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Mar 11 2013

Might Christianity be both true and terrible?

I am late to the feast! the Digital Cuttlefish, Larry Moran, and Jerry Coyne have all picked over the bones of this ridiculous fellow Damon Linker, who has been moaning about the dearth of honest atheists nowadays. Real atheists, he says, should be dismayed and horrified at the absence of a god-being in their lives; they should be despairing at the knowledge that their lives are meaningless and doomed, nothing but the tragedy of blindly executing chemical reactions until they flop into the grave and rot. Oh, and also, atheist views are so despicable that they not only shouldn’t be allowed to run for public office, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Sweet guy, huh? And so trite and unimaginative. His lack of ability to comprehend our sense of liberation at being free of his petty tyrant of a god is not an argument that we should be similarly fettered.

But all those other guys have torn that part of his argument to shreds. Let me take a different tack and approach another of his assertions. This one, the subtitle of his article.

“That godlessness might be both true and terrible is something that the new atheists refuse to entertain.”

I’m going to try something unusual, for me. I assume that Damon Linker fervently believes that his god is real, and normally I’d go after that and argue against his deity. But this time try pretending that somehow, by some miracle, it turns out that the Christian god exists, and Mr Linker is actually correct. Is he able now to contemplate this possibility?

“That Christianity might be both true and terrible is something that Christians refuse to entertain.”

Let it sink in, Christians. Really think about it.

If this religion were true, here is what we have to live with.

  • Our lives are miserable and evil, tainted everywhere by sin. Only in our death do we have an opportunity to escape.

  • We are pawns in a war between a god and an army of demigods (angels), and Satan and his army of demons. Satan is constantly trying to corrupt us.

  • When we die, we have two possible fates. The most likely is that we’ll end up in Satan’s clutches, which means an eternity (Forever! Endlessly!) of pain and agony and grief, tortured in a lake of fire.

  • If we win the god’s favor, we get to spend an eternity (Forever! Endlessly!) servilely worshipping this deity.

  • We have a purpose. It is to be slaves to god. That’s right, under Christianity we are all slaves to a omnipotent, omniscient master.

  • In some Christian sects, everything is predestined. Your efforts are futile, your ultimate fate in heaven and hell is set. No amount of struggle will change what will happen to you.

  • In other sects, you have free will, and can influence where you end up. Unfortunately, the exercise of your will is irrelevant except in your ability to follow arbitrary and peculiar rules: you may not masturbate, for instance, and you must avoid eating certain foods. You are free to obey god’s capricious whims, or not.

  • Your god loves you so much that he will kill his own son for you. But there’s a catch: you have to believe that god is the kind of guy who would murder his own son (and worship him for it!), ot you will go to hell.

  • Your god is the kind of monster who would exterminate just about every living thing on the planet because they were wicked. But at the same time, it’s dogma that every one of us is a wicked sinner. The axe is always suspended above your neck, the only thing keeping it away are the fancies of a tyrant.

  • This god is not a moral being: he has advocated rape, genocide, the murder of children, slavery, and blood sacrifice. The purpose of these horrific acts? His glorification.

Now please notice: I am not making the fallacious argument that because these consequences are awful, god is not real. I’m stipulating that the Christian god actually exists, and I’m asking Christians whether that would be a good thing or not — whether we should exult or be downcast at the idea of Jehovah’s existence.

If it would help, because I know they’re so soaked in the indoctrination that says an immortal incarnation of Dexter is a great thing that they’ll find it difficult to see beyond that, imagine if Allah were the one true god and you were expected to follow Muslim practices in order to be in his good graces. Or if that’s still too benign for you (I can’t imagine how), picture what eternity would be like if the True God were Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and human sacrifice.

I rather suspect that extortion on a cosmic scale will dictate what most Christians can say. The existence of the Christian god would be a colossal catastrophe for humanity, reducing us to inconsequential slave to an invulnerable authoritarian megalomaniac, but if you really believe in such a nightmare, you wouldn’t be able to complain — you’ll LOVE GOD AS HE DEMANDS, or he’ll SET YOU ON FIRE. And if you have any doubt, if you speak out and suggest that maybe his rule is a bit scary, he’ll just wish you into the cornfield.

But try, for just a moment, to admit that that god is damned evil. If he’s not so evil, he’ll forgive you a little doubt, right? And if he is that evil, why are you planning to spend eternity worshipping him?

108 comments

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  1. 1
    Rey Fox

    Godlessness means I don’t have to go to church every week. That’s positive enough for me.

  2. 2
    cervantes

    Yabbut at least you get to go to the covered dish supper and eat tuna noodle casserole covered with crumbled potato chips, and jello mold with embedded grapes.

  3. 3
    Richard Smith

    And if you have any doubt, if you speak out and suggest that maybe his rule is a bit scary, he’ll just wish you into the cornfield.

    God’s good. God’s real good.

  4. 4
    DubsCK

    I’ve often said that if God is going to punish me for not believing in him,due to a lack of evidence (or abundance of contradictory evidence), I have no interest in worshipping a God like that. The only kind of god I’d worship is one that doesn’t set up his creations for failure.

    If God really really needed our worship, he could have gotten the message much clearer.

  5. 5
    raven

    Damon Linker’s hate atheists rant is a target rich environment. Just about every sentence is either a lie, logical fallacy, or strawperson.

    We are pawns in a war between a god and an army of demigods (angels), and Satan and his army of demons. Satan is constantly trying to corrupt us.

    It’s worse than that. God is the all powerful creator of everything. God created satan and the demons and lets them run around doing whatever they do.

    Thanks god. It isn’t like we humans couldn’t mess things up all by ourselves. Either xianity is incoherent or the xian god is evil. Or both.

  6. 6
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    I think this is the argument that originally turned me Atheist. Pre-teen “Apatheist” (to borrow Bill Maher’s phrase) -> Early teen Apatheist with an utter disgust of the divisiveness of Religion + some Bible-reading = Early teen Apatheist with an utter disgust of religion in general -> mid-teen Atheist -> late-teen Atheist + Richard Dawkins + some reading on lesser-known shit religion causes = Early-Twenties Anti-Theist.

  7. 7
    raven

    Your god is the kind of monster who would exterminate just about every living thing on the planet because they were wicked.

    Worse than that again.

    1. God the perfect being created us. In his image. He has ultimate responsibility for what we are.

    2. We were set up to fail in the magic Garden. Just what were two naive humans doing in a place with a magic Tree of Knowledge and a talking snake anyway. Why wasn’t the magic tree on Jupiter or Kpax IV?

    3. God’s attempt to fix his own mistakes resulted in the invention of genocide during the Big Boat atrocity where all but 8 people died.

    4. It failed. God’s next attempted fix was his own sacrifice. That didn’t work either.

    5. Plan C is to just destroy the earth and kill 7 billion people. It’s 2,000 years late.

    The xian god refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes. All his fixes involve murder or mass murder. They haven’t worked either.

  8. 8
    johnwolforth

    Articles like this demonstrate that even when they understand the arguments, the logic, and all the evidence to the contrary, they can’t let go of the allure of the possibility that if you deny reality, everything will eventually work out. Guys like this must really be nostalgic for the days when you could paint a picture of a godless world and everyone would be running put the aisles repenting.

  9. 9
    richardelguru

    And what makes it worse is that it really is true for believers and this truth exists simply because some bastards want power and money and the freedom to screw children!

