Letter to a theistic world: essay submissions

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Letter to a theistic world: essay submissions

This thread is part of the Great Big Submission drive, and your letter to a theistic world should be posted here....

In the spirit of the new Sam Harris book, "Letter to a Christian Nation" write an essay imploring theists to leave their irrational beliefs behind. Example here

Your essay can be any length, although 2-5 pages is a good size. There are so many ways to tackle this, as there are so many flaws in theistic faith. Keep your arguments based on facts, evidence, and reason, we hold the intellectual highground, lets prove it.

Here is a thread that has some ideas on how one might write a good essay imploring theists to abandon theism. You might also want to read Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris for some ideas. Your letter can be addressed to a Christian, Muslim, any specific type of theist, or theists in general. Unlike the letter to a friend you should not write this letter to a specific person, although you can revise your letter to make it fit the other category and submit two seperate letters.

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My One Trick Poney.

There is only one thing the skeptic has to attack to debunk religion and that is to demand evidence for the magical claims holy books make.

I do see theists argue Second Law and quote vague passages of their holy books to say, "See, this proves the existence of my deity because it coincides with science." I have seen this tactic used by Muslims, Jews and Christians.

I once had a Muslim quote a Quran verse that talked about mountains moving and he claimed that it proved that Quran's writer knew about plate tectonics so therefore Allah exists.

I damn near got beat up at work when debating a Christian who claimed that Aquinas knew about quantum mechanics. I asked him how he knew that, once again the believer made a vague reference that was not a formula or a replicatable testable theory. When I called him on it and asked him for specifics his response was, "Aquinas was a smart man and people followed him around and wrote down everything he said." I wasn't arguing intelligence I was asking for verifiable evidence.

The fact is that Aquinas knew nothing about quantum mechanics just as Aristophanes knew nothing about the periodic table even though he used the word "element". He did not know about electrons or protons or neutrons.

When I hear the claims that ancient fairy tales prove they knew the future it really makes me want to gag. Let me give you a couple examples of the fallacy they are making to demonstrate what retrofitting after the fact is.

Star Trek fans do this as well and are just as wrong as a theist is with their holy books. The TV show shows a tricorder (the size of a cell phone) as a form of communication. Roddenberry would never claim back in 1970 that because he imagined it that back in 1970 he'd be able to build BACK THEN a modern cell phone.

It would be like Henry Ford claiming to be able to build a 2006 Lamborghini back in 1930.

If Aquinas stumbled onto something by making a vague statement, he wasn't the one who knew anything. People AFTER HIM merely pondered and built upon, not just him, but all the philosophers before him and after him. This guy merely picked Aquinas as an arbitrary point to be a poster boy for Christian Cheer leading. No different than when a Muslim quotes the Quran's vague reference to "mountains moving" as being knowledge of plate tectonics.

My point is that holy books are not science textbooks they contain no scientific language or formulas. Tangential parallels that are really nothing once examined are nothing but an attempt to retrofit science because the believer doesn't want to face the fairy tales that have no basis in reality. This leads me to my one trick pony.

I do admire people who have the patience to deconstruct a theists argument by getting into detail. I however don't. I like to cut to the case because in the end all the pseudo psychology and pseudo science on the theist part is nothing but, "Pay no attention to the mythology behind the curtain."

I like to challenge people to show me the letter for letter translations in ancient language for the support of their claims that their respective holy books contain scientific data. I challenge both the Muslim and Christian to show me the ancient Hebrew or arabic words for "Second Law". Then I ask them if their holy books list all the laws of thermodynamics. They are both screwed because none of the writers of either of those books ever used those terms nor had modern science.

Here is the bottom line. Science has never been the origin of super hero's in the sky. They are nothing but a product of human imagination. In the end the Muslim still has to defend claims of 72 virgins and a milk and wine river heaven. The Christian still has to explain how human flesh manages to survive brain death, cellular death and rigor mortise. Nowhere in their holy books do they offer repeatable, testable, falsifiable and verifiable experimental process or formulas to demonstrate their claims.

What they don't want to face is that "God did it" or "Allah did it" is merely a claim and an ancient claim that has no basis in modern science. It is superstition pure and simple. The believers desire for their super hero overrides their rational brain. It is more important to them to protect the club than it is to give up on a debunked concept.

That is why I cut to the chase and use my "One trick pony". I see no need to drag out an argument when the solution is simple, attack the magic and the rest falls like a house of cards. Always remember that in the end they still have no evidence for the outrageous comic book super hero claims of their respective holy books and to me, that is what makes it so easy to debunk.
(END)

That is my submission. Hope others join in too.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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Letter to a Christian

Letter to a Christian Nation
By Ryan

It seems that the evangelicals' hatred of the ideas of equality and egalitarianism is born out of religious convictions. I thought it appropriate to discuss those convictions in this topic, for the benefit of everyone. Everyone is welcome to comment.

1. Christians claim that their god is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and that despite the requirement of this belief that he preside in the energy that produces every atom of every object and process in the universe, he is never considered responsible for evil. Interestingly, though he is considered the creator of everything and possesses control over everything--including all evil acts and people--he is still not claimed to be evil. As the Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote in consideration of this contradiction:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?

2. According to Christian belief, even though their one god is acknowledged as the only entity that allows each individual life and appoints the time for each person's death, abortion, suicide and murder are considered sins generated by people alone. These acts are attributed to a free will, thereby freeing their one god from all responsibility.

3. Despite all the processes and the resulting objects of the universe--including human life--being initiated, controlled, maintained and ended by the direction of one all-powerful, universally-present and all-knowing god who exists outside of time and is claimed by believers to see all events in time, human beings are said to have free will. How can humans truly have a "free" will devoid of all influences of such a god if they must exist within a world controlled by the laws of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology--all of which he is supposed to have created and without his constant presence and maintenance would not exist? It is a contradiction of belief. If such a deity exists as most Christians understand it, then all aspects of birth, life and death are determined and free will does not exist.

4. Because each of our lives would have to be predetermined by this god, all sin would be predetermined and done through this god's rules, essence and direction--the same way as all events in the universe are described by Christian belief.

5. If this reality and the unchangeable processes of nature were not created and maintained by this god, then this god must operate within these rules and would therefore not be omnipotent as claimed by the Christian religion. If a god is responsible for this, then there can be no free will.

6. If this god were not able to see the future or the choices of every human being before their births, then he would not be omniscient.

7. If this god does not exist all places throughout all time, but only exists at different points along the span of time--no matter how complicated or numerous the arrangement of points--then he would not be omnipresent.

8. If this god were omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, being all that we are composed of; creating and controlling all the rules we must follow; thus, not only allowing all which is considered "evil" but also actively participating though these powers and influences throughout all of time--and yet still sent people to suffer for eternity in hell for the lives he chose to give them against their will, indeed without allowing them a will--then this god is malevolent and cannot be a god of mercy or love.

9. If this god is not all-knowing, not all-powerful and not ever-present, then why is he called "god" and given the above titles? This is not truth.

10. The Christian god is also said to act through humans, though throughout time people have done things that oppose supposedly god-directed acts of other followers. Whether or not an action may be considered "righteous" depends on the reviewer's position in society, history and culture. Either the Christian god is fickle, or his followers are acting on their own beliefs and whims without supernatural guidance. If god is only attributed to some of these acts and proclamations and not others, then one must ask who has decided what was god's will and what was the will of a human? No matter what situation is considered from the Christian perspective, it will always yield a completely subjective conclusion.

11. If the "road to hell is wide and the gate to heaven narrow," implying that the majority of people will go to hell; and, all unborn children are indeed innocent, then a merciful Christian should prevent the eternal torture of vast numbers of souls by encouraging abortion--thus preventing that which Christians perceive as a soul from the overwhelming likelihood of going to hell after death. In other words, the possible life gets a "free ticket" to a glorious paradise where this soul would worship the Judeo-Christian god for all eternity instead of chancing the likely afterlife of eternal torture to his supposed displeasure!

12. However, if life is defined as beginning before birth, then all aborted fetuses possess sin and must end up in hell, as "all have sinned." All miscarriages and accidental in utereo deaths attributed to god-controlled and directed natural processes must necessarily end in eternal suffering as well. It is argued by some theologians that these souls would be offered a fair choice between serving god or denying god, though there is no biblical evidence supporting this--it is a manufactured story to explain the curious lackings of manufactured strories. If either point were true, then the Christian god would be niether merciful nor honest.

13. As follows, if such a god truly prescribes all life and all death, and all that exists is composed of his direction, then he is responsible for all life and all death--including abortion. If he holds total control and participation in the universe as required by Christian belief, then a soul's eternity would be his predetermined will as well. If we are to declare that this particular death was the will of god, but this other death went against his will, then he is either chaotically malevolent or he is not omnipotent.

14. In the Roman-assembled, oft-disputed, and heavily-translated text we call the bible--a collection of books that were not written until after all characters had been dead for quite some time and placed together in one text much later--we are told that "all have sinned" and that "all sins are equal in the eyes of god." This implies that no children are innocent to the Judeo-Christian god; and, that if abortion is a sin, then it is equal to lying which is equal to looking a woman with lustful thoughts which is equal to using the Christian god's name in vain, which is equal to planting two different crops in the same field, etc.... The emphasis of concern which Christians place on this act or that act is not biblical, but entirely subjective to their denomination's doctrine and/or culture. Either the great majority of Christians are hypocrites, the bible is contradictory, god is far more sadistic and cruel than often imagined, or the various books of what we call the bible are flawed replicas of the original manuscripts if such manuscripts ever existed.

15. Though often used to make the concept of war acceptable to Christians, Jesus is provinding an answer to the question of taxes when he states "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," and all other inferences are drawn from culturally and selfishly conjured conclusions about the meaning of that statement. It is notable that most politically-conservative Christians are more vocally upset about the act of paying taxes (which is never defined as sin in the bible) than they are about the act of killing (killling of actual people, not imagined). The act of killing--according to the supposed account of the teachings of Jesus--is defined as a sin no matter what the circumstances may be. Therefore, most Christians have contradictory beliefs that result in a hypocrisy that has continued to allow terrible violence--or god's will is different from his rules forcing humans to fail and suffer, and he is sadistic. It's a good thing killing is equal to lying, is equal to...etc.

16. Let us also note that taxes gathered during the time of Jesus were primarily used to preserve and increase the size of the Roman Empire through violence. Universal health care, support for the impoverished, universal education and other social support systems benefiting all members of a society were either nonexistent or of very low importance. Large armies and luxuries for the richest members of society were the primary uses of tax revenue.

17. Since the bible used by western churches tells us to give to the poor, to not kill and to help each other, it is another example of hypocrisy by politically-conservative Christians that they primarily support tax revenues to be used for purposes similar to those of the Roman Empire, while simultaneously opposing the use of tax dollars for obviously Christian purposes such as health care, social security and education. It's funny how the very things which would make a society more conducive to rearing children are also the very things opposed by those who claim to care the most.

18. In any event, if Jesus did separate the practices of a Christian life from the acts and requirements of governments, then political action by Christians is in contradiction to the supposed teachings of Jesus.

19. Jesus also is supposed to have declared that: "Who of you is without sin may cast the first stone." And, "Do not judge, lest you yourselves be judged." Though free will cannot exist and all sinful acts must be predetermined under an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent god, if a free will were somehow allowed to exist within Christian doctrine the choice of whether to commit sin or not must be freely allowed so that each person can make a personal choice to follow Christ or not. These choices must not be restricted by laws or penalties so that people can exercise there supposedly god-given free will. If this is not so, then the choice to not sin is not a choice made of one's free will, or god does not allow free will, or Christianity's understanding of Jesus' teachings are flawed--or simply ignored.

20. History as the western world accepts it--most of which being recorded by Christian people, it should be noted--shows us that various forms of the Christian faith have vigorously resisted science. Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of knowledge attained by verifiable means--"the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding"--which is what separates it from faith, therefore appearing to the faithful to be at opposition with most religion.

21. The achievements of science in biology, medicine, chemistry, engineering and physics have increased the availability of food, have reduced disease and increased longevity, prevented disasters and plagues, and have led to a world with far fewer hardships.

22. The achievements of science have also led to terrible weapons of war and methods for environmental destruction. Science has also collectively worked to reduce these risks to humanity.

23. Christianity has historically opposed things accepted by science, such as the idea that the earth is round, that the earth revolves around the sun, and that disease and debilitating conditions are not the result of some penance the afflicted must pay for their sins but simply natural processes that affect both those people considered pious and those considered sinners. However, Christianity has at times embraced monarchy, tyranny, genocide, the use of weapons of mass destruction and the death penalty.

24. Science strives to be neutral in its value judgments, and creates things that fall along the entire spectrum of what we consider good and evil, leaving people to decide what to do with its discoveries. In western culture, primarily Christian societies have applied these discoveries to increase and to decrease suffering. Since the goal of science is the acquisition of further knowledge through the application of current knowledge by human reason and mathematical logic, it is not a process of faith.

25. Faith is the absolute belief in things which cannot be tested or observed; and, when things previously attributed to the magical forces of a god become testable or observable, then a crisis has always inevitably erupted within Christian thought. When intelligent people within the Christian faith finally realize that a new discovery is indeed irrefutable, religion begins to accept that discovery and incorporates it into belief. This often occurs after many years of protest and opposition.

26. Science has been described by many Christians as being anti-Christian, however the goal of science is to develop knowledge and then test that knowledge. Through previously discovered laws of the universe (claimed to be established by the Judeo-Christian god), science has repeatedly tested the theory of evolution and as more information is gathered this theory has been amended and has become more sound. Unlike the idea of creationism, the theory of evolution was developed after evidence was gathered and ideas tested. Creationism, on the other hand, is an idea that was developed on faith before any investigation had taken place; and, as expected, it has had to repeatedly concede previous assertions to irrefutable fact. Much like previously accepted ideas of Christianity (such as the placement of the earth at the center of a static universe) evolution will likely be embraced and accepted by Christianity after much opposition. Conservative Christians often mock the term "theory" failing to understand what the word means within the scientific community; yet no credible Christian opposition has been mounted against the "theory of gravity." Evolution is only a point of contention because--like the archaic ideas concerning the structure of the universe--it conflicts with current interpretations of the Roman bible. Scientists who research evolution do not try to disprove creationism; on the contrary, they try to develop a greater understanding of natural processes using natural mechanisms. If the Christian god is to be considered responsible for all natural mechanisms and physical processes, then the choice to deny knowledge developed though the observation of these mechanisms and processes is to deny the attributed powers and influence of god. Of course, accepting them means that those who fabriacated the ideas in the bible were wrong.

27. Ignorance is defined by one's refusal to recognize something obvious--to intentionally disregard fact when presented with overwhelming evidence. Since the bible directs the faithful to question their beliefs, Christians should closely examine the arguments made against their doctrines before becoming angry and refusing to listen to the challenges of reason. If the Christian tradition as Christians have been told to understand it is what they believe it to be, then thorough scientific examination should strengthen their faith. However, it is more likely that actually taking the mental effort to fully examine their beliefs in an honest attempt to disprove themselves would likely lead them to a different view of their role in life and the universe. The bible does not demand ignorance (most of the time); rather it supposedly requires the opposite. Despite this, ignorance is proudly practiced by the Christian religions most vocal supporters who mistake it for "steadfast faith." "Steadfast faith" (ignorance) allows Christians to hold and promote contradictory beliefs and values.

28. When an act of prayer is considered to be answered, Christians consider this the miraculous influence of their god. However, when a prayer seems to be left unanswered and hardship, disease or death befalls the object of the prayer, then it is excused as being "god's will." Studies have shown that people who do not pray have the same chances of surviving or succumbing to disease as those who do pray. If there is a god that operates as Christianity believes, then his will is fulfilled regardless of prayer, or he provides no greater benefit for the faithful, or (most likely) he does not exist.

28. When good and bad things happen to the "faithful," Christians describe the events as prayers being answered or god's will being done, respectively (for Christians cannot declare god to be malevolent). When good and bad things happen to people who do not pray or who have no faith, we call these fates "coincidence." When good and bad things happen in equal ratios to both Christians and non-Christians, Christians call this "coincidence." Coincidence as it applies to this argument is defined as: "A remarkable occurrence of events, ideas, etc., at the same time or in the same way, apparently by mere accident."

29. If an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent god of good controls all processes of the universe exists as Christians describe, then nothing happens by accident and there is no such thing as coincidence. Therefore, either prayers have no influence on god's will and the many authors of the bible were wrong, or there is no god as described in Judeo-Christian belief.

30. Theists argue that if there is no god (as they explain a god), then what holds society together? What is stopping us from doing whatever we please if there are no penalties for our actions? And, where does a conscience come from? It is excellent that these questions are raised, because all have answers that must be understood in order for people to make choices that produce a sustainable, peaceful and mutually-beneficial society--which was the original intent of the development of religion in ancient societies.

31. Like other social animals, humans require social structures, collected knowledge and cooperation to live. Even those who have exemplified "rugged individualism" required the technology and knowledge others had assembled before them. Rugged individualism alone, however, cannot implement those technologies and distribute that knowledge on a level which benefits human society. Our collective survival and comfort through civilization have always prevailed over the alternative of "every man for himself," and various political systems have been established, fallen, reestablished and amended in the progression of history to address the basic needs of humans (including food, shelter, protection and social interaction). This is an important point, because conservative Christians champion rugged individualism over the ideals of collective support and cooperation--though the authors of the gospels tell us that Jesus promoted the latter and not the former.

32. One cannot be both politically conservative and a Christian if one is not willing to hold contradictory beliefs and therefore make themselves a hypocrite. Promoting universal and democratic freedom could be considered a Christian virtue if other biblical contradictions did not exist, since Jesus is said to have instructed his followers to not control the actions of others--including actions which directly threaten their lives--but to try instead to persuade others through disseminating his message of love, cooperation, tolerance and peace. Certainly, the repeated actions of conservative Christians to increase military and police power, promote war and the death penalty, and to push for legislation restricting the personal actions of others (all things which restrict individual freedom) are not actions which fulfill these instructions. Simultaneously, conservative Christians oppose universal health care, social security, accessible education, and exhaustive diplomacy before military action--objections which have no foundations in the teachings of Christianity.

33. When approached with such questions, conservative "Christians" argue that a society must defend itself; that their wealth should benefit only themselves or only those they choose to benefit. They also argue that the personal actions of others (actions done only by willing and supposedly free-choosing participants--alternatively, actions which must be predetermined by a god if he is as Christians describe him) must be controlled because they conflict with these "Christians'" conservative and contradictory values. In doing so, conservative Christians fail to follow their own beliefs, and become examples of both the rich man who would not distribute his wealth to follow the path of Jesus, and the Pharisees who condemned and persecuted all who did not accept the values they interpreted as being god-given.

