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Apr 07 2010

Religion is abuse, pure and simple. Just check Twitter.

Today on Twitter, one of the big trending memes is “Without God”. Hordes of theists right now are tweeting what they think life would be like if Sky Daddy weren’t around to hold their hand, with the words “Without God” somewhere in the tweet (which is how people get topics trending). The most common tweets are the most disheartening, because they demonstrate with crystal clarity that the most effective tool religion has for keeping people docile and compliant is the utter destruction of their personal esteem. Seriously, what other than religion could get people so eager to boast of their personal worthlessness? Here are actual examples.

@Periyon Without God I have nothing else to live for…

@mandyymanders Without God I would have nothing.

@SupaBaddizI Without God I am nothin, have nothin, && will never be able to accomplish nothin!

@Rieno2 Without God, I wouldn’t know how it feels to LIVE…

@iLoveMJ147 Without God I am nothing.

@BellaKerber Without God, life has no meaning ..

@PeAce_SteLLa Without God : I’m NOTHING ! ! ! ! !

@taylormatthews Without God there can be no knowledge, good, evil, hope or joy.

@DJFoRenZic_JA: Without god, there is no life!

@iK00lKiDd Without God there is no me…

@nanamarie87 Without God i could do nothing…be nothing

And it just goes on and on and on like that. Thousands upon thousands of people, eager to devalue themselves. “I suck! I’m worthless! I’m nothing, nothing, nothing…without GOD.”

This is quite possibly the most unspeakable form of brainwashing a person can endure. It is what George H. Smith in Atheism: The Case Against God is talking about when he states that Christianity has “a vested interest in human misery.” First, convince the believer of their innate lack of value. Get them to believe that there is nothing good about themselves in any way, shape or form. Then offer them a thin straw of hope: God can give you worth. Sure, you’re a completely undeserving piece of shit, but no worries. If you pray and genuflect and abase yourself just enough, he might — if he happens to be in a good mood that day — might condescend to let you past the velvet rope into his Heaven. What’s that? You say you answered the altar call at church? Well, that’s great and everything, but you know, that still might not be good enough. Because without God you’re nothing, you miserable little shitstain! So just remember that.

By this time, you have the believer so utterly intimidated they’re afraid of their own shadow. Even the tiniest scrap of joy they experience in life, they’ll be damn sure to credit immediately to their God, just to make sure they don’t fall out of favor.

You know who else uses these kinds of brainwashing techniques? Abusive spouses. “Without me you’re nothing” is the biggest hammer in the toolkit of the controlling, abusive partner. It’s why abused women don’t leave their men when you’d think all common sense would have them fleeing at the first opportunity. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome. And it’s why it’s so difficult to use reason when arguing with believers about their beliefs. You’re calmly and soberly trying to lay out objective facts, while they’re thinking that if what you say is true, then they’re doomed to a worthless, miserable void of a life, because THEY. ARE. NOTHING.

When you read these tweets, you should understand that when Dawkins refers to the religious indoctrination of children as child abuse, he isn’t fucking around. These tweeters are folks who grew up with that indoctrination into an adulthood defined in its entirety by fear and self-loathing. They hate themselves, pure and simple, and see no pleasure in anything their brief time on this earth can offer them if it cannot be attached in some way to their God.

If this parade of misery isn’t all the reason you need to stand against religion, I don’t know what else is. And any accommodationist who tells me religion should be “respected” even though I don’t believe it will frankly get a swift kick to the jewels. Are you going to tell me to “respect” wife beating even though I’d never do it?

117 comments

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  1. 1
    Robert

    Without god…I'd be able to fuck that hot fundamentalist chick without having to marry her first.:)

  2. 2
    Martin

    Behave. :-)

  3. 3
    Amy

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's responded to your tweet on that. ("@insidetheaca Without God or gods I am a happy, productive member of society, able to love/ be loved without ancient, barbaric supersition.")

  4. 4
    Liz

    Wow, really good post. I'm so glad I got on Twitter this week, I am finding so many other atheists to commune with!!

  5. 5
    OTD

    Well said.

  6. 6
    arensb

    First, convince the believer of their innate lack of value. Get them to believe that there is nothing good about themselves in any way, shape or form. Then offer them a thin straw of hope: God can give you worth.This seems to be a fairly standard advertising pattern:1) If you don't have the thing we're selling, you're uncool, you're ugly, you smell bad, and no one wants to have sex with you.2) People who have the thing we're selling are happy, rich, fulfilled, and get laid a lot.3) Hey, lookee! We can sell you this thing.If it works for deodorant, cars, and club memberships, why can't it work for salvation?

  7. 7
    Martin

    arensb: Except if you compare that advertising technique to, say, a firecracker, religion turns it into a 20-megaton nuke. It's so much more destructive psychologically. I mean, lots of people want iPads, but you don't hear even the most avid Apple junkie saying "Without an iPad, I am nothing, there is no joy." (And if you did, you should just punch him.) Christians, on the other hand, say this shit as a matter of course, and think it's a good thing. Their own worthlessness is a testament to Christianity's awesomeness. Talk about mindfuckery on an epic scale.

  8. 8
    DavidCT

    Without god I don't have to feel ashamed of being a human being. Since I have zero choice in the matter of what I am, having no god is a good thing.@ RobertJudging by the number of unwanted fundi pregnancies I don't think god is the problem. Without god maybe it's just you.

  9. 9
    Ben

    It feels like looking at a trending topic on Twitter as proof that the ancient theological concept of humility turns faith into abuse is at best a straw-man argument.I'd also like to point out that these sorts of tweets would only represent a tiny slice of the larger "religion" pie which would obviously include other faiths than just fundamentalist Christianity and a wider age range as well.A more accurate headline might read: "Some Christians who use Twitter use phrases similar to battered wives."After all – being specific and generous in our claims about our ideological opposites prevents generalization, mockery, pity, fear or hate. These concepts are often used to engender a sense of "separateness" or "other" that also creates an unhealthy source of self-worth.

  10. 10
    BeamStalk

    Martin, how could you post this without at least a link to Tracie's Atheist Eve comic. Shame on you.Atheist Eve November 2004

  11. 11
    Lee

    this was a great corrupt reading but very very wrong. Women who allow themselves to be beaten probably should be beaten and probably wouldn't know how to behave if they didnt get beatings. and People who allow themselves to be religious probably wouldn't know how to behave if they had religion to guide them. Religious people make it easier for everyone else to succeed so wtf would someone try to turn every random anyone into a disbeliever. I guess if you knew where the fountain of youth was then you would go around telling everyone to have a drink… religious people shouldn't be blamed or converted… they should be controlled correctly

  12. 12
    J. K. Jones

    Your polemic assumes (!) that men indeed do have worth without God. Please provide reasons to believe that men are so valuable.

  13. 13
    Lauren Roundy

    I see this from a completely different perspective. These people have hope and happiness WITH God in their lives. That's how I read their tweets. This isn't miserable at all, but hopeful and optimistic, in my view. Of course, I too believe that God makes my life great, so I'm sure I'm "preaching" to the wrong side. Glad I stumbled upon this nonetheless. And thanks for sharing.

  14. 14
    Lee

    wrong

  15. 15
    arensb

    you don't hear even the most avid Apple junkie saying "Without an iPad, I am nothing, there is no joy."Sure. But Apple's advertising agency doesn't have many of the advantages that religion does. Like thousands of years of experience, child indoctrination, and not having to prove that the product actually exists.

  16. 16
    Amber

    Thank you for this post! I've been reading some atheist literature lately that is being soft on religion as a bad thing in the world. although religion does a few good things (all of which can be accomplished without religion or god) it doesn't outweigh the bad. You comparing it to abuse helped point this out. If a wife beater brings home flowers once a week, does that make up for his abuse? no! The good doesn't outweigh the bad in these situations.

  17. 17
    Josh Deng

    you parallel that the Christian attitude is one where God says to the Christian, "Without me you're nothing". But that's not really what these tweets are saying. In this case, the people are saying, "Without God, I'M nothing".Now there's a mindset that, for those of us who have ever fallen in love, I think we can relate to. It's not necessarily that the people are giving no value to themselves. A man who tells his fiance "without you, honey, I'm just a wreck of a man!" is not putting himself any lower than if he were to say to her, "honey, you make me feel alive!". I think these tweets are more a statement of intimacy or attachment than what you may give them credit for.

  18. 18
    George From NY

    Twitter? What is Twitter?(Martin's mention of it reminds me that I never got around to reading Smith's book! Oh the shame. I shall rectify that forthwith.)

  19. 19
    Martin

    Ben: It feels like looking at a trending topic on Twitter as proof that the ancient theological concept of humility turns faith into abuse is at best a straw-man argument.As I'm quoting these tweets directly, I fail to see how I'm straw-manning these people. And even if we're looking at a specific section of the Christian populace, that wouldn't do anything to refute my basic thesis. Religion strips self-worth from the believer in order to rebuild that self-worth with with itself as the center. This is classic brainwashing.And you're confusing humility (the act of tempering one's self-worth with a respect for others) with outright self-loathing. There is quite a profound difference, actually.After all – being specific and generous in our claims about our ideological opposites prevents generalization, mockery, pity, fear or hate.Tell it to the Christians, Ben. You know, like the ones in Mississippi who went out of their way to deny that lesbian student the right to go to prom with her girlfriend, all the way up to staging a fake prom to keep her from infecting all her classmates. If you're looking for fear, hate, and an absence of generosity, look among the Godly.These concepts are often used to engender a sense of "separateness" or "other" that also creates an unhealthy source of self-worth.Not sure what you're on about here, but it sounds like you're suggesting in a long-winded fashion that I wrote this post as a way of laughing at and feeling superior to the religious. If you read it again you should see the opposite is true. I pity these people and wish they would outgrow their need for religion's security blanket. These beliefs keep them infantilized, frightened, and submissive, however much their self-denial lets them wrap in it a poor understanding of love.Lee: Women who allow themselves to be beaten probably should be beaten and probably wouldn't know how to behave if they didnt get beatings.I'm going to assume you're kidding here, and let this one go.J. K. Jones: Your polemic assumes (!) that men indeed do have worth without God. Please provide reasons to believe that men are so valuable.I'm sorry to see you're such a self-despising misanthrope. But rather than shift the burden of proof onto me (classic fallacy, that) why don't you provide A) proof God exists and B) reasons to agree we have no worth without Him/Her/It. Until then, I'll just go on being a humanist with a big heart for my fellow man, m'kay?Josh Deng, Lauren Roundy: If a person's happiness is entirely resting upon anyone else (romantic partner, God, whomever), then they're doing it wrong.

  20. 20
    Auroura Diana

    Nice Martin, nice. Your right, with out god we would do many things, even 'fuck the fundamentalist chick', but what if there really is a higher power? Didn't you just tell him he's, like, abusing the public of our world? Well said in any case, Auroura Diana, the ultimate antithesis.

  21. 21
    Headshaker

    @Martin's response to @JoshDeng's. I think you're assuming a satisfying interdependence with a total sacrifice of independence. I am independent of my wife. I have identity, interests, pursuits. I spend time with the boys, but I also know that without my wife, my life would be emptier. The interdependence I have with my wife is worth the small amount of independence I do sacrifice.Like @JoshDeng I think you're assuming way too much in the negative from 140 chars (max). You're contempt of "earning" God's favour as a pat on the back also shows a lack of understanding of some of the basic tenants of Christian theology, namely salvation by grace alone.I think these type of tweets are silly myself, but I don't think they constitute demonstration of abuse.

  22. 22
    Martin

    Headshaker: Sure, you'd be sad, even profoundly so, if you and your wife were ever parted. But would you be nothing? No, you wouldn't be nothing. You wouldn't be worthless. You wouldn't have no purpose, no reason to keep breathing. There was a time in your life before you met and married your wife. Were you "nothing" then? No.When you say that while you and your wife are happily interdependent, you as an individual are still independent of her, you are merely ignoring the fact that this is not the same thing these Christian tweets are saying about these believers' attitudes towards God. They are quite openly stating an attitude not of interdependence and independence, but complete abject dependence. There's just no way to spin it otherwise. And if they don't get the difference, it's hardly my problem. Shooting the messenger just because he brings bad news you don't want to hear doesn't make the bad news go away.