  10. 10
    Elena

    The good part of worshipping the Elder Gods is that you at least get the benefit of being devoured first when Cthulhu wakes up from his eternal sleep in the sunken city of R’lyeh. Which is more than you can say of this Azathoth-lite flavour of Christianity.

  11. 11
    raven

    Your god is the kind of monster who would exterminate just about every living thing on the planet because they were wicked.

    Worse than that again.

    1. God the all powerful creator should be ultimately responsible for his own actions, that is creating humans.

    2. We were set up to fail in the Garden. Just why were two naive humans put in a place with a magic Tree of Knowledge and a talking snake? Why wasn’t the magic Tree on Jupiter or Kpax IV?

    3. His fixes didn’t work either. After inventing genocide during the Big Boat atrocity, plan B was to murder himself, temporarily. That didn’t work very well.

    Plan C is to destroy the earth and kill 7 billion people. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To the xian god, every problem he ultimately caused is fixed by murder or mass murder.

  12. 12
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    There were a number of reasons why I because an atheist. One of them was this. The idea of spending eternity reflecting god’s glory back to him. It made no sense to me that omnipotent being needed anything like this. And it seemed so mindless.

  13. 13
    irisvanderpluym

    This is a very good thought exercise, and not just for Christians but for any theists.

    With respect to this statement:

    Your god loves you so much that he will kill his own son for you.

    I usually take a different tack. According to their book, god’s son doesn’t even die — okay granted, he has a pretty crappy weekend, but then he’s seen walking around visiting people for a couple days like nothing ever happened, and finally he flies up into heaven and rules over the entire earth as a god forever. I just don’t see why this is such a big freaking sacrifice, for either the father or the son. Yet this “he died for you!” trope is the central tenet of Christianity. lolwut.

  14. 14
    SallyStrange

    Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Yahweh really did exist, it would be the responsibility of every ethical person to oppose and hopefully destroy him. It might be a futile battle, since he’s omnipotent and whatnot, but at least you’d be doing the right thing.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    Your god loves you so much that he will kill his own son for you.

    Susan Smith loves us twice as much, then.

  16. 16
    jetboy

    God the all powerful creator should be ultimately responsible for his own actions, that is creating humans.

    Exactly. I am arguing this exact point with a friend of mine, to show that there is no point to the concept of sin, no point in hell, and no need for “salvation.” He’s studying to be a Baptist pastor and I am relentlessly screwing with him. He wasn’t religious for a very long time, but “got saved” a few years ago when I wasn’t paying attention. In the case of the hypothetical existence of an all powerful, all knowing creator, that creator is ultimately responsible for every success and every failure, every beautiful and horrible thing in the universe. All blame can be laid, if we wish to do so, at the feet of this creator. If this creator represents the best of humanity, then surely its attributed qualities are best represented in its love and understanding. If this creator has the morals and ethical qualities of a spoiled-rotten brat, then it could not have been able to construct the universe, or the human race.

  17. 17
    Marcus Ranum

    We should try to find this god and see if we can kill it with a couple nukes or a computer virus or some concentrated stupid or something!

  18. 18
    M can help you with that.

    “That Christianity might be both true and terrible is something that Christians refuse to entertain.”

    It has been used by SF/F writers, especially atheists, as a jumping-off point (e.g. Hal Duncan’s Escape from Hell!). Christianity doesn’t come out looking very good in most of these stories, and some Satan/Lucifer/etc. figure (and sometimes they’re broken up, since even the Christian theology there isn’t very consistent and the history of literary uses of “Satan” and “Lucifer” are sometimes pretty distinct) is more often the good guy than God.

  19. 19
    PZ Myers

    Obviously, he’s impervious to concentrated stupid. He seems to thrive on it. We need another tactic.

  20. 20
    Lars

    We should try to find this god and see if we can kill it with a couple nukes or a computer virus or some concentrated stupid or something!

    If it was vulnerable to concentrated stupid, it would be dead by now. Inadvertently killed by the sheeple.

    Hm. What a pleasurable idea.

  21. 21
    Dick the Damned

    The Christian’s Jehovah, the Almighty God,
    reigns over Heaven; he’s a sadistic clod.
    There’s a minor god, called Satan, who reigns over Hell,
    where God sends sinners to be tortured, and atheists as well.
    Confused by Christian dogma, each god-fearing fogey
    can’t fathom the nature of that Bible Bogey.

    Is it a father, its son, and an apotropaic ghost too?
    Well, it should be obvious that’s rollicking woo.
    Yet Christians claim their god, in its Empyrean lair,
    is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent and fair,
    but with the problem of theodicy, still unresolved,
    their god’s ethical aberrations are not absolved.

  22. 22
    nullifidian

    Mikhail Bakunin had this nailed (from God and the State, chapter 2):

    Christianity is precisely the religion par excellence, because it exhibits and manifests, to the fullest extent, the very nature and essence of every religious system, which is the impoverishment, enslavement, and annihilation of humanity for the benefit of divinity.

    God being everything, the real world and man are nothing. God being truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power, and life, man is falsehood, iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is the slave. Incapable of finding justice, truth, and eternal life by his own effort, he can attain them only through a divine revelation. But whoever says revelation says revealers, messiahs, prophets, priests, and legislators inspired by God himself; and these, once recognized as the representatives of divinity on earth, as the holy instructors of humanity, chosen by God himself to direct it in the path of salvation, necessarily exercise absolute power. All men owe them passive and unlimited obedience; for against the divine reason there is no human reason, and against the justice of God no terrestrial justice holds. Slaves of God, men must also be slaves of Church and State, in so far as the State is consecrated by the Church.

    Later in the chapter, he wrote: “A jealous lover of human liberty, and deeming it the absolute condition of all that we admire and respect in humanity, I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

    But obviously he would have accomplished a lot more in life if he had talked about how Kepler was a Christian.

    It’s been remarked elsewhere, but I’ll just add my voice to the chorus that this idiot thoroughly misrepresents the content of both Camus and Nietzsche, especially the latter. He talks about the phrase “God is dead” (The Gay Science), uses a cherry-picked quote from The Genealogy of Morals to illustrate it, and manages to miss that one of the three “God is dead” sections in The Gay Science is an aphorism entitled “The Meaning of Our Cheerfulness”.

    Indeed, Nietzsche expresses himself in precisely the way this fool thinks he oughtn’t if he’s to be regarded as an “honest atheist”:

    …these initial consequences, the consequences for ourselves, are quite the opposite of what one might perhaps expect: They are not at all sad and gloomy but rather like a new and scarcely describable kind of light, happiness, relief, exhilaration, encouragement, dawn.

    Indeed, we philosophers and “free spirits” feel, when we hear the news that “the old god is dead,” as if a new dawn shone on us; our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, premonitions, expectation. At long last the horizon appears free to us again, even if it should not be bright; at long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger; all the daring of the lover of knowledge is permitted again; the sea, our sea, lies open again; perhaps there has never yet been such an “open sea.”

    What a shame it is. Nietzsche, Grayling, Dawkins, and even I: none of us are living up to the high intellectual and moral standards of Damon Linker. That’s a real tragedy right there.

  23. 23
    sparks

    That was most satisfying. A real keeper. It begs for framing, and when I do I promise to send photos!

  24. 24
    Francisco Bacopa

    Came by to drop a couple of Nietzsche quotes, but I see comment 21 has that covered. So here’s a somewhat relevant SMBC comic:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1366

  25. 25
    mikeyb

    I don’t think sophisticated theologians TM will buy into this characterization of their beliefs, or any characterization that isn’t put into their own flowery postmodernist like sophistry. True believers TM will restate most of these claims without changing the substance in a way that they sound good.

