Atheists. The "other" danger of god belief. By Jake

Jake's picture

3 years ago I wrote a small post trying to explain what I saw as a very real danger in god belief. In the small post I equate god belief to similar irrational beliefs, like trolls, fairies, and 6 foot invisible rabbits. I claim that a person who says that god talks to them is accepted where as a person who says that elves are talking to him, is not, and that there is a danger in that allowance.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ” other ” danger of god belief. A danger that I mentioned briefly in the article 3 years ago, but never took the time to actually put a hammer to it’s head.

We live in a culture that accepts god belief. So the average person wont necessarily say “was that real ?” when experiencing the delusion of a god. “God” is acceptable. Everyone else around you believes in a god, maybe your experience could be true.

The part that’s bolded is what lately, has been bothering me. I understand why we live in a culture of god belief. Like I said, most people say they believe in a god. So the allowance is no different then when people once believed in elves and fairies and other superstitious things. It’s there because people haven’t learned, like they did with elves and fairies such, that they are all equally as unreasonable, and an embarrassment to any rational thought.

Got a job interview ? Mention to your prospective employer that you are an active church member. Is he/she cool with that ? Of course he/she is. Then tell your future boss that the church you go to is ” The Everlasting Heart of Dwindela, queen of the fairies ” , and I doubt you’ll be employed. Believing in Dwindela a few hundred years ago would have seemed almost normal. Yet today many of us have discounted the idea of fairies because we understand rationally, that they simply don’t exist, and anyone who insists that they do, should be embarrassed by themselves.

However, this is not what I really want to address in this post. Instead, I’d like to turn your attention to what gives this danger it’s road to drive on. How is it that this one irrational thought continues ? Who is it being spread by, how is it being spread, and more importantly, how do we stop it ?

Did you know that kids are still taught in school that George Washington had wooden teeth ? Despite truth to the contrary ? Hell, he didn’t even chop down a cherry tree ! Yet people still, even to this day, continue to tell these tall tells about our countries founding father. Why is that ? Why do teachers, who more the likely know that these stories are false, still continue to tell them ? Why do they pass on a lie ?

Humans tend to want to believe in easy, comfortable answers, rather then the hard knock facts of life. It’s easy for us to accept the cherry tree story as true because it’s a simple story that teaches a lesson. It’s in the acceptance of the story where most people make the mistake of thinking it really happened. They make an assumption of the validity of the story based on how it made them feel. The better it makes them feel, the more they accept it. As humans, we tend to do this a lot. Be it the TV or drugs or sex or whatever, if something makes us feel good inside, we tend to want to give it validation.

Some of you reading this right now, are probably a little shocked to learn about Washington and his wooden teeth and the cherry tree. You probably grew up believing these stories were true. Now though, if you’ve read the articles I linked to, you understand that they were just morality stories created by a man who wanted people to think that Washington was better then he actually was. If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of this, then your mind is right now making the necessary adjustment that it needs to input the new information. This way, the next time someone mentions Washington and the cherry tree, your reaction wont be one of surprise, but of recognition. An ” I knew that ” thought. You also may be so inclined as to correct the person who is telling the story. You may want to let them know the truth, so that they can give out the right information.

However when it comes to ” god ” we throw this type of thinking out. We’ve been trained as a society and as a culture to give room for the irrational thinking of god belief. What’s worse, ( and the point of this post ) is that there are so few of us who stand up and correct this irrational thinking. We allow it to go un accosted because we fear retribution from the believers, or simply because we don’t want to stand out as different. Correcting someone about Washington is easy. Correct someone about the irrational belief of god, and you may suffer serious consequences.

The tendency for atheists is to blame theists for the persecution that we sometimes receive from them. To a large extent, this is true, but just as an abused spouse must take on responsibility for not speaking out, and staying in the abused relationship, so to must we as atheists take on the responsibility for not speaking out against god belief. Despite the fear we sometimes have, despite the cultural and sociological conditioning, despite that and more, we are now at a point where we must stand up, and speak out against the abuse of god belief. We must be willing to face the fear, to face the consequences, and to stand up, just as civil rights activists have done before us, and fight for the truth.

But how do we do this ? Do we have to be as evangelical as our theistic counterparts ? Do we need to see atheists ridding around town on bicycles stopping people to harass them about there being no gods ? Should we go door to door ? Hand out tracts ? Have stadium events ? Many atheists would be opposed to these type of things. Some of us resent having religion shoved down our throats. We realize that we have a choice, we can either perpetuate abuse by using the same tactics as our abusers, or we can rise above, and discover different methods of education.

