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May 22 2009

“Stop bashing my religion”

Fairly often, we get e-mails complaining about how we are only out to bash Christianity and will we please just stop. Usually, the author will have a glowing impression of their religion and its impact on the world and we are just misinformed.

We do beat up on Christianity. I know I do. I think it’s a good thing to make people aware of the harm that misplaced faith can cause, both in the abstract and the concrete. Christianity provides many examples. The fact that most Christians are unaware of the harm that their religion is cause is compounds the problem. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not a valid excuse.

Most of the problems we point out about Christianity apply to other religions, as well. But perhaps I am being somehow unfair to Christianity. I try to be open to criticism myself so that I’m not perceived as a hypocrite and so I’m not closed to opportunities to learn and grow.

My first response is usually, “Can you give me an example where I/we have unfairly criticized your religion?” This usually gets me no response. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are making a lame attempt to silence the critics of their cherished belief system. If you can’t provide evidence for a claim, then why should anyone take the claim seriously?

One thing I’m “guilty” of is pointing at a subgroup of Christianity such as the religious right, the fundamentalists, or the evangelicals, and implying that these groups represent the whole. Under most circumstances, this sort of generalization would be inappropriate. I do feel it is appropriate for Christianity. Christians claim that their god is the author of the one true absolute morality. They claim that their god is omniscient and created all of humanity, including Christians themselves. They claim to be able to talk with that god via prayer and that the god can guide those with faith. They claim that their god is the same as Jesus who they strive to emulated and follow. They claim that the “Holy Ghost” is the same as their god and that it dwells within believers. How is it then, that there is can be any Christian subgroup that is doing something embarrassing to Christianity? The simple answer is that one or more of these claims are false. I try to get the complainer to identify which of these assumptions is incorrect. I have yet to get a response.

Perhaps a believer can claim that they alone have the true religion™ and that everyone else is a poser. Such a claim would need to be justified, but it’s easy to demonstrate that most believers don’t think that way. Overall, Christians value tolerance of other religious beliefs, especially those of other Christian sects. This tolerance grew out of centuries of killing each-other in holy wars because none of the warring parties had any solid evidence for their beliefs. The lack of an objective reality underlying their belief systems explains the large number of competing sects of the various religions of the world.

Tolerance can be insidious, however. You often hear, “Thou shalt not judge…” especially when somebody is trying to soft peddle some heinous act to which they are a party. I view this attitude as an agreement among thugs. It means, “You don’t draw attention to how I’m screwing people over, and I won’t draw attention to how you’re screwing people over.” Practically speaking, it’s a free pass for the thugs to screw people over, which is exactly what Christianity does so well. “You don’t hold me accountable for my rape of children and I won’t hold you accountable for your obsession with trying to end the world via meddling in the Middle East.” “Let’s get together in the spirit of ecumenicism and trash the next guy.” Usually the next guy is a non-believer.

My attitude is that believers should be held responsible for the harm done based on those beliefs. We’re doing our part by pointing out the systematic problems caused by religious belief. Those who just complain about our message obviously want to evade that responsibility. Perhaps I should take heart that these people are motivated to somehow reduce their discomfort. With a little guidance, they might be encouraged to take responsibility for their religion or leave it. Either way is fine with me.

54 comments

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  1. 1
    Pastor Swish

    I’ll come right out and say that we see things quite differently. I am a pastor, so obviously we are not on the same page as far as religion goes.However, don’t you think it is intellectually dishonest to point out the major flaws and tragedies that have occurred from religion while at the same time ignoring similar flaws in the secular realm as well? If you think that believers need to be held responsible for the harm done by their beliefs, don’t you think non-believers should also be held responsible for the damage that their beliefs have caused? More specifically, if you want to point to the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition (among other faults of Christian history) as terrible things that Christians have done, shouldn’t you also point to the tragedies perpetrated by Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein (all of whom were secular in their beliefs)?People are people. Unfortunately, some haven’t been living up to the tenets of their faith, and they make a bad name for all Christians. But couldn’t the same be said for non-believers?

  2. 2
    Zurahn

    don’t you think non-believers should also be held responsible for the damage that their beliefs have causedI think you’ve missed the definition of atheist or non-believer. i.e. it’s NOT a belief, it’s a lack thereof, which itself has no consequence. Beliefs can lead to actions, and it’s the appalling beliefs that led to atrocities, not a belief they did not hold.But, there is a sense in which you’re right. That is, it’s not a matter of harm done, it’s a matter of Christianity being wrong. Even if Christianity were completely benign, it would still be negative because it’s wrong. It’s like claiming a need for a god to scare you into doing good — it has nothing to do with whether or not the actual claim is true.

  3. 3
    John Stabler

    Pastor:Atheism is just a descriptive label. It is not some belief system or worldview. It is not based on any book or philosophy. So it is not possible for atheism to be the motivation for anything.Murderous atheists are murderers because they are bad people, not because atheism can make people bad.I don’t know who said it, but I’ll paraphrase:”Good people do good things and bad people do bad things. But to make a good person do bad, now that takes religion.”To be fair to religion I can add other things such as some ideologies or nationalism.You need to make the distinction between people’s beliefs and motivations.

  4. 4
    chaosof99

    Pastor Swish, the difference is that of motivation. I have yet to hear about a murder in the name of atheism and atheism in itself is not a system of believes and does not say anything about how to deal with people who actually do believe in a god.To use an example, Stalin’s specific hatred for religion was caused by the russian orthodox church kicking him out of the priests seminar because he couldn’t pay their fees anymore.On the other hand, the crusades and the spanish inquisition (which nobody expects) you brought up where directly inspired and sanctioned by religious organizations.

  5. 5
    Don Baker

    Pastor Swish,Everyone should be responsible for (the harm) caused by their beliefs. I should have made that clear. This is why it’s morally important to make sure one’s beliefs are correct.Others have pointed out that the lack of a belief (in god) is not a motivation to kill, whereas belief in a god often is. There’s an asymmetry between atheism and theism in that regard. The other major difference is that Christians claim to have a god on their side. Shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard? Read my 5th paragraph again.

  6. 6
    Martin

    Since folks have already done a good job of correcting some of Pastor Swish’s mistaken premises, I won’t repeat them, but I will make the following comments for clarity purposes.Here’s the reason atheism doesn’t motivate evil deeds: In order for a person to take the nonexistence of God as permission to engage in wanton immorality, that person must first agree with the idea that morality, and by extension punishment for immorality, originates with God. As atheists don’t believe God exists, then we do not think God is the source of morality and moral rules. On the contrary, atheists recognize that moral precepts were developed by human beings throughout 10,000 years of developing civilization, in order to ensure species survival.So, atheism can be no motivator for evil deeds, any more than not believing in any other mythical being (Tooth Fairy, Shiva, Bigfoot, Thor, the FSM) can be.Certainly an atheist can be an evil person. But this brings us to point two. People don’t commit evil acts based on what they don’t believe, but on what they do believe. I have never heard a theist who’s seen fit to throw Stalin and Pol Pot in my face provide any evidence whatsoever, in any of these men’s writings or another similarly trustworthy source, proving their atheism was the primary motivating factor in their deeds. Find me something in Stalin’s papers that says, “Because I do not believe in God, it is therefore acceptable for me to initiate pogroms that will kill upwards of 20 million people.” You won’t find them, because they don’t exist.Stalin and Pol Pot were motivated by their megalomania and their lust for power. Certainly atheists can be guilty of these failings, just as theists can. But it will be megalomania and the lust for power that are the motives, not their rejection of God belief.In a sense, Pastor Swish, you seem to understand this, though you may not be aware of it. You ask, “If you think that believers need to be held responsible for the harm done by their beliefs, don’t you think non-believers should also be held responsible for the damage that their beliefs have caused?” And the answer to this is, “Absolutely!” You just need to remember that it will be their beliefs, not their non-belief (in God), that lead them to do harm.Throughout history, you will find examples of theists committing all manner of atrocities, and being very open about the fact they’re doing this based primarily on what they believe their God expects of them. Once more with feeling: people commit acts based on what they do believe, not based on what they don’t. Theism, therefore, can become a very strong motive for evil deeds, though it is true (and we have never sought to claim otherwise) that most theists never feel motivated towards monumental acts of evil. As humans, we are hardwired towards cooperation and altruism, though religion always tries to lay claim to that aspect of our nature…perhaps to cover for its own lack of moral foundation.Finally, can we declare a moratorium on the vapid term “intellectually dishonest,” which theists disproportionately love to throw into conversations, perhaps under the mistaken idea that its use gives their position more intellectual weight?

