You Do Not Deserve Hell

I’ve recently been reading a wonderful blog, Sailing to Byzantium, a passionate, honest account of one person’s journey from religion into searching, into skepticism, and finally (in just the last week or two) into atheism. The author, Kullervo, was born and raised Mormon, but after a long struggle, has decided – and not lightly – to walk away from the church of his past and ultimately out of religion altogether, and he’s been chronicling his steps in that journey.

This is the real thing, folks. If you ever want to know how people end up becoming atheists, it’s all here – the initial faith, the highs of perfect religious certainty mixed with the low moments of doubt and fear, the slow spread of the cracks of skepticism, the burning desire to believe in the face of growing feelings of disconnection (but even more powerful, the need to know and not just to hope), the search for belonging and the exploration of different belief systems, the gradual but inevitable drift away from faith, the dark moments of anger and terror, the desperation, the breathtaking look over the edge, the step… and then, past what seemed like the point of no return, a universe of bright light, clear air, and the peace of acceptance and the joy of life seen as if everything was made anew.

It’s an unforgettable, classic story, one that never becomes any less moving no matter how many times we read it. The author’s quiet and resolute honesty shines through every line, particularly in his interaction with the numerous Christian commenters who ceaselessly badger him with all the old arguments we’ve heard so many times before. In my opinion, anyone who could read about Kullervo’s journey and still insist that atheists make that momentous decision for selfish or dishonest reasons is beyond hope.

In Kullervo’s interaction with his commenters, we can learn a lot about the mindset he’s leaving behind. I’d like to focus on one particular comment I noted on this post, a comment from one of his more intransigent guests who didn’t realize his target had already gone far enough not to be susceptible to the use of religion as a bludgeon:

The only way to have a relationship with Jesus is to:
1. Repent.
2. Put your faith in him.

…Of course, in order to repent, you need to be convinced of how sinful you are, and that you aren’t a good person, and that you deserve to go to hell.

and later:

We’re all wicked, and deserving of hell. If that offends you, you can stick with the god you’ve made up, but it won’t be Christianity, and it won’t have anything to do with the Bible.

Kullervo needed no assistance to deflect this argument, which is a blatant attempt to frighten its listeners into obedience with a discredited doctrine as savage as it is implausible, and which is unworthy of any rational or compassionate person. Religion has thrived for too long by cowing people into submission with threats utterly unsupported by evidence. Every courageous and honest person who breaks the shackles of superstitious fear and calls these empty threats what they are is to be commended.

But in one way, Kullervo’s commenter was correct. The Bible plainly does teach that human beings are all wicked, that Hell does exist, and that we all deserve to go there and will go there barring faith in Jesus. To which I say, so much the worse for the Bible. No morally good deity, no being worthy of our worship, would or could create such a place, and no religion that teaches such an evil and savage doctrine deserves to be believed. Threats such as this are the sign of a wicked creed.

In light of this, it is ironic that atheism is so often accused of being a bleak and frightening worldview lacking consolation or comfort. What could be more frightening than the ever-present threat of a fiery pit of eternal torture yawning beneath the believer who puts even one foot wrong? What could be more bleak or misery-inducing than the thought that the majority of humanity will ultimately end up condemned to this terrible place?

In contrast to this faith of suffering and despair, atheism is a positive balm. Atheism blows out the fires of Hell, replacing them with a humanistic morality that is both compassionate and attainable. Even better, atheism wipes away the terrible claim that you personally are a wicked, filthy sinner who deserves such a fate, leaving in its place the ennobling knowledge that you are a human being, capable of good and evil in equal measure, whose destiny is in your own hands.

The Bible has a singularly apt teaching:

“They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.”

—Luke 5:31

I wholeheartedly agree with this lesson, which is why I would turn it back on the faith that coined it. Christianity is very much like the advertising agencies who simultaneously invent a problem and offer to sell us the solution. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve had enough of the snake-oil salesmen who threaten damnation with one hand and hold out salvation – for a price – in the other. It’s far more uplifting to realize that we need no physician because we were never sick in the first place. The next time someone tells you that you deserve Hell, treat this claim to the scorn it deserves. Instead, my advice to all seekers is this: leave these clumsy and foolish threats behind, strike out on your own, and you will discover something far more beautiful and wonderful.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    Thanks for the good reviews, Adam!

    When you said “Christianity is very much like the advertising agencies who simultaneously invent a problem and offer to sell us the solution,” it made me think of another post I wrote, about Aura Salve:
    http://byzantium.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/aura-salve/

    Of course, I really think it should be pointed out that not all approaches to Christianity operate on fear of hell. Certainly that’s one way to read the Bible, but likewise not all approaches to Christianity believe that the Bible is inerrant or even should be 100% consistent. The Bible never claims to be a book dictated from the mouth of God, and many Christians acknowledge that it is written be humand who were riddles with flaws and biases the same as the rest of us.

    So this isn’t a problem I have with Christianity per se, or Christianity as a whole, but it is a problem I have with many popular approaches to Christianity.

  • Ohio Atheist

    Excellent post. In my experience, the majority of Christians pull out the “turn or burn” threat within the first ten minutes of debate, a reprehensible tactic both morally and intellectually.

    I have one quibble. In this post, as well as many other essays on Daylight Atheism and Ebon Musings, the positive consequences of “atheism” are stressed. To me, this seems like a confusing use of words. It’s important to realize that atheism alone has little to say about morality or the meaning of life. (Alonzo Fyfe remarks that atheism is like heliocentrism in this regard.) Lots of theists think that it leads to nihilism, and it’s important to combat that stereotype, but godlessness in itself does not necessitate any particular morality. I think that instead we should communicate that atheism is compatible with a meaningful, moral philosophy, and then we should advocate that philosophy (essentially, humanism) alongside atheism, rather than as an essential part thereof.

  • OMGF

    It always saddens me to hear Xians talk about how wicked they are, how wicked all people are, how deserving we all are of hell. It’s such a negative thing, yet these beaten wives cling to it and actually think it positive, simply because some bizarre human/god sacrifice has supposedly given them a way out. Yeah right. ‘Hubby wouldn’t have to beat you if you just folded the towels right/cleaned the dishes fast enough/swept the floor/gave it up when he needed it. It’s your fault, you make me do it. But, just go along with what I say and I won’t get angry enough to have to punish you and you’ll be happy as my little slave.’ It’s sickening.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    Ohio Atheist: it’s true that atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods, not a philosophy of life. But, in this particular case, “mere” atheism is enough to rid us of the guilt and fear of “we’re all sinners, we deserve hell, and we risk going there.”

  • Ohio Atheist

    Quite right, Pedro. I said atheism has “little” to say about morality, not nothing. It certainly does undermine theological ethics.

    I was responding to the general trend I see of framing atheism as the foundation of positive moral claims, which is, as I said, rather imprecise.

  • Kate

    It’s funny- generally my Christian friends regard me as the negative one when I point out the awful stories and messages in the Bible, but all say they would never believe I (or my Jewish/Hindu friends) will burn in eternal torment. But when I try to say denying I am bound for hell makes them outside their specific Christian religion, all balk at the idea of even being deists.

    The greatest problem with Christian moderates, or the “moderately Christian”, is getting them to accept that their happy communities can exist without their narrow-minded religion.

  • PrimeMinister PeteNice

    Awwwwwww,
    nothing more precious than a back-patting session.
    The narrow-mindedness of theists? Like you guys are any less intolerant than the image you superimpose over theists? Sure.
    Kate, I’m living proof that any community I live in wouldn’t be very happy if I were to believe that God didn’t exist and that there weren’t ultimate consequences for my actions.
    But please, provide the argument that changes my mindset. Then try to offer reasons why I shouldn’t act the way I would act. Kate, if I lived in the community you lived in and maintained the life I use to maintain…. I can assure you with great certainty, you would be bankrupt in providing reasons why I should change my ways.

  • Alex Weaver

    Awwwwwww,
    nothing more precious than a back-patting session.

    I don’t know about precious, but I do know sneering, arrogant trolls are a dime a dozen.

    The narrow-mindedness of theists? Like you guys are any less intolerant than the image you superimpose over theists? Sure.

    You have got to be kidding me. Ok, I’ll bite. How are we “no less intolerant” than those who want to require mandatory prayer in schools, who bomb family planning clinics, who picket the funerals of well-known members of the gay community and soldiers, who demand the establishment of a state Christian religion, who endorse torture, ruthless killing, and even genocide of Muslims in general and Arabs in particular, who insist that atheists should just shut up because this is a Christian country, or the untold millions of “moderate” theists who just shrug their shoulders, point at the first group and say “the views expressed here are not necessarily the views of my denomination” but in most cases do little or nothing to oppose them? Specific examples, please.

    Kate, I’m living proof that any community I live in wouldn’t be very happy if I were to believe that God didn’t exist and that there weren’t ultimate consequences for my actions.

    If you think the lack of an afterlife and supernatural judgement means that “actions don’t have consequences” you’re hopeless, and if what you’re saying here is true, you’re contemptible. What’s your point?