  23. 23
    Headshaker

    @MartinYou do raise a fair point and the analogy does fall down somewhat. Mainly because a human – human relationship can't be an apples to apples comparison to a human – God relationship; simply because the Christian God in concept is a different type of entity.The dependence of man on God is a much broader and consuming topic because it involves philosophical agreement (or disagreement) on the issue of sin and its consequences.

  24. 24
    Martin

    It's precisely that issue I consider a form of abusive indoctrination. It's one thing to tell people they face harsh consequences for evil deeds. Christianity teaches people they are innately sinful, simply by virtue of being born, fully deserving of punishment for the Fall. Different denominations have doctrinal differences on whether or not babies and tiny children qualify for hell if they die prematurely, but at the heart of the whole rotten edifice is a ruthless, misanthropic view of humanity that breeds dependence on the faith as the only rescue from self-loathing and eternal torment. Anyone who says this is the treatment of a loving God has had their very definition of "love" perverted and poisoned out of all possible meaning.

  25. 25
    Alex

    Rabbi Bunam said to his disciples: Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his left: 'I am earth and ashes.'

  26. 26
    Hugo

    Great post Martin!

  27. 27
    Ing

    A puppet is nothing without a puppeteer.

  28. 28
    Murphy

    I'm frankly baffled by the number of Christians trying to spin this here."A more accurate headline might read: 'Some Christians who use Twitter use phrases similar to battered wives.'""These people have hope and happiness WITH God in their lives. That's how I read their tweets.""You're contempt of 'earning' God's favour as a pat on the back also shows a lack of understanding of some of the basic tenants of Christian theology, namely salvation by grace alone."And that last one really cuts to the heart of the matter doesn’t it. You can try to pretty it with words like ‘grace’ as much as you like, but why do we even need salvation at all? Because the basic underlying tenant of Christian theology is that people are worthless wretches without it. Otherwise, what was the point of Jesus ‘sacrifice’ at all?Seriously, why is this even a point of argument? If you’re going to base your life on Christianity and its theological tenants, at least have the stones to stick to your convictions, instead of playing these pussyfoot hypocritical wordgames.

  29. 29
    Mike

    Today on Twitter I posted "Without god, science and technology would be much more advanced by now." Within an hour, 5 followers dropped from my list.

  30. 30
    Timothy

    This blog is so far off the mark it is not even funny. Here are a few points of logic which you omitted out of carelessness, ignorance, laziness or spite. Please correct me if I am wrong…1. In a materialist, Godless universe, humans are nothing more than complex clumps of matter, randomly interacting. Our existence serves no purpose – it is a product of pure chance. We are simply manifestations of matter which is blindly changing state in the universe.2. If humans are nothing more than complex clumps of matter, we cannot say that an individual has any more worth than, say, a rock, since both are clumps of matter formulated by chance material interactions in a localised part of the universe.3. From the perspective of the history of the universe, an individual human life is utterly insignificant. Nothing we do or say has any significant relevance in the evolution of the universe.I.e. in a materialist universe where there is no God, we are nothing.That's just stating the materialist worldview.By contrast, Catholics like myself believe that the universe is the product of an infinitely loving God, and everything in it is loved with the infinite love of this infinite God. Each individual is loved infinitely by God.Just think, for a moment, about what it feels like to be loved by an amazing person: maybe a parent, a sibling, a friend, a lover. It feels amazing, mostly because it reminds us that we really are valuable.When someone makes great sacrifices for us, out of love, it is because they think we are worth it. The greater the sacrifice, and the more love they show, then the more they must think we are worth.Well the Christian view of human worth could be summed up like this:If an infinite God loves me with an infinite love, and is willing to take human form, and sacrifice his own life for me, then clearly I am worth a great deal more than I can possibly conceive.But if there is no God, I am stuck with the materialist view – I'm just a clump of matter.I.e. without God, I am nothing.

  31. 31
    rrpostal

    I also am very moved by the followers responses here. The way the "perceive" things makes it no wonder they can twist the bible into a story of "faith, hope and charity" while denying all of the negatives that surround those concepts.For example how do you get from:"Without god, I am nothing, I would have nothing and be nothing" to"With god I am super happy and swell"These are entirely different concepts at a very basic level. They both may be true, but they do both not mean the same thing. I don't know how you could read and understand ANYTHING if this is how you comprehend language.

  32. 32
    Christopher

    Made me think a bit. I recall a study I had heard about in my undergrad psych 101 class about 'locus of control'. The concept of 'locus of control' is that different things in your life have a locus of control – for example your boss is typically the locus of control on your pay raise (generally anyway). The study looked at actual vs. percieved locus of control comparing a control group to those diagnosed with depression. You can guess the hypothesis that they had in mind…. that depressed people might have an overly 'pessimistic' perception of the control they have over their lives. Instead what they found was that the control group was overly 'optimistic' and that the depressed group was actually more accurate in their perceptions. I find the implication rather interesting – that, as humans, we seem to require a certain amount of delusion to get through our lives. It seems to me that this God belief might also be a manifestation of coping with this phenomenon. God has the ultimate control and so if you get right by it you gain a sort of 'control by proxy'. You certainly feel safer anyway, however probable it is that the feeling is inaccurate. It makes me imagine a twitter of 'without god I have no control over my life'. It also, of course, has implications for the 'usefulness' of this 'control by proxy' for addiction recovery.I wish I had taken better notes as an undergrad and had the particulars of the experiment handy… all that recollection above is from memory. Just my 2 cents.

  33. 33
    Kevin

    In terms of the dictionary definition of religion, Martin, what you've written is one of the most religious posts I've come across.Unfortunately it does what religion often does, and forces a "my club is better than your club" mentality. While the "without God" tweeters find their self-worth in their complete and utter dependence on God, your post seems to suggest that we should find our self-worth from complete and utter independence of Him. Either view can only be seen as the right (unbrainwashed, etc.) view when seen through the lenses of the underlying religious assumptions at play, but make no mistake, both are fundamentally religious.re·li·gion   [ri-lij-uhn] Show IPA–noun1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion. (and the atheist religion).3.the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.4.the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.5.the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.6.something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

  34. 34
    ChaosSong

    Without God, Osama Bin Laden would have a tough time recruiting…

  35. 35
    Jacob

    I wouldn't say these people have low self esteems because they all presumably have God. Tomorrow there could be a similar treding topic about With God i can do all things.Full Disclosure: I'm a Christian

  36. 36
    Kanga

    Let's say that we know for certain that God simply does not exist. Life is beautiful and great for a short while, then you die and your remains return to the Earth. After a few billion years, we will have evolved into some other animal, and given long enough, our planet will no longer be habitable, so our evolved selves will either go extinct or find some way of terra-forming another planet to live on, etc. Given enough time, however, the Universe will either rip apart or collapse in on itself. Either way, in the end, there will be no memory of you. It will be as if you never existed. So, if God does not exist, your worth is minuscule and short-lived in the grand scheme of things. Sure, to you your worth is whatever you believe about yourself–but to the universe you really don't matter, the universe will still let you die with no explanation for why you ever lived. In contrast, If God does exist your life's meaning is tied to how God sees you (assuming He/She/It is the final authority on your value). In the Christian faith, God values you enough to die for you. Just a thought.

  37. 37
    Anders

    I have lived life on both sides of the fence. What i have come to know, is that true, fulfilling, my life for yours type love is only possible when my life is lived for the one who's name is love, Jesus. When 'love' was a feeling that felt good, i found my self most nights feeling empty, and like i had no true purpose. But, when love became the way i desired to interact with people, life gained a whole new meaning. I can clearly see how these tweets come off as self hatred, and i think you have a valid point in saying so. However, i have said many of the same things before, and to hate myself or anyone else is to blaspheme the very being that is my God

  38. 38
    Mark B

    I have to admit that I don't get the need to credit something that has no tangible manifestation (outside of the imagination) with the core worth of self.I can't help but compare the God-Mortal relationship to owner/pet. We're dirty animals, but as long as we behave and little Jesus cleans up after us we can live in God's house.Wow, I feel so fulfilled.

  39. 39
    Ben

    Geoff:I'm frankly baffled by the number of Christians trying to spin this here.Pardon? It might be a matter of perspective, but suggesting an accurate headline doesn't feel like spin to me. The evidence presented in the post is narrow in scope, by logic the conclusion must also be narrow in scope.@MartinPerhaps we just disagree with what makes a compelling argument, but I need a lot more than narrow evidence and inflammatory word choice to convince me of your position. To your point on humility:Humility has nothing to do with respecting others, although respecting others is a very good thing. Instead it deals with the very issue of low-regard for self. It comes from a latin word meaning "dirt". I believe a humble person (faithless or not) is someone who knows their skills and limitations and evaluates themselves fairly and not "above" or "better" than another.Clearly we've had different experiences, but my daily drive to work isn't filled with humble people. Neither is my daily experience filled with people moping around hating themselves. More to the point I am not a humble person, although I do try.So if religious people have been taught to hate themselves, but none of the religious people I probably interact with every day go around proclaiming their worthlessness (except a couple of my emo artist friends) where are all the religious people?Following my own rules, my limited scope of experience only allows me limited conclusions, but any conclusions I can make don't seem similar to yours.To a different point, I'm not sure what the paragraph in your response to me beginning "Tell it to the Christians" is actually trying to say. Are you suggesting that because some people somewhere were mean, cruel and totally outside the boundaries of human decency that I shouldn't endeavor to be fair, reasonable and considerate?Or are you suggesting that we only owe our enemies the treatment they offer us? It's certainly a valid philosophical stance, but from a personal view I think taking that viewpoint robs me of my ability to choose how I will conduct myself.Lastly, while I appreciate your intent to free people from harmful behaviors I'd just note that I included "pity" (the word you used to describe your motivations) in my list of reactions that define the "other".Feeling pity(different from sympathy) for someone creates a hierarchy where my position or opinion or truth is "correct" when compared to some deluded, ignorant other person. The creation of this hierarchy is the very opposite of humility (which you seem to value).I would urge you not to pity a religious person, or any person, otherwise you'll have great difficulty in accomplishing your goals.Sorry for the long post. Be well!

  40. 40
    Afterthought_btw

    Without God… the world, people, and history would be exactly the same.

  41. 41
    Christopher

    In a materialist, Godless universe, human interactions are hardly random. This makes the same mistake that so many make when saying that evolution is 'random'. We're not just clumps of matter. We're clumps of matter with characteristics and behaviors adaptive toward our own individual and group interests. Don't worry though,… lots of people make this mistake.

  42. 42
    Scott

    I'm an Atheist married to a Christian woman and I also have quite a few business dealings with people who I consider religious zealots.Each time these people say things like "I'm nothing without God" or "We're all sinners and deserve Hell" they mean it quite literally. Some of them including my wife from time to time will admit with great pride that they are worthless beings and that it's only through the grace of God that they can live their life, have purpose, and be happy.It's possible that these tweeters are a different breed of Theist and that their tweets aren't to be taken so literally but I seriously doubt it.Religion is poison pure and simple.

  43. 43
    Anders

    This post has really got the wheels turning in my head, and i love the conversations if enquiry that are being had. I'd like to adress the 'religion' topic, and hopefully it will be brief. For myself, and anyone who truly has a relationship with Jesus, it is just that; a relationship. Not a ritualistic religion. The way I communicate and interact with Jesus is a lot of times different that the next guy. Ive heard it said before that sin is not bad because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is bad. The way i am called to live is not because some yahoo on his religious high horse decided so, but rather because Jesus knows the things that destroy His creation. In short, I'm not a Christian because its how I am raised, but rather i have experienced that life apart from God is a void existence because I have no future but to rot in the earth outside of Him, and nothing bigger than myself to live for now. I probably lost my point in what i just said. None the less, i hope it helps someone out haha

  44. 44
    Raymond

    @Timothy you assert."If humans are nothing more than complex clumps of matter, we cannot say that an individual has any more worth than, say, a rock, since both are clumps of matter formulated by chance material interactions in a localised part of the universe."Strawman alert.Each person decides what value every other "clump of matter" in the universe represents to them.If I value my pet dog over a stray cat then it is me that makes that value judgement.No deities are required to give value to things in the universe.You even go on to contradict yourself when you say."Just think, for a moment, about what it feels like to be loved by an amazing person: maybe a parent, a sibling, a friend, a lover. It feels amazing, mostly because it reminds us that we really are valuable."My parents love for me gives me value and does not require a god.Unless you want to get involved in some circular reasoning.