    Anyway I’ve often thought that one of the main goals of atheism is not necessarily to get rid of religion (impossible) but render belief into ridiculous irrational nonsense we can all live with, rather than the actions that come out of true beliefs that cause the danger – e.g. radical pro-life stances, homophobia, patriarchy, creationism etc., etc.

    Religion rendered to a kind of hobby or fetish like horror film fanatics, libertarians, or Tolkienism, would be its proper place in society.

  26. 26
    twas brillig (stevem)

    The problem, all you guys here, is you are over thinking the “god problem”. God is for those who don’t want to think (or can’t, even). What easier answer is there than “God diddit”? Q:”Why is the sky blue?” A:”Godddit”, Q:”Why is that guy over there so evil?” A: “God diddit, to test your good-ness”, so on and so on. Every question is simply answered with “God diddit”, no need to reason a more coherent/consistent answer.

    OK, my sarcasm is going too far, but seriously, I think this really is most of the explanation for the existence of the “God meme”. That it is just an easy/lazy way to respond to difficult questions, like , “why did my child die so young?” etc., etc. To point out contradictions/inconsistencies in the Bible stories is just pointless. It doesn’t matter to those who believe without thinking. They don’t even want to strain their brain with thinking anyway. They just want a simple answer, to calm their emotions, not their rational mind.
    {sorry. ramble, ramble, ramble. carry on everyone}

  27. 27
    Lynna, OM

    Obviously, he’s impervious to concentrated stupid. He seems to thrive on it. We need another tactic.

    God is addicted to Stupid. We may have to put him in rehab.

  28. 28
    jamessweet

    I take exception to the Dexter metaphor. As fictional characters go, Dexter Morgan is nowhere near as evil as Yahweh.

  29. 29
    Lofty

    God bothering bullies just crave the seal of approval from the biggest bully of all so they feel good about bullying everyone that is not of their in-group. Their feelings of raw self righteousness need no rational support. The babble stories full of bullying are just so much back slapping for the incoherent sneering of the self selected “saved” people.

  30. 30
    Louis

    Can’t Christianty just be bollocks and puerile, as opposed to true and terrible? It’s how it’s always struck me.

    Louis

  31. 31
    Owlglass

    God the Great. In his endless wisdom, presumably to heat up hell on human fat, He decided to wait for tens of thousands of years until He deemed it necessary to make Himself known. He then waited another thousand years, which made barely a difference so that the humans could write down his message faithfully.

    On a sunny day, the first of April, Great Almighty decided to talk to illiterate desert dwellers and gave away the most important knowledge humankind ever received. It kept his subjects busy as they where preserving the message based on hearsay and memory skills, and with some wars in the mix. But hundreds of years later, and with the power of latin, greek and hebrew combined, humankind managed to jot down the Magnus Opum, the True Word of God, His one and only revelation.

    It included the most important things humans ever needed to know, to always wash your hands, to celebrate God as only one, ban slavery, never make pictures of God, honor his name, ban rape, honor your father and mother–well more father–which means God, and some other things. Humankind celebrated for days commemorating their great achievement. It took hundreds of years to get there, there was a big party.

    Then God decided to step down, and in a transparent attempt to appear younger and more attractive claimed to be His Son and told a completely different story, sending everyone back to the drawing board.

    But now He finally gave away the most important lessons, like to wash your hands, like allowing yourself to be beaten up by anyone, especially authorities, unless it is tactically unwise and no slavery, no rape, no child labor, that He is not two, but three things at once and that belgian wafers turn into his flesh every sabbath, and wine into blood. Cannibalism, torture- and execution porn would lend his Church a unique aesthetic that would not be copied too quickly, except by Metal Bands (but they were servants of the opposition anway).

    God saw that this was a good plan. He knew it all the time. And now, at the beginning of time, he decided to exactly make it like this. And so he waited, saw creatures creep onto land, monkeys come down from trees and humans frolicking around on the savannas, and He began heating hell on human fat…

  32. 32
    ChasCPeterson

    When we die, we have two possible fates. The most likely is that we’ll end up in Satan’s clutches, which means an eternity (Forever! Endlessly!) of pain and agony and grief, tortured in a lake of fire.

  33. 33
    ck

    Religion rendered to a kind of hobby or fetish like horror film fanatics, libertarians, or Tolkienism, would be its proper place in society.

    Libertarians seem to be doing a lot of damage themselves these days. “Taxes are theft” and such nonsense is being taken seriously by at least one major party in the United States, and has more traction than it should in a lot of other countries.

  34. 34
    chrish

    Rational, logical, discourse would work if you were dealing with rational, logical people. I was a devout christian for almost 20 years, child to adult. During that time it was drilled into my head that everything out of a non-believers mouth (except Hallelujah I believe) concerning God and the Christian faith were nothing but lies and tools of Satan to lure the faithful away from God.

    It took 3 years away from the church (in the army) and literally sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, to make me wake up. The people who are getting on the internet and arguing for God are the ones who have the same mentality I did back in the day and are not looking for truth, just to try and make you look foolish and wrong for not believing.

    Our hope is in the future and with the coming generations, not the hardened old Christians with little to no hope of seeing reason.

  35. 35
    Caveat Imperator

    Honestly, Christianity would make so much more sense if they described Yahweh as weaker than Christians typically claim he is. For example, the whole business about Jesus’ sacrifice would make more sense if God hasn’t written the rules himself. And the “eternal struggle between God and Satan” would make more sense if Christians actually considered Satan a god too, rather than a creation of Yahweh that he could presumably puff out of existence. Or if the problem of evil was resolved by claiming “yes, God is evil” or “yes, God is impotent.” (I’ve been on a Bart Ehrman binge lately, and I was fascinated to learn that many early Christians believed exactly that.)

  36. 36
    ChristineRose

    There were a number of reasons why I because an atheist. One of them was this. The idea of spending eternity reflecting god’s glory back to him. It made no sense to me that omnipotent being needed anything like this. And it seemed so mindless.

    Oddly, this still sounds preferable to sitting in heaven watching all those heathen babies roast.

  37. 37
    Doubting Thomas

    Slavery must have some very powerful attraction. The Christians I talk with tell me they are so happy and they are sure I am so miserable because I’m not one.

  38. 38
    Cuttlefish

    PZ, you forgot the bookend to the post you linked to! “Where are the honest believers?” takes a slightly different tack than you do, but still… http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2013/03/10/where-are-the-honest-believers/

  39. 39
    timgueguen

    Reading this thread an interesting thought came to mind, namely that Satan apparently plays by the same rules as God. He engages in the same hide and seek game that God does, not coming out and revealing himself in a blatant and undeniable manner. Nor does he appear and pretend to be God, but I suppose the whole End Times plotline certain Chrisitans are so fond of explains that.(It doesn’t of course explain why he hasn’t changed his plans over the last 2000 or so years, since a popular book explains how they’ll fail when he finally gets off his ass and impliments them.) Perhaps this means he and God have some sort of agreement on terms, which once again kind of implies God and Satan aren’t mortal enemies, but competitors for market share. Hmm, maybe that explains where a bunch of the other gods and mystical beings went, God and Satan cooperate to keep them out of the game, to their joint benefit.