    But please, provide the argument that changes my mindset. Then try to offer reasons why I shouldn’t act the way I would act. Kate, if I lived in the community you lived in and maintained the life I use to maintain…. I can assure you with great certainty, you would be bankrupt in providing reasons why I should change my ways.

    So I’m gathering from this that you’re a former “evil” person who was reformed by religion? And what exactly was it you were guilty of? (If you say “pornography addiction” or anything of the sort I’m going to laugh).

  • TPK

    HEY PM Pete: Let us examine the bible together-AT FACE VALUE- THE CLEAR AND PLAIN WORDS IT DELIVERS_ NO “INTERPRETATION” OR “EXEGIS” OR OTHER B.S. ALLOWED. Then, YOU explain to US why the bloody hell any normal human being should NOT be intolerant of it.

    “Most Christians are nicer than God”

  • TPK

    Alex, are we on the same schedule?

  • http://katyjane.wordpress.com Katy

    Kate, I consider myself a Christian, but I do not believe in Hell. Not the way that it is presented. Show me somewhere in the Bible that speaks clearly to demons sticking pointy fiery daggers in my bum as eternal punishment… but you can’t. I always find it laughable when someone tells me what I do or don’t believe, or what I should or shouldn’t believe–especially when they’re coming at my beliefs from a standpoint of outside of the group I align myself with.

    I am a Christian. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. However, I also believe there must be something to all those other religions out there that make a lot of sense and bear good fruits. I don’t know how it all works out. I don’t worry about how it all works out–I feel that I am where I need to be.

    I don’t feel that Christianity–nor religion in general–needs to be narrow minded. I think that there are a lot of narrow minded people (both religious and not ;))who spoil it for the rest of us. :)

    Daylight: I agree–anyone condemning me to Hell is full of it. Anyone who really believes that a just god would give eternal punishment for finite crimes… doesn’t really believe in a just god. The god that I believe in is much nicer. :)

  • Kate

    PeteNice… you’re not making much sense.

    If ‘god’ stopped you from hurting members of your community, why can’t love and respect for those same members achieve the same result? No atheist believes that people should be free to rape, murder, pillage, but rehab (if you were an addict) or social support can change a person’s behavior without brainwashing them.

    A very dear friend robbed her family members to support her crack addiction, but detox and finding strength in the people who love her, not a high or god, made her a happy member of society. ‘God’s punishment’ didn’t help her any more than ‘god’s love’.

    And I’m with Alex… religions seem to have a cure for every addiction except the compulsive need to perform repetitive, illogical behavior.

  • Kate

    Sorry, Katy. Luke 16: 1-31, parable of the rich man and Lazarus. God talks to a man “In hell, where he was in torment” (line 23) and refuses to release him from hell even to warn his brothers about the dangers of hell. That’s Jesus himself, describing what happens to bad people who “do not repent”. I can drag up others if you want.

    There’s obviously ‘debate’ about this amongst Christians. I’m very glad you consider yourself openminded, but you analyze to read your own holy book. There are passages that suggest nonbelievers do not go to hell, but there are more that do. The Christian churches do definetly agree that non-believers cannot go to ‘heaven’, except possibly Jews before the time of Jesus.

    If you believe in a kind, just god… that was not the one found in the Bible.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    Kate, you’re assuming that all Christians believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God. they don’t. There are plenty of Christians who do in fact believe the Bible to be largely the inspired words of fallible human beings- people often trapped by their own biases and shortcomings.

    You can paint Christians with the same brush if you want to, but ultimately that means you’re fighting a straw man, not the real thing. That may be lots of fun for self-congratulatory atheist newsgroups, but it serves no purpose in the real world other than to make people understand and communicate with each other even less than they already do(n’t).

    And Alex who says moderate Chriatians have the responsibility to oppose fundamentalists? That’s a pretty big onus you’re laying on them and I don’t think it’s fair, especially for many Christians who honestly feel that they are in a personal relationship with the divine, and that membership in an earthly organization is secondary to that at best. Who are you to say that because of the spiritual experiences that someone has had or because of the metaphysical that someone believes in that they then must personally shoulder the burden of engaging and defeating the ugliest rhetoric trotted out by the most ignorant people who hapen to share belief in a handful of theological principles at best? Come on.

    Should Christians really have to qualify themselves- “oh, I’m a Christian, but I’m not one of those kinds…” If so, then so should atheists. It’s ridiculous.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    And even then, there are voices of moderation in Christianity, denouncing (in more or sometimes less loving ways) the excesses of their fundamentalist counterparts. They may not be the ones screaming the loudest, but they’re there. Read some Brian McLaren, or some Robin Meyers and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  • TPK

    Kullervo, can you explain on what basis we can know for sure who is correct –the “excesses of the fundamentalists” or “the voices of moderation?”

    As to “relationship” I think I know what that is — whether it’s my spouse, my parent, my dog, or even my favorite dish – there is always a tangible, physical, concrete manifestation of that “other” that is in relationship to me — the words or touch of my spouse, the wagging tail of my dog, the aroma of that dinner –those are the manifestations that “I” react with to form the “relationship.” Just what are the manifestations of a relationship with the divine, other than what is one’s own head?

  • The Vicar

    Kullervo:Okay, then, let’s jettison the Bible. That then begs the question of why you would continue to call yourself Christian. The only external reason to believe that Jesus represents god in any way is the New Testament. Kick that out, and you have a Jewish heretic faith healer with deleusions of grandeur, who made so little mark on the world that the Roman empire’s records don’t even mention his death and who has been no better than any other figure in inspiring ethical behavior. Possibly worse, in the long run, depending on whether the fundies continue to hijack his name. Why not just drop the “Christian” label and go with “Deist” or something like that?

  • http://none John Nernoff III M.D.

    Re: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.”
    —Luke 5:31

    Luke forgot all about preventive medicine, immunizations, and healthy living to improve ones’ stamina. You don’t want to wait until you are sick; you want to plan to avoid getting sick. So I disagree that his rather flippant remark is that apt.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    The Vicar- That’s a classic false dilemma. You’re saying that a Christian has to either accept the Bible as the infallible dictation of God or reject it altogether. That’s ridiculous. There’s an entire spectrum of in-between, and there’s nothing inherently flimsy about picking an in-between position (the Bible never actually claims to be infallible, after all). There are plenty of Christians who believe in God, believe in Jesus Christ (in some sense or another), but nevertheless feel that they must honestly acknowledge that the Bible was written by people who lived mostly over 2000 years ago, and it was written by people, not a deity. I don’t see what’s inherently objectionable about that, other than the fact that you don’t personally believe in God. You’re scanning my comments for points to argue, not reading what I’m saying.

    TPK- “Correct?” Why is that even relevant to this discussion? As an atheist, I assume you think they’re both wrong. At no point did I try to claim that either side was correct. I only said that it’s not fair to paint all Christians with the same brush, especially when huge numbers of Christians specifically disbelieve the doctrines and/or reject the attitudes that you find so objectionable. Again, are you even actually reading what I’m saying, or are you just scanning it for points to argue?

    Finally, I never claimed to be an authority on relationship with the divine. In fact, I never claimed to have one. Why are you trying to argue this with me? That’s not even the point I was making! Once more, did you actually read what I wrote, or are you just scanning for phrases you don’t like?

  • The Vicar

    Kullervo:

    Okay, you believe that Jesus is divine, but you don’t believe the Bible (or, at least, there is enough in the Bible that you don’t believe that any time anyone confronts you with a verse, you’ll just pop out with “I don’t believe that one anyway”). Why, in your personal theology, did Jesus die?

    I am presuming — because it’s what Christians generally believe — that it was to nullify sins in some way. Whose sins? Everyone’s? Then why bother making such a fuss about it? Jesus could have kept mum about his divinity and we’d all be saved without any of this tedious arguments, and we wouldn’t have had all those threats in the New Testament to worry centuries of people — we’d just show up in the afterlife and see the truth, which is what you must believe will happen to most people anyway if you think Jesus saved us all. If not everyone’s sins, whose sins haven’t been redeemed, and what happens to them? Certainly, the New Testament gives answers to those two questions over and over and over again: all non-Christians, and eternal damnation, respectively. If this is wrong, why has god — the same god who was sufficiently willing to tinker with the universe to incarnate, remember — allowed the New Testament to be written and form the basis of a majority of Christianity? Surely it would be easier to have nipped the faulty books in the bud — just use an apparently natural event to destroy the originals before they get copied; it wouldn’t even interfere with free will — than to suffer and die on a cross, right? Why hasn’t that happened?

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Ebonmuse,

    These two quotes from your post appear mutually exclusive:

    leaving in its place the ennobling knowledge that you are a human being, capable of good and evil in equal measure, whose destiny is in your own hands.

    And then…

    I wholeheartedly agree with this lesson, which is why I would turn it back on the faith that coined it. Christianity is very much like the advertising agencies who simultaneously invent a problem and offer to sell us the solution. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve had enough of the snake-oil salesmen who threaten damnation with one hand and hold out salvation – for a price – in the other. It’s far more uplifting to realize that we need no physician because we were never sick in the first place.