  45. 45
    Martin

    Timothy: It doesn't make any difference if we are simply clumps of matter (though we are not randomly interacting). Because we are sentient, we give our lives meaning. That is the materialist worldview. We are simply part of nature, and that our natural universe is awesome enough without the fantasies of supernaturalism mucking up the waters. It is the basic goal of religious brainwashing to convince you that it is impossible to have meaning in our lives without religion. That if we aren't a special and beautiful snowflake created by a loving sky-daddy, we mean nothing. That's what you don't get.Interested to hear that under your Catholic beliefs, "each individual is loved infinitely by God." I guess that translates to all those children he failed to protect from your pedophile priests. Maybe he loves the priests a little more "infinitely" than the kids, eh? (Oops, guess I shouldn't have brought that up, eh?)Well the Christian view of human worth could be summed up like this:If an infinite God loves me with an infinite love, and is willing to take human form, and sacrifice his own life for me, then clearly I am worth a great deal more than I can possibly conceive.That's a recipe for a potentially very dangerous level of arrogance. I suspect this kind of thinking is what led to the many pogroms that have taken place throughout Catholicism's history. It's not to say that such arrogance cannot be inspired by secular notions. But certainly religion is no better, and potentially worse. It was much the same brand of self-importance at work among the Islamist terrorists who brought down the WTC. People really ought to watch out for this kind of thing.But if there is no God, I am stuck with the materialist view – I'm just a clump of matter.I.e. without God, I am nothing.Yeah, and that's psychologically damaging bullshit, designed to make your entire sense of self-worth dependent upon the religion. Why do you think you need to feel "infinitely" loved by a celestial parent figure to have value as a person at all? This is what Isaac Asimov was referring to when he described religion as "a thumb to skirt and a skirt to hold."See, you're being presented with a false choice: either God, and worth, or no God, and worthlessness. What you don't get is that the entire premise is a crock. You have to look completely outside of this box — which I understand will be very difficult to do, given a lifetime of Catholic instruction — and start from a completely different outlook on the world. Nature exists, all of it is awe-inspring, I am part of nature for a very brief time, and that is special all on its own. Your problem, and the problem in all religious thinking, is that you think meaning can only be derived from outside nature, can only be imposed upon our lives from an external (ie. divine) source.

  46. 46
    Martin

    Kevin: My post can only be interpreted as "religious" if you use the 6th definition among the definitions you provided, which basically equates to having a passionate view of something. But let's face it, under that definition, baseball fandom becomes "religious." So if you want to call my views just as religious as those of all our co-dependent tweeters, go ahead, as long as you realize you pretty much have to strip the concept of religion of any real meaning to do so.What I'm saying is that it's wrong and harmful to base your sense of self-worth on dependence, period. A little different than how you're reading it. See, if there had been any of these Christians tweeting things like "Without God, I could still be happy, but I choose God anyway," then my reaction would have been a much milder "whatever." But that's not what these posts were saying. Frankly, anyone who takes the view that "Without X [God, my boyfriend, cocaine, TV, etc.] I'm nothing" has a seriously damaged view of what happiness means.

  47. 47
    Jacob

    @Martin. I see what you're saying but i think that even though we do have this infinite God loving us infinitely we're grounded in the fact that it's not because of anything we've done that He loves us this much. It seems like most of the christians recognize this and therefore recognize that without God etc etc.I find it interesting that in a post about Christianity leading to low self worth you accuse them of being arrogant.Also, I can look to nature and recognize how wonderful and awe inspiring it is and realize that it's made by a wonderful and awe inspiring creator. There's extra value in the idea that Humanity is the culmination of the entire creation. What i cannot do is consider it an act of chance and selection. I don't have that much faith i guess.

  48. 48
    Martin

    Chris: Wake up, we're none of us immortal, even the universe. Simply embracing a belief that we can achieve immortality doesn't make it true, and it doesn't provide happiness other than the false happiness of a comforting delusion. Sure, the fear of death is common to all living things with a sense of self-awareness, but that doesn't mean it cannot be dealt with in a more constructive and healthy manner than wishing it away.The realist outlook is that the very brevity of our existence is what makes it so special. We are only here a short time, so it's up to us to make every day above ground a good day.

  49. 49
    Martin

    Ben: I believe a humble person (faithless or not) is someone who knows their skills and limitations and evaluates themselves fairly and not "above" or "better" than another.Hello, Ben, that's exactly how I defined humility: "the act of tempering one's self-worth with a respect for others." How does taking care to not unfairly evaluate yourself above others have nothing to do with respecting others?When you suggest I should not "pity" anyone at all, does that include battered women, abused children, victims of crime, innocent bystanders of war who end up as "collateral damage"? And how, by pitying them and hoping they (except for the dead ones, obviously) can overcome and rise above the things that are damaging in their lives, am I "creating a hierarchy" that places me above them? I've been told that charity is a "Christian" virtue; what is it based on, if not pity? Why define pity as innately demeaning, as a license to gloat at those "beneath" you? I can see circumstances where it might well be, I suppose, but I do not think it is in all instances. And when I see people not only making expressions of self-loathing, but utterly unaware they are doing so, yes, I do pity that. Just as I pity the alcoholic who keeps reassuring me he doesn't have a problem, he can quit any time.

  50. 50
    Martin

    Jacob: I find it interesting that in a post about Christianity leading to low self worth you accuse them of being arrogant.The people who say "without God I'm nothing" have low self-worth. The people who say "with God, I am worth a great deal more than I can possibly conceive" are risking a frightening level of arrogance. Either way, religion does not provide people with the right tools for a healthy self-image.There's extra value in the idea that Humanity is the culmination of the entire creation.There may be "extra value" (translated: a big ego boost) in believing the whole universe is all about us, but that doesn't make it so.What i cannot do is consider it an act of chance and selection. I don't have that much faith i guess.No, you just don't have an education in the relevant sciences.

  51. 51
    Martin

    Taking a brief pause to thank all the theists who've turned up here to argue. That's what makes blogging so enjoyable.

  52. 52
    George From NY

    Anders,Prove that this Jesus with whom you have such a "relationship" actually exists – THEN we'll talk.

  53. 53
    kopd

    Life has as much meaning and purpose as you give it. I find it liberating to choose my own purpose, rather than enslave myself to what I think some invisible ineffable being calls me to do. One of my main purposes in life is to be a friend to the people this God character supposedly hates.

  54. 54
    Jacob

    @MartinThe people who say "without God I'm nothing" have low self-worth. The people who say "with God, I am worth a great deal more than I can possibly conceive" are risking a frightening level of arrogance.My point being is that the same person could say both of those things on any given day. It's not arrogant because it didn't happen just for me but for everyone who accepts and it's not because of anything i've done that i have this relationship.You mentioned earlier that it's harmful to have your worth tied up in someone/something else. While i agree with that mostly i take exception in something that can't die or fail you. (God, my boyfriend, cocaine, TV, etc.) will all eventually fail you. I don't believe God will.PS Thanks for keeping the blog open and helping us think through our beliefs.

  55. 55
    Martin

    It can also be noted that arrogance is often a psychological mask for low self-esteem. This is called narcissism, where people have a inflated opinion of themselves that is in fact so fragile that they treat any criticism, however slight, with hysterical outbursts of rage and emotion, and respond in a way all out of proportion to the perceived slight. We experienced that a couple years back with that Yomin fellow.I do not think all religious people are narcissists by a long shot. I think many are simply trying to live their lives like everyone else, not realizing the ramifications of the messages they've absorbed and the attitudes they've been inculcated with. And when they say things like "Without God I'm nothing," they don't fully grasp the ramifications of that.

  56. 56
    George From NY

    @Martin…"And when they say things like "Without God I'm nothing," they don't fully grasp the ramifications of that."Indeed. And how much more apt, the reverse: Without them, their gods are nothing.

  57. 57
    Guillaume

    Okay, wheere to start? I just can't believe how Christians here can spin this Twitters bullshit into something positive. As a former Catholic (the world's most successful cult), I have experienced the sickening cocktail of guilt and amorality (as worship is enough to justify or excuse immoral behaviors), so I see what they want to say, but that's still baffling. I could try to explain human's worth in a Godless universe, but I will quote someone instead. I think nobody expressed this better than STanley Kubrick:"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."

  58. 58
    I Am The Scum

    Without dog, I would be dyslexic.

  59. 59
    soul_biscuit

    "You mentioned earlier that it's harmful to have your worth tied up in someone/something else While i agree with that mostly i take exception in something that can't die or fail you. (God, my boyfriend, cocaine, TV, etc.) will all eventually fai you. I don't believe God will.You mentioned earlier that it's harmful to have your worth tied up in someone/something else While i agree with that mostly i take exception in something that can't die or fail you. (God, my boyfriend, cocaine, TV, etc.) will all eventually fai you. I don't believe God will."Codependency isn't harmful because the object of dependency is unreliable, but because the subject never attains autonomy. As Chrstopher Hitchens says, God is the parent who never dies, never lets you get on with your life.Worse, he's a parent who tells his children that they're worthless without him and that they're so horrible due only to their wretched nature that they deserve to be locked in the basement with the heat turned up really high, forever. But he won't, because he's nice. Some parent.

  60. 60
    Murphy

    Sure ben. You could call it ‘Some Christians who use Twitter use phrases similar to battered wives’, in the same sense that we could call a book on biology ‘Some lions eat some zebras’. In a vacuum the statement itself is pinpoint accurate. Useful in the context of the biology book? Not so much. Even if the scope of the books content was narrowed all the way down to the eating habits of lions, a title like ‘Some lions eat some zebras’ still wouldn’t ‘accurately’ cover the books content.You see (and i’m certain you’re smart enough to recognise this, which is why i accuse you of spin) the body of the article isn’t actually about what some Christians write on twitter. The body of the article is about the self loathing aspects of christian ideology, of which, these twitter posts are yet another example in the wide pool of evidence. If the article did existed in a complete vacuum, i’d be incline to agree with you. But its not a vacuum. Just on the the AE blog and TV show, the guys have already covered everything from self hating hymns, to core doctrine, about humanity being unworthy in gods eyes, hence the reason for Jesus sacrifice to begin with. Core doctrine, which by the way, i cited in my last comment as the justification for my accusation of spin, which you chose to conveniently ignore completely, instead hand waving about the technicalities of ‘accurate headlines’ rather that actually addressing the reasons why I thought it was even spin to begin with.But as long as you think retitling something isn’t spin, so long as it’s a logically valid statement about some aspect of the content regardless of contents overall scope, how about instead of calling your bible “the good book”, we use by your terms, a more ‘accurate’ title, and call it “a big book of people that fuck and kill each other”. After all, ’It might be a matter of perspective, but suggesting an accurate headline doesn't feel like spin’ right?

  61. 61
    Timothy

    Martin:"Because we are sentient, we give our lives meaning. That is the materialist worldview."This statement is laden with at least one of the following assumptions: – Sentience is meaningful (as opposed to non-sentience). – Our lives have the meaning which we give them.The first assumption is completely unsubstantiated. Why is sentient matter more meaningful than non-sentient matter? Just because you say so?The second assumption is also unsubstantiated, and it is very dangerous. If our lives are only meaningful because we give them meaning, then it follows that they are meaningless if we fail to give them meaning. If I deny the meaningfulness of another person, then it's not such a big deal (to me) to kill or enslave that person, right? This is the realm of the psychopath, who sees no evil in his/her actions.Again, if I have a friend who sees no meaning in his/her life, should I help that person commit suicide?And again, if a person without family or friends gives his/her life no value, does that person's life actually have no value?"It is the basic goal of religious brainwashing to convince you that…if we aren't a special and beautiful snowflake created by a loving sky-daddy, we mean nothing."Look, I think life has meaning. I also think that that meaning has an actual cause – God.You assert that life has meaning, but you have no way of justifying your assertion. What do you say to someone like Franz Kafka, who concludes that life is meaningless in a material universe where chaos and chance dictate the course of events? Why is your unsupported assertion more correct than his? If you're so sure you're right and he's wrong, tell me why?Alternatively, if his opinion (like every opinion) is just as valid as yours, then I don't see why you'd bother to post a blog trying to point out that your opinion is right, and that Christians are wrong.