  40. 40
    coyotenose

    Compare Pz’s accurate description of the Christian deity to the Lovecraftian Mythos. We would actually be better off if Cthulhu were real than if Yahweh were real.

  41. 41
    coyotenose

    Bah, Elena beat me to it. :P

  42. 42
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    As someone who was never really a believer because of only being mildly exposed to a fairly benign form (both in terms of dogma and proselytising) of Christianity , I can only speculate as to how I would have gone had I been heavily indoctrinated – I’d like to hope the obvious incoherence of it all would have become obvious to me before too long.

    Apart from anything else, the second a believer indicates they believe in Satan (as an evil trickster being out to win their souls) it all goes out the winow – because if Satan exists, nothing can be assumed to be true anymore.

    If Satan exists, how do we know he didn’t write the bible and everything in it is false? If Satan exists, how do Christians know the person who called himself Jesus wasn’t Satan in disguise turning them away from the true path of Judaism?

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    If it would help, because I know they’re so soaked in the indoctrination that says an immortal incarnation of Dexter is a great thing that they’ll find it difficult to see beyond that

    Dexter?

    Dexter’s code, as artificial as it was, is STILL considerably more rational than the “code” the Abrahamic God seems to follow.

    Who did Dexter kill by his code? ONLY killers that escaped the secular justice system.

    that’s pretty damn far away from the acts and code of the Abrahamic God, who slaughtered EVERYONE who disagreed with it.

    franky, an immortal incarnation of Dexter would be a vast, VAST improvement!

  44. 44
    catlover

    You cannot reason anyone out of religious belief by using logic because they didn’t adopt religious beliefs for logical reasons.

    Yes, the Christian god is a real jerk/[insert favorite insults] — if he were in human form, he’d be in a locked psych ward, getting intensive therapy.

  45. 45
    Ichthyic

    Perhaps this means he and God have some sort of agreement on terms, which once again kind of implies God and Satan aren’t mortal enemies, but competitors for market share. Hmm, maybe that explains where a bunch of the other gods and mystical beings went, God and Satan cooperate to keep them out of the game, to their joint benefit.

    I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  46. 46
    Ichthyic

    with the comparison to Dexter, and Cthulhu in mind…

    I wonder… what do people consider to be the most destructive, anti-human force in all of fiction?

    I would put the Abrahamic God far far higher in the list than the above two myself. That guy REALLY hates humanity.

  47. 47
    unclefrogy

    Wowbager
    that is at one time what I thought about. Given the cast of characters in the middle eastern religious tradition it seemed plausible to me. If any part of this made sense and was real then it was impossible to tell if this “demon” Satan was not constructing the whole thing as part of his conflict with the “God”.
    The result of the religion was certainly to make you (me) miserable full of guilt, shame and fear, the perfect thing for the supposed demon bent on cruelty and it just takes the simplest of tolls to accomplish it, lies.
    That was my last step in abandoning belief completely
    Because it is just as PZ said above if god is real it is unremittingly horrible.
    The feeling of that realization is just as it was quoted above from Nietzsche a kind of liberation that is hard to put into words.

    Immortality is a curse as described by the Christians and I am relieved that it is just another garbled myth.

    uncle frogy

  48. 48
    Abdul Alhazred

    Christianity both true and terrible?
    That might bother some Christians, but the Puritans thought so and indeed put that front and center.

    Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
    Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
    Enfield, Connecticut
    July 8, 1741
    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.sinners.html

    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

  49. 49
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Yahweh really did exist, it would be the responsibility of every ethical person to oppose and hopefully destroy him. It might be a futile battle, since he’s omnipotent and whatnot, but at least you’d be doing the right thing.

    This

  50. 50
    Randomfactor

    Honestly, Christianity would make so much more sense if they described Yahweh as weaker than Christians typically claim he is

    Exactly. They marketing department has WAY oversold the product. Or as I like to put it:

    Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnibenevolent. Choose any two.

    (And isn’t the fight to overcome an evil deity the central issue of Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy? I haven’t finished it.)

  51. 51
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Christianity would also make more sense if God wasn’t omni- everything, but they stupidly wanted to have their cake and eat it too, and now it’s too late to go back and say ‘Um, yeah, well, bad things happen because there’s another powerful being involved and God can’t stop him’.

    Though the Calvinists seem to accept the nonsensical notion that God doesn’t actually love everyone, which is at least something.

  52. 52
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Sorry, that should read “…Calvinists seem to reject the nonsensical notion that God loves everyone…”

  53. 53
    echidna

    wowbagger:

    I’d like to hope the obvious incoherence of it all would have become obvious to me before too long.

    I really did believe, for far too long. All I can say is that although it was the inconsistency that finally broke the bonds, the bonds themselves are made from trust. To break the bonds, you have to break trust with people who are, or were, important to you. That’s the part that’s hard, and that’s why you don’t have to be unintelligent to believe obviously silly things. My thoughts, anyway.

  54. 54
    mathema

    Not only is that list descriptive of what life would be with a Christian god, but it is a list that will cause most reasonable people to disavow such a belief system. You can’t make sense of such nonsense, and you certainly cannot reconcile it with our empirical reality. Personally, I can’t come to any conclusion that resembles anything other than existential nihilism. But so what? If that’s our reality, then that’s our reality. Live with it.

  55. 55
    Argle Bargle

    Yahweh’s behavior doesn’t make him worthy of worship. Quite the contrary. If someone were to convince me that Yahweh existed, I still won’t worship him because he’s a sadistic bully.

  56. 56
    conway

    Christians are like the wives of abusive husbands. “He only beats me because he loves me!”

  57. 57
    mathema

    @50 Ugh, I don’t even want to get started on the theology. After entertaining myself with a couple philosophy of religion electives, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to about how fallacious the system is. It’s almost like they have the courses to create atheists, just in case you missed some of the absurdity in every day life and you need a book to describe it.

  58. 58
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    echidna wrote:

    I really did believe, for far too long. All I can say is that although it was the inconsistency that finally broke the bonds, the bonds themselves are made from trust. To break the bonds, you have to break trust with people who are, or were, important to you. That’s the part that’s hard, and that’s why you don’t have to be unintelligent to believe obviously silly things. My thoughts, anyway.

    I tend to have a lot of respect for people who’ve deconverted; I know I was damn lucky to dodge the bullet of indoctrination and certainly don’t consider ‘my’ atheism to be all that much of an achievement by comparison.

    Religion owes far more to sociocultural pressure for its continued existence than it does to rational arguments.

  59. 59
    wholething

    Is PZ moonlighting?

    29 Church Signs That Make You Scratch Your Head (Number 12)

    It fits well with the “random biological ejaculations.”

  60. 60
    Ichthyic

    It’s almost like they have the courses to create atheists, just in case you missed some of the absurdity in every day life and you need a book to describe it.

    …and now you know why ignorant xian bigots hate education so much.

    this is exactly how they view it: all higher education is designed to create atheists!

    It’s obviously not correct, but even if in some fictional reality it WAS, I would find it hard to object to frankly. In fact, if I was tasked with ridding the world of the destructive meme that is religion, one way i would in fact start trying to do that very thing would be through the educational system.

    it’s small wonder they consider the educational system to be their enemy, but their mistake is simply in thinking it was designed that way.

  61. 61
    wholething

    Arrgh! Posted to wrong window and wrong thread.

  62. 62
    cicely

    Probably redundant, but….

    We have a purpose. It is to be slaves to god. That’s right, under Christianity we are all slaves to a omnipotent, omniscient master.

