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Aug 13 2013

Certified 100% Non-Despairing Free-Range Atheists™

Remember those dumbass billboards outside St Joseph, MN — the ones that claim “With atheism, there is no hope, only despair” and “Jesus provides the only worldview that offers forgiveness”? It turns out that they have a defender writing op-eds. Cuttlefish has dealt with his nonsense more than adequately, but I just had to mention a few things (hey, it’s in MY backyard, I get to have fun with it).

The first thing that caught my eye was the opening sentence.

Like many of you who have driven by the religious-themed billboard on Stearns Country Road 75 recently, I’ve been encouraged by the Scripture.

That implies (but doesn’t outright say) that the messages are scriptural. They aren’t. They’re in quotes, but no attribution is given — the quote marks are there to give the impression that they come from an authority, and the suggestive implication that they’re somehow further authenticated by association with the Bible is a further attempt to mislead. So right off the mark, he’s being dishonest.

But the thrust of his message is that gosh, atheists shouldn’t be offended, it’s not an insult, but is simply the “logical consequences” of our ideas…and that, of course, a life of devotion to the myths of religion is a good thing.

The logical consequences of atheism elicit emotion because to live consistently as an atheist is untenable. Grasping these truths put me on the narrow path that is brightly lit, not by me, but by the sacrifice, love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Hmmm. How would he feel if the logical consequences of Christianity were that you’d shoot abortion doctors, enslave women to a life of pregnancy and household chores, and cheerfully torture and murder infidels? Does simply asserting that that is what Christianity teaches make it any less insulting, especially since that is not what most Christians believe?

Similarly, atheists are not typically in despair and find living without gods not only tenable, but liberating and uplifting. And you’ll have to try to understand that most rational people in the 21st century do not find blood sacrifice to be particularly redeeming — it’s primitive, barbaric, and revolting.

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin

    …most rational people in the 21st century do not find blood sacrifice to be particularly redeeming — it’s primitive, barbaric, and revolting.

    I’ve been saying this practically word-for-word for years now. They don’t get it. Seriously don’t understand why we have problems with a human sacrifice. They also can’t figure out that the sacrifice itself means that the all-powerful deity they believe in was impotent to “forgive” mankind without this (mythical) event.

    That’s a demonstration of lack of power. Not power.

  2. 2
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Similarly, atheists are not typically in despair and find living without gods not only tenable, but liberating and uplifting.

    Exactly! There is so much to want to live for that don’t include a god in any way. Scottish guitar pop bands… live minor league baseball games… nachos. I mean, NACHOS… how can anybody argue against nachos?

  3. 3
    raven

    Xians are dumb.

    This isn’t rhetoric, it is fact from a meta-analysis of 63 studies. We’ve all seen it.

    The below just came across my news feed. It’s been known for decades.

    And fundies are dumb even by religious standards. They make easy victims and are always sending their money to scammers of one sort or another. And the most common are their fabuously wealthy leaders. This is how Pat Robertson made an easy $1 billion.

    Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, study finds
    Rob Waugh
    .
    Religious people are less intelligent than non-believers, according to a new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades.

    A team led by Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies. Even in extreme old age, intelligent people are less likely to believe, the researchers found – and the reasons why people with high IQs shun religion may not be as simple as previously thought. etc.

  4. 4
    raven

    The fundies own the Dark Side of our society.

    I don’t have a meta-analysis of dozens of studies but don’t really need one.

    It’s just blatantly obvious and we’ve all seen that too.

    I don’t need a billboard from some superstitious fool to tell me I’m in despair. If that was true, I’d know it.

  5. 5
    believerskeptic

    The idea that this is the one and only life we get makes me appreciate it all the more and treat it as something precious; that is hardly despair. I certainly don’t waste copious amounts of free time singing the praises of an imaginary deity.

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    Uh-oh. I just posted a critique of that meta-analysis — I don’t think the data supports their conclusions.

  7. 7
    frog

    It’s as if they’ve never even spoken to an atheist.

    Do they know a lot of despairing atheists? People wallowing around going, “Oh woe is me! I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that the universe is enormous and random shit happens and there is no deity or afterlife to make any of this misery worthwhile!”

