Preaching to the choir

I was bored and looking for something to blog about, so I typed “apologetics” into Google, and clicked one of the ads that came up. It happened to be for an apologetics ministry named Solid Reasons, SolidReasonsAdand I gotta say, that’s a pretty slick and shiny-looking web site. I don’t know who they’ve got doing their design and coding, but I can tell you, a fancy web site like that ain’t cheap.

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Be careful what you wish for

There’s a meme going around right now that reviews a bit of political history. Remember the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton for sexual misconduct in the late 90’s? They were led by a Republican legislator who, at the time, was hiding a sexual affair. He was supposed to be replaced by another Republican who had to step down because he was having a sexual affair. The Republicans then elected a new Speaker of the House, who is currently under investigation because of suspicious payments he made to cover up alleged sexual molestation of boys.

The meme doesn’t explicitly call this out, but I think it’s worth mentioning that these are all men who were elected by conservative Christians trying to put God back in government. Separation of church and state isn’t some plot to try and marginalize Christians. It’s just that mingling politics and religion is a bad idea, and harms both the state and the church.

Tell, don’t ask

A while back, I came to a conclusion that seems (to me) quite profound: that religion is a live-action role-playing game, an adult version of the old “the floor is lava!” game some of us played when we were young. God, angels, demons, god-hating atheists, etc, are all non-player characters in this game, and prayer and superstition create the link between things in the real world and things as they exist in the mind of the believer. It’s degenerate play, in the sense that participants have lost the crucial ability to distinguish between the fantasy and the reality, but it’s still basically a game of pretend.

That’s kind of cool, and it explains a lot, but then I have to ask, “So what?” What good does it do us to understand this? If this is going to be more than just something that’s nice to know, we need some way to apply it to our interactions with religion. And I think one of those ways is that it tells us how we ought to discuss religion with believers.

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Faith under pressure

I’ve been an atheist for a good while now, but for the first 40-some years of my life I was an old-fashioned American Christian. It’s where I developed my original sense of what kind of place the world was, and what the difference is between right and wrong. And I think that’s why part of me is continually astonished by the continual rabid lust Christians have for persecuting people who are different in harmless ways.

It’s as though all the civil rights advances of the past 80 years have been putting the Christian faith under more and more pressure by denying them an outlet for their desire to hurt people. And now, with a black guy in the White House, and gay couples being allowed the same privileges as heterosexual couples, believers have had enough.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #9 and #10

This should about wrap up TodayChristian’s list of “unanswerable” questions, because we can do two questions in one post. Here’s question #9.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

That’s an easy one to answer: they’re all authors, they’ve written some interesting and controversial books, and they have their flaws as well as their strengths, same as anybody else. I like some of the things they’ve written, such as The God Delusion by Dawkins, and I’ve seen some of their ad hoc writings that suggest negative traits ranging from privileged sexism to outright irrational xenophobia and Islamophobia. But that’s about it.

I’m not sure why this is on the list of “10 Unanswerable Questions.” Does TodayChristian think these three modern writers invented atheism or something? Anyway, there’s not much more to say about #9, so let’s take the last question.

TodayChristian’s last “unanswerable” question is this:

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

A question like that invites the counter question: If there is a God, why does ever society have more than one religion? But let’s answer the question that was asked, below the fold.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #8

TodayChristian’s Question #8, on the list of “unanswerable” questions, is a three-fer.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

The answer for all three questions is the same, and unfortunately it’s a bit harsh. The explanation for all of the above questions is that people are gullible.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #6

Today’s “unanswerable” question is another easy one.

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

Easy: God has nothing to do with meaning. Meaning exists apart from God, and comes from the fundamentally-ordered nature of reality itself. But I’m getting ahead of myself. To really answer TodayChristian’s question, we should first examine what he or she is really asking.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #5

Question #5, from TodayChristian’s list of 10 “unanswerable” questions, finally creates an interesting problem. Not because it’s particularly hard to answer, but because it’s essentially a re-phrasing of question #4.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

This is the real problem with superstition-based moral systems like Christianity. Because TodayChristian’s faith wants to make God the only reason why people do anything, he or she has completely failed to understand what the real-world constraints are on our behavior. And in fact, TodayChristian has it completely backwards, in some ways. People who have a God are often more likely to feel free to do what they want, up to and including murder and rape. It’s the atheists, who understand that actions have material consequences, who have the best basis for consistent good behavior.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #4

So far, TodayChristian’s 10 “unanswerable” questions have turned out to be pretty easy to answer. Question 4 is no harder.

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

All good morality comes from the same place: material reality. Even Christians take their morals from material reality, for the most part. Sure, they superstitiously attribute them to God, and tack on a number of arbitrary, harmful “moral” codes that aren’t really moral at all. But ultimately, morality is dictated by material reality, apart from anything any god could say or do.

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