34. Monarchy is the only system of government promoted by the bible, and historically monarchs have been considered by Christians to be granted power by their god thereby legitimizing their governance. This belief in god-given rule readily extended to heinous and sadistic tyrants who, like todays conservative Christians, promoted and enacted policies under the banner of their god's will--policies and practices which either had no basis in biblical teaching, and/or which directly profaned the biblical necessity (though impossibility) of the exercise of free will.

35. Freedom and democracy are human-developed ideas that oppose the biblical concept of monarchy. Literalist Christians cannot promote both democratic freedom and literal biblical teachings without contradicting their beliefs. If the argument is made that due to the corruption of monarchs, god intervened by providing an alternative system of government, and--of course--no biblical support for such an argument exists. This argument is also subjective to interpretation, and could be used to support Nazism and Stalinism since no biblical support exists for either of those systems and all forms of government--including various theocracies--violate different tenants of Christian teaching.

36. If the statement, "all things are possible with god" is true, then it must be possible that god is evil, a liar, a homosexual, a flying spaghetti monster, etc. etc., or nonexistent. If this statement were true, it would also be possible that sin is good and righteousness evil, and/or penalties in the afterlife could be arbitrarily dealt to the deceased regardless of their faith or actions. It would also be possible that this reality could be heaven or hell, or that there is no heaven or hell. If it is impossible for god to be or do any of those things, then all things are not possible with god, and such a god must exist within a set of rules that supersede him, or the statement is false, or god does not exist at all.

37. If the statement, "all things are possible with god" concerns humans in relation to god and not god himself, then sin and evil could be rewarded and righteousness punished. Indeed, anything that is considered the opposite of Christian belief could be true. If these things were not possible, then all things are not possible with god, and such a god must exist within a set of rules that supersede him invalidating the Christian belief in god's omnipotence, or the statement is false invalidating the Christian belief in god's omnipotence, or god does not exist at all.

38. All human actions are selfish actions--actions that place the the self above all else--including those labeled as being altruistic, or selfless. When a person appears to place the concerns of others before their own, it is because of personal values concerning what they want their world to be. If someone sells all their belongings and distributes resulting money to the poor, that person is doing so to make their world a better place according to their convictions. Accordingly, a world where all people are provided food and shelter is not only a better world for the less-fortunate, but also a better world for those who strive for such a community of humankind. Concretely, suffering, crime and hatred are reduced when people are fed, sheltered and happy, thus the byproducts of achieving the goals of such philosophies benefit everyone in that society. Allowing a few to live in gross luxery while others struggle to meet basic needs leads to conflict, crime and hatred and never benefits a society; indeed, the concentration and pursuit of individual wealth is the worlds greatest cause of violence and suffering. Religion--often intertwined with the pursuit of wealth--is the second greatest.

39. Though there are people in each congregation that must struggle to properly clothe and feed themselves and their children, and cannot afford to maintain their less-than-modest vehicles if they even own one, almost all pastors live in well-kept houses and have little trouble eating what they please, buying new suits and driving reliable vehicles. Though these poor members often work 40 hours a week or more and still fight to make ends meet, they are asked to contribute money to their beautiful churches and the coffers of their preachers each Sunday while the clergy need only to speak two days a week from a stage and give a few consultations in offices that offer more comforts than the homes of some members of their churches. This is an injustice and hypocrisy at its worst and most apparent.

I guess when you have plenty of money and nothing to do, you have to create fanciful problems to pass the time, like *gasp* the "dangers of gay marriage" or "the genocide of clumps of dividing cells" or "we're not using limited resources fast enough," and so forth. I guess if the religious zealots achieve their sadistic goals, a lot more money will be coming into the churches. "How's this," you may ask? Let's look at the anti-choice movement, for example. Since social support systems like health care and education won't be properly funded, and since it's far more difficult to raise an unplanned, unwanted child if you're working for the average pay of a young woman and unable to go to school without shelling out more, a society which prevents women control over their own lives and bodies would lead to increased church attendence and revenue. People are moved to desparate measures when you purposely leave them no where else to turn.

Our opponents don't hide their true intentions very well. It is obvious the anti-choice movement, the homophobia movement, the anti-rational creationist movement and other related campaigns desire one thing: theocracy. A world governed by contradictory requirements and interpretations of a religion that has no relevance to contemporary civilization other than as a peculiar anachronism of less-enlightened periods of human history. Our fight in my state of South Dakota is more than a fight to preserve an embattled but comparatively-fairer status quo--our fight is one to preserve freedom and democracy. In a theocracy such as the ultimate goal of the evangelical Christian movment, there are two entities that hang from the cross: liberty and humanity, each from a respective rope looped about their necks. And that, my friends, is a world I wish to prevent.

Dear Believer, I know that you are just a tool of those who indoctrinate others to attain their personal goals. Like any follower of a cult, be it the Branch Davidians, Al-Qaeda, Baptists, Aryan Nations or the Weslyans, you're a foot soldier who blindly follows his programming. I don't blame you, but people like you must someday recognize what is being done to you.

Once that happens we as a society can again begin moving forward towards a brighter world.

- Brian Sapient


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3n7r0py
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A Simple Observation...

This world is disordered and forever changing. It is infinite, multi-dimensional and exists on a realm we can only hope to someday fully understand and time is the ultimate illusion that restricts us from seeing to the fabric of existence…

Religion is mankind's substitute for thinking, it exists to keep our minds in the dark of the power we have and what we're able to achieve. Mankind should never attempt to limit what science and observation prove to be true. Do not let the people of any book, scripture or Word try and influence your mind in any way. These people are built out of the same chemicals and elements that you and I are and have no greater knowledge of the world that you don't already have access to. There is no divine spirit, there is no "one true" religion - there are only groups of individuals that wish to control you and your mind into believing what they need you to believe. Once you choose a side, you are condemning yourself to be wrong.

QUESTION EVERYTHING. Every civilization and culture throughout human history has tried to curb our natural curiosity of the world around us. Millions of people have lived and died believing in the concepts and ideals brought about by a few select individuals in the time of which they lived. This hasn't changed from 3500 years ago to the present and isn't likely to change for another 3500 years from now. No one has the answers for where we came from or where we go when we die - we may never have these answers. Do not succumb to being another poor soul controlled by fear or by an obligation to a "god" that was created in another persons mind.

If you choose to engage in this world, do so as an active observer. See the world for what it is and appreciate its unending possibilities - but do not invest faith into people that claim to have answers for that which we can't ever hope to prove. We all exist under the same laws of science, creation and observation. We are as connected with the mammals and reptiles of our planet as we are with the other planets and solar systems that exist in our galaxy and our universe. There is no end to anything - death is but the answer to the question of life.

We have the ability to transcend what this materialistic world has to offer. LOOK CLOSER, view things from every angle - have right mind. Over time, new spiritual and religious beliefs have been created all in the name of controlling peoples' minds and promising eternal punishment if you choose to not believe their way. That is an essential flaw of humanity - only a very few percentage take it upon themselves to exist outside the current barrier of the time in which they are born. Never underestimate history - the troubles of past generations from the Egyptians to the Romans give us insight into the same problems that continue to plague humanity to this very day – especially regarding religion.

Becoming enlightened or experiencing nirvana is merely the act of the human mind becoming in tune with the pulse of the universe (the flow at which everything in "our" universe is occurring). And within every fraction of every second there is a universe created for every possible outcome - everything's eventual - yet the governing laws of the universe only allow us to experience that which occurs in "our" universe. While time is a spiraled illusion that prevents us from seeing the infinite nature of our world. As it stands, we live in an inflationary cosmos that has been expanding for some 14.7 billion years and will continue to do so ad infinitum… We need no god to explain us - we're able to explain ourselves.

JL Wallace - 09/23/04

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What happens when we die?

Note: This is aimed at the general idea of an afterlife, focusing most specifically on heaven, and is not a general attack on any other aspect of religion. Nonetheless I hope it fits the category:

~

Generally speaking, no one desires death; we all wish to prolong our lives and avoid death at all costs. Even the most depressed and hopeless among us would still flinch with fear if faced with sudden death. Surely, part of it is instinctive: a morbid and perpetual fear of dying (or, inversely, a perpetual yearning for continued life) is essential to a species' survival. We have an ever-present libido for life that runs through the entirety of our being, just as all creatures do.

Human beings, however, have an added psychological burden when it comes to our fear of death. We do not, like 'lesser' creatures, have a mindless adherence to preservation that is entirely detached from any emotional subtext. We do not fear death strictly based on instructions in our DNA. Rather, we have strong emotional attachments to our own existence that make the concept of death haunt us more so than it could ever haunt the mosquito or the worm. We are the only beings on this planet that have the ability to fully contemplate death.

This may seem like an unfair burden for us. The gift of our sentience and intelligence is countered by the curse of understanding the inevitability of our own demise. But wait--not so fast! We are also gifted with imagination, and using our imaginations we humans have more or less successfully remedied the problem of death.

How? Well, we've outright done away with it, of course! We've convinced ourselves that death is not, contrary to its logical implications, an end to anything, but merely a transition into something else, something better.

How's a first-class ticket to a shiny kingdom of ethereal towers, majestic landscapes, and neverendingly blissful delights sound? And, as an added bonus, once you get there you'll be reunited with all the loved ones who died while you were still in the dreary realm of the living, and, to top it all off, you'll be permitted to stay for an eternity.

Yes, I'm referring of course to that strange fairytale concept of Heaven (in its various flavors), where the majority of the world's population expect to be heading to once they complete their century or so 'warm-up' here on Earth.

We have, through our superstitious religions, remedied the fear of death by eliminating its finality. We have made ourselves, in our own minds, out to be immortal. And those who do not exactly subscribe to the more absurd notion of a heavenly kingdom still have some vague idea that there will be some sort of 'afterlife', some sort of continued existence beyond the decay of our brains, beyond the shriveling up those neurons that help make us who we are. People less dogmatic in their religious upbringings still ponder on the great 'mystery' of the afterlife. What will it be like? Will we be reincarnated? Will we become roaming ghosts? Will we enter another dimension of existence, reach a higher plain?

I am sorry to inform the deluded, but there is no great mystery at the end, unless the conclusion to this particular mystery novel ends with a blank page.

For that is precisely what death is: a blank page, an end to existence. Our personalities, our memories, our thoughts, our sentience, are all the products of the amazingly complex biological structure of our brains. Like information developed and stored on a hard-drive, the information that makes up who we are is purely physical. The bits on a hard drive do not transcend the physical structure of the drive, no matter how complex they are. Symphonies, movies, games, incredible 3-D imagery--all is purely physical information within the drive. There is nothing supernatural or transcendental about it. And just as when a hard-drive is incinerated, the information in our brains, upon its disintegration, is lost. Forever. It can not be recovered. It does not evaporate into some invisible essence called a 'soul'. It simply ceases to exist. That may sound depressing, but I assure you, it's only depressing in foresight. You won't have much to sweat when it actually happens.

Nonexistence, nonetheless, is a difficult concept to swallow. Just try to envision nonexistence. Contemplate it deeply.

It's difficult, isn't it? Anything that we perceive lies within the context of existence. The very act of trying to perceive nothingness depends on us being something (for the moment at least). The closest one may come is to envision total and absolute darkness, a complete vacuum. But even this seems unreliable. Is darkness not a product of perception, which is a product of existence? So darkness or blackness does not suffice. Nothingness goes beyond that. We have always, as far as we have existed, existed. We have never directly experienced nonexistence, of course. So to ponder nonexistence, to me, is futile.

But that does not make the concept invalid as a fact of what will occur at the point of death. The fact is, of course, that for the majority (the great, vast, overwhelmingly monolithic majority) of time, we did not exist. A typical lifespan does not even register as a blip on Time's vast radar. We were not experiencing nonexistence, because 'we' did not exist yet, but nonetheless, there was no us.

So while it is difficult to comprehend, it is clearly logical that when we die, a state of nonexistence will be returned to. Why all the calamity over this fact? Some may feel that without an eternal afterlife, our lives as they stand become meaningless. Futile, even. But that is absurd. What we do in our lives is made no more meaningless by the fact that it will one day end than a symphony or a novel is made meaningless by the fact that they both come to an end as well. If anything, life being temporary and fleeting should only improve our enjoyment of it, making it more precious to us and each moment more profound.

Just think: a billion billion individuals who could have been, weren't. We are of the privileged few gifted with the opportunity to experience existence in the Cosmos. We are at the recent end of a four-billion-year-long chain of very lucky survivors in the evolutionary battlefield. Only because trillions of creatures before us, be they our primate ancestors, or going further back, microscopic entities swimming around in some kind of 'primordial soup', all survived in the exact manner that they did, and in the exact order that they did, do we exist as we now do.

How is this fact not more riveting than some fanciful idea of a spiritual playground where angels sing while we sit around playing chess with our dead relatives for all time? Is it truly worth sacrificing a realistic perspective for a bit of extra comfort?


gentle
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I have been personally wronged by religion

Hello everyone, born and raised atheist here. I was the teacher's bad kid and the broken child of mental health professionals as well. So you can see how I fell for the preacher's daughter just as hard as Bart Simpson did.

To sum up: I was busting my ass at a hard job and my social word dwindled to just she. Since she was my only reality check, she would inflice verbal cruelty and then claim insensitivity and tell me she loved me. Standard abuser-behavior, but you gotta remember--she was my only reality check. And she never eased off. After a few years of this I melted down and lost my job so she encouraged me to commit suicide.

But she never faced this in herself. It was just a throaway comment and sticks and stones break bones but words don't actually hurt, right? So, because she had a god to forgive her, she was able to, literally, divide her personality into the one that loved me and the one that wanted me dead and..well...any of yous ever try to commit suicide for real? I mean, I was raised atheist. It never crossed my mind that this was the afterlife. But it takes a while to come back from that sort of thing. And I was just too wiped to fight over it so I spent my 19th hour after crashing /pushing her fucking shopping cart/. But she still loved me. And I was completely untethered at this point.

So after a year of not discussing this, things were pretty insane. I mean, I was having serious trouble sleeping and chalked it up to my old insomnia, but she was lying next to me plotting to kill me. Luckily, she's pretty incompetant and all people are a lot harder to kill that silly farm girls think they are. And for some reason (god is watching over me), I'm especially hard to kill. I should be dead ten times over, but somehow I always pull something out of my ass. Anyway, I just wasn't up to not talking again that night, so I drank a pint of vodka and passed out around midnight so I'd be good and asleep when she came home from work. She woke me up, ascertained (incorrectly) that I was in an alcohol blackout, and took the opportuinity to confess everything and beg me to kill her. I declined and we broke up.

I went away broken and insane and she...managed to convince herself it never happened. In three months. After I got my wits back I called her up for confirmation and she was /happy to hear from an old friend/. I kinda blew her mind by making her face things, but at least I know the truth.

And that is why religion should be fought tooth and nail. It was her fundamentalist father who taught her that she is free to determine what is true and wahat is false by checking with some sort of imaginary 'gut feeling' rather than objective reality. That mindset led her to try to make me dead, and the only reason she was holding onto me in the first place is that I'm so far out of her league that she knew she'd never get anywhere near another man like me. What she never knew was that I knew this, too, and loved her anyway. I loved her for her good heart (oops) and didn't give one shit that I'm cuter, smarter, and have charm. She was my first love, too. She had a really tough one (I don't want to toot my own horn here but, loking back on things, I was an incredibly indulgent boyfriend) and used him for a punching bag. And not only did god tell her to do that, god told her everything was okee-dokey afterward.

There is a void inside all of us. The only thing that fills it is other people. Love, family, friends, community--all the things christians trumpet so loudly as they destroy them for everybody else. Filling the void inside with an imaginary friend so that you can have a competetive advantage against people who live in the real world and are trying to make it a better place; destroying the only world anybody has so that you can follow some arbitrary moral code and believe that means you get to go to disneyland when you die instead of nowhere like everybody else; your cowardly fear of death and the absurdities you believe to combat your own cowardice are the root of 99% of the evil in the world. And I can prove it. Indulge a christian with absolute honesty, perfect communication, and infinite patience and the reflection she sees in your eyes is so wretched that she'll kill you rather than change her attitude. And that is a very christian trait. That one has lasted two thousand years.

And that is why you should not be a christian.

And what the hell is up with mary, anyway? Why wasn't joey tagging that? They were married, right? Nobody ever wondered about this? Joseph, jesus's father, was a fag. And mary wanted a little sumpin-sumpin so she went out and found it somewhere, but caught preggers and had to come up with a story. Asia and Africa had abortions back then, but white people hadn't yet figured that one out. And what kind of excuse can you come up with if he thinks you're a virgin?


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A Humanist Treatise

A Humanist Treatise

On a Fourth of July, shortly after the turn of a new millennium, I sat amongst friends of past present and future, sipping domestic beer on the deck of an enduring summer cottage. I broodingly gazed over the Russian River, shaded beneath stately Redwoods. She was steady in her current; placid brown water stood in high contrast to gull grey pebbles littering her shore. The summer cottages lining her path through the valley stood as a testament to the deep rooted connection we have to bodies of water; we gravitate to them as if to pay homage to our home of antiquity, the mother which gave birth to all life on this planet. Before the debated topics turned to Harold and Maude and existentialist philosophy, our host felt it fitting to allow us to engage each other in a lighthearted discourse, putting forth the question, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” Around the table, we introduced ourselves and described what animal we would choose. In turn I stated, “A human.” Most took this as imaginative way to evade the question. However our host, nodding in acceptance, stated, “Yes, yes, humans have it going on.” I couldn't imagine being anything less, for a human may push all envelopes, shatter all barriers, travel faster over land, dive deeper in any ocean, fly higher, further than any other animal, breaking the strong bonds of gravity, traveling through the vast inert vacuum of space to set forth on a foreign celestial body. We are truly free. Humans, of all the species on Earth, may one day break the chain of extinction and bring unity to the order of the universe. Shall we embrace our destiny and realize our common bonds, the universal truths that transcend all perceived divisions, to reach our full potential? Or shall we follow the pattern of virtually every species that has risen from the non-random natural order and end in extinction? The choice is ours, which of itself makes us the most unique and complex species ever to exist.

The quarrel of this treatise will be to adopt a Secular Humanistic construct, to cultivate and implement unifying philosophical principals, the most significant pertaining to the human condition. The dissertation will deal with Humanistic belief in the temporal realm; a call for unity through the core Secular Humanistic principles of science, reason, and freedom of thought in the unending quest for truth.

Before the definition of Secular Humanism can be discerned, it is imperative that one bears in mind the relationship between belief and non-belief. One does not define oneself through non-belief, as a Protestant Christian does not define their belief structure as non-Catholic. It is also imperative that one fully comprehend the definitions of atheism, agnosticism, and secularism, for it is a common mistake to give these terms sectarian characteristics, mischaracterizing Secular Humanism in relation. Atheism is the antithesis of theism, and addresses faith. An atheist simply denies faith in a deity. Atheism is neither a religion nor a belief. Agnosticism is the antithesis of Gnosticism, and addresses knowledge; an agnostic simply denies knowledge of a deity. Secularism, simply translated, means apart from the church or sect; a secularist is simply one who is not associated with a particular religious sect. Contrary to a common misconception, secular individuals or Humanists may fall into any of the three spheres as depicted in figure 1.

