‘You Know It’s a Myth’ Billboard Generates Controversy

When I first saw the ad American Atheists was putting up near the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, I questioned its effectiveness:

But now that it’s getting all sorts of media attention, I’m hearing a lot of reactions I wasn’t expecting, like this one from (feminist blog) Jezebel:

is it necessary to attack people’s beliefs in the process? Why not just focus on celebrating your own beliefs rather than pissing people off by putting theirs down? Ridiculing a belief system that, for many people, is the basis for their entire life philosophy is not a way to win friends or influence people; it’s a way to act like a stereotype.

And look at the reactions that a local CBS affiliate got for their piece:

“I don’t think it’s any good for the kids. I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter — she believes in Christmas,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan.

“I don’t think that’s right. We don’t go around telling them what we think about [atheists], so why should they put up something like that,” another man said.

To the lady with the daughter, that girl can keep believing in Christmas. Christmas exists. The biblical story behind the holiday? That’s the myth.

The other arguments would carry so much more weight if religious people weren’t saying *exactly* what they think about atheists on a regular basis.

It’s not only that. The billboard is right. Those stories are myths. The Virgin Birth, for example, never happened. There are different accounts of the story as well. Even church leaders don’t believe everything happened the way we typically hear the story

Look, if someone put up a billboard that said “Santa doesn’t exist,” I’d probably be upset, too. But I’d be upset because I want kids to enjoy that myth while they can — they’ll learn the truth soon enough.

What are these parents trying to protect others from? They just want to keep lying to themselves.

Let’s keep in mind what the billboard says and doesn’t say.

It’s not saying, “Screw all of you who are Christians.” That’s certainly not AA president Dave Silverman‘s style.

It’s also not saying, “Screw Christmas.” A lot of atheists love spending time with their families and having an exchange of gifts.

It’s simply saying, “We know some of you don’t believe this Bible stuff, so just admit it!” And it’s also a reaction to those Christians who want to make this a Christian-only time of year even though it’s not. Like those people who refuse to say “Happy Holidays.”

Silverman did a nice job of explaining all this on FOX News :

As for the complaint that the billboard is trying to convert anyone… If your faith is so weak that a billboard is going to destroy it, then your faith wasn’t worth keeping in the first place.

You want to see atheists really go after Christianity?

Just wait till we start using the rhetoric your pastors constantly use against us.

Then let’s see how politely you respond.

  • http://quichemoraine.com Mike Haubrich

    Yea, just wait until we tell a school in Indiana that they shouldn’t put “Have a Blessed New Year” on their school sign.

    Whatever atheists do will offend someone. You could even tell that after Silverman explained that the AA weren’t “going after” Christianity that the interviewer still wanted it to be about “going after Christianity” and wanted people to be offended.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    “It’s not saying, “Screw all of you who are Christians.” That’s certainly not AA president Dave Silverman‘s style.

    It’s also not saying, “Screw Christmas.””

    The billboard may not say that, but it certainly is being interpreted that way.
    I give it a failing grade.
    No matter what kind of billboard an atheist puts up, someone, somewhere is going to whine…I get that. However, this type of ad is nothing if not confrontational. When I first saw it I cringed. Time and energy spent teaching little ones to think for themselves is a much better use of resources. I’m not saying you cannot have several approaches to dealing with religious idiocy, but as our resources are limited, it would be better to see them put to use in more constructive and positive ways. This pushes people away; it doesn’t draw them in.
    I don’t believe that bad publicity is better than none.

  • DA

    Jezebel may be in the running for most obnoxious site on the internet, which is really saying something. The amount of hypocrisy, knee-jerk thoughtlessness, and just general dumbassery on there makes me GLAD they’re liberal religious apologists (generally speaking) rather than movement atheists. Lord knows we don’t need any more albatrosses (is that the correct plural?) around our necks.

  • Brian

    I think it would be a good idea to group together gods and Santa.

    “Have a merry Christmas: with or without Santa.

    Enjoy an ethical life: with or without faith.

    -Brought to you by American Atheists”

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    It’s not just a question of your faith being so fragile that a billboard suggesting anything contrary can damage or destroy it.

    It’s that a given faith requires its myths to be valid. As if the concept of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ would be wholly invalid had it been spoken by just an average guy.

  • Tim

    “I don’t think that’s right. We don’t go around telling them what we think about [atheists], so why should they put up something like that,”

    Umm…yeah you do, and you do a hell of a lot worse than a benign little billboard that’s not even talking to Christians. Christians parade their beliefs in front of everyone, often to obnoxious levels. Atheists can’t even mention their beliefs without Christians crying “stop persecuting us!”

    I celebrate secular Christmas (gifts, togetherness, family, etc.)…Christmas without the myths.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    For as long as their holy book calls us fools, we’re justified in ridiculing their ludicrous beliefs.

  • Nicole

    If nothing else, this particular ad is just *rude.* It certainly didn’t do anything to improve the tone of the discussion and if anything it just gave the other side more ammo to fire at us when they make that old ridiculous claim that every atheist is on some sort of organized mission to destroy them.

    I am just really disgusted with this ad. I don’t find it shocking at all that it’s getting such a virulent backlash. I’ve seen lots of clever, good-natured atheist outreach attempts and this is not one of them.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    You want to see atheists really go after Christianity?

    I do.

    Islam too and Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Mormonism (are they Christians or not, I forget?), the JWs (again Christian or not?), the Scientologists (though they’d probably sue) and every other religion in the world. It isn’t so much that the religions are just wrong as the basic premise is wrong. It wouldn’t hurt to point this out a bit more forcefully.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Sorry, Nicole, the truth is not rude. The ‘tone’ is always irrelevant when it comes to facts. I am really disgusted with YOUR attitude.

  • http://idleeyesandadormy.blogspot.com/ Sean

    Christians (and other religions, for the record) present god as if he/she/it exists without waver or doubt. “God will provide.” “God will answer your prayers.” “God loves you.” “God is great.” blah blah blah, without any effort to suggest they could be wrong or that if you don’t believe that, it’s OK. In fact, we are told, point blank, we will burn for all eternity and be punished for not worshiping their god. Over and over and over again. Why are we any worse for stating god is a myth with the same level of conviction. Aren’t billboards that say “god is watching you” sending an opposite message with the same level of intensity and “offense” towards non believers? Are THEY making any friends among non believers? Where has the outrage been at those signs? Why is the media not interviewing atheists over THEIR offense at such signs attacking their belief that there are no gods? How come only Atheists should shut up and cower about their beliefs? I’m tired of the double standard by deists and other atheists alike. The day I have no idea what anyone’s religious or deist beliefs are is they day they won’t know mine. Until then I will proudly state I AM an atheists, it IS a myth, and they ARE wrong, without anger OR apology. It’s time America here’s more voices of reason, logic and intelligence based on fact, not fiction.

    As a side note, not so impressed with this interview. I don’t think Mr. Silverman presented well at all and I felt his answers/responses were weak. I don’t think public speaking is his forte. I’m glad he’s out there speaking up, I just wish he was a bit more polished in his presentation. Nothing kills a valid point like a poor presentation.

  • Valhar2000

    Nicole wrote:

    I am just really disgusted with this ad.

    May I suggest that you get off your high-horse?

  • Arallyn

    Well, it might help convince a few agnostics. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the target audience, or how to reach them (pretty though the billboard may be).

    If kids ask their (even semi-)religious parents what it means, the parents get put on the defensive, and perpetuate the lies and stereotypes about atheists. If adults see it, they’re likely going to go on the defensive, as well. People don’t like being told that they’re being scammed, and will dig themselves deeper into denial oftentimes when confronted.

    Don’t get me wrong. These people are hypocrites. Their religion is almost certainly based on lies and myths and hatred of others. They attack atheists for no reason all the time, and threaten us with hellfire and brimstone if we don’t repent. If shoving atheism down people’s throats would get them to understand, I’d be the first one out there, shoving as much as I could, as aggressively as I could.

    But that’s the thing. It can’t. This isn’t particularly confrontational (or portraying us as elitists like those recent TV ads), but it’s still too confrontational for a confrontational and sorta stupid country like America to handle yet. As awful as it is, we’re the small cat of reason trying to play with the big dogs of, well, dogmas. You can’t get dogs to play (and eventually accept, at least until you outlive them and their owners realize you’re fabulous on your own and don’t want dogs anymore) unless you approach them in a manner that’s totally non-threatening, or else you get mauled and mangled.

    Do more “Good Without God” signs. Incorporate humanitarians, not just mega-billionaires, into the campaign (though those two were a great starting point). Brian’s idea is also quite good. I’d replace “faith” with “religion, but that might just be me. The “Faces of Atheism” campaign was good for getting others to know that they’re not alone and letting religious folks know that we’re a varied group. What about atheistic figures in our recent past, and reason-supporting quotations from them? Even people like Carl Sagan might work well.

    I know that it’s really difficult to present atheism in a way that’s non-offensive (to normal people, not talking about the pissy crazies). It’s just…don’t we want to maybe have a more positive presence in American culture BEFORE we start trying to non-passively get people to question their beliefs or accept their knowledge that their religion is a lie?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tedhpeterson Ted

    The Godless Monster: Sorry, but bad publicity *IS* better than none! You’re looking at it all wrong.

    So how are we *not* teaching our kids not to think for themselves by doing this? Aren’t we HELPING them to think more objectively and get them closer to the truth by doing things like this?
    Who are you to say our resources are limited in this area?
    How is this not constructive? It’s getting attention and getting people to realize that other atheists are out there, isn’t it?

    Reality check, please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tedhpeterson Ted

    @Arallyn said: “It’s just…don’t we want to maybe have a more positive presence in American culture BEFORE we start trying to non-passively get people to question their beliefs or accept their knowledge that their religion is a lie?”

    What we are doing with the signs *IS* a positive thing! We are helping to support and express the truth! You’re not looking at it correctly.

  • Arallyn

    So how are we *not* teaching our kids not to think for themselves by doing this? Aren’t we HELPING them to think more objectively and get them closer to the truth by doing things like this?
    Who are you to say our resources are limited in this area?
    How is this not constructive? It’s getting attention and getting people to realize that other atheists are out there, isn’t it?

    I think you’re right that kids questioning faith is what we want, and could be accomplished by this- but I don’t think that getting a few more older kids/teens questioning/thinking objectively is worth the fact that so many parents will further indoctrinate their younger offspring if the kid asks about the billboard by driving home that atheists are stupid and going to hell. I’d rather have kids not terribly interested in church to begin with to separate themselves from it, think rationally and *come out about their beliefs* when they’re beyond the age where what mommy and daddy say is gospel.

    I may be wrong. This might get kids (at least some of the smarter/more questioning ones) thinking. Might get them to move away from their faith more quickly. I just have some pretty strong doubts about it.

  • Arallyn

    @Ted: You do know that there’s more than one way to look at things, right? I’m not saying these ads were evil or a terrible idea or any of that mess. If we truly had an unlimited budget I might say that they really were a good adjunct to other campaigns. They’re pretty!

    The truth needs to get out there. We need to get people thinking rationally. I just don’t think that this is a good first step.

    Edit: Wait, am I missing something? Is this campaign about convincing those who are dissatisfied with religion? Very religious? Agnostics? Or what?

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    please, xtians. Bring It On. you think that billboard is “rude?” please, keep whining. some of us are itching for a more public fight with your foolish mythology. unlike most of you, we’ve actually read your “holy” books. the nativity myth is probably the least ridiculous out of all of them.

    what a bunch of whining pansies.

  • Nicole

    I like how by taking issue with confrontational tone, I have a high horse. Okay.

    Look, here’s the truth of it, unfair as it is (and yes, it’s horribly unfair): we have more to prove. We have to be twice as civilized, twice as clever, and twice as polite (much as it irks us) in order to make the same amount of positive impression. No, it isn’t fair. But that’s how things go: when you’re in the sneered-at minority trying to make a good impression and prove your worth, you have to work harder at it and you can’t reduce yourself to the tricks that other people can get away with. Ask any black person in a predominantly-white school, or any female in a male-dominated work environment: we have to be better than the others.

    And this ad for all its truthfulness isn’t better. It’s the same silly confrontational attention-grabbing tactic that I strongly feel atheist outreach ought to avoid for fear of alienating people rather than encouraging them.

    If the goal of this ad is to tell people who don’t believe the BS behind Christmas to be honest about it, I just don’t think this is the right tactic. It certainly wouldn’t have encouraged *me* when I was in that place, no matter how I feel about it now.

    Class it up, it’s the only chance we have at this stage.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Ted,
    Wow, I’ve been looking at this all wrong!!!
    Gosh, thanks so much for straightening me out. I’m seeing the light now.
    Not.
    How’s this for a reality check…marketing is how I make my living and I make a good living.
    If I were to tell prospects that they are ignorant, lying, stupid hypocrites, I might gain the approval of a few of their disgruntled employees or their competition, but I wouldn’t gain them as customers. If the goal is to piss them off, then fine, I concede, but I don’t believe that is what this group intended…do you? If so, produce the evidence.
    What exactly IS the goal of such advertising? Mr. Silverman doesn’t seem to be too clear on that himself. He waffles quite a bit. I was underwhelmed by his performance and even more so by what appeared to be a lack of conviction in his own project.

