Quantcast

«

»

Sep 15 2012

Theists Have the Best P.R. Machine Ever.

At the Denver meeting, one thing I did was encourage other atheist anti-theists to step up and make sure other people–especially those who weren’t raised in religion–understand the doctrines that are taught within religion.

With that in mind, I’ve been doing more of it. When I see a person promoting a religious doctrine that is horrible, as though it’s wonderful, I’m calling them out on it. I’m telling them they’re not going to get away with claiming religion is good where it’s hideous. They’re not going to get away with giving religion credit for things that religion did not invent, but hijacked from nature.

Recently during an exchange on a social network site, where I was arguing for anti-theism, I was confronted with a claim I wanted to share, as a golden example of what I think needs to happen every time religion is praised for hurting people–not just hurting people in obvious ways, like restricting people’s rights or killing people, but in promoting harmful ideas that are absorbed by the public as “good” and “upright.” It’s the insidious toxic crap that slides in under the radar that does the most lasting damage, because the inability of so many to even see it makes it go unaddressed. With that in mind, I bring you my response to this assertion on a thread (and please note the person is not, as far as I’m aware, a theist; he is simply arguing for the “good” of religion):

Assertion: They [religious theists] also show insight by recognizing that Man is sinful. Who can argue with that?

My response: I can and will argue that man is not only not sinful, but the doctrine of sin is one of the most wicked ideas ever hoisted upon human societies.

Sin is defined as disobedience to god. Euthyphro put forward a dilemma that demonstrated a very big problem with this concept. If god commands genocide, is it good because god commanded it or is it commanded by god because it is good? Either way, I would sin and not commit the genocide. So, what good is sin as a concept? It is only useful if you agree that no matter what atrocity god commands, people should obey god in order to avoid being sinful. If being sinful can also be moral, then what is the use of “sin”?

If I agree whatever god commands is good, then I stop using my own human moral judgment and sensibilities, and just obey a list of rules that may or may not actually be moral. How is that “good”? I agree religion dreamed up this monstrosity–but it seems wholly wicked to me to tell people to obey any command from god, and not question, and it’s evil to disobey, no matter what your personal assessment of the situation is.

This is VERY different than morality which is identified in other social species (without religion–so religion gets ZERO credit for “inventing morality”–since it’s evolved as a trait in social species) as empathy, compassion, a sense of fairness. Dogs and chimps have demonstrated some or all of these tendencies as well as a slew of other animals. Religion comes a long with “sin” and completely undermines this, and tells humans to disregard it and just obey.

So, I would argue sin is a giant load of toxic crap.

***

Please feel free to post any of your own examples of things for which religion is broadly lauded, where it is clearly damaging. I’m on a mission here.

105 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    annabucci

    Abolitionists used the bible to support their view that slavery is abhorrent, Quakers for example.

    1. 1.1
      heicart

      This is a good example. Some issues are two-sided, and you get theists supporting both sides. Many years later, now, all we hear is that theists fought for Abolition–but they don’t ever recognize or bring up the fact they fought just as hard on the side of maintaining slavery. So, they use things like this to say “We did the right thing in this issue…” and downplay, ignore, or even outright deny the role they played on the opposing side. Abolition isn’t the only such issue, either. But thanks for noting that.

      1. DrewF

        And for that matter, Christian slave owners had just as much biblical basis for their arguments as Christian abolitionists. Both of them picked the passages that appealed to them and ignored or rationalized away the ones that didn’t.

        1. heicart

          Absolutely. And it just brings it right back to the original question: Where they Abolitionists because the Bible told them so, regardless of their own moral leanings? Or were they Abolitionists because it was the right thing, and they just used the Bible to prop up a position they used their own moral judgment to ascertain? Either way, their moral judgment was either undermined, in which case we’re saying they’d just as easily have been pro-slavery if they had read the Bible a bit differently*, or their moral judgment is to be credited rather than their religion.

          *Doing the right thing because you’re told to, and not because you have any moral understanding that it’s right, leaves a person vulnerable to doing the wrong thing simply because it’s what their told. The doctrine of sin leaves no room for moral judgment, that is the problem, not which acts are defined as sinful. Someone in Denver pointed out that if you want to poison an animal, you put the poison in something good, like a hunk of meat. You mix up a bit of good with the bad, and it makes selling the bad that much easier. Again, it really helps your P.R.–”Look at the good…not so much at the bad.” But the “good” is just religion hijacking innate morality of social species in this case. The “good” it takes credit for isn’t even good it supplied–just good it stole.

    2. 1.2
      heicart

      I should add this is another example as well of religion taking credit for positions people can come to without religion. So, it’s something people recognized as a secularly reasonable position as well–again on both sides. But it demonstrates that religion added nothing but justifications to the positions people already held. And in fact, with the Bible, there are as many passages indicating people should be well treated (slave owners often thought their slaves were well treated) or considered equal (Jews were allowed to enslave other Jews in the Bible, so inequality wasn’t the scriptural basis for slavery, people could be equal–as fellow Jews–and still enslaved). Additionally Biblical laws sanctioned and even regulated slave owning–which demonstrates further how people were actually just using their religion to support whatever positions they already held. But as I said in the earlier reply–interesting that they want credit for their role in ending slavery, but don’t want any reminders that they were just as culpable in promoting and maintaining it as a religiously sanctioned institution.

    3. 1.3
      Jonathon Cowley

      Abolitionists did the right thing despite Christianity’s moral handicap, not because of it.

  2. 2
    michaelnam

    The concept of worshipping a deity is revolting. The idea that some powerful being requires and compels love and devotion from “lesser” beings for all eternity is grotesque. As Hitchens used to argue, at least you could escape North Korea by dying.

  3. 3
    Emu Sam

    I think something new just went click for me on the matters of [why not just follow the rules] and [why not just have rule-based ethics]. Thank you.

    1. 3.1
      heicart

      Well, I have to give credit to Euthyphro, but you’re welcome.

  4. 4
    cag

    Despots want a submissive populace. What better way than to invent a super despot who gives the despot the appearance of benevolence? If the despot then sets himself (always a him!?) up as the intermediary between the super despot and the people, the result is a controlling religion. The despot wins, the people lose.

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    It’s funny, because I was thinking about this earlier. The way I was putting it was “I’m a sinner because I’m too busy trying to be moral”

    1. 5.1
      heicart

      Hallelujah! And you can get an “Amen!”

  6. 6
    Kevin2

    Don’t they think that sacrifice/scapegoating is a virtue (Jesus sacrificed for you!)? If so, I would consider that to be something that is lauded where it is damaging. While helping others often requires sacrifice, sacrifice by itself is just counterproductive and wasteful. This can also be connected to tithing. While donating can be helpful, its only helpful if you donate to an organization whose focus is to help, not build infrastructure.

    1. 6.1
      Kevin2

      Thought of two more:

      That as long as you’re not directly causing harm, there is no problem with believing anything you want.

      Also, I find the elevation of certain forms of evidence to be fairly damaging. Most religions have to establish some form of reliability for their holy book so they need oral tradition and eyewitness testimony to be considered highly reliable sources of knowledge in order for them to be taken seriously. So, we have a group of people who think that statements from other people are highly reliable; its a train wreck waiting to happen.

      1. heicart

        Yes, that’s an interesting question. Clearly they do trust eye-witness testimony far more than it should be trusted–as has been clearly demonstrated for quite awhile now. Attorney’s who work in criminal law understand that (1) this sort of testimony is very dubious, and (2) people who hear it take it to be extremely reliable. It’s a bad combination.

        But I wonder, if we tried to really raise public awareness of how unreliable eyewitness testimony is, would apologists try to undermine that effort, as they do with other ideas that cause problems for their arguments (such as certain science theories or discoveries, or contraceptives*)?

