Strategically Supporting Religious Charities

Are there any circumstances under which an atheist can support a religious group doing social work, even if doing so may advance a religious message we disagree with?

This is on my mind because of the post I wrote last month about the Foundation Beyond Belief supporting a Quaker charity, and because I just finished reading Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s excellent second book, which serendipitously touches on similar ideas. Nomad is about the closing of the Muslim mind: the way that Islamic immigrants to Western countries often form isolated enclaves, rather than assimilate into their new society and absorb its values. The result is that barbaric practices like honor killing, female genital cutting, and violent jihadism that were once confined to third-world theocracies are appearing in Western countries, rather than immigrants taking up our ideals of tolerance and secularism.

To turn back this tide, Hirsi Ali proposes that the institutions of Western civilization need to make a greater effort to reach out to immigrants. This appeal, to my surprise, includes a section aimed specifically at Christian churches, encouraging them to make greater efforts to proselytize, and urging atheists to support them in this:

I hope my friends Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens… will not be dismayed by the idea of a strategic alliance between secular people and Christians… [p.240]

That is why I think we must also appeal to other, more traditional sources of ideological strength in Western society. And that must include the Christian churches… We should bury the hatchet, rearrange our priorities, and fight together against a much more dangerous common enemy. [p.243]

Even though Hirsi Ali stresses that she intends us to work together with “mainstream, moderate denominations” and not the fundamentalist “freak-show” churches that oppose women’s rights and science, I was taken aback by her argument initially. After all, it runs against the grain of what atheists tend to believe.

Hardly any atheists are willing to aid religious groups that proselytize, and it’s easy to come up with good reasons why. Doing so means that our contributions, directly or indirectly, will be used to advance religious beliefs that we don’t agree with – and history has shown over and over again that churches which accumulate secular power, even the mainstream ones that are allegedly more enlightened and tolerant, tend to use it to restrict the freedom of nonbelievers. In most cases, there are secular competitors that do just as much good without spreading unreason. And even more important, there’s a growing humanist and secular community still establishing itself, one that needs our support to build an infrastructure and could put our aid to worthier use.

All these arguments are good ones, and I think they offer convincing reasons why atheists shouldn’t support religious groups under most ordinary circumstances. But there’s a counterargument that I find more difficult to dismiss.

Although I think atheists should evangelize, we can take it for granted that we’re not going to reach everyone, no matter how vigorous our effort. Becoming an atheist is a big leap, one that a lot of people just aren’t ready to take. There are many who still need the comforts of religious belief, illusory though they are, and won’t even consider our arguments in good faith. Given that this is so, isn’t it better for us if those people join a moderate, liberal faith – one that respects secularism and teaches reasonable moral ideas, one we can easily coexist with – rather than a fundamentalist cult that attacks science, opposes equal rights for women and gays, and fights for theocracy?

This is a similar dilemma to the one that faces American freethinkers in the voting booth. For the most part, open atheists don’t stand a chance of winning elections, which means our choice is usually between a Democrat who panders to religious voters but by and large respects separation of church and state, versus a Republican who courts the religious bigot vote and is an active supporter of theocracy. Given these choices, I believe it’s better to support the religious progressive – even if I have to hold my nose and ignore insipid, god-drenched campaign rhetoric. Admittedly, this boils down to choosing the lesser of two evils. But withholding our votes in protest means only that the fundamentalists and theocrats, who definitely aren’t going to sit an election out, become that much more influential.

That’s why, on balance, I do agree with Hirsi Ali that there are cases where alliance with religious moderates, even evangelical ones, pays strategic dividends. Whether we should underwrite Christian efforts to convert Islamic immigrants, I’m not so sure. But I think it’s worthwhile to, for example, support courageous reformers like Irshad Manji who are trying to liberalize Islam from the inside. This is basically the same argument I made in “The Soft Landing“: we want the world’s transition away from religion to be as calm as possible, not a world where the moderates fade away and leave only belligerent fundamentalists. When we can further that aim by tactically supporting religious moderates and reformers – shifting the overall tenor of a religion in a direction that’s friendlier to us – we can and should.