    “Who are you to say our resources are limited in this area?”

    Who am I? A person who doesn’t need a reality check, that’s who. Resources are finite. How can you even argue about something as silly as that?

  • Anonymous

    Holy crap. The Jezebel post has 1200 comments.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Nicole,
    Well said.

  • Claudia

    I stand my previous opinion. Certainly people are far too sensitive and prone to be offended on matters of religion, but I personally see this message as dickish, given that the holidays are supposed to be about positive messages and this isn’t one. Yes I know it’s true, but I also care about hearts and minds. As for this:

    We don’t go around telling them what we think about [atheists], so why should they put up something like that,

    Uhm, lol? Yes, they’re all goodness and light. They have no negative messages, so what’s with the anger?

  • http://www.anthonyrmiller.com Tony

    I spotted this billboard on the way in to work this morning. Forgive the poor quality. My windshield needs to be cleaned and the phone camera doesn’t do so well in low light settings.

    http://anthonyrmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/beginning.jpg

    If the resolution isn’t clear enough, or if you can’t access the image, the billboard says “In the beginning God created…” and it has a picture of Earth along with a white circle showing the evolution path of ape to man (abbreviated) with a red cicle around it and a red line through it. Similar to the No Smoking signs.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @PrimeNumbers (and Valhar2000, Sean , Ted, et al),

    “For as long as their holy book calls us fools, we’re justified in ridiculing their ludicrous beliefs.”

    The issue isn’t whether or not we are justified (we ARE), but in whether or not “tit-for-tat” juvenile idiocy is effective in creating positive change.
    It isn’t…history bears me out on this.

  • billybee

    The message that say’s “Jesus is a myth” hits a special nerve with some Christians.

    I think it scares them because they know, but dare not admit to themselves that they have built their world view upon an ancient fairy tale.

    “Say it ain’t so, baby Jesus…..!!!!!!”

  • Anonymous

    Jesu Christe! This got written up in the Daily Mail, Gothamist, Joe.My.God, NYT City Room blog, Hartford Courant, NJ Star-Ledger…
    And lots of great comments.

    Well done, American Atheists! O’Hair would be proud.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    yeass masser I’ll be good and maybe get to like pigs feet and chitlins for dinner. mayhaps some day I can buy my own farm and sharecrop for you, I know you’ll do me right if I just wait.(for hell to freeze over)

  • http://www.quietatheist.com Slugsie

    OK, I can concede that this can quite easily be seen as at the least mildly offensive by some ‘believers’, but so what? Each and every atheistic poster/billboard that has gone up, even the simplest, most accurate, most benign of them has been called offensive. Every now and again you need to push the boundaries, and this is just such a push. I predict that this time next year there will be a lot more ‘offensive’ billboards being posted – as well as simple a nice ones. They’ll all be decried by the religious as totally offensive to their beliefs, and proof that we atheists are ignorant hateful fools.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Nicole
    Each ad, no matter how funny, or confrontational or how polite will be met with a predictable response from the religious (why can’t they keep their views to themselves?). Stating that something is a myth isn’t really confrontational – it is made so by the reactions of the religious. Will it be effective ? Depends on what you think the objective of the ad is – No religious person is going to be convinced by any billboard ad , I’d say these ad’s are targetted to giving publicity to a non believer’s viewpoints – in which case the ad is effective.

  • http://www.geekexile.com Brian Fields

    One of the people in our local atheist group pointed out that the Star seems to be pointing at the ass rather than Jesus. A great laugh was had by all.

    Seriously folks, THIS is offensive? We’ve been holding the “high horse” for years, and yet we are held in lower esteem than the people who blew up the f’ing World Trade Center in NY. Look what the “high horse” gets us.

    It is not offensive to tell the truth. Dave S. came to our group to tell us about what AA was doing with the billboard, and told us that the idea is not to convert Christians. The idea is to catch the attention of those atheists that go to church every day but really don’t believe.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Brian Fields,

    “…the idea is not to convert Christians. The idea is to catch the attention of those atheists that go to church every day but really don’t believe.”

    And just how large IS that demographic? I’m still not convinced that this is an effective way of promoting change.
    @Slugsie,

    “Each and every atheistic poster/billboard that has gone up, even the simplest, most accurate, most benign of them has been called offensive.”

    You make a valid observation, but does that justify upping the ante by truly being offensive? I’m not sure this argument stands up to scrutiny.

  • http://www.quietatheist.com Slugsie

    @Godless Monster

    I think it’s all about pushing boundaries. If we stay all ‘meek and mild’ then I don’t think we’ll get anywhere. By occasionally being aggressively offensive I suspect that our milder messages will become more accepted and understood. In the same way that during the 60′s seeing a couple even kissing on screen was pushing the sexual boundaries and many were offended (and shock horror, an interracial kiss in Star Trek, or a couple in bed in The Flintstones). Just look at what is shown every night on our TVs/cinemas now to see where gradually pushing the boundaries has taken society.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @Prime Numbers:

    ‘For as long as their holy book calls us fools …’

    Which means they haven’t read the Bible, or don’t recall the part where it is counseled that if you have a grievance with your brother, you make amends before offering your sacrifice unto the Lord.

    But he who sayeth, ‘You Fool!’ shall face hellfire …

  • Joseph

    The only thing I disapprove is the “Celebrate Reason” part. I don’t think that Christians will catch on.

  • Deepak Shetty

    The Godless Monster

    but does that justify upping the ante by truly being offensive?

    But how is “You know its a myth, This season Celebrate reason” being *truly* offensive? Why do non believers buy into this the slightest critique is truly offensive to believers myth? If it indeed is so, then it is the believers problem.

  • Lauren

    I don’t think the point is to convert christians. so those arguments seem sillly here. The billboard saying to people who already agree that this is a myth, that here are others who agree, and that you shouldn’t have to pay lip service to a god that doesn’t exist just because everyone else is doing it.

    That is a great message for young atheists, esp for those in a situation where everyone they know does keep going to church and praying. It may look like we are “converting” those people from their faith, but they were already converted.

    It is way less offensive than a billboard I have seen every year in San Diego that says “Jesus is the ONLY reason for the season.”

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    I think this could have been done much better. I like the copy suggested by @brian or even something to draw people to the website like “Whose birth is celebrated on Dec 25th? a. Jesus b. Osiris c. Mithra d. all of the above” with d. circled and a web address for people to visit to learn more. The visits could be tracked and measured, and people could learn more without it being a traffic hazard.

    All I could see from the news clip was people dismissing the sign with even engaging in a moments thought. There was no hook to get them to think, the copy just fell into the “atheists are bad people who hate us believers” meme. (I’m not saying the campaign was done out of hate, but that’s how it can be interpreted based on previous incorrect ideas about atheists).

    Likewise the catholics made PR gold out of this, by turning it into a 15 minute publicity stunt and implying that they’ll be using the money to help people who need help (they didn’t actually say that, but it gave the impression).

    So someone hearing the statement can think “atheists want attention and are self-centred and the church is selfless and charitable” (again incorrect assumptions). Their communications director should get a good christmas bonus for that release.

    The concept of closeted atheists should also be cut loose. Leave that concept with the GLBT crowd who have worked hard to own it. Instead show atheism responding to those who question, consider, doubt, ponder, wonder, investigate, search, seek,disbelive, etc. There are lots of terms that people will relate to much more quickly and easily than being “closeted” especially if they still aren’t sure what they (don’t) believe.

    Finally, as a number of folks have pointed out, Silverman was not at his best on Fox (ironic how Fox suddenly became a respectable news source when it gave an atheist time to speak).

    Beyond chewing his words, he looked bad when he had the quote about “going to war” read back to him, contradicting his earlier claims. Here was a journalist who had done some minimal prep (unlike the one in the other clip) and instead of it benefitting us, it portrayed atheists as having two messages, one for the public and one for “insiders”. Not great for building trust among the general public.

    More engaging and less enraging-let’s be a viable option for the typical person and professional religion will suffer through attrition.

  • JoeBuddha

    I think all of these ads and billboards and what-not are a really good idea. Look, there are (believe it or not) good Christians who support ads that are VERY offensive to atheists without thinking it through. By showing the atheist point of view in the mildest terms, maybe we’ll get some dialog going. Rub their face in the fact that assumptions about belief can be very offensive by putting the shoe on the other foot.

  • jose

    how is “You know its a myth, This season Celebrate reason” being *truly* offensive?

    The same way “Deep down you know there is a God, you’re just mad at Him” is offensive. You’re not taking the other side seriously.

    Silverman says the billboard tries to reach closeted atheists and people who wants to break the law by imposing religion. The problem is, closeted atheists already know that they know it’s a myth. The billboard won’t change their situation, and they will keep lying to keep their friends and lives; and religious lawbreakers don’t know it’s a myth, because they really believe it’s the truth. So the billboard misses both targets.

  • Tamara

    I love Jezebel, so I was disappointed to see a fellow feminist/atheist respond poorly to the billboard. BUT, the commenters are a bright, strong community of women, and 90% of them were on “our side”. It was really interesting to read through them to see some other viewpoints (one from a Jewish woman really hit it out of the park).

  • Arallyn

    I’m not sure this billboard is offensive so much as ineffective and nugatory, at least for the vast majority who see it. It all has to do with who’s being targeted, why they’re being targeted, and what the desired outcome is. I don’t think that Silverman explained the goals very well.

    Meek and mild won’t get us anywhere, but neither will putting people on the offensive. That’s why I like the “Good Without God” campaign so much. Showing how much people can do without a belief in lies is something more religious folks need to know, and it makes a strong statement in and of itself (though if active conversion is the goal of someone, they probably wouldn’t see it as strong enough).

    You have to lead people to the desired outcome, but let them make the “decision” on their own. It’s the illusion of control that people relish and can subtlety convince them to come to conclusions (such as the non-existence of their deity of choice) that they normally wouldn’t. Once they’re at that conclusion, the real message of Rationalism can be laid out and will likely be accepted much more easily.

    Does AA have a marketing board or agency? As people concerned with reason, I feel like they’re ignoring basic human psychology on the part of the majority of people who might be inclined to become atheists or skeptics (or “out” atheists) if approached differently.

  • CP

    The main issue I’ve always had with this particular billboard is the ‘You KNOW it’s a myth’ bit. It’s annoying close to the argument that atheists don’t exist, they’re just pretending god isn’t real. If an argument is annoying when Christians do it, it doesn’t magically become not annoying when Atheists do it.

  • Robert W.

    It is ridiculous to say that Christmas isn’t a Christian holiday. Particularly in Europe and in this country.

    Atheists who celebrate Christmas are celebrating a Christian holiday to rejoice over the birth of our savior. They can and do celebrate in a secular manner but they are being hypocritical to do so. If they were being true to their atheists position they would avoid celebrating this holiday, spend time with their family in other times of the year and not exchange gifts. The gift exchange concept grew out of the wisemen delivering gifts to Jesus.

    And before we go there, I understand that December 25 was picked as the time to celebrate Jesus’ birth because it lined up with religious celebrations already going on in ancient Rome, however, the time of the celebration is not important, the reason behind it is. We could be celebrating Jesus’ birth in June and the reason for the holiday would still be the same.

  • Deepak Shetty

    jose

    The same way “Deep down you know there is a God, you’re just mad at Him” is offensive. You’re not taking the other side seriously.

    Sorry the first quote isn’t offensive to me (and I suspect to most non believers) – We’d just say “No” and we might attempt to explain.

    People are offended by seeing gays in public, gays in military , women by themselves, women not wearing a burkha and so on. That’s their problem and I’m not going to humor their views either.

  • Arallyn

    The concept of closeted atheists should also be cut loose. Leave that concept with the GLBT crowd who have worked hard to own it.

    I don’t think terms “belong” to one group or another, even if they’re typically applied only to that group. And the concept of being “closeted” is apt for atheists like me, who live in very conservative, evangelical, and biased communities. If I were to tell people (who don’t know) that I’m an atheist, or if I were to openly attend a freethought meeting (unfortunately not applicable anymore as the local one folded due to the leaders graduating), the people in my major would be VERY different towards me.

    I did attend a bible questioning session at a Campus Crusade meeting with the freethought society during my freshman year, and it’s bitten me in the ass since then. People who know won’t group with me, and aren’t willing to work with me on projects. Projects are a BIG part of my major, as is going out to the lab farm, and until this year, I needed a ride out there every week. It was nearly impossible some semesters, because people in the Campus Crusade for Christ (at least 75% of my classmates in this school) wouldn’t associate with me.

    And no, it’s not just me. Since most of the people who knew about my association with atheism have graduated, people have been much more accepting, and have been willing to work with me, even though my personality is considerably less bubbly and more rank than when I first came here. I haven’t brought up or talked to anyone in my college about my beliefs ever since, despite the fact that church and the bible have been brought up often in conversation.

