Why Are Atheists “The Enemy?”

I was just reading/listening to Teresa Macbain’s story–

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/30/151681248/from-minister-to-atheist-a-story-of-losing-faith

Religion so often does the opposite of what believers think.  It makes people intolerant.  Why does Teresa’s community that she gave guidance and counseling and encouragement and support to, turn on her this way and treat her like an enemy?  Do Christians view Jews as the enemy?  Or Buddhists?  Or anyone who happens to have faith in something else?   Then why are atheists the enemy?  And especially atheists who were previously Christians?

Tell you what, listening to Teresa’s story…struck a chord with me.  I haven’t become an enemy like she has.  I am not seen as a betrayer of the faith as she is.  But I have lost friends since I made it clear I can’t believe anymore.   I also find myself suddenly having to walk on eggshells worrying how much should I exult in this new feeling of freedom?  How much singing out and speaking out and shouting out with joy can I do before I am admonished for offending someone?

Really, all it takes to offend a Christian is to say the words “there’s no such thing as god.”  Say those words and they are offended, personally and deeply offended.

It’s not meant to be an offense.  If I went 40 years of my life thinking I have a horrible singing voice and always being ashamed to sing, afraid to sing…and then one day I’m told by a voice teacher I have a really great range and wonderful potential as a singer, I’m going to want to tell people.    The same is true if I go my whole life believing in something that makes me feel I can’t ever be good enough, that I was born corrupt and I need to do this and this and this to be good or to be loved…and then one day I find out it’s all a lie and I was born into this world exactly right and exactly as nature meant me to be–I would want to sing that news from the rooftops!  I’d want to  tell my friends, my family, people I care about whom I still see struggling in the dark.   And yet…it offends people.

No Christian, especially not the ones who live for Jesus and give their whole life’s work to serving Jesus like Ms. Macbain, want or ask to lose their faith.   It’s not a road believers take intentionally.  It’s a path they stumble on.

We’re not supposed to ask questions.  I know a friend who was kicked out of her church for asking too many questions.  Why is that?  If Christianity is true–if any religion is true–it should be able to withstand any questions put to it.  It should  not shy away from the new discoveries of science either, but rather welcome those discoveries as further proof of its unshakable truth.

Instead when I asked questions, the kind of questions that put parts of the bible or god’s actions or Jesus’ actions, into doubt, I was given the same pat answers: “we are finite beings; how can we possibly understand god?”  Or, “god works in mysterious ways.”  Or, “have faith.  God will reveal this to you in time.”

And then that time never comes.

I look at the bible and I wonder, how can this loving god that the Christians believe in order little children dashed to pieces or pregnant mother’s bellies cut open with swords?   How can this just and merciful god order a man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath or…allow his followers to teach that women are worth only half as much as men and should be silent, should not wear jewelry or braided hair or… speak aloud in church, and daughters can be sold into slavery.

These are the questions that catch us unaware.  We are like everyone else, Christians going along with what we’re told, assuming someone bothered to do the research and confirm it’s all true.  We nod our heads and sing our songs and high-light the appropriate verses in the bible.   But then one day someone points out something in the bible we didn’t know was there.  Or maybe one day it suddenly dawns on us that it makes no sense that Satan would hate the people who deny god, his enemy, and would want to punish them.    Or that god would punish Adam and Eve so severely for simply being ignorant, for making a mistake, and not just them but all of humanity.

Atheists are not the enemy of anyone.  Atheists simply do not believe in the supernatural–and have lately been brought to the point that we aren’t so silent about it anymore after having to hear politicians who should know better declare our country a “Christian nation” when it’s not, or for that matter have  Christianity shoved in our face wherever we turn.  How does this make us bad people worthy of hate?  How does this make someone like Teresa Macbain worthy of being shunned by the very community she served and helped for years?

Once upon a time God created himself an enemy.  I’m not sure why.  A lot of pain and suffering would have been avoided if he hadn’t.   But he made Satan and then punished Satan for being made.  Sometimes I feel like Christians want to have an enemy too.  So they hunt down people who dare to not agree, and attack them, call them ignorant or evil–arrogantly tell them they’re going to hell–basically punish them for daring to be, just like gays, true to who and what they are.

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Christian Blinders

When a Christian spouts off about all the other evidences and proofs out there that a biblical Jesus existed, other than, that is, the four gospels written by anonymous church-hired writers in the New Testament, demand they kindly provide these proofs.  Are they going to list Josephus or other Roman historians that either did not live during the time of Jesus or did not actually write about him per se, but rather the appearance of the new religion Christianity.

It is largely accepted that the few passages in Josephus that mention Jesus were added in later, as the paragraphs are out of context with the sentences that come before and after.   And even if a historian is found who lived during Jesus’ alleged lifetime and did write about him, all that proves is that a person named Jesus existed.  I believe in that part of the world, it is not an uncommon name.

All I ask for is evidence.  Christianity lost credibility for me when I realized that the bible is not true.  When I figured out that there were verses clearly put into it not because they were god’s teachings but because some religious group wanted to dictate certain laws and rules over the common people, and especially to subjugate certain people, most especially women, as is typical of all man-made, patriarchal religions.

Once I figured out that some verses in the bible couldn’t possibly be from god or god inspired, then all of a sudden the entire book became suspect.  How am I, with my puny little mind, supposed to weed out what is really from god and what isn’t really from god?   Between that and the blatant errors in the bible (god the all powerful can’t smite chariots made of iron?  Hello???), the bible stopped being, in my eyes, anything real.

Some Christians readily admit the bible is nothing more than a fairy tale or myths–legends, etc.  But they still believe.  I fail to see how the religion can have a leg to stand on if the bible is not true, if the story of Adam and Eve and original sin is not true?  Without that story of original sin there ceases to be a need for religion, or god, or saviors.  There ceases to be a need for Christianity.  This is the only reason why the Christian bible still has the old testament included–because they need that all important absurd story of talking snakes and the original sin.

Talk to a Christian, they will tell you about Christian writers who disagree.  Well, no surprise there.  I say, read the testimonials of learned Christians–men and women who went to Seminary and taught this stuff and knew the bible inside out and STILL unconverted–lost their faith–stopped believing.   These are the people I would be interested in hearing from.  Not the people who just say the same things I had to hear over and over and over–repeating the same well worn pages and hi-lighted verses, and ignoring completely the other three quarters of this book.

Before a Christian has the right to tell me their god is good, they need to read the entire bible.  They need to tell me how a good and loving deity does what the god of the old testament does, and answer the illogic of an all knowing god deliberately creating flawed human beings, and then punishing them for being flawed.

Woe to You Who Disagrees w/ a Christian!

I once really liked this story in the New Testament.  I used to think it literally meant you have to be humble, not proud, to be great in heaven.  But now, seeing this as an atheist, a second meaning  becomes clear.   In the first part Jesus is teaching his followers they must be humble like a little child, not proud.   What’s funny is from my recollection of childhood, children are not humble but rather very self-important; they very much see themselves as special and want to be treated that way; they want to COUNT, to be the favorite child, to get the gold star from the teacher.  So what I really think the point of this verse is–to believe in what Christianity teaches you must be gullible like a little child–have magical thinking like a little child–accept rather than to question what you don’t understand–like a little child:

Matthew Ch: 8–

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Matthew Ch: 8–

This next part that immediately follows is a warning to non-believers like myself that there will be dire consequences for us if we should say or produce any evidence or logic that might cause one of God’s “little ones” to stumble in their faith, start to question their faith or… lose it altogether:

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

SO in other words, assuming Jesus actually lived and actually said these things, which I highly doubt, what I believe his real point is, you have to be gullible like a child to believe all this stuff and get into heaven, and any of you who refuse to be or can’t be gullible–shame on you for trying to talk sense into any of these who can–you will be gravely punished if you succeed in making them stumble.

Not only does this warn believers against relying upon their own judgment or reason (to do so would not be humble but rather arrogant), but it also puts a “hands off” sign on believers directed at non believers.  Meaning that if I had a spouse or a parent I saw lost to a belief I know is false, I am to remain silent about it or bad things will happen to me if I in any way, try to interject a different opinion, perspective, or interpretation.

Silent No More!

And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I deem the essential principles of our government. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation.  But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?”      -John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.  Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” -John Adams

“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”
                        -Spoken by Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.  Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated.  I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
                            -George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, 1792

“. . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”  Benjamin Franklin
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Tolerance.  For three years now I have been an atheist, after over 35 years of being a born again Christian.  What have I had to learn like I never had to learn before?  Tolerance.