I think Sam Harris is right. I believe that the only real way we can stop the abuse is through conversation. Through daily examples. I’ve said for a long time now that an atheists greatest weapon against theists, is to be a good person. To stand up and be honest. To live by example that a persons responsibility is born within themselves, and not some external god. I am never ashamed of my atheism, but I also don’t go out and tract houses talking about accepting the non belief in gods. What I do however is give my opinion when asked. And I don’t sugar coat it. I tell them exactly what my opinion is. ” No, I do not have a belief in your god. Why not ? Great question, do you mind if I ask you a few ? ” I have honest discussions with people. I can tell them where to get information. I can give them rational explanations.

So how is it that this one irrational thought continues ? Because there’s not enough of us who are willing to converse about our lack of belief.

Who is it being spread by ? By theists and atheists alike. My grandfather used to tell me ” Remember when you are pointing your finger at someone, that you always have three pointing back at yourself. “.

How is it being spread ? By a theistic majority unobstructed by the atheistic minority.

How do we stop it ? By speaking up. By letting people know, when it’s appropriate, that you are an atheist. By being ready to educate, and give answers. By giving everyone our best. Just like the belief in elves were stopped, so to will god belief. We simply must stop putting our heads in the sand and hope that more people will figure it out for themselves. We need to take responsibility. We need to be more pro active. We need to be unashamed.

It’s gotten to the point, where we have to step away and be accountable for remaining in an abused relationship. We can no longer just sit there and keep taking the abuse. We need to stand up, and point out the abuse to everyone until it becomes as clear to everyone that people are suffering. It’s our responsibility. It’s born within each of us.

About the author: Jake is the founder of www.atheistnetwork.com and blogs at his website www.afterfaith.com. He is a mentor for the RRS and the originator of atheist podcasting on the net. He also works in collaboration with the RRS on www.asktheatheist.com.

Interesting article.

You need to be saved! John 3:16 For God so love the world that he gave his oly begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.   Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

 

 

BELOVED's picture

  The issue is whether or

  The issue is whether or not something is true.  If Washington's cherry tree story were true...it would be wonderful example of a great leader possessing a great character. But since it is false, by all means...let's do away with it's telling. But the same cannot be said of Christianity because it's falsity has NEvER been proven. (not can be...but that's another discussion) So if Jesus is real. If your eternity can either be spent in heaven or hell. If the God of the Bible is a true person who cares for you and knows you....isn't it a blessing that the battle continues. That there are still people writing on athiest websites to tell you so. To rationally respond to your questions and issues about His existence. 

But what I've gathered from your post is that you are frustrated with having to stand against people with opposing views. But that doesn't seem to be a reason to bash religion...differing opinions are a fact of life. The best you can do is patiently and respectfully offer an opinion...note when a conversation is going sour or when it is productive and live with the same open minded tolerance you want from others...

 

Sincerely,

A Good Debate is Hard to Find

 

Atheistextremist's picture

You are making a

 

 

fallacious argument from ignorance, Beloved. The fact it's not possible to say with certainty what happened before the big bang or what, if anything, exists outside this space time, does not give you freedom to insist your assertions about god have any merit whatever. We say we don't know. You say there's a god. This is a truth statement. Please support it with evidence. 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

Vastet's picture

Well said Jake.

Well said Jake.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

harleysportster's picture

Vastet wrote:Well said

Vastet wrote:
Well said Jake.

 

I second that.

BELOVED wrote:  The issue

BELOVED wrote:

  The issue is whether or not something is true.  If Washington's cherry tree story were true...it would be wonderful example of a great leader possessing a great character. But since it is false, by all means...let's do away with it's telling. But the same cannot be said of Christianity because it's falsity has NEvER been proven. (not can be...but that's another discussion) So if Jesus is real. If your eternity can either be spent in heaven or hell. If the God of the Bible is a true person who cares for you and knows you....isn't it a blessing that the battle continues. That there are still people writing on athiest websites to tell you so. To rationally respond to your questions and issues about His existence. 

But what I've gathered from your post is that you are frustrated with having to stand against people with opposing views. But that doesn't seem to be a reason to bash religion...differing opinions are a fact of life. The best you can do is patiently and respectfully offer an opinion...note when a conversation is going sour or when it is productive and live with the same open minded tolerance you want from others...

 

Sincerely,

A Good Debate is Hard to Find

 

Differing opinions are indeed a fact of life. Why do so many of your fellows wish to make your opinions the law of the land?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

BELOVED's picture

God is willing to reason with you...that's why we're talking...