    TL;DR: Closeted doesn’t belong to one group. Some towns are shit and the adjective applies to atheists who need to succeed there.

  • http://www.quietatheist.com Slugsie

    @Robert W.

    Christmas is a Christian Holiday sure. It’s also a holiday for a lot of other things/reasons. What’s your point?

  • Arallyn

    If they were being true to their atheists position they would avoid celebrating this holiday, spend time with their family in other times of the year and not exchange gifts.

    No. “Christmas” is a societal celebration, and is a convenient time to come together with family and show our love for each other (gift-wise or not). It’s the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere and winter sucks and we ALL need time to remember and appreciate those who love us. The goofy holiday that happens to fall on Dec 25 is a holiday where most businesses close and most people have off of work. I don’t care whether it’s because of your shit, it’s *convenient*.

    Either way, I’m more than happy to work on Christmas day. I’m lucky enough that my family is reasonable and knows that Christmas as a religious holiday is separate from Christmas as a societal event, and they’re always willing to move our get-together.

  • S-Y

    No need for anyone to say when the billboards will be out; as soon as they are, people will immediately start whining about them. When someone puts up a billboard calling “godlessness” treason, it’s totally ok. (It’s a trivial matter not worth any press coverage either.) When someone puts up a board calling one’s beliefs a myth, it’s apparently all-out militant atheist Stalinist persecution and genocide.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    We could be celebrating Jesus’ birth in June and the reason for the holiday would still be the same.

    Absolutely right. It would be a myth no matter which day you celebrated it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    This is exactly why I don’t belong to American Atheists. As I said when you first presented this sign, it was too mean, it still is, and it targets the innocent along with the guilty. American Atheists tends to be as hateful as those groups they protest. They serve an useful function for which I’m glad they’re there but this billboard really was over the top and unnecessary.

    And I will agree with the mother who said why are they putting this in front of my child? I’ve always felt I had no more right to tell other people’s kids there is no god than they to tell mine there is one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Oh, and I wished someone had called that report out on the hypocricy of the Catholic Church. How dare they say $20,000 is better spent on feeding the poor, blah, blah, blah, when, in fact, they hoard treasures worth more than that and spend much more than that on both pomp and circumstances and covering up child rapers?

    Not to mention what they do indeed spend on advertising.

  • jose

    Deepak Shetty,
    I’m glad that not being taken seriously (dismissed as juvenile thinking, as something expected from someone with sort of a rebellious teenager mind, rather than a valid reasoned argument) doesn’t offend you. It still is a proper thing to feel offended about though.

    But the main criticism I’d make on the billboard isn’t that it’s offensive, but rather that it misses its targets (closeted atheists and people who want to push religion where it doesn’t belong).

  • Robert W.

    Slugsie,

    I was responding to the comment made in the interview where the head of the American Atheist says that Christmas is not a Christian holiday. That is a stupid and in accurate comment worthy of a response.

    Deepak,

    Absolutely right. It would be a myth no matter which day you celebrated it.

    You are entitled to your beliefs. I of course disagree with you.

  • Kyle Marquis

    I don’t think this billboard is aimed at Christians. It’s aimed at atheists who are still struggling to articulate their disbelief. These ads tell atheists they aren’t alone and give them the language they need to express themselves. Not every atheist is born with the vocabulary–like “myth”–with which to express their disbelief. What’s obvious to you or me–the nativity is a “myth” like Ragnarok or the birth of Venus–might be a revelation to a young, idea-starved unbeliever.

    These latest billboards look like a cross between the old “black is beautiful/black and proud” movement–”here we are and there’s nothing wrong with us”–and an attempt by early homosexual groups to help closeted homosexuals understand what they were by giving them a useful vocabulary.

    They’re OBVIOUSLY not intended to convert Calvinists to modern skeptical atheism, and criticizing them as if they were isn’t useful.

  • Claudia

    OK a few things:

    No matter what we say, they’re going to be offended” –> True and a valid point. However that does not constitute an excuse for being offensive or unneccesarily mean. I’m all for being offensive about circumcision or legal exceptions for people who pray their babies to death. Being mean about Christmas? To what end, exactly?

    It’s not offensive because it’s true” –> This is utter horseshit. “Your baby died and isn’t in heaven but gone for good” is also true. It’s also horrifically offensive. This notion that truth is never offensive is simply false. If you don’t mind offending, that’s one thing, but don’t pretend you aren’t doing it.

    It’s not offensive/I don’t find it offensive” –> Offense is in the eye of the beholder. Nothing is inherently offensive because offense is an emotion, not an external characteristic. For different people the sight of mutilated bodies, or children in pentacostal siezures, or boys kissing, is offensive, wheras for others they may not be. You are free to reason why you don’t find something offensive or why you feel justified in showing certain things despite the offense of others. Both are perfectly legitimate. You cannot claim it won’t offend and you shouldn’t claim that this won’t affect the result of your message.

    I simply see this as poor strategy. The kind of people who are going to be comfortable with this are already in our heathen camp. The go-along get-along sorta Christians or agnostics or even closet atheists are less likely to enjoy a negative approach than a positive one, given that they are more passive themselves. If you are targetting that group, I see a fully positive message as being much more effective to win people over. A lot of people simply don’t want the holidays to be about confrontation, even mildly so. If you want to reach those people, a different message would be better.

  • Deepak Shetty

    jose

    But the main criticism I’d make on the billboard isn’t that it’s offensive, but rather that it misses its targets

    See now this is a different argument and has a different response. We were discussing offensiveness of this ad were we not?

    The point is simply that if Group X takes offense at every critique , appeasing them is not really a feasible option. Giving credibility to their offense taking is a losing proposition when you are fighting for the right to critique freely.

    As far as the effectiveness goes it depends on what you believe the objective is. I see the ad’s as simply an expression of “We are non believers, These are our views, We have the right to express them”. We dont target specific groups, the ads are not racist, they aren’t illegal and we should be able to put up these ads without every other religious group howling outrage i.e. which is stand in for we should be able to express our views in society without the outrage, condemnation that usually accompanies this

    I take these ads as the non believers objection to their version of Dont Ask Dont tell – You can be a non believer – Just dont be too vocal, Just dont be too offensive (Read dont critique our beliefs), Just dont make a big deal about it.
    So for me the ads are effective by virtue of just being there.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    You are entitled to your beliefs. I of course disagree with you

    Ofcourse. But you have already shown your attitude towards the truth – a birthday – why sure you can celebrate it any day , it hardly matters when you were born. What’s that this is a pagan holiday? No no we co-opted it, we took it over, its ours now, how dare someone say that it isn’t a christian holiday.

  • Sarah TX.

    I said this over at Jezebel:

    This sign is not any worse than the annoyingly-omnipresent “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON” billboards, bumper stickers, t-shirts, Xmas ornaments, television commercials, yadda yadda yadda.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Claudia

    Offense is in the eye of the beholder.

    Seriously?
    Do you really want me list what all offends fundamentalist muslims?
    What is being said , how offensive it is (with a reasonably objective viewpoint) is important. Not everything is offensive because the beholder says it is.

  • Peterson, C.

    @Robert W.

    Since Christians took pagan holidays and turned them into a Christian holiday, isn’t it possible for us to take a Christian holiday and turn it into a secular holiday?

  • jose

    Deepak Shetty, I addressed the specific targets of the billboard as explained by Silverman (he talks about it in the video) in my first comment in this thread: atheists who fake faith and people who want to push religion into the public realm.

    “The problem is, closeted atheists already know that they know it’s a myth. The billboard won’t change their situation, and they will keep lying to keep their friends and lives; and religious lawbreakers don’t know it’s a myth, because they really believe it’s the truth. So the billboard misses both targets.”

    Of course you can be offensive if you want. I’m not telling them to shut up. I’m just telling what I think about the billboard. They can do whatever they want.

  • Deepak Shetty

    jose
    Again – debating about the effectiveness, the objective is fair and thats good(I see a use beyond that what Silverman states).

    However you too did state that you thought this ad was offensive.
    a. Its not
    b. So what?

  • jose

    “It’s not offensive because it’s true” –> This is utter horseshit.

    LOL!

    “I’d totally sleep with you, jose–if you weren’t a disgustingly fat, ugly motherfucker, that is.”

  • Kyle Marquis

    @C. Peterson

    “Since Christians took pagan holidays and turned them into a Christian holiday, isn’t it possible for us to take a Christian holiday and turn it into a secular holiday?”

    Well, no, since secular ad executives already turned Christmas into a secular holiday decades before most of us were born. :) These “Jesus is the reason for the season” fools have been fighting a lost battle ever since Coke turned Santa red.

  • ACN

    It is ridiculous to say that Christmas isn’t a Christian holiday. Particularly in Europe and in this country.

    Atheists who celebrate Christmas are celebrating a Christian holiday to rejoice over the birth of our savior. They can and do celebrate in a secular manner but they are being hypocritical to do so. If they were being true to their atheists position they would avoid celebrating this holiday, spend time with their family in other times of the year and not exchange gifts. The gift exchange concept grew out of the wisemen delivering gifts to Jesus.

    And before we go there, I understand that December 25 was picked as the time to celebrate Jesus’ birth because it lined up with religious celebrations already going on in ancient Rome, however, the time of the celebration is not important, the reason behind it is. We could be celebrating Jesus’ birth in June and the reason for the holiday would still be the same.

    Dec 25th was a pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice. Christianity co-opted this date to aid itself in winning converts.

    Since that time, the celebration of Dec. 25th has evolved and shifted its meaning. In the modern celebration of Christmas in the western world, we acknowledge that the holiday started as a celebration of the birth of the christian deity, but has come to incorporate swaths of pre-christian pagan ritual, and has taken heavy influence from victorian literature (I submit Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, for example) that have brought heavy doses of humanism to the table.

    In the modern day, christmas is at least as much about family, friends, and solidarity in the coldest and darkest parts of winter when our circadian rhythyms are being disrupted, as it has to do with worship. We should all strive to live up to the values of kindness, compassion, gratitude, and generosity. We aren’t being hypocritical, we have brought different meanings to the table.

  • jose

    Deepak Shetty, I was answering a question you made: “How is it offensive?” Since I’m really annoyed when religious folks don’t take seriously what I say, I can also see how it works the other way around. That’s all. “So what”? So nothing. Didn’t you want your question answered?

  • Richard P.

    I think it is a great billboard.
    What’s wrong with going after xians?

    The beliefs are based on mythology and it’s wrong to point that out? So what, if a bunch of people think your attacking their beliefs, we are, aren’t we? We think those beliefs are stupid and juvenile. We think they are responsible for horrid injustices against many people. Why should we not be direct and confrontational.
    Why should we let their whining stop us. If they’re offended hopefully they will think about the stupidity of those belief systems and will evaluate them. The least we can hope for is they will become to ashamed to admit to them.

    I think to say we are not going after xians and they’re beliefs is simply cowardly, what the hell is the point of any of it if not to get people, all people, including xians to re-evaluate they’re belief systems.

    I think if your offended by this billboard, if your disgusted at the directness of it, if you feel it is wrong to point out the myth, then go climb under a rock and fuck yourself. Personally I am more concerned about our planet and our society to worry about a few little xians feelings. If it takes confrontation to move ahead it’s worth it.

  • Claudia

    Offense is in the eye of the beholder.

    Seriously?

    Yes, seriously.

    Do you really want me list what all offends fundamentalist muslims?

    Hmm you could, I suppose. That way we can find out if there’s a length limit on the thread comments ;-)

    What is being said , how offensive it is (with a reasonably objective viewpoint) is important.

    What “objective viewpoint” is that, exactly? Offense is an even more difficult to pin down concept than morality. At least with morality you have our innate evolved sense of empathy and the very real and measurable sense of pain (confidential to Robert W: pretty please don’t argue the point on this thread, I want to keep on topic). Offense is so obviously culture and circumstance dependent that the very notion of an “objective standard” seems rather silly, when we’re not dealing with things that cause measurable pain to anyone.
    Tell me, is eating chicken “objectively offensive”? No? Go ask a morality-based vegetarian. Is simulated rape porn “objectively offensive” assuming all parties are actually consensual? Some people would say no, but I’m sure a rape survivor would find plenty to be offended about.

    My point is that you get nowhere pretending that you hold no responsibility for offending anyone because something “isn’t offensive”, because you can’t control others emotions, only argue their irrationality. I participated in Draw Muhammad day, because I found the notion that drawing a picture was such a terrible thing absurd and the idea that I had to submit to someone else’s religious rules offensive myself. I didn’t care if they were offended, but I couldn’t pretend they wouldn’t be.

    Argue that something shouldn’t be considered offensive. That offense under X thing is totally ridiculous. Argue that offending is warranted for the goal that is in mind. All of these I find legitimate. However you cannot argue that because you find offense ridiculous offense will not happen, not while different people have such wildly different cultural standards.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Claudia
    Your response offends me(and I didnt even read it yet!). That message was poor strategy on your part. Really you should learn how to get along with me because clearly you only mean to give offense. How militant of you.

