Absence Of Belief… One God At A Time?

A Christian man once told me that I “disbelieve in God”;
That a claim of that proportion took some gall!
I corrected him, and told him (which he thought was rather odd)
That I don’t believe in any gods at all!

I asked him to consider whether other gods exist
Which was something that, it seems, he’d never done
In examining the reasons every one could be dismissed
It seems stranger to believe in only one!

There are gods he’d never heard about, but clearly did not follow—
Could he really claim he disbelieved in those?—
Demanding active disbelief is rather hard to swallow
But an absence of belief? Well, I suppose.

Gee, looks like I am not the only one looking at definitions of atheism:

One of the great oddities with regards to issues pertaining to Atheism is the ongoing debates about the definition of the term “Atheism” (and thus, “Atheist” as well).

Often, individual Atheists will concoct their own definitions, demand that the definition applies to all Atheists and authoritatively demand that their definition be adhered to as the only true one.

This quote has been brought to you by the makers of “No True Christian”, your trusted name in deflecting blame. If we can’t trust Christians to define atheism, who can we trust?

The writer cites half a dozen online dictionaries (it is a dictionary’s job to describe how language is used; in a majority Christian population, an online dictionary definition of atheism will not reflect the self-description of atheists themselves), and sums up:

The assertion which is clearly stated within academic scholarly definitions means that Atheism is the position of claiming to know that God does not exist.

The problem is threefold:

1) On this issue, Atheists prefer to run away from academic scholarly definitions and invent their own (or, appeal to weak aka negative aka implicit atheism).

2) The academic scholarly definitions require that Atheists provide evidence so as to prove that God does not exist.

3) Such proof would require Atheists to be omniscient (possessing all knowledge) but since omniscience is a characteristic of deity (it would identify one as a deity) then someone who is omniscient could not prove that God does not exist as via the omniscient claim, they would actually prove the existence of God namely, themselves as they are exercising a characteristic of God.

Ok… first off–”academic scholarly definitions”? Now, I cannot claim that I have never seen a dictionary cited as a source in a scholarly paper, but it is very, very rare; a dictionary definition is far more characteristic of a grade school paper. One of the key elements of scientific writing is the specific vocabulary used, which depends greatly on the subject at hand. The common language definitions of a great many things are far too fuzzy for academic use, and it is the common language definition that the dictionary provides. So… point one is a misrepresentation; what is more, the point it makes is precisely the opposite of what actually is happening in this case.

Secondly… Why “God”? Some of those definitions said “God or gods”; if we look at “gods”, then the “academic scholarly definitions” (well, dictionary definitions, actually) put the same burden on anyone who believes in only one of those gods. Like, say, the Christian writing the post.

Thirdly… Again, the writer presupposes the characteristics of one particular god. The Greek gods could be fooled (recall how Prometheus taught the people to offer two sacrifices–one with the good meat hidden in the stomach, the other with the bones covered with a layer of tasty fat, to fool Zeus), so omniscience is not a characteristic of all gods. Besides which, for the writer to believe in one god and not others would require the same degree of omniscience! To recognize omniscience in one’s own god, as opposed to merely “much, but not all, knowledge”, would require omniscience on one’s own part in order to comprehend the god’s knowledge!

But of course, the writer is not omniscient, and need not be; he can take his god’s omniscience on faith. And he does not need to actively evaluate every other god; not believing in them is sufficient. I won’t hold him to the standards he requires of me. Because he’s wrong, and those standards don’t apply to anyone.

Related Post

College Quiz Reflects Actual Research; Student Freaks Out, Blames “Liberal Spin”

Ohio State, it seems to me,
Despises Christianity;
The answers to this latest quiz
Are biased toward the way things is,
Instead of, if I might be blunt,
A bias toward the things I want—
And so I’m going on the hunt.

I’ll call the press, and force the prof
To take this truthful question off!
This “science” can’t be in our book
(I must admit, I didn’t look,
Or I’d have seen the study there)
Or if it is, I do not care!
It makes me mad, so it’s not fair!

I don’t care what the study shows—
It’s crap, as everybody know!
Liberal bias, it’s plain to see
Pervades this “University”!
But I know best—I won’t be fooled!
This “published study”? Overruled!
You can’t teach me! I won’t be schooled!