        *If you mitigate the harm caused by the types of sex Christianity condemns, then you undermine their reasonable basis for justifying the Biblical positions on sexuality. This is one of the reasons secular-minded folks call using contraceptives “responsible,” but Christians call it being “irresponsible.” They say you just want to sin and avoid consequences. So, they see applying Risk Management as not being responsible–that you should take no precautions and just suffer ill results of not trying to mitigate harmful results as “responsible” behavior–it’s back-assward.

  7. 7
    sharkjack

    One of the major problems just about all religions seem to push the notion of absolute knowledge in some fashion. It’s this false dichotomy of having either no reason to believe something, or needing to know it absolutely certainly. Since people know near to nothing (or even nothing depending on the definitions) for certain, this false dichotomy can then be smoothed over by saying people have faith in stuff. It’s a system that makes faith based knowledge systems’irreducibly complex’ so to speak, as it can no longer be removed once the person accepts that knowledge needs to be absolute to be useful. It’s the foundation for the ‘everyone has faith in something’ crap, it pisses all over what science actually stands for and it discourages critical thought. I’d say that’s sufficiently horrible.

    1. 7.1
      heicart

      Yes, employment of faith is exactly that: Wanting to call what you don’t know “knowledge.” By labeling it “faith,” you have undermined any claim to know it’s true. Otherwise, what purpose does faith serve.

      I agree certainty is not required to use the word knowledge–if it was, the word would near never be used or heard in daily dialogs. But we hear it all the time.

      With religion, the idea is “I can know up to a point…then I plug in faith to get to that last bit I don’t know, and I can then just add that on as ‘true’ as well.”

      As you note–that’s not how determining truth works. If you can’t justify that last bit, then you “know” what you know up to the point it’s justified, and that last bit that isn’t justified, where you need faith, you don’t “know” that, and shouldn’t be calling it “true.”

  8. 8
    Susannah

    I agree that the whole concept of sin is a wicked idea. Compounding its evil is the list of things that are categorized as “sins”. Sex for pleasure or as an expression of love comes to mind, of course, but more dangerous, I think, is the notion of doubt as a major sin. And not only doubt, but even a lack of starry-eyed gullibility; “little faith”, as the Gospel writers put it.

    That, alone, has kept thousands of people trapped for years, afraid to think for themselves, afraid to listen to conflicting evidence, afraid, even, of contact with unbelievers. Nothing but unthinking, unreasoned, unexamined acceptance of the dogma will protect us from sin and hell, we are taught, before we are old enough to question it.

    1. 8.1
      heicart

      This is what I mean by good “P.R.” When the population at large hears “sin,” they think “Oh, yeah, I know what that is. It’s the bad stuff people do, like kill and lie.” This is how religion packages it, but it’s not an accurate representation of what they honestly mean by “sin.” As you note–they take some stuff that is already considered wrong in every human society (and some nonhuman societies)–concepts like wrongful killing and stealing–and mix those in with other acts (and even thoughts!), that aren’t wrong at all, but are actually even healthy manifestations of any social, sexual animal.

      Using that, for centuries they were able to vilify people for expressing healthy human thoughts and actions, and make people ashamed of their own innate drives (sexuality being the most obvious). Slut-shaming became so pervasive that it was absorbed by the greater society, even secular people–men and women both–bought it, and still do today. We are still trying to undo that bit of damage, and Christianity continues to fight us on it.

      But they’ve sold it as “what’s wrong with telling people not to murder?” when that’s a highly inaccurate and dishonest P.R. package. We need to make sure the public knows “this is a lie you’ve been sold–here is what they REALLY teach…” That, in my view, is the only way we’re going to get people to realize we aren’t the “bad guys” here, and that this ideology is not all it’s sold as.

  9. 9
    Anonymous Atheist

    The wisdom of the Holy Bible says females, curiosity, and knowledge are the root of all evil.

    1. 9.1
      Randomfactor

      I’m curious about what females know that I don’t. I must be the prime evil.

    2. 9.2
      heicart

      I thought the love of money was the root of all evil in the Bible?

      Oooo. But look. I just looked it up, and see how it’s translated in the modern age:

      1 Timothy 6:10
      New International Version (NIV)
      10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

      Clearly they needed to leave some room open for other roots of evil things, and now they have. :)

  10. 10
    Vall

    Claims of healing, while modern prosthetics have allowed atheletes to run again.

    1. 10.1
      NH

      I have on many occasions ranted about the religious claim that faith is a virtue. It’s not a virtue, faith is a mind poison. It bypasses critical thinking to allow false ideas to take root. It’s insidious and, in my opinion, one of the greatest harms religion has ever done. And I say this because behind every other horrible thing religion has done, you are almost certain to find faith plays a part of it.

  11. 11
    Gregory

    Sin is an abominable concept. I totally agree.

    Right up there near the top is the requirement for a blood sacrifice. Most christians probably don’t think about this too much, but it’s right there, oozing in front of their eyes. Their deity requires blood – preferably human – to be appeased.

    Stone ages anyone?

    1. 11.1
      heicart

      Thank you SO MUCH for saying that Christians don’t think about it that much. I have encountered so many people who are convinced that anything hideous, like what you just described–the blood sacrifice of a human being–is stuff that Christians “don’t know.” This is another problem we need to address. There isn’t a Christian who has graduated from pre-K Sunday School who has not had this story presented to them. They abso-fucking-lutely know the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection and they know the “reasons” the church preaches that it was necessary. Indoctrination MEANS, drilling it in so damn hard, they DON’T question it or think about it. But that is NOT the same, by a country mile, as not being “aware” of it or not knowing about it.

      There is a lot in the Bible, and it’s true that many Christians don’t know many things it contains. Many have only read parts their preachers have asked them to read during general assemblies. But the human sacrifice part is brought up nearly every Sunday–and is even integrated into their hymns! They have the call to salvation at the end of every service, and talk about the plan of salvation to get people to come forward to “be saved.” This isn’t some obscure Bible story or reference that Christians honestly haven’t ever been told about.

      1. NH

        I grew up in a very Christian household, but even when I was a Christian, I still never understood the whole salvation through jesus’s sacrifice. The idea that sins are transferable never made any sense to me. But I still believed that their must be a good reason for it, it was just something beyond me.

        I will say that I never really realized how horrific some of that stuff is while I was a christian. I mean they talk and sing about the blood of jesus often, and when you get down to it, their symbol is a torture device.

  12. 12
    thebuachaill

    Contraception is evil.

    Religions that label contraception as intrinsically evil and promote abstinence as the only god-sanctioned method of family planning.

    While abstinence is a valid and laudable option, limiting it to the sole option is impractical. Aside from the fact that it condemns a high proportion of believers to hell along with the rest of us, it has serious consequences in third-world countries where the promotion of contraception has proven to be an effective and vital component of the ABC campaign in preventing the spread of HIV.

    1. 12.1
      Aliasalpha

      I can see why abstinence is valid but why is it laudable?

      1. heicart

        It’s valid from the standpoint of “yes, if people stopped having sex in all but very restricted circumstances, it would solve issues related to negative results from sexual interactions.” But it’s not valid as a solution for a human population, because we’re a sexual species, and “don’t do it” has never, in all of human history, actually flown–not even in the subgroups who have legitimately attempted to adopt it (Christians themselves are not honestly able to even control it within their own groups).

        Any *pragmatically* valid solution to STD or unwanted pregnancies is going to have to own up to the fact that humans are a sexual species and sex is going to occur, and that narrowly restricting it is demonstrably unrealistic.