    See how that works? It’s silly to rethink your message just because I take offense right?

    So after actually reading what you have to say

    What “objective viewpoint” is that, exactly?

    Hence the prefix of reasonably. It can’t be defined but surely you can see the difference between you know its a myth and your baby died and hasn’t gone to heaven?

    but I couldn’t pretend they wouldn’t be. Argue that something shouldn’t be considered offensive. That offense under X thing is totally ridiculous.

    To me arguing that offense under X is totally ridiculous is the same as stating it isn’t. Im not arguing that some Christians wont find the ad offensive – but that’s their problem – they can consult a psychiatrist if they wish. We don’t have to humor them.

  • lawless imagination

    *celebrate the reason* i like it…celebrate winter and the old being put to the past, new coming in. the only thing i would ad is the scripture that basically states this is NOT *their* holiday to begin with….

    (Jeremiah 10:2-8)

    which says
    Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. . . . They are altogether brutish and foolish.”

  • Craig

    To the people who are offended by it, I don’t really care too much. They’re offended by ANY public statement of atheism. But as others said, I think this ad misses its target and just isn’t really that effective. I’m ok with being a bit more blunt about nonbelief than some past campaigns. But if this is targeted at closeted atheists or undecided unbelievers, it does a poor job of actually directing the message at them, and if its targeted toward those who want to monopolize the season for Christianity, it will be completely ineffective toward them and gain us no support from more casual observers. Trying to hit two targets, I’m not sure it hit either. The other past ads are certain to cause offense, but they definitely contain a message in them that, repeated enough, is going to stick in some (non-taliban-christian) minds. I don’t see any lasting benefit from this one. I’d have liked to see this one more explicitly and effectively target nonbelievers who go through the motions.

  • Brian

    “For over 4,000 years, people have marked the winter solstice. Celebrate our cultural heritage and favorite legends: from Stonehenge to Jesus to Rudolph.

    -Brought to you by American Atheists”

    (Cartoon of Jesus riding/flying Rudolph around Stonehenge)

    “Early Christians weren’t afraid to change the pagan holiday of December 25th. Give it your own meaning this year.

    -Brought to you by American Atheists”

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Claudia
    I also think a difference in our viewpoints is that I prefer to judge whether an act is offensive whereas you seem to prefer to judge it on the basis of whether people take offense from the act. Admittedly there is no objective standard (but then there are no objective standards for morality either and we still seem to be able to make a determination)

    For e.g. If a muslim woman chooses to not wear a burkha is it offensive? – My answer is no. By your standards , that act offends some fundamentalist imam somewhere and therefore the woman must recognise that her actions will offend someone (which is true , and Im not implying that you think she shouldnt do it).

    My point is that you get nowhere pretending that you hold no responsibility for offending anyone because something “isn’t offensive”, because you can’t control others emotions, only argue their irrationality.

    So the muslim woman should not pretend that she has no responsibility for offending the imam and she shouldnt state the choice “isnt offensive”
    Sounds wrong to me.

  • Claudia

    @Deepak, I’m going to give it one more try…

    At the risk of being repetitive I will state that I have no problem with someone being offensive for a good cause. What I have a problem with is claiming that no offense will be had because it’s not offensive. This simply conflicts with reality.

    If you don’t care you’re offending people, fine. Just don’t pretend you aren’t offending them because something “isn’t offensive”. I personally see this as a poor strategy for the purpose of the campaign. I think a fully positive message would be far more effective and that the negativity only damages, not enhances, the campaign itself. You are pretending that I’m advocating tailoring every message to the paper-thin skins of many theists. This is quite simply false. I have no problem with offending when it serves a purpose. My argument is that it doesn’t in this case and that it actually harms the message itself. Reasonable people can disagree on this point, but first we must all agree that, whether or not we find this thing offensive, we know others will. Any discussion on the effectiveness of the campaign should have the percieved offense of the ads as a given, even if we personally find it silly.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I have mixed emotions on the billboard. On the one hand, I do kind-of like the association of atheism with being highly educated, intelligent, and well-mannered. On the other hand, social change really only comes through getting “enough” people to be on your side. Perhaps atheism is just now gaining critical mass to start to affect some social change (at least it is becoming news-worthy). With the influx of “new atheists” also comes some that are at least not as well-mannered. Perhaps it is just a sign of the success of the movement.

    In traveling through Eastern North Carolina and South-Central Virginia this last weekend, I saw perhaps 15 or 20 different Christian billboards instructing that Jesus was the only way. If people are so used to seeing these Christian billboards that they get upset if there is an occasional billboard that says Jesus may not be the only way, then they will just need to get used to it.

  • Rich Wilson

    Look, if someone put up a billboard that said “Santa doesn’t exist,” I’d probably be upset, too. But I’d be upset because I want kids to enjoy that myth while they can — they’ll learn the truth soon enough.

    I think you’re making an assumption here about what’s important to kids, and how much they get out of the myth. I didn’t feel any loss when I figured out that Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, the Easter Bunny and Santa were all not real at age 4. Nobody told me. My mom did confirm it when I confronted her, but I already knew. That is a sample size of 1. I don’t know how other kids feel. But I don’t think we as adults should assume how kids feel about it. I suspect we like to keep up the Santa myth more for our own needs than for the kids’.

    Anyone else recall learning about Santa early on?

  • Troglodyke

    By occasionally being aggressively offensive I suspect that our milder messages will become more accepted and understood.

    This is really a great observation. And I think it’s spot-on. If a few of our messages are worded more strongly, then the “lesser” ones will practically be welcomed (“Thank god those atheists toned down their billboards!”).

    I absolutely think it’s how homosexuality has become more accepted in my lifetime. I know of people who hated everything about it years ago, even the thought of a mild-mannered, taxpaying gay couple living on their street, who now are friends with that couple and accept them easily but still do not want to have homosexuality “shoved in their faces.”

    The couple down the street looks mild in comparison to the gay pride paraders waving their sex toys on TV.

    Consequently, the mild-mannered, taxpaying atheist couple doesn’t even register on the radar if you think all atheists are shoving their godlessness down your throat.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    @Arallyn If “closet atheist” works for you, by all means use it. My point was that there are many who are fucntioning practically as atheists without ever having thought about being one so the use of “closet atheist” would cause them to disregard the message even though they may be the target audience.

    (regarding who “owns” the term, if I said to you that celebrity X was “in the closet”, would your thoughts first go to their sexuality or their belief in god? nuff said)

    @Brian I like your new idea as well-got me thinking about an ad in the form of a note, where the writer complains that “modernists” are perverting their faith and traditions and trying to change Dec 25th from it’s true meaning…and ending with “When these unbelievers try to wish you a merry christmas, you let them know that you celebrate solstace, not some flavour of the week religion like christianity”. The ad closes showing that the note was written in the early centuries of the Common Era-again with a link to more information on the AA website.

  • Miko

    Look, if someone put up a billboard that said “Santa doesn’t exist,” I’d probably be upset, too. But I’d be upset because I want kids to enjoy that myth while they can

    So, are you the arbiter of what myths kids are allowed to enjoy, then?

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    No no we co-opted it, we took it over, its ours now, how dare someone say that it isn’t a christian holiday.

    To argue that for over 1000 years Christmas wasn’t and to this day still isn’t a christian holiday is an attempt to rewrite history. Sure it has become commercialized and more secular but it clearly a Christian holiday. If not, why do the atheists want all signs of a manger removed from the public square?

    Acn,

    In the modern day, christmas is at least as much about family, friends, and solidarity in the coldest and darkest parts of winter when our circadian rhythyms are being disrupted, as it has to do with worship.

    Oh yea, I remember all those Christmas hymns about our circadian rhythms being disrupted.

    ” Oh Holy night, the darkest night of all”

    “Oh little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee light

    We’d be asleep if we could dream, but our rhythm is just not right”

    Claudia,

    As much as I enjoy our discussions I will resist the temptation.

  • Stephen P

    @Nicole:

    Look, here’s the truth of it, unfair as it is (and yes, it’s horribly unfair): we have more to prove. We have to be twice as civilized, twice as clever, and twice as polite (much as it irks us) …

    Yes, you are quite right. I’m generally on the polite end of the scale and I agree with you on this. But this poster qualifies. It is much more than twice as polite as the hateful rubbish that numerous religious groups spout continuously.

    The people who say that this poster is insufficiently well-designed or insufficiently creative may be right: by all means come up with something better.

    But to the people who say it is too rude, too offensive: sorry, but you really are being a bunch of doormats today. (Except for the religious objectors of course: you are concern trolls.)

  • Ibis

    All quotes by Robert W.

    Atheists who celebrate Christmas are celebrating a Christian holiday to rejoice over the birth of our savior.

    They may call it Christmas, but the holiday is thousands of years old and has always been to celebrate the winter solstice.* We’re rejoicing that the days from here on are getting longer. Even as the weather gets colder and harsher, we are sustained by the fact that the longer light promises that summer is ahead. How we celebrate this is by gathering with family and friends, feasting, lighting lights, and gift giving. It’s no coincidence that New Year’s is at this time too. You Christians are the ones who have subverted the holiday by trying to impose your own mythical baggage onto it.

    (*the only people who can make an argument for celebrating something else are those in the southern hemisphere celebrating the summer solstice, but they’ve dragged incongruent winter solstice elements into the mix)

    The gift exchange concept grew out of the wisemen delivering gifts to Jesus.

    You are joking right? Solstice (aka Yule, Saturnalia, Midwinter) gift giving (including the mythic gift-givers: “Santa”, Woden, elves, Strina) is ubiquitous and pre-dates Christianity, just like everything else about the holiday.

    And before we go there, I understand that December 25 was picked as the time to celebrate Jesus’ birth because it lined up with religious celebrations already going on in ancient Rome, however, the time of the celebration is not important, the reason behind it is.

    And the reason is…that it’s the winter solstice. If you were going to celebrate the birth of a god, there were only two mythically consistent choices: the time of the birth of the sun (December 25th-ish) or the birth — or resurrection — of the agricultural year (March 25th-ish). But guess what? That date in the liturgical year was already taken.

    We could be celebrating Jesus’ birth in June and the reason for the holiday would still be the same.

    No. It wouldn’t. If the Christians had decided to fix their god’s birthday in June, “Christmas” would be all about bonfires and marriages and eating first fruits (i.e. summer solstice celebrations). And we’d still have winter solstice with gift-giving, decorated trees, bouncy jingly music, lights, and family gatherings.

  • Robert W.

    Ibis,

    You are joking right? Solstice (aka Yule, Saturnalia, Midwinter) gift giving (including the mythic gift-givers: “Santa”, Woden, elves, Strina) is ubiquitous and pre-dates Christianity, just like everything else about the holiday.

    You are partially correct. However, the Catholic church, which had banned gift giving as being pagan in origin specifically approved of gift giving in Midevil times based upon saint Nicolas and the giving of gifts to Jesus. So to us today, it is that symbolism that prevails.

  • Stephen P

    @Robert W: St Nicholas’ day is December 6th, not the 25th.

  • http://chrisjfraser.com Christopher Fraser

    Since when was Ryan Reynolds a news anchor?

  • http://supercheetah.livejournal.com supercheetah

    Just wait till we start using the rhetoric your pastors constantly use against us.

    You jest, but watch this video. It’s pretty awesome.

  • Ste Rowley

    I love teh Frist vids response from the local church group “2000years of Love and piece”

    I think someone need to go back to history class.

  • http://monkeesspot.blogspot.com/ Yakoi

    2000 years of peace and love huh? I thought it was 2000 years of forcing people to believe in an angsty parent figure in the sky that is spiteful at best and then killing those that refuse to believe. Or the killing of women and children in the name of your God because they are evil and make men do bad things….

    2000 years of peace and love my tiny white fanny!

    As for the billboard, I think it was in poor taste. I think there were many more tactful ways to go about reaching the closet atheist.

  • Brian Macker

    David Silverman is an inarticulate spokesperson. Maybe he was nervous but he misspoke several times.

    “… because in this case Christianity is the main brunt[sic].”

    “It is the main offender of this.” [where it is not clear what "this" refers to.]

    “The people who are about to go to church right now and pray to a god in which they don’t exist.[sic]“

  • Anonymous
  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    They can and do celebrate in a secular manner but they are being hypocritical to do so. If they were being true to their atheists position they would avoid celebrating this holiday.

    You’ll take my Christmas when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. ;-)

    Seriously, though, Christmas can be anything you want it to be. If you want to celebrate it as a religious holiday, you’re free to do that. If others want to celebrate it as a secular holiday, they’re free to do that. Aren’t Christians always complaining that Christmas has become secular? I celebrated it long before I ever heard about any deities. Our next-door neighbors growing up (a Buddhist/Sikh couple) celebrated it, too. There’s nothing hypocritical about acknowledging the myth. We can enjoy the holiday knowing that Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, and Jesus are all legendary figures.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    To argue that for over 1000 years Christmas wasn’t and to this day still isn’t a christian holiday is an attempt to rewrite history.