Figure 1 > Drawn 25 Oct 2006.

A Call for Secular Humanism
Secular Humanism is Humanism apart from the sectarian concept of religion, entirely outside the theistic realm. It is people united in the service of humanity. Secular Humanism offers a way to unite humanity in our universal commonalities, the tenants of which include: a commitment to “the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems” (FI, 2). Secular Humanism is a “realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence [and puts] reason [before] blind faith and irrationality” (FI, 2). If we are to fully grasp the totality of human existence and the ultimate meaning within the human condition, it will be necessary to abandon our dogmatic divisive ways, and realize our potential destined unity.

Secular Humanism deals with the temporal concepts of universal morality and human empathy. Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor for Science and Understanding at Oxford University, claims there is a definite biological or Darwinian explanation for our morality. At some point in our evolution, natural selection favored socially altruistic behavior. Richard Dawkins stated in conversation with Roy Eisenhardt at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco, that our universal morality would be “the morality one uses to cherry pick the moral truths in holy text as opposed to the morality contained in the holy text”.

It is revealed in the anthropological study of human cultures, that our core commonalities are indeed far greater than our differences, and universal human truths do indeed transcend division. Examples can be found in the shared characteristics of mythological savior figures, or of the universal common morality contained in mythologies between cultures. Brian Flemming interviewed Allen Dundes, Professor of Folklore and Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, in his movie, The God Who Wasn't There. Dundes compared various savior figures from cultures, such as Mithras, Dionysus, and Jesus, using Lord Raglan's 22-point scale from his book The Hero. He ranked the similar divine attributions such as resurrection, ascension, and so forth, of each figure in relation to the scale. Jesus came back with an astonishing 80%.

Reflections of Belief
One cannot date the first moment of deep human introspection. It is undeniable that a great deal of self reflection occurred in the golden age of Greek philosophy, and it is perhaps in this time that we can truly begin to see the emergence of significant modern human philosophical beliefs. It is also in this time that we can see the emergence of disbelief, and it is in this that we shall delve, in order to focus the looking glass on the origins of modern Secular Humanism. The Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) set the stage for disbelief with his iron clad logical argument,
If [God] wants to [eliminate evil] and cannot, he is weak. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful and so not a god. -Epicurus (97).

The Deists were perhaps the first secularists, in the colloquial sense. They arose out of the Zeitgeist of the Age of Enlightenment, and chose to break from organized religion all together. Undoubtedly this break was related to the timely Reformation. Deism dealt with the transcendent humanistic commonalties amongst all religions, cutting out all of the dogma.

In the spirit of the deists, Secular Humanists deal with transcendent humanistic commonalities, but do so in relation to the natural world, not only eliminating dogma, but contesting metaphysical belief without basis.

The Architecture of Life: the Laws of the Natural World
Richard Dawkins states “life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators” (World of Dawkins). The archetype, or model of life, would be the replicator; the first self replicating, nucleic acid based model, which gave rise to DNA. Our DNA created us as highly advanced vessels of replication, not by chance. “We, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes” (Dawkins, Selfish Gene 1).

Essentially, living organisms are a collection of “survival machines” (Dawkins, Selfish Gene 21) for their genes. Evolution is, put simply, the way in which genes create variations, many of which will inevitably lead to speciation, or the creation of new species. The variance of gene survival in a pool will lead to gradual mutation, as in the classic Darwinian model of Gradualism, favoring those more fit for survival within an environment. By this means of natural selection, a flower that is more beautiful to an insect will be more likely to have its pollen dispersed by the insect; nature will prefer the genetic variation that created the more attractive flower. Speciation will also be affected by geographic isolation, which will cause or allow for divergence, as in the model of Punctuated Equilibrium. In this model, there can be concentrated outbursts of species. At some point a species will reach equilibrium and remain fairly stable for a period of time, yielding to gradualism.

Technology, in my opinion, is an extension of human evolution. Technology has given us the ability to speed furiously over flats of salt at velocities sound itself could not capture, wings to sore the upper limits of the troposphere, and propulsion to break gravity and venture into the ethereal unknown reaches of our solar system. Technology is evolved in relation to humanity as the avian wing to the bird.

Existentialist philosophers often times refer to “The Will”. In this sense, one could say life is the result of the Will of the universe. But what is driving the Will? Life, in all its complexity, did not occur by accident or random chance, but arose out of inevitability. One may say life’s governance is the natural law; at the core of which is unity. To understand this unity, one must delve into the nature of the physical world.

Unity: the Laws of the Physical World
Newton did not explain why celestial bodies gravitate to one another; he did however develop with absolute precision, the mathematical relationships of gravitating bodies in his grand work, Principia. Newton is the father of classical physics. Although Einstein also did not fully explain gravitation through his general theory of relativity, he laid a framework for modern physics. Quantum mechanics seeks to explain the atomic and subatomic framework to understand the nature of the material world. It is the mathematical basis for general studies within physics. Unified field theory attempts to create mathematic formulations within unified frameworks. This culminates into a grand theory of particle field interactions as a result of a single unified interaction. A Grand Unified Field would explain two particles observed, reacting to each other at such proximity that constrained by the limitations of the speed of light, could only react simultaneously and in such a way if there was a grand unifying field between them, beyond their independent fields. Matter will react with matter based on its particular atomic field, which is based on the reaction of a unifying field between the two atomic fields in this model.

We have, in the last century, made incredible scientific advances, expanding on classical Newtonian physics to reveal the governing mathematical frame of the universe. Our natural world is the inevitable result of variation within this mathematical frame, of which the resulting outcome, though nearly infinitely variable, is the absolute inevitable result of mathematically provable material laws. There is a universal architecture in place that can explain the emergence of life, and do so with extraordinary precision.

The Living Social Order
Sociobiology seeks to explain species behavior through evolution. A study of feral children (Wild Child) shows that by age 5, if speech is not learned, the brain will never be able to make the connections to form speech. The progressive development of the biological brain is a result of interaction with society. However, some biological infrastructure must exist in the first place, in order for speech to even have potential. This shows a snowballing effect of progressive evolution, biological and social interconnected. They feed off each other, increasing in complexity to create what is a living social order.

It is not hard to make the connection that Richard Dawkins makes in stating that our empathy and our morality has a biological explanation.

It is astounding, the intricate complexity of the universe. The absolute beauty of life, revealed by the nature of the natural and physical world, is so often lost in the metaphysical search for meaning. The reality of the material and natural world does not in any way detract from its ability to instill a sense of awe; rather the effect is quite the opposite. Luther Burbank eloquently affirmed the optimism contained in the reality of the material world, by stating that “science has opened our eyes to the vastness of the universe and given us light, truth, and freedom from fear where once was darkness, ignorance, and superstition” (Barker).

But why does all of this matter?

Perhaps this quarrel can be revealed in a personal experience. The deep frustration that caused me to seek the truths of the material world was seeded by an experience in high school biology. More than seventy years after the Scopes Trial, Darwinian evolution is still, for the most part, effectively kept out of the schools, because of a populous objection based on blind allegiance to religious faith. In my recollection, a single day was spent on the subject of evolution, half of which was relegated to apologizing to those who may be offended, despite the fact that prior warning of the teaching was given, and written consent was allowed, in order to opt out. It is this experience that began my quest to reveal the truths of the material world. I worry to the extent science is being kept out of the schools. Fifty percent of American citizens (Dawkins) falsely believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that man and dinosaur walked together. I was shown at a young age, the process of investigation. But what of those children that are discouraged to investigate by their imparted faith? Truth is only revealed through open minded investigation. What if we were all taught to be content without investigation; what would our world look like?

Although religion contains moral and ethical truths, it is my opinion that these are temporal concepts of human origin, and in the case of monotheistic religion, anthropomorphically given to a divine deity. “There will always be good people who will do good things, and bad people who will do bad things, but to get good people to do bad things requires religion” (Miller, Jonathan. A Brief History of Faith). Gina Allen in, The Night I Saw the Light, expressed her frustration with her father, a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church, when at the age of 16, she confronted him with the lie she saw to be faith. He stated that “he [too] didn’t believe what the church taught. But he believed that without the church there would be no morality” (Imagine, Cool. There is a lack of faith in humanity, amongst those with faith in God.

Roughly nine out of ten Americans are theists, 76.5% are Christian, and 13.2% are non-religious or secular. The prison population is made up roughly 75% Christian, and 0.209% atheist (Atheist Empire). This certainly does not support the morality claims of the majority theist. Divorce rates show Christians at 27% and atheists at 21%. Although statistically, correlation is not always causation, one could utilize these numbers to make a compelling claim for quite the opposite.

It is not my intent to denigrate beliefs, but rather to call for one to question ones beliefs. To open a much needed dialogue to find unifying common ground. This dialogue is one of the quests of Secular Humanism.

Humanity does not have a future as long as divisive faiths fight to repel unity. If we continue to ignore the truths of the material world, to ignore science, to destroy our environment, then what future have we?

It is said that the last words of Siddhartha Gautama, were “Impermanent are all things in the world” (Armstrong 187). To this end, impermanent is our brief spark of consciousness. Impermanent will humanities reign be on this planet. Impermanent is any state within a universe in constant flux.

The Genus Taraxacum, or common dandelion, seeds its flora by blossoming and scattering to the wind. At some point in the evolution of the dandelion, seeds sprang forth from a tiny stalk, which spawned the spread of its genus to the far corners of continents. We are at a crucial period in our natural history, where we have the ability to do the same, on a much grander scale. We too may disperse like the seeds of a dandelion; on the wings of the will of the physical world and its unity, striving to create larger and more complex frames; under the wind of the will of the natural world and its force which creates evolutionary change and speciation. Only a united humanity can realize this destiny.

When this Secular Humanist looks up into the night sky, it is with certain knowledge the vastness of space holds our future. As many of us gravitate to water, our home of antiquity, others gravitate to the sky, our celestial destiny. It is perhaps why I became a pilot, to reach for a dream. When I fly the small Cessna Skyhawk, it is not a sense of freedom I feel, but rather an affirmation of what it means to be human. It is my small leap from the terra, a way to pay homage to the brilliant future our species may have, for which I long.

Thomas Edison, free thinker, scientist, and inventor of the incandescent light bulb, once pointed to his invention and stated, “There lives Thomas Edison” (Barker). Some seek immortality outside the temporal realm, while many point to their children and proclaim that in them they live on; yet others will point to the human species, in all its grand achievement, and state with such impassioned and optimistic hope, There live I. It is how we choose to live in that brief spark of consciousness that will determine the variable destinies humanity may capture, and whether humanity will live on in perpetuity, in a destiny of our own formulation.
Clearly, it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world. This would be the beginning of a rational approach to our deepest personal concerns. It would also be the end of faith (Harris, Sam).

Works Cited

Atheist Empire. HP 2006 [last update]. Online. Available:
. 15 November 2006.
Armstrong, Karen. Buddha. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 2001. P187
Barker, Dan. “I am an Infidel”. Free thought today Aug. 1993.
Bothamley, Jennifer. Dictionary of Theories. Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2002.
Darwin, Charles. “Natural Selection.” The McGraw Hill Reader Issues Across the
Disciplines. Gilbert H. Muller. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. 783-787.
Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press,1976. P1, 21.
Dawkins, Richard. In Conversation with Roy Eisenhardt. Palace of Fine Arts Theater.
20 Oct. 2006.
Free Inquiry. Feb/Mar 26.3 (2006).
Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and The Furture of Reason. New York,
NY. W. W. Norton & Co., 2004.
Imagine There’s no Heaven: Voices of Secular Humanism. Amherst, NY: The Council
for Secular Humanism, 1997. P8.
Inwood, Brad, Lloyd Gerson. The Epicurus Reader. Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis,
Indiana, Mar 1994. P97
Munowitz, Michael. Knowing: The Nature of Physical Law. NY: Oxford University
Press, 2005.
Marcus and Andrea’s Universe. Hp. Nov. 2006 [last update]. Online. Available:
< http://marcusandandrea.netfirms.com/> 15 November 2006.
Miller, Jonathan. A Brief History of Disbelief. Video. BBC 4. 31 Oct. 2005.
Penrose, Roger. The Road to Reality. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
The God Who Wasn't There. Dir. Brian Flemming. Video. Beyond Belief . 2005
Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children. Video. Discovery Chanel. 2006.
World of Dawkins. Hp. Mar. 2001 [last update]. Online. Available:
. 15 October 2006.


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A Letter to all Humans The

A Letter to all Humans

The Links that Connect Us All

You and I are part of something incredible. And something incredible is part of us.

If you ever question that for a moment, come with me up to the Mogollon rim in northern Arizona. Bring a blanket. We’ll wait for the sun to drop behind the mountains and evergreens, we’ll lay out the blanket, and we’ll stare up at the night sky. If we can stare off into that cosmos and not feel a sense of absolute rapture, if we can see this incomprehensible beauty and somehow feel less than fulfilled, if we can watch stars shoot across the sky amidst the majestic twinkle of a billion more, then we are lost.

That’s not to say that there’s anything particularly unique about the Mogollon rim; it’s beautiful country, with evergreens as far as the eye can see, clear lakes, cool breezes and eye-level clouds, but that describes many places we can reach on a day trip. The point is to get away from the smog and bright lights of the city; get out to where there’s nothing but us and the constellations.

We’ll each pick one tiny light in the vast array, and we’ll remind ourselves of something that we should never forget for a moment: that light, millions of miles away, is made up of the same stuff that makes you and me. The same gasses, rocks and liquids that make up every star, every planet, every moon, every meteor, and maybe even every life form that may be out there in the far reaches of space, are in our bodies right now. We are, in a very real sense, stardust, made of stuff cast off by exploding stars billions of years ago.

That’s not to say that there’s anything unique about us in that sense; every crocodile, koala bear, bumble bee, blue whale and bald eagle is made of that same stuff. It doesn’t make us unique; it makes us, in a sense, family.

It means that we have a kinship with every single species of animal on this earth, and what’s even more exciting; we share that kinship with every single species that may be living on countless other planets, moons, and meteors in our universe! No, in the grand scheme of the entirety of all things, you and I are not all that unique; rather, we are part of the largest family anyone could possibly imagine, with a kinship that reaches further into space than any telescope, further than even any mind can reach. And when we die, our bodies will re-integrate themselves back into the cosmos, only to re-emerge as new incredible things that will have their own worries and concerns.

Incredible, isn’t it?

I started this letter in this way for a reason: I wanted to remind everyone about our cosmic connection. Amidst the disagreements, sarcasm, insults and unrest in our everyday lives, it’s easy to forget that we’re all in this together. It’s a crazy and confusing ride, and questions outnumber answers by unfathomable degrees. This is precisely why we all need to stick together. Staring out into the infinite complexity and stunning grandeur of the miniscule portion of the universe of which I have some modest crumb of knowledge, I am grateful for every brother and sister I have with me as I make my own short personal voyage through time.

And we are all brothers and sisters. Every Muslim, every Christian, every Jew, every Buddhist, every scientist, every waitress, every priest, every movie star, every person who loves you and every person who will never meet you. But our family doesn’t stop there. The trees, the rocks, the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s all the same stuff, and we’re all inextricably connected, both biologically and spiritually, and we should never want it to be otherwise.

The Beliefs that Divide Us

I am not going to try to convince you that your god does not exist. I am not going to try to convince you that another god is greater than yours. All I want you to understand is this: if your god created this universe, he or she made it and everyone and everything in it with the same materials. If your god made you, he or she made us all. If your god is powerful enough to build a universe, why would he or she care about such trivial things as real estate or homosexual marriage? Why would an all-powerful being care by what name he or she is called? How could anything on this planet be so important to a magnificent god that he or she would want us to kill each other on principle?

If there is something in this universe that’s greater than we are, and if that something is responsible for the origin of life, and if that something designed the systems, processes and evolutions that brought us all together at this time and place,…that power, that incredible something, would want us to enjoy what it created in harmony with everything and everyone.

The Universe We Share

Please PLEASE look at the facts. Please judge the dogma against logic, reason, knowledge and compassion. Please study the real origins of what you believe and the validity of what you are told. Please read the book, the origin of your beliefs. Do you put your trust in the writers of this work of intolerance, vengeance and hatred? Or should we all put our trust into each other?

All you or I have is this life and this world. Let’s share them while they’re ours to share.

We are all the same stardust.


Sinyckel
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Terror and Religion...

What is Terrorism?

Webster’s Dictionary defines terrorism as, the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

While an accurate definition puts us off on the right foot, it begs the question; If the purpose of terrorism is to achieve a given political or ideological point, why is it being used by the religious, and furthermore, why has it been such an effective tool throughout history? If the end result is to prove a point, or to force the will of one group on another, aren’t we all to some degree guilty of some kind of terrorism? I think based on these questions, our definition needs refinement.

Terrorism is an act of tyranny. It is when a small group uses force of will to inflict its view point on the majority. Usually when dealing with acts of terror, even when only one man is acting there are numerous hands behind the scenes supporting his actions. As Americans, we know all too well how effective terror tactics can be, we’ve employed them for a long, long time.

The Boston Tea Party was an exercise of terror in that a small group of men sought to enforce their wills upon the English who were taxing the pants off of them. Because we did it, we claim an air of moral superiority about it, but when we look at these things from the perspective of the Englishman, we most assuredly were terrorists. Valley Forge is another example. Our first president took men into a sleeping enemy camp, and slaughtered them while they slept, even though convention at the time dictated that the Christmas holiday was a night of peace. The very thing we called patriotic, when observed through the looking glass, we label as terrorism. Let us return to the initial question.

It could be argued effectively that religion and terrorism are very good bedfellows. If one examines the Torah, or Old Testament one most certainly will find it a bloody and violent text, filled to bursting with acts of terror. If we examine the conquests of David and Joshua, those of us who study morality are appalled to see that they are filled with stories of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the name of a now supposedly loving God. Even before this, if we look to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see that the God of Abraham is well versed in fascism. The peoples of these cities were slaughtered for sexual immorality, and inhospitality. The single greatest act of genocide committed in these texts is, of course the Great Flood. In this all but one man and his family are drowned in a forty day torrential downpour. This man was of such good character that God decided all should descend from him. A Nazi dream come true. From these tales come the three largest religions in our world. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

When you start with a God who seems to like extreme measures for punishing his creation, you start with one foot in the door to fascist tyranny, and terror tactics.

Now add complex political strife. Men seeking to make laws for other men to live by, men trying to enforce their morality on their neighbors, which by definition isn’t moral. Add a few thousand years and the degradation of the original doctrines. Add new interpretations and confusing new sects. Add legalism and fear.

Fear is the weapon of the terrorist, and to bow to their capabilities and lay in fear of their destructive capacity means that you have already lost. This is the power of terrorism. It should be noted that this fear is not always inspired by the enemy, but sometimes is used as a political vessel to create a greater level of control over the population. The citizens enemy is not always as clearly defined as the governments.