      2. thebuachaill

        As the most reliable approach to ensuring couples don’t find themselves in the situation of having to consider abortion, yes I do certainly consider abstinence to be laudable. For people who are not ready to commit to the responsibilities of caring for children, or people who genuinely couldn’t safely manage another child I believe abstinence is preferable to contraception. I would certainly urge abstinence to my Son or Daughter; but of course would also discuss contraception use.

        Again though where the Church loses the plot, is in it’s refusal to be either practical or compassionate.

        1. heicart

          >…yes I do certainly consider abstinence to be laudable. For people who are not ready to commit to the responsibilities of caring for children, or people who genuinely couldn’t safely manage another child I believe abstinence is preferable to contraception.

          Any time we promote that natural human instinct and expression is a bad thing, I won’t laud it. If a person opts for abstinence, that is their business, but it’s a bit like going on an unhealthy diet out of fear of becoming fat.

          1. thebuachaill

            “Any time we promote that natural human instinct and expression is a bad thing, I won’t laud it”

            To be clear, I didn’t suggest the act in itself is a bad thing. I’m simply saying there are obviously potential consequences that people should take account of, and the responsible thing to do is plan in advance. Some people take account of the possible consequences but ignore them. Others consider the possible consequences to be sufficiently detrimental that they take measures to reduce the potential of them occurring, such as using contraception. Others again in particular situations or at particular times may view the potential consequences to be something they want to avoid entirely. They may decide abstinence is the best option for them.

            I simply saying I laud responsible behavior. And that’s all I’m saying.

            “…It does not result in such egregious harm that it should be abandoned as an activity–and claiming that as a good option is to cater to irrational fears”

            I think this is a really ignorant statement. It’s not clear if you’re suggesting sexual activity never results in unwanted pregnancies, or unwanted pregnancies can never cause egregious harm. Either way you’d be demonstrably wrong. And I reject on similar grounds your suggestion that for someone to consider abstinence as a responsible choice is catering to irrational fears.

          2. keithroragen

            Well said. I’ve never understood why some atheists and secular individuals would cling to the sexual morality of fundamentalist Christians.

        2. heicart

          I should caveat that by noting that human instinct and expression naturally expressed should only be curbed where a an extreme harm can be demonstrated. People die on highways, which shows driving can be deadly–but with precautions we consider to be considerably safe. Sex is in that category as well. It does not result in such egregious harm that it should be abandoned as an activity–and claiming that as a good option is to cater to irrational fears.

        3. heicart

          I should also note that lauding abstinence is the root of slut-shaming. I don’t accuse you of this, but just note it is the root of the problem in that case.

          I know parents who, if they “found out” their teenager was having sex, would be disappointed by that–even though there isn’t anything at all wrong with it and it’s a healthy experimental phase quite common in human development. Additionally, if the kid was using a condom, BRAVO mom and dad for teaching responsibility in a way that sank in.

          If a person judges their sexually mature child as disappointing for doing something normal from a human developmental standpoint, then their reason for abstinence is unhealthy and they’re not being realistic or healthy in their thinking. If they view the kid having sex as simply “OK, I explained both abstinence and protection with them, and they’re opting for protection,” and no judgment on the kid ensues, then I applaud that parent for not pushing abstinence for unhealthy, dehumanizing reasons, but for honest-to-goodness “it’s a great option,” reasons.

          1. thebuachaill

            “I should also note that lauding abstinence is the root of slut-shaming”

            That’s a total bs sweeping statement. It’s right up there with ‘atheism is the root of Stalins mass-murders’. If you want to suggest a causal link between lauding abstinence and slut-shaming you can try fill in the gaps between. You might find it’s the dumb logic that gets you to slut-shaming.

            “If a person judges their sexually mature child as disappointing for doing something normal from a human developmental standpoint, then their reason for abstinence is unhealthy”

            We can argue about whether disappointment is the appropriate sentiment for the parents to express to the child in such a situation [I'd probably agree that it's not], but that is a tangent to the main point. Responsible parents typically aren’t so much disappointed as concerned for their childs’ welfare. Personally I would certainly have health concerns for the implications of a 14 or 15 year old daughter becoming pregnant, and concerns for the live-impact of a 14 or 15 year old son or daughter becoming a parent at such a young age. To judge abstinence as unhealthy from “a human developmental standpoint” alone is to have left pragmatism entirely out of the equation.

          2. anne mariehovgaard

            How about teaching your kids that PIV is not the only kind of sex?

          3. jdog

            That’s a total bs sweeping statement. It’s right up there with ‘atheism is the root of Stalins mass-murders’.

            I’m not seeing the connection. Please demonstrate how saying “lauding antisexual behavior leads to antisexual behavior” is identical to “not believing in an imaginary entity leads to mass-murder”.

            You seem to be under the misconception that there are not significant psychological effects for encouraging antisexual behavior in sexual beings (if your child is asexual, then abstinence is a default behavior). There are multiple studies on both individual and societal levels that demonstrate otherwise. The negatives of abstinence far outweigh the less than 1% chance of responsible contraception use leading to pregnancy, especially given that abortion is a perfectly acceptable option for dealing with unwanted pregnancy (and should be treated as such).

          4. thebuachaill

            jdog: “I’m not seeing the connection.”

            Both instances attempt to paint a position (atheism, abstinence)in a negative light by *claiming* they are root causes to some loathed activity (genocide, slut-shaming); without demonstrating the logical path leading from one to the other. If it were anyone other than Tracie making this claim I might say they were being disingenuous just to try and win people over to their point of view.

            “…under the misconception that there are not significant psychological effects for encouraging antisexual behavior”

            This statement perhaps highlights our difference of opinion. I don’t believe encouraging responsible behavior towards sex is antisexual. There are many other forms of sexual expression, which do not incur the potential for unwanted pregnancies that a couple might engage in while abstaining from intercourse. And is it your claim, that only the stifling of sexual urges has significant negative psychological effects, or all natural human urges for immediate gratification?

            If I understand your point of view correctly: the combination of contraception and abortion will guarantee no unwanted pregnancies to the same extent as abstinence; so on that score the options are even.
            Your contention is that the former is the better option because the negative psychological effects of abstinence outweigh any negative health risks and/or negative psychological effects of sexual intercourse with contraception and/or abortion.
            That is interesting and I will certainly take more time to research and consider this.

          5. Jasper of Maine

            Both instances attempt to paint a position (atheism, abstinence)in a negative light by *claiming* they are root causes to some loathed activity (genocide, slut-shaming); without demonstrating the logical path leading from one to the other.

            You’re comparing apples and oranges.

            Slut shaming arising from a position that abstinence is good is literally: “I think it’s bad to have sex. You’re having sex, which is bad. Let me tell you that you’re being bad, because you’re having sex.” It’s a direct connection.

            Whereas, the connection between atheism and Stalin’s deeds is based on a tenuous presupposition.

            Do you think that slut shaming has nothing to do with whether the supposed slut is having sex or not?

            The world is a grey area, and the two comparisons may be the same flavor, but they’re orders of magnitude different. The idea that slut shaming has to do with people thinking you should abstain from sex seems rational to me.

            Or maybe because the person just doesn’t like you and is trying to find something to insult you with, but the insult is still rooted in the idea that sex is bad/negative.

          6. Jasper of Maine

            I’d also point out that when it comes to backing up claims with evidence, skepticism is also proportional to the absurdity of the claim.

            The idea that anti-sexual attitudes lead into criticizing others for not being anti-sexual is not a leap of logic or imagination.

            While I disdain “common sense”, we are allowed to use some when discussing issues without having to para-drop in a team of scientists and a mobile science lab from a C-5 Galaxy for what is otherwise a strong connection.