  7. 7
    maddogdelta

    DonOverall, Christians value tolerance of other religious beliefs, especially those of other Christian sects. This tolerance grew out of centuries of killing each-other in holy wars because none of the warring parties had any solid evidence for their beliefs.I will make the observation that “Christian tolerance” only goes as far as their lack of absolute power. The secular founders of this country recognized what would happen if any one religion were allowed to grab absolute power in this country, and crafted a constitution to prevent that.However, as soon as any one christian sect gets and holds at least majority power, then religious tolerance goes down the shiatter. Check out Northern Ireland for “Christian Tolerance”.Want a more American example, consider Joel’s army, or, for that matter 2001-2009. The right wing needed Catholics to stay on board to maintain power, so they stayed very tolerant of them, but they weren’t very tolerant of any religious viewpoint which wasn’t solidly conservative.PastorStalin and Pol PotCan you show me any documented evidence that either of those two murdered people because they held religious beliefs? Good evidence for this might be:1) Not murdering communist party members2) Holding mock trials, emphasizing that the accused were being executed solely for their religious beliefs3) Commuting sentences after a renunciation of someone’s beliefs.Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists…but not in the way you think they were. They were atheist because they believed in no higher power than themselves. They turned themselves into the deity which their subjects needed to worship to stay alive.By the way…the answers to the above points:1) Anyone perceived to be a threat to Stalin was murdered. Army generals, high ranking members of the party were especially vulnerable to his purges. The Ukraine was starved because they resisted collectivization, which was interpreted as a rebellion against Soviet AuthorityPol Pot murdered anyone considered to be middle class or higher, or who showed any signs of being part of the intelligentsia. This included religious leaders, and atheists. If you wore glasses, you would be killed. Again, he didn’t kill only the religious.2) Almost all mock trials centered around treason as the reason for the execution3) you only survived in Cambodia by acting dumb and getting lucky. You only survived in the Soviet union by either not making waves, or if Stalin thought you might be useful. Communist party membership wasn’t a way to avoid the gulag, neither was renouncing your religion.

  8. 8
    Pastor Swish

    I think we have a fundamental disagreement on the nature of atheism. I know that atheism is not a strict set of 1-2-3 beliefs; however, to say that a lack of belief is the absence of belief entirely is inaccurate. While Mr. Atheist A may have a different philosophical worldview than Mr. Atheist B, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some fundamental tenets that unite the two – one in particular is the gamble that there is no God. Lack of belief is a unifying belief. Don’t pretend that you are in a vacuum simply because you don’t believe in God. These lack of beliefs do, even in the smallest way, affect your actions on a daily basis. We cannot separate our actions from our beliefs, no matter how insignificant it may be.Likewise, Mr. Christian A and Mr. Christian B may have very different theological beliefs, but they are still lumped together in the same category as “Christians” because they do share at least some fundamental characteristics. For example, I know a few pastors who are on the complete opposite end of the theological spectrum, but they would still be seen as Christian, even though I may have some doubts about our connection.Now, one of the arguments in the blog refers to there being a lack of Christian subgroups. It references common beliefs between Christian believers (which, I might add, are not necessarily common amongst those who claim to be Christian) to come to the conclusion that there are no subgroups. If that is to be the case, then secularists can also be said to be the same as well because there are a handful of beliefs that unite them, even if they are few and far between.Those who refer to motivation as the primary factor in religious atrocities – what is it in Scripture (as a whole) that motivation these atrocities? Because the bottom line is that those who understand and follow Scripture as a whole, and not in cut-up little segments, do not have the motivation to commit such atrocities. If you are willing to point to atrocities committed by Christians (or other religious groups) as a whole, then you better be prepared to point to atrocities of those who are unified by their lack of belief, even if they are as different as night and day from who you are as a non-believer. The excuses that they are just bad people or egomaniacs don’t really matter because the bottom line is some of those same people simply claim to be religious all the while failing to live up to the standards that they claim to protect.

  9. 9
    Aardvark

    Pastor:…no.-You posit the claim “there is a god”.-I ask you “what is the evidence for this claim?”-You either fail to give me evidence, or I do not accept the evidence you give me-Because you cannot provide sufficient evidence, I do not accept your claim that god exists.-I therefore I do not hold true the position that a god exists. I.e. I lack the belief in a god.Tell me how I can kill thousands and thousands of people because I do not accept your claim. Tell me how I can kill thousands of thousands of people because I don’t believe in the easter bunny too. The flying spaghetti monster. Zeus, and all the rest. It is a complete non sequitur.These people did not kill BECAUSE they were atheists. They just happened to be atheists, who killed because of a DIFFERENT SORT OF MOTIVATION. There is nothing in atheism that can possibly lead them to committing any of those atrocious acts. They could’ve been megalomanical nut jobs, and religion had nothing to do with it.I, and we are able to tie Christians actions to their belief in Christianity because of the framework it provides, something that atheism doesn’t. Christianity has you at the feet of some guy, who commanded his people go out and trash up the world for a whole bunch of different reasons. They could do it before so why not do it again? It’s clearly what god wants, isn’t it? The Bible tries to offer advice for certain situations, much of which is just bad advice.I cannot stone my child to death because I do not believe in god. I can however stone my child to death and happen to not believe in god. If I do believe in god, and specifically the christian god, I most certainly stone my child to death. Why? The Bible says so. Disobedient children can be stoned to death. It provides me with a framework of law and order. Where’s atheism’s framework for law and order? Where’s the framework for what’s good and whats not. Please tell me SOMETHING that atheism provides me with. I’ve got nothing. …well, you could argue it provides me with an skeptical freethinking mind, but I would say that would be wrong: that skeptical freethinking mind led me to atheism. The same could be argued for Stalin and Pol Pot. They wished to be rulers. The ruler wants to be ultimately in charge. The belief in a god conflicts with that notion. So they happily discard that notion to avoid cognitive dissonance. Their ideals lead to their atheism, not the other way around.