    And one who demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the well-being of his slaves, just so long as some survive to reproduce. Doesn’t have to be many, doesn’t matter if entire Tribes are lost, and their living conditions are completely beside the point (enslaved in Egypt, the Babylonian Captivity, whatevs).
     
    Rejoice! Hallelujah!

    -

  63. 63
    vaiyt

    Real atheists, he says, should be dismayed and horrified at the absence of a god-being in their lives; they should be despairing at the knowledge that their lives are meaningless and doomed, nothing but the tragedy of blindly executing chemical reactions until they flop into the grave and rot.

    Isn’t it a good thing that atheists have Damon Linker to tell them what to think?

  64. 64
    cicely

    The good part of worshipping the Elder Gods is that you at least get the benefit of being devoured first when Cthulhu wakes up from his eternal sleep in the sunken city of R’lyeh. Which is more than you can say of this Azathoth-lite flavour of Christianity.

    Preach it!
     
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
    -

    Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Yahweh really did exist, it would be the responsibility of every ethical person to oppose and hopefully destroy him.

    “Waiting with a shotgun, and keeping the last shell for myself”, as Bob Howard said.
    -

  65. 65
    Ichthyic

    Arrgh! Posted to wrong window and wrong thread.

    yup, pretty much a complete fail on all fronts.

    uh, yay you?

  66. 66
    Ichthyic

    “Waiting with a shotgun, and keeping the last shell for myself”, as Bob Howard said.


    sounds like something Bruce Campbell would say too.

  67. 67
    mathema

    @59 Well, the one thing you wouldn’t expect a Christian to dislike is a philosophy of religion course, since its mostly Christian in context and it is mostly Christians who contribute to it and teach it. On other subjects, it’s pretty easy to see why Christians don’t like higher education, as most of empirical reality contradicts their system. The spread of knowledge doesn’t help their faith grow, as common sense dictates.

    With the atheist-creating part, I was more so being ironic/humorous, since its a class that mostly theists take. One might hope that it would make theism more clear, rather than more opaque, but it doesn’t of course. The more you look, the worse it becomes. If I was being serious, I would say that I had that experience only because I wasn’t a theist. The theists probably ate it up.

  68. 68
    Ichthyic

    Well, the one thing you wouldn’t expect a Christian to dislike is a philosophy of religion course, since its mostly Christian in context and it is mostly Christians who contribute to it and teach it.

    you’d be surprised. I took such a course as an undergrad, and it was taught by a practicing Quaker, who moonlighted as a Zen Buddhist.

    I saw no bias in anything he taught, and learned more about religion in that one course than in 10 years of church service and sunday school.

    True, I was already pretty far into the atheist camp by then, but what I learned in that course sped the process along, rather than inhibiting it!

  69. 69
    Ichthyic

    The more you look, the worse it becomes.

    just so, which is exactly why authoritarian religious nutters can and DO object to “religious studies” courses in unis… because they teach the “wrong” things, namely how unsupported even within the history of their own religion, their “fundamentalist” dogma really is.

  70. 70
    Ichthyic

    I was more so being ironic/humorous

    I got that, but there was something worth hashing out there, behind the satire.

  71. 71
    karpad

    I don’t really understand his point. Atheists should be upset that the universe exists as it does, because god is awesome?
    Does he also expect us to gnash our teeth at the non-existence of the Kal-el, because such a universe would be a better place, where a good and moral physical god is explicitly there to protect everyone from harm?
    Are we to be actively mad that gravity is a thing, and we can’t fly?

    I’m gonna go ahead and grant his presupposition that we would all be happier if god were real. The fact is, god does not exist. Our believing or not believing has no impact on this fact. And that being upset because stuff isn’t as good as it could possibly be is ridiculous.

  72. 72
    mathema

    @69 yeah I hear you, I just pointed it out in case, for any other commenters, etc.

  73. 73
    mathema

    @69 Yeah, you know, my text actually had articles by Draper and other well known atheists/agnostics; even Dawkins, for that matter, had an article. I can only speak of general Phil of Religion though. It was mostly fair, but it was built inside of an overarching abrahamic context. I didn’t have enough time to explore many other courses before math took over completely, though. Sounds interesting though, your experience.

    Sorry if the @ bothers, I’m just lazy tbh.

  74. 74
    rapiddominance

    Its like a fun little “headgame” that our sides have had going on for some time. We say to you, “Aren’t you afraid of staying dead?” and you say to us, “Are you sure you want to get in the car with THAT god?”

    If those of us who are theists say “God is good” out of habbit or some obgligation without really FEELING that he is good, then we’re like little children leaving a playground to get in the car with a stranger because he’s offering us a sucker.

    Of course, we’re like little children either way. You’ve told us that. God’s told us that. Sometimes, our parents still tell us that (even when we’re in our 30′s).

  75. 75
    dongiovanni (Now onto Wagner)

    Ia! Shub – Niggurath! Black – Headed goat of the woods with a thousand young!

    Also, if you look at the descriptions of Angels and such in the Old Testament… they’re pretty Lovecraftian. Ezekiel’s visions are possibly the best example… wheels within wheels, seraphs with eyes on their wings and all that.

  76. 76
    SallyStrange

    I’m not like a little child. More like an angry adolescent.

  77. 77
    bad Jim

    I was kind of surprised that Linker doesn’t seem to be a Catholic, because they’re usually the ones insisting that atheists ought to be sad, but not to find that he used to be the editor of First Things.

    Doesn’t anyone remember this phrase from the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation”? Jesus comes right out and says that it’s God who’s putting us to the test. Which side is he on, anyway?

  78. 78
    Azuma Hazuki

    As scary as all that is, PZ, the even scarier part is there are a group of people out there who not only accept this, but approve of it. They are called Calvinists, and this is likely the second-worst idea any human has ever had…the first being the idea of an eternal hell in the first place, which actually wasn’t the belief of any of the church fathers who could speak Koine Greek save perhaps Tertullian, but that’s another story…

    Do you remember Heddle? He is one of these people. He strikes me as completely, utterly dead from sheer cognitive trauma, someone who took to Calvinism due to too much beating about the metaphorical head with cognitive dissonance. This is the guy who insists that “Calvinism gives perfect libertarian free will” and “There is no sense in debating; Calvinism makes it irrelevant. What is true is true and this is non-negotiable by fallen human reason.”

    And what scares me is I could easily have become someone like him if I had surrendered. It would be so easy. I want to feel sorry for him, but I am viscerally repelled.

  79. 79
    Azuma Hazuki

    Also, there’s the lovely Calvinist position that “without presupposing my God you have no moral basis at all, so you can’t call God a moral anything let alone evil.”

    I suspect that, like the ontological argument, divine command theory in particular and presup in general is less of an actual argument than it is sleight of hand.

  80. 80
    bad Jim

    Since I first saw this on Jerry Coyne’s don’t-dare-call-this-a-blog, I’ve been struggling to understand the point of view that atheists ought to be sad. Perhaps it’s to be expected from someone whose belief is so deep that it informs their every perception, who sees God’s hand everywhere, who thinks that faith is essential to a healthy outlook.

    Justin Griffith has written extensively about the U.S. military’s “Spiritual Fitness” program, and that definitely seems to come from just such a point of view (atheism=despair).

    It’s alien to me because it’s utterly disconnected from the scientific attitude which many if not most of us share, and I don’t see how anyone who takes this approach could have had more than a superficial exposure to science.