          7. thebuachaill

            tenuous presupposition #2:

            Abstinence = I think it’s bad to have sex

            You’re presupposing a motivation for abstaining from sexual activity, as well as confusing the motivation with the position. Two different things. People can choose to abstain from sexual intercourse for all sorts of different reasons, none of which necessarily need to be from a negative view of sex in itself.

          8. heicart

            >I simply saying I laud responsible behavior. And that’s all I’m saying.

            Thank you for clarifying.

            >>“I should also note that lauding abstinence is the root of slut-shaming”
            >That’s a total bs sweeping statement. It’s right up there with ‘atheism is the root of Stalins mass-murders’. If you want to suggest a causal link between lauding abstinence and slut-shaming you can try fill in the gaps between.

            People who slut-shame are condemning women who are not measuring up to their preconceived ideals of sexual conduct. No? She had sex outside of prescribed (“best”) boundaries (generally outside the Christian promoted idealized boundaries that have shaped our social attitudes in the U.S. historically), and is therefore the loose/fallen woman.

            I mean, I can go get you a slew of people stating exactly this, but is it really necessary? I wasn’t aware it was even disputed. Religion, the source of the abstinence-only ideal, vilified women who had premarital sex—even punished them quite harshly—for not measuring up to an idealized abstinence only model. I didn’t know this was disputed.

            They idealized, that is lauded, the abstinence only model they promoted, and they ruined anyone who deviated from it, for the crime/sin of not measuring up. The source of the shunning and punishment was that they weren’t measuring up to the abstinence ideal, which was required as god’s perfect model.

          9. heicart

            And please do note I said I was not accusing YOU of doing this. I am not, and have not stated that everyone who lauds abstinence also slut shames. I have noted only that the root of slut shaming is lauding abstinence only.

            It’s the difference between saying “people who drink drive drunk” (clearly problematic logic) versus “people who drive drunk drink.” (completely correct)

            I asserted the later.

          10. heicart

            OK, I just went back and re-read to make sure I wasn’t mistaking your meaning. Here is what you wrote:

            >As the most reliable approach to ensuring couples don’t find themselves in the situation of having to consider abortion, yes I do certainly consider abstinence to be laudable.

            You are lauding (praising/glorifying) abstinence not just as one method of responsible sexual behavior, but as “best”—as judged by “reliable approach.” So, we’re not talking about just praising responsibility here, but praising this as the best option–better than other responsible methods. That is how I took your meaning, and that appears to be exactly what you said.

            Please explain how a person in our society can even *be* shamed for having premarital sex, without society accepting that not having premarital sex is the better/best standard of sexual behavior? Without that step in the causal chain, how would slut-shaming succeed?

            Remember, I did not assert “everyone” who lauds abstinence slut-shames, only that the glorification (lauding) of abstinence was causal to the shaming. And I honestly don’t see how one could be successfully humiliated/shamed for sexual behavior-X, if a marked social preference for NOT engaging in sexual-behavior-X is not included as a causal step to that end.

          11. thebuachaill

            Tracie

            Your original posting is about religions taking credit for things they didn’t invent. A close relation is religions hijacking English terms. You’re promoting this, no? You and other posters on this thread have prescribed to the term ‘Abstinence’ inferences which are clearly religion-orientated. Abstinence simply means refraining from something. The definition of the term doesn’t include specific motivations or specific goals. But you and others have automatically loaded on a bunch of religious baggage to this English term.

            I have read people here infer that abstinence means:

            - I hate sex
            - I am antisex
            - Always refrain from sex
            - The human ideal
            - I must agree with a religion
            - Abstinence and the motivation for abstinence are the same thing
            - Non-abstinence is bad!

            Similarly you twice describe “Lauding” as ‘glorification’, leaning towards a religiously loaded term. Why not just admiration?

            Why are you all so quick to hand over definitions to Religion?

            And yes I did say that if a person wants to avoid getting pregnant, refraining from sex (abstinence!) is more reliable that contraception. I could go and site lists of medical journals on this, but do I really need to? Is that so controversial, or again is a simple statement being automatically loaded by others with religious motivations?

            I confess I had to look up slut-shaming. I’m happy to accept your definition. But again you’re shoving in presuppositions to get from ‘praising someones decision to refrain from sex in certain circumstances’ to admonishing someone for having sex. I’d agree it isn’t such a leap to go from: ‘sex is bad’ to slut-shaming. So yes, if you allow religions to hijack the English language then it’s easy to see why talks of shameful attacks on women could so easily come to dominate a thread on the Churches stance on contraception.

            A couple with 5 children and struggling to provide for them take the decision to refrain from sexual intercourse, because if by some chance they were to get pregnant, they know they would be unable to look after the health and welfare of all of their children. I think such a sacrifice by loving responsible parents for the welfare of their children is admirable.

            Is anyone justified in inferring from this:

            - I have a religious position on abstinence
            - I think abstinence is always the best option
            - I think abstinence is the only option
            - The couple had other options and abstinence was the wrong one
            - I think this couple should be admonished as irresponsible sluts if they did go and have sex and get pregnant

            Because my admiration for people who try to make rational, responsible decisions on family planning IS NOT BASED ON preconceived ideals of sexual conduct. As such, I don’t prescribe to people how they should act or admonish them for not acting in a way I prescribe.

    2. 12.2
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Here, let me sum this up. In the real world, we pursue policies based on desired ends, not on fiction. If policy does not achieve our desired ends, it is insane to implement policy .

      Abstinence only sex education does not achieve its desired ends. In fact, one might argue it does exactly the opposite. Thus it’s implementation, in light of these known facts, is insane.

      I don’t like the argument “don’t legislate against human instinctual behavior, you’re bound to lose”. This is a defeatist attitude that may apply to rape, murder, theft, etc. Instead, the proper counter-arguments are: 1- if the policy doesn’t work, don’t use the policy; 2- if the instinctual behavior is not bad, then don’t legislate against it.

      Sex isn’t bad. If adults want to have sex, then let them. Minors always make the discussion more interesting, as they are supposed to not have full mental faculties, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that teenagers having sex with teenagers, willingly, not under duress, etc., is not something that deserves legislative attention. This all stems from the benighted religious idea that sex is evil. Remove that misconception, and the entire problem disappears.

    3. 12.3
      escuerd

      There’s an interesting symmetry between one of the common arguments used in abstinence only education and sharkjack’s comment about the need for absolute certainty.

      I remember middle and high school teachers emphasizing that abstinence is the only “100% effective” form of birth control and STD prevention. It was not-so-subtly implied that since condoms had non-zero failure rates, that using them was just a foolish way to get a false sense of security.

      Like many religious apologists, they’re playing on the common human desire for absolute certainty. I want to be absolutely certain my beliefs are true, and to be absolutely secure from this possible threat. Of course, both are illusory.

      Sure, one can take measures to increase both, and this is good up to a point. But there are costs associated with doing so, and when the costs start exceeding the marginal returns, it gets ridiculous.

      After a while, it’s not worth it to do another study to be extra-really-super-certain that homeopathy still doesn’t work. Similarly, while it’s good to wear seat belts and be cautious, it would generally be regarded as a bit extreme to eschew riding in cars because you weren’t 100% certain it wouldn’t kill you.

  13. 13
    Nate

    I once debated with a theist and after about an hour of discussion he told me the main reason he was a Christian was because it had the best solution to sin and he would become a Buddhist, Muslim, etc. if they had a better solution. That’s when I gave up debating with him (plus this was February and I was outside without a coat on) The amount of circular logic he was using was driving me insane, plus this was a man who once told me he could debate any ‘evolutionist’ and win.