When I was a Christian I thought nothing of not only proclaiming what I believed, but arguing about it, vehemently, sometimes even rudely.  Everyone else’s beliefs were wrong and mine were right.  And often I had other people back me up on it too, because mine was the acceptable, popular opinion.  I was indignant if anyone disagreed.  I couldn’t remotely entertain the thought that I might be wrong, or that my mother could be wrong, or her mother, or the church leaders I had grown up listening to and believing every word.  And the BIBLE!  The unblemished Word of God.   His might–at my fingertips if only I believed hard enough.  The “good book” that Christians arm themselves with in defense against Satan. 

I remember as a child I had cards in a box and each card had a bible verse on it.  I would memorize the card, and once I did, I’d put it aside and then memorize the next.  Until I could say one verse after the next correctly, and in order.   I did this because the church I went to preached that Satan is repelled by bible verses.  So I learned them.    And they sounded right to my young ears.

And of course they did.  They were cherry picked for the impressionable young.  There was none of the darker verses found throughout the bible. Nothing about burning witches or about women being forbidden to speak or ask questions in church, etc. 

At bible camp we sang our songs over and over, both morning and night, celebrating, among other things, having been “washed in the blood” or being “under the blood”–(a hold-over from the blood baptisms of pagan Mithraism Christianity replaced–where followers stood under a grate while above them a bull was sacrificed.).  To this day I can sing every song we sang then–I remember every single word.  Because that is part of belief.  It starts out as an idea.  It is repeated in verse and in song.  It is memorized.  It takes root inside your head –becomes a way of thinking and habit…until you forget when it started or where it came from.  That’s when you accept it’s always been, and it is true, absolutely true, so true that everyone should know!   Or so I thought.  Someone at some time must have done their research to prove it’s all true–so I didn’t have to–again, or so I presumed.  I just…accepted that the bible was history, and the tales in it–about real people.  But really, were they?   Did people like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… actually exist?  Jesus too?   No one seemed to question it in my little bible-camp world.  I never heard anyone at my church or at that camp question if these characters in this book ever lived at all?  No one asks this.  No one asks WHO exactly wrote the bible, or why, or who hired them to write it?  For what purpose?  What was the agenda?

As a Christian the religious holidays were wonderful. Filled with fellowship and wonder and reverence and even hope of the promise the birth represents, and the sacrifice on the cross represents.  I walked around with a cross around my neck.  I was never a bible thumper but I was a Christian and I loved getting the warm and fuzzy Christian spam emails I got, and if anyone asked me oh sure, then I’d talk about my faith because then I knew it was safe.  Here was someone who would agree with everything or most everything I did.  I could talk and they’d nod their head and then they’d talk and further feed my belief, strengthen my delusion that this whole thing really is true.

If i ever came across a Jewish person, or atheist or anyone who was obviously not a believer, like someone wearing a turban or veil, oooh, I’d feel indignant inside.  I wouldn’t want to start up a conversation with them because…well, two reasons.  One, what did they know?  They were the lost.  The unsaved.  The ignorant.   And two…they might know more about their religion or beliefs than I knew about mine and I didn’t want my precious beliefs I hadn’t bothered to research, threatened in any way!  I didn’t want to look foolish, or have to be put on the defensive or hear the painful words said that MY beliefs are not true!  I didn’t want to be insulted by hearing someone say my Heavenly Father doesn’t exist or his Son who DIED for my sins…doesn’t exist!  That kind of thing offended me, angered me, deeply upset me.  So I avoided talking religion to these people–and in fact avoided people like this completely. I even avoided reading any books or articles by non-Christians which might challenge or put into doubt for me, my “faith.” I didn’t want to doubt, or question. I wanted to be like a little child as the bible commands, and blindly BELIEVE without question as good Christians do.

That was then.   Fast forward to now and I am an atheist.  Suddenly I notice how often people talk about their beliefs as if they think everyone agrees with them.  Suddenly people are making a big deal about whether our current President is a Christian or not–while I’m thinking, what difference does THAT make when most of our founding fathers were not!

Learning to not defend my new non-beliefs has been difficult, because I grew up quick to get indignant and angry and upset any time anyone attacked my Christian beliefs.  But to defend my new beliefs as a secular person who doesn’t believe…that’s wrong.  That’s offensive to the majority–to all those Christians who, just like it once offended me, get angry and upset and take it personally when they hear anything contradictory or like an outright challenge to their beliefs.   So really, it’s ok for Christians to broadcast what they think and believe and why.  That’s called witnessing.  It’s trying to spread the good news.  It’s a wholesome, happy message of hope.  A positive message. So it’s okay because since it’s so positive, how can it possibly offend anyone?  Right?

Well, it does!  I didn’t realize it’s a two way street, not just a one way street, until I found myself at an intersection and changing directions.  It IS a two way street and believe it or not, people who don’t believe in Christianity or the Christian god do still feel all the same burning passions inside them for whatever it is they do believe, be it belief in another religion, or belief in science, in evolution, in preserving the balance of nature, of being humane to each other and to animals.  Whatever the belief, it is close to the believer’s heart.

So when we have Conservative Republicans fighting to be nominated, and they’re busy vocalizing about how America is a Christian nation…which it isn’t and never has been…it basically says to all the rest of us who are not Christian, get the hell out, you aren’t wanted here.

There’s a Reason Rally on March 24th, 2012–a coming out celebration for Secularism.   Why?   Really, why?  What do people who don’t believe in God have to defend?  To cry foul over?   To get indignant about?

How about the fact this is our country too?  And we love our country too?  And we aren’t deceived by the bullshit they’re feeding the mainstream  that this country was founded by Christians–when we know perfectly well it was not.   This is our country too, and yet can a secular person, someone who does not believe in god or gods, have any hope of running for President?  No.  And how come that is?  Since when has the word “Christian” become the replacement word for words like wholesome, kind, compassionate, honest, ethical, caring, fair, gentle, forgiving, merciful, loving or good?

For a very long time people with no beliefs have felt no need to speak out.  For a very long time atheists and agnostics and pagans and heathens or whatever else you want to call us–infidels–whatever, have held our tongues and allowed the religious to walk all over those of us who don’t believe.  To silently smile and meekly try to change the subject rather than disagree and risk hurting someone’s feelings or upsetting someone.   But now we have the Religious Right trying to tell all of us that we are all of us Christians, and their puritan ideas of what is right and wrong, should be accepted by us all!   We’re back to that old song and dance again about how women should have babies if they get pregnant, whether or not they want to, and women should not have insurance coverage for birth control–which of course will mean so many more unwanted babies coming into the world with parents who can’t afford them.

I think it’s time to speak out.  I think it’s time that the secular population join together and protest our right to not believe, our right to not have to be silent just because our opinion is the less accepted, minority one, our right to not be governed by doctrine that seeks to keep our society in the dark ages, women under the dominion of men, and further allow our planet’s overpopulation crisis to multiply.

In my view such religious doctrine that abortion is murder (which the bible does not say, by the way), and the people or organizations like the Religious Right who seek to make war against women and take away their rights over their own futures–their own bodies, are one of the main reasons why  why our planet’s environment is so out of whack now–why we have too many people and not enough food–and why we have killer storms in parts of the world where they have never been before.

So it’s not just for the sake of our pride, and our desire to be counted as patriotic Americans too.  Nor is it just for the purpose of defending/preserving our human rights.  It’s for the sake of our planet, and for the sake of the advancement of science and understanding–the only weapons we have to defend ourselves, against ourselves.

Would This Feel Like Heaven?

This is something I often wondered growing up as I did, raised by a very devout Christian widow who…well…let’s just say it was very important to her that her children would go to heaven.   Which is why to this day I have never told my mom I no longer believe, and haven’t believed in what is now three years or more.

If I were to imagine heaven, it would be a place where there are no tears, no sadness, no heartache, no despair, no disappointment, no discouragement, no worry, no regrets, no hunger, no thirst, no loneliness, no yearning for things to be different.  Heaven would be all the best things I could ever imagine, like all the most breathtaking natural beauty the earth could offer, only so much more, the colors so much brighter, the sounds so much sweeter.  The air would be like standing in a grove of lilac trees, or in the center of a greenhouse filled with roses.  All would be so glorious you’d want to stand there forever, drinking it in, content to stay still in that moment forever.