    The argument is that it originally was a secular holiday and we’d prefer taking it back now. As someone else has also mentioned it’s a holiday and people use that holiday to celebrate it with their family (so if for e.g. the weekend before christmas was given as along weekend and christmas was deemed to be a working day , the secular and believers of a different religion would use the long weekend – just like thanksgiving or 4th of july)

    In any case since the actual day of celebration doesn’t matter(your own words) just shift Christmas to any other day.(and please teach this to your kids – Jesus wasn’t actually born on the 25th and we just took over the pagan festival so that we could recruit a few more believers!)
    Winter solstice on the other hand can only be celebrated dec 21/22 in the northern hemisphere.

    If not, why do the atheists want all signs of a manger removed from the public square?

    Only if public funds or government approval is at stake. Which part of separation of Church and State do you not understand?

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Claudia
    Alright.
    I’d still like you to specifically address my example. Muslim woman chooses to wear whatever she wants causing offense to some nut.
    I say her act is not offensive(and that you can come many more such examples). You agree or disagree or you stick to your offensive in a good cause hence permissible views?

  • Sonja

    I just randomly stumbled over this blog while not being able to sleep and googling random stuff. I have to say it is indeed brilliant. Not only is the birth of Jesus a myth, but the celebration of christmas isn’t even originally a christian tradition. People in Scandinavia had been celebrating “jul” (yule) long before they even knew anything about christianity. So for people who claims that christmas is only a christian holiday I say: go and read some history, it is amazing what you can learn!

  • angie

    GOD have mercy on you. Ok say it is a myth and there is no GOD, no heaven or hell but….what if there is??!! Christmas is about JESUS birth and if you don’t believe, don’t celebrate. MERRY CHRISTMAS

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Deepak,

    The argument is that it originally was a secular holiday and we’d prefer taking it back now.

    Well, to be fair, it was never secular. It was pagan, which isn’t the same thing as non-religious. However, the holiday now is an amalgamation of many different traditions. From my point of view, Christmas is a big tent. I don’t think we have to “take it back” from Christians. They didn’t steal it because it didn’t belong to anyone in the first place. People from any religion (or none) can celebrate it and claim it. I have no wish to make Christians give up their nativity scenes and carols. They can have their Christmas the way they want it, and we can have ours the way we want it, too.

  • Anna

    I’m tired of my non-belief being all about christianity. So many of these signs are about not being christian, I want to move beyond that to something more positive. Christmas is a combination of secular and various religious holidays. As an atheist I am not interested in celebrating a winter solstice as pagans cults did millenia ago nor am I interested in nativity scenes. I want to celebrate a jingle bells, winter-wonderland, santa clause kind of christmas, which I don’t think any particular group owns or has stolen. I would prefer to see positive signs about celebrating this multicultural holiday with love and peace – a universal concept. Leave the words of war to fundamentalists.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    Anna,

    I agree. Hypocritical was too harsh.

    It is true if you go back over a thousand years celebration at this time of year was a pagan ritual. The Christian church picked this time to celebrate Christ’s birth and called it Christmas.

    In this country it clearly and always was Christmas to celebrate Christs birth. Along with Easter, it is the time even marginally religious people go to church. Attendance goes through the roof. It was never a solstice celebration.

    I agree it has become a secular holiday as well for alot of people. But that was not its origin in this country or what it stood for since at least the year 400.

    Deepak,

    Only if public funds or government approval is at stake. Which part of separation of Church and State do you not understand?

    If as you say it is a secular holiday and not related to Christianity then a manger wouldn’t be violating the first amendment would it?

  • Justin

    @Rich:
    Yes, I remember learning about Santa Claus, and I was angry as hell at having been willfully deceived.

  • http://thesecretatheist.wordpress.com/ TheSecretAtheist

    2000 years of love and peace? Really? Crusades? Inquisition? Love and peace? Really?

    Really?

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Anna
    I concede that its pagan not secular (but i would think that anything concerned with nature is secular in the sense that it is not religious). As far as the taking back goes , its not my view , Im merely attempting to frame the argument to Robert who seems intent on misrepresenting it. Im quite happy having days off – I don’t particularly care if there are religious reasons behind them.

    @Robert
    Did I make the argument that Christmas is not celebrated by Christians or that it shouldn’t be? The point being made is that it isn’t exclusively Christian.
    The manger is objected to for reasons that have already been mentioned.

  • Claudia

    I’d still like you to specifically address my example. Muslim woman chooses to wear whatever she wants causing offense to some nut.
    I say her act is not offensive(and that you can come many more such examples). You agree or disagree or you stick to your offensive in a good cause hence permissible views?

    I think what we have here is a problem of terminology. You’re right that if asked whether women not covering their hair is offensive I would probably answer with an angry “no!”. I base my evalutation on my values, which of course includes the equality of the sexes. I can claim it’s not offensive, but I can’t claim it doesn’t offend, because sadly it does. What I saw way up in the comments was an apparent attempt to say that because offense was irrational (no argument) no offense had actually occured. I’ll admit I could have expressed it better.

    I’ve been runnning this question around in my head, because questions of strategy aside, I think it’s genuinely interesting. Particularly when we touched about “objectively offensive” things. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that something is “objectively offensive” (or close to it) when you can demonstrate a real, tangible harm from it. The sight of a child being beaten is offensive because a child is being hurt. On the other hand the kinkiest of weird fetish-based hardcore porn, when done between consenting adults, cannot be considered “objectively” offensive because no one is actually coming to any harm. However this second example would probably offend a great many people regardless. The first kind of offense should be always be avoided, while the second kind I wouldn’t want to do for its own sake, but I could see it as acceptable when done for a worthy purpose and naturally should never be forbidden.

  • gsw

    “Just wait till we start using the rhetoric your pastors constantly use against us.”

    OK, I’ll go with that one:

    “Thou shalt not suffer a witch priest to live”
    ” Hell will also punish the sin of those who reject accept Christ”

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Claudia
    Thanks for taking the time to respond.
    For me if an act isn’t offensive , it shouldn’t cause offense (and yes I accept that it still does). I don’t think that I can really disagree with most of what you have posted – other than If I think an act isn’t offensive(as agreed by us) and someone does take offense we shouldn’t humor them – whereas you seem to have a much more nuanced(but not necessarily correct!) view – life’s too short imo.

    Your definition for objective offense is an interesting one (but we wont have an answer I guess) physical harm is easy to deal with,emotional harm is problematic(for e.g. in your example of your baby died and there is no heaven) – but also lends itself to be abused by religious nuts (like the people who were so offended by being referred to as Party A and Party B instead of Husband and Wife)

  • Benoit

    My favorite part of the CBS story is how the atheists’ 15 minutes of fame can’t compare with “2000 years of promise.”

    Yeah, we know, He’ll get around to coming back again someday…

    ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    supercheetah, thanks for the link. Loved it! Shared it to my wall and subscribed. Too great!

  • Little John

    I would like to commend David Silverman on his profound faith!

    If he is indeed logical he’ll concede that it takes just as much faith to believe that we are here as the result of chance as it does to believe in God. (Einstein said that the odds of inteligent life coming about by accident is comparable to an explosion in a type factory resulting in a set of encyclopedias).

    We all have faith in something, and nothing can prove it other than the conviction of our hearts and minds.

    The difference is, we believe that love actually exists, and atheists believe that love is a random firing of synapses in brains that (against all odds) evolved from single celled organisms in warm puddles.

    Now that’s some powerful faith! Wecome to the ranks of the faithful!

  • Little John

    To all who blame Christians for celebrating on December 25th:

    Christians began celebrating Christmas during the pagan solstice festival (Which, by the way, was a religous festival because it placed spiritual and magical signifigance on the position of the sun) to avoid being persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured by aethiests and Roman soldiers for their brliefs.

    At this point, it’s a 2000 year old tradition. And this offends you?

    Besides, if there is no God, then there is no higher power therefore no absolute right or wrong. And if there is no right or wrong, then none of this matters anyway!

  • jimmy

    This article taught me an unexpected and surprising “truth” … Matrix is a movie about aliens!

    https://atheists.org/atheism/Christmas

  • «bønez_brigade»

    It’s just too bad the other “Fox & Friends” geniuses weren’t on there working their persecution complexes. Go, Silverman, go!

  • Claudia

    Well hello, Little John!

  • Little John

    Hello Claudia! Funny link.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take any faith to follow the evidence.

    I’m also pretty sure that you can have right and wrong without absolutes.

  • Little John

    You’re right hoverfrog – and there’s plenty of evidence for the birth of jesus / wise men story in Israel 2000 years ago. (Whether or not he was God is a matter of faith, but the event itself, in some form, is not a myth). And the existence of Jesus, and his crucifixion, are also 100% historical.

    There’s still no evidence for the birth of life itself, so it takes plenty of faith to believe that it was a random accident.
    I don’t believe that you think that the love you have for your friends is only a chemical response.

    As far as right and wrong go, you have to be honest and follow the logic that if this is all an accident then there is no such thing as right and wrong. It would all be relative. You have to keep asking “But why is it wrong.” (The brave stance is to be a true atheist and admit that there is no right and wrong, just what works best in a given situation).

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    No Little John, the evidence is scant and poorly supported by independent sources. Look it up for yourself rather than parroting what your pastor has told you. do a bit of research of your own.

    There’s still no evidence for the birth of life itself, so it takes plenty of faith to believe that it was a random accident.

    Its a good thing that scientists aren’t claiming that it was a random accident then. Do you know what they are claiming?

    I don’t believe that you think that the love you have for your friends is only a chemical response.

    It is even a measurable electro-chemical response. Does it bother you that chemistry and biology can explain emotional states? Does it make your love seem less? Just because science can explain something doesn’t make it worthless.

    if this is all an accident then there is no such thing as right and wrong

    Why would you think “all this” is an accident?

    You have to keep asking “But why is it wrong.”

    Good. Excellent. Keep questioning. Don’t accept an answer just because it is written in an old book or your pastor tells you something. Apply questions of your faith. If it is true then it can withstand even intense questioning. Can’t it?

  • Arallyn

    @Little John: seriously? you honestly think that “right” and “wrong” don’t exist without having imaginary sky friends? You’re dead wrong. I’ll grant you that they’re relative terms and not absolutes, but empathy, which is a POSITIVE TRAIT which EVOLVED, holds precedence over our interactions and whether we’re “good” or “bad” with them. Good and bad, in a cultural setting, become what’s perceived as “right” and “wrong”.

    And yes, the love I have for my friends, my guy, and my parents IS only a chemical response. It’s a chemical response learned by the body because of repeated electrical, hormonal and serotonin exposures while you’re with them. Denying that the brain can unconsciously learn things because of repeated exposures just means you really need to go back to psych 101. Even the pope accepts basic psychological tenets.

    It’s a pleasant response, and it’s a good thing that encourages us to form strong bonds with friends so that both of us can fight off the saber-toothed tiger instead of one of us shoving the other in its path for it to eat now, and eventually getting hunted down by it ourselves because we have nobody else to work with.

    This is ridiculous. Everything about that post! You’re just so…credulous. It’s almost hard to believe, but sadly all too common.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Little John,

    there’s plenty of evidence for the birth of jesus / wise men story in Israel 2000 years ago. (Whether or not he was God is a matter of faith, but the event itself, in some form, is not a myth).

    Re: The “wise men story”,
    Could you please provide some evidence that a star (a star, FFS!) could stop in the sky over a particular spot on Earth so that three mobile gift-bearing dudes could locate a baby in a feed trough hundreds/thousands/whatever miles away? Did their measuring devices have such a precision that would let them know when said star was exactly at their zenith?

    And did any other astronomers around the world also notice this “stopped star”?

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    I’m in the midst of a Twitter argument with another atheist. Apparently I am whiny, playing victim, constantly bashing religion and a hater. Why? Because I said I was going to do something productive with my Sunday and not be at Church praying.

    It’s one thing to get flack from religious people, but from other atheists? FSM…

  • Little John

    Hi Hoverfrog,

    I ask that you assume (as I do toward you) that I am at least as inquisitive and educated as you. This has nothing to do with what a “pastor has told me,” please assume that we are equally smart and both seeking truth in the best way we can.

    1. In terms of evidence, there is far more than scant evidence in the existence and crucifixion of Christ. You need to look into this further. Part of the evidence is that huge populations of people became followers of Christanity immediately following his life.
    There are also written accounts, etc. The debate is about whether or not he is God – nobody debates whether or not he existed.

    2. In terms of the birth of life, I know exactly what the scientists are saying: that life most likely started when somehow a simple chain of RNA (they’re not sure where the amino acids came from), was formed, maybe even in ice, and that somehow eventually it bacame DNA and then a cell. After that, it was evolution that took it from a cell to where we are now…
    I still maintain that the odds against this are so high (without a helping hand) that it takes faith to believe. Especially since it looks like our universe has had only one big bang due to expansion and not enough mass to re-collapse and form a new singularity.

    3. You think “all this” is an accident – not me, remember?

    4. I’m the one who proposed questioning – I enjoy the debate, unlike the other posters here who get irate (or at least their chemical response does).