    1. 13.1
      heicart

      Does Christianity even have a “solution” to sin? As I understand it, once you’re saved, you still sin–you’re just forgiven. So, how is sin solved? I mean, it sounds to me like even with “sin,” Christianity just tosses it’s hands up and says “Whaddya gonna do? People are gonna do it…so might as well let them…”

      1. Nate

        “you still sin–you’re just forgiven”

        Which is exactly what I think he meant. But that means Christianity has the solution to the problem it created, this was a Ray Comfort devote, so even looking at another person with ‘lust’ is a sin. Of course the religion that created the problem is going to have the best solution.

        1. heicart

          Wow. I’m not sure what to even say to that. It’s like saying “I have a solution to murder!” And then offering “We’ll just call it wrong, not stop anyone from doing it, and then just forgive them.” How is that a solution?! I mean, I believe you he asserted it is, but WOW.

        2. Margaret

          But that means Christianity has the solution to the problem it created…

          Yes. Christians seem to think Christianity is so great because “Jesus died for our sins” but I can never figure out what good Jesus’s (supposed) death (for about a day and a half) is supposed to do, since people still “sin” and still (according to Christians) go to hell for that sinning.

          So the story is that “sin” is disobeying God, which makes God angry, so God raped/seduced a young woman to have a child so that he could have a scapegoat to direct his anger at, so that…what? What changed by God misdirecting his anger at his child? Nothing that I can tell.

          The whole thing makes me think of something I read about some child rapist who kept having children by his wife (wives?) so that he would have a steady supply of young girls to rape. Though God at least only did it once (had a child for the express purpose of torturing and killing him).

  14. 14
    Mary2

    The bible promotes thought-crimes. ‘Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s ass/wife/whatever’. ‘Those who have committed adultery in their minds have already sinned’ etc. With this type of thought crime there is no way for a human to avoid being sinful.

    When coupled with the biblical idea that God does not differentiate between a small or large sin, this means every person who has ever felt a twinge of envy is just as much an abomination in the eyes of God as a murderer. This leads to the most pernicious idea in the whole religion – humans are not worthy, humans should be punished, humans should be thankful for every second they are not being roasted in hell.

    I hate that Christians view themselves, the people they love and even babies as wretched scum who should be punished.

    1. 14.1
      anne mariehovgaard

      This is often interpreted as their having very high moral standards, while non-religious people’s standards are supposedly more lax. So we should admire them or something. But when all “sins” are seen as equally bad, actions that cause real harm are seen as no worse than actions that harm noone, but are still declared sinful. So sex with an adult who is not your opposite-sex spouse is as bad as sex with an 8 year old, and an adult raping a child is no worse than someone using a vulgar word to describe that adult. The real-world results of this kind of thinking are obvious, and terrible.

    2. 14.2
      heicart

      Yes, the plan of salvation is grotesque in the extreme and the most dehumanizing doctrine I can think of–everyone is so reprobate they deserve to die.

      And it is another prime example of great P.R. Christians have somehow managed to sell “everyone should die, because they are human,” as a “good” philosophy. We need to examine how they did this, and we need to make sure people KNOW what is actually being taught, because currently Christianity preaches this loud and proud as mainstream orthodoxy, and yet, nobody considers Christianity to be anti-human? How can that be? And what can we do to make sure that the P.R. they’re putting out to try and convince people this *isn’t* the message, is countered–that there is at least someone, in some effective way, explaining to the public that “this is what Christians actually teach and believe”?

      It is, in my mind, imperative we let people know what Christians really teach:

      1. You are a reprobate sinner, who is irredeemable. Nothing you can ever do, on your own, will make you deserve anything better than death (some churches add “eternal torture” here). And this applies to the entire human species.

      2. Because you sin, you cannot be with god, who requires sinlessness–perfection–which you cannot attain. Separation from god equals death (or an eternity of agony).

      3. Here is the part where their P.R. machine kicks in (they don’t hype 1 and 2 so heavily in their sales brochure). GOOD NEWS!!! God loves you! God loves you so much that even though you’re not worthy and should die–he made up a plan to fix things and reconcile you to him!!! What would be worse to a human than losing their own child? And yet god, because he loves you so much, decided that’s exactly what he’d do. So, he bore a son/himself(?), and then horrible people (according to god’s plan?) killed him unjustly. This person was perfect–that blameless, sinless individual we all should be, but can’t be because we’re just flawed humans. And this perfect person was executed where we deserved to be, and god has accepted this as payment for our sins! Jesus paid the price for your sins!!! And god loves humanity!! See how valuable we are to god? And this gives us all worth, and…

      4. Now we can go to heaven.

      The public is UBER familiar with 3 and 4 as “god loves you” and “Jesus saves,” but not so much *thinking* about 1 and 2. Those are sort of quickly glossed over, and then THREE and FOUR!!!! We need to make sure ONE and TWO get some air play as well.

      1. Ida Know

        God: “Look how much I love you. I love you so much that I created a son, who is also me, and purposely sent him to earth to be killed.”*

        What I wish people would say: “Thanks, God, but if you really want to show you love us, it’d be great if you’d, I dunno, cure all diseases? Or not let us starve? Just for starters…?”

        * “…even though he was only dead for three days and got to come live with me in heaven and be worshipped for thousands of years, but that’s totally beside the point!”

        1. heicart

          It’s very sad to me that my aging father was probably one of the first skeptics I ever encountered. But somehow he was never able to shake belief. I don’t know where he heard skeptical arguments and questions, because he didn’t socialize too much. But some things I recall him saying to me–sort of on the sly after Sunday School–were things like:

          1. Where did Cain’s and Abel’s wives come from?
          2. Heck, that wasn’t any sacrifice, he came back and got to be god over everything.
          3. Could god make a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it?

          It amazes me that my religious (but for the most part nonpracticing) father was the first person to introduce me to the Omnipotence Paradox. As he got older, he became one of those who sends out a million “Jesus” spams a month to his entire e-mail list, which saddens me. It’s like “Come on, Dad. You were SO close. What happened?” I think it was plain ol’ fear of hell, if I’m honest. It was beaten into him as a child, and it was just too much to overcome.

  15. 15
    bushido11

    Here’s an article that I wrote on my blog concerning a tired argument I hear from the religious: the imperfection of humanity.

    http://philosophyronwise.blogspot.com/

    1. 15.1
      heicart

      Thanks for the link. I shared it at a social network site. I hope it gives your blog a bump, but I can’t promise.

      1. bushido11

        Thanks, heicart. I appreciate it.

  16. 16
    simontom

    My contribution to this topic is something that I had to come to grips with myself before I left Christianity a decade ago. It’s 5 pt Calvinist Christianity. For those not familiar, they use the acronym
    T.otal depravity(you have no capacity to please god on your own)
    U.nconditional election (god runs the lottery, and has fav’s)
    L.imited Atonement (some of you will burn in hell by god’s will)
    I.rresistible Grace (The Borg motto – resistance is futile)
    P.erseverance of the Saints (god’s gonna getcha, and keep ya!)

    It also says that if you didn’t believe, it’s because god created you to not believe! It says, ‘fuck you, non-believers. You’re still giving glory to god with your sin of unbelief.’ And for those that did believe, hey, don’t brag that you had wits about you to hear the good news and believe. No no no, the ability to believe itself was granted to you by god, so no glory hogs allowed, send it all up to the big bearded guy in the sky.
    Sadly, to me back then, this was the only version of Christianity that made sense of reality and didn’t create contradictions within the Bible. It also happened to make god into a dick, and why am I worshipping a dick?! End internal monologue.

    As a close second, christians who are ‘pro-life’ don’t realize God is the number one abortionist.