As a Christian I had friends who were not, family who were not.  And it bothered me.  Really really bothered me.  My dad’s cousin Evelyn died, and she was an atheist who told me once to my face she had never sinned.  Because she did not believe in sin–which in her view was a man-made invention that made religion necessary.  So when Evie died, I was very sad.  I didn’t want to think of Evie in hell.  It upset me to think of such a wonderful loving lady in such a horrible place.

I have heard it said that hell is not what the bible describes in a literal sense.  Hell is to be eternally separate from God.  Hell is to be able to gaze across a divide at all the joys of heaven, and not be able to go there, not be able to be among all those happy people, but to be stuck forever and ever in a place apart from God.   That’s what hell is.

Now if I were one of those lucky people who managed to make it into heaven, and I looked across and I could see–or even if I couldn’t see, but I just knew, I had friends or family like Evie, in some other place, and they were suffering.  If I knew that because of choices they made in their life as puny and ignorant mortals they were doomed to be punished forever, unforgiven, to a place of despair, of sadness, of pain, of separation, of never knowing the utter bliss I was getting to enjoy…  Would that be very nice for me?  Would I be in heaven?  Would heaven be a happy paradise for me, if I knew across the divide there were people I knew and cared for, suffering–and doomed by my God to suffer forever?  Would that be a happy thing for me?

The only way I would find Heaven a happy place for me under those circumstances, would be if God made my heart very hard so I wouldn’t care anymore.   So I would regard those friends I once cared for and family I cared for as deserving to languish in agony and despair forever.   They would be like my enemy and I would feel how right it was for them to suffer for eternity while I enjoyed happiness beyond my wildest dreams.

If I had to have my heart hardened for Heaven to be a happy place for me–for me to no longer care about people I once cared for now having to suffer, how much more brittle and hardened would God’s heart have to be, considering he supposedly is merciful and “love” is one of his names?   For him to be merciful and loving by nature, and yet able to condemn billions of souls to eternal torment and still go on his merry way being happy in his paradise despite all that suffering going on….wouldn’t he have to shut his ears and harden his heart and cease to be merciful and loving?

He would no longer be a loving God.  He would no longer be a merciful God.  He’d be a cruel and unforgiving God–by so enforcing an eternal horrible punishment upon mortal beings who did for whatever reason, not jump through the right hoops while they were living, and so now they must suffer forever.

It would be different if the rule book were crystal clear and not subject to this interpretation or that interpretation.  But the rule book is not clear.  There are verses in the bible that contradict other verses.  The bible says Thou Shalt not Kill and yet time and time again God kills, or orders his followers to kill.   There is a verse that says not by works are you saved, but it is a gift from god, and there’s another verse that says good works are just a part of what you must do to have eternal life.  There’s a verse that says you should make it known what good works you do, and another verse that says you should keep it secret, and not boast.

Which verses are the correct ones, and which are not?  Why are there cities placed in the wrong countries in the bible?  Why was there a census mentioned in the bible shortly after Jesus’ birth, but the year is off–there was no census at that time per actual history?

If God’s good news is so important, so critical that the punishment is so horrible indeed for those of us who don’t hear or hear but don’t believe…then why isn’t God’s word perfectly clear?  Wouldn’t God insist on it being absolutely clear?  Without flaw?  Without human tampering?    And if our salvation is so important to God, why does he not simply make his existence fact, rather than keep us all guessing?   In all the world there is not one scrap of non-biblical proof of the existence of God, or Jesus for that matter.   Now if God is real, and if his good news is real, and if our salvation is so important to him, so we don’t end up in hell suffering forever while he, God, is forced to shut his ears and turn his back and never forgive–why isn’t evidence of his existence or Jesus’ existence, as plentiful to find as the bones of dinosaurs are?  Why doesn’t God appear and end the doubting that will ultimately cost so many eternal life?  Or for that matter, why did God make Lucifer in the first place, or human beings so fallable as to be capable of sin and then place them right where he knew his imperfect angel was lying in wait?

Or if God doesn’t want to appear?  If our salvation isn’t worth him revealing himself, why not perform the impossible to prove miracles really do happen?  Like, allowing the amputee who has been praying really hard, to have his lost arm or leg grow back?  Or give the woman who had her eyes gouged out by the chimpanzee, new eyes–regrow them in her head?   If God can do anything, these things would not surpass his power–and would leave very little doubt that the supernatural exists.  And yet he doesn’t.

Anyway, I have digressed and I’m sorry.  My point is, even if I were still a Christian, and even if I did make it into this paradise Christians look forward to.  It wouldn’t be heaven to me because I would know my Aunt Evie was being punished in hell–and she was a really neat lady who does not deserve torment and pain for all eternity.  So heaven would become hell for me,  knowing Evie isn’t there and knowing there’s nothing I can do to appeal to this merciless deaf God to hear her cries of torment and forgive.

That wouldn’t be heaven for me, and that would not be a god I would even want to follow.

REASON RALLY! I WISH I COULD GO!

The below article describes better than anything I have read  before, just exactly WHY I feel the desire to defend what I believe as a non-believer, and so I wanted to share.  Oh, and incidentally, I think it is WRONG that non-believers are deemed unelectable just for not believing in supernatural beings!

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201203/reason-rally-secular-coming-out-celebration

 

Reason Rally: A Secular Coming-Out Celebration

Nonbelievers are finding solidarity like never before
Published on March 14, 2012 by David Niose in Our Humanity, Naturally

 

In a show of solidarity that would have been unimaginable even just a few years ago, thousands will be flocking to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on March 24 in celebration of secularity. The Reason Rally, a day-long event featuring notable entertainers and speakers and attracting busloads of nonbelievers from all over the country, could be a watershed moment for the secular movement. 

The lineup for the day includes a mix of entertainers, public intellectuals, and representatives from various secular groups. All events are free. The band Bad Religion will be performing, and the crowd will also hear from comedian Tim Minchin, popular skeptic and debunker James Randi, and author and scientist Richard Dawkins. Lawrence Krauss, author of “A Universe from Nothing,” whose ideas inspired Miley Cyrus to tweet on the issue (thereby sparking a backlash from enraged Christian fans), will also be on hand, along with many others, to address the secular festival.

 The event is not a protest and certainly not a religion-bashing affair, but instead can be best understood as a coming-out party for an entire movement. This has caused some to belittle the rally, suggesting that demographic unity around the notion of disbelief is itself nonsensical. Such critiques, however, only reflect a failure to understand what fuels the modern secular movement.

It is very true that many Americans—even many who are themselves nonreligious—see the idea of personal secularity as somewhat insignificant. That is, even many nonbelievers rarely consider emphasizing their religious skepticism—their secular worldview—as a primary means of identification. Ask a typical American nonbeliever to describe her basic lifestance, for example, and she may use terms like “liberal” and “feminist” and “environmentalist,” and perhaps numerous others, before reaching any identifier that would raise the issue of religious skepticism.

For many in recent years, however, personal secularity has become an increasingly important aspect of their identity, a clear way of describing one’s basic lifestance in the midst of a political and cultural landscape that has become an anti-intellectual wasteland. As such, the Reason Rally, as its name suggests, can be seen as a public manifestation of the secular trend that vehemently opposes America’s descent into irrationality.

Ironically, the primary root cause of the growing secular movement is the Religious Right. Because politically mobilized religious conservatives have become such a visible force in America, nonbelievers increasingly feel the need to assert themselves as a demographic. Whereas America’s seculars previously went about their daily business without openly displaying their naturalistic, reason-based identity, this indiscreet approach has required rethinking in the face of religious conservatives constantly claiming moral superiority, attacking church-state separation, and tainting public policy . 

Indeed, as the Religious Right has consistently grown in influence for over three decades—to the point that religious fundamentalists are now routinely elected to office in much of the country and are even serious contenders for the presidency (while open nonbelievers are unelectable)—many who are personally secular have come to realize that they can no longer keep their religious skepticism in the closet. As modern America listens to high-profile conservatives talk seriously about limiting access to not just abortion, but now even birth control, the notion of reason has suddenly become important, an affirmative means of standing up and pushing back against faith-based absurdity.

Thus, the Reason Rally.

Some, still feeling uncomfortable with open displays of secularity, insist that we should go back to those days when religion was simply a non-issue, when polite public discussions avoided questions of religion altogether. The Religious Right, however, has made that impossible, and therefore those who are indeed secular are increasingly standing up to demand that the over-the-top exaltation of religion stop, that Americans carefully consider how counterproductive it is to stigmatize secularity in the modern world. 

Thus, the cry of the seculars: We don’t believe. We won’t leave. Get used to it!