  81. 81
    jurekdedor

    I remember I watching Ghostbusters when I was about 8-9 and the first, most natural idea that came to me when I saw the ghost traps they were using was “could they build one big enough to trap god?”. I imagined world turning for the better (grass greener etc.) the moment it happened. Of course as an in-movie scenario since even back then I thought of god as a fictional character… It was just so natural to me – no god meant freedom, freedom meant good things happening (well I have partially grown out of that, eventually).

    Guess I was a dishonest atheist even when I was to young to know I was an atheist.

  82. 82
    John Morales

    Bah. Goddists’ and their wishful thinking.

    (I find it pitiful that they would pity me because I do not deny reality)

  83. 83
    Ichthyic

    no god meant freedom

    …and freedom tastes, of reality…

  84. 84
    Ichthyic

    I’ve been struggling to understand the point of view that atheists ought to be sad

    You know, there’s a book that recently came out you might wanna read…

    now where was it…

    hmmm…

    ahhh, here ’tis.

    ;)

  85. 85
    bad Jim

    It’s hard to contort one’s self into another’s psychology. The most mind-blowing part of Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” was the test itself. It’s hard to imagine answering otherwise, and yet apparently people do. It’s appealing, even intuitively obvious, that “nothing human is alien to me”, but it doesn’t seem to be true.

    I’ve come to think that projection is basically empathy. It’s wrong, but its basic assumption, that we’re all alike, is at least generous. Its results of course are not; the others consider us monstrous because we wantonly deny their god-given strictures, and we in turn consider them blinkered slaves of fear.

    They hate and fear us, we pity them and feel their pain. I think that gives us the advantage in the long term.

  86. 86
    Ichthyic

    I think that gives us the advantage in the long term.

    indeed. in fact, it explains why there is a large majority on average in all human populations that is NOT significantly RWA.

    but, while that numerical majority helps to slow the destructive potential of aggregated RWAs, it will only stop the negative impacts in the end if we work with the understanding that say, 20% of us lean towards authoritarianism, and simply deal with that by at least NOT trying to manipulate that personality trait for personal gain, as has been done so many, many times before (and is how the current base of the GoP was formed). work towards allowing tribalism within authoritarian communities, but tribalism that isn’t based on deliberately trying to interfere with the rights of other groups.

    I say, ditch the religious dogma as an authoritarian glue, and stick to sports instead. The Yankee and Dodger fans, or the Nicks and Laker Fans, can yell at each other all they want, feel tribal, but cause no political or societal fallout of any significance.

    this empowerment of authoritarianism for political gain, as has happened in an increasing fashion for the last 40 years, simply HAS to stop, or the teapartiers causing financial damage through inaction in Congress will be the LEAST of the worries the US will face.

  87. 87
    Gregory Greenwood

    jamessweet @ 27;

    I take exception to the Dexter metaphor. As fictional characters go, Dexter Morgan is nowhere near as evil as Yahweh.

    And Ichthyic @ 42;

    Dexter?

    Dexter’s code, as artificial as it was, is STILL considerably more rational than the “code” the Abrahamic God seems to follow.

    Who did Dexter kill by his code? ONLY killers that escaped the secular justice system.

    that’s pretty damn far away from the acts and code of the Abrahamic God, who slaughtered EVERYONE who disagreed with it.

    franky, an immortal incarnation of Dexter would be a vast, VAST improvement!

    It is interesting that even as a character who is a self declared ‘monster’ and rather dark anti-hero, Dexter is still vastly less evil and harmful than the equally fictional xian god character.

    He has better aim for a start; his code limits him to killing those killers who escape the justice system, and he never settles for collective punishment or killing off their friends or relatives either as ‘collateral damage’ or simply out of the mindset that this is near enough to the mark to do, unlike the sky fairy who has a tendency to ‘smite’ rather indescriminately, being quite happy to torment and kill multitudes to get a relative handful of people who broke one or other of its arbitrary rules.

    He shows at least some flickers of empathy for the victims of those he kills, and is repelled by those who prey on the vulnerable. Yahweh, on the other hand, is very much in the victim blaming camp, and is all in favour of slavery, rape and murder so long as it is godly slavery, rape and murder.

    Dexter also expresses doubt from time to time. He knows that killing these killers – even though they have done terrible things – is not exactly a morally irreproachable act. He sometimes wonders whether he is really any better than they are. Conversely, xians take the unrepentant, genocidally evil mentality of their god as a cue to advocate the most horrifically socially regressive policies without even a hint of a blush, let alone anything approaching real doubt or self examination.

    Dexter also is not the way he is out of choice – the real villain of the piece when it comes to Dexter’s ‘nature’ is his stepfather, Harry Morgan, who supposedly spotted that Dexter was ‘destined’ to become a serial killer (lots of nasty ableism surrounding the supposed relationship between trauma, mental illness, and allegedly irresistable compulsions to kill there, but that is another topic), but rather than actually trying to support young Dexter or find some kind of help for a traumatised child, instead set about cynically seeking to mould him into some kind of living weapon in pursuit of Harry’s own extra-judicial crusade against criminals who beat the system, utterly uncaring of the consequences to Dexter’s own life or the further damage he was causing to an already severly psychologically wounded person. Yahweh has no such excuse.

    Of course, in the later books the author went of the rails somewhat, and decided to cast Dexter’s ‘dark passenger’ as a literal case of demonic possession (an unfortunate literary decision thus far avoided in the television series), but it is still interesting that, once again, Yahweh effortlessly ‘out-evils’ a very dark fellow fictional character. It is not even a fair compraison really – Dexter is not even close to Yahweh’s league; afterall,the sky fairy is the guy who makes the Elder Gods look like paragons of moral behaviour, and who by comparison casts Jack the Ripper in a favourable light as an upstanding pillar of the community.

    In fact, if Dexter only had the power, one imagines that Yahweh would find himself on Dexter’s table. He is certainly evil enough to qualify…

    So, there it is – once again Yahweh beats back the competition to remain the undefeated champion of being a fictional evil jerk. Still #1.

    Er… congratulations to the xians…?

  88. 88
    Ichthyic

    Yahweh has no such excuse.

    hey, maybe he does and we just don’t know about it…

    not like it’s ever tried to actually explain itself after all. Just ask Job what happens when you question its motives.

  89. 89
    Ichthyic

    in the later books the author went of the rails somewhat, and decided to cast Dexter’s ‘dark passenger’ as a literal case of demonic possession

    *SIGH*

    really?

    It sucks to find out that there even ARE Dexter books, and that I don’t want to read them, at the same time.

  90. 90
    Gregory Greenwood

    Ichthyic @ 88;

    *SIGH*

    really?

    It sucks to find out that there even ARE Dexter books, and that I don’t want to read them, at the same time.

    Yup – sorry. It all goes pear shaped in the third book in the series, Dexter in the Dark, where it is revealed that Dexter’s ‘dark passenger’ is actually the demonic offspring of Moloch. Here is the link to the wiki page that summarises the book’s plot. My advice – stick with the TV series on this one (which is unusal for me since I usually prefer the source material over adaptations).

  91. 91
    Howard Bannister

    I remember feeling a little sad when I first realized god wasn’t real. After all, this meant that for the first time in my whole life I really had to confront my own mortality, which I’d been denying all that time. For the first time I had to struggle through why things were wrong.

    Even though I’d been gradually coming to realize how utterly evil the god of the bible was, I was still a little sorry to see him go.