    I suppose there probably are such people. Atheists can have depressive brain chemistry, too. But one has only to read this blog and its comments to know there are lots and lots of happy atheists, folks who are specifically happier for knowing that while the universe is super-big, there is no deity fucking your shit up for shits and grins. Random shit is a lot easier to take when its impersonal.

    Also, eschewing religion frees up a lot of time, energy, and money, all of which can be spent on activities that increase one’s enjoyment of life.

  8. 8
    cicely

    And yet, the world has chocolate in it! Do these people not realise that chocolate works just as well for atheists as for goddists?
    -

  9. 9
    moarscienceplz

    Hmmm. How would he feel if the logical consequences of Christianity were that you’d shoot abortion doctors, enslave women to a life of pregnancy and household chores, and cheerfully torture and murder infidels?

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  10. 10
    tfkreference

    A cousin of mine quotes some preacher, “Life on earth is as close to hell as believers will ever get and as close to heaven as non-believers will ever get.”

    We don’t talk religion (or politics) much.

  11. 11
    erik333

    Christianity doesn’t seem coherent enough to have logical consequences.

  12. 12
    erik333

    @10 tfkreference

    Well, in all likelyhood the statement is correct :-)

  13. 13
    David Marjanović

    Rain falls on the just and the unjust, on the unbelievers and the credulous.

    *munches chocolate with 50 % special cocoa from Papua New Guinea*

  14. 14
    kagekiri

    Someone whose holy scriptures have an entire book preaching absolute existential despair (Ecclesiastes) has no right to say that other people’s worldviews are logically depressing.

    Well, okay, he has the right to say it, but not without looking like a total fool.

    What’s more pleasant and conducive to avoiding despair?:

    1) Believing you’re an absolutely insignificant (or even evil and worthy of punishment) cosmic worm who nonetheless owes absolute fealty to a blood-sacrifice-desiring tyrant God who will torture you forever if you reject him, or turn you into a mindless zombie worshiper if you accept him? Aka, Christianity.

    2) Just the cosmic insignificance part (aka atheism).

    Christ on a bloody stick, I had my first existential doubts in the freaking 5th grade because of Ecclesiastes and other scriptures commenting on the futility of mankind’s attempts at attaining meaning, and my ability to truly believe those scriptures very nearly killed me from the consequent suicidal depression which that belief encouraged (“whoever loves his life will lose it, whoever hates his life, will gain eternal life”…fuck that verse).

    Being a humanist is so much better than that servile, humanity-hating shit I lived out as a Christian.

  15. 15
    moarscienceplz

    re #14

    Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord…
    Congregation: O Lord…
    Chaplain: …Ooh, You are so big…
    Congregation: …ooh, You are so big…
    Chaplain: …So absolutely huge.
    Congregation: …So absolutely huge.
    Chaplain: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
    Congregation: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
    Chaplain: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…
    Congregation: And barefaced flattery.
    Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.
    Congregation: Fantastic.
    Humphrey: Amen.
    Congregation: Amen.

  16. 16
    cardinalsmurf

    I’m now very curious. How exactly does one measure despair? Can you share with us the protocol and resultant data?

    Please, don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating for theism. I’d just like to know how best to quantify my own level of despair. Seems like something I should be abreast of.

  17. 17
    kagekiri

    @7 frog:

    Dude, I actually tried to be that kind of atheist right after deconverting, as that was my stereotype of atheists: people who have constant, overwhelming existential crises. It was a rather difficult facade to even attempt.

    Turns out that not feeling (as much) guilt at every “sinful” (read: natural) emotion, desire, or thought makes life a lot more pleasant, and believing that lack of joy is depression instead of a lack of faith in God means you can go get treated, and believing in random bad circumstance is generally less horrible than thinking we all get what we deserve (and what we all deserve is previews of hell).

  18. 18
    Jadehawk

    live consistently as an atheist is untenable

    lolwut

  19. 19
    footface

    I don’t understand the argument.

    Atheism leads to despair. Therefore… Christianity is true? You should pretend to believe things you don’t believe?

    There’s also the problem, as people have pointed out above, of telling a bunch of people what they believe and how they feel.

    I’m vegan. I hear a lot from non-vegans about what I as a vegan think and believe, and how I feel. “Humans can’t survive on such-and-such a diet.” Here I am, 19 years on, still surviving. “Atheists live an untenable lifestyle.” Here I am, however many years on, still hanging on.