Hang on America: On March 24—rain or shine—Secular Americans are coming out.

Pre-order Dave’s book, Nonbeliever Nation, here

Join Nonbeliever Nation on Facebook

Follow Dave on Twitter 

Dave will be tweeting from the Reason Rally all day on March 24

 

Two Kinds of Human???

I’m not going to bore people with long paragraphs copied and pasted from other websites written by people who actually know what they’re talking about.  For me it’s an interesting subject and so I’ve read up a little.  If you want facts rather than my just throwing out thoughts of things I’ve read, there’s this thing called GOOGLE.  You can Google the various words for one kind of human.  They range from psychopath, sociopath, antisocial personality disorder.  If you want the facts, and why the terms referring to the same personality type have changed over the years, you can read about it too, like I did.

So here are my thoughts about the two kinds of human that exist.   Most of us know there are two kinds.  We don’t need some psycho-babble label for it.   There are givers and takers.  I think we’d all agree on that–I’m sure every human being has met both.  So what makes a taker a taker and a giver a giver?  And what about users?  Are they just like takers, or…something else?

Not to say being a giver is always a good thing.  A lot of givers give in order to get, whether it be a thing, or a feeling, or attention, or love, or shelter or security, or children, or whatever.  A lot of people with low self esteems are givers–perhaps because they feel they have to compensate for not being enough.  I do that myself, and have done for years, making me a prime target for…that other kind of human.   But I digress.  Some people feel they have to give to fulfill their part of a contract or agreement.  For example. say I’m married to you so we have sex (or at least early on we do until I tire of it), even though I don’t like sex and could live the rest of my life without it.  Yes believe it or not, some people, men and women alike, don’t like sex.  But they want to be married, they want love, they want a family and all the joys that come from having a family and companionship, so…they put up with the sex.  They learn to enjoy things about it like…being close to the person they love.  But the act itself…they could take or leave.

That’s a giver giving because he or she believes it’s part of the arrangement.  Part of getting what they want means giving what the other person wants.  The bad thing about this kind of giving is eventually the giver gets tired–and then perhaps that happy situation starts falling apart.

There are also those really wonderful noble people who truly love to give purely for the joy of giving and not to get anything back or achieve any agenda.  This is a rare type of giver.  Most people who give, if they are going to be completely honest with themselves, are giving hoping for something, whether it be a closer friendship with someone, or to show someone they care, or to repay someone for a kindness given…something.  Most people give for some kind of reason, and some are very good reasons.  Giving to the poor or less fortunate.  In cases like this what do you get?  You get the happy feeling that comes from knowing you helped someone.  Same thing when you find a hurt animal and rush it to the vet.   You’re not going to get anything for the act of kindness…you might even have to pay a hefty vet bill for an animal that isn’t even yours.  But you get that feeling, and to some of us that feeling is a wonderful reward.

So what are takers?   I think the line between giver and taker is rather blurred.  A giver can also be a taker, if my above thoughts are correct.   Any time I give hoping to receive or achieve something, in that way I’m passively being a taker.  I think all of us are takers to some degree, just like I think all takers can also be givers.

So are there two kinds of human, or are we all capable of being both at any given time? Well, I do think we’re all capable, but I also think from what I’ve read, there are significant differences between the person with (most modern term for it) antisocial personality disorder, and well, the rest of us.

In the cetacean family there are two types of killer whale.  The Orca, which is the whale you see mostly along the Puget Sound here in Washington State, or at Sea World, unfortunately, where these massive creatures will hopefully teach our young to appreciate the beauty and value of other life forms.  But there is also the Sentient Killer Whale…and I’m hoping I have the term right.  It’s been a long time since I took that cetacean class at the UW.  Again I digress.   Sentient killer whales travel in pods that are more like wolf packs.  Or they might also hunt alone. They prey on larger baleen whales, and on seals or sea lions.  Red meat is part of their diet.  Whales of this sub-group of Killer Whale, again if my memory serves me, swim virtually silent in their pods, whereas the Orca pods like what you see in Free Willy communicate back and forth as they travel along.

Are there predatory people and people who unwittingly transmit signals they are easy prey?  I believe so.  From what I read of persons with antisocial personality disorder (and there are different levels to this from mild to extreme), they are either lacking in a conscience or are deaf to it.   When I say conscience I mean that little inner voice that tells us something is right or wrong, and makes us feel badly after we unwittingly or deliberately hurt or wrong someone.

An extreme example of someone without a conscience–Albert Fish the cannibal from the early 20’s who preyed on and ate little children.  He is what inspired the Hannibal Lector character in Silence of the Lambs.  Add to this list any person who goes around brutally killing or raping people…likely this is a person who sees weaker people as prey or mere objects to use or manipulate, or enjoys feeling power over another person.  This is the classic psychopathic personality people think of when they hear the word psychopath, and why the term has been changed because, probably 90% or more of people with antisocial personality disorder live next door, or work on your same floor, or ride in your carpool, or go with you on hunting trips, or drive your Taxi cab or style your hair or meet you at the bar to play pool.   Sociopaths, or the more recent term antisocial personality disorder, are users, as opposed to just takers.  We’re all takers, just as we’re all hopefully givers, even if sometimes for self serving reasons.  But users?  People who prey on the gullibility of others, take advantage of the desire to help that some of us have, or do good to prove our worth…these are the psychopaths who live among us every day.  They are con artists.  They are parasites who find lonely women (or men) to befriend and let care for them, buy for them, do for them.  They are people who marry the older wealthy widower or widow for the money and then somehow manage to walk away with their pockets full.

A great example of a lesser sociopath, and by lesser I mean one who isn’t a serial killer, read or watch “The Stoning of Soraya M.”  If you can stomach it, that is, and it’s a movie I watched that I will never watch again.  Soraya’s husband is a monster.  Literally.  If there is a word for the slime around the base of toilets, that would be him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stoning_of_Soraya_M.

There are lots of examples of users.   The guy who gets a girl drunk (or visa versa) and then works for an hour to guilt trip him or her into having sex, or the person who convinces you to take him or her home and then you wake up in the morning and find your apartment’s cleaned out.   Users like what you have and want it, so they pretend to be your friend.  They let you assume what isn’t true, and let you come to trust what shouldn’t be trusted, and then they walk away laughing, leaving you feeling like a fool.

And they don’t feel guilt.  You can cry and try to make them see what it’s done to you, their actions, and they feel nothing.  They don’t understand, quite honestly, what the big fuss is, or why you’re upset.  Their conscience is clear–because they don’t have one.

So that’s my little thing about the two kinds of human.  I don’t know if really there are two kinds.  But I do know I read that something like one in every three men tend to have some degree of antisocial personality disorder and one in every five women.  So the people like myself with low self esteems wanting to please please please in order to have friendship, caring, love…really need to ask ourselves what signals we are putting out there.  Do we walk around with a big SCREW ME OVER neon sign on our foreheads?  How much using do we have to endure before we realize that it sucks to be someone’s prey and it’s better to be a little less trusting–a little more lonely.  Sometimes lonely is better than giving your trust to a sociopath.  Yes, really.

Bible Morality or…????

http://freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/74-barbara-g-walker/649-bible-morality-or-depravity.html

 

Found the below on “FreeThought Nation” website:

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 16:40 Barbara G. Walker Contributing Writers Barbara G. Walker
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(Following are biblical verses compiled by independent comparative religion scholar and Freethought Nation guestwriter Barbara G. Walker, concerning the supposed “morality” of the Bible. The paraphrases and commentary are Barbara’s, while the original verses are linked. For more of Barbara’s Bible investigations, see MAN MADE GOD, especially the section on Bible Studies.)

BIBLE MORALITY (King James Version)

Compiled by Barbara G. Walker, author of Man Made God, et al.

1. KILLING.  (As in “Thou shalt not”…???)

The biblical god personally kills a total of 371,186 people, not counting his slaughter of every living thing in Genesis 7. The biblical god also orders the killing of a total of 1,862,265.