  62. 62
    Timothy

    "Interested to hear that under your Catholic beliefs, "each individual is loved infinitely by God." I guess that translates to all those children he failed to protect from your pedophile priests. Maybe he loves the priests a little more "infinitely" than the kids, eh?"From your tone, I suspect that you're not actually interested in exploring the underlying issues of the nature of God, God's love, the meaning of suffering, and human free-will. Let me just say, God made us free. He asks us to use our freedom to love, and to choose the good. But he also gives us the freedom to choose evil, and to hurt others and ourselves. That's why there's actually merit in choosing to do good. If we could ONLY choose good, then there would be no choice, and no merit in our actions.Priests who abuse children are free to choose good or evil. Clearly, they choose evil. The children are victims of those evil choices. The priests are culpable. So is anyone who has actively tried to cover up priestly abuses, or failed to do what they could do to protect children.None of that has any bearing at all on how much God loves either the priests or the children. Does God still love paedophiles? Yes. God is like a father who loves his children no matter what, even if they commit disgusting crimes. However, like a parent, it causes him great pain to see his own children commit such disgusting crimes."Quote: If an infinite God loves me with an infinite love…clearly I am worth a great deal more than I can possibly conceive.End Quote.That's a recipe for a potentially very dangerous level of arrogance…"God loves EVERY INDIVIDUAL with an INFINITE love. That means all individuals are equally valuable in God's eyes.How on earth is that arrogant?"Nature exists, all of it is awe-inspring, I am part of nature for a very brief time, and that is special all on its own."You are part of nature. So are paedophile priests, and their paedophila. Yet you say of nature, "all of it is awe-inspring".Are paedophile priests awe-inspiring?If you want to convince anyone that life in a materialist universe has meaning, you're going to have to try a little harder than simply saying: nature's obviously awesome; therefore life has meaning.Unless you do, you just sound like a flat-earther. I mean, look around – the world is obviously flat, right?

  63. 63
    Martin

    Timothy: The first assumption is completely unsubstantiated. Why is sentient matter more meaningful than non-sentient matter? Just because you say so?I notice you've done a little switcheroo on your choice of words there, Timothy. You've gone from "sentience is meaningful" to "sentient matter is meaningful," and hoped I wouldn't notice.Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive subjectively. I'm not sure what "sentient matter" is, but sentient beings (people) vs. insentient ones (amoeba) can be distinguished rather easily. A sentient being is capable of abstract thought, reasoning, decision making. If you are prepared to prove that not possessing sentience is just as good as possessing it, feel free. Until then, I will continue to work from the premise that sentience makes it possible for a being to derive meaning from his/her own existence, because it is demonstrably true. The second assumption is also unsubstantiated, and it is very dangerous. If our lives are only meaningful because we give them meaning, then it follows that they are meaningless if we fail to give them meaning. If I deny the meaningfulness of another person, then it's not such a big deal (to me) to kill or enslave that person, right? This is the realm of the psychopath, who sees no evil in his/her actions.Again, switcheroo #2. You've gone within a single paragraph from giving our own lives meaning to determining whether the lives of other have some or none.Indeed, history demonstrates that many people have done the latter with heartless impunity. And the most devoutly religious, the ones who believed God was the one who suffused their lives with meaning, were among the worst. Like most religionists, you are overlooking (because in my experience most religionists consider it irrelevant and tiresome) the notion of empathy, the ability of a person to comprehend that their own pleasure and pain are just like those experienced by others. Most of us don't like to see others hurt because we can't imagine ourselves experiencing that hurt. Empathy is in fact an inborn trait, as has been demonstrated in actual tests. Very small children show a natural inclination towards empathic behavior, which is rudimentary and must be developed through their growing up years. But as we grow up, many people, either through embracing one or another ideology or belief system, or through mental illness or sociopathy, lose their ability to empathize with others, but it is there.So for most of us, the meaning we attach to our own lives is something we can easily project onto another person, because in a normal and healthy social condition, our natural empathy just does this by default. Usually it takes ideological brainwashing ("We are God's chosen people! Kill the infidels!") to supersede our natural empathy and make it easy for us to disregard the lives of others.It never ceases to amaze me that I must always explain something as fundamental as empathy to a Christian. But I always have to remember that you lot have embraced a belief system that is misanthropic at its very core. The innate sinful worthlessness of man is where all of Christianity's broken "moral" precepts spring from, and so I suppose it is natural for a person who has first been trained to accept self-loathing as a foundational premise to accept the loathing of others just as easily. Which is why we often get questions from Christians like, "If there's no God, why can't I just go out and hurt and kill people?" They're really serious when they ask this, and that's what's both sad and frightening.

  64. 64
    Tom Foss

    Timothy: This statement is laden with at least one of the following assumptions:You're confusing assumptions with observations. Regardless of what you read into Martin's post, we do give meaning to things in our lives. There's a teddy bear in my parents' basement that is old and beaten-up and utterly worthless to anyone but me. It has meaning to me and value to me because it was mine when I was young, and so it has sentimental value to me. If I die tomorrow, I couldn't say what would happen to that bear; my parents might throw it out or sell it (since it doesn't have any particular meaning to them), or they might keep it, knowing it had a special meaning to me, and because I meant something to them. Are my feelings about this teddy bear nonexistent or worthless because they aren't validated by some eternal father figure? There's no assumption here, just a recognition of what actually happens. We do give things and people meaning, whether or not a god exists, and the fact that no one's going to remember us in a billion billion years doesn't remotely figure into how I feel and act right now. But keep going; I do so love it when theists expose their warped view of the world by explaining the nonexistent "assumptions" behind atheism. From your tone, I suspect that you're not actually interested in exploring the underlying issues of the nature of God, God's love, the meaning of suffering, and human free-will.No more than you're interested in exploring the underlying issues of the nature of Q, Q's motivations, the meaning of warp drive, and Vulcan nerve-pinches. Until there's actual evidence for god's existence, debating his attributes and how they affect us is no more relevant or interesting than discussions about Star Trek. That's why there's actually merit in choosing to do good. If we could ONLY choose good, then there would be no choice, and no merit in our actions.Ah, the old "free will" defense. That's on, what, page four of the Apologist's Handbook? Right after "what if you're wrong?" and before "look at the trees!"? There's a difference between "free will" and "ability to enact it." I can will myself to fly like Superman or shoot webs out of my wrists all day long, but I'm incapable of doing so. Would it have been so difficult for your omnipotent God to make people incapable of engaging in sex with children? Pedophiles could still choose evil all they want, but be incapable of enacting it, just as I'm free to choose to tear Michelle Bachmann to bits with my adamantium claws, but incapable of doing so.

  65. 65
    Headshaker

    @Martin"It never ceases to amaze me that I must always explain something as fundamental as empathy to a Christian."Christians like other people can be cruel bastards who manipulate others for their own selfish ends. I'm however curious as to your reasoning that empathy is a morally correct position. I'm sure you agree that all because I "feel" God in my life doesn't necessarily mean that I'm right. All because I "feel" empathy towards others; how does that make it a morally correct decision. I could argue that not to act on empathy would be in my best interests."Which is why we often get questions from Christians like, 'If there's no God, why can't I just go out and hurt and kill people?'"Which is the thing I can't get about humanist philosophy. I've heard it mentioned on the show that many hosts agree with the principle of "do no harm to others" as one of their fundamental worldview building blocks – but why? All because I feel empathy, compassion, etc does not mean I ought to act on them (from a philosophical perspective).Personally empathy towards others (and related emotions like compassion) is what drives me to help my fellow man. I don't like to see people suffer. But I also know it's the correct course of action because God has compassion on people in the first place. I feel that the humanist version is simply "because I feel like it"

  66. 66
    Martin

    More Timothy: Look, I think life has meaning. I also think that that meaning has an actual cause – God.You protest that my view that people give their own lives meaning is unsupported. But where is your support for your own assertion? How, exactly, does God "cause" meaning? Is meaning a thing, a simple property of some kind that God just hands to you and says, "Hi, here's your meaning?" Or is it more abstract? Is "meaning" simply the act of having a God to believe in and praise, therefore without a God, no meaning by default?You ask, what if a person decides, either through clinical depression or philosophical ramblings, that their lives are meaningless? What would I do? That's actually not a bad question. If someone's clinically depressed, I'd recognize they had a disease capable of treatment through medication and counseling, and help them get help. Why…I've actually done this. As it's my view that everyone's lives have the potential for great meaning (it's that empathy thing I mentioned before), my inclination is to try to dissuade them from hurting themselves. In the end, though, I cannot control anyone else. I cannot make their decisions for them.But how would you handle the clinically depressed person? Just by prattling and preaching about God? What if they'd tried the religion thing and it didn't work out? How will you demonstrate this being actually exists, and that it somehow has the magical ability to impose "meaning" on their lives where previously they had none? What if, like the priest in Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light, you tried this, failed, and the depressed person killed themselves anyway? Would you tell yourself it must have been "God's will"? And how would you address the fact the person had neurochemical imbalances causing them to suffer depression in the first place? If God made them, wouldn't God have made them with those imbalances, and therefore would it not have been his intent that they be depressed and suicidal? And why would God do that? Just to give a Christian a chance to practice his witnessing skills, maybe?My views about our determining our own lives' meaning can be supported by a simple, demonstrable fact: People are sentient beings who make judgments and decisions. We're imperfect beings, and will not always make good decisions. Sometimes people who make bad decisions grow up and learn to change. Sometimes they don't.How exactly does a God contribute anything at all to the process? It's obvious to me what you've done is simply chosen what is meaningful to you in life, given it the label "God," and then convinced yourself it chose you. I'm not sure why it's not obvious to you. Very few apologists I've spoken to seem to understand what it means for something to "have meaning," and I have to say I don't see you're any different there.

  67. 67
    Martin

    More Timothy (these Blogger character count limits are getting irritating): From your tone, I suspect that you're not actually interested in exploring the underlying issues of the nature of God, God's love, the meaning of suffering, and human free-will.Prove God exists first, then maybe I'll care about the underlying issues of his nature. At present, they're just as imaginary to me as the underlying issues of the nature of Zeus or the Great Pumpkin.Does God still love paedophiles? Yes. God is like a father who loves his children no matter what, even if they commit disgusting crimes. However, like a parent, it causes him great pain to see his own children commit such disgusting crimes.Crimes he could very easily prevent, but chooses not to. Good old Epicurus has my back on this one: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"For my part, it's easy to answer Epicurus: there simply isn't a God. It's the believers who have to reconcile these issues. I predict the Appeal to Free Will in 3…2…1…

  68. 68
    rrpostal

    Why is sentient matter more meaningful than non-sentient matter? Just because you say so?No, I am more meaningful to me as a sentient being because I am me and know that I'm sentient.Then you wander over this way: The second assumption is also unsubstantiated, and it is very dangerous. If our lives are only meaningful because we give them meaning, then it follows that they are meaningless if we fail to give them meaning. If I deny the meaningfulness of another person, then it's not such a big deal (to me) to kill or enslave that person, right?There are certainly people who don't see anything wrong with enslaving others. To THEM there is nothing wrong with it. But because I don't count on them for my values and worth, I disagree and am empathetic and will try to stop them. God wouldn't control things all that well without people and laws not allowing this stuff to happen.God loves EVERY INDIVIDUAL with an INFINITE love. That means all individuals are equally valuable in God's eyes.How on earth is that arrogantBecause if I can't see this INFINITE love, I get UNLIMITED pain and suffering. Even if you aren't "that kind of christian", You literally think you know who the creator of the universe loves. That's enough for me. That's like claiming to know Pres. Obama by his first name. Are paedophile priests awe-inspiring?Now you're just being flippant. No one said, implied or has ever imagined all of nature and everything in the world is wonderful and happy neon rainbows and puppy licks. In a sense though, these priests are amazing in that it's really hard to fucking believe the gall and hatred that must be within that minds.If you don't find the natural world awe inspiring, that's kind of sad. But I really think you were just attempting an off the cuff retort that doesn't really work. There is so many myriad things of such incredible depth and complexity that there is no reason to make up simple and, by comparison, pedestrian magical stories to be fully enriched. Do you disagree that your god's world is awe inspiring? How do you explain those closest to god having a pretty solid penchant for little kids? Don't try to cast their foibles into other people's laps. It was all them and something they have in common seems to raise the probability of innocence chicanery.