  20. 20
    DLC

    Despair ? no, I haven’t despaired since I looked upon the works of Ozymandias the mighty.
    But seriously folks. If you are feeling symptoms of depression, don’t look to mythical nutbaggery or imaginary friends for help. Seriously. Talk therapy may help, but only if the therapist is an actual trained expert who will listen, consider and reply. Jesus, being non-existent, does not do any of those. Talk therapy may not be enough — some sort of medication may be indicated. There’s no shame in it, it’s just a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be corrected. But Jesus doesn’t actually correct any chemical imbalance in numbers exceeding placebo effect. Well there’s my tuppence worth.

  21. 21
    Duth Olec

    “the narrow path that is brightly lit”
    Get night vision goggles, and everything is explorable!
    I’m not sure exactly what that metaphor describes–I assume the former is critical thinking. The latter might be “actually considering the views of other people” or something.

  22. 22
    Gregory Greenwood

    frog @ 7;

    I suppose there probably are such people. Atheists can have depressive brain chemistry, too. But one has only to read this blog and its comments to know there are lots and lots of happy atheists, folks who are specifically happier for knowing that while the universe is super-big, there is no deity fucking your shit up for shits and grins. Random shit is a lot easier to take when its impersonal.

    Precisely – knowing that the universe is vast, utterly impersonal, and that all manner of terrible things happen in it is not particularly depressing to me. There is also immense scope, beauty and majesty to be found out there. The universe is endlessly fascinating and, free of the delusion that humanity exists at the whim of an invisible tyrant, we as species and as individuals have the opportunity to explore it without having to constantly look over our shoulders in case some capricious deity disaproves.

    It is infinitely preferable to being the powerless bit players in a sick divine comedy played out for the amusement of a sociopathic, omnipotent sky fairy. That anyone would view the wilful self-enslavement to an imaginary god (and thus to the unearned power and privilege of all too real and deeply corrupt religious institutions) as some ultimate moral good is simply one more example of the truth to Hitchens’ most oft quoted turn of phrase – religion really does poison everything.

  23. 23
    cicely

    +1
     
    To all of that @22.
    -

  24. 24
    Crudely Wrott

    @ 22, Gregory Greenwald:

    Beautifully written, inspiring, liberating and full of more promise and potential than all the holy books stacked past the moon.

    + 1 and some more.

  25. 25
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @believerskeptic

    The idea that this is the one and only life we get makes me appreciate it all the more and treat it as something precious; that is hardly despair. I certainly don’t waste copious amounts of free time singing the praises of an imaginary deity.

    Exactly. Church is one of the most boring activities I’ve ever had the misfortune to be involved in. I would say that a weekly dose of that has to mean that the religious are more miserable than us :)

  26. 26
    dogmeat

    I’ve never understood the idea that the universe is massive and unpredictable therefore God. I remember a lot more despair when I was trying to be a god-ist because I didn’t understand how my erstwhile intelligent family members could believe the utter garbage that they believed so obviously something was wrong with me. So, like any logical, analytical individual I studied, studied, and studied some more. The end result? The data proved woo, which obviously rhymes with poo and therefore… ;o)

    The idea that an all loving, all powerful, all knowing entity sets up a game where, if you lose, “he” punishes you for all eternity? That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, it falsifies its own premise before you even get into the idea that this entity is powerless to stop violence, evil, disease, etc.

  27. 27
    Nick Gotts

    Do they know a lot of despairing atheists? People wallowing around going, “Oh woe is me! I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that the universe is enormous and random shit happens and there is no deity or afterlife to make any of this misery worthwhile!”

    I suppose there probably are such people. – frog

    It seems quite common for relatively sophisticated Christians particularly to think that atheists ought to feel existential angst – that they are somehow “inauthentic” if they don’t. I had a bout with one of these on BioLogos recently. His line was that he wasn’t trying to convert me, didn’t think it was irrational to be an atheist, but really, why didn’t I feel the loss of God as a spiritual crisis requiring a desperate search for a substitute, like Nietzsche and Camus? I pointed out that the cultural context in which I arrived at atheism was quite different: if you’ve grown up in a culture where almost everyone derives their sense of meaning and security from god-belief, loss of that belief is bound to be frightening and disorienting; but even in the Britain of 50 years ago, that wasn’t the case. The most powerful enemy of religion yet devised is the welfare state.

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