Gen 22:2 – God accepts human sacrifices (including that of Jesus, later).
Ex 12:29 – God kills all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.
Ex 15:3 – God is a god of war.
Ex 21:15, 17 – Anyone who strikes or curses a parent must be killed.
Ex 22:18 – Every witch must be killed.
Ex 22:19, 20 – You must kill anyone who “lieth with a beast,” or who worships any god other than Yahweh.
Ex 31:15 – Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be killed.
Lev 20:10, 13, 27 – You must kill adulterers, homosexuals, wizards and spirit mediums.
Lev 21:9 – Any priest’s daughter who fornicates must be burned alive.
Lev 24:16 – Blasphemers must be killed.
Num 16:27-33 – God caused the whole tribe of Korah — men, women, and children — to be buried alive.
Num 21:3 – God caused the destruction of all the Canaanites.
Numbers 31: The slaugher of the MidianitesNum 31:7-35 – God orders Moses to kill the Midianites, making sure to slaughter not only the men but also the boys and females, except for the 32,000 virgin girls.
Deut 3:4 – God is pleased that his warriors destroyed 60 cities.
Deut 7:16 – You must kill all the people God delivers into your hands, and “thine eye shall have no pity upon them.”
Deut 13:5 – Any prophet or “dreamer of dreams,” who serves another god, must be killed.
Deut 13:6-9 – If your brother, son, daughter, wife, or friend tempts you to worship other gods, “thou shalt surely kill him.”
Deut 13:13-15 – If the people of any city worship other gods, you must slaughter them all, including their cattle.
Deut 17:5 – Any man or woman who worships other deities of sun, moon or stars must be stoned to death.
Deut 18:20 – False prophets must be killed.
Deut 20:16-17 – God commands complete destruction of all Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, and “thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.”
Deut 22:21 – A bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death.
Deut 22:22 – Adulterers must be killed.
Deut 22:23-24 – A girl who is raped within city limits, and fails to cry out, must be killed.
Deut 28:22-28 – If you don’t obey God’s commandments, he will punish you with consumption, fever, extreme burning, blasting, mildew, hemorrhoids, the scab, the itch, the botch of Egypt, etc., as well as “madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.”
Josh 6:21 – God’s warriors destroyed Jericho and killed every man, woman, child, and domestic animal.
Josh 8:25 – God’s warriors killed 12,000 people in the city of Ai.
Josh 19:47 – The children of Dan wanted more room, so they destroyed the whole population of Leshen and took their territory.
Judges 1:17-18 – Judah and Simeon utterly destroyed the populations of Zephath, Gaza, Askelon and Ekron.
Judges 11:39 – In accord with God’s law, Jephthah was forced to burn his virgin daughter to death as a sacrifice.
Judges 15:15 – God enables Samson to kill 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass.
Judges 20:46 – At Gibeah, Benjamin’s men killed 25,000 people and burned every town.
1 Sam 6:19 – God kills 50,070 people for trying to peek into the Ark.
1 Sam 15:3 – God commands the destruction of Amalek: “Slay both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
2 Sam 6:7 – God kills Uzzah for touching the Ark, even though he was trying to save it from falling off its oxcart.
1 Kings 18:40 – God commands the slaughter of “prophets of Baal”.
1 Kings 20:36 –  Because a man didn’t “obey the voice of the Lord,” a lion was sent to kill him.
2 Kings 2:24 – God sent bears to tear apart 42 children for making fun of Elisha’s bald head.
2 Kings 10:25 – God commands the killing of a multitude in the temple of Baal.
2 Kings 19:35 – God’s angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night.
1 Chron 21:14 – God kills 70,000 Israelites with a pestilence.
2 Chron 15:13 – Any man or woman who refuses to “seek the Lord God of Israel” must be killed.
Job 1:15-19 – God arranges the killing of Job’s children, servants and animals.
Isa 13:16 – God promises that all the Babylonians’ children will be “dashed to pieces before their eyes;” their wives will be raped.
Isa 45:7 – God says “I create evil.”
Jer 48:10 – Killing for God is mandatory; God curses anyone who “keepeth back his sword from blood.”
Jer 50:21 – God commands that the people of Merathaim and Pekod be “utterly destroyed.”
Ezek 9:5-7 – God calls for purging in Jerusalem: “let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women… fill the courts with the slain.”
Ezek 35:8 – God promises to fill the mountains, hills, valleys and rivers with slain men.
Hosea 13:16 – God promises to have Samaritan infants dashed to pieces, and pregnant women will have their bellies slashed open.
Nahum 1:2 – God is jealous, full of vengeance and wrath.
Zeph 1:3 – God threatens to destroy everything, man and beast, birds and fishes.
Zeph 1:18 – “The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.”
Zeph 3:6 – God brags that he has destroyed many nations.
Zech 13:3 – A false prophet must be killed by his father and mother.

2. RAPE

Ex 21:7-8 – A father may sell his daughter to be a “maidservant” (or sex slave) who must “please her master.”
Num 31:7, 18 – God orders his warriors to kill every living thing in a captured city, except the virgin girls, who are to be raped and turned into sex slaves.
Deut 21:11-12 – If a warrior likes the look of a female war captive, he can take her to be one of his “wives.”
Deut 22:28-29 – A man who rapes a virgin may take her for a wife if he pays her father 50 shekels of silver. (Yet, a bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death – Deut 22:20-21).
Judges 5:30 – The spoils of war include “a damsel or two” for every man.
Judges 21:12-23 –  God’s warriors killed all the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead except for 400 virgin girls, who were taken as slaves. If there are not enough girls to go around, God’s warriors may raid neighboring towns for more to rape.

3. SLAVERY

Gen 9:25 – God cursed Ham, son of Noah, with perpetual slavery for the crime of seeing his father naked.  (Ham was formerly considered the ancestor of all “blacks.”)
Ex 21:4 – A male slave may marry and have children, and may go free after six years; but his family remains the property (or hostages?) of his master.
Ex 21:7 – A man may sell his daughter as a sex slave.
Ex 21:20-21 – A man may be punished for beating a male or female slave
to death, but if the victim survives the beating for a few days, then
there is no penalty.
Lev 19:20 – When a man has sex with a female slave (or “bondmaid”), SHE must be scourged.
Eph 6:5 – Paul says slaves must obey their masters “with fear and trembling.”
Titus 2:9 – Paul says slaves must obey and please their masters.
1 Tim 6:1 – Paul says slaves must “count their masters worthy of all honor.”

4. WAS JESUS ETHICAL?

Matt 5:28-32 – Jesus says marriage to a divorcee is adultery; and a man who ogles a woman has already committed adultery; and that you must cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if it offends.
Matt 6:19-34 – Jesus says don’t save any money and don’t plan ahead.
Matt 8:32 – Having no regard for private property, Jesus destroys a herd of someone else’s pigs.
Matt 10:34 – Jesus says he brings not peace on earth but “a sword.”
Matt 19:12 – Jesus says the best way for a man to be sure of getting into heaven is to have himself castrated.
Mark 11:13 – Jesus destroys a fig tree for not bearing figs out of season.
Mark 14:4-7 – Jesus says it is more important to anoint him with precious ointment than to give to the poor, who will always be here. (Why not just get rid of poverty?)
Mark 16:18 – Jesus says anyone who believes in him can play with venomous snakes or drink poison without harm. (This act has been often tried, with rather unsatisfactory results.)
Luke 12:47-48 – Jesus says it is permissible to whip slaves.
Luke 14:26 – Jesus says no man can be his disciple unless he hates his parents, siblings, wife, children, and himself as well.
Luke 19:27 – In telling a parable, Jesus insinuates that anyone who denies his rulership must be killed.
John 15:6 – Jesus says anyone who doesn’t believe in him must be burned.
Acts 5:5-10 –  Ananias and his wife Sapphira were killed for withholding money from the church.
2 John 1:10-11 – A Christian is forbidden to offer hospitality to a non-Christian, not even to wish him “Godspeed” on parting.

5. WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

1 Cor 11:3-10 – Women are inferior “because man was not created for woman, but woman was created for man.”  Every woman “while praying or prophesying” must have her head covered “because of the angels,” meaning the spirits (it used to be believed that women’s hair attracts spirits).
1 Cor 14:34-35 – Women must not speak in church, which is a shame for them to do. If they want to ask questions, they must learn from their husbands at home.
Eph 5:22 – Wives must submit to their husbands as they would to God.
1 Tim 2:11-15 – A woman must not teach, or hold authority over a man, but must “learn in silence with all subjection,” because “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”  (So, being gullible is the original sin.)
1 Tim 5:9 – Paul says the only women acceptable by the council of elders are devout, monogamous women over the age of sixty.