Propaganda is used as a tool on both sides when dealing with terrorism. Sadly when dealing with a completely free media we are subjected to a greater volume of coverage. We are inundated with information about terrorist plots, war zone violence, and terrorist threats on a daily basis. This creates in the citizen a fear of loss. A loss of freedom, and a loss of life. This is very dangerous.

When confronted with these types of fears, a society will lash out irrationally and attack any perceived enemy so long as the government labels them as such. Iraq is a perfect example of this behavior. When we entered that war, public support was high. As the war waged on and no evidence of what we used as our reason for attack was found, support floundered. The President acted on our fear of attack to secure a situation in which he would profit. Case closed.

Why would a group resort to terrorism? Strangely enough, the answer is fear again. When you were in school and a bully who was either older, bigger, or older and bigger than you were decided to pick on you, did you openly defy him/her? Probably not. It wouldn’t make sense to attack someone stronger than you head on would it? It would be a one way ticket to an ass whooping. You would find alternative means to defend yourself. Terrorism is much like that when considered from a global standpoint. A group of people who feel threatened, who lack political or military power force their ideals into public by means of violence and threat. They brandish fear like a gun and to give into that fear makes us their victims.

In the case of the Muslims who are using terror today, they feel that they are fulfilling their duty as Muslims. They seek to drive the infidel from their lands. They want to end the Zionism by destroying Israel. This begs a new question. Why don’t we leave? Oil and Christianity. The Christians believe that if Israel falls, the end of times will be upon us. The United States, having a large population of Christians will meddle in the affairs of the region based solely on the belief that if that county falls, the Anti-Christ will emerge. Is this a good explanation for our involvement? I would hope not. The oil explanation is no better morally, but it is at least grounded in reason. Is it wrong for these people to want us to leave them alone? Is not the act of forcing democracy on a people an expression of terrorism in that it is tyrannical?

Christians employ terror as well. The bombing of abortion clinics, the suppression of the rights of homosexuals, and blacks can not be considered an act of morality. No matter who or what your source is, when you force your ethics into the lives of others, you are employing the tactics of the terrorist. When religion and politics mix, terrible things happen. As examples I offer the Crusades, and the Inquisition

Religion and Terror

Throughout history religion has been both a hindrance and on rare occasion a helping hand to the plight of man and freedom. As cited at the end of the last chapter, the Crusades and the Inquisition provide all but perfect examples as to the link between religion, fascism, tyranny, and terror.

During the first Crusade, also known as the Children’s Crusade, thousands of children were lead by priests into the Ottoman Empire to take back the holy lands from the “evil” Muslims. Every child and priest was slaughtered. This served as a launch pad for the next Crusade in that it gave the Church the “moral” high ground. See also, “They started it!” When the Europeans sacked Jerusalem in 1099 AD, every man, woman, and child was put to the sword. It took them a week, and it was done in the name of God. To this day, the Muslim world laments for the loss of those people.

During the Inquisition, women and men of European origin were set against each other by a fear instilled in them by the Church. Neighbors would call each other out and the rallying cry of the day was “Convert or Die!”. Women accused of witchcraft were taken into the middle of town, stripped, shaved bare, and left for several days for public inspection. If a mole was found, a needle would be inserted. If the accused didn’t bleed, she was to be given the option of converting and asking for forgiveness from God, or she would be burned alive. In both of these occurrences, public ignorance was used to fuel propaganda. Fear was the tool. These were flagrant acts of terrorism.

On September 11, 2001 a terrible atrocity was committed by men in the name of religion. These men, although not acting on orders from the moderate end of the religious spectrum, carried out their attacks in the name of their God nonetheless. This was obviously not the first incident of terror on the part of the Muslim world, but it was one of the most effective. Throughout the United States the seeds of fear were planted. This day should not be considered remarkable due to the lives lost, but to the actions of the U.S. following the attacks. A short lived fervor of Nationalism beset the country, and laws were passed…

On the flip side, religion has in some cases provided a light in times of oppression. One can not discuss the evils of religion without examining the acts of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Mahatmas Gandhi. In all cases, compassion and pacifism were the tools of these great people. Resolve, true resolve emanated from them and not a single one had use for violence. But do these few make up for the evils committed in the name of Imperialistic Religions?

The doctrines of Christianity and Islam call for the spread of their religion, and make this end the personal responsibility of their followers. These two religions have been at this game for centuries, and today, the only difference is the gentle euphemisms of politically correct speech. The Crusades most definitely are still happening, just in a new light.

Is the man knocking on my front door with a Bible in his hands a terrorist? In a sense, yes. He is seeking to subjugate you to his beliefs. This is an act of disrespect so foul that I lack terminology to express it. It is an act of terror in the sense that you are told if you do not accept their beliefs, and learn to share them, that you are damned to an eternity of torture. This is an offense to reason and personal freedom. It is almost as if they require your input so as to solidify their beliefs, and if they fail to convert you, they have failed at having their delusion confirmed. In a land where we are free to practice our beliefs, it is unnecessary to proselytize. There is a popular saying amongst the religious; “There is no compulsion in religion”. To convert in this fashion breeds compulsion and zealotry. This is the new Inquisition.

In Alabama, three young men have spent their adult lives behind bars for murders that the evidence shows, they did not commit. Why are they then imprisoned? For being different. They liked things that the Christian dominated population thought were evil. One read texts on Pagan religions, and they all listened to heavy metal. For this, one of them is facing the death penalty, the others life in prison. Is this the end result of Christian doctrine, or is it just ignorant fanaticism?

The Illusion of Security

In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the United States passed laws that have started a process of whittling away individual freedoms. Democrat and Republican alike are to blame. The Patriot Act was a step towards totalitarianism in America, and all citizens should fear the broad range of powers attributed to the Executive branch of the government through this legislation. Privacy is a thing of the past, as now the government can tap your phone if the “suspect” you of terrorist activities. The government is also now capable of holding it’s own citizens without habeas corpus, as has already occurred. In this, the terrorists can claim a victory.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Those who would trade essential liberties for temporary securities deserve neither.” To give up your freedom to one form of tyranny in an attempt to protect yourself from another is not a victory, but a defeat. The reality today, some five and a half years later is that we are really not any safer, we just think we are.

Worse yet is that by allowing the political right to seize power and pass this kind of legislation, we have started a slide towards fascism ourselves. We see camps where children are indoctrinated with Christian and Nationalist propaganda. They are taught to give their lives for Jesus and President Bush in the struggle against anyone who is different from them. It is reminiscent of the Hitler Youth camps. If allowed to continue, this could lead to a day when America is not so different from the very evil it sought to destroy in WWII.

History shows us that no matter how secure we feel, there is always a way through that security. The Rhineland in WWII is a prime example of this. The French were convinced that no one could cross this area without allowing them ample time to mobilize their military. We know how well that played out for them. Innovation and improvisation break the barriers of security.

These are tactics that the terrorist is familiar with. Driving a truck full of explosives into an enemy encampment is not innovative. Not getting out of the truck and blowing yourself up in the process of attacking your enemy; that’s innovative.

This is exactly what happened to the United States in Beirut. This was the first act of terror from the Muslim extremists against the United States. 241 U.S. servicemen were killed and consequently the U.S. withdrew its forces from Beirut. Terror was shown to be incredibly effective, and showed that one well equipped man could in fact kill hundreds of enemy soldiers. In the mind of the terrorist, this leveled the playing field.

Is war an effective means of fighting terrorism?

No. To try and make someone less hostile by means of violence is obviously not effective. To send bullets and bombs to a people who are afraid of invasion and violence only feeds the righteousness of the terrorists. To kill a man in the name of a war on terror is to make a terrorist of his son. We are effectively filling the ranks of our enemies by fighting them. Our methods are clearly not functional. We need a new direction.

We could seal our borders, but Isolationism is not going to work, we are already immersed in the problem. If we were to bring our forces home en masse, we would only worsen the deteriorating situation in Iraq that we created. Whether we like it or not, it is our mess and we have a responsibility to clean it up.

Allowing Christian organizations to set up Churches in these areas is not exactly a good idea either. Why is it that in times like this, the religious seek to monopolize on political strife by converting people? To fill their coffers. Money is the obvious driving factor.

We need to understand the needs and wants of the peoples of these cultures. All men seek the illusion of security, but when you live in a country torn by war, that illusion is shattered. We need also to understand our enemy. Who exactly is the enemy here anyways? Is it religion? Is it intolerance? Greed?

Yes. Our enemy is ignorance, both at home and abroad. Our enemy is intolerance, and delusion, and if we don’t think of a way to fight it effectively, with haste, the situation most certainly will worsen.

To declare a war on a concept is to fight in vain. You could declare was on happiness tomorrow, and we could fight until the sun goes supernova and still not have won. War in an of itself is not an effective means to any ends, other than oppression.

The “Trojan Horse” tactic has been infamous since Homer told us of it in the Iliad, and it’s effectiveness against an entrenched enemy is beyond debate. We can not be protected against an enemy who can change tactics on the fly. No matter how great our security measures are, they are still nothing but a falsity. It is in essence a means for the government to whittle away our personal freedoms and secure power. Our fear is our enemy, not the terrorist.

Conclusions

So how can we fight terrorism? If the terrorism we are fighting is routed in religious intolerance, then the first blow should be made against religion. If we can remove religion, there will be nothing but ignorance and greed for these people to claim as the motivation for their misdeeds. This is achieved by setting an example, not by force. If we can show that secular living is fulfilling without religious dogma we are well on the way to our end result.

 

We need to place the peoples of that culture at the helm of their own destiny’s, and stop meddling in their affairs. If oil is a driving factor for our presence, then we should be looking for alternatives to our oil needs.

We must resolve to deal with these people peacefully, no matter how great the threat they pose. We can not strike at them out of fear. Only through dialogue can we hope to accomplish anything. Terrorism is a symptom of a greater problem, and until the disease is treated, the symptom will continue to surface. It is my hope that someday all of my fellow men and women will stand free from the bonds of tyranny, and oppression. Only by removing what makes us different will we gain any ground with this, and when we are left with nothing but skin color as a differentiating factor, hopefully we will be wise enough to not be racist.

I'm still working on this. I am hoping to finish around five or six thousand words.


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John 3:16 is Stupid

John 3:16 is Stupid
By Bruce Bradley

John 3:16 is widely considered to be one of the most important passages in the bible and the best summary of Christianity. Since this passage capsulizes Christianity and Christianity is stupid and ridiculous, it would make sense that the passage itself would be stupid and ridiculous. It is.

The passage reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Let’s think about this.

We’ll get to the part about God loving the world later, but first let’s focus on the giving his only son part. This passage reads as if God had a son and then became sterile and was unable to have more kids. God is a God, if he has only one son it is HIS choice. God can have as many sons as he wants so statements that imply that having only one son was something out of his control are ridiculous.

More importantly, did God really give his only son? This passage implies a sacrifice on God’s part in which he loses his son. Is this true? Does Christianity teach that God lost his son for all eternity? Of course not. According to the bible, Gods’ son comes down to Earth and God has contact with him whenever he wants. Then his son dies on a cross and essentially goes to sleep for three days. After he awakes, he spends the REST OF ETERNITY ruling over the Universe with his Dad. So how exactly did God “give” his son to anyone? He is with the kid right now! Where exactly is the sacrifice? If I loaned you my car for three days and then went around bragging about how I “gave” you my car, people would correctly call me an asshole.

I know many Christians would point to the time Jesus supposedly spent on the cross as the sacrifice this passage is referring to, so let’s talk about that. Christians conveniently give Jesus human frailties when it suits their argument but simultaneously give him God like powers. You cannot have it both ways; Jesus is either a God or a man. While many men think they are both, we all know this is not possible. The Jesus of the bible is clearly a God with incredible power. So does he suffer on the cross?

Speaking as a man I can think of two reasons crucifixion would be terrible. First of all there is the incredible pain human body would experience and second, there is the fear of knowing I am going to die and having no idea what will happen to me after my death. No human knows what happens to his or her consciousness after death, so it is cause for alarm.

I cannot see how Jesus would suffer either of the above-mentioned downsides to a torturous death. Since Jesus is a God he has total control over his nerve endings and pain receptors in his brain. He can control pain and therefore has no fear of it and decides how much pain to feel or not to feel. Second, death is nothing to him because he knows exactly what will happen after his body dies. He knows that he will sleep for three days and then ascend to heaven to rule over the Universe for eternity. This actually sounds really cool to me and well worth some time on a cross. The basic point here is that we are humans and the Jesus of the Bible is a GOD. We have no power to harm him or make him suffer. He is in total control at all times. Having total control is NOT a sacrifice.

I have made my basic point but if we dig deeper we see even more layers of stupidity in this religion. And I do mean stupidity. It is actually frightening to me how ridiculous this religion is.

The passage in John deals with the basic tenant of Christianity…God gave us Jesus so we could have our sins forgiven and find the true path to Heaven. And God did this because he loves me. Well God, let me be the first to say, “FUCK YOU.” You, God, are a total ass. If you love me so much why did you come up with such a convoluted way for me to find my way to heaven. You send your kid to Earth and have him only speak to a few thousand people??? Why not have Jesus simultaneously appear to everyone on the planet while he was here? How exactly is it fair to have him perform kick ass miracles in front of some people but millions of others on the planet never even get to talk to the guy? How are the millions of people who were alive at the time of Jesus supposed to believe in him let alone poor me sitting here two thousand years later?

Then you go and fill the world with thousands of other religions that have every bit as much validity as the one you created. Am I supposed to just magically know which one you want me to follow? According to the bible if I don’t follow Jesus, I go to hell for eternity along with Hitler, Stalin and every child molester in history. If you really love me maybe you could make it a little easier for me to avoid hell. Maybe you could prove that you exist, or even talk back to me when I talk to you. That would be love, the kind of love that does me some good. It seems to me that the love the bible offers is entirely dependent on ME. I have to do everything while YOU allow billions of people to burn in hell because they couldn’t navigate this sick maze YOU created. You God are truly an asshole, at least according to John 3:16.


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God, Or an Excuse For Persecution?

I don’t accept God, in any form, because his MySpace sucks, I mean, he barely put any time into it! But really, I don't agree with the current doctrines set forth by Christianity, or any other religion. And it's not the religion so much, but the leaders and the followers. I think religion is a great thing if you need something to guide you through life as a humane and decent person, but when people sway a religion and its meanings for their own gain you end up with a society like ours: persecuting, judging, racist, and unfair. The phrase "holier than thou" can be applied to the vast majority of right wing politicians, and almost everyone who votes for them. Pastors and preachers (notice I didn't say priests) tell their congregations to vote for certain bills, acts and people, without explaining why, and then make them feel a moral obligation to vote in that way, which is often construed as the "lord's" way. Because people in this country have managed to become so intellectually malleable and weak, they allow themselves to be convinced of just about anything, as long as the convincers say it with just the right blend of authority, meter, accent and conviction. The problem is not with Christianity, necessarily, but with the Christianity developed since the late 1800s by various church members trying to attract more attention to their church. They claimed that judgment day was coming, that you had to follow their rules to be saved, and that anyone believing otherwise was wrong. This had continued to move in such a manner, and these evangelists have become more and more widespread, seemingly increasing in America in an exponential manner, until we reach our country's current state. The people who run these churches are so sure of their holiness, of their righteousness, of their chosen-ness, that they decry anyone who does not accept every single thing they say – to the letter. These people are so sure that their morals are superior to everyone else's that they have the nerve to call things which, as far as science can tell, are natural occurrences "abominations." Of course, in order to dispute this, they say that science is a load of crap, because it's not in the bible. This sort of reasoning is about as intelligent as me saying that since the Holocaust isn't in the bible it never happened. The bible, admittedly, was written by men, and every biblical scholar on earth would admit that there were volumes and volumes of gospels left out of the bible, because church officials decided roughly four hundred years after Christ's death that they weren't' t representative of his religion. The fact that our government is no longer secular, because of church leaders' ability to convince others to vote for certain politicians (Tom Delay, etc) means that the people our government was designed to protect is now that which endangers their lifestyles most.

One of the big problems I have with religion is the amount of contradiction between what people say and what the bible says, and also the lack of proof of any claims beside "it’s in the bible." People pick and choose what they follow from the bible, using an archaic and completely void text such as Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, from which they use a very vague term about "laying." Now, this book of the bible also says things like owning slaves is ok, as long as they are from a neighboring nation, and that if you touch pig skin, or work on the Sabbath you should be smote. Too many times I've heard people say that they have a reason to be here, but if we are to spend eternity with God, why would he have us spend time here to believe in him? Another thing that bothers me is this "eternal damnation" thing. I don't want to believe in a being that would force me to live in unspeakable agony and horror for eternity because I didn't do things his way for my seventy or eighty years on earth.

Anyway, religion tends to sicken me, because instead of being a way to live a good life, people use it as a way to condemn others for holding thoughts and living lives different from their own – and that’s the exact opposite of what religion is supposed to do.

 


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The Disaster of Islam

EDIT: Double post

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


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Here is my entry for the

Here is my entry for the 'Letter to a Christian Nation' contest. It is not as extensive as a lot of other entries, but a letter none the less. Because I was raised atheist and live in an atheist country I do not have the knowledge to discuss matters in depth. So I wrote a letter with a core question in it. I hope everyone will understand it, although English is not my native language. Anyway, enjoy...

------------------------------------------------------------

To all my fellow human beings with theistic tendencies,

 

I wanted to write you all a letter, because I have a question or even a puzzle if you will. Let me start of by saying I’m an atheist. Do not be scared, I mean you no harm. This letter will not be insulting or disrespectful in any way. No Bible or Quran will be attacked nor will I mention anything bad about any deity. I only want to ask a very simple, general and fundamental question. So please keep reading.

 

As I said, I’m an atheist. I was born an atheist as we all did, really not aware of anything, not even oneself. By gradual observation and research through the senses I discovered the world around me. My parents were raised religious, but became atheists later in life. So I did not have religious parents and thus was never taught to believe in any deity during my journey of discovery.

Of course I learned over time about several religions, both past and present, but always in a cultural and historical context. Because religion is such a big part of the world we live in, I had to know something about them, just as everything else in the world I came in contact with.

Through this course of life I have an objective view on and regard to every religion as equal, somewhat like a bystander observing from the sideline. Therefore I just am. Without any specific purpose in life, other then what my reason and logic but also emotion tells me. Being in this kind of impartial position between religions, a thought rises.

 

I could be wrong. But hey, I am not going to fool you by saying I turned agnostic and in the market for a religion. I ‘think’ or even know I am not wrong. But let’s say I am. Let’s say I am considering having religion in my life. Then here is a question for you to answer. Not about the contents of any specific religion, but about a fundamental issue which is at the basis of almost any religion.

Because I am impartial, I do not know which of the many religions to pick. Therefore I’ll let a representative of every religion state their case to convince me to choose their religion.