  69. 69
    Martin

    Headshaker: All because I feel empathy, compassion, etc does not mean I ought to act on them (from a philosophical perspective).Well, just because you feel hunger doesn't mean you ought to eat, I suppose. But most people do eat when they're hungry.Voltaire has his amusing rejoinder to the Golden Rule, "Do not do unto others as you have them do unto you, their tastes may be different." But I don't see that changes the fundamental fact that most people have the same set of evolved instincts towards self-interest and getting along with others. I mean, can you at least agree that most people do not wish to be needlessly hurt? Again, WHY WHY WHY do Christians need shit this basic explained to them so exhaustively? It's like you guys just missed Life 101 while learning the Lord's Prayer or something.Personally empathy towards others (and related emotions like compassion) is what drives me to help my fellow man. I don't like to see people suffer. But I also know it's the correct course of action because God has compassion on people in the first place.How do the first two sentences necessitate the third? Atheists get by on the first two alone, why do you need a God to put a stamp of approval upon your empathy and compassion? And as you admit Christians can be mean and brutal too, what about those whose view of God is not that of a compassionate father? God gets pretty wrathful and non-compassionate throughout the Bible. "To his foes," you might say. But wouldn't have compassion for them too? Weren't the Midianites people?I feel that the humanist version is simply "because I feel like it"Are you suggesting that's inadequate? Why, if it's simply an expression of our natures?

  70. 70
    Martin

    Timothy: You are part of nature. So are paedophile priests, and their paedophila. Yet you say of nature, "all of it is awe-inspring".Are paedophile priests awe-inspiring?Indeed they are. I am in awe of the extent of their corruption. Awe sometimes implies wonder, other times horror, sometimes both. Volcanoes and earthquakes are awe-inspiring, but you'd be a fool not to acknowledge their danger.

  71. 71
    Martin

    Another break tonight at nearly midnight Thursday, to once again say thanks to our Christian visitors for the hearty arguments. Though they do take a lot of energy, so expect intermittent comment approval and replies tomorrow as I have a busy workload. Still, thanks for showing up all the same. See you all tomorrow at some point.

  72. 72
    Headshaker

    @Martin"Are you suggesting that's inadequate? …"Yes. Because it's not about earning God's favour or approval. It's about in essence determining the morally correct (to the best of our abilities) course of action.

  73. 73
    Martin

    If that's all it's about (and I agree), God is utterly unnecessary to making such a determination. All that is needed is our natural human compassion and empathy. Because it is natural for me to feel compassion and empathy towards others, it is what I feel like doing. There. God vanishes in a puff of irrelevance.

  74. 74
    Timothy

    Tom and Martin: we're not getting very far, partly because you guys are attacking a caricature of Christianity. You call me arrogant, and yet you are totally unwilling to accept that belief in God could be rational. It is the height of arrogance.Martin:Quite apart from the unnecessarily patronizing tone, your comments on empathy still miss an important point. Yes, we experience empathy. Yes, empathy may be an inborn trait. But tell me, what if someone no longer FEELS empathy towards others? Does that have any bearing on how they should or should not treat other people?My point is that empathy may give rise to a natural tendency NOT to hurt others, but that doesn't explain WHY we shouldn't hurt others REGARDLESS of what we feel. You need an objective moral framework for that.This is where Tom is missing the point too. Yes, we GIVE meaning to the things around us. But is that the ONLY meaning that a person or thing has? If no one ascribes any meaning to a particular person or thing, does that person or thing actually have no meaning? To me, that is the inescapable logical conclusion of the materialist position. Am I missing something?And the whole thing about sentient beings or sentient matter is a bit of a moot point if you accept (as I do) the process of biological evolution. This planet began as a burning ball of chemicals. There were no sentient beings. The same matter present at those early stages has simply changed form through complex chemical interactions. Sentient beings are simply the most recent manifestation of that same basic matter. We are composed of the same subatomic particles as rocks.At the material level, we are the same stuff, just in a different arrangement.I don't see why, in a materialist, Godless universe, sentient beings – which are just complex arrangements of matter – have a higher value than non-sentient configurations of the very same matter. There is no reason to assume that this is the case. And it is arrogant and self-interested: I am sentient, therefore sentient beings are more valuable than non-sentient matter.The bottom line is, your instinct to ascribe meaning to people is not based on reason, but on feelings and assumptions.Let me ask you this: if I was to kill a person painlessly in their sleep, and that person had no family or friends, and no one else ever knew that they were dead, and I didn't feel bad about it, would it matter?Is that person's life objectively meaningful and valuable, REGARDLESS of whether or not anybody thinks so? And if so, why?My religion has reasonable (and complicated) answers to these questions. What does your worldview have to say?

  75. 75
    Kevin

    @MartinReading through your post and your response to people's arguments, it has become clearer to me that a lot of the characteristics and "basics" you ascribe to Christianity are things that as a Christian, I find repulsive.That is to say that if your view of Christianity is correct, I am not a Christian.Have you ever considered that your starting point may be wrong? And that what you view as Christianity is, in fact, a set of beliefs that masquerades as Christianity only because some of the belief holders call themselves Christians.As you seem to have devoted a portion of your life to arguing against Christianity, I would encourage you to ensure that you at least have an accurate understanding of the basics of Christianity.The problem with basing your understanding of Christianity on what you observe from Christians is that by and large we often misrepresent Jesus in one way or another, because we aren't Him.If you are interested in knowing what you're arguing against, my suggestion is to read one of 4 books:Vintage Jesus – Mark DriscollReason for God – Tim KellerMere Christianity – CS Lewis (old school)The Gospel of John – John (really old school).Your arguments have so far been far from open minded, so I imagine you'll dismiss this suggestion without much thought, but I challenge you not to.

  76. 76
    Headshaker

    @Martin"… it is what I feel like doing."This is where I think we digress in directions. For I do not think that the moral course of action is determined by our feelings. What if I feel it's right to touch up da kiddies (as you and so many atheists like to throw in the face of Catholics at the moment)? All atheists argue that the feelings those pedophilic leaders feel are wrong – yet empathy isn't? If empathy is right because I feel it towards my fellow man, why is sexual crime wrong? I feel my sexual feelings. Morally, philosophically how do you delineate?Now I'm sure that you have heard this sort of argument before (nothing new under the sun). However other than your feelings by what standard (that you can hold others to) do you derive moral goodness?For the record, I'm totally against pedophilia so please do not even suggest otherwise.

  77. 77
    Raymond

    This whole question of god being required for existance to have meaning is just an exercise in circular reasoning.1. For life to have meaning requires a god to give it meaning.2. My life has meaning. Therefore there is a god.It is such a weak apologetic.The 'look at the trees' argument is just a very distilled version of this.

  78. 78
    Christopher

    @Headshaker"I've heard it mentioned on the show that many hosts agree with the principle of "do no harm to others" as one of their fundamental worldview building blocks – but why?"That's easy – because it's adaptive and the alternative is maladaptive.

  79. 79
    Josh Deng

    Martin, thanks for your appreciation for us Christians putting in our 2 cents on your blog here. But I have to ask, do you have a vision of where you'd like this conversation to go?Unfortunately I'm seeing a lot of conversation that is not directed at understanding each other, but rather proving each other wrong. I feel that there's little gain in conversations like those. If I were sitting down face to face with an atheist who brought up the topic of these tweets, I'd probably want to ask him, "where are you coming from on this? What beliefs of your own do you stand on to make these statements about Christians?" and so on.So, just curious on where you think this is going. Perhaps it would even be beneficial to have a purpose statement put out for this comment string?

  80. 80
    Martin

    Kevin: That is to say that if your view of Christianity is correct, I am not a Christian.Well, glad to see we're getting somewhere. :-) That was one of the factors that helped me emancipate myself from these superstitions. (That, and the whole "not a shred of evidence for the existence of God" thing.)Have you ever considered that your starting point may be wrong? And that what you view as Christianity is, in fact, a set of beliefs that masquerades as Christianity only because some of the belief holders call themselves Christians.In other words, No True Christian/Scotsman. Kevin, the inability of Christians to get their own religion straight is, as far as I can see, hardly my problem. And has it occurred to you the people you say are only masquerading as Christian might well say that about you?As you seem to have devoted a portion of your life to arguing against Christianity, I would encourage you to ensure that you at least have an accurate understanding of the basics of Christianity.I was brought up Christian. And I have in fact learned far more about the religion in the years since I left it behind. So I suspect my understanding of it is fairly good. Indeed, I would suggest atheists as a general rule take the claims of Christianity more seriously than Christians do. It's why we're such vocal critics of it.The problem with basing your understanding of Christianity on what you observe from Christians is that by and large we often misrepresent Jesus in one way or another, because we aren't Him.Again, not my problem. If you guys can't even get your religion straight, you shouldn't blame unbelievers from calling out the problems with it. And you shouldn't complain that we don't have an "accurate understanding" of it when you so freely admit that most of you don't either.Anyway, have read John and C.S. Lewis. Unimpressed with Lewis. Have been interested in the prospect of doing a critique of the Keller, but frankly I have more pressing demands on my time.Your arguments have so far been far from open minded, so I imagine you'll dismiss this suggestion without much thought, but I challenge you not to.Are you implying that nothing I've posted here so far reflects "much thought," or are you just saying that because it's easier to complain that I'm being a big unfair meanie than to actually rebut me? Would it be more "open minded" of me to just stop thinking so damn much, throw up my hands and believe this stuff?

  81. 81
    Ing

    "If you are interested in knowing what you're arguing against, my suggestion is to read one of 4 books:Vintage Jesus – Mark DriscollReason for God – Tim KellerMere Christianity – CS Lewis (old school)The Gospel of John – John (really old school)"I'm gonna skip the usual part where i try to be nice and just move to the part where I'm a bastard. BWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Really? REALLY? Hey, why don't you run down to the college and inform all the Historians about the Protocols of Zion? Do you think that people some how managed to wander around this country unexposed to Christianity? You actually think NO one knows what Christianity is? I'm guess you actually don't since A) you play No True Christian with those you don't like and more importantly B) don't realize that those "who pose as Christians" are as much true honest to glorff believers as you. They believe in the SAME god and came to a different conclusion. Does that tell you anything? More to the point, here's an honest question to the cry babies "my life is useless" emo Christians. Without God does not necessarily mean without a god. What if the wiccans turn out to be right, or the Hindus (their are a lot more Hindus and Hindu derived faiths than any one christian sect)? Not even going in a pure naturalistic world, you'd say your life is useless because you're gonna be judged by Annubis or cycled back into reincarnation by Brahman rather than Jesus? Hey what if the Jews are right and there is a god but no afterlife? they reject Jesus as the messiah for a reason you know, what if he's not the savior. Same deal, same god, no afterlife. Come on…grow a fucking spine and take responsibility for your own actions. Ugh nothing disgusts me more than a pathetic pile of human goo prostrating him/herself in perpetual self flagellation. Oh and since ya'wll so big on books to read may *I* humbly suggestGod the Failed HypothesisWhy I am Not a ChristianThose Who Walk Away from OmelasPreacherThe God DelusionGod Is Not GoodOmelas is a short story and Preacher is a comic/graphic novel. Have fun.Just HAD to hit that wasp nest with a stick didn't you Martin?