    1. 16.1
      anne mariehovgaard

      I will never, ever understand how the minds of people who are capable of actually worshipping such a sadistic monster work… They can’t possibly ALL have been raised by bullwhip-wielding rapists, with no contact with the outside world. Can they? Don’t they ever notice that “total depravity” describes their god, not them? At least most Christians try to hide their god’s despotic and sadistic nature, and pretend that he’s really all about love – if only we humans would let him save/love us! Sure, if you take a closer look it’s still a Master/slave relationship, but at least they insist (pretend) it’s consensual and loving and in everyone’s best interest.

    2. 16.2
      Argle Bargle

      The Calvinist god is one of the more hideous monsters devised by human ingenuity. He’s a creator who hates his creation so much that he’ll punish the majority of them forever for no particular reason. The “all-loving” Christian god was turned into a sadist by the Calvinists.

      1. heicart

        The Texas School Board decided to emphasize Calvin’s contributions to U.S. culture in the Social Studies curriculum during the last text book reviews. They also down-played Jefferson and Hamilton, not surprisingly. I would be happy to credit Calvin with having influenced our culture in a big way–if our board wasn’t religious and would point out the significant harm for which this person’s contributions were responsible.

  17. 17
    Alvaro

    While I agree with pretty much everything that’s been posted before, most of those are things tha are NOT viewed as good things by the majority of the general populace.

    My entry would be faith. People actually think that believing something wihout evidence is a virtue. When it’s everything but.

    Another thing would be forfeiting your own responsability (like the first step in AA), which ties into man being born with sin I guess.

    1. 17.1
      heicart

      Thanks Alvaro–I agree. A few people listed harmful things, but not harmful things most people are sold as “good.” A few did hit the mark, though, as did you. Thanks.

    2. 17.2
      heicart

      I should note your point about forfeiting responsibility is a great one. They have effectively sold “irresponsible” behavior and thinking as “responsible.” That is a massive P.R. feat.

      If you use condoms or birth control and have sex outside their prescribed framework (premaritally, for example), you are being “irresponsible.” They define irresponsible as doing something god says not to, and taking precautions to mitigate risks. If you’re going to do something god says not to, then you should not try to mitigate the risks, because you’re just trying to “avoid the consequences of your actions.” It effectively labels the entire field of “risk management” as an irresponsible field. Literally, it’s like saying that if you drive a car, you are irresponsible to use airbags or a seatbelt, because doing so just helps you avoid the consequences in the event of a crash.

      In my view, they’ve sold it this way because they need to, in order to justify these things as “sin.” So, things that are *actually* problematic, like lying to a fault, defrauding people, stealing, murdering–there is no need to “sell” them as bad, because most people–the vast majority–are already on board that these things are just obviously generally harmful.

      But when you sell, as sin, something that isn’t harmful, or that can be done in a way that comes with small risk of harm, then you NEED harm to be enhanced as much as possible to continue to justify your position that it’s “wrong.” While they don’t NEED to have sin be demonstrated harmful to sell it as “wrong,” it certainly helps your P.R., right? So, condemn those who have responsible sex when it’s outside of your prescribed requirements, and hate them for undermining the “consequences” that help you justify your bid to have sex be demonstrably harmful. It’s a twisted motivation. But what they hate most about it isn’t honestly that the person is being “irresponsible,” it’s that you’re taking away their justifications and making it hard for them to sell it as sin. Sex is so much in the greater public arena–and that is where the harm needs to be evident, because that’s the people you’re trying to sell to. And selling that “you can’t have sex” is a tough sell as it is. Trying to sell it as bad when it’s hardly doing any damage will be near impossible. Can’t have that.

    3. 17.3
      heicart

      Last add: I do get, though, that your intent was more the “let go, let god” attitude–and I agree there as well.

  18. 18
    Aliasalpha

    What shits me is religion claiming inspirational credit for art. Painter Dave made a masterpiece, painter Dave is religious, therefore painter Dave’s talent & work were because of religion

    1. 18.1
      heicart

      Yes, it’s funny how they assign this to “The Masters,” due to their religious works–totally ignoring the church had all the money to splurge on art when its adherents were subsistence farming surfs.

  19. 19
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Please feel free to post any of your own examples of things for which religion is broadly lauded, where it is clearly damaging. I’m on a mission here.

    Christian communion, and by that I mean (symbolic) cannibalism. It’s symbolic to us because we don’t believe the fairy tale that it actually becomes the actual blood and and body of Christ, whereas they do. I mean – come on. They’re eating the body and blood of their savoir-dude in order to gain magic powers (the forgiveness of sin). How is that any better than some “primitive” peoples who eat the heart of their enemies to gain the enemy’s power?

    Just mention that they believe they’re honest to goodness real live literal practicing cannibals, cannibals who believe that eating another human being gives them that person’s power, and ask if they have any particular urgings for “brains…”.

    1. 19.1
      heicart

      Yes, Transubstantiation, you’d think would be the opposite of what they’d want to sell, right? You’d think the message would be “OH god no! We’re not literally eating a person or drinking blood! It’s just symbolic.” But yeah, for those sects that believe this (I’m only aware of Catholics), it’s nuts. Not just nuts to believe it, but sick to consider what they’re saying. If it were true, I can’t help but think they’d be violating some laws in some locales?

      1. jacobfromlost

        I think very few Catholics know the wine is supposed to be literally blood. Most of the time I point this out, they are unaware–they think it is just symbolic. But I did have a Catholic on the net once simple blurt out that, oh yes, it was blood, and you could do DNA tests on it to prove it.

        Of course it took me two seconds to dismantle that claim…and then she came back telling me the “substance” of it had changed, but that you couldn’t do tests on it to see any change. The “substance” was deeper than what we could in any way test, lol. Good grief.

        It never fails to amaze me when people claim to believe things for rock solid reasons…and then when you point out those reasons don’t exist, that they are completely mistaken…they simply fall back on NO REASONS as if that is pretty much the same as reasons, and just as “rock solid”.

        Similarly, I had a Muslim once claim that Muslims believe Jesus resurrected. I quoted the Koran where it blatantly says he was not resurrected. She then took back that she believed Jesus resurrected, and now believe he did not because she was unaware of that line in the Koran. Good grief.

        1. heicart

          WOW. Yeah. Never underestimate a religious theists ability to maintain theistic belief even if the face of having to totally alter their paradigm or model of god. That is why I tend away from arguing evolution. I have heard some people assert they lost their faith over evolution, but what I’ve mostly seen, is a Christian move from creationist to “evolution is how god did it.”

          One of the best questions, and I often fail to ask it when it would serve well, is “If I demonstrate your claim is wrong, would that stop you believing a god exists?” This is helpful in apologetic cases where they’re arguing specific arguments for the existence of god. If it’s not the reason they believe, then what difference does it make? I need to work harder to keep that in mind.

      2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

        Article: Wikipedia – Substance Theory

        1. EnlightenmentLiberal

          @ CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain
          With regards to substance theory:
          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong
          “That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!”

  20. 20
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    I don’t think it has been explicitly referenced in the thread yet, but I agree with Hitchens that the very idea of vicarious redemption is repugnant. It is not praiseworthy that Jesus died for your sins. The very idea at its heart is that you don’t hurt other people when you sin – you hurt god. So, don’t apologize to other people and try to make up for it. Don’t worry about how you might have hurt other people or might in the future hurt other people. Don’t try to make this world a better place. Instead, suck up to god, because that’s who you really hurt by sinning.

    1. 20.1
      heicart

      Agreed, the idea of killing someone to pay for what someone else did should not be lauded. It’s a great example.