  10. 10
    maddogdelta

    @Pastor SwishThe unifying tenet of anyone who has an atheistic worldview is that they do not believe in a god. That’s it. There is nothing else there. You can also, by extension, point out that the unifying feature of people who don’t play chess is that they don’t play chess. Does that say anything else about those people?I like how you mention Pascal’s wager, however, you are taking an even bigger wager. What if the god you are worshiping is incorrect? It seems with the tens of thousands of gods that have been worshiped, betting on one of them is pretty thin odds. Not only, that, but you are also betting on one particular interpretation of the Bible. There are other Christians who disagree with you. And I know that you don’t hold with what the Catholics say at all. What if you are wrong on that? — Are you saved by faith, or by works? I can find quotes from the bible to support both statements.Now, I will admit that my lack of belief in a god does affect how I act. I try to be the best person I can, because I won’t get a second chance. I try to do good where I can, and make other people’s lives better when I can. I don’t sacrifice goats to mecca, I don’t spend hours each week on my knees, and I don’t do bad things and pretend it’s ok because I’m “saved”.I also think you missed your point about the lack of subgroups. The point was that there is a core to Christianity which is there in almost every Christian sect, that core is essentially the Nicene creed (as long as the word ‘catholic’ is in lower case!). And the point made was in regard to the communities who call themselves Christian almost invariably adhere to the beliefs in this creed (with minor wording/capitalization issues)Lastly, I would say that you are treading on some very thin ice if you want to say that “Because the bottom line is that those who understand and follow Scripture as a whole, and not in cut-up little segments, do not have the motivation to commit such atrocities.”I might remind you to 1) Read the book of Deuteronomy, which elucidates standards of behavior, and punishments for violating those rules and 2) The book of Matthew, which states, in no uncertain terms, that the old law still applies.Instead, I will counter and say that you don’t do bad things, not because your book tells you not to do bad things, but that you are a good person. Would you kill your children if you though God was telling you to? Abraham almost did, Andrea Yates almost had a double hat trick. But I would like to think that if you started to hear those voices, you might instead think “my god wouldn’t tell me to do that, so I must be sick” and seek treatment.

  11. 11
    Pastor Swish

    What is the difference between a Christian who ignores the two basic commands of the faith (love God, love your neighbor; said by Jesus n the gospels) and commits atrocities and the atheist who is not concerned at all with the ultimate judgment and commits the same atrocities?Did the “Christian” do it because he was motivated by faith (even though what was does runs counter to faith), and the atheist do it because he is just a “bad” person? Why is it that the Christian who goes against everything his religion states represents all Christians while the atheist doesn’t represent all atheists?And, no, not all who claim to be Christian would agree with the Nicene Creed. I know people who claim to be Christian that don’t even believe that Jesus rose from the dead, which is a basic belief in Christianity.I think we might be at an impasse. Clearly, nobody is going to change their mind on this particular issue, nor do I think that was the point of this discussion anyway. We see things differently, and that’s just how it is. Good discussion. Peace to you all.

  12. 12
    Aardvark

    Pastor:You point out the nice happy bits of the Bible, but what about all the parts that tell you to kill kill kill god has said so? These towns, the people in them are sinners. They must be destroyed!It’s possible to spin the Bible to agree with almost any point of view.The only requirement, in my opinion, to be a christian is to accept Jesus is as the Jewish Messiah. So it makes sense to me people might reject other components of the faith.I’ll be concerned with the ultimate judgement when I’ve confirmed there’s a judge to do the judging.I would say that the Christian who commits atrocities and the atheist who commits atrocities are somewhat similar, in the regard that the christian has a framework to tell him how to live – that framework is his religion. The atheists framework has NOTHING TO DO with religion. It is his own beliefs and values on all sorts of things in the world. Our beliefs and values influence the things we do, not our lack of beliefs.

  13. 13
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Pastor, You seem a bit confused. You acknowledge that atheism isn’t a set of belief, but then you say that that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some fundamental tenets. Except that it also doesn’t mean that there are. I haven't exhaustively researched this, but I have personally found no positive claim that encompasses all atheists. Not even your claim of a 'gamble' that there is no god. You seem to have missed the point Martin was making. Unless you have a specific god in mind, there is no issue of a gamble, just like if I roll a regular dice I am not taking a gamble on whether it will come up 'green'. Its a meaningless issue. Lack of belief in gods does affect our decisions, e.g. in that we tend not to do things that are expressly commanded by religions. However there is no positive action that can be derived logically from lack of belief. You can become an atheist from a multitude of different standing points. You can have a solely atheistic, Evangelical, R.Catholic, or Muslim background, and become an atheist without coming into contact with any of the others, and have a completely different outlook. Feel free to explain what type of positive action can necessarily derive from lack of belief.Christianity OTOH, has some base requirements. You need to believe in a creator god, who sent his son on earth to die, and that this story is presented in the scriptures.And as I mentioned scriptures, I find oyur statement "Because the bottom line is that those who understand and follow Scripture as a whole, and not in cut-up little segments, do not have the motivation to commit such atrocities." is an interesting one. I have read the abrahamic scriptures (OT & NT and a part of the Koran) and what I find was that 'as a whole' the book is a self-contradicting mess.When people say they take the book as a whole, what they usually mean is, they find a passage, or passages they agree with, construct a base framework, then proceed to interpret the rest of the scripture where it seems to contradict their conclusion. The fact that this can be done a multitude of times, and that believers are overly eager to write off the more questionable parts of the book as metaphor and parable troubles me.

  14. 14
    Cafeeine Addicted

    “What is the difference between a Christian who ignores the two basic commands of the faith (love God, love your neighbor; said by Jesus n the gospels) and commits atrocities and the atheist who is not concerned at all with the ultimate judgment and commits the same atrocities?”The first one is making a choice to disobey what he thinks is his god. We know at the very least it is an act of disobedience.For the second one, we have no information as to why he committed the atrocities. No atheist is concerned at all with the ultimate judgment, so since not every atheist commits atrocities, that demonstrably can’t be a factor.”Did the “Christian” do it because he was motivated by faith (even though what was does runs counter to faith), and the atheist do it because he is just a “bad” person? Why is it that the Christian who goes against everything his religion states represents all Christians while the atheist doesn’t represent all atheists?”That is a straw man argument. Not every atrocity committed by a believer can or is attributed to their religion. When however there are many verses in your scripture that advocate killing, slaughtering, raping, enslaving, both by god and his chosen people, by what standard do you deny some people’s interpretation of these scriptures to do deplorable acts? Can you scripturally denounce the Westboro Baptist Church without at some point reaching a “You’re wrong because I/my pastor/the Pope/someone I believe said so”? When we condemn all Xians for the actions of a few is partly that essentailly, all manner of interpretations are valid and it is the mindless faith that causes the problems. Furthermore, what I’ve noticed is that even when some believers do extreme things moderates aren’t completely comfortable with, they fail to speak up, out of some misguided sense of respect. Extreme cases of this are the pedophilia cover ups. When brought up, a lot of belivers counter us with arguments that pedophilia is not just a religious phenomenon, which we agree with. Pedophilia is a psychological issue that should be dealt by professionals, that can occur everywhere. It is the coverups that was are all in a huff about. These are behaviors inherent in the organized religious mentality.”And, no, not all who claim to be Christian would agree with the Nicene Creed. I know people who claim to be Christian that don’t even believe that Jesus rose from the dead, which is a basic belief in Christianity.”And there are groups called “Atheists for Jesus” which kinda goes against your original point.”I think we might be at an impasse. Clearly, nobody is going to change their mind on this particular issue, nor do I think that was the point of this discussion anyway. We see things differently, and that’s just how it is. Good discussion. Peace to you all.”Well, I would change my mind if you have any solid evidence for the existence to provide. However, you coming here telling us that we MUST have some common beliefs that were also responsible for Stalin and Pol Pot’s atrocities, being thoroughly refuted and then talking about an impasse makes me wonder about what you thought this discussion was about. Surely you didn’t wish to come here, tell us atheists what we really believe in, and are disappointed that we don’t accept your views about the “beliefs of non-believers” unquestioningly, as a flock might?Please stay, present your arguments. Who knows, you might be the first to have a good one.