  82. 82
    Kevin

    @MartinMy comment about your arguments not being open minded does not imply lack of thought, just lack of objective thought. I think each of your responses to each of my arguments illustrate this well.Cheers

  83. 83
    Martin

    Headshaker: Apologies if I wasn't clear, but what I meant to point out was that ones "feelings" (and I do hate the vague touchy-feely wishy-washiness of that term) towards how we treat our fellow man, at least among those of us who aren't sociopathic, are a reflection of our empathy, not the starting point for it. In other words, because I have empathy and compassion towards others, I just don't feel like hurting anyone. You're right that's poor wording, but then you brought up that you thought humanism was only based on "what I feel like," and I was trying to clarify what a gross oversimplification that was.Among people who feel the urge to hurt others or diddle the kiddies, then, well, you're dealing with a sociopath, and we tend to lock people like that up (when they aren't being protected by the churches and bishops who are supposed to represent this God I'm told is a superior source for understanding right and wrong). The desire to hurt and take advantage of others does not reflect empathy but a lack of it. That's why sexual desires that involve taking advantage of the unwilling and vulnerable are wrong.So how do I derive moral goodness? It's just breathtakingly simple. I understand that actions have consequences, and I have no wish to hurt others needlessly, because I'd hate to have that done to me. I've just never understood why Christians just can't get the simplicity of it.And another idea occurred to me last night. Christians claim moral goodness originates with God, and that man, without God, has no means to comprehend moral precepts. But man must live together as a social species, so it's easy to comprehend that we would develop guidelines of behavior to ensure our mutual survival, which we'd then codify into moral precepts and laws. Morality is a emergent social phenomenon. Indeed, morality cannot be divorced from a social context. Where there are no sentient beings interacting with one another, can morality be said to exist? On Mars, if a rock falls onto another rock and breaks it, has the first rock done an "immoral" thing?But if an all-powerful deity were in control of the universe, why would that being have any need for morals? This God would be untouchable, undefeatable. Above all of us, it can answer to none of us. There are no possible consequences it can face for anything it chooses to do. So why would God be moral? What reason would he have to develop a moral sense in the first place? If you say it is to serve as an example for us to follow, why would he care about us in the first place? Christians say "God is love," but what need does God have for love? A perfect being cannot have be added to or taken away from, so why would that God need our worship at all, let alone to the point of damning us for eternity for failing to worship to his satisfaction? Why would God have any need for us, or care how we acted in any way, if, as a perfect being, he would have been complete in himself?All these things — love, hate, morality, compassion, empathy, violence — they make sense understood in the context of natural, imperfect mere mortals with short lifespans trying to get by with one another. They make no sense when said to originate from an all-powerful being who has no need of any of them.

  84. 84
    Martin

    Kevin: What do you mean by "objective" thought? Are you implying I'm not just considering the Christian position? Sorry, but I think I am. Are you just wanting me to stop critiquing what Christians tell me? Well, I can't do that. I'm a critical thinker period, including views I hear from other atheists.I'm having a hard time figuring out what it is you want from me, if not to simply throw up my hands and give Christianity a pass despite what I see are its failings.

  85. 85
    Christopher

    "I think each of your responses to each of my arguments illustrate this well."I love this. No explanation of why he thinks this, he just does. I think this is a great illustration of one hand clapping.

  86. 86
    Martin

    Timothy, Josh: Will answer your latest comments this afternoon sometime if I can. Gotta run. Been wanting a comment thread like this for a while. Good times!

  87. 87
    Murphy

    @KevinGreat, just what the world needs. Another true Scotsman… Before you go any further on how we close minded atheists are generalising and judging Christianity by a few bad apples, how about you give us a clear concise definition of what the fuck Christianity actually is?Surely if you’re a Christian and base your life around this thing you call Christianity, you must be able to give us a clear concise definitional idea of what a Christian actually is (without simply palming us off to books by other people on the subject), otherwise how am i or anyone else, supposed tell the difference between a true Christian (and of course their Christian influenced behaviours) vs somebody that claims to be Christian but isn’t?Of course, I have my own definition of Christians and Christianity that i think is fairly accurate and useful, but as you’ve already demonstrated, most Christian theists tend to pull the, “well, ‘so and so’ isn’t a true Christian” card.My definition would be someone that a) believes in the Christian god. b) Believes the Christian bible is the word of god. c) Accepts Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour. d) Follows the biblical teachings of Jesus.The obvious problem here, is this definition allows for people like Fred Phelps to quite clearly be considered Christian. Additionally, my experience has been that if you get any more precise than this definition, you end up in interdenominational pissing matches that no one can actually agree on or justify due to contradictory scripture and the such like.If you think you have a better definition of Christians and Christianity than my a, b, c, and d, then by all means please provide that clear definition. Waiting on your magnanimous definition in the mean time, the best we atheists can do with Christianity, is to observe the behaviour (particularly in regards to behaviours influenced by religious tenants and doctrine) of people that claim to be Christian, and then make our assessments based on that…. and trust me Kevin… what we observe doesn’t reflect well on your group's ideology at all…

  88. 88
    Guillaume

    It never ceases to amaze me how Christian apologists often sound like Ufologists when ebating atheists/skeptics: both Xians and Ufologists refer to very specific cases or books to beef up their claim and discredit the other side's argument: "Oh, but you haven't studied X/Y/Z, this claim of miracle or that story or this great Xian author, so you don't understand as you don't have sufficient knowledge". Often they only presume we did not (I read Aquinas, Augustin and a good deal of the Bible), often they just throw names for the sake of it. Can't their argument stand on their own?

  89. 89
    Murphy

    @Josh DengMartin, thanks for your appreciation for us Christians putting in our 2 cents on your blog here. But I have to ask, do you have a vision of where you'd like this conversation to go?I completely agree… however:If I were sitting down face to face with an atheist who brought up the topic of these tweets, I'd probably want to ask him, "where are you coming from on this?”This has been completely clear from the very beginning in the original article and in nearly all the early comments by the atheists. Christianity is an ideology that perpetuates a mindset and culture of self worthlessness, and these tweets are yet another example.I agree that the direction of this comment thread has completely and magnificently derailed off topic with christians trying to spin “I am nothing” Vs "These people have hope and happiness WITH God in their lives”. Trying to prove their point with a negative by equating the possibility of secular morality to “well if touching children feels good it must be ok then right?”. And now the “no true Scotsman” from kev.However the original point of this article is really very very clear. If you understand English to a highschool level, i don’t see how you could justifiably ask “where are you coming from on this?”In fact, this comment of yours (and several others on this thread) actually reminds me of that interview Dawkins did with Wendy Wright, where he kept dictating long list of intermediate fossil sets that you can actually go to the Smithsonian and look at first hand… and her only response was to continually ignore him, and ask slowly with that condescending smile “But where is the evidence? Where are the fossils?”… Indeed Josh, where was martin coming from with this article?*facepalms*

  90. 90
    BeamStalk

    @HeadshakerMartin said…I have no wish to hurt others needlessly, because I'd hate to have that done to me.That is what you are missing when you are talking about empathy.

  91. 91
    Weasel

    @KevinOne of the major problems here is that Christians do not seem to agree on what Christianity is. There are some 38,000 different Christian demoniations. Each of which has their own set of ideas about what is or is not true. And within their ranks, each individual member has their own set of beliefs which may or may not correspond to these ideas. My father, for example, considers himself United, but does not believe in an afterlife.Are the Westboro baptists Christians? They say they are. I'm sure that your beliefs are WILDLY different than theirs, but the both of you still identify yourselves as Christians.I assume Kevin, that you consider yourself a true Christian. So would the Westboro Baptists. So would the Pope, for that matter. If the Pope has made claims that you disagree with, does this mean the Pope is not a true Christian?How is one to understand what a TRUE Christian is, when just about all Christians are claiming to be true Christians?

  92. 92
    hmmm

    tim, what meaning does your life have? because theres a god your life has meaning? how does that work? what meaning is that? to worship god? is that your lifes purpose? what good does that do? whats the point of that? you dismiss what people themselves live for, meanwhile you assume youve got the high ground because you adopted the meaning someone in a book gave you without any reason whatsoever. worship why? saved why? live forever for what? what a joke.

  93. 93
    cam_layton

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great comments. Martin, you're doing a great job. This topic really makes me sad to think of the many christians thinking this way. It's mental slavery, IMO. I feel like pulling out my Nietzsche books (a bit of overkill, but still worthwhile.) Also, I'm really glad I found the AE (via youtube). You guys rock!

  94. 94
    Mark

    They sound like a bunch of whiny emo teenagers that just got dumped.

  95. 95
    George From NY

    Timothy, You wrote: - Sentience is meaningful (as opposed to non-sentience)….The first assumption is completely unsubstantiated. Why is sentient matter more meaningful than non-sentient matter?and then you write:Let me just say, God made us free. He asks us to use our freedom to love, and to choose the good. But he also gives us the freedom to choose evil, and to hurt others and ourselves. That's why there's actually merit in choosing to do good. If we could ONLY choose good, then there would be no choice, and no merit in our actions.Do you hold that sentience and free will are unrelated?How exactly would a NON-sentient being have moral choices and meritorious actions?From a Christian point of view, sentience is not just "meaningful" – it's indispensable because it enables us to know God in the first place.Sentience is why George can have the sort of "relationship with Christ" which your side never tires of extolling.A rock can't have it. Lawn furniture can't have it. A person in a persistent vegetative state from catastrophic brain damage can't have it.You're sinking your own boat here, Tim.

  96. 96
    George From NY

    No True Christian dodges are annoying and dishonest enough, but become unbearably galling when deployed to deflect criticism of such core doctrinal elements as Original Sin and the Fallen Nature.On the other hand, it gives one cause for optimism. When believers themselves increasingly resort to this kind of obscurantism and denial, it's a sign that even they don't buy what they're selling.

  97. 97
    Asadullah Ali

    Well, seeing as the majority of the world do not exhibit abuse like symptoms due to their god belief, or that the DSM does not list "theism" as a cause of abuse, I really see your accusation as mere pissing in the wind.The irony is that you constantly asked for peer reviewed sources (aka, evidence) for claims relating to god, but fail to provide any of your own for your blatant beliefs of anti-theism.It sort of reminds me of the Rational Response Squad (an active anti-theists group) and their dogmatic insistence that the majority of the world literally suffers from a common mental disorder. So, since you have not and for the most part, cannot provide evidence for this assertion, being that no research asserts or agrees with your conclusion (and especially wouldn't seeing as twitter is not an acknowledged source of statistical inquiry), allow me to provide a tasteful rebuttal of rhetoric from yours truly.The reason these people say they are "nothing" without God, is because they realize their own imperfections and through Gods Mercy and Love they are able to become better people each day and overcome their flaws. They realize, unlike the liberal-materialists-progressive-utopian-"Im smarter and a better human than everyone else"-mentality (which incidentally is bed buddies with the same mentality as the fundamentalists), that they are not the most powerful beings on the planet or the universe. This is their humility being manifested because they have something to look up to and appreciate. Much like you should acknowledge that you would be "nothing" had your parents not had you, nurtured you, etc.In other words, I find it rather inhumane to chastise these individuals for being human.

  98. 98
    Mark B

    @ Ali"In other words, I find it rather inhumane to chastise these individuals for being human."Then what's your take on Original Sin?

  99. 99
    Asadullah Ali

    George & Others,You say:"No True Christian dodges are annoying and dishonest enough, but become unbearably galling when deployed to deflect criticism of such core doctrinal elements as Original Sin and the Fallen Nature.On the other hand, it gives one cause for optimism. When believers themselves increasingly resort to this kind of obscurantism and denial, it's a sign that even they don't buy what they're selling."Let's be honest for once here. Yes, I am calling you intellectually dishonest and I think rightly so. You chastise people for saying things like, "This is not true Christianity/Islam/Judaism etc." and then you go on to say that the reason for this is that these individuals do not "buy what they're selling". These two comments are indication enough that you believe that there is such a thing as a true Christianity/Islam/Judaism, much like the rest of us.In fact, all of you here who complain about this sort of "defense" as being a fallacy are two faced. You like to comment about how certain theistic beliefs are "confusing" and that there is no definite version of either of them, but then boldly go on to give your own interpretation of what a real Christian/Muslim/Jew really is.And interestingly enough, it's the version that best fits your thesis about how religion is bad for the world. The irony is that in your attempts to support the fundamentalists/extremists versions of these religions as authentic, you are actually providing more cover (as Sam Harris likes to say) for those extremists than the moderates are.

  100. 100
    Asadullah Ali

    Mark B.,Well, first, it should be noted that I'm no longer a Christian, but I'll give you my two cents on it. While I am not theologically inclined to it, I can understand the perspective in the general sense that it is simply an admittance of humanities flaws and for the most part this is simply how people view it on the level of the pew.Further, just for the sake of clarification, not all Christians subscribe to this notion. In fact, the second largest denomination of Christianity in the world (the Orthodox Church) does not believe in original sin, but "original forgetfulness", much like Islam. Human beings are not born with sin, but with the ability to sin. In either case, its obvious that any ideology and its intentions can be misused and can abuse individuals, but to make the sweeping generalization that this is what religion does is simply a display of ignorance and there is no good reason or evidence to support this.