Opinions aren’t the Law of the Land. But The Truth is. The truth of Christ is the reality of our purpose, nature and future. And if Christianity is true...it changes EVERYTHING!!  I’m gonna have to use some commentary from another post in regards to your appeal for proof...

 the idea set forth that you should not believe any man that says he’s seen a 6 foot bunny or an electric blue moon...we also agree on that. Any idea set forth should be tested....but tested based on its nature and claim.  Those who trust God experience answered prayer, divine comfort and insight...not to mention adoption as a child of God. If a man who does not trust God prays...he will not see the same result...but then he didn’t really test the idea set forth...which is that those who trust God will get to know God, because Hebrews 11:16 says that “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.”  And even then...An unbeliever’s unanswered prayer still proves God and the bible because it is written in James 1 :7-8, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt...he who doubts...should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;”

butterbattle's picture

BELOVED wrote:If a man who

BELOVED wrote:
If a man who does not trust God prays...he will not see the same result...but then he didn’t really test the idea set forth...

I.e. you have to believe before you can test; then, you will believe. Ditto, if one already believes, then the test is redundant, and they're likely to "receive" a response in the form of an emotional high, which is automatically attributed to their religion because of their bias. It also brings up the question of how the person was already trusting in the first place, before any evidence was available.

Iow, if you don't see a result, then you didn't trust God. If you see a result, you trusted God, because if you trust God, you will see a result. Question begging, vague, unfalsifiable, ad hoc. 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

Atheistextremist's picture

Everything you say here is

 

BELOVED wrote:

Opinions aren’t the Law of the Land. But The Truth is. The truth of Christ is the reality of our purpose, nature and future. And if Christianity is true...it changes EVERYTHING!!  I’m gonna have to use some commentary from another post in regards to your appeal for proof...

 the idea set forth that you should not believe any man that says he’s seen a 6 foot bunny or an electric blue moon...we also agree on that. Any idea set forth should be tested....but tested based on its nature and claim.  Those who trust God experience answered prayer, divine comfort and insight...not to mention adoption as a child of God. If a man who does not trust God prays...he will not see the same result...but then he didn’t really test the idea set forth...which is that those who trust God will get to know God, because Hebrews 11:16 says that “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.”  And even then...An unbeliever’s unanswered prayer still proves God and the bible because it is written in James 1 :7-8, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt...he who doubts...should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;”

 

assertion [əˈsɜːʃən]

1. a positive statement, usually made without an attempt at furnishing evidence

 

Nor can you provide evidence for your assertions by application of biblical assertions.

And your bible quote that "anyone who comes to him must believe he exists" is plain silly. 

What is being said here is believe and you will believe

Finally, could you explain to me what you mean when you say The Truth.

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

Are we being realistic enough?

Complete world atheism seems to be the goal here.  Is that goal realistically attainable? If it is,..... is it attainable within ones lifetime?

I say no, on both.  So we have to ask ourselves why are we against religion, is it because of its irrationalities, or is it because of what those irrationalities cause and are capable of.  Are we willing to compromise on some small level in the hope that eventually thousands of years from now all people will be atheist. 

 

For instance what would you think is worse, a religion like Christianity that can be interpreted so many different ways, and is susceptible to the human greed and power factor, OR  a religion that is ambiguous and only believes that a higher power exists, and that its motives (if any) are hidden to us.  

I think that if you remove religion from the equation, something else will step in and take its place, look at the old communist Russia, or china for instance.  It seems that people always look to someone or something to have faith in, whether it be a deity, an idea,a person or a political stance.  People constantly form groups, factions, nations, clubs etc.

I'm starting to think that the ultimate solution to this conundrum is the individual, and individualism itself.  Although, in this current world of herd mentality, it seems even more unrealistic than complete world atheism.

 

I think Friedrich Nietzsche said it best:

 

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know which I doubt more.
the existence of god, or an open minded atheist.

BobSpence's picture

To me the important aim is

To me the important aim is to knock religion, faith, etc off the pedestal it has been placed on in societies like the US in particular, and other 'Western' democracies less so. So that is more open to criticism when the flaws in its doctrines, and the consequences of applying some of them, or trying to justify some decision based on such doctrines, is pointed out.

That it has no special claim to truth, rather it has less justification for its claims than many other world-views.

We will always a vast range of individual views and beliefs, we just need a more objective way of judging competing claims, with as little naked 'appeal to authority' as possible.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

BobSpence's picture

To me the important aim is

To me the important aim is to knock religion, faith, etc off the pedestal it has been placed on in societies like the US in particular, and other 'Western' democracies less so. So that it is more open to criticism when the flaws in its doctrines, and the consequences of applying some of them, or trying to justify some decision based on such doctrines, is pointed out.

That it has no special claim to truth, rather it has less justification for its claims than many other world-views.

We will always a vast range of individual views and beliefs, we just need a more objective way of judging competing claims, with as little naked 'appeal to authority' as possible.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Vastet's picture

Exactly. Religions have

Exactly. Religions have authority which they have no right to have. It has to end, and it will. Little by little, day by day.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.