6. SILLINESS

Gen 1:11-19 – God made all green plants on the third day of creation, but neglected to supply the sun (on which both plants and “days” depend) until the fourth day.
Gen 6:6-7 – Because a few people displeased him, God “repented” having made the world, and decided to destroy all life on earth.
Lev 11:5-6 – God thinks rabbits are cud-chewing animals.
Deut 22:5 – All cross-dressers, or women who wear pants, are “abominations.”
Deut 25:11-12 – A woman who seizes a man’s genitals, even to defend her husband from an attacker, must have her hand cut off.
Deut 33:17 – God believes in unicorns.
Matt 5:22 – Jesus says anyone who calls another “fool” will go to hell, but then he does it himself (Matt 23:17).
1 Tim 2:9 – Christian women are forbidden to braid their hair or wear jewelry.
James 5:14-15 – Prayer by the elders of the church is the only sure cure for sickness.  (Christian Science, anyone?)

Which version of the Ten Commandments do you prefer from God’s inerrant Word?  Exodus 20, Exodus 34, Deuteronomy 5 or Deuteronomy 27?

The Bible & Seeing What You Want To See

Ever wonder what passages in the bible Hitler highlighted?   He was very serious about doing God’s work, and from what I read the German church regarded him as the embodiment of the holy spirit on Earth; they supported him.   So I suppose Hitler had a bible, and just like every other believer, went through and highlighted the verses he chose to believe as a way to justify it in his mind, he was doing God’s work.  Imagine his surprise when he died and found himself in hell.  For indeed if such a place did exist, he would be there, as would all people who did hurtful things to others and got away with it…which is probably why hell was dreamed up to begin with.

I had someone send me a link to some Christian website in response to my post where I listed a few contradictions of the bible.   Well, of course.  For every fifty verses I find describing wholesale slaughter and destruction ordered by or performed by God, the same few New Testament verses about how loving and merciful this god is, will be dredged up.   And that’s fine.  As someone else pointed out, it’s pointless and a waste of energy to try to argue or talk someone out of belief in myths.  I know it because for years people tried to point out the illogic to me.  I was only able to wake up to the non-highlighted bits in my bible, at my own time.  When my mind and heart were ready to see, I saw.

But it is interesting that the same book can contain verses commanding us to beat children with rods and stone our sons for being disobedient, can also create all these known interpretations of it like the Catholic interpretation, Presbyterian, Baptist, Protestant, Four Square, Lutheran, etc, etc., etc.   It just seems to me if God’s important message was so hugely important, it would be very clear, and only interpretable one way–the right way.  If our salvation was so important to God, why be so mysterious about it?   Why whisper it in our ears rather than thunder it across the skies?   Free will only works if we have choices, and I’m sorry but the vehicle God uses to get his good news across, is vague, contradictory, erroneous, misleading, and subject to being taken as a justification for good OR evil and everything in-between too.  If the message was so important to God that we hear it, if our salvation was so important to this loving God, I would think he’d make a point to be a lot clearer about it than this.  

Once upon a time hundreds of people died for daring to open the Ark of the Covenant.  Well, what about all these re-translated, mistranslated, translated into modern-speak versions of the bible from the original Hebrew?  God doesn’t mind his sacred word changed, deleted or rewritten?   And example– “the word interpreted as “virgin” in the bible is actually “young woman,” and yet everyone accepts the belief now that Mary was a virgin, and Jesus seeded in her womb by God.   In no place in the bible is Mary described as a virgin.  She’s described as a young woman.    This is a blunder that the church has been aware of for centuries and yet chooses to keep intact in the bible because so many people now accept this as part of the story as fact–conveniently used as evidence of Jesus’ heavenly origins.

Is the bible fact?  Did the disciples actually exist?   Did the disciples write the bible or some anonymous writers hired by the early Roman church and hiding behind fictionous pen names to give them credibility.   

I personally am amazed I dedicated thirty plus years of my life to something without first checking out how the book the whole religion is founded on, came to be.  In retrospect it seems it should have been my first undertaking.  Investigation.  Is it TRUE?   Before I dedicate my life to it.

 

 

Why do Jews Reject the Christian dogma of the


Virgin Birth?
(The Second Jewish Book Of Why)
(By Alfred Kolatch 1985)

    Based on Isaiah 7:14, Christians claim that the birth of Jesus was predicted long before the event. The verse reads, “Behold, the alma shall conceive and bear a son and shall call him Immanuel [literally, ‘God is with us’].” Although the Hebrew word alma literally means “young woman,” when the Gospel of Matthew (1:23) cites the verse from Isaiah, it translates Alma as “Virgin.” This translation is useful in supporting the contention that the miraculous birth of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament.

   Jewish scholars reject the idea of the Virgin Birth because, they point out, in Isaiah 7:14 the word Alma is part of the Hebrew phrase ha-alma hara, meaning “the alma is pregnant.” Since the present tense is used, it is clear that the young woman was already pregnant and hence not a virgin. This being the case, the verse cannot be cited as a prediction of the future.

    Jewish scholars, supported by many Christian scholars, have also noted that the word alma in Isaiah 7:14 cannot mean “virgin” because elsewhere when the Bible wants to specify “virgin,” it uses the Hebrew word betula.

    When the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was issued in 1952, the words “young woman,” not the word “Virgin, were used for alma in its translation of Isaiah 7:14. This upset the Fundamentalist Christian community, which maintains that alma in Isaiah refers to the mother of Jesus, who conceived miraculously, without cohabitation with a man. These Fundamentalists expressed their vehement opposition to the new translation by holding burnings of the Revised Edition of the Bible.

Dear Theologian

This is from my favorite chapter in Dan Barker’s book, “Losing Faith in Faith.”   I found it online and thought I’d repost it here.  It’s long, but this chapter alone unraveled the last fraying strands of faith for me:

 

Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist by Dan Barker
Chapter 19


Dear Theologian

Dear Theologian,

I have a few questions, and I thought you would be the right person to ask. It gets tough sometimes, sitting up here in heaven with no one to talk to. I mean really talk to. I can always converse with the angels, of course, but since they don’t have free will, and since I created every thought in their submissive minds, they are not very stimulating conversationalists.

Of course, I can talk with my son Jesus and with the “third person” of our holy trinity, the Holy Spirit, but since we are all the same, there is nothing we can learn from each other. There are no well-placed repartees in the Godhead. We all know what the others know. We can’t exactly play chess. Jesus sometimes calls me “Father,” and that feels good, but since he and I are the same age and have the same powers, it doesn’t mean much.

You are educated. You have examined philosophy and world religions, and you have a degree which makes you qualified to carry on a discussion with someone at my level–not that I can’t talk with anyone, even with the uneducated believers who fill the churches and flatter me with endless petitions, but you know how it is. Sometimes we all crave interaction with a respected colleague. You have read the scholars. You have written papers and published books about me, and you know me better than anyone else.

It might surprise you to think that I have some questions. No, not rhetorical questions aimed at teaching spiritual lessons, but some real, honest-to-God inquiries. This should not shock you because, after all, I created you in my image. Your inquisitiveness is an inheritance from me. You would say that love, for example, is a reflection of my nature within yourself, wouldn’t you? Since questioning is healthy, it also comes from me.

Somebody once said that we should prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. My first question is this:

Where did I come from?

I find myself sitting up here in heaven, and I look around and notice that there is nothing else besides myself and the objects that I have created. I don’t see any other creatures competing with me, nor do I notice anything above myself that might have created me, unless it is playing hide-and-seek. In any event, as far as I know (and I supposedly know everything), there is nothing else but me in-three-persons and my creations. I have always existed, you say. I did not create myself, because if I did, then I would be greater than myself.

So where did I come from?

I know how you approach that question regarding your own existence. You notice that nature, especially the human mind, displays evidence of intricate design. You have never observed such design apart from a designer. You argue that human beings must have had a creator, and you will find no disagreement from me.

Then, what about me? Like you, I observe that my mind is complex and intricate. It is much more complex than your mind, otherwise I couldn’t have created your mind. My personality displays evidence of organization and purpose. Sometimes I surprise myself at how wise I am. If you think your existence is evidence of a designer, then what do you think about my existence? Am I not wonderful? Do I not function in an orderly manner? My mind is not a random jumble of disconnected thoughts; it displays what you would call evidence of design. If you need a designer, then why don’t I?

You might think such a question is blasphemy, but to me there is no such crime. I can ask any question I want, and I think this is a fair one. If you say that everything needs a designer and then say that not everything (Me) needs a designer, aren’t you contradicting yourself? By excluding me from the argument, aren’t you bringing your conclusion into your argument? Isn’t that circular reasoning? I am not saying I disagree with your conclusion; how could I? I’m just wondering why it is proper for you to infer a designer while it is not proper for me.