    In the first quote, you assert that humans commit morally good and morally evil acts. In the second you appear to assert that no one is “sick”. However, Jesus was referring to moral evil when he made the comparison of “sickness”. If you concede that humans commit evil acts, which no one will deny, then I do not see that it is possible to characterize humans as “well”.

    My point is not to nit-pick. I enjoy your critique of Christian tradition and agree with some of it, however I would like to also assert that the problem of moral evil, “sin” is far from imaginary and is not made up.

    Moral evil is a reality and humans are certainly guilty of it. I feel very comfortable in saying that everyone at some point has committed moral evil to some extent. Based on this observation, I think that Even if religion is an invention of men, the observation of and denouncement of moral evil in most religions is a valid observation. It is not as though we lived in a moral paradise and religious people are trying to convince everyone that they are bad when they are actually quite good. I see religion pointing out the fact of moral evil and engaging it.

    I will, at this point, also remark that I find it inconsistent with reality to suggest that all people do evil all the time. I also do not think that a strong case can be made that the Bible teaches that they do.

    With all that being said, I agree that the “scare tactic apologetics” are quite detestable. If it makes you feel any better, people from other religions use it on me too! :)

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    To anyone who is interested,

    Another observation regarding this post and the problem of evil.

    It seems that at least part of the much venerated POE hinges upon the excessive and out of proportion amount of moral evil found in the world. Countless people have turned from faith because God does not stop bad people from doing bad things. This is all fine, good, and valid. It is a good question.

    However, when I read posts decrying doctrines which deal with the “sinfulness” of humanity, I wonder how this denial relates to the excessive moral evil often cited in the POE. To speak bluntly, I find it inconsistent to use excessive moral evil to cast doubt on the credibility of religion, then also downplay the fact of moral evil when arguing against religious claims that people are sinful, or evil.

    What do you think?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • The Vicar

    Matt:

    If you were going to talk in logical format, the POE argument starts with “there exists some X such that X is evil.” The Christian doctrine of original sin, which is the basis for Jesus having to die in the first place, is “for any human X, X is evil (and deserves to go to Hell).” The two are very different things. If you have trouble with the concept think of the difference between “there exists some phone whose number is 765-4321″ and “all phones have the number 765-4321″. Quite different, yes? The former may be true, the latter is not.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    VICAR: I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, JUST READ THE DAMN COMMENTS WITHOUT PUTTING WORDS IN MY MOUTH.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    *curtsies to Kullervo*

    I appreciate your clear-headed perspective. Of course, it helps that I read the post properly and know that you are an atheist.

    Matt: You have a point. Human beings can obviously be found wanting in many ways, and if all you want to say is that there are things about us which a deity could potentially improve on — if such a being existed — then, sure.

    The question is, how bad are we? Should we consider ourselves ‘sick’? Do we all deserve infinite punishment for our evil side? I’d say no. I’d say no to considering ourselves sick because I find that the best way to improve myself is to cultivate my virtues repeatedly, and castigate my faults sparingly but without flinching when I do. However, if you find that considering yourself to be sick works better for you than considering yourself to be well but capable of improving, then, fair enough, that’s what works for you.

    I really, though, really don’t think we all deserve infinite punishment. To that extent, the view of ourselves that (some?) Christianity encourages is simply false, and potentially damaging. If we’re all infinitely evil, then you might think that no good that we can do matters; minus infinity plus five is still minus infinity, right? Whereas if you think of yourself as being somewhere in the middle, then you are more likely to think that trying to improve yourself counts for something. Which it does.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    Thank you, Lynet!

  • OMGF

    Kullervo:

    Kate, you’re assuming that all Christians believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God. they don’t. There are plenty of Christians who do in fact believe the Bible to be largely the inspired words of fallible human beings- people often trapped by their own biases and shortcomings.

    My standard objection to this is this; if the Bible doesn’t come from god, then why should anyone pay any attention to it? The only reason to pay any attention to it in the first place is because it is supposedly the divine words of Yahweh, and certainly the Bible does speak about this. Yahweh wrote the 10 Commandments himself afterall. So, if Xian wants to assert his/her holy book isn’t actually holy, I simply say that there’s no use believing in it then.

    You can paint Christians with the same brush if you want to, but ultimately that means you’re fighting a straw man, not the real thing.

    I see no problem with pointing out the faults of the various beliefs that various Xians hold.

    And Alex who says moderate Chriatians have the responsibility to oppose fundamentalists? That’s a pretty big onus you’re laying on them and I don’t think it’s fair, especially for many Christians who honestly feel that they are in a personal relationship with the divine, and that membership in an earthly organization is secondary to that at best.

    There is too much at stake for moderates to not speak out. They can wait until all atheists are behind bars or the world is destroyed from fundamentalist aggression, or they can speak up in the interests of fairness for all. That moderates don’t speak out is a pretty clear indication of moral failings. I speak out for equal rights for minorities, women, gays, etc. because I see it as a moral imperative. Moderate Xians should as well.

    Should Christians really have to qualify themselves- “oh, I’m a Christian, but I’m not one of those kinds…” If so, then so should atheists. It’s ridiculous.

    The problem with this is that atheists are by definition not grouped together by similar beliefs.

  • OMGF

    Matt R:

    I will, at this point, also remark that I find it inconsistent with reality to suggest that all people do evil all the time. I also do not think that a strong case can be made that the Bible teaches that they do.

    Perhaps you’ve never heard of the doctrines of utter depravity?

  • Vicki B.

    I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE

    Heh heh heh, would that be Pete Stark? Kullervo, I think that some of us who outgrew a rigid interpretation of religious belief are probably going to be permanently allergic to ALL rigid interpretations of religious belief, including those of atheists who are quite sure that they know what all “real” believers “should” believe.

    OMGF: what on earth makes you think that “moderate” believers don’t speak out for human rights for minorities, women, gays, etc.? MLK was a Rev., as I seem to remember. Most liberal churches have their “peace and justice” committees and I have often found it useful to liase with them in grassroots organizing.

    I also think that the term “religious moderate” is hopelessly vague and contributes nothing to an accurate taxonomy of religious belief. Does it mean someone who has a moderate emotional attachment to a literal interpretation of scripture? Or someone who has a passionate attachment to a non-literal interpretation of religious tradition, or ??? If the second, fundamentalists see those types of religious people as their sworn enemies, as much if not more than “secularists”.

    When fundamentalists try to subvert the Constitution and hijack the government, it’s every right-thinking person’s duty to oppose them. We all haven’t done enough.

  • chronomitch

    Sorry, but from personal experience, I cannot say that religious moderates speak out against injustice or speak for human rights. Having grown up with a Catholic mother and Methodist father in the midwest, I saw little political/social involvement from the members of either local church I went to each week. Most religious moderates are basically just your average joes and janes. They may believe in a god and go to church on Sunday, but they keep to themselves and don’t get involved much in politics or issues outside their small communities. In a word, they are apathetic.

    I think this is a far cry from the fundamentalists that we hear about each day. It is easy to rail against people with clearly illogical and harmful beliefs and practices, but much more difficult to confront moderates who care little about the world around them as long as their lives are not changed significantly for the worse. They never look at the big picture unless required to do so.

    As for sinfulness and salvation, it is all just a trick to make people become dependent on religion (especially salvation religions like Christianity). The last time I went to Mass, I was astounded by the number of times that the priest said we were sinful and required God’s forgiveness. I had never noticed it before because I had become used to it. In essence, it is subliminal messaging repeated over and over again until we actually believe that we are sinful and will go to Hell. But guess who can offer salvation…

    In actuality, though, I find it hard to believe that we are so evil that we even require salvation. We all have small faults and none of us are perfect. However, how many of us have killed, raped, stole, etc? Most of us are fairly decent members of society. We don’t need salvation any more than we need priests to tell us how evil we are.

    The point was made that religions have traditionally spoken against moral evil, but how much of that preaching is against real evil? Most of the so-called “evil” that we hear priests/rabbis/reverends preach about is related to sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, birth control, etc. Need I say more?

  • OMGF

    Vicki B.:

    OMGF: what on earth makes you think that “moderate” believers don’t speak out for human rights for minorities, women, gays, etc.?

    That wasn’t my meaning, although I can see how you might have gotten that from what I wrote. I was simply saying that these are moral issues of fair rights. For moderates to speak out or not speak out on them is a moral issue that is on par with speaking up for minorities, women, gays, etc. My freedom of religion is also a minority struggle that moderates should speak up for. Saying that they don’t have an onus to do so is the same as saying that none of us have any responsibility to stand up for any of those other things. In a strict sense, maybe we don’t, but from a moral perspective we certainly do.

    I also think that the term “religious moderate” is hopelessly vague and contributes nothing to an accurate taxonomy of religious belief.

    Without drawing a Maginot line in the sand, I think we all know what it means. We all know what we mean by fundamentalist Xian, right? I would think a moderate is simply a Xian that is more tolerant of others than the fundamentalists. Is there a hard line, no.