    We’re arguing about faith, which will always be a circular argument. It will never be solved – we’ll only know the truth when we pass on. It’s about what you choose to have faith in, and how confident you are in your own understanding. If you believe that we are no more than stacks of chemicals, and the love and passion you feel is only a bath of those chemicals, and that there is no God, and no afterlife, you’re betting against what millions of people of faith have believed over the years – and that requires faith. Sort of a reverse Pascal’s Wager.

    You BELIEVE that there is no higher power, I believe there is. One of us is right, the other is wrong. Simple logic. If I am proven wrong, so what? I’ll go to sleep. If you are proven wrong, and Christianity happens to be true, could be trouble…

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    It is true if you go back over a thousand years celebration at this time of year was a pagan ritual. The Christian church picked this time to celebrate Christ’s birth and called it Christmas.

    No one’s disputing that. Although to be fair, it’s only called Christmas in the English-speaking world. In most of the Nordic countries, the holiday still has its pagan name.

    In this country it clearly and always was Christmas to celebrate Christs birth. Along with Easter, it is the time even marginally religious people go to church. Attendance goes through the roof. It was never a solstice celebration.

    Sure, but almost all of the fun traditions are pagan in origin, not Christian. They date back to those ancient solstice celebrations. As for our country, the Puritans hated Christmas because they saw it as a hedonistic, idolatrous pagan festival.

    I agree it has become a secular holiday as well for alot of people. But that was not its origin in this country or what it stood for since at least the year 400.

    Well, I disagree. It’s been a mixture of pagan and secular and Christian since the very beginning, and the majority of the traditions have nothing to do with the story of baby Jesus in the manger. Pagan or secular traditions include: Yule logs, Christmas trees, wreaths, mistletoe, holly, ivy, lights, candles, snowmen, reindeer, eggnog, gingerbread, fruitcake, sending cards, hanging stockings, leaving out cookies for Santa, etc. Most of them been celebrated by Americans for centuries.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Deepak,

    I concede that its pagan not secular (but i would think that anything concerned with nature is secular in the sense that it is not religious). As far as the taking back goes , its not my view , Im merely attempting to frame the argument to Robert who seems intent on misrepresenting it. Im quite happy having days off – I don’t particularly care if there are religious reasons behind them.

    Yes, we’re mostly on the same page. Although I do think that the pagan celebrations were religious. They were about nature, but the supernatural played a large part in them, too. Festivals like Yule and Saturnalia were about deities; they just happened to be about Odin and Saturn instead of Yahweh.

    But I agree; I couldn’t care less about whether or not those traditions have religious reasons behind them. I think mythology is interesting, anyway, and I don’t care if various peoples thought spirits or gods were real. It’s still just as much fun to decorate trees and sing carols. I can belt out Silent Night and Joy to the World while happily recognizing that the story behind them is an ancient legend.

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    Hahahaha @Little John – Did you seriously just bring up Pascal’s Wager? What are you, new? Get back to class, kid.

  • Little John

    Dear pinkocommie,
    Please expound – I would like to hear your take… I still feel it’s a logical argument, since obviously we both can’t be right.

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    Oh honey, no no no. I don’t feed trolls, I just poke them with sticks. :) If you really want to have a conversation, let me know and we can correspond privately. Otherwise, I have little interest in participating in whatever this is for you. If this conversation has to be public to happen, you’re not really interested in the conversation and it’d be a total waste of my time.

  • Ali

    And it’s also a reaction to those Christians who want to make this a Christian-only time of year even though it’s not. Like those people who refuse to say “Happy Holidays.”

    I’d just like to say that “Merry Christmas” is another religious aspect. Saying Merry Christmas is not meant to shove religion down the throats of others. As a Catholic, I don’t get upset when people say “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Happy Kwanzaa,” or even “Whatever, this season sucks.” Why target Christianity? I know there are people who believe that being an atheist will send them to Hell, but there are plenty of people that don’t believe these things anymore. Just as there are plenty of Christians that no longer believe that people who are gay will burn in Hell. I know they exist, but I personally don’t know a single Christian who still thinks this way.
    I’d just like to put that out there.

  • Little John

    Pinkcommie,

    No problem, You responded to my comment in a public forum so I assumed you wanted to converse.

    Best,

    Honey

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    Yessss! Troll successfully averted: +10 charisma!

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Little John,
    Still researching that evidence you claimed for the wise men? I’m truly interested in how a star can stop for just 3 traveling people and if astronomers of the day made some note of it. A bright star stopping in the sky is definitely noteworthy!

    Also noteworthy is that you’ve questioned the soundness of other commenters’ logic — right after you used arguments based on bad logic (e.g., argumentum ad populum, Pascal’s Wager, burden of proof, etc.).

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Ali,

    I’d just like to say that “Merry Christmas” is another religious aspect. Saying Merry Christmas is not meant to shove religion down the throats of others. As a Catholic, I don’t get upset when people say “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Happy Kwanzaa,” or even “Whatever, this season sucks.” Why target Christianity? I know there are people who believe that being an atheist will send them to Hell, but there are plenty of people that don’t believe these things anymore. Just as there are plenty of Christians that no longer believe that people who are gay will burn in Hell. I know they exist, but I personally don’t know a single Christian who still thinks this way. I’d just like to put that out there.

    We need more religious people like you. I’m always happy when I meet Christians who reject things like eternal torture. I think you may have misunderstood about the billboard, though. This ad isn’t about people saying “Merry Christmas.” It’s not atheists who typically get up in arms over that. Rather, it tends to be a segment of the evangelical/fundamentalist population who object to the phrase “Happy Holidays” because they feel it doesn’t place enough emphasis on Christmas. There are campaigns by some of these groups to try to pressure or punish businesses that use more inclusive terms and that recognize there are a variety of holidays being celebrated at this time of year.

  • Little John

    Bonez,

    Sorry – long meetings.

    The star was most likely a grouping of planets in alignment (Most people can’t tell a star from venus or jupiter), or possibly a comet. There is evidence for both of those types of events right around the time of Jesus birth. Also, the magi are thought to be astronomers (Maybe from Persia) who would have tracked he movement of celestial bodies. Planets and also a comet would account for the seemingly fixed position.

    In terms of how they found the baby? that’s where the faith comes in, which is the root of our disagreement.

    I totally agree that arg. ad pop. is bad logic. Shouldn’t have used it. Pascals Wager is trotted out a lot but I believe is still totally logical. As far as burden of proof goes, atheists are the only ones demanding proof. We freely admit that our beliefs are faith based – which by its very definition does not require proof.

    By the way, why is everyone in this forum sarcastic and irritated?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Little John, welcome to the web-site. Its nice to see another real person here to join Robert, Tim and a few others. The rest of everyone here are just soulless skin-enclosed bags of responding chemicals who know not what they are writing.

    I do have to warn you about one thing. It was revealed to me that God is disgusted at modern Christians and has put in place a third covenant where Christians are damned to an eternity of hell for presuming to know God and mucking with civil law. Obviously we have different beliefs on this. You think the 2nd covenant is true. I think the third covenant is true. One of us is right. One of us is wrong. (You can only play Pascal’s wager with a false dichotomy). Simple logic. If I am proven wrong, I just go to sleep (I’m just a soulless skin-enclosed bag of responding chemicals… no soul to mess with)… If you are proven wrong, and the third covenant happens to be true, could be trouble.

  • Peter Mahoney

    OK, so now Bill Donahue and his Catholic League have put up a competing billboard that shows a nativity scene and says: “You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus.”

    This. Is. Awesome.
    What a screw-up for the Catholic League!

    If they (C.L.) have allowed the debate to focus on whether the Christ story is REAL or not, then they have already lost. Religion is mostly built upon NOT thinking too hard about whether it is real. If we have the Catholic League paying THEIR money to put up billboards focusing on whether Christ is REAL, then we are WINNING!

    I think that American Atheists is doing a GREAT job of going right to the HEART of the matter: pointing out that the religious stories are MYTHS, not real. Many, many people KNOW these are myths but don’t really want to fully admit it, even to themselves (I was that way for decades).

  • «bønez_brigade»

    *[assumes comment is in moderation for having a link...]*

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Little John

    I ask that you assume (as I do toward you) that I am at least as inquisitive and educated as you. This has nothing to do with what a “pastor has told me,” please assume that we are equally smart and both seeking truth in the best way we can.

    I certainly start from this position (actually psychology has shown that I start by assuming that I’m smarter than everyone else but that’s just being human) but then evidence changes my opinion.

    1. In terms of evidence, there is far more than scant evidence in the existence and crucifixion of Christ.

    There really isn’t.

    2. In terms of the birth of life, I know exactly what the scientists are saying:

    Excellent. I’m only a layman and not a scientist so I have only a layman’s knowledge.

    that life most likely started when somehow a simple chain of RNA

    RNA is a self replicating molecule. I think you need to go back further is you are looking at the origins of life.

    I still maintain that the odds against this are so high (without a helping hand) that it takes faith to believe.

    Really? I’d like to see those calculations and compare them to the calculations for the existence of a deity.

    Especially since it looks like our universe has had only one big bang due to expansion and not enough mass to re-collapse and form a new singularity.

    What has this got to do with abiogenesis?

    You know that this is an argument from incredulity don’t you?

    You think “all this” is an accident – not me, remember?

    I haven’t said “all this” is an accident. You have. It is your assumption that this is what we believe. Did you even bother asking an atheist what we believe?

    4. I’m the one who proposed questioning

    Good. Keep it up.

    We’re arguing about faith, which will always be a circular argument.

    No, you are making an assertion that atheism is a faith position and that science is a faith position. You really need to back up your assertions if you expect to be taken seriously.

    It will never be solved – we’ll only know the truth when we pass on.

    This is your assumption. I fully expect to cease knowing anything when I die. That is what the evidence suggests.

    It’s about what you choose to have faith in, and how confident you are in your own understanding.

    Really. I thought it was about evidence.

    If you believe that we are no more than stacks of chemicals, and the love and passion you feel is only a bath of those chemicals, and that there is no God, and no afterlife, you’re betting against what millions of people of faith have believed over the years – and that requires faith. Sort of a reverse Pascal’s Wager.

    Or actually Pascal’s Wager. By the way the evidence shows that we are beings of chemistry, has nothing to say about gods (not just the one you favour), and couldn’t care less about the opinions of one or a billion people.

    You BELIEVE that there is no higher power

    No I don’t. Nor do I believe that there is a higher power. I have no concept of a higher power. It is meaningless and somewhat silly. Please try asking what we believe before telling us what we do believe.

    I believe there is. One of us is right, the other is wrong.

    Actually you are making an assertion that there is a god, sorry that your God is the only one. I am simply treating your assertion sceptically. Back up your claims or face having them dismissed.

    If I am proven wrong, so what? I’ll go to sleep.

    Who is trying to prove you wrong?

    If you are proven wrong, and Christianity happens to be true, could be trouble…

    Indeed and what would that say about your god? I guess it doesn’t like questions after all.

  • Little John

    Hoverfrog,

    Thanks for the dialogue. meetings all day, I hope to continue speaking with you.

  • Maria

    Hoverfrog

    1. In terms of evidence, there is far more than scant evidence in the existence and crucifixion of Christ.

    There really isn’t.

    A man named Jesus Christ most definitely existed, but there is no proof as to whether he was actually the Son of God. There is indeed evidence and records that tells that he existed. There are records of him being crucified and of him being thought of as a “public nuisance.” He may have been the Son of God, or he may have simply been mentally ill. Depends on what you believe.

  • Romanian

    I don’t understand why these atheists did find necessary to show off (on bill boards) their opinion about Christmas? Did anybody (beside them), need it? Did anybody ask for it? If not, what did they want, then by doing so? Why do they do such things? To take other people the pleasure, the joy of Christmas celebration?

    First of all, Christmas is a tradition, do they have a problem with that? Why Christmas and not Hanukkah, mister Silverware? That is not a myth related celebration?

    Where is your problem if my children (want to) believe in Santa Claus? I did it when I was a child too…do I believe in it still ( now)? Of course not but I don’t recall needing a so called “atheist” to enlighten me to learn about that.

    We live in a very arid and brutal world and so little color and happiness has been remained for normal people and kids to enjoy, why do you want to destroy that? What is your real goal?

    Then, why should I believe you saying that God doesn’t exist? What is you prove on that? I, for example am not 100% convince about its existence, (at least not in the way it is preached by the preachers) but I am not convince about his nonexistence, either! I do believe that something beyond your 3 dimensional/material world in which you definitely live, Mr Silverman, do exists, no matter how is called it. Only the simple fact that his existence is questioned, is a sign of God’s existence. Only the simple fact that we discuss about him, it is assuming his existence because, otherwise we would never discuss about something what doesn’t exist, isn’t it?

    You atheist guys, do you really think that you control the truth and only the truth? I for example, do not think so! I am not sure that God exists but I have also serious doubts that he doesn’t exist and as long as I have these doubts, I cannot play with billboards on the streets of North America, insulting so many people in the entire world with semi-doct opinions.