  15. 15
    Grey d'Miyu

    @Pastor Swish:Your comments are old news. They have been answered at great length both by Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. I believe it was Sam Harris who said, paraphrased, “the problem with Stalin and Pol Pot wasn’t that they were too rational, it was that they weren’t rational enough.” Needless to say your canards have been addressed for years now.@Don’s original article:You started off saying that people complain that you’re only out to bash Christians. I disagree with that. I’ve only listened to the past 2-3 months of Non-Prophets and Atheist Experience and while a good portion of the criticism of religion uses Christian examples it is neither exclusive to Christian examples nor focused solely on Christianity. To me the reason there is a perceived focus on Christianity is because the show(s) are American and here in the US the dominant branch of religion is Christianity. I have no doubts that if we had a large enough Islam contingent that their actions would have more of an impact on our day-to-day lives and more of the criticism would naturally fall on that faith.That certainly seems to be the case for the non-American Atheist commentator I follow on Youtube, Pat Condell. His European focus is almost exclusively on Islam. But then, unlike here, he’s had Islamist riots in his and his neighboring countries. It is no wonder that his focus is going to be different. It isn’t that for him Christianity is a problem, it is just that right now it is a less of a problem. The same goes here. It isn’t that Islam (or any other religion) isn’t a problem it is just that it is less of a problem than the dominant sect of this region.

  16. 16
    OGI

    i personally do not consider people like Stalin, Pol Pot, etc,… as atheists. In fact everything about their systems more closely resembles your typical religion than anything else (cult of personality, blind obedience, supreme power,…)These people were (demi) gods.I remember a documentary on North Korea that I saw a while ago, people were still bowing to pictures and statues of Kim Il-sung which were everywhere – public and private places. And the man’s been dead since 1994… Exactly the same as christians and others do with their symbols.That’s not atheism, it’s just a form of religion.

  17. 17
    Guillaume

    I want first to comment on the post itself, if I may… I think the problem with moderate Christians is their tolerance…to fanatic ones. I think it is mainly because the fundies are more militant and therefore get/keep more people in the faith than moderates. Religion is also a business after all, it develops and survives through its most zealous members, which are most likely to spend money, time and effort to maintain said church, congregation, etc. It is the same in the Islamic world, where the radical Muslims have hijacked the faith and the moderate usually excuse the exactions committed by the fundies or at best stay silent.About the “agreement among thugs” (I loved that one, it’s so acurate), it can extend to outside Christianity. During the Danish cartoons controversy, the first reaction of the Pope, George Bush, Tony Blair was to comdemn the cartoons (as it was mocking faith and all), then they gave some half-assed defence of free speech. It was a disgusting act of cowardice, it was also revealing: among believers, it is the secularist that is the problem, not the religious fanatics. @Pastor Swish-About God and moral, I will not repeat all of what was said here, let me add something: you are confusing the cause and the result. My atheism did not make me a moral person, but moral considerations (among other things) lead me to become a humanist, then an atheist.

  18. 18
    Barnetto

    @odiumi personally do not consider people like Stalin, Pol Pot, etc,… as atheists. In fact everything about their systems more closely resembles your typical religion than anything else (cult of personality, blind obedience, supreme power,…)I’m going to call no true scotsman on you. If you’re going to say that their system seemed religious then you’re going to start splitting hairs when you have to defend why their system is religious but the ACA meeting up on Sundays, doing charitable work, all holding to certain tenets (no god, rational thought) are NOT a religion.Unless Stalin and Pol Pot thought they were like Pharaoh, I don’t see any basis for a claim that they were like a religion and suddenly no longer in our camp.The key thing is that there is nothing inherent in atheism that caused their actions. Their actions were motivated by pursuit of power, a universal motivator that doesn’t work out well in the hands of un-compassionate people regardless of religious affiliation.

  19. 19
    OGI

    That’s just the point, they did consider themselves pharaohs or something to that effect. That’s also the reason why they had such hatred for christianity and other religions. I lived in a similar system I should now.Nazis are also a good example. When the state and its supreme leader become untouchable and ‘divine’ that’s no atheism. You’ve just replaced your supposed god(s) above for a material one here (hello Catholics).This behavior can be observed even today. There’s no coincidence that the religious right is usually the one that’s most prone to outbursts of ‘patriotism’ such as flag-waving, anthem singing (with your hand on your heart!) and other cheap pathos.Atheism is about skepticism, rational thinking and logic. Without those you are either a religion, denomination, sect or a cult. Especially when blindly following an extremely authoritarian god-like person.And to steal something fomr Bill Maher: “When you start to worship people and not principles that’s religion.”And your attempt to link what I wrote with the ACA is just nonsense and you know it.

  20. 20
    Guillaume

    About the Stalin debate, I would say that he was a technical atheist, as he did not believe in God. However, and it is an important nuance, any totalitarian state use the same indoctrination techniques as cults. Stalin’s contempt for the Orthodox Church (or indeed any Church) was not because he disagreed with the aim of the Church, but because he perceived it as a competitor for his own absolutist ideals. The ideologies were different, the ideas were the same. In a way, one could say that Soviet communism, Maoism, Nazism, were all Godless cults.

  21. 21
    DavidCT

    @ BarnettoYou said: “you’re going to start splitting hairs when you have to defend why their system is religious but the ACA meeting up on Sundays, doing charitable work, all holding to certain tenets (no god, rational thought) are NOT a religion.”These activities would also apply to my local humane society. Does that make us a religion worshiping cats and dogs?

  22. 22
    maddogdelta

    @pastorAnd, no, not all who claim to be Christian would agree with the Nicene Creed. I know people who claim to be Christian that don’t even believe that Jesus rose from the dead, which is a basic belief in Christianity.I do think that the Nicene creed is a reasonable starting point for defining Christianity. If you look at the early church, this creed was the codification of what the Church of Rome was defining as it’s core belief. This set apart the Roman church from the gnostic and other early branches of Christianity. i would postulate that if you were to calculate percentages of people who claim to be Christian and accept the fundamentals as specified in the Nicene creed, and those who do not (assuming a disagreement is major, like the divinity of Christ or some biggie. Orthodox Christianity doesn’t count because their quibble with the creed was over who the holy spirit “proceeds” from [you gotta be kidding me!])If you make this comparison, I think you will find that the number in the latter category is vanishingly small, whether you are counting sects, or individual believers.I think we might be at an impasse. Clearly, nobody is going to change their mind on this particular issue, nor do I think that was the point of this discussion anyway. We see things differently, and that’s just how it is. Good discussion. Peace to you all.No question about the impasse. However, I would ask, politely, that you tread more carefully about “what atheists believe”. Not to be a jerk, but many of the people involved in this forum, and especially at the ACA are former Christians of many different sects. Some of us were even serious enough about it to pursue careers as pastors/priests, therefore many of us are very well acquainted with Christian teaching. However, we find that the inverse is rarely true. The usual portrayal of an atheist by the religious is that we are all evil, serial rapists who will leave the toilet seat up and blow raspberries at your grandmother. (I will offer the Jack Chick website as evidence you can surf to, or if you prefer the RCC version, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor stated he doesn’t believe that atheists are “human” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbrfz1DIq9Q)However, we are open to discussion, and enjoy intelligent discussion with people who are interested in intelligent discussion. And we would be delighted to help dispel any preconceptions you may have about atheists or atheism.