    It doesn’t matter if the fundies see moderates as their sworn enemy so much as what the moderates do. When they don’t speak out about the fundamental elements of their group, then they tacitly show acceptance. We see this when suicide bombers kill innocents and no one speaks out, when abortion providers are killed and no one speaks out, when the fundies push through laws that marginalize all non-Xian Americans and no one speaks out.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com/ Kullervo

    I still go to church with my wife. Today, the sermon was about Guatemala, Sierra Leone, and Darfur, and what each of us can do to help- organizations who need donations, groups you can get involved in, things you can do on a small personal scale and ways you can get involved on a large scale.

    Most people are apathetic. Especially comfortable people. It transcends belief systems or lack thereof. I seriously, seriously doubt that a real study would show that atheists care more or do more or contribute more to making society batter.

  • OMGF

    Most people are apathetic. Especially comfortable people. It transcends belief systems or lack thereof. I seriously, seriously doubt that a real study would show that atheists care more or do more or contribute more to making society batter.

    Not when it comes to things they really care about. AFAICT, Xians seem to care a lot about their god and religion. That moderates would allow their religion to be hijacked by fundies doesn’t make me at all confident that they really object that much. I know I would, however, not want to be lumped in with all the fundies out there and would speak up about it, even if it’s something small. We, however, don’t see that in this country, or indeed in other places where it is much more important.

    BTW, is society batter a euphemism for soylent green? :)

  • Mark C.

    Ohio Atheist: You’re absolutely right about the baggage that accompanies the term “atheism” in Ebon’s writings. I, too, disagree with this practice, because it lumps all atheists under the umbrella of one philosophical outlook. I realize that he is trying to promote both the theological position and the philosophy, but it can be seen as deceptive, especially should theists frequent his sites and form generalizations of atheists based on said writings (the act of generalizing being the bad part, not the statements generalized to, necessarily).

    Matt R: The problem with moral evil as a concept is that it can refer to so many disparate things among different groups and societies. Religion and theologies not only identify things that atheists might consider evil as such, but they also include things like blasphemy–things which are not morally evil to atheists. Is there an objective morality? If so, how do we discover it and what is it? Or if there isn’t one, we must then accept the fact that each group/society–indeed, even on a personal level–has its own morality, identifying as evil things which other groups/societies don’t. Then you have the whole issue of relative evil: is X always an evil act, or is it evil only when chosen above something that does less harm–this issue is often brought up in the context of time-sensitive emergencies.

    Everyone: It is not right to lump moderate theists with extremists. Though many of us athiests on here may have logical objections to their religious moderation, they are nonetheless not the ones who kill in the name of religion. Live and let live. As long as they DO us no harm, let’s not blame them for doing harm. Let us not blame them for a lack of action when, just like us, they just want to live and be left in peace. We may be disgruntled that we can’t count on their assistance in fighting the extremists and vocal fundamentalists, but that is as far as we should go. Blaming innocents–or eliminating innocence altogether–is not the thing I would consider nice, good people to do, atheist or not. To me, it smacks of an oppressive mentality that I swear I’ve heard of oppressive political leaders having. Let’s not go down that route, please. We can be angry at moderates for not helping, but that’s as far as we should go, unless they’re our personal friends who we expect assistance such as this from, due to our relationships on the personal level.

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hi Viki,

    The question is, how bad are we? Should we consider ourselves ‘sick’?
    Do we all deserve infinite punishment for our evil side? I’d say no. I’d say no to considering ourselves sick because I find that the best way to improve myself is to cultivate my virtues repeatedly, and castigate my faults sparingly but without flinching when I do. However, if you find that considering yourself to be sick works better for you than considering yourself to be well but capable of improving, then, fair enough, that’s what works for you.

    I do not spend the day focusing on my shortcomings, neither does the Bible or Jesus teach that we should do so. The Bible teaches that everyone sins, that is, does morally wrong things. There are doctrines which teach that everyone is utterly sinful. Although these doctrines are quite popular in some circles, I personally find them to be based on a poor reading of scripture. It should also be noted that these doctrines are certainly not universally held.

    I think that we should soberly evaluate our actions and our hearts to determine our moral sickness or wellness. I do not think that we should go about every day reminding ourselves how sick we are. I also do not think that that was the intent of Jesus’ metaphor. His point was that he was going to the people who needed him. I am not sure how familiar you are with the scripture in question, so I hope I do not insult your intelligence by explaining it to you.

    Jesus would go to eat with people whom the religious establishment would not associate with. In a confrontation with some of Jewish religious leaders of his day, they denounced him for eating and associating with sinners. Jesus then replied with the words that it is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. The point is that those people who have problems are the ones that Jesus came to help. The point is not to degrade humanity.

    I really, though, really don’t think we all deserve infinite punishment. To that extent, the view of ourselves that (some?) Christianity encourages is simply false, and potentially damaging. If we’re all infinitely evil, then you might think that no good that we can do matters; minus infinity plus five is still minus infinity, right? Whereas if you think of yourself as being somewhere in the middle, then you are more likely to think that trying to improve yourself counts for something. Which it does.

    Again, the concept of infinite punishment is not stated as clearly in the Bible as some may propose. There are certainly passages that indicate different degrees of punishment. I do not think that there is infinite punishment awaiting wicked people. I think there will be a very just punishment awaiting the deserving and I think that a good case can be made for this from scripture.

    With that being said, I have noticed that there is a tendency to focus on the shortcomings of people in some Christian circles. I try to reason with those who focus on these things as best I can. I agree that focusing on our mistakes all the time leads nowhere and is negative. Thoughts such as these are contrary to scripture.

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    OMGF,

    Perhaps you’ve never heard of the doctrines of utter depravity?

    I have. They are, in my opinion, erroneous and based on a strained reading of scripture. They are contrary to common sense, logic, and, in my opinion, a proper understanding of the Bible.

    Based on my reading and understanding, the Bible teaches that people do morally wrong things, not that they do *only* morally wrong things.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    Mark C
    I know I’m coming across rather forcefully here, and maybe more than I meant, but here goes…

    Everyone: It is not right to lump moderate theists with extremists. Though many of us athiests on here may have logical objections to their religious moderation, they are nonetheless not the ones who kill in the name of religion.

    When moderates stand by and watch others kill in their name, I have a problem with that. True, moderates aren’t strapping bombs to themselves, but they certainly aren’t doing anything to stop it either.

    As long as they DO us no harm, let’s not blame them for doing harm. Let us not blame them for a lack of action when, just like us, they just want to live and be left in peace.

    True to an extent. When it gets to the point of abortion clinic bombings, suicide bombers, and attempts at destroying my rights (and theirs as well), it is a moral imperative that they stand up and be counted. If they do not want to have to say, “I’m a Xian, but not that kind of Xian,” they need to take it up with the fundies, not with us.

    Blaming innocents–or eliminating innocence altogether–is not the thing I would consider nice, good people to do, atheist or not.

    If it comes down to my rights/life vs. not making some Xians feel uncomfortable about their moral choices, I’m choosing my rights/life every time.

    To me, it smacks of an oppressive mentality that I swear I’ve heard of oppressive political leaders having.

    I have no idea where this comes from. If Xians want to complain about being lumped in with those other Xians, then how is that me oppressing them? If Xians can’t be bothered to stand up for the rights of others, how am I oppressing them? If I call them out for their moral failings, is that oppression? No.

    We can be angry at moderates for not helping, but that’s as far as we should go, unless they’re our personal friends who we expect assistance such as this from, due to our relationships on the personal level.

    Why leave that loophole? Is it somehow less moral to stand idly by if the Xian in question has a friend who is an atheist?

    Note: I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m just trying to tell you where I’m coming from. As you can probably tell, I’m very passionate about this subject. Please don’t mistake passion for aggression, anger, or anything like that.

  • Alex Weaver

    OMGF: what on earth makes you think that “moderate” believers don’t speak out for human rights for minorities, women, gays, etc.? MLK was a Rev., as I seem to remember. Most liberal churches have their “peace and justice” committees and I have often found it useful to liase with them in grassroots organizing.

    The fact that they habitually come over to argue with atheists while mostly remaining silent except to say that they don’t personally share the beliefs of the frothy-mouthed says a lot, I should think. More later.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    That’s me you’re quoting in that second-to-last post, Matt R. It looks like we agree on one of the issues at hand: the doctrine that Ebonmuse quotes above about “we’re all wicked, and deserving of hell” could do with some modification.

    I’m not qualified to comment on whether said doctrine is well supported by scripture as a whole. I know of no scriptural quotes which directly support the doctrine of utter depravity (except by comparison with a very strict moral code, rather than as a blanket, unqualified statement), but that’s not saying much.

    Eternal punishment is a different matter. A quick glance at an essay on Ebon Musings points me in the direction of a few verses that do seem to support that idea (I’ve used the NIV quotes where the essay uses the KJV; I don’t like quoting the Bible without looking up the context in any case, and this will give you two versions if that helps):

    Matthew 14:40-41: As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
    Matthew 14:49-50: The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    So far, we are not told that this will continue infinitely. Revelation says “the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever”, but it seems to be referring to a more specific group of people — those who “worship the beast and his image and receive his mark on the forehead or on the hand”. If you take the Bible literally, then that still seems to me to be pretty unfair, but if you’re going to reject parts of the Bible then Revelation sounds like a good bet to me, so fair enough.

