Saturday, July 12, 2008

God and Salvation, an atheist's children's story version

AmyLuv asks: How exactly would you explain the need for salvation to a 7 year old?

Dag Yo replies: I'll give this a shot. [pretend I'm talking to a 7-year-old]

People need salvation because a long time ago God made a neat little
garden for people and animals to live in. There was also a magic tree
in this garden, with a fruit that makes anyone who eats it really
smart, but God said that it was against the rules to eat anything from
that tree. One day your Great Grandma got talked into eating some
magic fruit by a walking talking snake. So your grandma ate the fruit
and got all smart, but then when God found out God was really mad and
after that he hated all the people in the world -- he even hated
babies because they came from their smart grandparents. God hates
everyone so much that the people he really hates, he hurts really
really bad forever. In fact, God even hates you.

But after a few thousand years, God decided it was kinda mean of him
to hurt everyone really bad forever just because he hates them so
much. So he decided he would get a woman pregnant so he could have a
baby of his own. That baby was named Jesus. And then when that baby
grew up God and Jesus made sure that Jesus got hurt really bad for a
few days. And so, God doesn't hate anyone who remembers that Jesus
got hurt for a few days.

So don't ever forget that Jesus got hurt, or God will want to hurt you
forever and ever, thanks to your stupid Grandma.

by Dag Yo of AvC and DR

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cormagh, A Personal Story

deej wrote: Atheists, what is the significance of your "lack of belief in gods"?

Cormagh responds: The fact that I lack belief determines practically everything about me, from the way I raise my kids to how I think of and treat others. While I had belief in gods I spent a certain amount of my time preoccupied with how these gods wanted to act and much less to actually care about how I wanted to act and why.

deej wrote: You must find something especially important about your lack of belief
if you label yourself an atheist, so why is it a position worth defending?

Cormagh responds: The position of atheist is to me that of clear thinking person, one without any religious baggage. If I have benefitted so much from being an atheist, why shouldn't I find it important. Of course I am speaking as someone who once was a theist; someone with no experience with theism would not have the broad basis of comparison I do.

deej wrote: As pointed out time and again on this forum, Atheists 'believe' that atheism is not a belief system but merely a "lack of belief". Elaborate for me: does your "lack of belief in gods" have a profound affect on the way you live your life? If not, why spend so much time arguing for your lack of belief? And if so, why not stop hiding behind the blanket statement that atheism is a "lack of belief" as opposed to a "belief", and actually defend your 'worldview'? Why not stop criticising Christianity and rather defend your own position?

Cormagh responds: We shouldn't stop criticisizing Christianity because it is a major part of the problem with the persistence of the Superstitious World. Our own position doesn't need much defence; Atheist "appologetics" consists mainly in attacks on theism for a reason. For an atheist, theism is the whole problem in a nutshell.

deej wrote: Tell me, is the way you're living your life right now significantly affected by your "lack of belief in gods"? If not, why on earth do you post on this forum? It seems to me that too many atheists post merely to criticise Christianity and thereby feed inflated egos. It is not the truth you're seeking, but rather self-aggrandisement. Prove me wrong and defend your "lack of belief". Show me that this forum is not just an online collection of egotistical tripe...

Cormagh responds: The actual reason or "continuing the tradition" of atheism (since that's the question you're really posing here: What is the integrity
of atheism?) is for me, to repay a debt. I had theism built into me by my upbringing. My school and even my own parent did what they could to build a religious structure into my mind. When I reached puberty, I began to stop the spread of the virus, by asking myself questions about gods and trying to find the answers. The result was that I transformed myself from a believer to an agnostic, using analytical
tools I had learned from reading William James. I probably could have stayed agnostic all my life. One day, Bob, a friend of mine, was talking to me about cosmology and I said something about God. He asked me who God was. I replied in my agnostic language that it was power, influence, etc. in the Universe, which seemed to me to be
unanswerable. Then he said something that reverberates still in my mind. He said, "Then why do you have to call it God?" The lightbulb went on, and then something shattered. I realized that the name "God" was just a trap I had been led into by years of bad education. From that point on I remembered that when I needed an explanation for something important, powerful or unknown, no matter how humble it made me feel, I didn't have to call it "God" anymore. I could now just describe it as it was or as it appeared using whatever language was most fittng.

Cormagh responds: It was a couple more years before I lost all of the "stigmata" of religion, such as fantasies about the "Devil" (I was Catholic), but it was that question about the word "God" that finished the job of freeing me from all of the religious abuse and indoctrination I had received since I was a child.

Cormagh responds: So being an atheist leaves you with nothing to defend. Some of us have the pain of religious indoctrination, some of us don't. And we're not
"seeking the truth", other than in the ways any scientist or lawyer might do it. We we all have in common is that we really have no beliefs that need defending. I can say that criticizing Christianity is not egoistical, it is for me, simply a way to repay a debt I still owe to my friend Bob.

by Cormagh of AvC

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Anti-Theism, Some Personal Thoughts

A particularly good AvC Post by DevilIam in response to Rupert's comments which follow.