  23. 23
    Barnetto

    And your attempt to link what I wrote with the ACA is just nonsense and you know it.Not at all.*You* took superficial similarities and declare that at the root of what Hitler and Stalin did was religion.(Superficial similarities between totalitarianism and religion being: one ideology, single party control, restriction of criticism and freedom, cult of personality, etc)So I take superficial similarities (the same sort of thing that the nuts latch onto when they say atheism is just another religion) to demonstrate why what you’ve done is silly.Why are you trying to blame religion for Stalin and Hitler’s crimes? To absolve atheism of their crimes it is entirely sufficient to show that there is no belief in atheism that necessitates genocide. But you continued to go one step further and not only absolve atheism, but then pin the blame on religion.Atheism is about skepticism, rational thinking and logic. Without those you are either a religion, denomination, sect or a cult. Especially when blindly following an extremely authoritarian god-like person.What about atheists who believe in acupuncture, chiropractic, chi, etc? Atheism is the description for a person who has no believe in a god. The rest of the stuff you listed is not necessary to be an atheist. Quit grasping at straws and accept that not every evil in the world is the fault of a non-atheistic worldview.

  24. 24
    Pastor Swish

    @maddogdeltaI do think that there are some fundamental similarities between Christians, even between those who disagree on particular issues; however, wouldn’t you also agree that there are fundamental similarities between atheists? They may be as basic as rationality and the belief in the absence of deity, but aren’t those as unifying as basic Christian beliefs? What have I said that would need me to “tread more carefully” about atheist beliefs? I have simply pointed out that there is a basic belief system in place, even if it is as wide and varied as the multiple interpretations of the Christian faith. I notice that my previous comment was removed. I’d be interested in hearing the reasoning behind that.Just FYI, I don’t think of atheist as people who “are all evil, serial rapists”. I recognize that there are good, honest, hardworking people who just don’t see the world the same way that I do. Of course, the whole “leaving the toilet seat up” part… well, I’m not too convinced.

  25. 25
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Pastor, the fundamental similarity between atheists is their lack of belief in any gods. The jump you make from this to a ‘basic belief system’, does not follow. That you define this supposed belief system as one that can be considered a cause for the atrocities of Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein is beyond absurd. To repeat an old adage, you might as well blame it on their mustaches.

  26. 26
    Pastor Swish

    @CABut the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith are also not held by all who may claim to be Christian. Not all believe that Jesus was the Son of God who was resurrected from the dead. Not all believe that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not all believe that God is even active in this world. Some think that prayer is merely a psychological construct and not actual communication with God. Yet, there is a basic understanding that all of these people are Christian, even if only in the loosest sense of the word, and that there is some sort of fundamental Christian belief system.The atheist belief system is as wide and varied as this Christian belief system. If you’ll notice, I didn’t say that lack of belief was the only thing basic to atheists. I don’t see a difference. Please, feel free to show how I am wrong.

  27. 27
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Pastor, I realize you didn’t say lack of belief was the only common thing. Yet that is the only common thing. You have yet to show us which common ideas, beliefs or practices you think connect us, even loosely to your above mentioned dictators. Then I can see if I think you’re wrong.As far as the definition of Christian, I will grant that there are many differences. However your examples are not all Christian fundamentals, but fundamentals of various subdivisions. However If we define christians as people who think a God exists, Jesus exists and the Bible is a presentation of their story, you still have a lot more specific positions than anything atheists would have. Furthermore, I am hesitant to include all nominal Christians as subcategories. One of the consequences of the smearing of the term ‘atheist’ by religions through the age is that people with positions far beyond traditional Xianity, kept the label due to social pressure, social concention or even pure self-defense. I was essentially an atheist all of my adult life, yet I declared myself a Christian, partly because it was the social norm and partly because the idea of godlessness had been presented to me as synonymous to lawlessness, wickedness and extreme arrogance. In fact, it is my personal opinion that the increase in open non-believers seen in recent posts reflects exactly these people who, like me, looked beyond the label’s added baggage and saw that ‘atheist’ was an apt definition for their existing position.At this point, I want to address a point I think is misunderstood by believers, when we bring up atrocities like the Inquisition. They assume it is a guilt trip, expecting some penance, which then leads to some kind of body count comparisons between massacres by atheists and massacres by theists.The point of mentioning these atrocities is to address the mechanisms that cause them to happen. In my opinion, many of these mechanisms are inherent in the structure of religion, particularly in the application of dogma and the suppression of dissent. When theists rebut with Stalin etc., they don’t go into these mechanisms. They take it as a given that atheism is directly responsible for these events and don’t try to corroborate it. In effect, many of the same mechanisms were used by Stalin and Hitler as were used by most theocracies. All of these were pointed towards adopting the approved dogma and suppressing opposing views. From this viewpoint, Stalin’s regime seems to have a lot more in common with some religious organizations than with the ideals typically associated with modern freethinkers.

  28. 28
    Ing

    If many atheists are good hard working people, why does Pator Swish believe that we deserve to be tortured forever by the just loving God.

  29. 29
    Barnetto

    “If many atheists are good hard working people, why does Pator Swish believe that we deserve to be tortured forever by the just loving God.”Statement depends on a premise many subgroups of christianity don’t agree with: People can’t be good. We’re depraved.Its a glass half full thing. Not sure that he’s stated he’s in that subgroup that thinks we’ll go to hell. He seems to believe in hell.

  30. 30
    OGI

    @barnetto*You* took superficial similarities and declare that at the root of what Hitler and Stalin did was religion.(Superficial similarities between totalitarianism and religion being: one ideology, single party control, restriction of criticism and freedom, cult of personality, etc)If the fundamental workings of a society are what you call superficial things then there is nothing more to discuss here. Still doesn’t make your attempted analogy with ACA any more credible especially since it has been said gazillion times on TAE that there are no tenets, no dogma and AFAIK no symbols, Matt Dillahunty worshiping, bowing and other nonsense. So I take superficial similarities (the same sort of thing that the nuts latch onto when they say atheism is just another religion) to demonstrate why what you’ve done is silly.Why are you trying to blame religion for Stalin and Hitler’s crimes? To absolve atheism of their crimes it is entirely sufficient to show that there is no belief in atheism that necessitates genocide. But you continued to go one step further and not only absolve atheism, but then pin the blame on religion.I blame it on ‘religion’ because that’s what it is. It is absolutely the same as your typical western/middle-eastern religion in every way except in that there is no supernatural, divine being(s). And even that was sort of attempted with concepts such as father/mother land, greater good, etc… By your logic if the current pope by chance doesn’t really believe in god this makes the whole catholic church atheistic? That’s just ridiculous. You can not seriously call someone like Stalin an atheist if he goes along with the whole charade even if he personally doesn’t believe in a god. Like someone else said that could technically be called atheism but it’s really only splitting hairs and a vast oversimplification of religion. Scientology is a religion, they don’t have a god, so is raëlism and unless you wanna call aliens gods it is absolutely the same as Stalin’s and other like-minded regimes.What about atheists who believe in acupuncture, chiropractic, chi, etc? Atheism is the description for a person who has no believe in a god. The rest of the stuff you listed is not necessary to be an atheist.Until these people start blindly following some dogma from some book, worshiping persons as earthly gods, killing ‘non-believers’, using rituals and symbols, while at the same having some sort of strict hierarchical organization I will call them (hesitantly) atheists. But the minute they cross that line they become a religion/sect/cult. Quit grasping at straws and accept that not every evil in the world is the fault of a non-atheistic worldview.How about you quote where I said that EVERY evil in the world is the fault of some religion or you stop putting words in my mouth?Talk about grasping at straws…