The Christian representative would come in first and tell me about Jesus and the Bible, explaining what Christianity is all about. I look at the Bible and see these Ten Commandments, the fundamental rules for this religion. At the top of the list I read the sentence: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. So Christianity is the only true religion and all the other representatives will be lying? Interesting. After having consumed some more Christian information, it’s the Muslim representative’s turn. He shows me the Quran and tells me about Allah and Muhammad. I notice that the Islam also has some fundamental rules: the five pillars. At the top of this list I read something similar as in the Bible: “There is no god worthy of worship except god” and “There is no god except god”. So now Islam is saying that they have the truth and the rest is lying. This is confusing.

Both religions basically make the same case with a deity and a book. And they both say their religion is the right one. How can I choose, besides on personal taste towards some of the content? Personal taste should not make the decision, the truth should. Only one logical answer comes to mind: If all religions are equal and state to be the only true one, none of them can be true.

 

I you do not agree with my reasoning, please get back to me, tell me where my logic failed me and convince me that your religion is the only true one. I can not base my decision on any of the magical stories. Show me a shred of evidence that makes your religion fundamentally different from all the others. If you can not, you are in for a lot of thinking…

 


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Contribution to the "Letter to a Theistic World" contest

Dear All Theists,

           

Although I am not an atheist, this atheist website is providing others with the opportunity to express their criticisms of the various theistic faiths.  To keep this brief, I will focus on the general arguments that express there is a Designer, and that this designer must exist.  First I will present the first of two arguments for a Designer by going into detail about, what I will call, the “Appeal to Irrelevance” argument; which is usually used to “debunk” evolution.  This will be followed by my first challenge to all theists.  Second, I will develop, what I will call, the “Classic Argument” for the existence of a supernatural entity showing how it takes a huge leap in logic to conclude that the Classic Argument, in anyway, proves any specific deity; thus, issuing a second challenge to all theists.  Lastly, I will show how that if there is a designer, the designer cannot, in any way, be as demanding as the various deity conceptions of many religions. 

            Now, why would I call one of the theists’ main, or at least most commonly used arguments, against evolution, an “Appeal to Irrelevance”?  To explain this title, it is necessary to give an example of this type of argument.  The basic form of this argument is “If you saw Random Man-made Object A in Random Location X, you would conclude that Random Man-Made Object A has a designer due to its complexity that could not have resulted at random”.  Of course they rarely phrase it such a clear way.  A classic example of a more practical use of this argument is “If you saw a computer in the forest, would you say it was built naturally over billions of years or would you say it has a maker?”.  The clever use of language is a different issue that I will not touch upon but that is how this argument is usually phrased.  The reason why this argument is irrelevant to the topic of evolution is because they usually use man-made objects in this argument.  An analogy about a man-made object is totally irrelevant to a scientific theory, which explains how animals developed without man’s interference. 

For the above argument to be relevant, they would have to use an object that is not man-made and at least make some sort of proposal of what it was designed for.  Take the platypus for example.  Does the existence of this creature suggest design?  The original discoverers of the animal did not, in fact, when they attempted to describe the creature to their peers, it was believed to be a hoax.  If looking at the world makes it obvious that there is a design, why would a description of one of the most amazing animals in the world be believed by intelligent people to be a hoax?  Again, I do not hold an atheistic view but it seems rash to simply say “Look at it, its obvious that it has a designer” without showing any evidence or even trying to propose what it was designed for.  So here is the first challenge to all theists: what was the platypus designed for if it was designed?  Tip: saying “Well that’s how god made it” does not cut it.  If science has revealed anything about a supposed Designer, it is that this designer has given us the ability to understand the Creation; therefore, we should be able to determine what the platypus was designed for.

            Moving on to, what I will call the “Classic Argument” as to why a Theist’s chosen deity must exist, here’s the classic version (I call this “classic” since, to my knowledge, the first Theist to make the argument, Thomas Aquinas – b. 1225 d. 1274 – , was follower of Aristotle’s teachings and made the best attempt to argue for his chosen deity without quoting scripture):

 

1)      Everything that exists has a cause

2)      The Universe exists

3)      The Universe must have a cause [Premise 1) and 2)]

4)      This cause is (Theist’s chosen deity)

 

Although premises 1)-3) are valid, and possibly even sound (the soundness being a different issue altogether which I won’t get into), 4) simply does not follow.  For example, lets say a Christian is using this argument for the Christian conception of God.  Before the Christian can get to 4), it must first be shown that Polytheism is false and cannot possibly be a cause for the universe.  Then it must be shown that the other remaining monotheistic conceptions of God are false, thus, are not the cause.  Then it must be shown that the Christian conception of God is the correct conception, therefore the cause.  Then the Christian can finally get to 4).  So unless one totally abandons how logic works, it takes a huge leap in logic to get to the ultimate conclusion of  “Therefore (a theist’s chosen deity) exists”.  Thus, we come to the second challenge to theists.  If a theist can show how all other religions or conceptions of God or gods are false and how their chosen religion is true, then you will convince me that your chosen deity exists.  Tip: do not appeal to moral demands and what you believe should be demanded of us especially if you want to make your case scientifically.  Science takes no moral stand on what they discover (ex: gravity has no moral bearing on the universe).

            Now, as I stated in the opening paragraph, I am not an atheist so I do not see my previous two arguments as a refutation of a designer or creator; nevertheless, it seems that if we are designed, we are either designed to not do what we are designed to do, or designed to break free from the designer.  I will illustrate this point through an analogy.  Lets suppose someone designed a machine with a highly developed Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).  The A.I. of this machine was so powerful that it soon began learning things and doing things that the designer did not necessarily design it to do; lets say, the machine was designed to clean the house and then it began reading books.  It seems there are only two possibilities as to what the designer had in mind when designing this machine: 1) The designer either designed the machine to eventually not do what it was designed to do 2) The designer knew full well that by giving the machine such a highly developed A.I. that it would eventually break away from the intended purpose and begin to understand things for itself.  If 1), the designer is a very poor one since when anyone designs something, they design it to do the specific action one wants it to do and if it does not do it they scrap it.  If 2) the designer is highly intelligent but not real demanding of the creation since it designed its creation in such a way for it to determine for itself what is or should be demanded of it.  

            To conclude, if a theist really wants to make case for their chosen deity, they should start by filling the gap between 3) and 4) of the Classic Argument.  Simply regurgitating the Classic Argument in different ways (“We know that whatever was before matter, time, and space was immensely powerful and the only thing with such power is God”) only frustrates those who have heard it time and time again by believers of different religions to defend their belief in their chosen deity.  It is time to start weeding out the true religions from the false ones if you are so sure that your chosen belief system is the correct one.  Also theists, please show that you made an admirable attempt to understand the concept you disagree with.  Arguing against science with cute stories about finding cars in the forest is childish.  How about you try to disprove one of the steps to Evolution as outlined by Darwin.  Tip: simply saying “Look around, this could not have happened by randomness” not only shows you have little understanding of Evolution, but that you also have very little respect and understanding for what Science deems a Theory.  Lastly theists, explain what the designer(s) was thinking if we were designed by a supernatural entity.  Yes, the eye is designed to see, the nose to smell but what was the human being designed to do?  What part does our intelligence play in our design?  Are we even doing what we were designed to do?  If not, we cannot be blamed for a faulty design since we did not choose the design given to us.

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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Theism is Irrational

Theism is Irrational


 People will constantly search,  lie to themselves or try to apply things that are not logically relevant to justify or enforce their beliefs, concepts or ideals that were brainwashed into them at a young age.   The brain once wired to think a certain way can effect the body in emotional ways.  For example someone says your family is dead.  You start crying, you can't eat or sleep.  Your whole body is affected by your belief of reality when in fact your family is still alive and well.  Another example..you believe in an infinite god, and believe you are talking to him and he is listening and that he is there for you always...this makes you feel safe and fills you with good emotions.   Please people...you have a brain.  Stop the apathy, stop thinking that you are right and the other 80% of the world is wrong.  You we're brought into this world with absolutely no beliefs or ideals...especially superstitious ones.   Through your family or friends this concepts were saturated into you....start from scratch.   
For one, I was raised as a christian.  My great grand parents taught my grandparents who taught my partents who taught me the mythological stories.  They believed it, i believed it, and most people believe whatever the hell they are taught at a young age.  Mostly because they don't have an understanding of physics, chemistry, etc and they come to their guardians for guidence.  You mom says not to touch the stove, you touch it and burn yourself.  She tells you there is a god.  Well, she isn't going to knowingly lie to you.  She only wants the best for you.  Little kids are taught about make believe things like santa, the easter bunny, magic and of course a god.    It is no wonder that while believing in all of these magical ideals that a child would not see any faults or irrationalities in religion.  The point is that the child is not looking for answers.
Religion is simply a superstition created when humans tried to answer questions that they could not.   If the earth was only a few thousand years old as christians claim, no one would see the light from the stars yet.  The earth is 4.55 billion years old.  Why are christianity and islam only roughly 1,500 years old?  Why did no one during jesus's lifetime write about him?  You would think that if some guy was walking on water, someone might have made a note of that.  Possibly wrote it down.  No.. they thought it was a better idea to wait a few hundred years and pass it down by word of mouth.  We all know how much more accurate that is.  Noone wrote about him for over 6 decades after he was dead.   Well you can say, that the common person back then was unable to read and write, was not educated and had a limited understanding of many things.  I agree.  And those are the ones that wrote a bunch of stories that the politicians of Rome saw fit to throw together into a book.  After they got to pick and choose which passages got to stay in the book.   Maybe that is why there are sooo many contradictions in the bible.  i'm sure an infinite being would not make such mistakes. 

(seriously) Let me sum up christianity:
Why would an supreme being that always was, and has infinite abilities just sit forever doing nothing and then one day decided to create a solar system with only one planet that could support life.  Put all kinds of animals and plants on the planet.  Make it very large, and then only put one male human on the planet who's whole purpose is to worship him.  (Sounds like this god is an idiot and an asshole)  Then the all knowing god didn't realize that "adam" would be lonely so then he had to make up for it and took a rib from adam and made a woman.   Then adam and eve had kids that inbred for years and years until the "all knowing" god realized that "oh no" everyone is really bad!  I messed up!  So the "all loving" god killed everyone in the world with a flood.   The all loving and infinite god did however keep one family alive.   Somehow two of every animal from every region in the whole world was able to fit onto a boat built by this man thousands of years ago.  Somehow magically all of the animals had enough food for the 40 days and 40 nights. Once again, another family had to inbreed over and over until the entire world was populated again.  
  This perfect plan went on for a few hundred years, then god decided the plan should switch up a bit.  Instead of killing a fat cow, goat or somthing to rid yourselfs of this horrible sin, god would impregnate a woman (this concept is also in other religions...hmmm), the kid would grow up and be killed.  This human dying would somehow make it to where you can do anything you want like Ted Bundy.  Then confess and get eternal bliss in heaven.  While an atheist that leads a good life will burn in hell forever.  Hmmmm...sounds like this god is all about justice.  The idea of the virgin birth and the death and resurrection of a god was actually very common in greek mythology, paganism as well as in hinduism.  If you do some in depth research you will see that in fact most religions are actually spin-offs of other religions.   For example, Constantine (roman government) threw paganism, greek mythology and judism into a blender and out popped christianity which caused what is known historically and rightfully so as the "dark ages."  Many were persecuted in the name of religion.  Even science.  Chemistry, etc was thought to be witchcraft.  It is not as extreme today, but science is still being held back by legistlation that has religious bias.  This shouldn't be allowed even by today's standards.  Alright, i'm back off of that tangent now.  Back to the christian's bible.  I won't even speak about revelations.  omg.  It sounds just like the insane writings of nostradamus.  I say that because it doesn't make any sense.  You can discuss it and try to make it make sense, but by itself it is vague, surreal and meaningless.  It is supposed to be a prophacy.  To be a prophacy the requirements are who, what, when and where.  None of those are even somewhat touched.  It sounds like the rest of the bible or like ancient greece.  It sounds like a bunch of uneducated people drank wine and came up with entertaining stories. 
    

Prayer....don't pray...don't bother.   your god or gods have an infinite plan.  All things to come are already set in stone.  You pray for a car and don't get one...well that was god's plan.   A kid gets shot...well that was god's plan.   You win the lottery and he was answering a prayer, but if something bad happens it was all just part of his plan.   Prayer is like a rabbit's foot folks.   50% of the time it happens.  50% it doesn't.  Whenever the good 50% happens it was the answer to a prayer and a miraculous intervention from god, when the bad 50% happens it was just part of a supreme divine thoughtout plan.   Like the holocaust of the jews or hurricane katrina or the Virginia Tech massacre....god's divine plan.    Now on the other hand, you win a car...this is god answering a prayer.....hmmm....sounds to me like if there was a god, he is definitely answering the wrong prayers.   


Faith... Why have faith in one thing and not in another? Especially if you have no basis to believe either of the two. If you have no reason to believe in the god of christianity or hinduism..why chose christianity and believe that all other relgions are incorrect? Why believe that over 99.9% of people that have ever lived believed the wrong thing. The world is 4.6 billion years old. Christianity has only been around 2,000 years. This means that christianity has been the faith for only about .00001 or something of all people that ever lived on earth. According to the bible then, most people that ever lived will burn in hell throughout eternity.
That is a definite faith killer. So why believe in this god that will have most everyone suffer torture throughout eternity just because everyone else believed, had faith in and loved a different god, just as you believe in the god you believe in? There are millions of gods, and hundreds of thousands of religions. Why is your god more real than everyone else's.
When it comes down to it you believe in your god because it is a prominant belief where you are and have been. They think their beliefs are just as real as you think yours are. Their beliefs no matter how real they seem does not make them true. Why are there thousands of religions around the world and they are all of them in relation to geography. If you were raised in India, you would most likely be hindu. If you were raised in China, maybe you would be buddhist.  The christians are in one area mostly, while the muslims are in a certain area, etc.  Asia has its specific religions that thrive as does many areas have their own.  Everything is concentrated to ancestry which proves my above point. All other religions have just as much faith as you do. You would have just as much faith in what they believe as you have in what you believe now if you were from that region. That is one reason why faith is a horrible reason to believe anything, especially something that you base your life on.   

Also, how can someone have faith in religion when the origin of every religion shows that it is just a spin off of other religions.  Christianity and islam are spin offs of judism and paganism.  Thousands of years ago there were many gods, and then they were narrowed down to a moon god or a sun god, and little by little religions faded in and out.  How can you have faith in something that should be infinite if it keeps morphing into something completely different as years come and go.  It is obvious that it is not a solid truth.  A solid timeless truth would not be a watered down collage of spin offs. 


As for the idea of a god in general.  You do not even have to historically and logically pick apart each religion as it is so easy to do if you just forget your biased teachings and dive in ready to learn.   All things begin simple.  All things do evolve.  Whether you are able to grasp that is a matter of you need to read more.  Now think about how complex an infinite being is.  All knowing, can do anything.  Has evolved to the point to where it can control all things, can be everywhere at once, can create and destroy universes.   Think about how long something would have to evolve to reach that point.  Now logically, not only one entity or creature would be evolving to this degree, I mean look at all other living things.  There is always a massive variety.  There would not be one being evolving..there would be many.  So after untold trillions and trillions of years if somehow a being did manage to become this powerful (which is physically impossible to many written and unwritten laws of the universe)  there would be other beings that were equally, less and more powerful.  And there would be many...I mean come on even semi infinite beings aren't just going to die off.   So there would be many many superpowerful, super complex beings running around...invisible...no one can see them...or hear from them...no proof or signs of them....hmmmm....they aren't there.    The ideas of magic and superstition (which religion is) was created to answer questions that couldn't be understood or answered thousands of years ago.
 
What it all comes down to is that all theistic beliefs are irrational.    We were all born atheist whether you want to admit it or not.  Until your parents or parent (guardians) kept telling you that "god loves you" and that he is awesome and such...you would not have believed in a god or jesus, mohammad, shiva or whatever.  This idea of a soul, and god or gods is a pleasing one.  I would love to believe that i will live forever in paradise with the people that I love.   Hell, I used to believe that.  There comes a time when you have to be true to yourself.  Be rational.

 


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It just occurred to me that

It just occurred to me that I've never actually submitted this essay, even though it's been on my blog for months.  I tweaked it a little bit from its original form to take out specific references to RRS.  In this form, it's suitable to be read as is, on or off of these boards.

*********

"Why are all atheists so angry?"

I hear this question all the time.  In fact, if there's one complaint about atheists that I hear more than any other, it's that we're all so angry all the time.  Today I was reading an article about a recent debate between Sam Harris and Rick Warren, and was struck by Warren's statement, "I've never met an atheist who wasn't angry."

My first reaction was denial. Many atheists, myself included, are happy most of the time. My atheist friends are great fun to hang out with. We laugh and joke and drink beer, and hardly ever mention religion.

My second reaction, I confess, was anger. How dishonest of him to try to discount atheism by labeling us all as angry malcontents! This is exactly why people like him make me angry!

That's when it hit me, square in the forehead. He's not being dishonest. I don't doubt that every atheist he's met has been angry. If I met him, he'd almost certainly make me angry, too. That's just it! HE makes atheists angry, so they're all angry around him. So, I forgive him for thinking that all atheists are angry. I understand how he made the mistake.

Anyway, I'd like to reflect on "Atheist Anger" for a few minutes, and ask a couple of questions.

First, why is it a bad thing to be angry? The suffragists were quite angry, and for good reason. New Zealand had granted women equal voting rights in 1893, and America, supposedly the land of equality, was violently opposed to the idea twenty years later. There are still plenty of women who are angry because women make less money doing the same jobs as men in many industries, and women are often not even considered for promotions when they're equally (or better) qualified for the position. Are they wrong for being angry? Should they just sit quietly and wait for men to realize the error of their ways? Some people think so. I've noticed that the majority of them are men.

Am I making a valid comparison? Is it reasonable to compare life as an atheist in America in 2007 to life as a woman in the early 20th century? Clearly there are significant differences. Atheists can vote. They can, in theory, hold public office. They can get married, sign contracts, work wherever they're qualified. So, do we atheists have a right to be angry in the same way suffragists had?

To answer that question, I'll recall some more history. In Mosaic law, as we all know, women were slightly better than slaves. They had no property rights. In Roman law, women were completely dependent on male relations for all legal matters, and when they were married, it was a matter of purchase between two families.

Here, we can ask a pointed question. Do women have the right to be angry that they're not making as much as men in the workplace? After all, they can vote, own property, divorce their husband, sue him for child support and alimony, and live quite happily on their own. This country is one of the best places in the world to be a woman! What right do women have to be angry?

If your skin prickled a little bit when you read the previous paragraph, good for you. You're halfway to understanding why atheists have a right to be mad. The reason women still have a right to be mad is that things are still not equal. They have no obligation to remain silent simply because they have it better than someone who lived a hundred, or a thousand years ago. The reason women have it better now is that people were angry all through history, and made small gains here and there over many generations. Without the fuel of anger, women would still be property, and wouldn't even have the opportunity to be mad about making less money in the workplace.