I do want to stress one point: we shouldn’t ally with believers when doing so requires us to give up our own voice. (This is how my argument differs from that of the accommodationists who tell us to pipe down and stop criticizing religion.) Our alliance will be most effective when we unite in pursuit of a common goal, not a common message. We’ll always have differences of opinion and we should be free to air them. And we certainly shouldn’t enter any alliance that’s conditioned on our subservience.

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.

  • Sarah Braasch

    If we have to choose between moderate religion and fundamentalist religion, then of course, we should choose moderate religion.

    But, I actually strongly disagree with AHA on her point about supporting Xtian conversions of Muslims.

    Who exactly is going to reach out to Muslim immigrants? I can tell you who — the fundamentalist evangelical Xtians. The Mormons and the JWs and the Southern Baptists will be all over that. 1. I’m not sure that’s much if any improvement. 2. How easy a conversion is that going to be?

    I agree with you — if we are looking to support religionists moving towards moderation, then the best way to go about this is to promote the work of liberalizing moderates like Manji.

    But, none of this matters if we have a truly secular form of government.

    I think the main thrust of the fight should always be secularism.

    And, the religious should want a secular form of government as much as we do.

    I work with many Muslim women, and they know that I’m an atheist, and we’ve spoken about our disparate religious views, but we are all striving for secularism and gender equality and gender desegregation.

    Of course we can work with religious people on secular causes.

    That is really the only kind of alliance with the religious that I can get behind.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I’m looking forward to reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Nomad I’ve read some of Infidel so far, and I think she’s a really brave person for standing up as she does.

    Personally, for me, when I left Islam and considered Christianity, I found that I disagreed with it for many of the similar reasons why I disagreed with Islam. There was no evidence for either of the two religions and, when I tried to read the Bible the first time around, I found right away that I didn’t agree with it any more than I agreed with Islam.

    I tend to support promoting the ideas of secularism and equal rights and being allies with any religious people who also believe in these things. I don’t think it’s a good idea to be allies with one religion trying to convert another religion, such as being allies with Christians to convert Muslims, because that could lead to one religion gaining too much power and — as you mentioned — abusing that power to discriminate against others. Even if the goal is to be allies with the nicer, moderate Christians only, it could mean that Christianity as a whole gains too much power and the extremists might abuse that power (even if that wasn’t the original intention of the alliance).

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    If we have to choose between moderate religion and fundamentalist religion, then of course, we should choose moderate religion.

    But, I actually strongly disagree with AHA on her point about supporting Xtian conversions of Muslims.

    Who exactly is going to reach out to Muslim immigrants? I can tell you who — the fundamentalist evangelical Xtians. The Mormons and the JWs and the Southern Baptists will be all over that. 1. I’m not sure that’s much if any improvement. 2. How easy a conversion is that going to be?

    I agree wholeheartedly. That is exactly my concern as well. The more extreme denominations are the ones who are more obsessed with converting everyone else, because they think others are going to go to Hell if they are not members of the “right” religion.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Well, in fairness to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she’s suggesting that the moderate Christian denominations – she names Catholicism and Anglicanism, for example – should do more proselytizing, not that we support the efforts of evangelicals or Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those are the “freak-show” denominations she specifically disavows.

    How easy a conversion is that going to be?

    What, Sarah – you don’t think the people who write books like “Islam Is Of The Devil” are going to be able to successfully reach out to Muslims? ;)

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @Ebonmuse (comment 4):

    He-he. You made me smile. I often find it amusing when extreme members of any faith think they’re going to succeed in converting people by advocating discrimination against them.

    Also, I haven’t yet read the book (as I wrote previously) but I’m not sure if I could advocate Catholicism without having a guilty conscience. I know many Catholics are more accepting of women, the LGBT community, people of other religions, etc. than some fundamentalists, but the Church and its official policies are way too extreme and hateful.

  • Sarah Braasch

    You’re funny.

    It’s funny, because, depending on the circumstances, sometimes the hardcores of one religion are the greatest supporters of the hardcores of other religions.

    Case in point — in Italy, the hardcore Catholics will sometimes (I said sometimes) get behind Muslim efforts to build minarets and mosques and cover women in niqab. Because the Catholics want to get their crosses and catechisms in public schools. Unlikely, duplicitous and scheming bedfellows do they make.