This one is really quite funny. An undergrad at Ohio State University saw a question that reflected some uncomfortable research findings, and the shit has hit the fan:

An Ohio State University (OSU) class has apparently determined another fundamental difference between Christians and atheists: their IQ points.

An online quiz from the school’s Psychology 1100 class, provided to Campus Reform via tip, asked students to pick which scenario they found most likely given that “Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125.”

The correct answer? “Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.”

Except that the OSU class had nothing to do with the determination; the question is from an online quiz that is part of the book’s ancillary package, apparently. Chapter 10 of the class’s textbook examines intelligence, apparently including some of the empirical evidence on correlations between IQ tests and various demographics (The other possible answers seem to show that the book also mentioned correlations between IQ and political conservatism/liberalism, and between IQ and earning power, but those answers were phrased to be the opposite of what the studies actually show, and thus were clearly incorrect).

According to a student in the class who wished to remain anonymous, the question was a part of an online homework quiz. Students were required to complete a certain amount of quizzes throughout the course but were encouraged to finish all of them in order to prep for the final exam.

“I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question, which is a sad thing,” the student told Campus Reform in a phone interview. “But how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ?”

Well, my guess is that this question is answered in the textbook the student apparently did not read. A recent paper, likely the source of the information asked about in the quiz, was a meta-analysis of 63 studies that apparently were able to do what this student finds impossible. (The paper proposes a number of different causal mechanisms, none of which boil down to “Christians are dumber than atheists”, as the CampusReform article headline puts it.) The question also has a “report this question” button, but I suppose calling Campus Reform is more fun. Besides, martyrdom:

“Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity,” the OSU student said. “If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.”

Oddly enough, Cuttledaughter worked in an OSU lab–a biological research lab, with some heavy hitter profs. She was the only atheist in the lab, and felt she had to keep quiet when various discussions took place around the lunch table (at which, btw, grace was said. every day. in a science lab. because colleges tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity), like talk about the War against Christmas or the Jackson, OH school portrait of Jesus. I also have friends who are faculty at OSU; every one of them is Christian.

In sum… the question reflected real research, and was fair game to ask. The student, uncomfortable, chose to go to newspapers rather than through available channels. And whether or not a University opposes or panders to a given religion may well be mostly in the eye of the beholder.

Bishops’ Stance On Motives And Behaviors

“Hate the sin, but love the sinner”,
So I do not hate the gays—
Their desires aren’t a problem
What’s a problem is their ways

It’s their actions, not their motives,
Which define a life of sin
What’s important is their conduct
Not what drives it from within.

If you act on your attraction
That’s what matters most, you see,
Not your motives but your actions
Are forbidden by decree

Thus, I treat them like pariahs
While I love them, every one—
I don’t hate their evil thinking,
Just the evil they have done

You might want to call it bigotry—
It isn’t, really, quite—
See, I’m practicing religion
So it has to be all right

Since my faith’s my motivation
There’s a fact you’ll have to face:
It’s my motive, not my actions
That’s important in this case

According to the Catholic News Agency, representatives of US bishops have made clear their position: When it comes to same-sex relationships, it is perfectly fine for someone to experience attraction, but acting on that attraction is beyond the pale. The problem is that “the bill does not differentiate between same-sex attraction and same-sex conduct, posing a problem to faith groups such as Catholics that affirm the dignity of homosexual persons but oppose homosexual actions.” That is, it’s ok to be gay, so long as no one knows it from what you do, like, say, getting married or actually engaging in a human relationship. It’s what you do that they have a problem with, not your reasons for doing it.

They also made clear their objections to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which focuses on what you do, ignoring your reasons for doing it, which the bishops think is entirely unfair.

“Churches, businesses, and individuals should not be punished in any way for living by their religious and moral convictions concerning sexual activity,” the bishops wrote in a July 17 blog post for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

They have religious reasons for discriminating, which means they can’t possibly be actually discriminating; it’s their reasons for doing stuff that is important, not the actual discrimination they are engaged in.

It’s all so simple, really.

“Religious Freedom Is Fading…”

I’ve got Jesus in my bedroom
I’ve got Jesus in the halls
I’ve got paintings, prints, and posters
Of my savior on my walls
There’s a Jesus on my dashboard
While I’m driving down the street;
And my shirt says “Jesus loves you”
To the strangers I might meet

Now, my neighbors’ yard is filled with saints;
It’s hard to count them all!
There’s a Virgin Mary Grotto
Carved directly in their wall
There’s religious iconography
(They say it helps them cope)
And a special little closet
Filled with pictures of the pope

There are twenty-seven churches
I could visit if I like
There are twelve that I could walk to,
And there’s fifteen more by bike
They are thick as flies on honey
Some are old and some are new
But a couple public places
Have no Jesus-stuff in view!