  31. 31
    Pastor Swish

    @CAWhen I rebut with notorious atheist figures, the point is not that they did these things because they were atheists, but that there are bad people of all different beliefs and that atheism is not immune to atrocities. To blame such atrocities on the system of beliefs is misguided, especially when the system of beliefs expressly condemn such actions. Therefore, to blame Christianity as a system of beliefs for the problems that have occurred from individuals and groups within the sect is equally misguided.Even those three simple points that you gave regarding basic Christian beliefs are not held universally by all claiming to be Christians. Should they be? Absolutely, but they are not.@INGFor the record, I do believe in hell. Is it a place where non-believers are tortured by God? I can’t say I believe that. When Scripture speaks of eternal damnation and a “lake of fire” there are strong indications in the surrounding context that point to a figurative interpretation of such statement. What I do believe is that hell is eternal separation from God. What happens during that separation is up in the air as far as I’m concerned. I would also argue that even if hell is a place of torture, God is not the one who is doing the torturing, rather it would be the demons and other rebellious beings that are also eternally separated from God.

  32. 32
    cipher

    I would also argue that even if hell is a place of torture, God is not the one who is doing the torturing, rather it would be the demons and other rebellious beings that are also eternally separated from God.Oh, that’s much better.Every time one of these characters shows up here. Every, every time.

  33. 33
    Tommykey

    I would also argue that even if hell is a place of torture, God is not the one who is doing the torturing, rather it would be the demons and other rebellious beings that are also eternally separated from God.This whole idea of nonbelievers being tortured or put in some kind of prison like the Phantom Zone for all eternity in the afterlife simply because they don’t believe a particular story speaks volumes about how such religious beliefs are really human in origin. It is a way of trying to scare people to keep them in line in order to maintain social cohesion in a society that purports to be a manifestation of the ideals of a particular religious faith.As a former Catholic who is interested in astronomy, it just strikes me as bizarre that in this virtually infinite universe, our little speck of a planet is the main arena in a cosmic war between good and evil. It is a relic from a time when people believed in a geocentric universe. After all, according to Genesis, the reason why there are stars in the night sky is to provide us with a negligible amount of light at night. Apparently, the Creator of the Universe didn’t see fit to tell his “chosen” people that many of those stars contained planets of their own.shouldn’t you also point to the tragedies perpetrated by Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein (all of whom were secular in their beliefs)?You’re absolutely right, Pastor Swish. Stalinists and Khmer Rouge people absolutely need to account for the damage caused by their beliefs. As for Saddam Hussein, we collectively as Americans hold some responsbility for using him as a proxy against Iran in the 1980′s and turning a blind eye when he committed his atrocities against the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds. George Bush the first encouraged them to rise up against Saddam in the wake of the first Gulf War and then did nothing to help them when Saddam slaughtered them.Saddam Hussein was to the United States like Joe Pesci’s Tommy was to the mob in Goodfellas, a loose cannon underling who went too far, so we had no choice but to take him out. You see, Kuwait was like a Made Man, and you don’t get to mess with a Made Man without permission.

  34. 34
    Ing

    I would also argue that even if hell is a place of torture, God is not the one who is doing the torturing, rather it would be the demons and other rebellious beings that are also eternally separated from God.”So God doesn’t have the balls to do the deed himself, he subcontracts so he can claim the moral high ground?Alternatively. So God doesn’t give a shit what happens to the creations he doesn’t like, just turns them over to elementally evil, sadistic, and perverse abominations. That is so much better. No officer, I didn’t rape her…I just tossed her in a giant prison I have in my basement filled with serial rapists and didn’t care enough what happened after wards.” Either way God is a monster that exalts others for faith and arranges so others are tormented, destroyed, or banished. I find it amazing that something that it supposed to be so moral and so good beyond human measure…cannot get beyond simple favoritism, pettiness and sadism.

  35. 35
    Pastor Swish

    Well, thank you, ING and cipher. My previous comments about the quality of the discussion are now rescinded. I’m out, which is probably what you wanted in the first place.

  36. 36
    Ing

    Well, thank you, ING and cipher. My previous comments about the quality of the discussion are now rescinded. I’m out, which is probably what you wanted in the first place.”Ok, read the post on Co-Dependence. You can’t honestly bring up the fact that you believe we are not as good on some level as you and thus deserve a punishment, even though you won’t say what it is or how it works, get mad when I ask how that is a just system, then blame me for making you angry.

  37. 37
    Ing

    Again I don’t get the hypocrisy. I’m assuming your upset because I bashed your religion. But logically I am pointing out an implication I do not believe you have thought through, or could explain to me1) God is good and just2) Demons torture people and are horrific elemental forces of evil3) God chosses not to save atheists or the like from being in hell with the demons4) Since God is nothing but good it is just and those people deserve to be tortured by demons.The fact that you find my metaphor offensive, shows exactly WHY hell is not a moral idea.

  38. 38
    Pastor Swish

    I’m not upset that you bashed my religion. I was just commenting in previous posts how this discussion had been a good one, and then you go off an derail a good discussion by intentionally trying to offend me. “God doesn’t have the balls to do it himself, so he subcontracts…” and “God doesn’t give a shit.” That’s inflammatory language that has no place in a quality discussion. If you had presented your argument in a similar fashion to the above comment, I would not be offended at all. Just because you don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean you can be intentionally offensive in your language.As far as your logical premises go, I think they are mistaken. First of all, I said that what happens in hell is up in the air in the first place. I conceited that it is a possibility that hell could be a place of torture, and laid out an argument regarding that possibility. If you can manage to have a discussion without being inflammatory and offensive, then we’ll keep going.Your premises:1) God is good and just2) Demons torture people and are horrific elemental forces of evil3) God chosses not to save atheists or the like from being in hell with the demons4) Since God is nothing but good it is just and those people deserve to be tortured by demons.1) Agreed.2) As I said, it is a possibility. I also said that exactly what happens is in the air. I don’t know, nor will I claim to know.3) Doesn’t logically follow from 1 and 2. God doesn’t choose to NOT save atheists. Atheists live their lives absent from God, so why would they want to spend eternity in His presence? God doesn’t decide to torture people who don’t believe, He simply allows them to continue to live eternal life in the same way they lived their life on earth – without Him. If a 12 year old runs away from home and lives out on the streets, does it follow that the parents, who had done all they could to protect the child and find the child, are responsible for the bad things that happen to the child? No, absolutely not. It doesn’t mean that the parents don’t care about the child, or that the parents are the ones who are doing bad things to the child. If you spend your life running away from God; it’s your choice, but don’t blame it on God when bad things happen as a result of your poor decision making.4) The issues with #3 make this premise a moot point.