So, what about us atheists? Do we have a right to be mad? Actually, yes. Did you know we've had atheist presidents? We have. I'll let you do your own homework on this, but it might surprise you to learn that many of the leaders of the U.S. throughout history have been openly atheist. Is this possible today? One congressman in California recently admitted to being atheist, and it caused a nationwide stir! It remains to be seen whether he'll be reelected. To be sure, he'll be attacked for being godless and amoral when election time comes around.

Until the McCarthy Era, the pledge of allegiance didn't have the word "God." Money didn't have "In God We Trust." Until the 70s, Christians were not actively involved in politics for the purpose of legislating religious values. Clearly, America is more theist than it used to be, at least politically. So, are things getting better for atheists? I dare say they're not. Unlike women, our situation is not improving. We are not being afforded more respect. Rather, we are being legislatively pushed farther into the margins where we have been quietly lurking for sixty years since the Red Scare.

To bring things back around, recall my comment about my atheist friends and I sitting around having beers and laughs. This is a good picture for you to hold in your mind's eye when you think of me, or any other atheist. This is what we want. We don't like being angry any more than women who'd like to be paid more. I'm sure all the angry feminists would rather things were better for women so they wouldn't have to be angry anymore. It's the same with atheists. If we were a bit less hated, vilified, and marginalized, it would be a lot easier for us to be in the presence of theists and not get angry.

Why are atheists so angry? Because things could be better, and we don't like being marginalized.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Insanity or Bust: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Religion

 

Insanity or Bust:  A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Religion

I am an atheist, both by birthright and inspiration.  I was never taught religion as fact and only occasionally was presented it as parable or metaphor; religion being remarkably thin on the former and rarely expressed through the latter.  Nevertheless, without any parental teachings to inculcate fairy-tales as fact in my maturing brain, I was helpless to view religion as anything more than one story amongst a crowded field of tales told for the benefit of children.  And as those tales went, the religious ones were usually too violent for my tastes and often short on the decent, honest morality that children’s fables usually presented.  This surprised me as a boy much as it does now.  Religion, the supposed substrate of any moral foundation, seemed to be devoid of a clear moral narrative.  Of course, when Jesus arrives halfway through the book, things improve somewhat; it seems the Bible does have one moral character in it.  But while he is the center of Christianity in name, his teachings always seemed consigned to footnote status in actual practice.

I was always shocked as a child by the audacity of religion.  Bible stories being taught to children that were so violent as to be wholly inappropriate for those same children? The Bible, at best a morally ambiguous book, being used as the supposed basis for a moral life?  People using a religion named after a man who preached tolerance as the basis for intolerance and often hatred?  It was C.S. Lewis who famously said that Jesus must either be who he says he is or a madman.  Never mind that Jesus never said anything but through the mouthpiece of Apostles with their own agendas, or that it is downright insulting to woo religious skeptics with an obvious logical fallacy; Lewis’ binary thinking exposes us to how religious people see themselves, or at least how they wish to be seen by others:  I am either completely correct, or I am nuts.  Are we to assume that religious people feel the later choice so obviously false?   My choices are that religious people are completely in harmony with the truth or else bat-shit crazy? 

I suppose that might seem a harsh judgment, even for a young boy.  But any clear-eyed child, much as it might shock adults, is perfectly capable of seeing through the lie of religion even better than devout adults, who have built up a world around their faith so unified with their own sense of self that to debunk their faith is to destroy their lives.  How else can one justify the atrocities of religious conviction?  Even moving past the mass-scale violence of the Crusades, the Inquisition, or modern Islamic terrorism; should we really need more examples of immorality perpetrated by religious zealots than the lies told to children in the name of religion?  Well of course parents don’t view themselves as having told a lie, or they’d never have told it.  And so I was forced to find an uncomfortable third rail in Lewis’ binary equation in trying to understand the devout: they aren’t completely correct and they aren’t crazy.  For the purposes of existing in a world dominated by religion, I chose agnosticism.  Perhaps some religious people are right and perhaps some are simply crazy, but who was I to say for sure?  Don’t ask me, I am just a humble agnostic.  Can I go now?

But the more I saw people formally of deep skepticism about religion in their youth become adults and embrace religion “for their children’s benefit,” the more uncomfortable I became on my third rail.  Religion is clearly a bald lie told to a child in the hopes that it will perpetuate itself through many more generations and yet these parents, I have always assumed, did not see themselves as propagandists or liars.  I had usually been naive enough to believe that religious people must truly believe these stories.  They wouldn’t knowingly lie, would they?  They wouldn’t adopt a lie they had rejected as young adults only to later embrace it on the specious assumption that it would benefit their children.  I remember my mother telling me about the scalding she received from her friends because she chose to raise my sister and I without any religion.  How perfectly indivisible and consistent this foolishness was!  To some, religion really is an elaborate bedtime story told to children to terrify them into behaving properly.  How dare they condescendingly deem to develop a moral construct predicated on a lie!  I was having trouble holding up my third rail.

I do think that there must be those who truly believe in the Bible as literal truth.  But I also think that there are a great many who cling to religion as nothing more than tradition.  For these people, it is a lie.  It cannot be anything else.  We then must have two sets of people who seem to teeter on a scale between genuine mental delusion and good-natured social fibbing.  But it only seemed that way.  They were actually balancing on that third rail I’d constructed for them.  Rather than allow myself to permit the great majority of people on earth to be deemed clearly and conclusively insane, and incapable of believing the truth of a fairy-tale, I had propped up billions of adults on my own agnosticism.  They hadn’t asked for my help, mind you; this construct was all my making.  They can’t all be crazy.  They can’t all be liars.  Can they?

Obviously, I was not sold on this point.  Even on my worst days I still know the often harsh truths of my own life.  I can spin a mild prevarication for my own benefit, but I know becoming bound up in a lie is a danger I dare not tempt. I know, as my father says, the dangers of believing your own resume.  I cannot be unique in this regard.  Millions of religious people must sense that they are talking themselves into a set of beliefs only to navigate the the mind’s choppy mental seas more easily.  When faced with a pristine truth -- one that cannot be washed clean with talking snakes and a string of “begets” -- they feel the sting of life as brightly as anyone.  People of faith show a fear of death and the pain of loss.  They may say “they are going to a better place” upon the demise of a loved one, but they weep openly at the manifest loss they have experienced.  I suppose there are some who truly do not fear death or feel the pain of loss, but don’t we view such people as victims of a detached-reality pathology?  Those people truly are truly insane.  So if most religious people aren’t crazy, they must be liars.

Surely, it has to be a lie.  There even seems to be little need to deconstruct the very real fact that everyone fears death to some degree and that everyone feels the pain of the loss of a loved-one.  Even the brilliant lie of religion cannot hide human emotion that deep.  But where religion becomes most insidious is not in its self-delusion -- indeed, most of us are all too comfortable never looking into a mirror and clearly seeing ourselves as we really are.  Petty self-delusion is as common as it is necessary; a mental lubricant used for sliding past some of the obvious and undeserved indignities of life.  These mild fibs tell us little about who we really are.  It is the lies we tell each other that genuinely bare our souls.  There was a more nefarious third rail, I feared:  the devout are making the world pay for their own skepticism by violently defending against their own doubt.   

It suddenly became clear that a passionate Christian arguing for Creationism (or its shadowy political operative Intelligent Design) is not trying to convince their opponent; they are trying to convince themselves.  They have become a servant of their own deceit, because there is little else left within them to live for.  And because the lie defies logic, then logic must be its only defense, lest the liar be seen as irrational and, quite possibly, insane.  Yet the truth is inescapable: if every word of a religious person’s belief were true and that person had complete faith in that truth, there simply would be no justification for bothering to make an argument in its defense.  A man standing in the rain has no great need to argue the truth of his being wet.  And so far as every religious person has ever explained to me, the truth of God’s love for them and His manifest reality in their lives is every bit as self-evident as a damp shirt in the rain.  To Lewis’ point again:  the insane do not question their own sanity.  In fact, the inability to recognize the possibility that one is out of touch with reality is itself the primary symptom of insanity.  It was becoming chillingly clear:  faith and insanity shared, at the very least, parallel pathologies.

But, purportedly religious people, drenched in faith as they claim they are, never seem to tire of arguing that they are wet.  They abide by a truth so powerful that it transcends logic, yet seem compelled to use logic in its defense.  Who are they trying to convince?  I am reminded of an obliquely metaphysical Far Side cartoon in which two ducks float in a pond.  The one duck, up to its neck in water, turns to the other, who is floating normally, and says, “Bob, do you think I’m sinking?  Be honest.”  Perhaps the faithful argue the truth of religion to save themselves falling into the pit of insanity. To those locked inside their own lie, the only choices must be as Lewis presented it: faith or insanity.  Any third option must necessarily lead to oblivion.  

This brings me to a great and chilling concern.  In Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" book, he describes belief in god as, in essence, a side-effect of the evolution of the human brain.  By way of analogy, Dawkins' use the path a moth takes in flight -- using a constant angle to a source of a light at optical infinity -- to describe a trait that serves its organism’s genes well, but which also has a rare but dangerous side effect.  Navigation by the light of the sun or the moon necessarily produces a death spiral when a moth tries to navigate using source of light not at optical infinity, like a flame or a bug-zapper.  Seeing as such sources of light are relatively few in the lives of moths, this otherwise useful navigational trait has not caused their untimely extinction, even while causing great hardship for urban moths.

What if -- and I admit this is a rather cynical view of human existence -- our human moth to religion’s flame is rapidly approaching a time in our evolutionary arc when there are more flames and bug-zappers than moons or suns to navigate by.  Disposing that metaphor for harsh reality; what if the advancement of humankind beyond the side-effect of religion takes longer than the time it takes religion to appropriate nuclear technology for its own ends.  India and Pakistan, close in geographical proximity, are a yawning chasm apart in religious terms, and both are armed with nuclear weapons.  Worse, Pakistan is beset by religious zealots set on obtaining a nuclear device for themselves and almost certainly using it shortly thereafter.  Recent scientific study indicates that even a limited nuclear engagement could have long-term catastrophic consequences for the entire planet even beyond the horrific immediate and short-term effects it would have on the region where the engagement takes place.   This all assumes that nothing beyond the expected would occur during a limited nuclear engagement, such as Edward Teller’s presumably safe bet against the Trinity device sparking a chain reaction that would consume the earth’s atmosphere (and as I understand, he took that bet under the assumption that the expected yield of the Trinity device would be well below that level necessary to cause such a chain reaction; not because he did not believe such a reaction was possible).

Therefore, in a real and metaphorical sense, is the human predilection for religion indeed playing with fire?  I personally find it the pinnacle of ironies that the cold war -- a war fought between an atheistic nation and a secular nation -- did not produce the apocalypse that so many assumed was inevitable.  It seems nations tethered to earthbound reason -- even a reason so twisted as mutually assured destruction -- could not justify a war that would claim the whole human race as amongst its casualties.  Yet no one doubts that a religious zealot, armed with a nuclear device and a belief in a life everlasting, would plunge our world in that same fate without a second thought.  

I wonder whether the Doomsday Clock’s ticking to midnight spins only as slow or as fast as religion would have it.  We assumed incorrectly that political institutions would mark our decent into apocalypse.  But no political text I am aware of sells its readers anything other than the promise of a life of happiness and plenty for all who follow its doctrines.   All religious texts, however, end in an earthly doomsday with only those true believers being saved. Philosophy, which is rooted in sense and reason widens to include any possibility that rational thought can produce inside the human mind.  Theism confines and constricts the human brain to a narrow path that leads only to an unreasoned belief in a savior, or the end of the world.  Insanity or death is not a slogan fit for the nuclear age.

I used to argue against those who took issue with people accused of murder presenting an insanity defense by reminding them that anyone who would seem to make a conscious choice to spend the rest of their life in an institution weaving baskets is probably insane anyway.  I now see this argument working equally to describe those of faith:  whether they believe the lie or would die trying to prove to the world that they believe the lie, these people belong in an asylum.  If heaven exists, its pearly gates must be the doors to the largest mental institution in existence.  And since heaven almost certainly does not exist, our humble earth has become that asylum -- one in which some of the inmates are coming perilously close to acquiring the bomb.  

 

 


Bill Paci (not verified)
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"Karls on Dope"

  I pledge adherence to the principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States -- not allegiance to the stars and stripes’ pattern under possession of a deity whose nativity was conjured from the ancient ravings of scripture’s Abraham. Apparently suffering from an undiagnosed, untreated mental disorder which featured a menacing apparition that commanded he kill his kid, his hallucinations inspired and licensed a cult which begat Judaism which begat Christianity and then Islam. If he were alive today, monotheism’s aspiring patriarch would be properly dosed with an antipsychotic. A timely intervention could have prevented his continuing curse.

  Religion plagues us with abominations like bomb-blasted martyrs who formerly believed they’d be blessed into a realm where they’d enjoy serially knocking off seventy-two virgins. But keeping a tally in all that excitement would be daunting, especially if the reward runs concurrent and not consecutive. You’d surely lose count after a sixth or seventh virtuous woman (even after a few used ones). Cruising the pre-martyrdom world must be discouraging for Jihadists since nowadays the odds of making a love connection with a virgin are bleak. Instead of dying for love, the extremist on the prowl should consider, especially if he sees the head-scarf as first base, that there’s always hope: I’m waiting for the wayward nun with two habits (one bad). Vanquishing the veiled (virgin or vamp) figures to be a turn-on with cross-cultural appeal.

  Self-detonation is a particularly inconsiderate suicide technique since there are no harvestable organs left among Muslim smithereens to bequeath for transplants. The partial-brain Christians like our president (proof of Intelligent Design’s inherent flaw), who oppose embryonic stem-cell research, stifle the hopes of many who wait for scarce vital organs. The organ shortage has raised speculation that medical science could revisit xenotransplantation, a remedy utilizing organs from non-human species -- specifically pigs. Osama bin Laden is reported to need kidney dialysis, and a xenotransplant might help, but the pork factor presents a dilemma since Muslims (and some Jews) consider the pig to be unclean. Also, future side effects are unknown: a post-op guy with the heart of a hog may feel compelled to root for truffles or mount fat white women.

  Muslim pork-aversion could be used advantageously for waging the so-called War on Terror. Since the terrorists don’t fear and even welcome death, a warning video could be produced showing that while Muslims face toward Mecca for daily prayers, we also face their sacred direction -- with missiles. But unlike warheads loaded with ordinary explosives, which would have minimal psychological deterrence, distribute videos of these weapons being packed with oinking livestock. Feature a drove of grunting boars and squealing sows ascending towards the cargo doors; dramatically enhance the audio that resounds from the gnashing pitter-clatter of their cloven hooves as they strike the on-ramp. A new day in weaponry dawns as we've loaded (non-cud) ammunition into an offensive, airborne, swine-only Noah’s Ark with nose cone attachment. For ballast, further stuff the payload with ground pork, pork by-products and fatback basted with bacon grease. Prepare some portion consistent with Pork Bourguignon before sealing. That last flourish sounds a little French, but its intended message screams Patriotism louder than Freedom Fries ever did, and the burgundy flair adds the reviled alcohol, which will ring up a double-shot of Muslim loathing. If the United States threatened to detonate this guided slaughterhouse over Mecca, the imagined horror of this unholy puree deluging Islam’s holiest city should strongly discourage future attacks on America.

  To further enhance our security, we must also announce to the world that we no longer unconditionally support Israel like a fifty-first state, that the Palestine’s post 1948 boundaries are not the borders of our homeland, nor are they of our interests. Unlike other countries of the Middle East, the Jewish state can’t threaten to cutback oil production (they can only withhold the grease their lobby applies to our politicians’ palms).

  Early in our history, the 1796-97 Treaty of Tripoli strove to reassure Muslims of our new nation’s secular underpinnings. In that document’s article 11, it states in part: "As the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion . . .." Despite that evidence of our Republic's early wisdom, we must still fight ignorance among our citizens. The ACLU rightfully helped cast out the Ten Commandments’ boulder which judge Roy Thomas infamously installed in the foyer of the Alabama state courthouse, but defended a Florida woman who fought to wear face-concealing Muslim headgear for her driver’s license photo. Comparing the extent to which today’s cultural outlook has shifted from the sixties and seventies, it’s almost inconceivable that American ideologues associated with the Left were once the terrorists radically committed to blowing up our buildings.

  Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Karl Rove, with the Religious Right, refined that opium into heroin and dosed much of the electorate, knowing that the susceptible in their stupor are easier to con. Religion, tobacco and alcohol are all legal, yet they have toxic effects: Tobacco and alcohol shackle with addiction and disease; religion (especially now) hinders science and interferes with government. To be citizens and not junkies, we must stop hallucinating. We’re not in a cartoon with an ending that dope or prayer can alter.

  But ladies, don’t discard that burka: your boyfriend can wear it when he robs that bank.

 

                                              -- Bill Paci Philadelphia, PA

   Non-Compassionate Liberal


BenDench
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How We Know That Christianity Is Not True

Originally posted: http://bendench.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-we-know-that-christianity-is-not.html

 

Modern textual criticism has shown that no part of the New Testament was written by anyone who actually knew a pre-crucifixion Jesus1—if Jesus ever existed as a human being at all. We know this because of things like basic errors in geography and local customs that would be impossible for anyone that actually traveled where Jesus did to make. We also know that after a period of oral tradition there were many gospels and they were circulated without names. The names the accepted gospels were eventually given were only second century guesses—and of course we can show now that they guessed wrong.