There’s no cross above the courthouse
There’s no crèche at City Hall
There’s no Jesus on our currency—
“In God We Trust” is all—
I could put the Ten Commandments
Carved in granite at Town Square
But the secular “progressives”
Say there’s no religion there

It’s a travesty of justice!
It’s a trampling of my rights!
It’s oppression! It’s barbaric!
They’ve got Jesus in their sights
And they plan to take us over—
Wipe religion from the map!
That’s my honest, true, opinion…
Though it’s total fucking crap

A Christian Post editorial, utterly unsurprisingly, confuses the reeling back of the slightest measures of over-privilege with jack-booted religious repression. It is laughable in some of its claims (“The lackadaisical religious expressions of presidential candidates and their parties is another point at which religion’s impact has been parsed out.”), and varyingly disingenuous and sloppy in others:

While the fading of American religious freedom may seem subtle to some, in actuality it has been blatantly pursued for some time. For instance, think of the trend to remove prayer in any shape or form from public venues. Think also of the debate over whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed. Call to mind the upheaval caused by the phrase “Under God” being printed on US currency. The limiting of religious texts within certain venues, such as educational institutions, is another instance.

“Public venues”? Not at all–you can have all the religious expression you want; you just cannot have the government take your side. “Whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed”? Display it at your home, at your church, at your own place of business…but do not force me to display it at my house, or at any place where you and I both are represented. “Under God”? Heh… it’s “In God We Trust”, actually, on currency, and “under god” in the pledge. And the very fact that these two examples exist despite multiple challenges rather undercuts your argument.

There is no argument, actually. There is misrepresentation, there is false witness, there is paranoia, there is a martyr complex of epic proportions.

Related post
Another one
And another

“A Symbol Of National Unity”

I shouldn’t be shocked—hey, they’re only the news,
They can say what they want with impunity—
But it took me aback that they called a cathedral
A “symbol of national unity”.

It’s a beautiful building, I have to admit,
(Darth Vader hides in the façade!)
But it seems our one nation once deemed indivisible
Separates now, “under god”

The cathedral is of the Episcopal Church
So the Baptists, of course, disagree—
Not to mention the Wiccans, or Muslims, or Jews…
But it’s Unity, clearly, you see?

It’s not their intent to do anything wrong
They try to be open, it’s true
They’d love to unite the whole nation, of course,
But that’s something religion can’t do.

It’s a feel-good story; the National Cathedral is getting its needed repairs after the 2011 earthquake sent God’s message that He is a Darth Vader fan. It’s beautiful architecture, wonderful stone carving (my favorite is at 1:40 in the video, reminding us that artists have long used whatever source material they could, from pagan gods to bible stories, as an excuse to showcase naked bodies), extraordinary stained glass (which includes secular themes, like the Apollo lunar landing, incorporating an actual moon rock in the design), and I am happy to see it being restored.

Also, despite being the “National Cathedral”, every dime paying for its construction and repair is from private donors. It officially is an Episcopalian cathedral, not a U.S. one (its official name is “The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington”), although it has seen events from many denominations, and secular events as well.

But one thing it is not, though the linked story makes the claim–it is not a “symbol of national unity”. I can see why the Episcopalian Church would want to call it that–the Pew numbers put traditional and evangelical Episcopalian/Anglicans, combined, at under 2% of the US, not even in the top ten denominations, percentage-wise; to lay claim to a unified “National” anything would be a serious cap-feather. I think, maybe, the only real symbol of unity for this diverse country might well be the motto e pluribus unum, which at once recognizes our differences and our common identity.

But of course, that has been replaced by “in god we trust”, which just emphasizes the fact that it is not in religion’s power to unite, only to divide.