    For a while.

    Does he also expect us to gnash our teeth at the non-existence of the Kal-el, because such a universe would be a better place, where a good and moral physical god is explicitly there to protect everyone from harm?
    Are we to be actively mad that gravity is a thing, and we can’t fly?

    I am now officially sadder that Kal-El isn’t real and I can’t fly than I am that there is no god.

  92. 92
    dianne

    Are we to be actively mad that gravity is a thing, and we can’t fly?

    I don’t know if we should be actively mad about gravity, but it seems pretty clear that we are mad that we can’t fly. And so we do things. Build airplanes, gliders, hot air balloons, rockets to take us out of the gravity well, etc. If we’re upset that we aren’t immortal, why don’t we do something about that too? We’re on the verge of being able to do a lot of really cool things with biology. Do we want to do them or fall back into the middle ages with only a false hope to go on?

  93. 93
    truthspeaker

    It amazes me how these people project their personal depression and despair onto all of humanity, as if it were a universal trait. Even in the darkest depths of the Cure-listening, hopeless, miserable part of my life, I never assumed what I was feeling was universal, or the default human condition.

    [quote]Are we to be actively mad that gravity is a thing, and we can’t fly?[/quote]

    Excellent analogy.

  94. 94
    Sastra

    I was raised as a freethinker but the version of god which I first tentatively embraced (and then firmly gave up) was the vague but sophisticated transcendental love energy mystery version. The Christians I knew were mostly the kind who didn’t talk about it much and my exploration of Christian theology came from Bible Stories for Children followed a few years later by Mark Twain’s interpretation (which was heavily influenced by Ingersoll and brilliantly scathing.) So I can’t take Christianity seriously.

    That is, I do and I don’t. I recognize the significance of its cultural impact and the importance of rationally analyzing it from an objective standpoint, sure. But it’s never been for me what William James called a “live option” — something you consider reasonable enough to see yourself changing your mind about. The entire scenario reads like ancient myth. And the moral reasoning sounds like the sort of thing you’d see coming from a severely abused child.

    It only starts to make sense when it gets re-translated into metaphors for humanism. That isn’t a point in its favor.

    Wowbagger #57 wrote:

    Religion owes far more to sociocultural pressure for its continued existence than it does to rational arguments.

    I agree — but believers don’t know that. They think they believe for good reasons and that faith and community are just side benefits, or props decorating what is already firm. That’s why the arguments against God have to spread around. Not just because they dismantle the presumed reasonableness of faith, but because they break up the communal reinforcement.

    They’ve done psychology tests on the effect of social pressure. If an entire group of stooges says that line A is longer than line B, then most people sitting at the end of the line will go against their judgement and agree that line A is longer than line B. But if just one stooge states the truth and says that line B is longer, then the statistics change and the subject is far more likely to admit the obvious. Religion has been getting a free ride with the whole “everyone believes / don’t question faith” immunity strategy. No more.

    I’m not sure what the tipping point will be, but I think that sooner or later PZ’s thought experiment is going to be part of the natural progression of the progressive thought of the mainstream. I mean, seriously — the God of the Bible? Who the hell would even want that to be true? And no, you don’t get to wax enthusiastic about salvation and avoid considering the implications of damnation. The damned won’t keep quiet.

    bad Jim #79 wrote:

    Since I first saw this on Jerry Coyne’s don’t-dare-call-this-a-blog, I’ve been struggling to understand the point of view that atheists ought to be sad. Perhaps it’s to be expected from someone whose belief is so deep that it informs their every perception, who sees God’s hand everywhere, who thinks that faith is essential to a healthy outlook.

    I think the faithful are encouraged to confuse categories, so that God being love means that the two are interchangeable. Don’t believe in God? Then you don’t believe in love. They’re also encouraged to think about the world and fellow humanity using the simple moral categories of a child, so that these people who “don’t believe in love” seem plausible enough to remain unexamined.

    I’ve told Christians that if they were to become atheists they would not have lost their faith: they would have changed their minds. That’s the switch. That’s the point which matters. You go from thinking that God is a moral choice — something you have to believe in in order to be and live your ideals — to considering it as a hypothesis. Then you follow your ideal and seek truth objectively … instead of the phony version of that called “seeking God.”

  95. 95
    SallyStrange

    I remember the first time I seriously considered the possibility that god (Yahweh) WAS real. I was about 12 or 13, standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom, considering the fact that I now had pubic hair, and relating this to what I had learned in sex ed, and thinking about what that meant for this God. If it was true, what some of my classmates said, then that meant that this God was watching me, right this minute. Maybe through the bathroom window. I didn’t quite make an explicit connection to sex, but there was a definite sense that I might be doing something really wrong just for standing there looking at my 13-year-old body naked. That if I wasn’t doing something wrong right now, I probably would later on, and this supernatural Peeping Tom would know, and judge me for it.

    Creepy.

    Deciding that he probably wasn’t real was a relief. Though those little moments of alarm–the feeling of self-consciousness, what if I’m being spied on–persisted throughout my teen years.

  96. 96
    gravityisjustatheory

    Your god loves you so much that he will kill his own son for you. But there’s a catch: you have to believe that god is the kind of guy who would murder his own son (and worship him for it!), ot you will go to hell.

    Correction (according to most(?) mainstream versions of Christianity):

    Your god loves you so much that he will turn into his own son for you and have himself killed (and ressurected). All to enable him to forgive you for breaking the arbitrary and unobeyable rules he himself imposed. But there’s a catch: you have to believe that god is the kind of guy who would murder his own son (and worship him for it!), to you will still go to hell.

    with the comparison to Dexter, and Cthulhu in mind…

    I wonder… what do people consider to be the most destructive, anti-human force in all of fiction?

    I would put the Abrahamic God far far higher in the list than the above two myself. That guy REALLY hates humanity.

    YHWH seems to combine the characteristics of at least three of the four Ruinous Powers.

    Mainly Khorne (for the all the Wrath and Smiting and “Kill ‘em all” orders that Willam Lane Craig supports) and Tzeentch (for the Ineffibleness and Mystery and Everything Being Part of God’s Plan), and to a lesser extent Nurgle for the Plagues of Egypt (and Bubonic Plague, AIDS, and all the other diseases that get blamed on attributed to God).

    He doesn’t seem to be too keen on sex, drugs, or rock and roll, so he evidently doesnt incorporate much of Slaanesh.

  97. 97
    Geoffrey Transom

    @Ichthyic at 85…

    “I say, ditch the religious dogma as an authoritarian glue, and stick to sports instead. The Yankee and Dodger fans, or the Nicks and Laker Fans, can yell at each other all they want, feel tribal, but cause no political or societal fallout of any significance.”

    That was already tried – in Byzantium, where the Blue and Green ‘demes’ started out as chariot-race fanbois, and wound up as (a) political parties; and (b) religious nutbars having a civil war over whether or not icons were bad.

    It’s all down to timeframe: if people unite based on absurdity – religion, nation/Vaterland/Homeland, whatevs – all positions of economic power that arise will eventually be captured by megalomaniacal sociopaths, and the polity will be enouraged to support (if not commit) atrocities. Voltaire was right even in paraphrase (he was often rightest in the things he never said – both “Absurdity->atrocity” and “I disagree but will defend your right to say stuff” were not actually penned by Wor. Bro. Arouet).