  101. 101
    Mark B

    @ Ali"Human beings are not born with sin, but with the ability to sin."But the thing is, much of what is considered "sin" by the religious are often perfectly natural human desires that harm no one.It'd be interesting to hear what "original forgetfulness" is. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that regardless of what you call it, the Orthodox (I'm assuming Eastern)church believes that if you don't get salvation, you are damned. No?

  102. 102
    Murphy

    @Asadullah AliWell, seeing as the majority of the world do not exhibit abuse like symptoms due to their god belief, or that the DSM does not list "theism" as a cause of abuse, I really see your accusation as mere pissing in the wind.I think you’ll have trouble logically proving that negative assertion. But regardless of whether that statement you’ve made was actually true or not, do you think DSM or anyone else would ever actually list theism as a cause or form of abuse even if it was? Just look at what the pope and the catholic church is getting away with at the moment. Beyond simply being a form of psychological abuse, religion appears to go a full step further and actually to act as a ‘get out of jail free card’ for tangible abuses that are committed. Obviously you can’t prove your negative assertion, but between everything from these tweets, to gay rights, to church celibacy and attitudes towards sex, to original sin, to protecting paedophile priests from the law, to the avocation of guilt for thought crimes, the avocation of eternal torture and punishment for finite crimes, the circumstantial evidence is stacking up in our favour on this one at an exponential rate.The irony is that you constantly asked for peer reviewed sources (aka, evidence) for claims relating to god, but fail to provide any of your own for your blatant beliefs of anti-theism.Not even going to dignify this beyond saying bourdon of proof!The reason these people say they are "nothing" without God, is because they realize their own imperfections and through Gods Mercy and Love they are able to become better people each day and overcome their flaws.I don’t know how many times this has been pointed out on this comment thread already. “Without god i am nothing” and “Without god I’d have more trouble overcoming my imperfections and flaws” are two completely different statements. Please stop trying to spin this. You don’t have a leg to stand on, and 100 comments into a thread that has already more than covered this point, you’re just making yourself look like a fool.In other words, I find it rather inhumane to chastise these individuals for being human.We aren’t chastising these individuals. I think martin at one point has already covered this. We pity these individuals. We chastise the institution of Christianity.

  103. 103
    kurt

    What is the Gospel? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0g-s4Qhtyk&feature=youtu.be

  104. 104
    Tom Foss

    @Headshaker: It's about in essence determining the morally correct (to the best of our abilities) course of action.Not only is God unnecessary to that, but we all recognize this. The whole point of moral philosophy is to propose situations that may or may not be realistic, but which have morally ambiguous solutions. The Bible's rigid, outdated rules offer no guidance in these situations. The Bible gives general rules that do not help in specific situations. Okay, "thou shalt not murder," but what counts as "murder"? Is it morally equivalent to murder someone and to let someone die when it's in your power to stop it? Is it murder to kill an unborn child? Is it murder to force a woman to carry a child to term if you know she's going to die in childbirth? The best the Bible can muster on these is that if you cause a woman to miscarry, you have to pay a fine. Revelation isn't any help; if pro-life and pro-choice Christians both think they have the right answer, and even if only one of those groups is actually receiving input from God, no one has any way of distinguishing which group that is. Even if we got our basic values from the Bible, we'd still have to hammer out the difficult details as a society, through reason and debate. There are moral issues that never occurred to the shepherds and fishermen in the Bible–is cloning morally permissible? What's the morally correct option with regard to Net Neutrality? Organ transplants? Genetic modification? Life support? Stem cell research? If we have to (and can) figure out our morals in these novel situations, and if we have to (and can) figure out our morals when the details make general rules useless, then we can figure out the general rules too. Someone here said that the humanist position is "because I said so," but that's not the case. As Matt D. explained in his "Superiority of Secular Morality" speech, it's "because we said so." Secular morals come from society, based on and derived from the values we share (which, in part, come from the values necessary for society to exist) and are developed through a continuing process of conversation, debate, enactment, and revision. It's ultimately a democratic system, where authority comes from within, rather than from outside. So, yes, some people decide to act on feelings that go contrary to what we, as a society, have deemed to be appropriate. In some cases, these people cause us to reevaluate our decisions–maybe we shouldn't deny some people the right to marry, maybe we shouldn't outlaw marijuana, maybe we shouldn't have separate schools for people of different races–and in other cases, we just remove those people from the society (in these days, generally through imprisonment, though exile was once a valid option). The rights and benefits you receive from membership in a society are predicated on your ability to follow the rules of that society, and carry the understanding that if you break the rules, you may forfeit those benefits. Again, this is a value which is necessary for society to function. There are also cases where people do things that are perfectly in line with the agreed-upon values of a society, but seem abhorrent to the current members of that society, and again cause us to reevaluate our moral thought. The idea that a husband could rape his wife, for instance, is a relatively recent innovation, brought about by changing attitudes about sex and women's rights. It was perfectly legal (and in some places, still is) for a husband to force his wife to have sex with him, and at one time it would have been thought perfectly moral as well, but the people who make up a society changes, and so the rules of the society must change as well.

  105. 105
    Tom Foss

    Timothy: we're not getting very far, partly because you guys are attacking a caricature of Christianity.No more than you're attacking a caricature of atheism, with your "these are the necessary assumptions/conclusions of your worldview" drivel. The difference is that I've talked to and read from Christians who actually do espouse all the (few) doctrinal points I brought up. You can debate who's the true Christian all you want, but I have no desire nor method of distinguishing between the two. Does that have any bearing on how they should or should not treat other people?Empathy is a part of morals, but not the entirety. A part of it is also self-interest: if I harm someone, they may in turn harm me; if I steal from someone, they may steal from me, and so forth. It's in my best interest to follow the rules, because the rules protect me from other people like me. And if I don't follow the rules, then I may be penalized for it. I don't have to fear end-of-life judgment, and it's not the fear of end-of-life judgment that keeps people from going 95 mph on the highway. It's a combination of "the rules are there for a reason" (i.e., if I drive too fast, I might get hurt) and "the rules are enforced" (i.e., if I drive too fast, I may get in trouble). When people decide to break the rules, society punishes them for it, whether through something like the justice system or through something less rigid and concrete, like ostracization and stigmatization. This is where Tom is missing the point too. Yes, we GIVE meaning to the things around us. But is that the ONLY meaning that a person or thing has?Until you demonstrate that there is some other meaning-granting entity, which is the unfounded assumption of your position.If no one ascribes any meaning to a particular person or thing, does that person or thing actually have no meaning?I don't think a person has "no meaning," because I'd think personhood requires sentience, and a person would mean something to herself.

  106. 106
    Asadullah Ali

    Mark B.,Thank you for your response. You say the following:But the thing is, much of what is considered "sin" by the religious are often perfectly natural human desires that harm no one.Really? Murder, adultery, uncontrolled sexual desires, theft, gluttony, slander, etc. don't hurt people or the people themselves? I beg to differ.I mean, let's take adultery and other sexual sins, for instance (ones often picked on by atheists). Are you trying to say that adultery does not ruin families and hurt children? Are you saying that uncontrollable sexual desires where people go from partner to partner does not help with the spread of STDs, unwanted pregnancies, emotional distress, and emotional feelings of less worth? Are you trying to tell me that the "liberation" of women to wear near to nothing does not lead to the objectification of women as mere sex objects, and the continuing disrespect and victimization of women? I mean, it's certainly a fact that an unbalanced view of sin can also lead to problems and oppression as well (that I wouldn't deny), but I hardly see how the view of sin in general is somehow harmless."It'd be interesting to hear what "original forgetfulness" is. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that regardless of what you call it, the Orthodox (I'm assuming Eastern)church believes that if you don't get salvation, you are damned. No?""Original forgetfulness" basically just means that human beings are born innocent, but commit errors against themselves, humanity, and God on the basis that they forget what their purpose and duties are in life. The Eastern Church and just about every other religion in the world that teaches damnation and salvation believe that one who does not obtain salvation is condemned, but not in such a general sense. There are many people who are excluded from this scheme, such as those who are ignorant of the truth or unable to grasp it. Thanks for your question.

  107. 107
    Murphy

    A quaint little video kurt. Here are my problems with it.1) This whole outlook is based on an obscure passage in an obscure book, in an obscure corner of the bible, that Keller Himself freely admits at the start of the video, that most of the Christian filled hall probably didn’t even know existed. This one passage isn’t exactly the party line for Christianity, and i bet my bottom dollar that there are probably a handful of other old and new testament passages that could be used to directly contradict this one vague statement. A good example just of the top of my head is Mark 16:15-20 (something from the ACTUAL gospels) and would be a perfect justification for these “soap box Christians” that keller is chastising (and perhaps MattD or George could help out with some more. I’m not a bible scholar myself). If that is the case, what justification do you have for accepting this one passage over the others that contradict it and saying this is what makes a true christian? Is it just that this passage rather than the other suits your version of Christianity? Or can you give us something more objective?2) Keller freely admits in this video that this is a vindication that your actions aren’t as important as beliefs. Taken to the logical extreme you can commit mass murder and fiddle kiddies, and still be a considered a good Christian as long as you accept jesus as your lord and saviour. Which brings me to point 3.3) Its seems for all his magnanimity about being humble and not acting superior to other people because of your Christianity (claiming this is soap box Christianity and not true Christianity at all), evidently, he still thinks that despite the fact that i may be a good person, i rightly and justifiably deserve eternal torture and punishment for not being a member of his little club …Fuck him. And fuck his hypocritical intellectual wankery.

  108. 108
    Asadullah Ali

    Geoff,You say:"I think you’ll have trouble logically proving that negative assertion."To be to the point, I really don't have to prove it. The fact is that the author of this article including anyone who agrees with it needs to prove it. Why? Because they were the ones making the claims first. But for the sake of argument, I can very well verify what I've just say by simply looking in the DSM with a fine tooth comb and also going through a psychology data base of peer reviewed studies. Yes, it's that simple. You then say:"But regardless of whether that statement you’ve made was actually true or not, do you think DSM or anyone else would ever actually list theism as a cause or form of abuse even if it was? Just look at what the pope and the catholic church is getting away with at the moment. Beyond simply being a form of psychological abuse, religion appears to go a full step further and actually to act as a ‘get out of jail free card’ for tangible abuses that are committed. Obviously you can’t prove your negative assertion, but between everything from these tweets, to gay rights, to church celibacy and attitudes towards sex, to original sin, to protecting paedophile priests from the law, to the avocation of guilt for thought crimes, the avocation of eternal torture and punishment for finite crimes, the circumstantial evidence is stacking up in our favour on this one at an exponential rate."Besides the fact that conspiracy theories are not evidence, particular incidents do not prove your point that circumstantial evidence is being "stacked in your favor at an exponential rate". You need to show that to be the case. I can likewise point to counter examples where religion helps people get out of self abuse and abusive relationships. Your arguing for probabilities here, so let's see the statistics and compare.Oh wait…you don't have anything on that scale? Who would have thought…But this isn't even the crux of it all. What you really need to prove is whether the specific teachings of these religions actually sanction this sort of behavior. Only then will you actually have a point against religion itself. Further, you need to show that your interpretations are true of that religion. Until that time, all you can say is that certain person's interpretation of religion or their ignoring of particular principles is what is driving them to these immoral acts, or, as I would advocate, you are merely ignorant of what these religions really teach."Not even going to dignify this beyond saying bourdon of proof!"Correction and not an insult, but the word is spelled burden. Further, just because you are an atheist does not mean that you are immune to having to give reasons for your own positive claims. So please, spare me the intellectually lazy response of: "The burden is on you, just because I lack a belief in a particular proposition that you aren't even advocating at this time and I can't seem to understand that I make positive claims myself!"