    But what about this?

    Matthew 22:14: “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    There’s a strong implication there that the many who are not chosen will not be suddenly re-chosen at some point in the future, wouldn’t you say? Few are chosen. Presumably that means few are chosen, ever, not just few are chosen initially. Of course, I suppose there is nothing to suggest that those who are not chosen won’t fade into nothing eventually. Then again, there is nothing to suggest that they will.

    Do you know of passages which directly state that such punishment will only be temporary? Or just passages that don’t mention how long the torment will last?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Regarding the doctrine of intrinsic human depravity and whether it’s taught by the Bible, I have some passages to cite that may help decide the issue:

    “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” —Romans 3:10-12

    “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” —Isaiah 64:6

    We can debate to our heart’s content over whether these verses and others like them are the product of divine inspiration or simply the errors of humankind, but they are there.

    Longer comment to follow.

  • Vicki Baker

    OMGF: I’m not saying that “moderate” religious people should be excused from speaking/acting out against fundamentalist crimes and misdemeanors. I said clearly that we all have the responsibility to do so. I’m saying that your simplistic taxonomy of religious belief (bloodthirsty theocrats and nice or apathetic religious moderates) does not stand up to empirical study, at least for the slice of religious belief that I know most about (Christianity in US and Europe).

    For some specimens that might not fit into either Homo religiousus extremis or Homo religiousus moderatus, you could check out talk2action.org, cpt.org, firstfreedomfirst.org (check out the list of sponsoring orgs), visit your local Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, or read “Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd.

    To get back to the theme of the post, did anyone catch the program of “This American Life” where the theme was heretics? There was a segment on Rev. Carlton Pearson, who announced to his congregation one day that he no longer believed in Hell:

    Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson’s church falls apart. After all, when there’s no Hell (as the logic goes), you don’t really need to believe in Jesus to be saved from it. What follows are the swift departures of his pastors, and an exodus from his congregation — which quickly dwindled to a few hundred people. Donations drop off too, but just as things start looking bleakest, new kinds of people, curious about his change in beliefs, start showing up on Sunday mornings.

    http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=304

  • OMGF

    I’m saying that your simplistic taxonomy of religious belief (bloodthirsty theocrats and nice or apathetic religious moderates) does not stand up to empirical study, at least for the slice of religious belief that I know most about (Christianity in US and Europe).

    That’s fine, I have no problem with that. I’m sure there are moderates who do speak out. I can make an argument that one is either a fundamentalist or a moderate, but I’m not seeking to make the argument that all moderates are apathetic. It is quite demonstrable, however, that most are. Most (as was mentioned above) would rather identify with fellow believers, no matter what their views, than with heathens. Apparently, it is more important to be with god than to be moral. And, this is also demonstrable in the Bible.

  • Vicki Baker

    OMGF: I’ve certainly seen believers working with people of all faiths and no faith on progressive causes like Death Penalty Focus, the anti-war movement, etc. The ministers are often the ones who volunteer to be arrested. They would rather be on the side of the good than on the side of those who, as they see it, distort their faith. I’m sorry your experience has been different.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet J

    Hey religious moderates: You’re nice people and all and there’s something to that whole common-cause-for-social-issues thing. But you AREN’T the charmed alternative to fundamentalism that you think you are. I hate to sound juvenile about this but moderate religion is still boring. Given the choice between Pope Benedict and Niebuhr, I choose neither one.

    Listening to you guys say, “You can have faith AND freedom!” is like hearing people in my family who’ve never understood my vegetarianism say, “You can have meat AND vegetables!” Sigh. Yeah, I COULD have them both, but I’ve chosen NOT TO.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello all,

    I’d like to address some of the comments in this thread. First, for Ohio Atheist:

    In this post, as well as many other essays on Daylight Atheism and Ebon Musings, the positive consequences of “atheism” are stressed. To me, this seems like a confusing use of words. It’s important to realize that atheism alone has little to say about morality or the meaning of life.

    In response to this, allow me to quote a comment of mine addressing this point from a previous post, Life Without Superstition:

    Granted, atheism as the bare philosophical position of lack of god-belief does not necessarily entail all these positive things. I suppose a person could, theoretically speaking, become an atheist and then adopt a dogmatic philosophy that is exactly the same as their previous religion in all aspects except that it does not include belief in a god.

    However, I had in mind something more general – atheism as part of a full worldview, rather than as a single isolated position. The question is, if one adopts such a worldview, what is the most likely form it will take? In other words, given that a person has decided to become an atheist, what are the most rational or natural beliefs to choose that go along with that position? And it’s my experience that, when a person deconverts and clears out all the theistic debris previously clouding their vision, they very often do adopt a worldview similar to the one described in my post.

    Also, I’d like to touch on this point by Kullervo:

    Kate, you’re assuming that all Christians believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God. they don’t. There are plenty of Christians who do in fact believe the Bible to be largely the inspired words of fallible human beings- people often trapped by their own biases and shortcomings.

    While I don’t deny that most Christians are not fundamentalists, I have a question for those who adopt the viewpoint described above: Once you admit that the Bible is not infallible, why give it any special reverence? Why hold it in esteem above other books? The Bible has some beautiful moral lessons, mixed in with plenty of evil and ugliness; and the same is true of the works of William Shakespeare, the Iliad and the Odyssey, or even the New York Times. I don’t see what makes the Bible at all special in this regard, or why it should be considered the exclusive source of moral lessons and divine revelations about the universe (which it is, even by many religious moderates). The point here is that many people, maybe most, despite making superficially reasonable claims about the fallibility and imperfection of scripture, nevertheless continue to treat it as if it is authoritative.

    And even then, there are voices of moderation in Christianity, denouncing (in more or sometimes less loving ways) the excesses of their fundamentalist counterparts. They may not be the ones screaming the loudest, but they’re there. Read some Brian McLaren, or some Robin Meyers and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    I’ve read Meyers’ book earlier this year, actually. :) And while I agree with most of what he says, my basic objection to him is the same one that I have to all religious belief. Even if it’s not warmongering or hate-spreading of the kind so often practiced by fundamentalists, even if it’s peaceful and tolerant and compassionate, it still promotes a core idea that I find objectionable: the idea that faith is or should be an adequate basis for decision-making, that mere personal conviction is sufficient reason to treat a proposition as true. Whether they mean it to or not, their defense of this idea is what indirectly promotes the poison of fundamentalism. After all, the idea that I should act a certain way because I believe God has told me to can be used with equal facility to defend both the mildest and the most venomous of creeds. What we should be promoting instead is the idea that only reason and evidence are workable methods of belief formation.

  • JRod

    OMGF: Hmm, I’d have to agree with Vicki on this one; do you have any evidence to prove that most moderates are apathetic? As a traveling Christian, I’ve been to many different churches, some moderate, some conservative, and I have yet to find one that was by and large full of apathetic people. Every single church I have seen has been filled with people who are very involved with their community and usually politics as well. Furthermore, you don’t have to look too far to find hundreds of Christian charities, homeless shelters, social organizations, etc. In the face of all this, I’m wondering where this pronouncement of majority apathy is coming from. You seem to be making generalizations that aren’t supported by evidence. If you have any that says otherwise, would you mind citing it?
    J: I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say with your comment…moderate religion is wrong/bad because it’s boring? It sounds as though you simply haven’t been looking in the right places. While I have found several churches that are boring, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not useful. Furthermore, I have found far more churches that are most certainly not boring, but interesting, engaging, and fulfilling. Also, where is this thing about faith and freedom coming from? I don’t understand your point, perhaps you could phrase it more clearly.

  • OMGF

    Hmm, I’d have to agree with Vicki on this one; do you have any evidence to prove that most moderates are apathetic?

    How many moderate Muslims are denouncing the suicide bombings? How many moderate Xians are denouncing the abortion clinic bombings, or the posting of the 10 Commandments, or the use of things like “In God We Trust” on our currency? Actually, they may not be apathetic as I said. I have a sneaking suspicion that many moderates really want the fundies to succeed because they think it would just be a nicer place if everyone could love Jesus like they do.

    As a traveling Christian, I’ve been to many different churches, some moderate, some conservative, and I have yet to find one that was by and large full of apathetic people.

    Then where are these people? Why are they not speaking out for my rights to not believe?

    Every single church I have seen has been filled with people who are very involved with their community and usually politics as well.

    Making sure godly people get elected? That I can believe. You are aware of the studies that have shown that being an atheist is the worst thing you can be if you want to get elected, right?

    Furthermore, you don’t have to look too far to find hundreds of Christian charities, homeless shelters, social organizations, etc.

    Nowhere did I say they don’t have charities. Of course, most of those come with a dose of god. Many Salvation Army centers won’t feed people unless they attend a chapel service first, right?

    In the face of all this, I’m wondering where this pronouncement of majority apathy is coming from.

    It’s apathy toward denouncing the elements of extremism, not apathy towards everything in general. As someone said above, they would rather stand with their fellow god-ists than be bothered to do what is right.

  • Alex

    You are aware of the studies that have shown that being an atheist is the worst thing you can be if you want to get elected, right?

    Beware the hyperbole. I would imagine that being a convicted violent criminal or a satanist would be worse. You are correct, however, in that the number of self-described atheists in congress is one (Bernie Sanders), where it would be somewhere between 9 and 65 if it accurately reflected the demographic makeup of the United States.

  • Alex

    Footnote to above post: it’s also worth noting that the US public elected George H.W. “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens” Bush to two consecutive terms not so very long ago.

  • Alex Weaver

    Uh, Bush Sr. was elected to only one term, and I thought the nontheist in congress was Pete Stark?

  • Alex

    Damnit, two terms as VP, one as president. Sorry, Canadian.

    Sanders is allegedly non-theist, although the only sources I can find backing this up are other atheist blogs. Stark came out of the closet since the last time I checked up on the religious makeup of congress. That’s awesome, though. Good job Americans.

    And now that I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself, I bid you all goodnight.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    who says moderate Chriatians have the responsibility to oppose fundamentalists?

    I think moderates do have this responsibility. Belief in existence of a god or gods, belief that these god or gods communicate with, act upon and provide direction to humans, belief that this communication can be through divine inspiration, texts, prophets, holy men, etc – these things are considered legitimate by many moderates. This sets up a framework in which the fundamentalist operates. Since moderates legitimize this platform built on the supernatural, I think they do indeed have responsibility to actively oppose fundamentalists who then run with it. While the moderate may not be engaging in the particular activities of the fundamentalist, the moderate is contributing to a world where gods engage humans, and where humans try to act in accordance with the perceived wishes of these gods. When the moderate lets this genie out of the bottle, the moderate should then accept some responsibility for what is done with it, in this case opposing what is done by fundamentalists.

  • Vicki Baker

    OMFG writes: “Then where are these people? Why are they not speaking out for my rights to not believe?”
    Well, here’s one, Greg Boyd, an evangelical minister who wrote “Myth of A Christian Nation”:

    “America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state…

    Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

    “Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

    Also, I’m sure Catholics for Choice and Conscience magazine would denounce abortion clinic bombings along with most mainstream denominations and the historic non-violent “peace” churches like the Society of Friends and Mennonites.

    Why you are not hearing these people could be a combination of a couple of things: lack of good coverage in the mainstream media (a problem that atheists/humanists also have I think) and maybe a personal filter that is not letting this type of info through?

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse writes; “Once you admit that the Bible is not infallible, why give it any special reverence? Why hold it in esteem above other books? The Bible has some beautiful moral lessons, mixed in with plenty of evil and ugliness;”

    Once you let go of the eternal punishment/eternal reward paradigm, it becomes much more a personal choice to stay within a particular tradition. You can see that other traditions have value and in fact very similar teachings. I think people who choose to stay see church much more as something to do rather than something to believe in. It’s a community, one that has connections to 2000 years of history. It’s a place to be with other people in a way that is not really available in other settings; where personal worth is not supposed to be measured solely in terms of wealth or attractiveness or social skills. It’s the place where “when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” in the words of Robert Frost. It’s the place where in theory, everyone has committed to help each other live life more fully and be better people. Does it always live up to that ideal? No way. Would the world be better if that kind of community was available to those who can’t deal with the religious baggage? Absolutely.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    Also, in addition to what Vicki has said, I want to draw more attention to Donald Miller, Brian McLaren, and the Emergent Conversation in Christianity, which has specifically turned away from propositional approaches to religion in favor of a foundational focus on relationship and community.

    I can’t necessarily explain it, but questions like whether Hell is real and whether God inspired the Bible aren’t even the questions they’re asking. Their approach is interesting and novel, in my opinion, because it takes the good from relativism without losing the good from orthodoxy, and in my opinion it synthesizes it in a way that is relevant.

    Instead, they’re talking about community- the community of believers, communities of individuals, and community with God. Thus the Bible is not an infallible moral guidebook or a how-to manual, but a written record (full of biases and warts and all) of peoples’ relationship with God, as seen through those peoples’ eyes- and the story of that community continues on down to the present. It’s very controversial, and fundamentalists are certain that Emergents are absolutely headed for hell.

    Honestly, it’s an approach that I find refreshing, and if I could talk myself into believing in God, it is almost certainly the one I would espouse.

    But, I should put out a caveat- I am not an authoritative source on the Emergent movement. I may have explained it in a misleading way due to my own misunderstandings or whatever. I’m just trying to explain that there are really more dynamically different approaches to Christianity and even religious belief in general than the easy-to-beat-up Christian straw man that seems to be the favorite opponent of the crusading atheist.

    I don’t really know what basis these people have for believing in God in the first place, because I don’t really believe myself, and I’m still unsure what basis I would have for believing other than wishful thinking plus self-convincing and self-cultivating. But they’re not talking about God and religion in a propositional way at all. Perhaps that’s fundamentally illogical, but logic depends on propositional statements, and the Emergents aren’t playing in the same game.

    From a logical/propositional framework, the Emergent conversation (that’s what McLaren calls it) sounds fairly absurd, but that’s because it rests on entirely different assumptions, not as in “different premises for a logical argument” but different assumptions about the approach to life, the universe, and everything that are arguably much more postmodern. So to fundamentalists who along with most of the rest of Christianity are deeply wedded to a modernist take on existence, the Emergent conversation is dangerous and unsound. I imagine that atheists would be in agreement on this point, because in my experience most atheists are also thoroughly Modern, and frame their worldview in propositional terms.

    Or whatever. Like I said, I’m far from an authority, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Or, go ahead and proceed in constructing an Emergent straw man and beating the shit out of it, for your own self-congratulatory enjoyment.

  • Alex Weaver

    Vicki: That’s a good start.

  • Polly

    It’s very controversial, and fundamentalists are certain that Emergents are absolutely headed for hell.

    You bet. Again, back to my little radio station (K-KLA in Los Angeles) for up to date info about the Emergent movement. And, yup, “heresy” “dangerous”, the “liberal left” are all descriptors. Fundies see this movement as wolves among sheep. Probably more dangerous than secular foes, like atheists.

    A friend of mine who used to be Mormon, always emphasizes the wonderful adaptability of the LDS Church. When popular opinion (or the force of federal authorities) is too great, it’s time for another revelation or a new prophecy. Religion evolves, it adapts and that’s how it survives. And I think Christianity has also been evolving for the past 2,000 years. The emergent church is the latest modification. In 100 years the only place you’re likely to find a Xian who thinks evolution is a hoax or that gays are going to Hell, is in a cave or deep in the woods. Today’s Xians can’t see that they are the “liberals” of yesteryear.

  • Vicki Baker

    Yes, I’m sure if the Christian Dominionists ever got the power they crave, we’d all be stoned together. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Lynet,

    Sorry about the long response time, school is quite busy. Accordingly, my answer will be short and maybe unsatisfying.

    I propose that the verse cited in Matthew 25 speaks of eternal punishment. In light of other scriptures which seem to very clearly demonstrate the annihilation of the ungodly, I am comfortable seeing this punishment as destruction. Here is a good example, although there are many:

    Hebrews 10:26-27

    If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Hakima

    In case anyone is interested, here’s the view from the outside, listening in. I hear that moderate religious people (specifically those of “The Books,”) do not necessarily believe in the literal truth of The Books, but rather in their moral meaning. Um, well, that’s obviously fine (as long as you have picked out the less aggressive and violent morals, that is), but then you must also realise that that demolishes not only the status of the books, per se, but also that of the religion based on that book also. Which, to my uneducated ears, sounds like we are right back to where the atheists, or at least the agnostics, started.

    Our problem (i.e. those of us honestly trying to give religion a fair hearing), is that we are, per your instructions, unable to ignore “The Book,” whichever one it is. We are therefore not sure how it is that the religious, no matter how well intentioned, can only mount arguments FOR the religion, by first mounting arguments AGAINST the religion’s own text. This cancels out, I say again, the claims of the religion, which are based, I repeat yet again, on these texts. That is why fundamentalist always win these sorts of arguments.

  • Michael

    What confuses me about some of you is that you say people should have freedom from religion and then complain about people who are moderate and do not combat the views of others who look at things more dogmatically than they do. Is is possible that the liberal and moderates feel no more obliged to protest against the “fundamentalists” than they would against some on of a different religion entirely. Why would they cause discord amongst those that they hold some similar views with thereby creating more isolation for their particular view.

  • Alex Weaver

    Why would they cause discord amongst those that they hold some similar views with thereby creating more isolation for their particular view.

    Aside from the whole “moral responsibility” concept, and the practical fact that the wingnuts, as Martin Neimoller would have been happy to tell you, will be coming for the moderates once they’re done with us, the moderates have no reason to oppose the wingnuts unless they object to being perceived as agreeing with the wingnuts–which they frequently do.