  39. 39
    cipher

    Pastor, unlike the others here, I refuse to argue with Christians, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. This will be the only time I address you.1) Your arguments (“why would they want to spend eternity in His presence?”, and “If a 12 year old…”) are childish, petty and time-worn. This is something you’re going to have to realize on your own. Experience has taught me that no argument will dissuade someone from believing what s/he wants to believe. The bottom line is that whether or not God exists is beside the point; the God in whom you believe is a projection of your own ego. 2) Just because you don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean you can be intentionally offensive in your language.To the contrary – I am the one who is offended by your belief in salvific exclusivism, which I consider to be the vilest, most obscene belief ever devised. It ought to be considered beneath the dignity of a human being to indulge in it.3) For future reference – it’s “conceded”.

  40. 40
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Pastor,You seem to have missed the point of my previous post. If, in your mind the only prerequisite to be a Christian is to refer to oneself as one, then you have effectively stripped all meaning from the term. If I decided to call myself a Christian, yet kept on unbelieving as I do now, would you add to your claim that “you don’t even need to be a theist to be a Christian”? That’s absurd.You failed to address what I mentioned that many people are nominally Christian, due to social pressure to do so. Ironically it seems it is easier for people to reject points of dogma as opposed to the title itself. The difference between your examples and ours is that it is fervent belief and adherence to religious dogma, as well as reaction to religiously-based propaganda by people conditioned to belief without evidence that led to the atrocities in the name of the church and god.Religious faith depends on the promotion of credulity in its followers, as well as erecting barriers of fear and silence to opposing views. These mechanisms are not exclusive to religion, as Stalin, Hitler and other dictators (like the Greek junta in the 70s, that was however very closely-knit with the G.O. Church)show. However religion even today encourages and promotes these methods, and its only disagreement with totalitarian regimes is when they refuse to place god’s authority on top.You say “some haven’t been living up to the tenets of their faith, and they make a bad name for all Christians.”But then you say “Even those three simple points that you gave regarding basic Christian beliefs are not held universally by all claiming to be Christians” So which is it? How can some ‘not live up to the tenets of their faith’ when they might not even acknowledge these tenets?Which brings us back to what Don said, and I’ll repeat “People don’t commit evil acts based on what they don’t believe, but on what they do believe” We have countless examples of people finding validation for atrocities in the Bible and the Koran. If the way of deciphering truth is so sketchy, how can you even make the claim that God has your ear and not theirs? By what standard do you claim that the Fred Phelps of the world don’t have the correct interpretation and you do?Re: Hell, you claim it is an open issue, but thats not what the majority of your fellow Christians think when they tell us “repent of you’re going to hell” (not to include the wonderful psychos who scream “turn or burn!”) After all, if hell is being apart from God, then how is it different from this life? Anybody who has ever used the “repent or you’re going to hell” line implies it is a very bad place, and therefore the question persists. Why would a god choose to allow us eternal torment by not offering evidence that would convince a skeptical mind? The counter argument that he feels we need to regress our critical thinking skills to the level of a 5-yr old so we can accept the evidence he already supposedly offers is simply laughable.

  41. 41
    cipher

    Why would a god choose to allow us eternal torment by not offering evidence that would convince a skeptical mind? CA, you know the answer to that one – God has given us enough “evidence” to allow us believe, but not so much that it’s conclusive, as then, faith wouldn’t be required.Apart from a brief appearance two millennia ago, God always manages to wriggle out of getting involved or taking responsibility for our state of ignorance. Slipperier than a Mississippi eel, that guy.

  42. 42
    Cafeeine Addicted

    I know that answer, which is why I qualified ‘a skeptical mind’. For better or worse, I am unable to believe something improbable to be true. If I am a divine creation, then I was made that way, which means I was made to fail the God faith test. Any claim that it is my choice flies in the face of the need for faith.

  43. 43
    Ing

    3) Doesn’t logically follow from 1 and 2. God doesn’t choose to NOT save atheists. Atheists live their lives absent from God, so why would they want to spend eternity in His presence? God doesn’t decide to torture people who don’t believe, He simply allows them to continue to live eternal life in the same way they lived their life on earth – without Him.”Because Atheists do not disbelieve in God because they don’t like the idea. They don’t believe because there’s no evidence. If you could show me “hey there’s this guy offering eternal bliss” I’d be all down for it. I wouldn’t thumb my nose at any ACTUALLY good eternal creator just out of illogical spite. NO one would choose an eternity of torture willingly. God in your model is a passive agressive child “WELL YOU CHOSE IT” Let me present you an example WHY hell is not acceptable for any moral being. I have a dog named Monty. He is a mischief maker, gets into all sorts of scraps. He on occasion even gets me in trouble with neighbors, animal control etc which costs me and hurts me in many ways. He at times makes life difficult, and chooses to disobey and ignore me despite having me around and knowing I love him and take care of him.I have never even hit Monty. I would never physically hurt him. Even when I am so angry I could punch a wall at him, all he gets is a time out in his kennel with his sister. Even then, I quickly loose my anger and feel bad for him locked up and let him out. Because I love my Dog I cannot stand to punish him, even when it is earned, for too long. God, by what you say. Doesn’t love. he is willing to let the creatures he claims to love so much be punished forever. He is allowing them to hurt themselves when he can stop it, and is not moved at all by mercy of an ETERNITY of torment (or in best case scenario not-bliss…where if heaven is infinite bliss than not-heaven is infinitely worse so STILL he should be moved by compassion at the proportionately horrible fate of his unsaved creations). Jesus’s sacrifice is exactly DICK because it still allows by the christian theology, most of his creation to suffer forever. It’s favoritism. An atheist who is a moral good just person and helps others in a saintly way or strives to better the world is treated worse than a mediocre christian. As bad as humans may be…on the whole we are moral enough to NOT treat our loved ones with a “hell”. My inflammatory language was meant to show you, how hateful hell is. So many people accept it as a GOOD thing, yet it is by far a worse thing to believe than any of the ‘hate speech’ recognized. If you believe in hell it would be infinitely worse than my metaphor of locking a woman in a rape prison…and yet you can’t stand the thought of just the watered down, Law and Order version. How can you call such a world view JUST then. I am curious to know. I have found anecdotal that no one I know accepts hell when it is phrased outside of the mythology.

  44. 44
    cipher

    But, Ing, as I told Caffeine Addicted earlier – you already know the Christian answer to that one.Three answers, actually:1) Free will is the most important thing in the universe to God. He respects it so much that he’ll allow us, in our ignorance, to go to hell, rather than violate it.2) God isn’t like us. We can’t, with our puny human minds, even begin to comprehend the unbelievably awesome hugeness of his humongous intellect.3) God is the creator. It’s his prerogative to do with us as he pleases, and everything he does is, by definition, good, merciful and just. (Ever notice that with these guys, on the one hand, we’re free moral agents, but on the other, we have no more rights than an inanimate object?)Should we get a pool going as to which of the above, if any, it will be?

  45. 45
    jpurcel1

    No please! Never stop bashing Christianity. The religion has done over 2000 years worth of damage to the species: meaning you could bash at least another 1991 years and only be even!Keep up the great work.