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/authornt.html
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/jesus.html

That being said, if we place the works of the New Testament in the order that they were written (for our purposes: the works of Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John) as opposed to the order in which they were preserved, we can actually see the process of mythologization happening. Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong explores this in the fifth and sixth chapters of his book A New Christianity for a New World. As time goes on we see the resurrection transform from synonymous with the crucifixion and ascension and with no specific mention of a physical resurrection (or an empty tomb) to a distinct event and a definite physical resurrection, Jesus’s conception go from normal to divine, the miracles move from nonexistent to possibly merely symbolic (Spong found that the gospels of Mark and Matthew mapped onto the Jewish liturgical calendar and seemed to have been written to correspond to different celebrations during the year) to actual claims of miracles and then to more elaborate and miraculous claims, and Jesus go from a man to a powerful prophet to a godlike being. Spong concludes that:

“…we can see clearly the progress in the developing supernatural nature of Christ as we follow the evolution of the early Christian scriptures. Paul set the stage for that progress with his movement from his first acclamation that in Christ God was 'reconciling the world to himself' (2 Cor. 5:19) to his later interpretation that God had declared Jesus to be God’s son, by the Spirit of Holiness, at the time of the resurrection (Rom. 1:1-4). Next Mark declared that God had made Jesus God’s son not at the resurrection but at the baptism (Mark1:1-11). Then Matthew and Luke moved the decisive moment when Jesus was recognized as God to the conception (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2). Finally the idea of the enfleshment of the preexistent word or Logos emerged as John’s way of portraying the meaning of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ humanity faded with each evolutionary step, while his divinity was heightened. His capture by the prevailing God-definition became increasingly accepted.” (Spong, 109-10)

Jesus’s personality also evolved with each retelling, as Dr. William Abruzzi explains:

“Jesus is portrayed in Mark and Matthew as a prophet primarily to the Jews, while he is presented as a prophet to Jew and Gentile alike in Luke, and as the savior of all mankind in John. Jesus preaches only among the Jews in Mark and Matthew. It is also in the first two gospels that Jesus refuses to cure a Syrophonecian woman's daughter because the woman is a Gentile (Mark vii:24-30; Matthew xv:21-28), and it is in Matthew (x:5-6) that he explicitly instructs his apostles not to preach among the Samaritans but to preach only among the Jews. In contrast, it is in Luke (ix:55) that Jesus restrains James and John, 'The Sons of Thunder,' from destroying a Samaritan village because its residents refuse to let Jesus preach there. We also see the parable of the 'Good Samaritan' only in Luke (x:30), as well as the story of Jesus curing 10 people in which only the Samaritan returns to thank him (Luke xvii:16-17). And, finally, in John (iv:9-10, 22-23), Jesus shares a cup of water with a Samaritan woman and tells her that she will be with him in heaven. Later, when the woman tells other Samaritans about Jesus, they invite Jesus to stay in their village, which (in direct contradiction to Mark and Matthew) he does for two days. They also immediately believe in Jesus as the messiah, so charismatic is his presence (iv:39-40), again in direct contrast to Mark and Matthew where Jesus' message is rejected by his contemporaries, Jew and Samaritan alike.”

http://www.drabruzzi.com/jesus_movement.htm

The movie The God Who Wasn’t There has this to say about Paul, the first confirmed Christian writer:

“Paul wrote lots of letters about Christianity. In fact, he wrote eighty thousand words about the Christian religion. These documents represent almost all we have of the history of Christianity during this decades-long gap.2 And here's the interesting thing. If Jesus was a human who had recently lived, nobody told Paul. Paul never heard of Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist. He never heard about any of these miracles. He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said. He never mentions Jesus having a ministry of any kind at all. He doesn't know about any entrance into Jerusalem, he never mentions Pontius Pilate or a Jewish mob or any trials at all. Paul doesn't know any of what we would call the story of Jesus, except for these last three events [crucifixion, resurrection, ascension]. And even these, Paul never places on Earth. Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm. Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea. And he's the link between the time-frame given for the life of Jesus and the appearance of the first Gospel account of that life.”

http://imdb.com/title/tt0455507/
http://www.thegodmovie.com/

Scholar Richard Carrier reviews the details of these claims here:
http://www.richardcarrier.info/NotesOnTGWWT.pdf

For the better part of two thousand years, the majority of scholars have just assumed that there had to be an historical Jesus at the base of Christianity. Mythicist arguments have been largely laughed out as being absurd instead of actually being treated seriously. Recently, Luigi Cascioli and Earl Doherty have made modern attempts to articulate the mythicist position, and would seem to have paid more careful attention to the details in the evidence than the historicists ever had. I will get to Casioli shortly, but first, Doherty. Earl Doherty wrote a book called The Jesus Puzzle in which he argues that Christianity is more likely to have started without a single founder and that the Jesus character was a later mythical creation. Carrier reviewed Doherty’s book and concluded that Doherty’s theory is at least as coherent with all the data that we have as the historical Jesus theory. Do we know for sure whether or not there was an historical Jesus at Christianity’s founding? No we do not. But what is perhaps more important, and what we do know for sure, is that the Jesus persona that is presented to us through Christianity is so clothed by the philosophy and mythology of others that whether there is a man or a mannequin beneath the costume is practically irrelevant—either way it's only a prop for an imaginary character that we know didn't actually exist.

http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/jesuspuzzle.html

The earliest records we have attesting to an experience of the resurrection are from Paul, and he describes his experience as being on par with those of the other “Christians” (technically the original “Christian” groups didn't call themselves Christians and remained observant members of Judaism). Yet Paul’s experience of the resurrection is notably spiritual, and not physical, in nature. He didn't sit down to supper with Jesus. He didn't talk to Jesus face to face. Rather, he describes seeing a light and hearing a voice. This, by the way, is not an uncommon experience for individuals that suffer from epileptic seizures, as Paul likely did. But even if his experiences were not merely hallucinatory and he actually did make contact with spiritual forces, what are we left with? Paul, essentially, saw a ghost.3 Cross-culturally, reports of this kind of thing happen all the time—across all cultures, and across all eras. There is nothing at all unique about Jesus’s case. This type of experience might be particularly jarring for individuals coming from a Jewish background that traditionally rejected the belief in the existence of a soul independent of a physical body, but the experience itself is relatively common. Reports of physically interacting with a Jesus who had a physically resurrected body (as well as finding an empty tomb) don't come into the tradition until much later, and the later in the tradition we look, the more stories saying that the resurrection had happened physically we are offered. It seems clear that this is just more of the tall tale, “big fish” phenomenon that we see occurring with everything else in the Christian story.

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/visionorigin.html

Paul never says that Jesus is God. He also never says that Jesus was a man who actually lived. At the time that Christianity became popular, there were many pagan savior religions—some if not all of which predate Christianity by a substantial period of time. Although the concept of a God-Man that dies and restores humanity in some spiritual sense isn't found anywhere in Judaism, it's found in abundance in pagan mythology. It arose, like all pagan concepts, out of an appreciation for and observation of nature. The concepts of the seasonal rhythm—the harvest (“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”—John 12:24), the archetypal connection between food from the fields nourishing the body and the body nourishing the fields (And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."—Luke 22:19), the rise and fall of the Nile, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the daylight hours growing longer and shorter—all contribute to this image of a cycle of degeneration followed by regeneration and the idea that through sacrificing something, something else could be restored. This produced the idea of the Son/Sun dying and entering into the Mother/Earth to be restored and reborn. Christianity’s lead rival at the time of its ascension to power was Mithraism. Mithra was a Sun god closely tied to Helios and Apollo. He had all sorts of things about his life that made particular sense because he was a Sun god. For instance: he was born December 25 (the day of the winter solstice on the old Roman calendar, after which daylight hours begin to lengthen), he had 12 disciples (representing the 12 signs of the zodiac around the Sun), his feast day was on Sunday (because he was a Sun god), and he ascended to heaven around the time of the spring equinox (at the midpoint of the lengthening of daylight hours). All of these facts later became about Jesus’s life, though they make considerably less sense for him.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa1.htm
http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_sel.htm

Mithraism may very well have become the main religion of Europe if it hadn't been for Constantine. As Paul Tobin points out, Constantine adopted Christianity when it was practically dying out. If you read Crises in European History by Gustav Bang (available free online) you'll learn about how economically Rome was faltering at this point and it needed something that would encourage large masses of people to live meagerly and be obedient to authority. Christianity served this purpose well. It was Constantine’s decision to deify Jesus. This took place at the Nicene council, against the will of many of the bishops—though Constantine ordered banishment for any that didn't comply. In the whole of the New Testament, Jesus never claims to be God. Not once.4 The closest thing we get to this is in John—the last written and least reliable of the Gospels—in which Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. None come to the father but through me.” Yet while the “I am” suggests a proclamation of some form of divinity, Jesus specifically does not claim to be the incarnation of God. Even where Jesus says “I and the father are one,” again in John, this is ambiguous. One in what sense? Spiritually one? One in terms of action? Yet these are such essential proclamations to Christianity that if Jesus really said them, we would expect them to be found in every version of the Christian story—not just the last. And many pagan saviors said very similar words to these before there ever was a Jesus. In the whole of the New Testament, no one ever claims that Jesus is God. The closest thing to this that we come is, again, John stating that Jesus is God’s “only begotten son.” Yet this, again, is not even the equivalent of saying that Jesus is God, and this kind of statement isn't found anywhere except John—the last written and least reliable of the Gospels. And why? Why would such an essential aspect of Christian theology as John 3:16 be found only in John if it were really original to the Christian story? If it really were original to the Christian story and not a later theological invention, we would expect to find it everywhere—we don't. John is the only one that says these kinds of things.

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/arian.html#nicaea
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/xtianspread.html
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/divinity.html

Type “Gustav Bang” into Google, and then once you've found the book Crises in European History, search inside for “The Rise of Christianity.”

Of the many pagan savior figures of antiquity, I will provide for brevity’s sake but two more examples. Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, was considered a God-Man. Scholar Richard Carrier has this to say about Romulus:

“Romulus is another unmistakable example—and one whose pageant of incarnation and ascension was publicly celebrated in Rome in the 1st centuries BC and AD, without any doubt (we have it from Livy, Ovid, Plutarch, etc.). He is a heavenly being who descends, incarnates on earth, establishes an empire, is killed by a conspiracy of leaders, resurrects, and ascends back to heaven. However, unlike Plutarch's "true" Osiris, this is a literal historical event and takes place on earth”

http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/CritiquesMuller1.htm

There is also Horus who was worshiped thousands of years before Jesus and the stories of whom were circulated hundreds of years before. The gospel accounts of Jesus share a number of points of similarity with the stories of Horus.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa.htm

No historian contemporary with Jesus so much as mentions him—even historians that go into painstaking detail to chronicle the would-be prophets and messiahs of the time.5 In addition, the name Jesus sends up a bit of a red flag. Jesus (more properly, Yeshua) literally means “Yahweh Saves” and is thus likely to be being used here as a title, though it's also an actual name. Christos, of course, means “anointed one”—the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Mashiach” from which the English messiah comes. And thus the title “Jesus Christ” ties together the idea of a pagan God-Man savior and the Jewish idea of a messiah. The Jewish idea of a messiah is very different from the Christian idea, however, and Jesus fails to fulfill the Jewish criteria for the messiah laid out by the “Old Testament” (see the link to “Jews for Judaism” below for an explanation as to why this is the case).

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/sources.html
http://www.luigicascioli.eu/traduzioni/en_argomenti_gesu_apostoli.htm
http://www.luigicascioli.eu/traduzioni/en_argomenti_nazoreo.htm
http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/Why_Jews_Dont_Believe_In_Jesus.asp

One of the first Jewish messiahs, and the model for those to come, was the legendary King David, who was said to have arose from humble beginnings, been victorious on the battlefield against great odds, and established the first and greatest Jewish Empire. In the time of the Roman occupation of Israel, some Jewish groups believed that God would send them another militant messiah to destroy the Romans and establish the “Kingdom of God”—not an ethereal kingdom, but the very terrestrial Holy Jewish Empire. This, and nothing besides, is what was meant by messiah and what the Jews had prophecies concerning. At the time surrounding Jesus’s alleged life there were many Jewish warriors who claimed to be the messiah. All of the prophecies concerning messiahs in the “Old Testament” corresponded with actual wars of liberation and real life military messiahs. All the alleged messiahs failed, however. None of them overthrew the Romans or established the Holy Jewish Empire. Jesus, if he existed at all, was most likely another failed military messiah who was tried for inciting a riot (attacking the moneychangers in the temple during Passover, a terrorist action and one of the few events that are recorded in all four of the Gospel stories) and executed by the method reserved for terrorists against Rome—crucifixion. His followers continued in his tradition (or a religious sect created him to sanctify their tradition), lead by his (physical or spiritual) brother James. The original Jewish Christian groups were mostly destroyed along with other rebel groups and the Jewish Temple in 70 CE as the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion. Those few Jewish Christians that escaped and survived were eventually destroyed by Pauline Christians as heretics—though they, remaining closer to the original tradition, had always considered the Pauline Christians the heretics.

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/paulorigin.html#jerufate
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_intr1.htm
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcsi2.htm

As Cascioli points out, while no historian mentions Jesus, there is a line of messianic figures in history, of which Judas the Gualonite is the most important verified one for our considerations. It is Judas's eldest son, who Cascioli refers to as “John of Gamala” (though his circumcision name has been lost to us), that Cascioli believes to be the historical basis for Jesus. Cascioli asserts that John lived in the same area that Jesus was supposed to have lived, at the same time that Jesus was supposed to have lived, and had disciples with the same names that Jesus was supposed to have had. But “John of Gamala” was no heavenly savior—he was a violent terrorist. Even so, this might not invalidate him as being the historical basis for Jesus as much as some might think, as a good deal of data seems to suggest that Christianity did indeed start off as a war movement and later expunged most of these elements after the hope of a successful Jewish militant revolt against Rome became unfeasible. Were the facts of John of Gamala’s life incorporated into the story of a mythical Christ figure to serve the purposes of a religious cult that wanted their savior to be written into history? Was John of Gamala himself the founder of Christianity and his name changed to hide the group’s wrathful origins? Was some other poor individual, considered too insignificant by his contemporaries to even be mentioned by historians, the heir to both a mythological and historical tradition? It's not clear. However, whereas the messiah had always meant an earthly savior that would bring about an earthly “Kingdom of God”—that is to say, the Holy Jewish Empire—the Christian groups that existed after the fall of the Jewish temple in 70 CE at the hands of a victorious Rome against a defeated Jewish insurgency, whatever their origin, had good reason to make their “messiah” and “kingdom” a peaceful and spiritual one—as well as make themselves look pro-Roman and anti-Jew. Dr. Abruzzi does a good job discussing the evidence for this on his website, the link for which is below. One can also read anthropologist Marvin Harris’s book Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches in which he discusses the militant messiah issue. Or you can see Monty Python’s The Life of Brian in which they do a fairly good, and entertaining, job of discussing this issue. P.S.—Brian is Jesus.

http://www.luigicascioli.eu/traduzioni/en_argomenti.htm
http://www.drabruzzi.com/jesus_movement.htm

While both Doherty and Cascioli currently represent minority views in mainstream scholarship, they would appear to have put a great deal of very detailed research together in support of their positions. And simply being in the minority doesn't render a position inaccurate. If anything, the longtime dogmatic insistence on the historicist position, its support traditionally through coercive physical force, and the emotional weight that the position has gained in general from noncritical tradition and popular opinion, should leave us with an open skepticism about the matter. But again, in the end the issue is somewhat moot, because we do know for a fact that the biblical Jesus is a fiction.

The most scholarly attempt that has ever been made to determine the historical origins of Christianity is currently underway. It's called “The Jesus Project,” it has scholars ranging from deeply historicist to deeply mythicist, and it's dedicated to going wherever the evidence leads. Its first conference was held in December 2008. Its meetings are open to the public and will be held roughly every nine months for five years. It will publish the papers presented at its conferences regularly through Prometheus Books. The world eagerly await its conclusions.

http://www.jesus-project.com/intro.htm
http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/12/jesus-project.html

1 The reason I say “pre-crucifixion Jesus” is because I won't rule out the possibility of “visions,” but such a methodology—being indistinguishable (at least from the outside) from hallucinations or even one's personal imaginings—places Christianity on equal ground with every other “mythological history” in the world.

2 Jesus’s Alleged Crucifixion: Circa 33 CE. Time frame within which the various gospels were written: Mark: 70-105 CE, Matthew: 90-110 CE, Luke: 95-140 CE, John: 90-140 CE. These ranges represent the best estimates of mainstream scholarship and there's not enough data concerning the gospels for us to narrow these ranges.
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/gospeldate.html
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/john.html

3 Then again, even granting these spiritual visions may be allowing too much, because they take Paul’s discussions at face value. Cascioli and Edmund Bordeaux Szekely (who I will discuss more in a later article) argue that all of Paul's letters were literary inventions, first by Marcion and then by others (we know that not all of Paul’s letters were written by the same person: http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/epistles.html). Saul of Taurus was supposedly a persecutor of Christians before he converted and changed his name to Paul—but as Szekely points out, the Church’s traditional chronology has Paul convert less than a year after Christ’s crucifixion—not very long for Christians to establish themselves, let alone for Saul to persecute them. Szekely goes on to argue that Saul never converted, but rather continued till his death fighting the Messianic terrorists that had followed the Christ (messiah) figure “John of Gamala,” who Szekely and Cascioli argue was the historical half of the Jesus-Christ invention.

4 Jesus does say many things that are easily taken out of context—millennia later. The term “Son of Man” was a colloquial expression at the time which meant “I, myself.” The term “Son of God” meant simply a holy man. “Your sins are forgiven you,” was something priests would say, and it meant simply, “I stand witness before God that you have repented”—a practice that should be not at all unfamiliar to anyone who has heard of the sacrament of confession or attended a healing by faith. Are these priests and ministers claiming to be God? No. But they're standing as representatives of God—and the Jesus character saw himself as doing exactly the same. Tobin is indispensable for going over these matters in depth on his website, and thus, as always, making the knowledge of mainline scholarship easily accessible to everyone:
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/divinity.html

5 All alleged references to Jesus (like those in Josephus) have been shown to be either forgeries or irrelevant (the authors referring to later followers of a Jesus figure and not being in a position to know how the movement actually started). Some Christians have tried to claim that the forgeries are only partially forgeries, but it is generally appreciated by scholars that they are actually total forgeries: http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/sources.html

If you identify with the message of this article, please email it to people, tell your friends, even print out copies to pass around. Together we can raise awareness. Thank you.


BenDench
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On the Death of God

The phrase “God is dead” has a number of meanings. Firstly, it's diagnosing a condition. People no longer believe in God. Not in the way that they use to. Some have done away with the belief in God altogether, but this isn't all that secularization means. There was a time when God was the explanation for everything, and everything made reference back to “supernatural” causes.[1] Not anymore. Natural explanations abound. There was a time when Christianity was the unquestioned, taken for granted truth in European culture. Not anymore. We live in a continually more global and pluralistic world. People are confronted every day with the fact that others don't ascribe to the same set of beliefs that they do. The process of secularization has been, as Peter Berger explains in The Sacred Canopy, the process of removing religious symbols from the public sphere. In place of this we are left with scientific understanding—the only worldview in which there could even conceivably be consensus, without force to prevent questioning or exposure to other worldviews.[2] There are two types of religious reactions to this state of affairs. Religious moderates embrace scientific understanding and reinterpret their religion as being about values and symbolism, thus sacrificing the integrity of their institutions (loss of autonomy / pattern of vicarious living). Religious conservatives dig in their heals and reject scientific understanding wherever they feel it contradicts their tradition, thus sacrificing the connection their institutions have to common reality (loss of homonomy / pattern of noncommitment). But both of these moves bear witness to the fact that Christianity, along with any other religions in Western society, no longer hold the status of being taken for granted.