    Now, I really want to hear from you, what makes you so sure about God’s nonexistence? What instrument of research did you use to get to this conclusion and and to make you so sure about it? I would like to hear about that in concrete terms in a philosophical debate, if you want and not by showing off your slogans on bill boards…
    What you guys are doing, it is just pathetic, I am sorry to tell you that!

    I apologize for my English level, obviously it is not my native language.

    Thank you!
    Sergiu

  • annie

    Funny how you don’t see any Jews like myself on here complaining about what others think but let me tell you “we” are sick of all of the Christens trying to run our lives. Let everyone believe the way they want to and just leave all of us alone. I may believe in my G-d as a Jew but you people try to push all your bible beliefs on us. Stay out of our lives, womb and government. A lot of family and friends are gay, agnostic and atheist and we treat each other as equals. Apparently your bible doesn’t teach you that.

  • Little John

    Romanian,
    Honest doubt is a part of the Christian tradition. Some of the disciples closest to Christ had doubts about his claim that he was the savior. Everyone who is truly honest with himself has doubts. But not Mr Silverman! He is 100% sure that God does not exist, and he is 100% sure that the Christmas story is a myth. (He “Knows” it’s a myth, and put up a billboard to proclaim it). I have been having great dialogue here with some people – but I have also noticed something interesting. I’m accustomed to questioning and doubting aspects of my own faith, even in religious settings like a Bible study, for example. There are aspects of Christianity that I will question until my death. But the overriding mood here is total confidence that God does not exist, and anything to the contray causes ridicule. Keep doubting and keep believing!

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Maria

    A man named Jesus Christ most definitely existed

    Ahem. Evidence please. Good primary evidence well supported by secondary and abundant tertiary sources. At best you can say that a man probably existed who the myths have been attributed to. It is far from a definite.

    there is no proof as to whether he was actually the Son of God.

    I think we can say that this is a given. I mean “God” has even less evidence that Jesus.

    There is indeed evidence and records that tells that he existed. There are records of him being crucified and of him being thought of as a “public nuisance.”

    What records?

    He may have been the Son of God, or he may have simply been mentally ill. Depends on what you believe.

    No. It depends on the facts and we understand the facts by examining the evidence. When you lack evidence you make fewer claims and ask more questions.

    Sergiu

    what makes you so sure about God’s nonexistence?

    A lack of evidence for God’s existence leads me to conclude that the claims regarding his existence are unsubstantiated and exaggerated. He may exist but I see no evidence that he does. Those who are making the claims have the burden of proof on them.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Little John said:

    But the overriding mood here is total confidence that God does not exist, and anything to the contray causes ridicule.

    Some may feel that way but most of the commenters I’m familiar with here take a weaker stance. They just are not convinced of the popular theistic versions of God. Many here, myself included, will simply say “I don’t know” in response to basic deist questions of some kind of creator. We draw the line when you embellish the generic deist god concept with all the theistic trappings. For example, the Christian notions of original sin, damnation, saved, heaven, hell, virgin births, resurections, demon casting, etc.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    [Ah, fuck it. I'll re-post it.]

    @Little John,
    Do you not wonder why there are no accounts of this unmoving bright star in the records of astronomers from other cultures around the world at that time? Backtracking of their recordings shows us that they knew the sky quite well and would’ve certainly noted such an oddity. And even if it were a grouping of planets or a comet [which will actually appear less fixed than a star on the sky throughout the night], you haven’t explained how it just stops over a particular spot on one little planet in this giant galaxy, just to wait for 3 bedraped bipeds to find what’s underneath it. It’s kinda like the Jonah story — fish/whale/whatever, it’s still an outlandish story. You said there was “plenty of evidence” of this tall tale, so bring it.

    Pascal’s Wager is so flawed I’ll just recommend that you do a google search for a basic explanation of its problems, rather than take up a page myself.

    Btw, if anyone here is irritated, it’s most likely due to the reappearance of tired old religious arguments built on faulty logic.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Romanian,

    mister Silverware

    what makes you so sure about God’s nonexistence?

    The dearth of his/her/its evidence.

    What instrument of research did you use to get to this conclusion and and to make you so sure about it?

    My allegedly god-given brain is having trouble with the aforementioned lack of evidence — especially due to the fact that the claims surrounding it are so extraordinary.

    ——————

    @Little John,

    Keep doubting and keep believing!

    Wow. Cognitive dissonance, for the loss.

  • Little John

    Hi Bonez,

    We don’t need records, it’s easy for astronomers to look back at the movements of celestial bodies. There was a comet and also Jupiter in retrograde, which makes it appear to stand still. Ever seen a comet? I have – it seems to hover in one place, night after night.

    The other evidence is enough for me:

    Jesus was a historical figure, he was born approx. 2000 years ago, King Herod was a historical figure, the magi (in general) are historical (And were astronomers), the practice of returning to one’s home town for census is historical, stables attached to homes in israel is historical. And the written accounts in the Bible are no more or less historical than any other written accounts that we have from that time.

    For me, that’s enough evidence to believe the story the way it’s told in the Bible. We all trust in clues that work together to tell a story, it’s what paleontologists do every day.

    Pascal’s Wager, by the way, is perfectly logical in this context. We’re debating Christianity here, not all religions. I say it’s true, you say it’s false. Obviously, one of us is wrong.

    Our logic is not faulty, we just disagree. Why should that irritate you? You do realize that it works both ways, right? That we both think we’re right?

    And again you still can’t help being pissy and obnoxious, “for the loss.”

    What’s wrong with questioning things, and mixing doubt with faith? Are you 100% sure that you are right?

  • Serenity

    “2,000 years of peace, love and acceptance”?
    did I miss something??

    I’ll be celebrating yule/winter solstice with my atheist boyfriend thank you.. and then I’ll celebrate the secular christmas with family.

    My boyfriend and I talked about if we had a tree together for yule/solstice/xmas were are going to have the flying spaghetti monster wrapped around the tree with Cthulhu wrapped around the bottom with the presents, with a sun like tree topper to represent the sun ^_^

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Little John,
    I’ve seen several comets. No, they do not hover in one place, night after night. Their position on the sky shifts from night to night. Look carefully at the next one you encounter. Anyone with dark sky conditions (as was common 2000 years ago) can see this if they pay attention to the background stars — and no optical aid is necessary. The divinely inspired (and divinely translated) passages don’t say “comet” or “largest planet”, though; they say “star”:

    Matthew 2:9 [KJV] When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

    Whateverthecase, as for the fish/whale tale, like it really fucking matters for something so outlandish. The point is, it’s still a violation of physical laws. Little points of light in the night sky (regardless of brightness) don’t give a shit about newborn babies. FWIW, your arguments are also working against the story by tearing away at the “miraculousness” of the event. Just say “goddidit”, for fuck’s sake; else, go claim your Nobel prize in physics. Or, keep on stretching to make it work if you want.

    ————

    Pascal’s Wager, by the way, is perfectly logical in this context. We’re debating Christianity here, not all religions.

    You didn’t look up the problems with the Wager, did you? For starters, even if you do shift the goalposts and whittle it down to just the Christian god [flavor unknown, though important], it assumes that this allegedly omniscient god will be fooled by a belief solely out of fear (as opposed to a genuine acceptance of his existence). Good luck getting people into Heaven like that.

    ————

    What’s wrong with questioning things, and mixing doubt with faith?

    To doubt is to not be very faithful. But there’s nothing wrong with questioning things. There is something fundamentally wrong with refusing to go where the evidence leads, though.

    Are you 100% sure that you are right?

    About what, exactly? About astronomy, yes. About the laws of physics working, yes. About three dudes and a baby affecting a hot ball of gas trillions of miles away, yes. About your arguments being built upon bad logic and a lack of evidence, most definitely.

    BTW, what makes you think I’m irritated? This is entertainment! And “pissy and obnoxious”? You must be new to the Internetz.

  • Maria

    Hoverfrog

    Ahem. Evidence please. Good primary evidence well supported by secondary and abundant tertiary sources. At best you can say that a man probably existed who the myths have been attributed to. It is far from a definite.

    “Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) should be among the first of several hostile witnesses called to the stand. He was a member of the Roman provincial upper class with a formal education who held several high positions under different emperors such as Nerva and Trajan (see Tacitus, 1952, p. 7). His famous work, Annals, was a history of Rome written in approximately A.D. 115. In the Annals he told of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in A.D. 64. Nero, the Roman emperor in office at the time, was suspected by many of having ordered the city set on fire. Tacitus wrote:

    Nero fabricated scapegoats—and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome (1952, 15.44, parenthetical comments in orig.).
    Tacitus hated both Christians and their namesake, Christ. He therefore had nothing positive to say about what he referred to as a “deadly superstition.” He did, however, have something to say about it. His testimony establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the Christian religion not only was relevant historically, but that Christ, as its originator, was a verifiable historical figure of such prominence that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!”

    Feel free to read this website if you’re still unconvinced that there was a man who actually called himself Christ.

    http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/157

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Little John,
    Y’know, that actually came off as kinda harsh on my part. Mentally swap out “fucking” w/ “darned” and “fuck” & “shit” w/ “crap” to mitigate harshness.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Maria,
    FWIW, there’s a man who calls himself “Christ” popping up every few years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_claimed_to_be_Jesus

    …nor was the Biblical character the first to do so.

  • Maria

    Bonez
    I’m not disagreeing, I’m simply stating that there was in fact a man named Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Son of God.
    So thank you for proving my point.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Maria,
    The fact that any old nutjob can claim to be The One And Only True Messiah™ proves your point? Quite the contrary. It only casts more doubt on the messianic claim of the one you mentioned. The NT Bible character [whatever flavor of him you choose] wasn’t the first or the last to claim such powers.
    Being one-in-a-million isn’t so special when there are 999,999 others just like you.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Maria
    You do know that other religions have people who have claimed to be God (not just his son , but there have been those too) – Do you accept that evidence? considering that there is as much(or really as little) evidence as your beliefs.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Little John

    Jesus was a historical figure, he was born approx. 2000 years ago

    Evidence?

    King Herod was a historical figure

    You know that George Washington was a real person, an historical figure, and the story of him chopping down a cherry tree is a myth. Using historical figures in stories adds credence to the story but the evidence has to match up with independently verified events. Did Herod leave a diary or have a chronicler that could confirm the events of the nativity? Were children actually slaughtered on his command and where is the evidence for this? Was he actually alive at the time of the purported events?

    the magi (in general) are historical (And were astronomers)

    That’s an interesting assertion. What were their names and countries of origin? When did they begin their journeys? How many of them were there? Where did they stop on their journey? Where did they pick up the gifts or who did they order to make the gifts? All this interaction should have some record or should at least have been written down on the magi’s return to their native lands.

    the practice of returning to one’s home town for census is historical

    Not so. Roman citizens may have been recorded in the local census of their region of birth but Rome didn’t care where Hebrews or other occupied people were born as long as they didn’t make a fuss and paid their taxes.

    stables attached to homes in israel is historical

    OK you’ve got me there. A country that used horses for work and transport had provision for stabling them.

    And the written accounts in the Bible are no more or less historical than any other written accounts that we have from that time.

    Less. Much less.

    We all trust in clues that work together to tell a story, it’s what paleontologists do every day.

    Paleontologists have primary evidence in the form of fossilised remains and preserved artifacts. They actually have the clues to work from. You have second and third hand accounts written with an agenda in mind.

    Pascal’s Wager, by the way, is perfectly logical in this context.

    Then you’ll agree that the Atheist’s Wager is equally logical and compelling?

    Are you 100% sure that you are right?

    No. There is always room for doubt. That is what having an open mind does for you, it leaves you with a little “but what if…” question. I’m pretty sure though.

    Maria, Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) lived more than a generation after the purported events. He repeated the evidence as he understood it. That makes his account good tertiary evidence. It means that he reported events as they had been reported to him. He was not a witness who wrote about events.

    In order to be convincing there needs to exist primary evidence or strong secondary evidence. Tertiary evidence alone is insufficient.

    The existence of other “Messiah’s” doesn’t help you. It obfuscates the historian’s search for a possible genuine Jesus. Was there a real Jesus that the myths are ascribed to? Maybe but I doubt it. If I had to bet I’d say that there were at least two.

  • Brian

    @Little John

    If someone came on here arguing simply that the bible is true because it is the word of god and that they know it is the word of god because that is written in the bible, you can understand that no one would take him seriously. If arguments did not convince him, out of embarrassment for him and empathy we would send him to Christian sources that showed him how he was failing. In the same way, you really must get help for thinking that Pascal’s wager constitutes a good argument. There must be Christian sources arguing against it, it’s simply so faulty that there must be intelligent Christians who are embarrassed by it.

    “3. You think “all this” is an accident – not me, remember?”

    You shouldn’t attribute views to people without cause like that and expect your conclusions about those people to be taken seriously.

  • Maria

    Bonez
    Please take the time to reread my original post.