On The Deeply Held Religious Beliefs Of Corporations

A local corporation is a member of my church
Though it never puts a dollar in the plate
I haven’t seen it in the pews, no matter how I search
Though it claims it’s more devout than me, of late
It reads its bible daily, and of course it watches Fox,
It’s offended by the liberal elite
It loves Scalia’s reasoning (“He thinks outside the box!”)
Saying personhood is not confined to meat

If the church’s wisdom dictates, say, that women be controlled
There’s a trick our local corporation learned:
Your insurance isn’t yours at all, despite what you’ve been told
Compensation isn’t something that you’ve earned
You must subjugate your wishes to the corporation’s will—
Your insurance is dependent on their whim
So it’s really up to Jesus which prescriptions you may fill,
Cos the corporation puts its faith in Him.

If it holds beliefs devoutly, while abstractly it exists
It’s protected by the constitution, too
And (all thanks to Hobby Lobby) the Supreme Court now insists
Its protections mean it’s even safe from you!
In a battle of religious rights, it’s kinda, sorta, funny—
Corporations have beliefs, by all reports!
They are just like you or me—except, of course, they have more money…
But, of course, that doesn’t matter to the courts.

Gee, I Guess Maybe I’m Not An Atheist After All

I’ve missed the point of atheism—missed it all along—
I thought I was an atheist, but now I know I’m wrong:
An atheist hates God, you see, because he loves his sins
(It says so in the bible, and the bible always wins).

An atheist loves cruelty; an atheist loves death;
Defending immorality with every lawless breath
Their ideal life is meaningless—it’s nasty, brutish, short—
I thought I was an atheist; I’m nothing of the sort!

Don’t ever ask an atheist, “You’re godless—tell me why”
They’re atheists, remember—all they’re gonna do is lie!
I, myself? I would have answered, but I clearly did not know
It’s all hating God and loving sin—the bible tells us so!

In a world of chance and chaos, where the godless blindly grope,
There’s no beauty in a sunset—there’s no poetry, no hope—
All is ultimately pointless, so it’s meaningless as well,
And at death, these unbelievers face eternity in hell.

Only God has love and kindness, as the atheists will learn
They’ll be sorry they denied Him, as unendingly they burn
There’s a lesson for the godless, which they eagerly ignore:
They could love God if they wanted… they just love their sinning more

From a silly little Gospel Centered Arminian Blog, a screed, “The Point of Atheism.” It’s nothing you haven’t seen before dozens of times–the author was witnessing to an atheist (“Jason”), and ignored everything Jason said. See, the truth is:

The reality is that the point of atheism is simple: Romans 1:18:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Atheists simply hate God because they love their sins. This is the point of atheism.

It doesn’t matter what Jason told him. It doesn’t matter what I myself might say, or what any given atheist organization might say, or if hypothetically every atheist in the world agreed on one definition, but that definition disagreed with Romans 1:18 it would simply be more evidence that atheists are lying sinners, or sinning liars, or some such.

The truth is that when I observe a sunset and Jason observes a sunset, we both look at it through the lenses of a prior worldview assumption. He looks at a beautiful sunset and he sees nothing more than randomness taking place. He believes that nothing caused this sunset and it just exists by chance. I look at the same sunset and see the hand of Yahweh (Psalm 19:1-6). Jason has no hope. I have hope. Jason has no faith (well he does in Darwinian evolutionary theories) and I have hope in God. Jason lives a pointless life. I live a life where I seeking to not only love God but to help others to love Him along the way. Jason does good to others (at least he said he does) just because he is a human who evolved from a lower substance but I do good because I am created in the image of a good God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Atheism doesn’t produce hope. It produces death. I don’t doubt that religion can be equally as evil but I am not calling people to a religion. I am calling people to repentance and the truth in Christ (John 14:6). I don’t want religious people. I want disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). I want people to love Christ and obey Him as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; John 14:15). I want people to bear the fruit of the Spirit by the work of the Spirit among them (Galatians 5:22-23) which is where true goodness comes from. I want people to obey God and His moral law by His grace (Titus 2:11-12).

What does atheism produce? Does it produce hope in people? Does atheism lead to great human compassion and acts of kindness? Where are the atheist groups feeding the poor, serving the sick and dying, giving hope to those who are struggling with life? Where are the atheist hospitals? Where are the large segment of atheists going forth defending life, morality, and purity?

And we could point to those atheist groups, and because they don’t agree with a particular narrow biblical definition, they will be ignored. Water off a duck’s back.