    Also, sometimes, the liberal religious groups don’t want to convert and get very cultural relativistic about the most egregious religious practices of the fundamentalists, be they Muslim, Xtian, Jewish or what have you.

    I think it’s better to stay out of those treacherous waters and stick with good old fashioned secularism.

    I know American secularism leaves a lot to be desired, but, we’ve enjoyed the fruits of living under a secular government for over 200 years now. I would say that the evidence is in.

    Of course, striving for secularism isn’t going to stop me deriding religion in the public marketplace of ideas.

    I see what you’re saying though — maybe strive for secularism and fight for religious moderation in the marketplace of ideas.

    It’s a pragmatic approach. Damn it. Always that strife between my idealism and my pragmatism.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    It’s funny, because, depending on the circumstances, sometimes the hardcores of one religion are the greatest supporters of the hardcores of other religions.

    I’ve noticed that as well, such as when extremists of various religions work together to advocate discrimination against LGBT people. When my state was considering same-sex marriage (which was eventually defeated) I remember seeing a news report on the television showing protesters from both Christianity and Judaism who were opposed to same-sex marriage.

    I’ve also seen Christians defending the burqa as a way to be “modest” without admitting that women are often forced to wear it.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    True enough, Sharmin. The fact that the Vatican and Islamic countries have lately been teaming up at the U.N. to oppose resolutions on women’s rights is probably something that Hirsi Ali ought to consider when discussing just how moderate Roman Catholicism really is.

  • Zietlos

    It is a nasty world out there, isn’t it?

    It is an interesting proposal. “An enemy of my enemy is my friend”, I believe the idiom goes. Fundamentally, it is a sound strategy, if a temporary one. You know, though, a thought passed my mind… If people, now, hear me out, this is a bit crazy. If people, in general, stopped saying you were going to burn for all eternity, and be happy to inform you of such, or otherwise shy away from you in fear that you’ve got a bomb under your hat/shirt/shoe/underwear, you know, if people didn’t force you into an area through both active and passive resistance to stay amongst those of similar thoughts, perhaps immigrants may integrate a bit more smoothly into other cultures?

    Nah, it’s crazy-talk. Evangelists! To the convert-o-mobile, we have blood money from the godless ones now! Drive, drive!

    In other words, I believe a 3 step approach would help integration, now this is society-wide, no personal attacks here:
    1) Stop acting like everyone wearing a turban is a terrorist. Think of them as very poofy hats, and that’s it.
    2) No condemning either damnation or hellfire or oblivion upon those who think differently from you. This includes everyone who does not share your views, they get respect too. Give respect, and you will get respect.
    3) Get a deal with a generally upper-middle-class restaurant in every major city to give a free meal to each family that gets their formal citizenship. Many people are here on permanent visas or illegally, just because they don’t feel like they need to get a full citizenship. Give them incentive to learn the country’s history, and get them integrated into the community with a nice free meal.

    There you go. I think that a free steak (halal, kosher, however you want it) will mend more hearts than a thrown bible ever will. And it will get local businesses involved, helping a bit of the economy too.

  • voss

    Back to xtian charities, I regularly donate money and blood to Red Cross. Have for 20+ years.

  • http://protostellarclouds.blogspot.com/ Mathew Wilder

    Not a much more reactionary organization in history than the Catholic Church. If Hirsi Ali thinks the Church is moderate, she’s sadly mistaken. If she thinks the lay people (at least in the US, which is the only country I have personal experience with) are moderate, she is only partly right. There are many very liberal Catholics, but there are also many very conservative Catholics.

    I think no one should have anything to do with the Catholic Church on principle.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    Fascinating. I’m going to refer to Islam hereafter in the radical form, to be clear. Muslims are the worst of the worst of all modern religions. Their violence and ruthless persecution of every imaginable group other than male Muslims(and even then there are Sunni/Shiite divisions) is nothing short of appalling. If given the chance, these backward terrorist would gladly annihilate all non-Muslims on Earth. Therefore, I call for the rapid and total eradication of all radical Islam, literally purging it from history until all that remains are the friendly, the vast majority, the true Muslims that piously cling to the Koran instead of bastardizing it for evil. I can see no other way than through Democracy. Not invading each country like Iraq, but through our ideas- already the Internet and others have pierced the veil of overriding dogma, and in historical terms the change and liberalization of many Muslim countries is shocking. We may have a long way to go yet, but the age of the terrorist is slipping away with every killed radical and every Muslim girl that decides to endure the stigma and bravely receive an education.