  98. 98
    Geoffrey Transom

    @TruthSpeaker at 92 – I never understood how The Cure was seen by Yanks as having something to do with being sad. “Love Cats” much? So wonderf’ly wonderf’ly wonderf’ly wonderf’ly pretty

    And to all y’all others who are dissing gods – be very careful. It’s all very well to get stuck in to the obviously dumb/silly ones like HWHY, who will make a hundred quintillion stars, then drop to a desert, meet an incestuous nomad, and exchange mastery over his creation for foreskins and blood and burnt offal.

    But let’s not let this drift towards absolute rejection of all supernatural beings: we do not want to anger the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may his noodly appendages caress you and keep your pirate ship loaded with booty), or we risk being forever barred from the beer volcano. Nobody wants that.

  99. 99
    omnicrom

    My favorite depiction of god always comes from the Shin Megami Tensei games because being Japanese and from a different culture with little to no Christian influence they more or less unreservedly accept that God is a massive asshole. At his best god will protect his devout followers as long as they cow-tow to him, but at worst god is depicted as an absolute monster who is so cruel, destructive, and unreliable that in one game his own angel of accusation and judgment (Satan, who is distinct from Lucifer in the series) turns around to try and kill him for his wickedness.

    The thing I always find most fascinating is how straight SMT depicts religious figures. SMT makes an effort to depict religious figures as accurately as conceivably possible. Atlus doesn’t have an agenda they’re pushing by making god the villain, they just read the bible and Abrahamic literature from an outsider’s perspective and when crafting a story with elements from many religions and mythologies chose to make the cruel and authoritarian dictator the villain.

  100. 100
    Ichthyic

    It’s all down to timeframe: if people unite based on absurdity – religion, nation/Vaterland/Homeland, whatevs – all positions of economic power that arise will eventually be captured by megalomaniacal sociopaths, and the polity will be enouraged to support (if not commit) atrocities.

    Yes, I see.

    *kicks rock*

    I’m really hoping though, that with the level of mass communication available now we might be on the threshhold of being able to stop that cycle.

    Of course, this depends on how much control OF that communication channel we allow the current powers that be to have.

    …which reminds me…

    please, ALL, take seriously the efforts of corporations and governments to control the internet. It was designed to be YOUR medium. DON’T LET THEM CONTROL IT. So far, we are failing miserably to stop them from gradually gaining complete control of it. Educate yourself on the movements to keep the internet free and clear of single point control, and spend an hour a week at least on contributing to those causes, in whatever country you reside. Otherwise, you WILL lose this as a medium to organize and communicate freely, I guarantee it.

  101. 101
    Ichthyic

    I never understood how The Cure was seen by Yanks as having something to do with being sad.

    because love cats was throwaway pop trash for that band.

    listen to Disintegration and tell me that isn’t horribly depressing and dark.

  102. 102
    Ichthyic

    or we risk being forever barred from the beer volcano

    *imagines what “Joe vs the Volcano” would look like if it were a beer volcano*

  103. 103
    Gregory Greenwood

    gravityisjustatheory @ 95;

    YHWH seems to combine the characteristics of at least three of the four Ruinous Powers.

    I think the Ruinous Powers would probably consider Yahweh a decidedly unsavoury sort. They do have standards, you know…

    Mainly Khorne (for the all the Wrath and Smiting and “Kill ‘em all” orders that Willam Lane Craig supports)…

    Also, like Khorne, Yahweh doesn’t seem to care overmuch from whence the blood flows – he is happy for his followers to kill innocent people for no good reason, raises no objection when the slaughter each other over meaningless, minor points of theological difference, engages in supernatural genocide in pursuit of his own inconsistent and unreasonable rules, and has infamously bad aim when it comes to smiting…

    …and Tzeentch (for the Ineffibleness and Mystery and Everything Being Part of God’s Plan)…

    Don’t forget that Tzeentch is also an omnisicient trickster god who loves plots and conspiracies for their own sake and delights in manipulating mortals and setting them up for unavoidable destruction for his own amusement – not unlike Yahweh and his treatment of Lucifer… and Adam and Eve… and Lot and his wife… and Samson… and the Egyptians… and most of the Hebrews… and, well, pretty much everyone.

    … and to a lesser extent Nurgle for the Plagues of Egypt (and Bubonic Plague, AIDS, and all the other diseases that get blamed on attributed to God).

    Theists claim their god created all life and indeed the entirety of reality, and so by necessity he must also have created all harmful microbes and viruses, and deliberately engineered things like cancer. He invented death, afterall, and cursed the entirety of humanity with it over a dispute about fruit – making him responsible for every death in history, and the worst genocidal maniac imagineable. Nurgle is an amiable (indeed, Grandfatherly) amateur by comparison.

    He doesn’t seem to be too keen on sex, drugs, or rock and roll, so he evidently doesnt incorporate much of Slaanesh.

    I am not so sure – his priests and sundry other stripes of cleric seem very keen on things like child rape, and do it with the protection of their various churches, temples, mosques and other religious institutions. Then there is the public displays of testerical and authoritarian prudery that is paired with an absolute obsession with the supposed ‘evils’ of the entirely consensual sex lives of adults – is not such intense and constant antipathy toward, or even outright hatred of, sex a form of obsession – even perversion – in its own right? Slannesh is the choas power that embodies duality and dichotomy more than its siblings – as such, both debauchery and psychotic prudery would fall under the aegis of the Prince of Pleasure.

    Then there is the aspect of Slaanesh among the Eldar of She Who Thirsts; a being who compells the Dark Eldar to acts of monstrous cruelty in order to stave off their own deaths, and glories in suffering, pain and degradation – it all sounds a bit like the nasty death cult aspects of say, catholicism, doesn’t it?

    I sometimes wonder whether all these parralels between Yahweh and the Ruinous Powers are entirely coincidental. Perhaps the founders of Games Workshop deliberatly wrote the Choas Gods with an eye to having them embody different aspects of the hideous evil that Yahweh, as depicted in the bible, represents?

  104. 104
    karpad

    How can you bring up the Chaos Gods and not mention the lesser god, Necoho, the God of Atheism.

    to be clear, for those who don’t want to link-follow: he isn’t the god worshipped by atheists. He is the God of Atheism, much like Nurgle is the God of Disease, or Poseidon is the God of the Sea.

    And he’s fuckin hilarious.

  105. 105
    Azuma Hazuki

    The more I think about this, the more I come to the conclusion that most believers don’t understand what it is they believe.

    In particular they don’t really understand what it means for the character of their God that it would torture anyone at all, let alone for all eternity.By any definition of justice, you punish to the extent that the criminal caused suffering, and no more. It should, but never does, occur to these people to ask “Am I safe in heaven? Will I truly always be safe there? How can I be sure I won’t piss God off?”

    They also don’t seem to understand what it is to burn. I have been sorely tempted to light a few of the more strident proselytizers up in the past.

  106. 106
    Alex SL

    “You’ll LOVE GOD AS HE DEMANDS, or he’ll SET YOU ON FIRE.”

    Wow. That is the most concise summary of monotheism I have ever seen.

  107. 107
    vaiyt

    @99: I’ll take that with a grain of salt, though. “Christianity is creepy” is pretty much a trope in Japanese media.

  108. 108
    Ichthyic

    “You’ll LOVE GOD AS HE DEMANDS, or he’ll SET YOU ON FIRE.”

    If you want to keep someone warm for a night, light a fire for them.

    If you want to keep someone warm for the rest of their life, light them ON fire.

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