Hey, Rupert.

First of all, I hope you find time to drop by here more often. That
was an honest, thoughtful post and I certainly understand your

Funny you should mention species discrimination. I wouldn't say I
agree with you but I wouldn't say I disagree with you, either. I eat
meat. I'm not of the mind that all living creatures are equal, but I
do think all living creatures should be judged as individuals. So when
I talk to a disingenuous, hypocritical, stupid asshole human I don't
consider them more worthy of life or respect than, say, a dog or a
dolphin (or sometimes even a poisonous insect) simply by "virtue" of
the fact that they're technically, biologically human. I'd fight for a
dog's right to live, in other words, if it was a good dog. I get
yelled at a lot on this group for asking people why it's okay to kill
a cow but not kill, say, Keith MacNevins, but I have yet to get a
rational response.

Anyway, getting back on topic. Like I said, I eat meat. I don't have a
moral problem with eating animals, but I do try to cut back on the red
stuff when I think of the environmental perspective. The higher up on
the food chain we eat, the more energy it expends. I can't argue with
the reasoning of a hardcore vegan, and even if I did strongly disagree
they at least have a position based on reason and ethics. I can't
really enjoy a meal without eating meat, and believe me I've thought
about this--by eating meat, I'm not living as ethically as I could be
because of my personal desire to enjoy food. I'm not one to
rationalize this kind of thing--I know it's essentially a character
flaw. So where do I get off demonizing theists?

I think we should be at least as critical of ourselves as we are of
others, but I don't see the benefit in letting certain things go by
unchecked. None of the great "freedom fighters" in history were
perfect, and some historians and journalists make a career out of
reminding us of this. But nobody ever says, "Where did those civil
rights guys get off criticizing other people like they were so damned
perfect?" The difference is between somebody getting up in arms about
racism and somebody getting their panties in a wad about another adult
smoking. The former is noble, the latter is obnoxious. But I consider
being a theist more akin to being a racist than being a smoker, or
even a drug addict. I actually consider being a theist worse than
being a racist, because theism contributes to racism _and_ a whole
bunch of other stuff that's evil. Pretty much every great evil in the
world--genocide, rape, child abuse--is exacerbated by theism. To truly
be against anything that's clearly evil, the way I see it, it's
hypocritical _not_ to be an antitheist.

Theists, unlike drug addicts or a schizophrenics, believe their state
to be superior--otherwise, they wouldn't be theists. To acknowledge
theism as a flaw is to acknowledge that there probably isn't a God, in
which case you aren't really a theist at all. So it makes me laugh
when theists whine about the "arrogance" of atheists--both sides think
their position is superior to the other, and our side simply has the
entirety of reason and knowledge and sanity to back us up. Many, I
dare say most, theists believe that you and I deserve to be severely
punished in the worst way for our positions. Even if I tell these
theists to go fuck themselves with chainsaws for what they believe,
there is no way I can lose the moral high ground because I don't
believe in Hell. It is an absolute double-standard that the mainstream
religions teach that we deserve to go to Hell, but if I say
"Christians deserve to be shot in their heads" I will be labelled an
absolute bigot, especially considering getting shot in the head isn't
supposed to be _nearly_ as bad as their Hell. Of the minority who
thinks "all paths lead to Heaven" and whatnot, knowing that I tend to
go easy on them, but they still by nature lend credibility to the
other ones and probably even respect their fire-and-brimstone beliefs.

Theism and racism are analogous in that they are both groupings of
ideologies, in which any racist or theist who perpetuates racism or
theism is partially responsible for the consequences. We tend to
accept this about racists, and condemn anyone who preaches racial
"hate speech" for spreading the kind of thinking that results in
racist crime. But we have a double-standard for theists. Whenever
theism has drastic consequences, which is often, theists can get away
with saying they had nothing to do with it. But they did have
something to do with it--they are perpetuating exactly what causes
those things to happen. When theists criticize the 9/11 bombers, they
are essentially holding them to a higher standard than they hold
themselves--it is okay, in other words, for _them_ to believe they
know what God wants and act on it but not for the terrorists to hold
equally irrational beliefs. There is no way to envision a scenario in
which the "fundamentalist" or "extremist" theists would have the
influence they have, or even exist, without the "moderate" or
"liberal" theists. Still, when the few of us atheists point out the
double-standard, we are ironically compared to racists--which makes as
much sense as saying being opposed to racism is like racism.

If theists were treated like racists, I wouldn't be so aggressive. If
theists were treated like drug addicts, I wouldn't be so aggressive.
If theists were treated like children or schizophrenics, I would not
be making a point to even call myself an "antitheist". But that's not
how the world works. Here in the US, polls show that most americans
wouldn't even vote for an atheist. Most of them think I deserve to go
to Hell.