  • Lion IRC

    So Ebonmuse thinks atheists should evangelize?
    Starting when?
    300 years ago? 500 years ago?

    Everytime a theist does an act of charity for a fellow human being they are evangelizing the idea that there is something “special” about human life – it has “worth” or “value”.

    I await the secular explanation why the life of a fellow (or future) human being is “special” in comparison to the dirt from which it “just” spontaneously evolved.

    Lion (IRC)

  • Emburii

    Lion IRC, I thought a theist did good things just to get into Heaven? If you were convinced there was no no such place, would you still do good things for people? If so, why?

    I think human lives are special because…well, because we exist. I have empathy for my fellow people, I can imagine pain and I don’t like it, why should they? Especially since this is all we have, this life is everything. It is my responsibility as a sapient being to take this window of existence seriously and treat other people with respect and hope.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Don’t worry, Lion.

    I’m on your side.

    I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about human beings in comparison with dirt.

    Wait, isn’t that the religious position as well?

    From dust (or a clot of blood) you arose and to dust you shall return and all that jazz?

  • Penguin_Factory

    This is an interesting point.

    Overall, I would be willing to try working with Christians if doing so could demonstrably help ro curb practices like honour killings. Saving innocent lives is always a higher priority than idealistic integrity.

    On the other hand though, I think this approach is also strategically flawed. If efforts to stop human rights abuses and violence come coupled with Christian proselytization, it will be very easy for the target audience to view the whole thing as a threat to their faith, and as we all know people do not react logically or rationally when they think their beliefs are being threatened.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So Ebonmuse thinks atheists should evangelize?
    Starting when?
    300 years ago? 500 years ago?

    Um….what in the world are you getting on about?

    Everytime a theist does an act of charity for a fellow human being they are evangelizing the idea that there is something “special” about human life – it has “worth” or “value”.

    Or they are trying to gain brownie points with god for saving another soul, or they are doing it because they’ve been told to do it, or any number of other things. I’d be willing to bet that most theists don’t sit there and think that by giving to someone else they will be doing it to spread the message that people have worth or value. This is especially true of Xians who follow the idea that all people are sinners worthy of only hell. That’s a contradiction.

    I await the secular explanation why the life of a fellow (or future) human being is “special” in comparison to the dirt from which it “just” spontaneously evolved.

    In the cosmic scheme of things we aren’t special in comparison to anything else. IOW, there’s no external entity that bestows “specialness” on us, and there’s no external quality of “specialness.” This doesn’t mean, however, that we can not or should not help others in need or that we should all be nihilists (since I know you’re headed in that direction).

  • Paul

    I await the secular explanation why the life of a fellow (or future) human being is “special” in comparison to the dirt from which it “just” spontaneously evolved.

    Humans didn’t evolve from dirt, godbot. Christians are the ones that hold that humans were created from dirt. And there is nothing that makes humans “special”, except perhaps as a marker of what evolution can accomplish. But we have empathy and sympathy, and generally feel for one another. We help people because if we were in their position, we would want the help. We know pain, and want to keep others from feeling it where possible. Yet this “nonspecial” motive is somehow inferior to helping people to rack up cosmic brownie points?

    Lion’s a godbot that spent months preaching on Pharyngula before he got banned for insipidity. Just thought I’d let you know. He might be more moderate and ready to engage here, with comments being a bit slower and easier to reply to without getting overwhelmed and resorting to parroting talking points.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    @voss, #10: I’m pretty sure the Red Cross is not and has never been a Christian charity. I was under the impression it was just a color-reversed Swiss flag symbol. It is confusing though because organizations like the Red Crescent have sprung up — mostly because just using the word “cross” makes people think of Christianity and that’s not so popular in Islamic states. But even the Red Crescent is not a religious organization (AFAIK).

    Totally support Sarah Braasch’s statement in #1: “Of course we can work with religious people on secular causes. That is really the only kind of alliance with the religious that I can get behind.”