  109. 109
    Asadullah Ali

    Geoff (P2),"I don’t know how many times this has been pointed out on this comment thread already. “Without god i am nothing” and “Without god I’d have more trouble overcoming my imperfections and flaws” are two completely different statements. Please stop trying to spin this. You don’t have a leg to stand on, and 100 comments into a thread that has already more than covered this point, you’re just making yourself look like a fool."And you're just as bad as the fundamentalists you chastise when you pick on words like this. The fact of the matter is, you have no grounds to assume that this is how they are actually reacting or what they believe. I at least argued from the doctrine itself and how language is typically used by people who say this. You, on the other hand, interpreted the statements from your negative bias of religion and religious persons to begin with."We aren’t chastising these individuals. I think martin at one point has already covered this. We pity these individuals. We chastise the institution of Christianity."And let me just say, that while I disagree with the institution of Christianity, I certainly agree with all the Christians here that you're doing a very poor job at representing what they actually believe.Calling them "dishonest" about their own beliefs doesn't help your case either.You then say:"George and everyone else (me included) doesn’t have to believe in true Christianity for his point to be valid. We just have to assume Kevin and yourself believe in true Christianity, And i for one am personally sick to fucking death of theists trying to pull their “you doth protest too much me thinks” bullshit. I’m sorry but “Oh you look angry at god, and you can’t be angry at someone without believing they exist” is not an argument. As is stated before, god is irrelevant, what is relevant is the institution of Christianity."Well, for one, I never argued that you're angry at God. What I actually think is that while your anger is justified in some cases, it is not justified for all. What you're angry at are a few things, which, out of emotional ease and intellectual laziness, you apply to the majority.Secondly, it's pointless to argue against Christianity if you don't have a belief about what Christianity is. If there is no such thing as a true Christianity or some solid teachings that you can grasp, then there's really no point from which to argue. It's like saying that there is no true such thing as truth, but then trying to argue your point as though it's true. Now, you could argue that somehow there was, at one point, a true Christianity, which has somehow been corrupted over the ages into different sects, which I would grant, but even then you can't argue that all Christianities somehow have the same influence. In that sense, your argument would crumble.What it just looks like to me is that you want any excuse to be pissed at something, so at one point you'll switch from making generalizations when it suits you and then switch to particulars when that becomes more suitable.

  110. 110
    Asadullah Ali

    Tom FossI just wanted to comment on one thing you said:"Someone here said that the humanist position is "because I said so," but that's not the case. As Matt D. explained in his "Superiority of Secular Morality" speech, it's "because we said so." Secular morals come from society, based on and derived from the values we share (which, in part, come from the values necessary for society to exist) and are developed through a continuing process of conversation, debate, enactment, and revision. It's ultimately a democratic system, where authority comes from within, rather than from outside."I always find the conception of equal opportunity ethical subjectivism to be rather funny. So morals are based on what we as a collective decide from within for the sake of our own survival? I don't think so. I don't even think this is something natural of human beings to think.What I do happen to think is that human beings decide on what is objectively moral, meaning that human beings for the most part believe that morality transcends their personal or collective preferences. If they didn't think this, such thing as "social reform", would not be possible. A worthy example (though failing miserably in our times) is the United States. It was not founded on a social contract theory of we who happen to decide collectively just for the sake of utility, but that utility is grounded in an objective standard of morality predicated on the idea of a transcendent source, which no majority can overturn. And no, I'm not talking about the U.S. Constitution, but the very precursor and foundation to that document found in an idea manifested in only a few words in a previous declaration: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…"As much as that may bother you, it's an undeniable fact. And while people may argue about what the objective standard is or what it actually says, they still think there is one to begin with.Your version of ethics that stems from this utopian idea of self preservation and meditations from hippy bong sessions isn't an accurate description of reality.

  111. 111
    Murphy

    @Asadullah AliBesides the fact that conspiracy theories are not evidence,You think these tweets are part of a conspiracy? What about the catholic church’s documented paedophile atrocities and their subsequent attempts at cover-ups for the sake of the church that are coming out of Ireland and Germany at the moment? Get out your tinfoil. I’ll admit, there has been conspiring going on, but not on the part of some evil atheist conspiracy. But this isn't even the crux of it all. What you really need to prove is whether the specific teachings of these religions actually sanction this sort of behaviour.In the case of these tweets, the concept of people being unworthy in gods eye’s and needing salvation through blood sacrifice. In the case of the catholic paedophilia, how about the pope’s recent pastoral letter. Further, just because you are an atheist does not mean that you are immune to having to give reasons for your own positive claims.On one hand i disagree, on the other i agree. As far as atheism is concerned we are the defendant position. The theist presents their arguments and evidence as the prosecution. Atheists have the job of refuting the God claims and arguing that they don’t meet the requirement of “beyond reasonable doubt”. We don’t have to prove that god doesn’t exist, just refute the theistic assertions put to us.I do however agree that when we make positive assertions like that Christianity is an ideology that promotes self hate, we DO HAVE to produce evidence to support that argument. And we have. These tweets are empirical evidence which support this argument. The fact that you want to put on a tinfoil hat and write them off as part of some grandiose atheist conspiracy theory is unfortunate, but regretfully i guess that’s your prerogative. The fact of the matter is, you have no grounds to assume that this is how they are actually reacting or what they believe. I at least argued from the doctrine itself and how language is typically used by people who say thisWell based on that statement, you have no grounds to make these assumptions about their statements or beliefs either. And biased as i may be, I don’t think i was any less objective about it that you were. With doctrine like original sin and statements that use clear English words like “@iLoveMJ147 Without God I am nothing.”, “@BellaKerber Without God, life has no meaning.”, and “@Periyon Without God I have nothing else to live for…” do you really expect me to take these statements differently than i did? Excluding all biases or back and forth arguments on the finer details for a second, could you honestly say that my interpretation of the statement is explicitly unjustified just reading them as is?

  112. 112
    Murphy

    @Asadullah Ali Secondly, it's pointless to argue against Christianity if you don't have a belief about what Christianity is.Here’s were i think we have the disconnect. Its not about generalization. Its not about strange contradictions you’ve concocted about the truth of truth. What i believe about Christianity is that its whatever the Christians choose to make up and call Christianity. And when i see one Christian saying “god says the gays are evil.” And another Christian saying “god says the gays are ok.” And both of them are saying to each other “that other guy isn’t a true Christian” while pointing to deferent parts of the same bible… As an atheist and outside observer, i don’t think i’m unjustified in asking, “well what is a true Christian or Christianity then?”You see this true Christian dilemma isn’t on the atheist side of the divide, we just highlight it. The atheists think its all make-believe. Generalised, specific, or otherwise, the fact that Christianity can’t get its story strait, and that Fred Phelps and Barry Linn both claim to be Christians and acting in a Christian manner isn’t my fucking problem. As i said to Kevin, unless i’m given a better method than my a, b, c, d to differentiate the TrueChristians from the FakeChristians, the best we atheists can do with Christianity, is to read the holy book and observe the behaviour (particularly those behaviours influenced by religious tenants and doctrine) of people that claim to be Christian, and then make our assessments based on that. I don’t think that’s really an unreasonable position.I’m not the fundamentalist fascist you imply either. I’m not angry at everyone. I recognise that the number of good Christians far out way the number of bad Christians. Some of them close family members. And i don’t mean to generalise and apply the criminal acts of a few bad people, to the majority of good people because they have the same name. However, I’m not talking about the individuals here, but the ideology itself. Its hard to separate i’m know, but the Christians themselves do it all the time. The reason these Christians are good people is because they blatantly ignore the large portion of their own holy book that disagrees with their own personal sensibilities. Fact, the bible supports slavery. Fact, most Christians i know don’t support slavery. If you have a more efficient theory to reconcile these two facts than Christians simply ignoring the portions they don’t like, please tell me. I’m not saying all Christians are bad. Or that most Christians aren’t good. But i am saying Christianity itself is a terrible ideology that can and does have observable negative effects on many of its followers as individuals and as whole groups.

  113. 113
    Mark B

    @ Ali"Really? Murder, adultery, uncontrolled sexual desires, theft, gluttony, slander, etc. don't hurt people or the people themselves? I beg to differ."Of course you do. And of course you've chosen the worst examples of human behavior, when what I meant was:Homosexuality. Eating pork. Working on the Sabbath. Eating shellfish.Or THINKING about adultery, and not actually doing it. A sin. THINKING about stealing and not doing it. A sin. DOUBTING the existence of God. Big sin.Here's one; Being born. Original sin. Die in the cradle, go to hell forever.And as far as the "Liberation" of women, it wasn't so they could wear "next to nothing", it was to give them equal rights as men. Do you think that's a sin? Or even a bad idea? And if a woman chooses to wear "next to nothing" I am capable of restraining myself from physically assaulting her.

  114. 114
    Tom Foss

    I don't think so. I don't even think this is something natural of human beings to think.And I think you're an idiot. I'm not saying that this is something that people believe happens. Yes, people believe that their morals come from some outside source, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The fact is that all human civilizations–and all social animals–have and enforce systems of ethics. Even water buffalo engage in self-sacrifice and a "no man left behind" philosophy. Even chimpanzees remember which individuals have wronged them and which have helped. Such systems are all over, unspoken, and strikingly similar to the very few rules that most human cultures have in common.If they didn't think this, such thing as "social reform", would not be possible.Perhaps I miss your meaning, but how is "social reform" possible if you think your morals come from an unchanging outside source? And no, I'm not talking about the U.S. Constitution, but the very precursor and foundation to that document found in an idea manifested in only a few words in a previous declaration: Oh, you're going to make the "the US is based on Christian values" argument? And you're going to use a document by Thomas Jefferson–Thomas "I cut all the supernatural stuff out of the Bible" Jefferson–Thomas "Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law." Jefferson–to make your point? Okay, we can play that: I recommend you actually read the passage you've quoted, because I don't think it says what you think it does. I've added emphasis to make it clearer:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."Not "God holds these truths to be self-evident." Not "we hold these truths that come from a deity or a religious source." But we hold these truths to be self-evident.

  115. 115
    soul_biscuit

    @Ali,The foundational document of the United States is the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence, as I think you know. And the government established by the Constitution is one of limited powers. Who grants those powers? Is it the Creator? Is it Almighty God? Is it God's prophet Mohammed, may blessings be upon him? No! It's We the People. Sounds like a secular social contract to me.You claim that social reform is impossible without a transcendent source of morality. This is, frankly, asinine. In any meaningful social reform movement in US history, for example, it's true that those desirous of reform often appealed to God and the Bible, and so did their opponents. The transcendent source turned out to be no help at all. The reforms we've achieved happened because groups of people decided that the proposition that "all men are created equal" ought to apply to them too. Whether or not they were in fact created has no bearing, because that Creator certainly never stepped in to make sure that those unalienable rights were enforced. If morality stemmed from a transcendent source, then that source must either be remarkably inconsistent or nearly unintelligible, because concepts of morality differ widely through time and space. It's far more parsimonious to propose that our concepts of morality shift along with changes in our values, and that the moral precepts that have survived to this day are those that made possible our survival and success.

  116. 116
    rrpostal

    @ Ali"Really? Murder, adultery, uncontrolled sexual desires, theft, gluttony, slander, etc. don't hurt people or the people themselves? I beg to differ."Oh come on. Do you really think those are the particulars that were being discussed? When you say things like that, you are either being purposefully deceitful, or miss the entire gist of the discussion. Give people some credit and they may actually listen to what you are saying in return. But such an insulting non-answer only filibusters the message board.Are we to believe that you take literally all of the bible's teachings? If so, do you honestly believe the above mentioned teachings are the parts that people will find offensive? I give you moire credit than that.

  117. 117
    George From NY

    Ali wrote:In fact, the second largest denomination of Christianity in the world (the Orthodox Church) does not believe in original sin, but "original forgetfulness", much like Islam. Human beings are not born with sin, but with the ability to sin.And later, admonished Geoff:The fact that you were completely unaware of the Orthodox Churchs views on the matter shows just how ignorant you are of the things you object to. I refer you to the website of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, which helpfully contains the Orthodox catechism:http://www.gocanada.org/catechism/catorsin.htmRight there, in the fourth paragraph, we find:Worst of all, original sin is hereditary. It did not remain only Adam and Eve's. As life passes from them to all of their descendants, so does original sin. We all of us participate in original sin because we are all descended from the same forefather, Adam.Ali chided Geoff:You should learn before you try to teach.Good advice, Ali. Why don't you try it?

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