If you are saying that I don’t need to ask where I came from because I am perfect and omniscient while humans are fallible, then you don’t need the design argument at all, do you? You have already assumed that I exist. You can make such an assumption, of course, and I would not deny you the freedom. Such a priori and circular reasoning might be helpful or comforting to you, but it does me little good. It doesn’t help me figure out where I came from.

You say that I am eternally existent, and I suppose I would have no objection if I knew what it meant. It is hard for me to conceive of eternal existence. I just can’t remember back that far. It would take me an eternity to remember back to eternity, leaving me no time to do anything else, so it is impossible for me to confirm if I existed forever. And even if it is true, why is eternal greater than temporal? Is a long sermon greater than a short sermon? What does “greater” mean? Are fat people greater than thin people, or old greater than young?

You think it is important that I have always existed. I’ll take your word for it, for now. My question is not with the duration of my existence, but with the origin of my existence. I don’t see how being eternal solves the problem. I still want to know where I came from.

I can only imagine one possible answer, and I would appreciate your reaction. I know that I exist. I know that I could not have created myself. I also know that there is no higher God who could have created me. Since I can’t look above myself, then perhaps I should look below myself for a creator. Perhaps–this is speculative, so bear with me–perhaps you created me.

Don’t be shocked. I mean to flatter you. Since I contain evidence of design, and since I see no other place where such design could originate, I am forced to look for a designer, or designers, in nature itself. You are a part of nature. You are intelligent–that is what your readers say. Why should I not find the answer to my question in you? Help me out on this.

Of course, if you made me, then I could not have made you, I think. The reason that I think I made you is because you made me to think I made you. You have often said that a Creator can put thoughts in your mind. Isn’t it possible that you have put thoughts in my mind, and now here we are, both of us, wondering where we each came from?

Some of you have said that the answer to this whole question is just a mystery that only God understands. Well, thanks a lot. The buck stops here. On the one hand you use logic to try to prove my existence, but on the other hand, when logic hits a dead end, you abandon it and invoke “faith” and “mystery.” Those words might be useful to you as place-holders for facts or truth, but they don’t translate to anything meaningful as far as I am concerned. You can pretend that “mystery” signifies something terribly important, but to me it simply means you don’t know.

Some of you assert that I did not “come” from anywhere. I just exist. However, I have also heard you say that nothing comes from nothing. You can’t have it both ways. I either exist or I don’t. What was it that caused me to exist, as opposed to not existing at all? If I don’t need a cause, then why do you? Since I am not happy to say that this is a mystery, I must accept the only explanation that makes sense. You created me.

Is that such a terrible idea? I know that you think many other gods were created by humans: Zeus, Thor, Mercury, Elvis. You recognize that such deities originate in human desire, need, or fear. If the blessed beliefs of those billions of individuals can be dismissed as products of culture, then why can’t yours? The Persians created Mithra, the Jews created Yahweh, and you created me. If I am wrong about this, please straighten me out.

My second question is this:

What’s it all about?

Maybe I made myself, maybe some other god made me, maybe you made me–let’s put that aside for now. I’m here now. Why am I here? Many of you look up to me for purpose in life, and I have often stated that your purpose in life is to please me. (Read Revelation 4:11) If your purpose is to please me, what is my purpose? To please myself? Is that all there is to life?

If I exist for my own pleasure, then this is selfish. It makes it look as if I created you merely to have some living toys to play with. Isn’t there some principle that I can look up to? Something to admire, adore, and worship? Am I consigned for eternity to sit here and amuse myself with the worship of others? Or to worship myself? What’s the point?

I have read your writings on the meaning of life, and don’t misunderstand me, they make sense in the theological context of human religious goals, even if they don’t have much practicality in the real world. Many of you feel that your purpose in life is to achieve perfection. Since you humans fall way short of perfection, by your own admission (and I agree), then self improvement provides you with a quest. It gives you something to do. Someday you hope to be as perfect as you think I am. But since I am already perfect, by definition, then I don’t need such a purpose. I’m just sort of hanging out, I guess.

Yet I still wonder why I’m here. It feels good to exist. It feels great to be perfect. But it gives me nothing to do. I created the universe with all kinds of natural laws that govern everything from quarks to galactic clusters, and it runs okay on its own. I had to make these laws, otherwise I would be involved with a lot of repetitive busy work, such as pulling light rays through space, yanking falling objects down to the earth, sticking atoms together to build molecules, and a trillion other boring tasks more worthy of a slave than a master. You have discovered most of those laws, and might be on the verge of putting the whole picture together, and once you have done that you will know what I know: that there is nothing in the universe for me to do. It’s boring up here.

I could create more universes and more laws, but what’s the point? I’ve already done universes. Creation is like sneezing or writing short stories; it just comes out of me. I could go on an orgy of creation. Create, create, create. After a while a person can get sick of the same thing, like when you eat a whole box of chocolates and discover that the last piece doesn’t taste as good as the first. Once you have had ten children, do you need twenty? (I’m asking you, not the pope.) If more is better, then I am obligated to continue until I have fathered an infinite number of children, and an endless number of universes. If I must compel myself, then I am a slave.

Many of you assert that it is inappropriate to seek purpose within yourself, that it must come from outside. I feel the same way. I can’t merely assign purpose to myself. If I did, then I would have to look for my reasons. I would have to come up with an account of why I chose one purpose over another, and if such reasons came from within myself I would be caught in a loop of self-justified rationalizations. Since I have no Higher Power of my own, then I have no purpose. Nothing to live for. It is all meaningless.

Sure, I can bestow meaning on you–pleasing me, achieving perfection, whatever–and perhaps that is all that concerns you; but doesn’t it bother you, just a little, that the source of meaning for your life has no source of its own? And if this is true, then isn’t it also true that ultimately you have no meaning for yourself either? If it makes you happy to demand an external reference point on which to hang your meaningfulness, why would you deny the same to me? I also want to be happy, and I want to find that happiness in something other than myself. Is that a sin?

On the other hand, if you think I have the right and the freedom to find happiness in myself and in the things I created, then why should you not have the same right? You, whom I created in my image?

I know that some of you have proposed a solution to this problem. You call it “love.” You think I am lonely up here, and that I created humans to satisfy my longing for a relationship with something that is not myself. Of course, this will never work because it is impossible for me to create something that is not part of myself, but let’s say that I try anyway. Let’s say that I create this mechanism called “free will,” which imparts to humans a choice. If I give you the freedom (though this is stretching the word because there is nothing outside of my power) not to love me, then if some of you, a few of you, even one of you chooses to love me, I have gained something I might not have had. I have gained a relationship with someone who could have chosen otherwise. This is called love, you say.

This is a great idea, on paper. In real life, however, it turns out that millions, billions of people have chosen not to love me, and that I have to do something with these infidels. I can’t just un-create them. If I simply destroy all the unbelievers, I may as well have created only believers in the first place. Since I am omniscient, I would know in advance which of my creations would have a tendency to choose me, and this would produce no conflict with free will since those who would not have chosen me would have been eliminated simply by not having been created in the first place. (I could call it Supernatural Selection.) This seems much more compassionate than hell.

You can’t have a love relationship with someone who is not your equal. If you humans don’t have a guaranteed eternal soul, like myself, then you are worthless as companions. If I can’t respect your right to exist independently, and your right to choose something other than me, then I couldn’t love those of you who do choose me. I would have to find a place for all those billions of eternal souls who reject me, whatever their reasons might be. Let’s call it “hell,” a place that is not-God, not-me. I would have to create this inferno, otherwise neither I nor the unbelievers could escape each other. Let’s ignore the technicalities of how I could manage to create hell, and then separate it from myself, apart from whom nothing else exists. (It’s not as though I could create something and then simply throw it away–there is no cosmic trash heap.) The point is that since I am supposedly perfect, this place of exile must be something that is the opposite. It must be ultimate evil, pain, darkness, and torment.

If I created hell, then I don’t like myself.

If I did create a hell, then it certainly would not be smart to advertise that fact. How would I know if people were claiming to love me for my own sake, or simply to avoid punishment? How can I expect someone to love me who is afraid of me in the first place? The threat of eternal torment might scare some people into obedience, but it does nothing to inspire love. If you treated me with threats and intimidations, I would have to reconsider my admiration for your character.

How would you feel if you had brought some children into the world knowing that they were going to be tormented eternally in a place you built for them? Could you live with yourself? Wouldn’t it have been better not to have brought them into the world in the first place?

