those dicti and attain heaven (in my view, as I am by my definition a Christian)? Yes! Of course! I'd love to have the atheist fellowship with me, but so long as they're living a life filled with more love than vitriol what does it matter?

It's not my right -- nor any religion's right -- to judge the worthiness of another's soul. Religion is, literally, a spiritual discipline, a yoking of ourselves to a path that leads our souls back home. Of course, because people are lazy and greedy, that gets twisted very quickly. It takes effort to get out of that mindset. (I know!) Ultimately, it's essential that we treat each other well. Even if my beliefs are right, they are simply a distorted shadow of the Truth. As such -- and as I said -- I have no right to judge another's spiritual journey.

I'm sorry that so many have taken the message of Christ and twisted it. I'm sorry that believers -- and manipulating non-believers -- of so many other religions have done the same. Yet, I cannot turn my back on what I know to be true. Perhaps it's a biological trigger that produces my subjective experience of God, but that still doesn't affect my ability to feel that connection to the ineffable Divine in my heart.

I don't expect -- nor do I especially want -- to convert anyone. I'm just rattling off some thoughts that you've triggered with your entry. It's all very stream-of-consciousness (if you couldn't guess).

I guess I just wanted to let you know that there are -some- out there who -have- questioned their beliefs, who -have- studied the sciences and the arts, who -have- a grasp on history, who -have- translated the Christian scriptures (canon and non-canon) from the Greek who still believe. Of course, the God I believe in is more inclusive (we are all God's children), is more willing to let us figure it out for ourselves (we are stewards and are meant to be co-creators), and is not so much a God that acts as a cosmic Santa or an immortal David Copperfield writ large (we simply can't afford God's going rate for party tricks).

As for you, I hope that you are living well, that your life is filled with people whom you love who love you. May your thoughts, words, and deeds all be aligned, and may they produce good things in this world.

11:31 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not going to try to read all the 60 comments already posted... so maybe this has already been expressed...

You weren't a very good Catholic were you? I'm not surprised, after all, I've found that Catholics pride themselves in steering clear of logical questioning & reflection. Anyways, as an atheist and former protestant, I was heavily into apologetics. Sorry to say, but this particular article of yours would be eaten alive... Christians already have the perfect responses for the things you said. This is not to say you can't pursue these arguments successfully, you just didn't do it. As a whole, I love your work ;)

3:11 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks for the general compliment about my blog. I appreciate the sentiment. Of course, I realize that I cannot "knock it out of the park" with every entry and, perhaps, this one is not one of my best.

But, I think the whole argument about "which god" is rather devastating, no matter who articulates it. There is no more hard evidence for Yahweh than for Mithras, Enlil, Thor, Zeus or any other god character. As I wrote recently, there are infinitely various god characters, with infinitely various skill sets, demanding infinitely various behaviors, promising infinitely various things. The one and true God just as easily could be Hargazorn (yet to be discovered) as Yahweh.

In any event, I never would worship the deity who fashioned Hell, since I would consider that entity equally, if not more, evil as John Wayne Gacy.

Thanks for stopping by!

12:53 PM EDT  
Blogger USpace said...

Good one, cool stuff. I think if there is any kind of 'hell', it isn't for a soul's actual eternity, but a kind of punishment to help develop the soul to a higher level to go back to life in a physical form to lead a better life the next time.

absurd thought -
God can not be quantified
so therefore must not exist

man can't measure beyond Space
so then it must not exist
.

1:57 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to answer a question some, I believe, religious people left here. This question is if you are an atheist why spend so much time talking about god? Well, I'll give you my reason. I was raised a catholic and I love the idea of god as the catholics betray him, or maybe her, however I will refer to god as him here. It's like having a kind and protective father-figure. I don't have to be afraid of death any more and i know there is some fairness in the world, some great justice. Best of all, I have the chance to see my loved ones again.

However, for me it didn't make sense. Nothing about religon made sense, it was impossible. I stopped believing, but I still went to church still pretended I believed in something that's utterly ridiculous. The reason I went to church was I was afraid if there was a god what would happen to me if I denied his existence outright.

Finally, I stopped going to church; stopped pretending. I thought if there is a God wouldn't he much prefer it if I didn't go to his church, instead of sitting there praising him and deep inside thinking what a waste of an hour? Wouldn't he perfer me to be honest with him instead of being a hypocrite?

But I still think a small part of me wants him to exist, but I know he doesn't. So I need to keep backing myself up with reason. I need to get away from my some of family and friends who constantly try to get me to believe in god through fear of hell and punishments. I need to listen to other atheists say there can't be a god. Because I think in the end I only wanted to stay in the Catholic faith because I was so afraid. I don't want to be scared any more.

3:40 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment!

You need never live in fear of Hell, for several reasons:

1. If you are concerned about making god angry by denying him, don't worry about it. After all, even though a deity might possibly exist, who knows whether that deity is Mithras, Apollo, Yahweh, Vishnu, Brahman, Zeus, Ammon Ra, Hargazorn, Anu, Nintu, Enlil or some other deity? You cannot please all of these god characters simultaneously; they are mutually exclusive and have different silly demands. If you cannot please them all--and you have no idea which is the true god, if any--then why bother with silly worship in the first place?

2. The idea of a "soul" has been debunked--here and elsewhere. Well, at least, it's been debunked as much as an unfalsifiable, metaphysical assertion can be. Why should you worry about the eternal fate of a wispy essence for which there is no evidence and reams of contrary proof?

3. Would you really want to party hearty in Heaven knowing untold hundreds of millions of people are being eternally tortured in Hell? To me, that would be a major buzzkill, since it would be very likely some of my loved ones would be among the tortured.

4. The vast and infinite nature of punishment in Hell seems to betray blatant fear-mongering. That is, nobody would take the silly Hell idea seriously unless the punishment was so beyond the realm of reality that people were scared shitless. Hell is a theistic construction clearly designed to be so scary as to horrify people into compliance with nutty religious authorities. I shan't conform in this silly game of attempted mind- and people-control.

1:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By your clear reflections in seemingly unchangable attitude untowards those of religious beliefs ideas.. my understanding your experience's with such in previous lifes not just a passing one but rather more as like they had your being as stretched on the rack in your case but (pointless) attempts trying to convince you of religious beliefs,which being then as now you considered but being a load of utter bullshit .in such be you admired for courage as good common sense over time....yet lest forget, we must retain balance in humility compassion ever open to further understanding,not doing so we become trapped in a cage of our own making,such be great a folly..

8:35 AM EDT  

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