So of course my response, to all of them, is this:

"I'm not the delusional fucktard. You are. I don't base my life around
a belief that, if it can't be called stupid, then nothing in the
history of human belief can be considered stupid. I grew out of the
fairy tales. You didn't. I think rationally and live in reality. You
don't. I can explain, with _reason_, why the terrorists were wrong
without being a hypocrite. You can't. I don't perpetuate an
unnecessary way of thinking and not thinking that provides no real
benefit to the human race but has tormented it forever and torments it
today and could very well kill it off. You do."

At which point I kind of want to kick those smug, self-righteous
smiles right to the other end of their faces.

But I digress. Being an atheist yourself, you probably understand this
perspective--although maybe not as well as someone who grew up
surrounded by practically nothing but theists, having grown out of it
on his own at an early age, would. I like some theists, but only when
they aren't being theists. When the subject turns to religion, their
eyes glaze over and it's like talking to the living dead.

On Jul 4, 9:08 pm, Rupert

Rupert wrote:

> Hi Dev, sorry I have been meaning to get back to you on this one but I
have been caught up with various stuff.

> I guess first of all I should mention that my girlfriend says she
believes in God. She doesn't go to church or identify with any major
religious tradition, but she says she believes in God. Most of my
extended family would be atheists, including my parents and my living
grandparents, and my paternal grandfather while he was alive, but my
great-aunt may possibly be a theist, and my maternal grandmother may
have been while she was alive. I don't think I have any especially
close friends who are theists apart from my girlfriend. Used to sing
in a choir and hang out with a few theists there, that was quite a few
years ago. Also got involved with a girl in that choir who appeared
not to take her Catholic upbringing very seriously, but you know, once
in an email she said "Oh, I didn't know you were an atheist, why?" So
she might be a borderline case. Also the first girlfriend I had in my
adult life was in a transition period when I met her and we had some
fairly intense arguments about the issue, she didn't like me saying it
wasn't intellectually respectable.

> Anyway, my current girlfriend is a theist and I guess I should
acknowledge that this makes it a bit hard for me to be objective about
> what you're saying.

> So, a theist is someone who believes that some sort of intelligent
being with superhuman powers deliberately designed and created the
universe and everything in it, including us, are you happy enough with
that definition? And I'm thinking that probably covers my girlfriend.

> I'm not aware of any defence of theism that a rational person would
regard as adequate, no. I checked out Richard Swinburne's book "Is
There A God?" and one of these days we should have a talk on this
board about what's wrong with it, but my position would be that it's
not an adequate defence and that a reasonably objective, rational
person would recognise it as not being an adequate defence.

> Richard Swinburne is not the most intelligent philosopher I've ever
read but I guess you'd have a hard time saying he's not a smart guy.
And Ludwig Wittgenstein, a lot of people say he's a major figure in
the history of Western philosophy and will continue to be regarded as
such, you probably have to agree that he's a smart guy, the poor chap
was tormented by religious guilt about his homosexuality all his life.
Very sad, that. I brought this up with Dag Yo, I see he's replied but
I haven't had a chance to read his reply yet, we'll see what he says
about that one.

> I was having a chat in the pub with a guy the other week, and he was
going with the memetics model, it's a virus. I guess saying "it's a
virus" doesn't by itself explain very much. I know in my own case,
when I was about six I started thinking to myself "I'm not so sure
about this stuff they're teaching me at school", so I discussed it
with my parents and they said "No, we don't believe in it either".
Theism has never been a live proposition for me since then. That's me.
But there would be those who would say "Well, that's just your
background". Obviously my parents were an influence but I think it's
more than just that. But yeah, I just don't get how anyone can take it
seriously, and I guess I'll probably be getting empathy from you on
this point.

> The whole thing of, it's a major influence on your decisions about how
you live your life, but you don't subject it to the ordinary standards
of rational scrutiny, yes, I'd be with you there, that's a serious

> I was having a chat with a co-worker the other day, a Catholic, and I
was just thrashing it out with her. I and another atheist co-worker
initiated the conversation. Anyway, I said "So masturbation is
immoral?" and she said yes. She's sleeping with another co-worker,
they're not married. And she says, "well, I'm a sinner, but if I
repent and ask for forgiveness it will be all right". And then I say
"Pragmatically speaking, what should I do to avoid hell?" and she says
"You should marry your girlfriend". So I'd be thinking that deep down
she doesn't take this hell idea too seriously.

> My own version of that problem would be that I have this thing where I
don't think that discrimination on the basis of species can be
justified, but on the other hand for example I use electricity, and
power plants kill trillions of fish. But at least I'm making an effort
to sort that one out, I'm thinking the problem over and I may ending
up changing my position or my behaviour. But yeah, this would
illustrate how this whole secular humanist project of, you live a
reflective ethical life, you think reflectively about the rules that
should govern your behaviour and take responsibility for your own
actions, I myself don't necessarily always find all that easy, I often
find myself running into confusion and inner conflict. So I'd hesitate
to be excessively harsh when condemning others.

> Just a few thoughts.

Pat Condell on SecularPhobia, Christianity and Islam