  • 2-D Man

    I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about human beings in comparison with dirt.
    Wait, isn’t that the religious position as well?

    If I understand the YHVH’s-breath-of-life clause, it means that if YHVH had remembered to brush his teeth on the sixth morning, then we would be the equivalent of dirt.

    Back to the topic at hand, from what Sarah pointed out a few weeks ago, Islamists have trouble thinking in terms other than Islam. Inviting them to a Christian church service isn’t going to be any more effective than inviting them to a seance.
    Stepping back and looking at the goal, I’d say that we’re trying to reduce authoritarianism and Altemeyer pointed out that increasing the diversity of your peers is the best way to do that. In short, hackerspaces, softball games and potlucks are probably going to work better than Jesusing.

  • Steve Bowen

    There is such a thing as a moderate muslim, I know several. If a fundamental muslim converted to Christianity my guess would be that fundamental Christianity would be more appealing to them. Trading one for the other does not help advance secularism.

  • Lion IRC

    Hi Emburri,

    I don’t accept that theists do good things just to get to heaven.

    In Christianity, it seems to me that one does “good things” in order to make heaven “real” here on earth.

    Sarah Braasch seems to be trying to equate my comment about being made of “dirt” in the spontaneous, evolutionary sense, with the Genesis story which would work except for one small problem. I think human life is “particularly special”

    In Genesis, humans are important and human life derives value from the fact that it is intentionally Created BY Someone for a reason. The “dirt” FROM which humans are made is incidental. In spontaneous evolution, dirt and humans are just molecules. The dirt is not incidental – it is ALL you got. (Just as OMGF and Paul believe.)

    Lion (IRC)
    PS – Paul, I know you are trying to help me to re-live a painful memory by mentioning Pharyngula but I don’t accept your claim that I was preaching or that I am more (or less) moderate. There are atheists who are willing to discuss AvT issues with me and there are some who don’t. Let’s make a deal. If you promise not to mention my Pharyngula ban I promise not to accuse Pharyngulites of resorting to bans because they are rude, gutless and intellectually handicapped. (Banned for insipidity? Why not have ban category for “don’t like your hair style”. Some atheists can stand up to an AvT debate others can’t) Ebonmuse deserves credit and applause for facilitating the “contest of ideas” rather than running a cheer squad echo chamber.

  • 2-D Man

    In Christianity, it seems to me that one does “good things” in order to make heaven “real” here on earth.

    He’s on to something!

    C’mon, Lion, don’t lose us now. Let’s follow this train to the end of the line: do you think this sort of attitude is unique to Christianity? Further, do you think this sort of attitude colours the whole Christian spectrum? (Hint: Consider the Puritans.)

    And don’t worry about what Sarah said; I think she was just being sarcastic.

  • TEP

    In Genesis, humans are important and human life derives value from the fact that it is intentionally Created BY Someone for a reason.

    So in other words, humans have no inherent value in and of themselves, they only have value because they were created as a means to an end for some other being. They have value in the same sense that a hammer has value – not because there’s anything about them that’s special, but merely the fact that some other entity finds them useful.

  • Scotlyn

    I agree with Sharmin and Sarah B that the likeliest Christians to reach out to convert Muslims would be the fundamentalists. And that the journey from one fundamentalism to another would not be a long or difficult one – it would consist only in exchanging a few points of dogma and practice for some slightly different ones, with no major challenge to one’s outlook on life.

    And, with no particular additional point to make apart from “there’s nowt as strange as folk” I have observed the attractions of converting to a fundamentalism to people raised in a more liberal manner, in two interesting contexts. The first is the strange story of Monteverde, Costa Rica, a colony set up by Quakers in the 1950′s. In the 60′s and 70′s, my family spent a couple of holidays there, and met some interesting, liberal, laid back Quakers with novel approaches to running a business, etc. When I visited the place again in the late 80′s, I marvelled at the fact that a large number of the younger generation, born to Quaker parents, had converted to 7th Day Adventism. The ones I met appeared to feel that they had found a more muscular type of religion, one whose prohibitions and practices actually meant something. Somehow their Quaker upbringings had been too wishy-washy for them. Lately, I’ve remarked on a similar phenomenon in relation to Irish women who have married Muslim men and converted. They seem to feel, with full approval, that they are now a part of a “real” religion that means business.