I know that some of you feel that hell is just a metaphor. Do you feel the same way about heaven?

Anyway, this whole love argument is wrong. Since I am perfect, I don’t lack anything. I can’t be lonely. I don’t need to be loved. I don’t even want to be loved because to want is to lack. To submit to the potential of giving and receiving love is to admit that I can be hurt by those who choose not to love me. If you can hurt me, I am not perfect. If I can’t be hurt, I can’t love. If I ignore or erase those who do not love me, sending them off to hell or oblivion, then my love is not sincere. If all I am doing is throwing the dice of “free will” and simply reaping the harvest of those who choose to love me, then I am a selfish monster. If you played such games with people’s lives, I would call you insensitive, conceited, insecure, selfish and manipulative.

I know you have tried to get me off the hook. You explain that Yours Truly is not responsible for the sufferings of unbelievers because rejection of God is their choice, not mine. They had a corrupt human nature, you explain. Well, who gave them their human nature? If certain humans decide to do wrong, where do they get the impulse? If you think it came from Satan, who created Satan? And why would some humans be susceptible to Satan in the first place? Who created that susceptibility? If Satan was created perfect, and then fell, where did the flaw of perdition come from? If I am perfect, then how in God’s name did I end up creating something that would not choose perfection? Someone once said that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.

Here is the title for your next theological tome: Was Eve Perfect? If she was, she would not have taken the fruit. If she wasn’t, I created imperfection.

Maybe you think all of this gives me a purpose–putting Humpty Dumpty back together–but it actually gives me a headache. (If you won’t permit me a simple headache, then how can you allow me the pain of lost love?) I could not live with myself if I thought my actions were causing harm to others. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Since I think you created me, I suppose I should let you tell me what I could live with. If you think it is consistent with my character to tolerate love and vengeance concurrently, then I have no choice. If you are my creator, then I could spout tenderness out of one side of my mouth and brutality out of the other. I could dance with my lover on the bones of my errant children, and pretend to enjoy it. I would be very human indeed.

I have a thousand more questions, but I hope you will allow me one more:

How do I decide what is right and wrong?

I don’t know how I got here, but I’m here. Let’s just say that my purpose is to make good people out of my creations. Let’s say that I am to help you learn how to be perfect like me, and that the best way is for you to act just like me, or like I want you to act. You goal is to become little mirrors of myself. Won’t that be splendid? I’ll give you rules or principles, and you try to follow them. This may or may not be meaningful, but it will keep us both busy. I suppose that from your point of view this would be terribly meaningful, since you think I have the power to reward and punish.

I know that some of you Protestant theologians think that I give rewards not for good deeds, but simply for believing in my son Jesus who paid the punishment for your bad deeds. Well, Jesus spent only about thirty-six hours of an eternal life sentence in hell and is now back up here in ultimate coziness with me. Talk about a wrist-slap! He was not paroled for good behavior–he was simply released. (He had connections.) If my righteous judgment demanded absolute satisfaction, then Jesus should have paid the price in full, don’t you think?

Beyond that, it is entirely incomprehensible to me why you think I would accept the blood of one individual for the crime of another. Is that fair? Is that justice? If you commit a felony, does the law allow your brother to serve the jail sentence for you? If someone burglarized your home, would you think justice was served if a friend bought you new furniture? Do you really think that I am such a bloodthirsty dictator that I will be content with the death of anyone for the crime of another? And are you so disrespectful of justice that you would happily accept a stand-in for your crimes? What about personal responsibility? It is tough to open my arms to welcome believers into heaven who have avoided the rap for their own actions. Something is way out of kilter here.

But let’s ignore these objections. Let’s assume that Jesus and I worked it all out and that evil will be punished and good rewarded. How do I know the difference? You are insisting that I not consult any rule book. You are asking me to be the Final Authority. I must simply decide, and you must trust my decision. Am I free to decide whatever I want?

Suppose I decide that I would like you to honor me with a day of my own. I like the number seven, I don’t know why, maybe because it is the first useless number. (You never sing any hymns to me in 7/4 time.) Let’s divide the calendar into groups of seven days and call them weeks. For harmony, I’ll divide each lunar phase into roughly seven days. The last day of the week–or maybe the first day, I don’t care–I’ll set aside for myself. Let’s call it the Sabbath. This all feels good, so I suppose it is the right thing to do. I’ll make a law ordering you to observe the Sabbath, and if you do it then I will pronounce you good people. In fact, I’ll make it one of my Big Ten Commandments, and I’ll order your execution if you disobey. This all makes perfect sense, I don’t know why.

Help me out here. How am I supposed to choose what is moral? Since I can’t consult any authority, the thing to do, it appears, is to pick randomly. Actions will become right or wrong simply because I declare them to be so. If I whimsically say that you should not make any graven or molten images of “anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” then that is that. If I decide that murder is right and compassion is wrong, you will have to accept it.

Is that all there is to it? I just decide, willy-nilly, what is right and what is wrong? Or worse, I decide based on whatever makes me feel good? I have read in some of your literature that you denounce such self-centered attitudes.

Some of you say that since I am perfect, I can’t make any mistakes. Whatever I choose to be right or wrong will be in accordance with my nature, and since I am perfect, then my choices will be perfect. In any event, my choices will certainly be better than your choices, you feel. But what does “perfect” mean? If my nature is “perfect” (whatever it means), then I am living up to a standard. If I am living up to a standard, then I am not God. If perfection means something all by itself, apart from me, then I am constrained to follow its path. If, on the other hand, perfection is defined simply as conformity to my nature, then it doesn’t mean anything. My nature can be what it wants, and perfection will be defined accordingly. Do you see the problem here? If “perfection” equals “God,” then it is just a synonym for myself, and we can do away with the word. We could do away with either word, take your pick.

If I am perfect, then there are certain things that I cannot do. If I am not free to feel envy, lust, or malice, for example, then I am not omnipotent. I cannot be more powerful than you if you can feel and do things that I cannot.

Additionally, if you feel that God is perfect, by nature, what does “nature” mean? The word is used to describe the way things are or act in nature, and since you think I am above nature, you must mean something else, something like “character,” or “attributes.” To have a nature or character means to be one way and not another. It means that there are limits. Why am I one way and not another? How did it get decided that my nature would be what it is? If my “nature” is clearly defined, then I am limited. I am not God. If my nature has no limits, as some of you suggest, then I have no nature at all, and to say that God has such-and-such a nature is meaningless. In fact, if I have no limits, then I have no identity; and if I have no identity, then I do not exist.

Who am I?

This brings me back to the conundrum: if I don’t know who I am, then how can I decide what is right? Do I just poke around in myself until I come up with something?

There is one course I could pursue, and some of you have suggested this for yourselves. I could base my pronouncements on what is best for you humans. You people have physical bodies that bump around in a physical world. I could determine those actions that are healthy and beneficial for material beings in a material environment. I could make morality something material: something that is relative to human life, not to my whims. I could declare (by conclusion, not by edict) that harming human life is bad, and that helping or enhancing human life is good. This would be like providing an operation manual for something I designed and manufactured. It would require me to know all about human nature and the environment in which you humans live, and to communicate these ideas to you.

This makes a lot of sense, but it changes my task from one of determining morality to one of communicating morality. If morality is discovered in nature, then you don’t need me, except maybe to prod you along. I saw to it that you have capable minds with the ability to reason and do science. There is nothing mysterious about studying how humans interact with nature and with each other, and you should be able to come up with your own set of rules. Some of you tried this millennia before Moses. Even if your rules contradict mine, I couldn’t claim any higher authority than you. At least you would be able to give reasons for your rules, which I can only do by submitting to science myself.

If morality is defined by how human beings exist in nature, then you don’t need me at all. I am off the hook! From what I have read, most of you have your feet on the ground with no help from me. I could hand down some stone tablets containing what I think is right and wrong, but it would still be up to you to see if they work in the real world. I think we all agree that grounded reason is better than the whim of an ungrounded deity.

This is a wonderful approach, but what bothers me is that while this may help you know what is moral in your environment, it doesn’t help me much. I don’t have an environment. I’m out here flapping in the breeze. I envy you.

Nor does the humanistic approach help those of you who want morality to be rooted in something absolute, outside of yourselves. It must be frightening for you who need an anchor to realize that there is no bottom to the ocean. Well, it’s frightening for me also. I don’t have an anchor of my own. That’s why I’m asking for your help.

Thank you for reading my letter, and for letting me impose on your busy schedule. Please answer at your convenience. I have all the time in the world.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly