Not Knowing the Enemy

The Christian site Crosswalk.com has published an article by Tony Beam, director of the “Christian Worldview Center” at North Greenville College in South Carolina. Reporting on a talk given by ex-Watergate felon and current prison minister Charles Colson, Beam discusses what in his eyes are the two greatest threats facing Christians today: fundamentalist Islamic radicals who blow up buildings and kidnap and murder innocent bystanders with the intent of establishing a fascist, patriarchal theocracy… and atheists who write books criticizing Christianity.

I won’t comment on Beam’s denunciations of Islam, other than to note that he echoes many right-wing Christians in calling for a war with Iran. This irresponsible, jingoistic militarism is an outgrowth of evangelical Christianity’s long symbiosis with the Republican party, to the point where the two have become almost indistinguishable. It is bizarre to see such belligerence coming from someone whose religion teaches loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek when provoked.

But, onward. Since Beam claims to be giving his followers a primer on how to deal with atheism, I thought I’d offer some comments:

This new brand of 21st century atheism is much more pervasive and exceedingly more dangerous than any of its earlier manifestations.

Aw, shucks. You’re making me blush here. :)

Neo-atheism goes much farther than the mere denial of God’s existence. It actually calls for the eradication of all forms of Christianity.

Guilty as charged: I do think the world would be a better place if all religious believers, Christians included, gave up their religion; and I do frequently encourage theists to do this. So? What’s so unusual about a person who holds an idea wanting everyone else to share that idea? Doesn’t Beam’s worldview, after all, “call for the eradication of all forms of atheism”? (He’s the director of the Christian Worldview Center; he ought to know.) The only noteworthy thing about this charge is the breathless tone of hysteria in which he phrases it.

One prominent Neo-atheist has gone so far as to suggest that Christian parents should be prohibited by law from passing their religious values down to their children.

In what is rapidly becoming the 21st-century equivalent of the medieval Christian blood libel, Beam repeats the charge that Richard Dawkins wants to ban parents from teaching children about their (the parents’) religion. Shocking! Scandalous! And also completely fictitious. Dawkins has never said or advocated anything of the kind. In fact, he says the opposite: he thinks there should be more comparative religion taught to children, and I agree. When it comes to the indoctrination of children in one religion exclusively, Dawkins does oppose that, as any fair-minded person would, but even here he makes it plain that his opposition is in a moral and not a legal sense. (See also).

They consider the teachings of Jesus Christ to be the moral equivalent of child abuse.

This is a half-truth at best. Atheists certainly do not think that all the teachings attributed to Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible are bad ideas. Some of them, like the idea of having compassion on strangers, are quite good ideas that we should teach and disseminate (although their goodness does not come from the fact that they are found in the Bible; it comes from the fact that they can be defended specifically without reference to the Bible, or to any holy book).

But mixed in with these good ideas are some truly evil ones, and chief among them is the doctrine of Hell: the idea that there exists a pit of eternal suffering where nonbelievers will go after death to be tormented forever, without hope of rest or escape, and that we should fear God because he has the power to consign us to this terrible place. Teaching a child about Hell, I do consider to be emotional child abuse. (Richard Dawkins who relates the story of a former believer who was sexually abused by her priest and who was taught about Hell as a child, which gave her many sleepless nights; she considered the suffering caused by the latter to be worse than the former.) Again, this is not to say that mention of this idea should be legally banned, only that it needs to be criticized so ferociously and so often that any person would be ashamed to defend it.

They believe absolute truth is a myth and objective, fact-based reality is a fairytale told by fools.

For someone who titles his piece “Knowing The Enemy and How We Must Fight”, Beam shows remarkably little knowledge of his enemy. If Tony Beam has any familiarity at all with the “neo-atheists” he decries – people like Richard Dawkins, like Sam Harris, like Christopher Hitchens – then he would know that the statement quoted above is the polar opposite, the total antithesis, of what these people actually believe, say and proclaim. (Perhaps he’d realize this if he stopped calling attention to the motes in atheists’ eyes and started paying attention to the… well, you know the rest.) On the contrary, we atheists believe that there is absolute truth, there is a reality based on objective facts, and that God is not one of these facts. That is the entire basis and foundation of our argument. Through science and reason, we have gained a progressively greater understanding of how our universe operates over the past several centuries, and it has become increasingly clear that we live in a natural cosmos with no evidence of any supernatural, miraculous or magical intervention. That is what we have been saying since the beginning.

Put simply, Beam is completely and flagrantly wrong about what atheists actually believe. His argument displays a basic and pervasive ignorance of his subject. To get Christianity as wrong as he has gotten atheism, I’d have to ask Christians why they believe that Jesus was the only son of God when they readily concede that his teachings were superceded by the far superior teachings of Mohammed.

Beam is not the only one who has made such misleading statements. The more one reads Christian literature, the more inescapable it becomes that the overwhelming majority of attacks on atheism are based on glaring, blatant falsehoods about who atheists are and what we want. When Christian apologists are faced with a nonbeliever who does not conform to their cartoonish, black-and-white stereotypes about what nonbelievers believe and say, too often they ignore the person’s actual position and choose instead to repeat the stereotype. In a way, this is flattering; it is a clear concession that they are unprepared to deal with the position we actually hold. But it is also infuriating to think of the believing masses who will take Beam’s falsehoods as gospel truth and form their impressions of atheists based on lies. I more than strongly suspect that most of the disdain and disapproval of atheists repeatedly found by pollsters comes not from the actual positions of atheists, but from slanderous falsehoods like this spread by religious demagogues.

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.

  • Alex Weaver

    Also: theists in general, and Christians in particular, will you (plural) pretty please stop making the stupid, obnoxious assertion, especially when it’s been repeatedly refuted by the object of the assertion, that atheists in general, or your opponents in particular, reject all religious ideas a priori?

  • Alex Weaver

    Also: theists in general, and Christians in particular, will you (plural) pretty please stop making the stupid, obnoxious assertion, especially when it’s been repeatedly refuted by the object of the assertion, that atheists in general, or your opponents in particular, reject all religious ideas a priori?

  • http://combackpluto.blogspot.com Marc F.

    Christian hatred (is that an oxymoron?) is becoming increasingly frightening. It’s time for closet atheists to step out and voice themselves. The world will continue to plummet into shambles if religious bigots aren’t stopped.

  • http://combackpluto.blogspot.com Marc F.

    Christian hatred (is that an oxymoron?) is becoming increasingly frightening. It’s time for closet atheists to step out and voice themselves. The world will continue to plummet into shambles if religious bigots aren’t stopped.

  • http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/ The Anonymous Atheist

    Ah, another one. The scary thing is, people do listen to crap like that. I fear that we’re rolling toward a Christian theocracy. I’ve recently posted about that myself, particularly about the stem cell debate and how governing from the pulpit is affecting that. Feel free to check it out if you want. I’m not here to publicize though.

    I have never known an atheist I didn’t like. And, believe it or not, I liked them before I knew they were atheist. In general, atheists are more moral than Christians. At least an atheist’s moral code is their own personal moral code and not one that was handed to them. The lack of morals is easily the most tossed around accusation I’ve seen.

    But the absolute fact comment… that takes the cake as the dumbest ever.

  • http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/ The Anonymous Atheist

    Ah, another one. The scary thing is, people do listen to crap like that. I fear that we’re rolling toward a Christian theocracy. I’ve recently posted about that myself, particularly about the stem cell debate and how governing from the pulpit is affecting that. Feel free to check it out if you want. I’m not here to publicize though.

    I have never known an atheist I didn’t like. And, believe it or not, I liked them before I knew they were atheist. In general, atheists are more moral than Christians. At least an atheist’s moral code is their own personal moral code and not one that was handed to them. The lack of morals is easily the most tossed around accusation I’ve seen.

    But the absolute fact comment… that takes the cake as the dumbest ever.

  • Alex Weaver

    But the absolute fact comment… that takes the cake as the dumbest ever.

    I’m pretty sure “There is no evidence for evolution, just a bunch of bones!” (one of my vivid memories from email debates) trumps it.

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

    My personal favorite is the Christian correspondent who e-mailed me the following gem of wisdom: “Basing your life on reason is to me very limiting, because you can only reason with the knowledge you have.”

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    *laughs*

    Okay, this discussion looks set to become very amusing. I wish I could add my own funny stories, but I seem to forget the silly statements on grounds that they don’t require further thought to refute — oh, wait! There’s always the entirely serious statement “You shouldn’t say that. You have to respect my beliefs” in the middle of a discussion where she’d been criticising my beliefs quite freely. But she and I were both children, then. I always used to get quite annoyed that my atheistic beliefs didn’t seem to be worthy of the same ‘respect’ as everybody else’s!

  • http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/ The Anonymous Atheist

    Since we’re now sharing stories, here’s a conversation I had with many different people.

    Me: I’m an atheist.
    Them: What’s that mean?
    Me: I don’t believe in God.
    Them: You worship Satan?!
    Me: I can’t worship Satan! I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in Satan, I reject the entire mythology.
    Them: I can’t hang out with you anymore if you don’t worship God.

    Sad isn’t it? Bible Belt… it happens more than you’d think

  • http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/ The Anonymous Atheist

    Since we’re now sharing stories, here’s a conversation I had with many different people.

    Me: I’m an atheist.
    Them: What’s that mean?
    Me: I don’t believe in God.
    Them: You worship Satan?!
    Me: I can’t worship Satan! I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in Satan, I reject the entire mythology.
    Them: I can’t hang out with you anymore if you don’t worship God.

    Sad isn’t it? Bible Belt… it happens more than you’d think

  • Harvard

    Hello Everyone—

    Below is an article written by Preston Manning, a Canadian right wing politician who ran for Prime Minister as few years ago, but lost. Since Dawkins is touring Canada at this time, Manning feels he must attack him, comparing atheists to inquisitors. Here we go —-

    From The Toronto Globe and Mail, Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    OPEN LETTER TO PROF. RICHARD DAWKINS

    AN INQUISITION IN SCIENCE’S NAME
    Preston Manning imagines what one 17th-century cardinal would tell an eminent atheist

    Dear Prof. Dawkins:
    I am writing to you as one who was once as convinced as you are that I understood the nature of reality and how it was best interpreted. Like you, I also regarded those who embraced alternative conceptions of reality as dangerously deluded, and did everything in my power to prevent their further propagation.
    Unfortunately, in pursuing this course of action, my colleagues and I made a grievous mistake — a mistake that, in the end, seriously discredited ourselves, our conception of reality and the organizations through which we advanced and defended it.
    I am writing this letter in the sincere hope of dissuading you, the author of The God Delusion, and your colleagues – scientists and atheists, as I believe you describe yourselves – from repeating our mistake and thereby inadvertently discrediting the methods and institutions of science.
    My name Is Robert Bellarmine. I was born in Tuscany in 1542 and joined the Jesuit order in 1560. Like you, I became a professor at a leading university. I specialized in theology, then considered “the queen of sciences,” much like biology is becoming the queen of sciences in your century. Eventually, I was summoned to Rome by the Pope and made a cardinal and archbishop.
    The conception of reality to which I, along with the most highly educated people of our time, subscribed was that revealed by faith and scripture as interpreted by the Holy Catholic Church. We regarded our definition and interpretation of truth as a sacred trust that we were obliged to promote and defend. But notwithstanding our control of higher education, our authority was increasingly challenged by those who claimed there were alternative routes to truth.
    Like you, we at first regarded the proponents of these views as deluded, and sought to counteract their influence by teaching and persuasion. It was at this point, however, we made our great mistake.
    When these delusions continued to spread in number and variety, we felt obliged to take harsher measures. We labeled the deviants “heretics.” We established the Office of the Inquisition to hunt them down and expose the fraudulence of their claims, and to sentence them to the most extreme penalties if they refused to recant. We burned their books and then we burned the heretics themselves.
    With the passage of time, we no longer confined our pursuit of heresy to the obviously ignorant and deluded. We extended it far and wide – I myself even became involved in the trial for heresy of the eminent astronomer Galileo Galilei.
    What was our great mistake? It was to assume that we the church had an absolute monopoly on how truth was to be defined, discovered, and interpreted; to ignore the teaching of the great apostle of our own faith that at best, “we see through a glass darkly” and can only “know in part, and prophesy In part”; to believe that we had the right, not simply to fight perceived error through teaching and persuasion, but also to curtail and deny the freedom and liberties of those whose experience and perceptions differed from our own.
    I realize, of course, that you – as a professor and educator – would never personally participate in the suppression of the rights and freedoms of those whom you regard as deluded on these matters, and would rather seek to turn them from the error of their ways by persuasion and education.
    But it seems to me that some of your more zealous colleagues and disciples may be less tolerant and prudent than yourself. For example, does not Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith) display disturbing signs of the inquisitorial temperament that would deny freedom of conscience and expression to those whose positions cannot be scientifically tested and validated?
    A modem inquisition conducted In the name of science to root out what you call “the mind virus of religion” would naturally have access to much more subtle and sophisticated technologies than were available to us. Whereas we employed fire (literally), you have access to firewalls and anti-virus software that conceivably could relegate most correspondence and written communications infected with the God virus to the cultural trash bin. I worry, however, that, once unleashed, the inquisitional temperament will go too far and end up discrediting the very truths and institutions it purports to defend.
    And when you suggest “maybe some children need to be protected from [religious] indoctrination by their own parents,” I worry you may be straying down the same authoritarian path we once trod.
    In Canada, for example, where you are lecturing this week, the most spiritual members of the population are aboriginal peoples. Many profess to believe something “spiritual” resides not only in every human but also in animals, rocks, and trees – by your lights, an unscientific notion.
    But to suggest their children should be away from them and re-educated in some sort of scientific residential schools would be to make a grievous mistake – exactly the same mistake we once made.
    I conclude by suggesting that the proponents of faith and the proponents of science should agree on at least one vital point: The rights of human beings to freedom of conscience and expression should never again nor in the future be abrogated In the name of either faith or science. Do you agree?
    Yours respectfully,
    Robert Bellarmine

    Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) became a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 1599 and an archbishop in 1602.
    Preston Manning Is president and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

  • Harvard

    Hello Everyone—

    Below is an article written by Preston Manning, a Canadian right wing politician who ran for Prime Minister as few years ago, but lost. Since Dawkins is touring Canada at this time, Manning feels he must attack him, comparing atheists to inquisitors. Here we go —-

    From The Toronto Globe and Mail, Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    OPEN LETTER TO PROF. RICHARD DAWKINS

    AN INQUISITION IN SCIENCE’S NAME
    Preston Manning imagines what one 17th-century cardinal would tell an eminent atheist

    Dear Prof. Dawkins:
    I am writing to you as one who was once as convinced as you are that I understood the nature of reality and how it was best interpreted. Like you, I also regarded those who embraced alternative conceptions of reality as dangerously deluded, and did everything in my power to prevent their further propagation.
    Unfortunately, in pursuing this course of action, my colleagues and I made a grievous mistake — a mistake that, in the end, seriously discredited ourselves, our conception of reality and the organizations through which we advanced and defended it.
    I am writing this letter in the sincere hope of dissuading you, the author of The God Delusion, and your colleagues – scientists and atheists, as I believe you describe yourselves – from repeating our mistake and thereby inadvertently discrediting the methods and institutions of science.
    My name Is Robert Bellarmine. I was born in Tuscany in 1542 and joined the Jesuit order in 1560. Like you, I became a professor at a leading university. I specialized in theology, then considered “the queen of sciences,” much like biology is becoming the queen of sciences in your century. Eventually, I was summoned to Rome by the Pope and made a cardinal and archbishop.
    The conception of reality to which I, along with the most highly educated people of our time, subscribed was that revealed by faith and scripture as interpreted by the Holy Catholic Church. We regarded our definition and interpretation of truth as a sacred trust that we were obliged to promote and defend. But notwithstanding our control of higher education, our authority was increasingly challenged by those who claimed there were alternative routes to truth.
    Like you, we at first regarded the proponents of these views as deluded, and sought to counteract their influence by teaching and persuasion. It was at this point, however, we made our great mistake.
    When these delusions continued to spread in number and variety, we felt obliged to take harsher measures. We labeled the deviants “heretics.” We established the Office of the Inquisition to hunt them down and expose the fraudulence of their claims, and to sentence them to the most extreme penalties if they refused to recant. We burned their books and then we burned the heretics themselves.
    With the passage of time, we no longer confined our pursuit of heresy to the obviously ignorant and deluded. We extended it far and wide – I myself even became involved in the trial for heresy of the eminent astronomer Galileo Galilei.
    What was our great mistake? It was to assume that we the church had an absolute monopoly on how truth was to be defined, discovered, and interpreted; to ignore the teaching of the great apostle of our own faith that at best, “we see through a glass darkly” and can only “know in part, and prophesy In part”; to believe that we had the right, not simply to fight perceived error through teaching and persuasion, but also to curtail and deny the freedom and liberties of those whose experience and perceptions differed from our own.
    I realize, of course, that you – as a professor and educator – would never personally participate in the suppression of the rights and freedoms of those whom you regard as deluded on these matters, and would rather seek to turn them from the error of their ways by persuasion and education.
    But it seems to me that some of your more zealous colleagues and disciples may be less tolerant and prudent than yourself. For example, does not Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith) display disturbing signs of the inquisitorial temperament that would deny freedom of conscience and expression to those whose positions cannot be scientifically tested and validated?
    A modem inquisition conducted In the name of science to root out what you call “the mind virus of religion” would naturally have access to much more subtle and sophisticated technologies than were available to us. Whereas we employed fire (literally), you have access to firewalls and anti-virus software that conceivably could relegate most correspondence and written communications infected with the God virus to the cultural trash bin. I worry, however, that, once unleashed, the inquisitional temperament will go too far and end up discrediting the very truths and institutions it purports to defend.
    And when you suggest “maybe some children need to be protected from [religious] indoctrination by their own parents,” I worry you may be straying down the same authoritarian path we once trod.
    In Canada, for example, where you are lecturing this week, the most spiritual members of the population are aboriginal peoples. Many profess to believe something “spiritual” resides not only in every human but also in animals, rocks, and trees – by your lights, an unscientific notion.
    But to suggest their children should be away from them and re-educated in some sort of scientific residential schools would be to make a grievous mistake – exactly the same mistake we once made.
    I conclude by suggesting that the proponents of faith and the proponents of science should agree on at least one vital point: The rights of human beings to freedom of conscience and expression should never again nor in the future be abrogated In the name of either faith or science. Do you agree?
    Yours respectfully,
    Robert Bellarmine

    Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) became a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 1599 and an archbishop in 1602.
    Preston Manning Is president and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

  • James Bradbury

    “Basing your life on reason is to me very limiting, because you can only reason with the knowledge you have.”

    Whereas if you’re religious you can make things up.

  • valhar2000

    I am not sure you guys will agree, but I think that the silliest excuse for religion (and other forms of woo) I have ever heard is “There has to be more to it than this!”, usually said in a tone of mild despair.

    It just somehow strikes me as particularly silly to say that the universe must be a certain way just because the opposite would make someone sad…

    Harvard: That article was horrifying! Why do the most incompetent elements of society keep getting access to governmental power? See, that’s one thing that makes me sad, but I don’t go bout the place saying that it therefore must be false.

  • Will E.

    I utterly despise people who say, “There has to be more than this!” I don’t think it’s silly; I think it’s arrogant, pathetic and desperately ignorant and short-sighted.

    “More than what?” is the only correct answer. More than our children, our loved ones, our meaningfulwork? More than the technological achievements we’ve made as a species? More than the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, or a simple sunset over the ocean? More than the Milky Way or the spiral galaxy M81? More than Shakespeare and Mozart? Or the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

    Fuck those people.

  • Will E.

    I utterly despise people who say, “There has to be more than this!” I don’t think it’s silly; I think it’s arrogant, pathetic and desperately ignorant and short-sighted.

    “More than what?” is the only correct answer. More than our children, our loved ones, our meaningfulwork? More than the technological achievements we’ve made as a species? More than the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, or a simple sunset over the ocean? More than the Milky Way or the spiral galaxy M81? More than Shakespeare and Mozart? Or the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

    Fuck those people.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Well, I’m not sure this fits better under the “Idiotic” category or the “Frightening” category, but here goes:

    Infophile: So, if someone convinced you the Bible weren’t true, you’d abandon your morals and go on a murderous rampage? …Excuse me if I’ve lost the urge to argue with you; I suddenly don’t want to win.

    Weapon of Mass Instruction: Actually, I would answer yes. The Bible would not be the best selling book for all these years because (as you would like to think) people are stupid.

    I have yet to see “The Origen of Species” (sic) on the best seller.

    At this point I promptly abandoned the thread.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Well, I’m not sure this fits better under the “Idiotic” category or the “Frightening” category, but here goes:

    Infophile: So, if someone convinced you the Bible weren’t true, you’d abandon your morals and go on a murderous rampage? …Excuse me if I’ve lost the urge to argue with you; I suddenly don’t want to win.

    Weapon of Mass Instruction: Actually, I would answer yes. The Bible would not be the best selling book for all these years because (as you would like to think) people are stupid.

    I have yet to see “The Origen of Species” (sic) on the best seller.

    At this point I promptly abandoned the thread.

  • anti-nonsense

    @infophile: scary isn’t it? some of these people have never learned how to police their own morals and they NEED to believe that there is an invisible security camera in the sky watching their every move in order to behave themselves.

  • OhioAtheist

    That last quote is shockingly stupid. Rationalist atheists are the strongest defenders of “objective, fact-based reality.” The whole situation is made supremely ironic because it is the evangelical Christians who are willing to deny reality when they decide they don’t like it. See “Atheism means there is no morality or meaning to life” (a blatant argument from consequences, and false besides) and the various ways by which they twist, selectively manipulate, and sometimes simply fabricate evidence to push creationism.

    What’s sad is that this article will be read and taken as the gospel truth by thousands, which is all the more reason for us to be forceful in criticizing these ludicrous dogmas.

  • OhioAtheist

    That last quote is shockingly stupid. Rationalist atheists are the strongest defenders of “objective, fact-based reality.” The whole situation is made supremely ironic because it is the evangelical Christians who are willing to deny reality when they decide they don’t like it. See “Atheism means there is no morality or meaning to life” (a blatant argument from consequences, and false besides) and the various ways by which they twist, selectively manipulate, and sometimes simply fabricate evidence to push creationism.

    What’s sad is that this article will be read and taken as the gospel truth by thousands, which is all the more reason for us to be forceful in criticizing these ludicrous dogmas.

  • OMGF

    @Marc F,

    Christian hatred (is that an oxymoron?)

    No, it is not. Xianity is all about hatred.

    @Preston Manning,
    What a twit. I can’t believe this guy is actually saying, “Don’t be as bad as us Xians!” He also trends into relativistic waters in the process. What a moron.

  • Polly

    @infophile:

    *thunderous sound of hand meeting forehead at high velocity*

    Naturally, when I deconverted, I couldn’t wait to get started on my multi-state killing spree.

    They believe absolute truth is a myth and objective, fact-based reality is a fairytale told by fools

    Words can’t expres how much I hate HATE HATE the accusation that atheists “create their own reality.”
    Yeah, we should just stop fooling with science and get down to the real business at hand – casting out demons and petitioning invisible beings for help with our personal problems.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I love that letter about why Atheists are like Inquistiors. I can see how we are, minus a few key pieces of info:
    1) We have evidence for thinking the way we do, unlike religion which has none
    2) We never engaged in mass killings against those who don’t think like we do

    Outside of those two things, I can see just how Athetist are like Inquistors. After all, we are both people, and we both think stuff.
    Clearly the same.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I love that letter about why Atheists are like Inquistiors. I can see how we are, minus a few key pieces of info:
    1) We have evidence for thinking the way we do, unlike religion which has none
    2) We never engaged in mass killings against those who don’t think like we do

    Outside of those two things, I can see just how Athetist are like Inquistors. After all, we are both people, and we both think stuff.
    Clearly the same.

  • Harvard

    Hello All!
    I wrote a letter to the editor of the Globe re the Manning article. They didn’t print it, but I make it a point now to try to respond to all articles in the newspaper that give religion a forum – and there are more and more all the time. I really see our atheist surge making people very nervous.
    .
    When Manning called theology “the queen of sciences,” he was not factual, for theology is not a science; it is a body of opinions concerning ancient superstitions.
    In addition, he said religion is “an alternate route to truth.” Again, he failed to embrace fact, since truth is something that can be objectively verified, something that has a demonstrable existence. Unfortunately, religion is based on worshipping an invisible phantasm that no one in thousands of years has been able to verify objectively.
    But his worst error concerns referring to the Inquisition in his attempt to defend religious dogma. Oops! You won’t influence people by reminding them that religion is capable of torture and murder in a god’s name.
    .
    Thank you, valhar2000, OMGF and Mrnaglfar, for your comments.
    .

  • OMGF

    No problem Harvard, and thank you for writing that letter. I think it is important to respond to those kinds of article too. I’ve written a few myself to the WaPo (which I used to get everyday when I lived there) and even got one published (one out of about 10 or so.)

  • OMGF

    No problem Harvard, and thank you for writing that letter. I think it is important to respond to those kinds of article too. I’ve written a few myself to the WaPo (which I used to get everyday when I lived there) and even got one published (one out of about 10 or so.)

  • LD Reynolds

    Just a comment on the resistance of the media to express the atheist view. For anyone who believes there is no censorship in the American media I say wake the hell up.

    Speaking from my own experience: I did a morning show on a local station here in Hawaii back in the 90′s until I took a stance in favor of same-sex marriage. At the time there was a vote coming up to amend the State Constitution making it legal. In a nutshell, after “certain advertisers” threatened to pull their advertising, I was given a choice to either shut up or hit the road. I chose to hit the road. I love my profession and over the years I’ve had to make “adjustments” to be able to continue to practice it. This is NOT what I signed up for…

    As long as Christian-owned businesses hold major ad contracts with radio, TV and the print media I think you’re going to see this type of censorship continue- especially in the local and regional markets. I can understand how this could happen in the bible belt region, but Hawaii has always been a more progressive State. I am still scratching my head on that one. Now you know why most folks get their news from Comedy Central!

  • terrence

    RE: CARDINAL BELLARMINE

    Hope I ain’t too late….but wasn’t it Card. Bellarmine who said:

    “To believe that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to believe that Christ was not born of a virgin.”

  • terrence

    RE: CARDINAL BELLARMINE

    Hope I ain’t too late….but wasn’t it Card. Bellarmine who said:

    “To believe that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to believe that Christ was not born of a virgin.”

  • xhtml

    Actually, you have taken this article out of context. If you listened to the program the day before there was talk of a remark Dawkins *did* make, and later tried to back pedal from it.

    In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argued that religious belief is delusional. He mocks the irrationality of believing in something that you cannot subject to scientific scrutiny; he rails against the so-called “immorality” of the Bible, like the sanctioning of slavery—untrue—and the alleged way that religion, especially Christianity, stands in the way of scientific progress—also untrue.

    Dawkins makes a really gutsy, yet stupid, ascertion that religious belief is a kind of child abuse. By “child abuse” Dawkins is not referring to the scandals involving sexual misconduct by Catholic priests. He means that teaching a child about Christianity can damage them psychologically and emotionally. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t demonstrate it using logic or reason, he goes further by saying that however “odious” sexual abuse is, he “suspect[s] that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.”

    Now Dawkins is the king of the straw man arguement, but he is also a man of contradiction…but hey, we’re all hypocrits right? Dawkins’s accusations of child abuse are so absurd that it is hard to take them seriously. But someone will, so it is important to correct the record. According to Dawkins, the “mental abuse” is the result of of teaching children that nonbelievers will spend eternity in Hell. Dawkins calls this doctrine “an extreme threat of violence and pain” and “mental terrorism,” but of course doesn’t demonstrate how and why it is abuse in the first place. He then rhetorically asks, “If you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical child abuse, why should you not sue for the long-term mental damage caused by mental child abuse?”

    Ok, let’s assume that his arguement is not simply invalid to begin with, what does he believe? Christianity teaches that there is a Hell and that the unrepentant wicked will spend eternity there. But it also teaches that through His death and resurrection, Jesus freed those who believe in Him from that fate. To leave Jesus’ saving work out of any discussion of Hell is a distortion of Christian teaching. So it has a message of hope, whether you believe it or not does not matter, and whatever your personal bias maybe is irrelevant in this discussion. It is, however, unfair to criticize Christianity for its teachings on the afterlife without discussing the atheistic alternative presumably preferred by Dawkins and the other “new Atheists”: that is, when we die, we become worm food, and the universe soon forgets that we ever existed. The idea that there is nothing beyond the grave is the stuff of countless anxieties. So a message of hope is abuse, but a message of purposelessness is ok?

    Let’s not forget that Dawkins leaves out what else religion teaches, but that would not suit the agenda of his book. Sociologist studied the impact of religious practice on American teenagers. They found kids who were described as “devoted” or “regular” participants in religious activities did better than their un-churched counterparts. They did better at school; they were more active in the community; and, contrary to what Dawkins says, they scored higher on measures of “emotional well-being.”

    That means that in this case, Dawkins ascertion would be wrong. That is what Dr. Beam was commenting on. I would rather you keep on topic about the article, other than use this as a personal ranting platform of your incorrect assumptions, personal biases, and your own personal disagreements. If God is fake, then Christians should be pitied because they are throwing their lives away over a day dream. Surely a flight of fancy should not be able to draw the vitriolic response I read above. Santa Clause, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and other fairy tales never conjure such an emotional response.

    You hate the accusation that atheist create their own reality, yet you turn around and accuse religious people doing the same thing? Then claim that atheism has proof for the basis of its belief? Wow, that is quite a claim, and apprently one you didn’t bother to back up, and I will venture to guess that the “proof” you cite is not abundantly clear, and religious people believe the same way you do, but you both can’t be right.

    Atheism does have a general outline of certain beliefs, that may or may not be embraced by all atheist:

    1.) Matter is all that exists. There is no God/deity/uncaused cause/supreme being/creator.

    2.) The cosmos exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.

    3.) Human beings are complex “machines”; personality is an interrelation of chemical and physical properties we do not yet fully understand.

    4.) Death is extinction of personality and individuality. There is no afterlife.

    5.) History is a linear stream of events linked by cause and effect but without an overarching purpose.

    It persists because it gives the impression of being honest and objective, asking one only to accept what appears to be based on facts and on the assured results of scientific investigation or scholarship. It appears to be coherent to a vast number of people, and the implications of atheisms premises are worked out and acceptable. Human beings are the makers of value, which is a delusion as human existence is an accident. It assumes that there is no god, no spirit, no life beyond the grave. It disallows us to be the center of the universe but it allows humans to place themselves there, to make of themselves and for themselves, something of value. It gives you the power. That is why it is psychologically and emotionally appealing.

    I find it interesting that a race, here by accident with no value or purpose, is constantly seeking it. Now many of you will immediately write me off as a “Christian nut,” but really I do not care. Just be careful the next time you want to criticize someone when you do not have the full story or context. We all base our worldview or beliefs upon assumptions, and we all accept the premises on faith, atheists included. We also all believe ourselves to have good, rational, logical, and factual reasons for our beliefs, and we all belief we have proof and support for our beliefs. I hope I have cleared up whatever misunderstandings here.

  • Friday

    “Wow, that is quite a claim, and apprently one you didn’t bother to back up”

    This fellow needs to understand the difference between a positive claim and a negative one.

    If I say you ARE a murderer – do I need to provide evidence of this? Indeed the evidence of this claim needs to be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
    If you say you are NOT a murderer – do you need to provide evidence? Not by any standard that would be deemed fair and reasonable.

    So a theist says there is a God – the burden of proof is on them to convince others as to the veracity of the claim.
    An atheist says there is no God – because the burden of proof has not been met.

    “It persists because it gives the impression of being honest and objective, asking one only to accept what appears to be based on facts and on the assured results of scientific investigation or scholarship.”

    This is more than just an impression, and leaves out a crucial point – fallibility. When new facts about the world we live in are uncovered, the scientific consensus can shift. New theories replace old ones, new experiments and approaches give us greater understanding of our world and can sometimes radically alter the way we perceive it.

    Compare this to the claims of infallibility put forward by religion. There is no God but God, and there are explicit statements threatening death and violence against all those who would claim otherwise.

    “that is, when we die, we become worm food, and the universe soon forgets that we ever existed. The idea that there is nothing beyond the grave is the stuff of countless anxieties. So a message of hope is abuse, but a message of purposelessness is ok?”

    When we die? What about that annoying little speck of time between birth and death? No mention of that (this being part of the atheist argument – that it is THIS LIFE that matters).
    Afterlife – an argument used by religious despots over the millena, that life’s a bitch and then you die – but hey after that its all good!

    What purpose is served in going to heaven/hell? Does Gabriel tell you at the Pearly Gates to ‘get a job’? What is Heaven/Hell other than a fantasy version of a Retirement Home/Fat Camp – oh right that is part of ‘Gods Purpose’ we are not meant to know.

  • OMGF

    Sorry xhtml, but you haven’t cleared up much, at least for me you haven’t. You’re accusing Dawkins of straw men and contradiction, but you haven’t given an example of such. In the meantime, you presented quite a few strawmen yourself. For example, your list of what atheists believe is simply straw, as is your assertion that atheism is a message of purposelessness. It seems that you should heed your own advice.

    Your main complaint, however, seems to be that you feel Dawkins gives short shrift to salvation through Jesus Christ, am I correct? I’m not sure why this is a sticking point, however. Xianity still holds to the doctrine of hell, and that is still a rather unpleasant thing to pollute a child’s mind with. Hell is a threat. god is threatening us. If we don’t do as god says, he will send us to hell. This is mental abuse, no matter how you slice it, even if god turns around and says that he will reward us for following him. If we were to look at a real world example, it would be like a tyrant. Take Saddam Hussein for instance. He rewarded those who were loyal to him, but he punished severely those who were against him. Do we consider Saddam a good person because he was good to his friends? Of course not. So, why would we do the opposite for god? There’s even more to the story, like the fact that god made us sinful by nature, so he is punishing us for being the way he made us, etc, but I don’t think we need to go into that in great detail to get the gist of what’s going on here.

    Finally, to clear up something, why do you think that atheism = purposelessness? We are rational beings quite able to make a purpose for our own lives and live it. Knowing that this is all we have makes us treasure our time here on Earth and live life to its fullest. Conversely, the thought of having an afterlife cheapens the life we have. In fact, if I thought I were going to heaven, I would want to die. And, why shouldn’t I? If heaven is so great, then why should I be here on Earth in a substandard environment? Why should god continually test me instead of letting me be with him, especially if he supposedly loves me?

    Also, atheists generally do not hold that there is no god. Atheists generally hold that there is no evidence for a god and no rational reason to believe that such an entity exists. Hopefully you understand the difference.

  • OMGF

    Sorry xhtml, but you haven’t cleared up much, at least for me you haven’t. You’re accusing Dawkins of straw men and contradiction, but you haven’t given an example of such. In the meantime, you presented quite a few strawmen yourself. For example, your list of what atheists believe is simply straw, as is your assertion that atheism is a message of purposelessness. It seems that you should heed your own advice.

    Your main complaint, however, seems to be that you feel Dawkins gives short shrift to salvation through Jesus Christ, am I correct? I’m not sure why this is a sticking point, however. Xianity still holds to the doctrine of hell, and that is still a rather unpleasant thing to pollute a child’s mind with. Hell is a threat. god is threatening us. If we don’t do as god says, he will send us to hell. This is mental abuse, no matter how you slice it, even if god turns around and says that he will reward us for following him. If we were to look at a real world example, it would be like a tyrant. Take Saddam Hussein for instance. He rewarded those who were loyal to him, but he punished severely those who were against him. Do we consider Saddam a good person because he was good to his friends? Of course not. So, why would we do the opposite for god? There’s even more to the story, like the fact that god made us sinful by nature, so he is punishing us for being the way he made us, etc, but I don’t think we need to go into that in great detail to get the gist of what’s going on here.

    Finally, to clear up something, why do you think that atheism = purposelessness? We are rational beings quite able to make a purpose for our own lives and live it. Knowing that this is all we have makes us treasure our time here on Earth and live life to its fullest. Conversely, the thought of having an afterlife cheapens the life we have. In fact, if I thought I were going to heaven, I would want to die. And, why shouldn’t I? If heaven is so great, then why should I be here on Earth in a substandard environment? Why should god continually test me instead of letting me be with him, especially if he supposedly loves me?

    Also, atheists generally do not hold that there is no god. Atheists generally hold that there is no evidence for a god and no rational reason to believe that such an entity exists. Hopefully you understand the difference.

  • Tomas S

    Oooh, I see another thread has been brought to the surface by recent comments. I have a few thoughts on this. Quotes are from various entries above.

    Beam repeats the charge that Richard Dawkins wants to ban parents from teaching children about their (the parents’) religion. Shocking! Scandalous! And also completely fictitious.

    I don’t know that we can say it’s completely fictitious. After all, in The God Delusion, he does seem to be saying that it’s better to be fondled by priest than indoctrinated by one (p317/318). In a footnote about “focus on your own damn family, he says that “maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents.” In chapter 9, he quotes Nicholas Humphrey who said that parents should “not be allowed” to teach the literal truth of the Bible, just as they’re not allowed to knock their children’s teeth out.

    I think the only leap of fiction here is Beam’s use of the words “by law”, but even that’s a small leap to make, especially when you consider the source. Dawkins does indeed say that his (and especially Humphrey’s) comments in chapter nine need to be qualified, but what are we to conclude? Are Dawkin’s statements, as Ebon asserts, moral and not legal in nature. What is the difference in practice? If it’s only moral, should we conclude that Dawkins believes anti-fondling laws are unnecessary? If only the disclaimers Ebon linked to focused more on these actual statements by Dawkins and not some petition I don’t care about.

    They believe absolute truth is a myth and objective, fact-based reality is a fairytale told by fools.

    I believe Ebon misunderstood Beam here. If the Bible and the story of Jesus is understood by Beam to be both “absolute truth” and “fact-based reality”, then we do indeed believe that it is a myth and a fairytale, although I personally would stop short of “told by fools.” Beam is correct here, so the ensuing suggestion that he does not “know his enemy” is misplaced on ths point.

    “Basing your life on reason is to me very limiting, because you can only reason with the knowledge you have.”

    Philosophical paradox:

    The letters “ration” in “rational” mean simply “reason”, thus “rational” means “pertaining to reason.” If someone claims that it’s better to be intuitive than rational, how can you convince him without giving reasons? He could respond that your reasoning is sound, yet his intuition tells him that it’s better to follow his intuition. At that point all you could say is that you have good reasons to be rational.

    My own intution tells me that it’s better to follow reason.

    Sociologist studied the impact of religious practice on American teenagers. They found kids who were described as “devoted” or “regular” participants in religious activities did better than their un-churched counterparts. They did better at school; they were more active in the community; and, contrary to what Dawkins says, they scored higher on measures of “emotional well-being.”

    I would be in your debt if you could provide specifics, so I could look into this. I’ll admit that I’m skeptical. Several questions spring to mind — is this correlation or causality? Do we know whether the “unchurched” in this study are not believers with social problems? Who did the study? What controls were in place? Has it been repeated? Are there similar studies which reach the opposite conclusion?

  • OMGF

    I don’t know that we can say it’s completely fictitious. After all, in The God Delusion, he does seem to be saying that it’s better to be fondled by priest than indoctrinated by one (p317/318). In a footnote about “focus on your own damn family, he says that “maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents.” In chapter 9, he quotes Nicholas Humphrey who said that parents should “not be allowed” to teach the literal truth of the Bible, just as they’re not allowed to knock their children’s teeth out.

    Why am I not surprised that you didn’t get it. What Dawkins is talking about is that he thinks parents should not be allowed to teach their kids known falsehoods, to lie to their kids, because the kids will believe it to their detriment. He also objects to the psychological torture of telling kids that they are evil and going to hell. And, BTW, he also objects to labeling kids as Xian, Muslim, atheist, whatever, until they are old enough to make up their own minds.

  • Jim Baerg

    I think a good case could be made for not allowing parents or guardians to teach *only* one religion to a child. ‘Religious education’ should be about a sampling of widely different religions of the world, including a few of the extinct religions & the views of those who think any religion is an error.

  • Tomas S

    Jim,

    The question which needs to be asked now is whether the enforcement of the word “should” in your comment should be by force of law or merely by force of the parents own good conscience. That’s the point in contention.

    For the record, I’m starting to agree with this “good case which could be made” – although, again, the question is whether this should be enforced by law.

  • Jim Baerg

    The phrase “not allowing” implies using the force of law. Confining a child’s education within the doctrines of one religion seems to be abuse as much as not teaching them the 3 Rs.

  • Tomas S

    So Jim, the question now becomes – what’s the difference between what you said and what Beam said “one prominent Neo-atheist” has said?

    If I may rephrase what I think you’re saying: Christan parents (and others) should be prohibited by law from teaching only one relgion to their children. (You didn’t specify how the law could be enforced – but I presume the only practical way would be compulsary education in comparative religion.)

    To what extent is this the same or different from prohibiting these Christian parents (and others) from “passing their religious values down to their children”? On the surface, I can see how they may be seen as different – since they’d still be allowed to pass on “values” and even teach doctrine. When we consider what Beam might mean by this, and how he might understand my rephrasal of your words, they are not so different after all.

    I speculate: Beam belives the best way to “pass down Christian values” is to teach only views which are compatable with his worldview. If this is so, then from this point of view it is true that Jim Baerg, at least, wants to prevent him by law from doing this, since Jim Baerg wants Beam’s children to be subjected from an impressionable age to views which Beam believes are authored by Satan himself.

    I happen to side more with Jim Baerg in this discussion (and speculation), but we should be clear that it’s possible that Beam really does understand Jim Baerg here, and really does “know his enemy.” If this is not immediately apparent to my fellow atheists here, I suspect it’s because we are guilty of not knowing our own enemy.

  • Jim Baerg

    Yes, I am thinking a course in comparative religion being as required as the 3Rs.

    It’s true that Tony Beam could see my proposal as an attack on his right to pass down Christian Values. A less likely possibility is that he could see it as an opportunity to evangelize the children of people who are not already members of his church, as well as an opportunity for others to evangelize for their views.

    I suppose it depends on how obviously superior he thinks his views are, compared to the other religions all the children would be told about.