Secondly, there's no reason to believe in God, in the traditional sense, which is relevant to the actual truth of the matter. This is understood both empirically (through the institution of science) and logically (through the institution of philosophy). Throughout the history of Western philosophy there have been many “proofs” for the existence of God, but since Hume and Kant it's generally been understood that they all fail. “Proofs” for the existence of God are presented in the form of deductive arguments. But deductive arguments only concern relations of ideas (If A is a type of B, and B is a type of C, then A is a type of C). They can only show whether something is theoretically possible based on its logical coherence (the validity of the argument being made). But whether or not something exists is an empirical question. You can rule out the possibility of something existing through deductive argument by showing it to be a self-contradicting concept (an unmarried husband, a mother without children, a triangle with ten sides, etc.). But if it's logically coherent (a valid argument) and thus theoretically possible, you then have to show that there's positive empirical evidence for its existence to make the argument that it actually exists. Kant understood this when he said, “Existence is not a predicate.” And is there empirical evidence that suggests the primordial state of the Universe was any sort of God, in the traditional sense? No. The philosophical arguments that defend the belief in God now do so on other grounds—that the desire to believe in God is its own justification or that the belief in God is useful. I won't argue against them here. That they're not interested in the objective reality of the matter is all that I find it necessary to point out. For those who don't care about whether their belief in God corresponds with objective reality, I hope your belief serves whatever purposes you're seeking to achieve. I'd appreciate it, though, if when talking to others about your belief you'd make it clear to them that your belief in God isn't based on whether God actually exists, objectively.

The question "Who created the Universe?" is without meaning, because the Universe, if defined in any sort of coherent manner, constitutes everything that exists.[3] The question then becomes, “What, if anything, was the primordial state of the Universe?” In arguing for Intelligent Design, individuals seem to think that it was some sort of person, but this doesn't seem to make much sense. How exactly could a mind form and operate independently of a world? Without sensory input, there's nothing to think about, and without time there's no way to think in the first place. As Richard Dawkins points out, any being complicated enough to have designed the known universe would have to be very intelligent and therefore very complicated itself, and the existence of such a complicated entity requires as much explanation as the known universe does. The only process that we know of that can produce an entity complicated enough to design something is the process of evolution. Proponents of Intelligent Design try to argue that God doesn't require an explanation because God exists outside of time, but designing something is a process, and processes only occur within time. If you say that the universe could exist as a timeless idea independent of any process of design or construction, then it doesn’t make sense to then say that its complexity is a blockade to its existence independent of a designer altogether. Anything that existed outside time and space would be like nothing we have any experience with or could relate to, since all of our experiences and relationships exist within the context of time and space. It would be “as irrelevant to us as the chemical composition of water to a person caught in a storm” (Nietzsche). It would be nothing even remotely human—less human than the rocks or the stars.

Since any degree of complexity would seem to require explanation, the only primordial state that would seem to not require explanation would be a primordial chaos, or quantum foam. As simple and unstructured as possible. A sea of unintention and divine accident, with infinite force and without focus of any kind, that would necessarily produce a sub-universe capable of producing life through "trial and error.”[4] This is the same way that evolution works: the incrementing of random mutation, the continuation of what is structurally sound, and the collapse of what isn't structurally sound—structure arising from non-structure. If we look at the way things develop, we find that complex forms are preceded, generally, by less complex forms. To believe in Intelligent Design is to think that complex forms are preceded by the less complex, and then the less complex, and then the less complex, etc., until we get all the way back to…the infinitely complex. What? Why would you expect that?[5]

If we thought that the known universe was designed, it would make sense to ask what it was designed for. As Richard Carrier discusses in the movie The God Who Wasn't There, if it was designed to produce intelligent life like us, we would expect it to look pretty much like what people in the Middle Ages thought it looked like: the Earth at the center, the Sun revolving around the Earth, four elements, 6,000 years old, etc. Why would God make it any other way? But the universe that we're given doesn't look like that. The Earth is a tiny speck circling around another tiny speck in a galaxy that is filled with many stars and that is one of countless galaxies. Why all the extra space? Why is the Earth’s position so seemingly insignificant? 99% of all organisms that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. If there is a designer, he doesn't seem to be very good at his job. 99.99% of the universe is deadly radiation filled vacuum that you would die instantly if exposed to. That doesn't sound like it was designed for you. There are gases that you can't see or smell but which if you breath in you will die. Why does God hate us? If the lifespan of the universe up to this point were a year, the history of humanity would fit within the last second of the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the last month of that year. That doesn't sound like there's a designer that had human beings as its goal—why all the unnecessary time? Human beings speak, breath, and eat through the same hole, guaranteeing that a certain percentage of us will choke to death. To quote Neil deGrass Tyson, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could eat and breath out of different holes? And that is not an unreasonable thing to ask for, by the way. Dolphins have that, and they’re mammals, so...Santa Claus could bring that one."[6] The list could go on and on. Returning to Carrier’s discussion, the best thing that this universe does is produce black holes. The cosmological constants are just right that this universe will produce more black holes than any other possible universe. So if the cosmological constants are also perfect for life, it would appear that life is just something that would necessarily have to be kicked up in a universe designed to produce black holes. So even from this angle, the argument from design doesn't get us very far.

Now, if to this line of inquiry you were to, rightly, respond, “These matters are beyond human understanding,”—fair enough. But an understanding of these matters is exactly what you pretend to when you say that God created the world. So either 1) Provide reasonable answers to these questions, or 2) Admit that you are ignorant about these matters and cease to say that you think it likely a God created the world. I will regard a failure to do the former as a silent admission of the latter. Perhaps more important than discussing why the creationist explanation is incoherent is pointing out that it is, after all, an appeal to ignorance. We don't know how the universe was formed, so why should we even play this game? Why should we guess? And why should we guess something extremely complex and self-serving at that? What leads you to believe that something produced in the course of human mythology which doesn't fit the evidence we empirically observe has anything to do with the reality of the situation? In Tyson’s presentation he explains how the belief in God, at every point in our intellectual history, has been the excuse to stop asking questions and looking for answers. He puts it quite simply and rightly, “Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent Design is a philosophy of ignorance.”

Can we prove that the biblical God doesn't exist? No. Of course not. The biblical God could exist. It’s theoretically possible. But that’s true about just about anything. As soon as we start talking about what's theoretically possible, rather than what seems likely based on the information that we have, game over. There's no way to continue. Just about anything could be the case. We find ourselves at a stalemate. As Sam Harris rightly observes, there's no more evidence for the biblical God than there is for Poseidon or any of the other gods of human mythology. “It's not like someone in the third century actually figured out that the biblical God exists, but Poseidon doesn’t. This is not data that we have.”[7] They could exist, but we have no reason to think that they do that is actually relevant to the truth of the matter. Pascal was right that we must wager about the nature of existence, and that we must do a risk-gain assessment of the situation. He was only wrong in thinking that there are only two possible options (Christianity or Materialism)—when in reality there are an infinite number of possible options. You could be a Christian because you believe that when you die this will get you into heaven if anything will, but find that the whim of the deity was for atheism and intellectual honesty, and thus they will be eternally rewarded and you eternally punished.[8] You don't know. All we can do is our best to understand the nature of existence based on the evidence that we have. Our feelings about “what makes sense” fluctuate all the time. Reason and evidence are our only ticket through.[9] That not everyone understands or appreciates this is beside the point. The understanding has occurred. The words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. God is dead in the same way that a mortally wounded patient or an inmate on death row is dead.

Unfortunately, one of the main culprits that we face in this process is actually language itself. Language is an extraordinary tool. We wouldn't be where we are as a species without it. But because, as a species, we're so hardwired to respond to language with belief, because so much of what constitutes how we experience reality is the result of linguistic constructions, language can become a font of illusion as easily as it can be a tool for the enunciation of truth.[10] Often, hearing is believing. Thus, when you're around people who constantly talk about God, always within the context of the unstated assumption that of course God exists, this has a profound effect on you. When they talk about God in the same manner that they would another person, who just happens to not be in the room at the time, the idea of God fits into the same place in your mind as such a person. The taken for granted becomes accepted unquestioningly as reality because it is taken for granted.

And this isn't just true about the belief in God—it could be used for just about any belief. Children really believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and any number of other things primarily because these things are presented to them linguistically as being empirical realities. And adults believe in things no less fanciful, based on no better evidence. For example, when someone talks about hell, as if it actually exists, you probably think to yourself, “Oh man, I wouldn’t want that to happen. What can I do?” You respond to it, emotionally, as if it were a reality because you are being told that it is. Want to see how this works? Try this experiment: Hang out with people who believe different things than you do. Go visit a Mosque, a Hindu temple, a Buddhist meditation group, a pagan gathering, etc. Read their literature. Get people to talk to you about their beliefs and just listen, or better yet, listen as they talk to each other about their shared beliefs. And see if you can't get the feeling, “Huh. From this angle, this sort of seems true.” Then go back to doing your own thing and watch this feeling dissipate.

It's the same thing with values. If you're around people who constantly talk as if something is wrong or is right, you'll probably come to think both that values are objective and that the specific value judgments of that group are accurate, whatever they happen to be. Likewise, if you're around people who constantly talk from the assumption that God exists, you're likely to find this a reasonable proposition. In contrast, if you're around people who either talk from the assumption that God doesn't exist or who merely don't reference God at all, you're likely to find the belief in God a ridiculous proposition. (I think this, by the way, is probably the primary reason why religious groups want the word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer to take place in school. The more instances something is mentioned in a positive context, the more taken for granted it will be. In contrast, having children spend the majority of their time at school in which the belief in God is not assumed is highly threatening to the indoctrination process.) The less you go to church or other faith activities to have your programming updated, the less sure about the existence of God you'll probably become.

Language allows for these sorts of magic tricks, cognitive illusions, to be performed on you. From different perspectives, different things will “feel” true. If you come to understand and circumvent this process, to be able to say, “I know that this seems true because I'm being told it's the case, but I also know I'd feel the opposite in the opposite situation, and I'll only base my beliefs about objective reality on reason and evidence,” you'll become more powerful. You'll become more able to see through bullshit and lies and to search deeper for the truth. This is especially useful when listening to politicians. Those that seek to manipulate you are able to do so in large part because of language. The masses are more powerful than the elite, and the elite know this. But the elite also know how to manipulate the masses through the use of words. Become you own magician, and show others how these tricks are performed.

Thirdly, the phrase “God is dead” can also be taken to mean that “God is death.” Monotheists, out of despair, seek to transcend life and existence, and so they disparage them. Life is seen as a disease, and death as the cure. Nietzsche’s words are best for this:

“The Christian conception of God—God as god of the sick, God as a spider, God as spirit—is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. It may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God—the formula for every slander against 'this world,' for every lie about the 'beyond'! God—the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy!”

To say that there's a God is to say that there's an upper limit on what life can achieve. To say that there's no God is to say that there's no upper limit. “The Godly thing is simply this: that there are gods but no God.” Thus spoke Zarathustra. To this I would add that there are heavens but no Heaven, devils but no Devil, sins but no Sin, hells but no Hell, and forgiveness but no Forgiveness. These things exist relatively, but not ultimately. You may “sin” against someone—act in such a way as to harm them, for example—but you can't do anything objectively wrong. You are their devil, but there can be no enemy of being, since everything that exists is itself an incarnation of being. Someone can forgive you—bring you back into their trust—but the Universe cannot forgive you, because everything that you do it is also doing through you. There is nothing to forgive. You're never out of sync with it, so it can't bring you back into sync with it.

To believe in God is to believe in tyranny: that one consciousness arbitrarily has all knowledge and all power, that its good is the only good and the good of all others are pronounced meaningless, and that all other consciousnesses, equally arbitrarily, exist as servants to that one. Might this ultimate tyranny exist? It might. But let's hope not. There was a time when we believed in kings. No longer. When will our ideals live up to our practices? When will we believe in the “Republic of Heaven”? Divine justice is injustice. The only real justice is that which beings work out amongst themselves.[11] God is always a deus ex machina. That Cronus was defeated by Zeus is, in a strange way, perhaps the greatest tribute to Cronus. Cronus succeeded in contributing to the production of something greater than himself. Yahweh has never done anything so great. On the contrary, everything that Yahweh produces seems to fall apart without his constant attention. From a Christian point of view, creation and revelation occurred in the past and we are constantly moving away from the source of life and truth. The world is in a constant state of decay. In contrast, from a scientific point of view, we are constantly moving towards greater and greater understanding. There is only life, continually expanding and refining itself. A God that is outside of the rest of life seems to necessarily be its opposition. Instead of all beings acting as independent and fully actualized beings, they are bound to the dictates of one consciousness that possesses the essence of life.

Lastly, “God is dead” means that the existence or nonexistence of a God is existentially irrelevant. Consider the movie The Iron Giant. The Giant was a robot. He did have a creator—or creators. He was designed for a purpose. He was made to be a war machine. He was built to destroy. But he decided he didn't want to be a war machine—and there is no basis for criticizing his decision. What we were designed for—or whether we were designed at all—is irrelevant. We choose what we are going to do and to be. Some God that is separate from you cannot provide you with an ultimate meaning—because the kind of God that could present you with a meaning in that way would itself be a subject. God’s meaning would be yours only to the extent that you agreed to it. And if you found something else to be meaningful, its meaningfulness would be just as real as any that God could assign. All we can do is seek to actualize our ideals to the best of our ability. Whether or not there is a God, our actions are exactly the same. If there is a God, we cannot know the will of God, except through what is revealed through nature—that is to say, if something occurs in nature, we know that God must allow it. But what we can know with a fair amount of certainty is this: anytime that anyone says that God wants something, they're saying that because they want that thing, and for no other reason. An all powerful being cannot want anything. Anything it willed would be instantly actualized. If it's God’s will that we have free will, then it's up to us to do what we want. Otherwise our free will would be the free will of a slave. (They can do whatever they want—we're just going to beat them if they don’t do what we want.) Is that what you mean by God? Is that what you mean by free will? God the trickster? The micromanager? An all powerful being that created everything, allows you to do as you please, and then pulls the rug out from under you?

Okay, so what do you want to say, Christian right? That obeying God will bring you prosperity and denying God will bring you suffering? So then you're saying that might makes right? One should obey whoever is the most powerful because that person is the most powerful? But even if your beliefs about God were true, which there's no evidence for, this doesn't provide an objective ground for ethics. We're the ones that say we want prosperity and don't want suffering. It's still predicated upon the subject positing values—not any sort of objective standard. That this subjective standard may be universally endorsed only provides an inter-subjective ground for ethics, not an objective one. Were there a being that wanted hell for itself, you would have no basis for criticizing its decision. But in that we want prosperity and not suffering, we have an inter-subjective ground for ethics without God, so God adds nothing to the equation.


Notes:

[1] “Why is it raining?”
“Because God wants it to be raining.”
“Why is that person sick?”
“Because God wants that person to be sick.”
“Why is that person in charge?”
“Because God wants that person to be in charge.”
Ad nauseam.

[2] My only problem with the institution of science is that it's too religious and not scientific enough. Look how they brutalized Rupert Sheldrake for having the audacity to dare and question their materialist assumptions about the world—and to do so experimentally as well as theoretically. For the more visually inclined, watch the fourth session of the “Beyond Belief” conference, in which the audience of scientists seem almost personally offended that Stuart Hameroff would dare to theorize that consciousness might be something more than simply an epiphenomenon. How far have we really come since Galileo? But I'm not asking you to be uncritical, rather extra critical. The question should always be about what the evidence actually shows, but the institution of science, too, has its prejudices. Certain hypotheses are not taken seriously because they fly in the face of certain entrenched worldviews. These hypotheses don't have to concern any sort of extra-physical reality (Joan Roughgarden argues in the third session of “Beyond Belief” that male chauvinism and loyalty to traditional Darwinian theory have prejudiced the institution of science against different hypotheses concerning the nature of sexual selection) though they may (a la theories such as those presented by Rupert Sheldrake or Stuart Hameroff). I'm not here arguing that the theories of Sheldrake or Hameroff (or Roughgarden, for that matter) are necessarily correct, but I do think they are good examples of scientists employing the scientific method who are treated poorly by the scientific community simply for presenting theories which are controversial. So, in order for science to work effectively, we all have to think critically about the data and question our own and one another's assumptions. This doesn't mean that there are good reasons to hold beliefs in favor of things like Intelligent Design or against things like global warming. I'm certainly not suggesting that the dogmas present in the institution of science should lead to considering institutions with an even greater degree of dogmatism (conservative Christianity) or deeper degree of vested interest (the oil companies) somehow on equal ground with the scientific community in terms of their epistemic claims. I doubt that anyone who thinks the performance piece of ID is a reasonable alternative to the scientific theory of evolution has thought very critically about the matter at all. Similarly, I think anyone that thinks global warming is a hoax has probably been getting their information either from people not really interested in the truth of the matter, anecdotal evidence, or nowhere at all.

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-4-1

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-3-3

Some of this is taken from my discussion with Brett Paatsch:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Methodology-for-the-Matu-by-Ben-Dench-090102-788.html

[3] To define the Universe as "the created order" or "everything but God" is to beg the question—to presuppose that there's a God to begin with. Whereas if the Universe is defined as "all existent things," that definition will hold and remain coherent whatever the particular structure of reality happens to be. I will thus use Universe with an uppercase "U" to refer to existence as a whole and universe with a lowercase "u" to refer to the known universe—a relativistic subset of the Universe based on humanity's understanding, which is constantly expanding.

[4] Is this, too, a metaphor that appeals to human sensibilities? Yes, I think so. But it's certainly much less so than “Intelligent Design.”

[5] Jhuger has a great parable about this called “The Watchmaker” which I think puts things in perspective:
http://www.jhuger.com/watchmaker

[6] You really should hear him tell it. The presentation he gave at the second session of the “Beyond Belief” conference was excellent and enlightening. I highly recommend it.
http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-2-4

[7] Sam Harris says this during the course of a great speech he gave at the 2005 “Idea City” conference in Canada:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3YOIImOoYM

[8] Richard Carrier discusses why just this would seem to be the more likely option in his article “The End of Pascal’s Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven.”
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/heaven.html

[9] Sam Harris discusses Bertrand Russell’s excellent teapot analogy at the “Beyond Belief” conference. In addition, here are links from Paul Tobin’s website reviewing:

Irreducible Complexity:
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/behe.html

Fine-tuning:
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/finetuned.html

And a review of God "proofs" in general:
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/god.html

And this site on evolution is absolutely excellent. Be sure to check out the mainstream scientific replies to common creationist arguments:
http://www.talkorigins.org

[10] By the way, Ricky Gervais's new movie, The Invention of Lying, is brilliant. I highly recommend it.

[11] Justice in the ideal sense always involves taking antagonistic parties and moving them from a zero-sum to a win-win situation. Anything less than this may be an approximation of justice, but it isn't complete justice. It's up to us to bring about ideal conditions, because there's no one else to do it. But the Abrahamic God doesn't seem to serve ideal justice at all. The Jewish God (as portrayed in the "Old Testament" or Jewish Bible) seems only interested in advancing the interests of the Jews against all other peoples. Whereas the Christian and Muslim God is infinitely worse—damning individuals to hell for all eternity!


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