    I just wonder if secularism, liberalism, the commitment to providing safe space that everyone can share, etc, somehow lack the “edge” that some people seem to need – the sense of distinction, of heroic martyrdom, even, that make fundamentalism attractive.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I don’t accept that theists do good things just to get to heaven.

    In Christianity, it seems to me that one does “good things” in order to make heaven “real” here on earth.

    That may be true that most Xians don’t conciously think about earning their ticket to heaven every time they do a good deed, but it is a part of most people’s thought processes. Contradictorily, they also hold that good deeds can’t get you into heaven. So, if they are doing good things, it’s apart from their religious beliefs, showing that we don’t need religion in order to be moral.

    In Genesis, humans are important and human life derives value from the fact that it is intentionally Created BY Someone for a reason.

    And, if that reason is to burn in hell in order to sate the sadistic urgings of an evil god? Oh yeah, you rule that possibility out with special pleading.

  • LindaJoy

    I think Ayaan Ali Hirsi is demonstrating quite a bit of naivete by suggesting that catholicism is “moderate”. Why would atheists want to see muslims convert from one horrible system of thinking to another? How does that help things? I think she see Christianity as more benign than Islam because of her personal experiences, but she is overlooking the fact that we have a Christian crusade going on every day in this country in terms of government take over. We certainly do not need to feed them more soldiers. AAH will be the keynote speaker at the FFRF conventionn in Oct. I am hoping to see a lively discussion on this point. I work with Americans United For Separation of Church and state, headed by a former Christian pastor and having an interfaith board of directors and membership. That is one arena where I feel comfortable in giving my time and support rather than choosing some Christian charity and not know where your money is going.

  • Lion IRC

    And, if that reason is to burn in hell in order to sate the sadistic urgings of an evil god?

    Hi OMGF,
    When people attack God about the sadistic eternal fires of hell they overlook the fact that it is only “chaff” which gets burned. Remember the bible says wheat and chaff. So if you want the flames to be literal you must also accept that those who burn will be chaff. Of course there might be the odd goat because they get separated from the sheep before they are assigned to the flames which burn forever. And dont forget that a flame which burns something forever (without ever cremating it into ashes) cannot be very hot now can it?
    Lion (IRC)

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Great, let’s reinvent hell as an eternal hot tub and sauna (is there a bar for afterwards?)

  • http://twitter.com/GGlick ANTLink

    Some possible catch copy for the new, friendlier, and more-inclusive-than-ever Hell:

    “Are you wheat or chaff? You’ll find out…in Hell!”

    “For a relaxing good time, make it a Hell-ish time”

    “Hell: When you want to rekindle the eternal flames of your sinful ways”

    I think you may be on to something here, Steve ;)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Lion, all fine and well, so long as you’re clear in understanding that you’ve just removed the quality of perfect mercy from your god.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Lion,

    When people attack God about the sadistic eternal fires of hell they overlook the fact that it is only “chaff” which gets burned.

    Epic fail. If you look at the context of the passage, it’s clear they are talking about people (metaphorically). It’s not the first time either, which you would know if you had read Psalm 1.

    But, even if they were being literal, you need only look further into Matthew to see that they specifically mention people being cast into everlasting fire. You may want to actually read the Bible sometime, seeing as how you hold it in such reverie.

    So if you want the flames to be literal you must also accept that those who burn will be chaff.

    Whether it is flame or some other type of torture matters not to me. Torture is torture, and it is wrong for god to commit it even if he doesn’t literally burn people.

    And dont forget that a flame which burns something forever (without ever cremating it into ashes) cannot be very hot now can it?

    Are you saying that your god is incapable of burning us forever without us becoming ashes, thus ruining the fun, or else he must use a very low flame so that we can never completely burn? Why is it that you hold such a low opinion of the power of your god? Do you even know what omnipotence means?

  • Lion IRC

    Hi OMGF,

    How is it that you are able to teach me about the chaff being just a metaphor but the flames (in the exact same chapter/verse) being literal? Is your exegesis about “torture” anything other than plain old projecting?

    Do you accept that hell is voluntary – that the gates are locked from the inside?