So why even bother writing this? Because the Arminian site, if you look at it, appears to find one group even more objectionable than atheists (I’m sure a similar pattern will hold for other groups, but this one was presented prominently). That’s right… Calvinists. As is so often the case, the big acrimony is reserved for those who are in the church down the street. And the internecine bickering is observed, and some of us find it much ado about nothing… and that is often step one toward atheism.

Not a hatred of god. But hey, don’t take my word for it. I just love to sin.

Apparently.

PS. As the cherry on top, at the end of the post, he links to a Ray Comfort video.

Sophisticated … Something.

I needed a few vital groceries
So I laced up my shoes and set forth
But I’d somehow forgotten my compass
So I didn’t know which way was North!

It’s just down the street that I’m heading
And I’ll hope against hope for the best
The store’s on the left when I get there
But I don’t really know if that’s West!

If I don’t have True North to depend on
I don’t know I can trust Left or Right
“Two Blocks Down” is just meaningless drivel
If I don’t have True North in my sight!

So I sit here–afraid to go shopping
I can’t drive to the market or mall
All directions are now without meaning
Without North, I know nothing at all!

So… yeah. My aggregator points me to a place that thinks C.S.Lewis had something reasonable to say about atheism:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

- C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p. 32

Thing is, this is the best they have to offer. And it’s shit. And I’ve addressed it many times before. In fucking verse. And if they can say “you have to read the sophisticated theology before you can say shit”, then I can say “you have to read my whole site first, then you can try to address what I haven’t already dismantled.”

An Atheist Town Council Prayer

The town of Greece, NY, as a result of their recent court decision, is going to have a town council opening prayer delivered by an atheist. This has left a segment of the Christian population utterly befuddled; when the bible is the only book you need, you are not likely to have a dictionary handy. As both articles and comments show an astonishing lack of imagination or understanding on the part of these concerned Christian citizens, I offered the following comment at the link above (for whatever reason, though, my comments never show up, so I have reproduced it, with additional comments in verse, here):

To pray, by definition, can mean to entreat, to beseech, to implore–to make a request of a person or persons. The verb is not restricted to communion with a god, but may include communion with our fellow citizens. If I were offering the opening prayer, I would beseech the council to remember that they serve *all* the citizens of their community, not just those who share their religious views. I would implore them to look to the constitution and laws for their guidance, instead of to a holy book that many in their community do not follow. I would entreat them to put themselves in the place of these others in their community, as their own bible tells them (Matthew 25:40). I would pray that they use their critical thinking, not merely their faith, in fulfilling the obligations of their elected office.

I beseech the worthy council
To remember, as we pause,
That they serve the constitution,
And the people, and the laws;
They are here as public servants
It is us they represent
By, and of, and for the people
Thus, they serve by our consent

I entreat them to remember
During arguments or fights
That minority positions
Do not lead to loss of rights;
That our freedom of expression
Will protect us as we rant—
We can favor our religion;
It’s the government that can’t.

I implore my fellow citizens
Here gathered by my side
To remember that we use
The constitution as our guide
The majority can’t bully—
We’re protected from attack,
If we heed the constitution
Then the founders have our back

And I pray to every one of you
The bold, the brash, the meek
If you hear or read my words,
Then it’s to you that I would speak
Let us gather here together
Cos there’s work that must be done
So let’s work with one another,
We the people… every one.

God Is Gonna Do Some Judging…

God is gonna do some judging—
Yes, He’s gonna show His wrath—
As a message that humanity
Has left the righteous path

God is gonna do some judging
And our sins have sealed our fate;
Yes, He’s going to show His visage
Any day now—just you wait!

God is gonna do some judging
And it’s gonna happen soon—
He will set the seas to boiling
Underneath a blood-red moon
He will punish us with torment
For the things we’ve all done wrong
And he’ll start now, any moment…
Well… It shouldn’t be too long.

God is gonna do some judging
So you’d better shape up quick
Cos the things He’s gonna do to you
Will more than make you sick
You’ll suffer, suffer, suffer
As a judgment for your sins—
You’ll regret your life of evil
From the moment He begins!
It’s a torture that’s eternal—
No relief can come from death!—
He’ll be starting… any minute…
Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

God is gonna do some judging—
Yes, we’ve heard it all before
God is coming down from Heaven
And he’s kicking down the door
Any second—any minute—
Any month or any year
Any century—millenium—
Yes, God will soon be here!

Cuttlecap tip to Ed, here.