  • Loren Petrich

    It’s almost as if the liberals and moderates are trying to protect the fundies and extremists. Yes, protect them. Which is Sam Harris’s and Richard Dawkins’s point about moderates enabling extremists.

    I had an argument recently from a self-styled moderate Xian who refused to criticize creationists on theological grounds — only on scientific grounds. But it’s the creationists’ theology that drives their science, and this gentleman was like someone who tries to rid his lawn of dandelions by plucking the dandelion flowers without trying to get rid of the rest of each individual dandelion plant.

    And if I was a liberal Xian, I’d be looking at atheist activists and getting green with envy — and trying to think of some liberal Xian version of the RRS’s Blasphemy Challenge. Perhaps something that involves mentioning Galileo’s argument that the Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

  • KShep

    I could go along with the argument that we shouldn’t blame moderate christians for the crimes of their more fundamentalist brethren IF the moderates didn’t continually support scumbags like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc. as their chosen spokespeople.
    Nobody, I mean NOBODY, within the christian community blasted Robertson for issuing a fatwah against Hugo Chavez. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fatwah resulted in a surge in donations.
    These “leaders” have risen to great wealth and power on the backs of moderate christians, using all the usual scare tactics. Anyone remember Dobson’s ads just before last year’s elections where he claimed (I’m paraphrasing here), “The New Jersey Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to families in America….” followed by a direct appeal for money to aid their fight against homosexuality?
    If this isn’t a direct attempt to cash in on moderate christian fears I don’t know what is.
    When moderates toss these jerks aside for good, I’ll stop blaming them for sitting on their hands while the fundies destroy the world.

  • Vicki B.

    Nobody, I mean NOBODY, within the christian community blasted Robertson for issuing a fatwah against Hugo Chavez.

    Jim Wallis, an evangelical paster and editor of Sojourners magazine writes:

    Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics…
    On Monday, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. …

    It’s clear Robertson must not have first asked himself “What would Jesus do?” But the teachings of Jesus have never been very popular with Robertson. He gets his religion elsewhere, from the twisted ideologies of an American brand of right-wing fundamentalism that has always been more nationalist than Christian. Apparently, Robertson didn’t even remember what the Ten Commandments say, though he has championed their display on the walls of every American courthouse. That irritating one about “Thou shalt not kill” seems to rule out the killing of foreign leaders.

    World evangelical leaders have already responded with alarm and disbelief. Robertson’s words will taint and smear other evangelical Christians and put some in actual jeopardy, such as Venezuelan evangelicals. Most conservative evangelical Christians are appalled by Robertson’s hateful and literally murderous words, and it’s time for them to say so. To their credit, the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals have already denounced Robertson’s words.

    -http://www.licc.org.uk/culture/node/view/324

    If a “religious moderate” denounces Pat Robertson and no atheists hear, does it make a noise?

  • KShep

    Vicki B:

    Okay, there’s one denouncement. Point taken. But it doesn’t change my main assertion: Robertson and his cohorts have amassed enormous power and wealth by frightening followers into sending them money, and when they step over the line, they aren’t held accountable for it.

    Perhaps I should have said, “Why does Robertson still have a job after his Ayatollah impersonation?” There should have been a loud uproar about it from christians and there wasn’t. I remember hearing someone say something to the effect of, “Oh, that’s just Pat. You know how he can be at times.” As if that makes it okay. As I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if it resulted in a surge in donations. At the very least, it would have said something if some TV stations had dropped his program, but to my knowledge, that didn’t happen.

    “If a “religious moderate” denounces Pat Robertson and no atheists hear, does it make a noise?”

    Maybe that’s the problem…..not enough atheists, or anyone else for that matter, are hearing those denouncements. I follow stuff like that pretty closely and I hadn’t heard of it.

  • lpetrich

    Is it just Jim Wallis who has condemned Pat Robertson? I am so impressed (sarcasm).

    I must say that it is curious that nobody has started a YouTube contest to promote awareness of liberal Xianity. Something like the Rational Response Squad’s Blasphemy Challenge, but with a theme like

    The Religious Right Does Not Speak For Me

    or

    The Bible Tells Us How to Go to Heaven, Not How the Heavens Go

  • Vicki B.

    Kshep, who is going to hold Robertson “accountable” in a meaningful way (i.e. depriving him of a job), besides his own followers, who are mostly just voting with their feet to leave him? There hasn’t been Christianity Central since Luther nailed that piece of paper to the door. Robertson’s 700 Club is an independent entity with a hand-picked board which lets him do whatever he wants. Even if his supporters stopped sending money, he has a for-profit wing -ask him about protein shakes and investments in blood diamonds.

    That said, the point is taken about not ENOUGH resistance to these bigoted lunatics that are running (ruining?) our country. But given that humanists and religious liberals are in the minority by themselves, wouldn’t it make sense for them to form a coalition to re-assert the principle of separation of church and state?

    lpetrich, no it’s not just Jim Wallis. He names two organizations who also denounced. Also the quote from Greg Boyd in my earlier comment is a general denunciation from an evangelical of the religious right-wing. Sorry, but I simply don’t have the time to hand-feed you research you are unwilling to do on your own. For a bunch that claims to have high standards for logical and empirical proof, y’all seem willing to accept Harris’ claim that “religious moderates (whatever the heck that means) shelter religous extremists and are just as dangerous” w/o any evidence whatsoever. Cheer up though, if the Dominionists ever do gain power, atheists bloggers will probably only get sent to re-education camps. I’m sure all women clergy and members of denoms who condone gay marriage will be stoned in the first few weeks.

    How many secular people voted for Reagan and the Bushes because they were good for business or strong on defense or whatever.

  • Vicki B.

    Kshep, who is going to hold Robertson “accountable” in a meaningful way (i.e. depriving him of a job), besides his own followers, who are mostly just voting with their feet to leave him? There hasn’t been Christianity Central since Luther nailed that piece of paper to the door. Robertson’s 700 Club is an independent entity with a hand-picked board which lets him do whatever he wants. Even if his supporters stopped sending money, he has a for-profit wing -ask him about protein shakes and investments in blood diamonds.

    That said, the point is taken about not ENOUGH resistance to these bigoted lunatics that are running (ruining?) our country. But given that humanists and religious liberals are in the minority by themselves, wouldn’t it make sense for them to form a coalition to re-assert the principle of separation of church and state?

    lpetrich, no it’s not just Jim Wallis. He names two organizations who also denounced. Also the quote from Greg Boyd in my earlier comment is a general denunciation from an evangelical of the religious right-wing. Sorry, but I simply don’t have the time to hand-feed you research you are unwilling to do on your own. For a bunch that claims to have high standards for logical and empirical proof, y’all seem willing to accept Harris’ claim that “religious moderates (whatever the heck that means) shelter religous extremists and are just as dangerous” w/o any evidence whatsoever. Cheer up though, if the Dominionists ever do gain power, atheists bloggers will probably only get sent to re-education camps. I’m sure all women clergy and members of denoms who condone gay marriage will be stoned in the first few weeks.

    How many secular people voted for Reagan and the Bushes because they were good for business or strong on defense or whatever.

  • KShep

    Vicki B,

    I think Robertson (and others like him) can be held accountable by moderates, and it really wouldn’t take a lot of effort. They need only stop watching his program, write their local TV stations and ask that his show be dropped, stop buying his crappy products, etc. Cut off the money flow. He only has power because he has their support—-especially financial. As long as moderates continue to throw their support behind criminals like Robertson, then in my mind, Harris is right—moderates ARE sheltering the extremists among them.

    Think about that idiot from Kansas who protests funerals (I know who he is, I just refuse to name him because that’s exactly what he wants). Even Falwell has denounced him. He isn’t considered an accurate representation of modern christianity by any definition that I know of. He’s an outsider. Why can’t moderates push Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson into the fringe with him, where they really belong? Isn’t the fact that the Kansas preacher operates outside the mainstream enough evidence that Harris is on to something?

    Moderates do not shelter the Kansas preacher, they leave him and his few followers to fend for themselves. And he therefore has almost no power to accomplish any agenda he might have in his shriveled little mind. But moderates DO shelter Robertson, et. al. who have a great deal of power (which they are all to happy to use and abuse). To me, that makes moderates, as Harris says, just as dangerous.

    For the record, I wasn’t asking for you or anyone else to research anything. Your original quote from Jim Wallis was more than enough for me.

  • Vicki B.

    Kshep – how do you define “religious moderate”? Is a religious moderate a fundamentalist who happens to be nice and inoffensive? Or do you also include religious liberals in that category? I don’t think Robertson counts many of the latter among his supporters.

    Do you think Barack Obama is a religious moderate? Do you think he sends checks to Pat Robertson or would stick up for him?

    As for people making $$$ saying offensive, bigoted, reactionary and inflammatory things on TV, is this solely a religious phenomenon? Why is Rush Limbaugh still on the air? Why haven’t we impeached Bush? Why isn’t there massive civil disobedience and resistance to this sorry excuse for a government?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    For a bunch that claims to have high standards for logical and empirical proof, y’all seem willing to accept Harris’ claim that “religious moderates (whatever the heck that means) shelter religous extremists and are just as dangerous” w/o any evidence whatsoever.