  46. 46
    Ian Andreas Miller

    “If you think that believers need to be held responsible for the harm done by their beliefs, don’t you think non-believers should also be held responsible for the damage that their beliefs have caused? More specifically, if you want to point to the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition (among other faults of Christian history) as terrible things that Christians have done, shouldn’t you also point to the tragedies perpetrated by Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein (all of whom were secular in their beliefs)?”Atheism is neither a moral nor a political position. It has no dogma, it has no tenets. It is not even a worldview.Replacing one kind of dogma with another kind and then getting more dogma-based stupidity is not an argument against atheism, but an argument against dogma.Theism inculcates dogma (due to the totalitarian nature of the deity), while secularism does not necessarily or sufficiently do so, and atheism cannot.Atheism, I’d argue, was probably the best aspect of Stalin and the others.

  47. 47
    Scott

    Great post, well said.

  48. 48
    Warren Grubb

    Guh, even if atheists did more “evil” and harm than Christians, it would not mean Christianity was true.I get so frustrated listening to and reading all these arguments about semantics when, to me, the entire premise isn’t even established. As someone on the AE expressed, i think it was Tracie, it’s like discussing the minutiae of the social interactions of Bigfoot when we have never even established whether Bigfoot exist. But I keep reading, lol.

  49. 49
    Pastor Swish

    @INGSo, you use hateful language to show how hateful something is? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s like throwing a pail of water on somebody that drowning in a lake.As to your analogy – if your dog runs off and doesn’t want anything to do with you, it doesn’t matter how much you love it. It will always be separated from you. I don’t necessarily believe that hell is a place of torture, so much as a place of separation – and that’s a different type of torture. Knowing that there is an all-loving God who desired nothing more than living in fellowship with you and knowing that you will never be in that fellowship is torture enough.Can you be absolutely sure that there is no God? No, you can’t. Can I be absolutely sure that there is a God? No, not in a way that will undoubtedly prove it to you. Clearly, I believe in God because of what I have studied and believe to be the truth and what I have experienced in my life. But that’s me. My experiences will never be met with anything more than skepticism by someone who has already made up his/her mind not to believe.To flat out say, “There’s no God because I haven’t seen any evidence of Him” is to make an absolute decision based on uncertain evidence. I can understand agnosticism because at least judgment is being withheld entirely. Saying “there is no God” is making an absolute judgment call on something that is not absolutely certain. But, hey, it’s your call. If you want to run, then run. It’s your choice.The bottom line in all of this discussion is this. Are there systemic problems with the ways that Christianity has been expressed over the centuries? Absolutely, but there are systemic problems with all sorts of things. There are systemic problems with the government. There are systemic problems with the educational system. There are systemic problems with financial institutions. But Christianity is not about buying into a system. It’s about a daily journey on an uncertain road. It’s about relationship. It’s a choice that you have to make with your life and it’s a choice that can potentially have consequences for the rest of your existence, however long or short that may be.

  50. 50
    Ing

    So, you use hateful language to show how hateful something is? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s like throwing a pail of water on somebody that drowning in a lake.As to your analogy – if your dog runs off and doesn’t want anything to do with you, it doesn’t matter how much you love it. It will always be separated from you. I don’t necessarily believe that hell is a place of torture, so much as a place of separation – and that’s a different type of torture. Knowing that there is an all-loving God who desired nothing more than living in fellowship with you and knowing that you will never be in that fellowship is torture enough.”Yes, yes I do. I illustrate the reality of such a belief. It’s more like spanking a child who punches another child to show him that what he’s doing hurts people. 2) My dog runs off into the unknown with challenges he is not mentally equipped to deal with..I FUCKING GO AFTER HIM. Likewise, my dog does not go away forever, because he has a loving presence that is constantly looking out for him. If i beat him or neglected him, made him get his own food; it would be sane for him to wander off. he has no reason to stay. If i then track him down a beat the shit out of him I’m a monster. Your own bible even talks about Jesus going after the lost members of the flock. Which is it? Does God care about the least of us or is he fine with us walking into a dark room he knows is filled with murderous raping demons? Again the unfairness of this just god. A mediocre christian gets him while an exceptional atheist is screwed. One of those “faith over works” lazy fucks is better than a social worker. There’s no enlightenment in the rewards of heaven and hell; it’s a petty “we’re better than you” system. If you want hateful, teach for 2000 years that human kind is a disgusting horrific species that deserves to be tortured forever and that only magical knowledge and telepathic connections can let you cheat justice and be saved from celestial prison rape.

  51. 51
    Cafeeine Addicted

    “Can you be absolutely sure that there is no God? No, you can’t. Can I be absolutely sure that there is a God? No, not in a way that will undoubtedly prove it to you. Clearly, I believe in God because of what I have studied and believe to be the truth and what I have experienced in my life. But that’s me. My experiences will never be met with anything more than skepticism by someone who has already made up his/her mind not to believe.”Pastor,I absolutely love how you phrased that to place the burden of proof to the skeptic. You *clearly* believe in God because of your studies beliefs and experiences, but the skepticism portrayed by the skeptic is necessarily arbitrary. Apparently skeptics don’t study the subject at all, we just decided to ‘run’. The concept that skeptics have fairly investigated the evidence, weighed the pros and cons and decided against the existence of god really doesn’t cross your mind, does it? Are you even aware of the arrogant condescension you are displaying? You make a whole case on there being uncertain evidence on the issue of the existence of a god, yet you bypass this fact to assert that “yeah, well *I* think there’s a god and you better think that too, or you might face the consequences after you die.”“Christianity is not about buying into a system. It’s about a daily journey on an uncertain road. It’s about relationship.”Wrong. You just described life. Christianity is just a pale imitation of the relationship of people with other people, an unnecessary superimposition. It is a choice, a choice to look at reality or choose fantasy, just like Islam, Buddhism and the rest of the supernatural factories.

  52. 52
    Pastor Swish

    @CAI’m not suggesting that atheists don’t study and examine the evidence. What I do suggest is that you haven’t had the same experiences that I have had in my life, which, coupled with my studies, have led me in a different direction. If you read the paragraph again, you’ll see that I commented about my experience as well as my studies. The “clearly” refers to the fact that I am a believer, as in “obviously I believe” and here’s why – study and experience.Finally, I’m pretty sure I know what Christianity is about. It’s not about doctrine, it’s about living life as an imitator of Christ.@INGI’m done speaking with you because you insist on using disrespectful language that you wouldn’t be using if we were just sitting down having this discussion face to face. Grow up.

  53. 53
    Barnetto

    @swishSince ING is no longer party to this debate you don’t mind if I step in and comment on something you wrote (I don’t like butting in on arguments where its many against one)?”so much as a place of separation – and that’s a different type of torture. Knowing that there is an all-loving God who desired nothing more than living in fellowship with you and knowing that you will never be in that fellowship is torture enough”That is not an all-loving god. When a person honestly can’t see evidence for a beings existence and is (hypothetically) convinced after death that the being exists, it smacks of a lack of empathy, compassion, and mercy on the part of that being. Without those qualities the god is not “all-loving”. Its love is/was conditional.

  54. 54
    Ing

    I’m done speaking with you because you insist on using disrespectful language that you wouldn’t be using if we were just sitting down having this discussion face to face. Grow up.”I have used no slurs, profanity, or derogatory statements. I have said nothing I wouldn’t say face to face. What do you find so offensive? Again please tell me what I said that could be more offensive than a proposed reality that ends with most people on earth suffering?

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