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        That’s not quite what I was aiming at. The sacrifice for redemption was already covered. What I fear you miss is how this means Christians only hold themselves responsible to god when they sin, not their fellow man. Hence Christians are frequently against action for global warming, the environment, and any other long term planning – they just don’t care. They think that any wrongs they commit in this world don’t matter, except if it prevents them from getting to heaven. They have no appreciation for the ills of this world. This IMHO leads to a libertarian style outlook where they vote against people who might actually make the world a better place.

        Combine that with imminent rapture theology, and the vagaries of how god gave us Earth and said that we can’t screw it up, and you get public policy in the shitter.

        1. heicart

          I agree in part, I think. The only caveat I’d have to add is that the Church of Christ, where I worshipped, recognized sin against other people–from Matthew 18:

          15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

          This was a wholly different process than how to address sins against god.

          I don’t think that negates your point where it applies–in sins against god, and disregard for things not specifically labeled as sins, though. So, this is not a rebuttal, but rather a caveat, I suppose.

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Depends on the sect, I suppose. What I hear from my friends, and online, from the mainstream Protestant movement, is as follows. The only path to heaven is Jesus, and they seem to overly emphasize this, to point of forgetting that some sins actual hurt actual people instead of some fiction.

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Example:
            http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/09/28/the-same-old-bad-argument-against-gay-marriage/comment-page-1/#comment-463788

            A Christian once told me that non-religious marriages were okay only because there was always the possibility that one or both would convert while married. Otherwise … well, otherwise, they were bewildering. He just couldn’t understand WHY an atheist would want to get married. I mean, it’s a promise made to God. Who are they promising?

            Um … each other? The families? The neighborhood, community, the state?

            Just another example of how some religions make people think it’s all about god, and makes them ignore the relevance of happiness of actual goddamned people.

        2. michaelpowers

          Indeed. That’s why Mitt Romney, and those like him are so dangerous. Combine that with Ayn Rand’s obscene philosophy that success is the result of virtue, and, therefore, misfortune is the result of immorality, and the danger increases tenfold. They believe that the end is coming, and that god has given them a sort of divine carte blanche to do with the world as they will. To wring it dry, and take as much from it as they can before the end. In their bizarre world, this sort of gluttony is a virtue. What does it matter how much damage is done? Those left to inherit the earth will all be sinners anyway, and deserve what is left to them, right?

  21. 21
    Gordon

    The idea that faith is a virtue and that there is something negative about doubt is a big one.

    The notion that someone had to die, so you could be “washed in their blood”. I was at a christian conference this year and they were saying things like “washed clean in Jesus’ blood” and it was not a pretty picture.

    I don’t want to be blood splattered to make me acceptable to a vengeful desert god.

    I think theists see the world like in a fairground mirror. Everything is warped, backwards and upside down. They think the wonder of being related to every living thing on Earth is demeaning and being the despised pets of a vengeful tyrant is uplifting.

    1. 21.1
      heicart

      >I think theists see the world like in a fairground mirror. Everything is warped, backwards and upside down.

      This is extremely close to my own assessment. I have called it “upside down world” and “backwards land.” They condemn responsibility as irresponsibility. They call killing your own kids “love.” They consider washing in blood a metaphor for cleansing. They consider the doctrine pro-human although at the core it requires one to accept all humans are deserving of death. They point to punishing someone for what someone else did as merciful to the one who didn’t need to be punished (utterly ignoring the “unjust” aspect). They blame you for a sacrifice you never asked for (Hitchens said it’s like mowing your lawn and demanding payment, when you never asked to have your lawn mown). It’s an extensive list.

      1. Kevin2

        “They call killing your own kids ‘love.’”

        And why should they not? That is the scary thing, I’ve never found a hole in Andrea Yates’ logic given her beliefs. If you believe that your children are going to risk being tortured for an eternity, but if they die right now, they will be rewarded for eternity, wouldn’t the empathic thing to be to kill them? If that given religion were true, it would be for their own benefit. The theistic response is simply to say that these people are crazy, but if we exclude their religious beliefs from scrutiny, I don’t find any of their actions to be crazy. In fact, I find them to be quite rational. This is perhaps the worst part of religion, it enables good people to do despicable things, but don’t worry, we can forget about that fact by calling them crazy for believing that…err…

        1. heicart

          While I don’t take issue with what you just said–and have publicly expressed the same–that Andrea Yates was a logical loving mother by Christian standards–that wasn’t precisely what I was intending here.

          Abraham, in trying to kill Isaac, wasn’t trying to get Isaac into Heaven. He was demonstrating love/loyalty to god. “Do you love me so much you’d kill your own kid for me?” It was merely a test of loyalty/devotion/love–do I mean more to you than your own child? God must be obeyed above all other concerns. No one must mean more to you than god. You should be willing and ready to give up anyone and anything for god. Don Baker has called it a mechanism that turns people traitor to their own species. And that’s exactly right.

          Meanwhile, God, then, later, kills his own son, unnecessarily (the plan of salvation could have entailed anything he’d decreed), as a mere show of “love” for humanity. In order to reconcile you to me, I don’t just want to forgive you for your imperfectness in following me like unthinking robots, I want some real sacrifice here, a real show-stopper. And as his own test of devotion and love had been to ask someone to kill their own child, why not carry that theme over to the current time slot and make a “son” and kill him for humans–a sort of quid pro quo, if you will?

          It was clearly a Hebrew theme regarding killing people you love to arbitrarily show how much you love others. Jephthah did the same in another story–promised to sacrifice anything, and god let his daughter be identified as the chosen offering. Most Christians interpret this as a demonstration of Jephthah’s rashness in promising “anything” to god. But in the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, Jephthah is named among the great men of faith, “of whom this world was not worthy.” So, he counts as another who was lauded for his willingness to kill his own child for god.

  22. 22
    Tim H.

    From the Onion: Starving Third World Masses Warned Against Evils Of Contraception

    1. 22.1
      heicart

      Sad but true–even for an Onion article.

  23. 23
    fullyladenswallow

    Sin plays an essential role in the vehicle of salvation. Can’t have a magnanimous, powerful, all-loving, (nearly)all-forgiving god without it much less a good story. Sin(fulness) is the anchor for which the 10 (600+) commandments were written.

    It’s analogous to the “we give you the disease but we have the cure” concept. You’re soul is flawed, it’s always been flawed because of what 2 fictitious characters did (sinned) way back when. But don’t worry, god will forgive you if you acknowledge this and confess what sins you yourself have committed.

    Very insidious.

  24. 24
    1415dr

    I’d say the claim that they support “families” is bullcrap. They say that family is the most important thing , but it doesn’t show.

    My sister’s pastor encouraged her not to divorce her alcoholic/abusive husband because it was her duty to “lead him to the Lord.” I think that’s awfully dangerous advice (she left him anyway).

    On the other hand, when I deconverted and admitted to my wife that I was an atheist her first response was to threaten to divorce me because we were “unevenly yoked.” It took months of explaining to her that I wasn’t possessed by a devil before she’d listen to me. We’re still on shaky ground. So much for family values. Apparently, if I say that I wouldn’t murder my own child a’la Abraham then she thinks that I’m the crazy one.

    This is to say nothing about parents disowning thier kids for being gay or not believing in talking snakes. How does that “support the family?”

    1. 24.1
      CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

      Not long after his wife died, my dad was planning a rare 500 mile trip to visit relatives. Two in-laws refused to let him stay with them because of “the appearance of evil” had he been around the wife when the husband wasn’t.
       
      These were the same people who looked at the “makes perfect sense” picture and said “It does. If you let Jesus into your heart.”

    2. 24.2
      heicart

      I’m sorry you’re having marital difficulties. Yes, religion shreds families. It’s similar to something I read in an article about a Mid East nation. I can’t recall which one it was. But the claims of the politicians were that it was up to their women whether to cover themselves or not in the Islamic traditional dress. However, there has been apparently a move toward more Western dress, and immediately now they are having meetings to discuss this problem of women choosing NOT to wear the Muslim uniforms. So, it’s apparently a choice as long as you choose what they want you to.