    Well, allow me to speak up and say I disagree with that statement from Harris. Religious moderates are not just as dangerous as religious extremists. As you rightly point out, Vicki, they can be allies in the fight. Moreover, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame religious moderates for not speaking up as if not speaking up were enough to damn them already — particularly when some of them do.

    The one major problem I have with religious moderates is when they support the idea that faith is a virtue. I have a problem with that; I think it does enable fundamentalism as well as being false. Aside from that, though, as far as I know religious moderates are no more negligent in speaking up than atheists.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    For a bunch that claims to have high standards for logical and empirical proof, y’all seem willing to accept Harris’ claim that “religious moderates (whatever the heck that means) shelter religous extremists and are just as dangerous” w/o any evidence whatsoever.

    Well, allow me to speak up and say I disagree with that statement from Harris. Religious moderates are not just as dangerous as religious extremists. As you rightly point out, Vicki, they can be allies in the fight. Moreover, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame religious moderates for not speaking up as if not speaking up were enough to damn them already — particularly when some of them do.

    The one major problem I have with religious moderates is when they support the idea that faith is a virtue. I have a problem with that; I think it does enable fundamentalism as well as being false. Aside from that, though, as far as I know religious moderates are no more negligent in speaking up than atheists.

  • KShep

    Vicki B,

    I define a moderate as one who believes in god, considers himself religious, but doesn’t necessarily go along with others on hot-button issues like stem-cell research, abortion or gay rights. Someone who prefers to live and let live. I have an aunt and a grandmother who fit this description and who have sent Pat Robertson thousands of dollars over the years. They say things like, “He’s so nice and he does so much good in the world that I can look past the political stuff.”

    Which, of course, just enables Robertson. “Shelters” him, if you will.

    I think you’re starting to veer off-subject here. I have no idea if Obama is a moderate, or if he sticks up for Robertson. Is making money saying bigoted things on TV solely a religious phenomenon? Of course not! Rush Limbaugh is no longer on TV. I have no idea why Bush hasn’t been impeached. I don’t know why there hasn’t been massive civil disobedience.

    But I do feel Harris is on to something, as I said before.

    You didn’t answer my question: Isn’t the fact that the Kansas preacher operates outside the mainstream enough evidence that Harris is on to something?

  • Vicki B.

    OK, will try to stay on topic. (I mentioned Obama because his first job out of college was community organizing for a church and he often talks about his faith. He also has a spot on speech about the role of religion in politics here.)
    As I suspected, our ideas of what a “religious moderate” is are quite different. Your definition is a supporter of Pat Robertson and others of his ilk, who happens to be personally quite nice yet politically naive. Definitely, those supporters are enabling Robertson and are unlikely to be swayed by anything but direct evidence of gross personal misconduct. His calling for the assassination of Chavez or support for war criminials in Liberia is unlikely to make a dent in their support, unfortunately.

    When I hear “religious moderate” I think of believers who belong to denominations Robertson has publicly called “the Antichrist” – Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc as well as left-leaning Catholics. They’re more likely to be politically liberal, but of course Harris has issues with liberals too.

  • KShep

    Well, looks like our flame war has fizzled out.

    And those asbestos undies finally stopped chafing! :^)

    For what it’s worth, I think Harris’ definition is closer to mine, however I don’t have “End of Faith” with me so I can double-check it—I borrowed it when I read it. I feel like I obtained my definition from that book, though, it’s one thing I came away with when I read it.

  • Vicki Baker

    Well, those asbestos undies will still come in handy, I’m sure. The thing is, I think Sam Harris’ definition is inaccurate and unhelpful and obscures the great amount of common ground between atheists and theists who understand the point of the non-establishment clause.
    It’s not true that all “moderates” will always side with the believers over non-believers, either. If I had the choice of attending 2 parties, one thrown by “Cheerleaders for Jesus” and one by “Atheists for Whatever” I would choose the atheist one :)

  • KShep

    A lot of people disagree with Harris. But that’s okay—at least people are talking about it. We need more of that, for sure.

  • OMGF

    Well, looks like our flame war has fizzled out.

    Darn it. I get busy with work for a while and by the time I get back, the flame-war has fizzled out? That’s too bad.

    @Vicki,
    Although the idea of Catholics for Choice seems as absurd as the Log Cabin Republicans, I never said all moderates are apathetic. That there are some moderates who are moral and willing to stand up for others is undeniable. The bulk, it seems, would rather stick to religious lines than do what is right. They would rather vote for a Xian than an atheist, simply because one is Xian. They see no problem with Debbie Schlussel telling all us atheists that we need to shut up when she appears on CNN. They revile at the thought of removing “Under god” from the pledge of allegiance, and applaud when Congress unanimously stands on the Capitol Steps to sing “god Bless America” and emphasize the “god” part. If the Dominionists were to take power, they would be on the chopping block just as much as us atheists, and they don’t even realize it. It’s sad really, because we could be allies in the fight against extremism.

  • Vicki Baker

    Sorry about that OMFG! I wasn’t trying to flame – I thought I was just disagreeing?
    Anyway, this might belong in the other thread but our local paper had a local angle on the death of Falwell that was interesting:

    The Rev. Mel White, a Santa Cruz native, was Falwell’s ghostwriter for his autobiography, but turned on Falwell after coming out as gay…In 2001, when Falwell essentially blamed gays and liberals for the Sept. 11 attacks, White and his partner decided to move into a house across from Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Va. The pair attended Falwell’s services, standing up in protest whenever he would slight gays in his sermons. White called Falwell “the face of homophobia in America”

    Now that takes guts, and persistence (all those sermons!)

  • Vicki Baker

    Sorry about that OMFG! I wasn’t trying to flame – I thought I was just disagreeing?
    Anyway, this might belong in the other thread but our local paper had a local angle on the death of Falwell that was interesting:

    The Rev. Mel White, a Santa Cruz native, was Falwell’s ghostwriter for his autobiography, but turned on Falwell after coming out as gay…In 2001, when Falwell essentially blamed gays and liberals for the Sept. 11 attacks, White and his partner decided to move into a house across from Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Va. The pair attended Falwell’s services, standing up in protest whenever he would slight gays in his sermons. White called Falwell “the face of homophobia in America”

    Now that takes guts, and persistence (all those sermons!)

  • OMGF

    Vicki B,

    Sorry about that OMFG! I wasn’t trying to flame – I thought I was just disagreeing?

    Sorry about what? Flaming? Don’t worry about it, I didn’t consider you to be flaming me at all. I was just making a joke on KShep’s comment.

    And, thanks for the tidbit on Mel White. Good for him!

  • http://www.howtotalkwithconfidence.com/blog Evaine

    Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “This is the real thing, folks. If you ever want to know how people end up becoming atheists, it’s all here – the initial faith, the highs of perfect religious certainty mixed with the low moments of doubt and fear, the slow spread of the cracks of skepticism, the burning desire to believe in the face of growing feelings of disconnection (but even more powerful, the need to know and not just to hope), the search for belonging and the exploration of different belief systems, the gradual but inevitable drift away from faith, the dark moments of anger and terror, the desperation, the breathtaking look over the edge, the step… and then, past what seemed like the point of no return, a universe of bright light, clear air, and the peace of acceptance and the joy of life seen as if everything was made anew.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

  • David Miller

    Very, very interesting stuff here. I am also a born-christian, and personal experience atheist. The real turn for me from religion to real life came after watching the brainwashing YouTube videos of children’s church retreats. Breaking children down, calling them negative names in order to guilt trip them into believing is just plain sad. I also grew up with an abusive father who quoted the Bible whenever it benefitted him the most in any argument, immediately followed by racial slurs.

    Atheism doesn’t have to contain a moral compass, but it certainly doesn’t negate the existance of one. I also don’t advocate that people start sinning as much as possible since they’re “free of religious bonds,” but hey, it’s a dog eat dog world and homo sapiens are FAR from being done evolving. We’re very much still apes, and we show it everyday. 10,000 years of recent evolution is nothing when compared to the 4.6 Billion years the Earth has been here. Let us all just live together and learn from each other until we’re smart enough to do something useful for ourselves.

  • David Miller

    Very, very interesting stuff here. I am also a born-christian, and personal experience atheist. The real turn for me from religion to real life came after watching the brainwashing YouTube videos of children’s church retreats. Breaking children down, calling them negative names in order to guilt trip them into believing is just plain sad. I also grew up with an abusive father who quoted the Bible whenever it benefitted him the most in any argument, immediately followed by racial slurs.

    Atheism doesn’t have to contain a moral compass, but it certainly doesn’t negate the existance of one. I also don’t advocate that people start sinning as much as possible since they’re “free of religious bonds,” but hey, it’s a dog eat dog world and homo sapiens are FAR from being done evolving. We’re very much still apes, and we show it everyday. 10,000 years of recent evolution is nothing when compared to the 4.6 Billion years the Earth has been here. Let us all just live together and learn from each other until we’re smart enough to do something useful for ourselves.