    Do you think someone like Mr Hitchens would call living in heaven under a “celestial dictatorship” – Torture? Would it be torture to force murderer and victim to be locked up together in the same place? Isn’t true that justice delayed amounts to justice denied and that living in a world without justice would be “torture”.

    People accuse God because Hell seems to be an “third strike”, “life means life” eternal “mandatory sentence” but Hell would be empty if you could avoid it by continuously asking for a 4th strike and a 5th and a 6th and the minute God said no more second chances He would be accused of cruelty.

    I do know what omnipotence means. It means KNOWING HOW to do everything.
    Scientia potentia est. Omniscience IS Omnipotence. They are not mutually exclusive and only God who can do ANYTHING can afford to ignore the future and focus on how we use our free will today.

    Accordingly God CAN say (without any inconsistency) that He wants everyone to be saved and that we have free will to make that choice or not.

    Just as God has the ability to ignore the future – so do we.

    Lion (IRC)

  • Lion IRC

    BTW – entropy is a celestial dictatorship. Gravity is a celestial dictatorship. Radiation is a celestial dictatorship. None of these give a stuff what Mr Hitchens thinks and you cannot beg them for mercy.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    How is it that you are able to teach me about the chaff being just a metaphor but the flames (in the exact same chapter/verse) being literal?

    Really? Didn’t I just say, “Whether it is flame or some other type of torture matters not to me.” Are you even reading? It doesn’t matter if the “flames” are literal or not.

    Is your exegesis about “torture” anything other than plain old projecting?

    Projecting? Where did you pull that from? Oh yeah, your backside. This has nothing to do with projecting. Your scriptures say that those on god’s team get rewarded with heaven, and everyone else gets to go to hell. It’s quite clear that hell is a place where people will be tortured (flames, gnashing of teeth, etc.)

    Do you accept that hell is voluntary – that the gates are locked from the inside?

    No. Why would anyone choose to go to hell? That’s just plain stupid. It all hinges on belief in Jesus, right? Well, if one chooses not to believe, then I suppose you could choose to believe in Zeus instead of Yahweh, right? Tell me how that goes.

    Do you think someone like Mr Hitchens would call living in heaven under a “celestial dictatorship” – Torture?

    Yes. The concept of hell is ill-formed and illogical.

    Would it be torture to force murderer and victim to be locked up together in the same place? Isn’t true that justice delayed amounts to justice denied and that living in a world without justice would be “torture”.

    You’ve just destroyed your own concept of Xianity and heaven, so you may want to rethink this. If “sins” are crimes against god, then god is being forced to be the victim with his attackers in heaven for eternity. Justice, would not be served, so heaven would have no justice. Thus, heaven would be torture.

    Put another way, if you and your loved ones all go to heaven then that would be torture according to you. Why? Because I’m sure that each of you have committed some type of immoral action towards another member of the group. Therefore, you have to share eternity with someone who has wronged you – which would be torture according to you.

    People accuse God because Hell seems to be an “third strike”, “life means life” eternal “mandatory sentence” but Hell would be empty if you could avoid it by continuously asking for a 4th strike and a 5th and a 6th and the minute God said no more second chances He would be accused of cruelty.

    It doesn’t matter how many strikes – eternal punishment for finite crimes is infinitely unjust and infinitely cruel. And, torture is unjust in any circumstance.

    I do know what omnipotence means. It means KNOWING HOW to do everything.

    Wow…swing and a miss. Try the dictionary next time.

    Scientia potentia est. Omniscience IS Omnipotence. They are not mutually exclusive and only God who can do ANYTHING can afford to ignore the future and focus on how we use our free will today.

    Um, OK. How do we have free will if god is both omniscient and omnipotent (using the actual definition of omnipotent)?

    Accordingly God CAN say (without any inconsistency) that He wants everyone to be saved and that we have free will to make that choice or not.

    Wrong again, unless you think god is highly incompetent.

    BTW – entropy is a celestial dictatorship. Gravity is a celestial dictatorship. Radiation is a celestial dictatorship. None of these give a stuff what Mr Hitchens thinks and you cannot beg them for mercy.

    What impersonal forces of the universe have to do with a god that intentionally tortures people is beyond me.


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