      In the same way, religion supports families so long as everyone in that family is on board with the religion. Religion supports religious families. Those members who aren’t on board, they don’t fit in and aren’t accepted. We get this, literally, ever day at TAE in our mail–stories of families shredded by religion, and most of them the result of religious relatives who won’t accept the nonbelievers.

  25. 25
    Ida Know

    How about the whole notion of an afterlife?

    I understand the psychological reasons behind it. Death is scary, but we can’t deny that it will inevitably happen to all of us and those we love, so we comfort ourselves by thinking and hoping that our consciousnesses will continue to exist forever after our bodies are dust.

    The harm comes in the idea that after we die our “souls” will either be rewarded by eternal bliss or punished by eternal torture. If people are poor and victimized but are convinced that they’ll be compensated for it in heaven, they’re less likely to rebel. Likewise if they believe that disobedience and doubt will cause them to go to hell. Which works out great for the church and other tyrants, doesn’t it?

    1. 25.1
      heicart

      In addition to those less inspired to improve their own lots, what about those who are inspired to foolishly risk their lives–such as in religious wars or jihad? Yes, afterlife is problematic for sure, and often hailed as a good/hopeful thing. I agree. It’s a lie and a cheat.

  26. 26
    m6wg4bxw

    Since God made everything, God has ultimate authority over everything. Whatever God wants or commands is what should be done. It’s his show; not that of any human. What we think about His standard doesn’t matter. We have no say in any of it.

    That’s what a Christian friend of mine says about morality. We’ve had the discussion several times. A point I try to make with her is that there is a stark difference between what is “moral,” and what an ultimate authority demands of us. But for whatever reason, she conflates the two.

    It frustrates me because I realize that, even if I manage to convince her that God is immoral (or amoral), her position of yielding to ultimate authority won’t change. At best, she will reach a place where she can judge the actions of God by her own sense of morality.

    I admit that if I believed as she does, my position would be similar.

    1. 26.1
      heicart

      Yes, this is one of the cruelest things indoctrination does–and why I say it steals a person’s life. It takes their power to make decisions away from them and gives it over to the Church.

      It’s appalling when we get callers who do anything in their power to dodge the question: “What if god told you to kill/torture your own child?” And when you finally get them to accept the premise, they’re paralyzed for a bit before saying “Yes, I would do it.” And you can’t even believe what you just heard.

      The problem is also that they seem to accept anything god says is good, often because they have faith god is good and has an ultimate good plan; but they don’t seem to recognize that if they can’t know what the plan is, then there is just as much reason to assume it’s a bad plan with an ultimately bad goal. How can we judge? And if we can’t–then we should go with our own judgment, because, if called upon to explain our actions, we should be able to give account for why we did what we did–not just assert “following orders.”

  27. 27
    michaelpowers

    A good example lies in the protest that got Christopher Stevens killed. One of the protesters was angry that the U.S. government “allowed” Terry Jones’ film onto the internet. Such is their grasp of the concept of freedom. As reprehensible as the film is, free speech allows for it. Why? Because we are a free people, and as such, we need no government, nor church to decide for us what is good and what is evil. That is left up to individual conscience. We do have secular laws that address such things, as it is generally accepted that it’s bad form to kill your neighbor, and take his stuff (Though there are many examples in the bible of god commanding that very thing). The religious definition of sin has changed greatly over the centuries. These definitions have always been, and continue to be, arbitrary and a matter of convenience. So called original sin is the biggest scam of all. Convincing people that they have this disease, and religion is the only cure.

  28. 28
    Ingdigo Jump

    You know I was just thinking how I actually wished the idea that religion could make people moral was actually true? Because it would be awesome if people actually learned from a shared set of stories and used it as primers to be more aware of ethical decision making in their daily lives.

  29. 29
    SallyStrange

    Chalk me up as another hater of the “faith is a virtue” concept.

    Faith isn’t a virtue. It’s a cognitive trap that is all too easy to fall into, thanks to our particular evolutionary heritage.

  30. 30
    Samantha

    Instead of trying to prove why any religion is wrong you should just prove why anyone should be an atheist. so instead of a million useless less arguments about why atheism is wrong I am just gonna show you God exist…if God’s words exist in form of a divine book doesn’t that prove that God exist. Yes I am referring to Quran. before you go like I am heard all this before and about who all the so claimed books of God are the same, they aren’t!! I agree most of the books that are supposed to be divine are more or less authored by men but Quran is different and it hasn’t been changed ever since it was revealed! not a single word has been added or removed from it! and Quran speaks about Science in several verses which deal talk about human embryology, geology, origin of the universe and many more topics and for 1400 years NO ONE has been able to point out a single scientific (or any other error for that matter)in the Quran! infact Quran also gives several challenges to the reader to prove it worng two of which happen to be the write a book which is more eloquent than Quran and the other being to point out a single contradiction in the whole Quran and if anyone is able to do that Quran would be proved wrong. God does not expect you to follow the religion blindly. and men have tried to do that for 1400 years and still haven’t succeeded and never will. If you think that Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) was the Author of Quran you should know that he was ILLITERATE!! He never learned to read or write his whole life. And as all atheist being logical do you really think it is possible that a man living back in the 7th century outsmarted the whole of mankind?? he didn’t write the Quran who one one has ever been able to replicate. It is the word of God! may God guide you! also see: http://atheistforums.org/thread-5493.html and http://www.dubaiforums.com/philosophy-dubai/why-the-quran-cannot-written-prophet-muhammad-t25646.html

    1. 30.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      NO ONE has been able to point out a single scientific (or any other error for that matter)

      Not that you’ll listen, but I recall watching a Muslim apologist take questions from the crowd. Someone pointed out that there’s 40 something (insert whatever number is correct) grammatical and spelling errors in the Koran. The retort from the apologist will be forever classic for me. It went something like “No no. The Koran is the perfect book, so these purported errors are actually correct grammar and spelling, because it /defines/ what is correct grammar and spelling of Arabic.” I don’t even know how to respond to such brazen, naked lunacy.

      I also laugh at your claims of purported scientific facts in the Koran. The claims are wildly unspecific, only identified after the fact, and thus not open to falsification nor do they offer novel predictions. Next you’ll be telling me something about the accuracy of Nostradamus.

  31. 31
    Kes

    A little late to this thread, but something I was thinking about recently: My dad used to say the monotheism is inherently better than polytheism because “You can’t go to war and say your god is stronger than the other people’s god if you win, since there is only one god.” He was a history major, so perhaps this is someone’s thesis from a long time ago. At the time (I was 10 or 12) this seemed somewhat sound.

    As an adult, I realize it is totally batshit crazy wrong. Monotheists wage just as many wars against each other as polytheists. Mostly for political or ecnomic reasons, but sometimes because the others might whorship the same god, but they aren’t doing it the right way! Or the one god is clearly on your side, and against those worthless enemies of yours. Neither a single deity nor a vast pantheon seems to have any effect in how often human societies go to war with each other, or how they treat each other in defeat.

    Which is not even to mention the fact that Christianity is implicitly NOT a monotheistic religion even if you grant the three-gods-in-one trinity doctrine slight-of-hand. You still have to explain what, exactly, the devil is if not a god? Or the virgin Mary, for that matter, or the Archangel Gabriel, or any of the pagan gods redressed as saints like St. Brigid or St. George.

  1. 32
    Theists Have the Best P.R. Machine Ever III » The Atheist Experience

    [...] Part I and Part II are also posted on this blog. [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>