    A man named Jesus Christ most definitely existed, but there is no proof as to whether he was actually the Son of God. There is indeed evidence and records that tells that he existed. There are records of him being crucified and of him being thought of as a “public nuisance.” He may have been the Son of God, or he may have simply been mentally ill. Depends on what you believe.

    Maybe you misinterpreted what I said. There was a man named Jesus Christ at one point in time. I don’t understand how you can refute this, you just said there have been people claiming to be the Christ for thousands of years. Is it so impossible that one of them was named Jesus?

    You say:

    The fact that any old nutjob can claim to be The One And Only True Messiah™ proves your point? Quite the contrary. It only casts more doubt on the messianic claim of the one you mentioned. The NT Bible character [whatever flavor of him you choose] wasn’t the first or the last to claim such powers.
    Being one-in-a-million isn’t so special when there are 999,999 others just like you.

    Please show me where I said that there was no doubt that the man named Jesus actually held messianic powers. I must be missing that somehow.

    Deepak

    You do know that other religions have people who have claimed to be God (not just his son , but there have been those too) – Do you accept that evidence? considering that there is as much(or really as little) evidence as your beliefs.

    Sure. I don’t belittle the religions of others simply because I don’t believe in it. My mind is open to the fact that my beliefs may be wrong. The fact that you want to say there was never a man named Jesus Christ is what I can’t understand.

    Hoverfrog

    Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) lived more than a generation after the purported events. He repeated the evidence as he understood it. That makes his account good tertiary evidence. It means that he reported events as they had been reported to him. He was not a witness who wrote about events.

    In order to be convincing there needs to exist primary evidence or strong secondary evidence. Tertiary evidence alone is insufficient.

    The existence of other “Messiah’s” doesn’t help you. It obfuscates the historian’s search for a possible genuine Jesus. Was there a real Jesus that the myths are ascribed to? Maybe but I doubt it. If I had to bet I’d say that there were at least two.

    Incorrect. You said there was never a man named Jesus Christ that lived. I was simply showing that he did. The fact that Bonez said that there have been hundreds strengths my point, if anything. If there were tons of them, one of them was probably named Jesus.

  • Little John

    Hoverfrog,

    The atheists wager that you pointed me to is completely faulty and proves that just as you claim that believers don’t understand atheists, (and I have to assume that’s probably true) it’s clear that atheists don’t understand the Christian faith. Christians believe that their salvation (sorry for the dirty word – will I be tagged as a troll by pinkcommie for using it?) is entirely based on faith in Christ, not in good deeds or living a good life. Good deeds, etc. are supposed to be a part of our faith, but are not the pathway to salvation. And since we believe that faith in Christ is the “way”, the atheists wager falls short because it says that one should “live a good life anyway” and if there is a God he will “judge you on your merits.” According to the Bible, even our best deeds are worthless, so my merits are not the key. In order for the wager to work, you at least have to accurately compare one faith to another.
    in terms of evidence that Jesus was a historical person, I said in an earlier post that for me it was evidence enough that thousands and then millions followed his teachings, starting immediately after his life. We disagree that the writings in the Bible are somehow less historical than other written / passed down histories. Kazakhstan, for example, has an oral history that was passed from generation to generation. It’s still considered a real history.

  • Brian

    Holy crap: I just read the “Atheist’s Wager” and it *is* even dumber than Pascal’s original wager! That’s quite a feat. I can sort of understand how someone could glance at both and think that they share the same problems, but the “Atheists Wager” has some that Pascal’s doesn’t have. Little John is right, if you think that that is an adequate response to the Christian Pascal’s Wager you don’t understand salvation by faith. In addition, it has even larger holes of logic than Pascal’s. Anyone who thinks that this should convince any person (i.e. including a Muslim or someone for whom the Atheist Wager’s misunderstanding of salvation by faith is irrelevant) who believes Pascal’s Wager (i.e. the Islamic version of it) is valid doesn’t understand the problems with Pascal’s Wager.

    The problems of the “Atheist Wager” are similar, but greater. Saying that people admitting the Atheist’s Wager is invalid must admit that Pascal’s Wager is invalid is like saying they must admit they can’t lift 1000 pounds simply because they can’t lift 2000.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Maria

    Sure. I don’t belittle the religions of others simply because I don’t believe in it.

    Ah but the question is why do you not believe? You don’t believe in them means you don’t think its true which means you think these other religions are based on myths. Why the double standards for the same level of evidence? Is saying you don’t believe in these other religions ‘belittling’ them?

    My mind is open to the fact that my beliefs may be wrong.

    Well it’s hard to gauge how sincere you are. YEC’s claim they are open minded too as do conservatives.

    The fact that you want to say there was never a man named Jesus Christ is what I can’t understand.

    Who me? I didn’t say that – I know some people do because there is so little known – primarily the Roman’s who kept meticulous records of everything don’t have any mention of Jesus – If he existed he wasnt anywhere near as popular as is claimed. However my point is people are allowed to question whether or not someone existed. Why do you find that offensive/problematic?

    However if there was a *man* called Jesus Christ would you be worshipping him? Surely worship demands some divinity aspect – otherwise you’d merely respect the person or some of his views (e.g. say a Lincoln or a Gandhi or a Martin Luther)?

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Maria

    There are records of him being crucified and of him being thought of as a “public nuisance.

    What is your source for this – No roman record exists for this as far as I know which would be the only credible source.

  • Little John

    Brian,

    Good points. I want to add that I originally brought up the term pascals wager in this forum as an example, not as a challenge. people heard the term and jumped all over it. (I basically said, “You’re betting on what you think is right…sort of a reverse pascals wager…”) as part of a larger discussion. I was trying to say that we both have chosen a path / are betting on what we beleive truth to be. I don’t think I’ll use the term here again…
    (My only problem with pascals wager is that it assumes that one can choose one’s faith – which is a whole other discussion / conondrum).

  • bernerbits

    it’s clear that atheists don’t understand the Christian faith

    That’s a broad brush you’re painting with, LJ.

    I myself think the Atheist’s Wager is a tad contrived. I’d personally suggest the simpler axiom of just being good for goodness’ sake. God or no, saved or no, you lived your life well and had a positive impact on the world (and if God’s going to roast your ass anyway because you believed the wrong thing, I don’t think he’s worthy of your praise).

    What is your source for this – No roman record exists for this as far as I know which would be the only credible source.

    She’s citing Tacitus, paraphrased on the apologetics site she linked above.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @LittleJohn:

    I prefer QualiaSoup and TheraminTree’s breakdown of Pascal’s Wager – Betting on Infinity

  • RNofHearts

    That Bill board was genious! Everyone is talking about it and more people will stand up for their faith and make the season even more celebrated then ever before. People are talking about GOD more now then ever. People are actually standing up and fighting for their faith. It is so great!!!!! I think this was a brilliant idea!!!! THANK YOU atheists! You have given GOD even more power and strength then he already had by posting that bill board . WELL DONE!!

  • Little John

    Bernerbrits,
    ” a broad brush…” – you’re right, don’t mean to generalize.

  • Little John

    Kevin

    Just watched it – reminds me how complex religon is – I’ve always boiled it down to the Bible, and if something is truly not clear to me I admit that I’m not sure about that part. In my case, I take the Bible as the inspired word of God, so it’s a different context. (Since I believe in God, I have no problem accepting that He would or could communicate with us through written word. If I didn’t believe in God, it would seem ridiculous to me).

    Back to your video link, I think pascals wager was put forth as an argument between two positions, not a formula to figure out which religon is more true. it only works between two opposing views of reality. But still – it’s a much better and smarter anti-pascal take than the atheists wager!

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Little John:

    As the video also describes, Pascal attempted to just cross out the other religions. Plus there’s the whole problem of which Christianity. I know that a lot of different Christian beliefs have intensely different doctrines that exclude other Christian beliefs.

    Pascal’s Wager is the most easily debunked of Christian apologetics. It’s a good thought exercise, but as soon as it comes out, I can instantly retort with what that video says. You’re betting one possible belief against an infinity of potential truths.

    I like what he said at the end – I’d prefer to bet the Knowable against the Unknowable.

  • Romanian

    1. @annie, you said:
    “Funny how you don’t see any Jews like myself on here complaining about what others think but let me tell you “we” are sick of all of the Christens trying to run our lives. Let everyone believe the way they want to and just leave all of us alone.”

    No offense but to use you expression, Annie, “Funny” , yes it is funny to see that a lot of Jews have been, are and will continue to be complaining about…almost everything.

    Even mister Silverman who plays the game of the atheist here, is structurally/genuinely one of them. I don’t want to go into this but in many of the dialogues I had with different Jews, when they didn’t have arguments anymore, they begun to accuse me of (subconscious they say -as they would know better than me what I feel) antisemitic feelings. That’s sad, because I know that they know, that I am not antisemitic, and by not hesitating to call me as such, (again – when they cannot sustain their points) it is very disappointing.

    On the other hand, would you mind developing the idea of “Christians running over your lives?”. What are you talking about? Who started this discussion? Who launched this stupid anti – Christmas slogans on the street, we, the Christians? Please explain it and don’t spread sinless accusations again. Change these poor tactics because they are not only poor; they are too old and not working in your advantage, anymore! The people are not as stupid as you guys think, please understand and pay attention to that…

    2. @ Little John.
    You know John, I grew up in a truly atheist country, (Communist Romania), and for the biggest part of my life, I was a convinced atheist. In fact, that was how we all lived like in that country, in that time; that was how we all have been educated like – without God but with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and of course, the light of the lights – Ceausescu! I and my generation (of students) have been exposed to a very serious arsenal of anti Christian/anti God theories and arguments, ( not as naive as those slogans from the Mr. Silverman billboards) and unavoidable, we ended up as atheists. Religion in schools has been forbidden; we didn’t have access to any other nature of information, only the materialist-dialectic ones; I didn’t know how a Bible look like and when I found one on a black market, I was paying 100 LEI on it (which as financial effort for me was like $100 for an American in the 70′s).

    Later in life, especially in the ’90s when we had the chance to read first, the books of our bigger thinkers (forbidden by Ceausescu regime), then the ones of reputed philosophers like C.G. Jung, CS Lewis and so on and who publicly expressed their conviction about the God existence, made me start questioning the divinity existence. As deeper I went into the searching, the more my skepticism about God Nonexistence, increased. When CG Jung has been asked by a reporter if he believes in God, his answer was: ” I don’t believe, I KNOW!”. Yes, I did understand exactly the way Jung believed in God …and so, he clearly was one of the personalities who made me look at this aspect, from a different angle, from another perspective than the one I grew up within. That’s how my doubts started; another way around, from a atheist child and young boy, to an adult believer (with those specific litle doubts).

    3. @ bønez_brigade ;you answered

    my questions:
    what makes you so sure about God’s nonexistence?

    your answer:
    The dearth of his/her/its evidence.

    my question:
    What instrument of research did you use to get to this conclusion and and to make you so sure about it?

    your answer:

    My allegedly god-given brain is having trouble with the aforementioned lack of evidence — especially due to the fact that the claims surrounding it are so extraordinary.

    The fact that your God-given brain has trouble finding the evidence, it doesn’t mean that that evidence does not exist; I cannot say that, do you? We don’t know everything, we know very, very, very little of very small things in our 3 maxim dimensional world. Do you think that this is enough to make statements at such a level? I don’t know if God Exists, but I cannot eliminate the possibility of its existence…
    Then,
    If the “dearth of his/her/its evidence (you appear pretty irritated by that) , is the argument you base your conviction on then I don’t have to much to say because I cannot determine anybody to see beyond these 3 dimensions of the materialistic world, the only one we know; I cannot convince anybody to think about the possibility of the existence of let’s say 4-5-6-7 etc other dimensions; I cannot make anybody understand that the level of knowledge and science what we achieved till now, is powerful enough to allow us to get conclusions with titles of axioms.

    Personally, only by looking back into the mankind history I realized how fragile our knowledge always has been and still is. If I had been telling 4 decades ago to my grandfather that in one day I, as a Romanian, will be able to communicate in writing with you on another part of the world in a real time, he would call me crazy or idiot and that because of your very same “dearth of evidence” he would have based his reaction on. The examples could continue finding the same reactions around the telephone, radio, electrical bulb, any discovery. Shouldn’t that make you take a little more precaution regarding what the future might bring us to evidence, as well? You act like being certain that what we have discovered up until now, it is everything we possible could have discovered and/or it is good enough to state that God, doesn’t exist;

    I think that what we discovered till now is providing us enough information to make us jump into firm decision about God existence! The after communist experience made me understand that a high precaution across a domain what I have not enough knowledge about has to be always taken in consideration!

    4. @Maria

    To admit that Jesus was the son of God, needs the admittance of the existence of God Himself. As long as you don’t admit that, any other discussion about Jesus as son of God it makes no sense. We could philosophize on the subject and in this way, I could bring you arguments (philosophical arguments)that Jesus is the son of God ,as I also could bring arguments related to Christianity as being the right faith,(you all could do that with your faiths, I know), but before that, we need to start from the assumption that God exist. Otherwise, the subject makes no sens! Jesus Christ did exist, he did mark the mankind existence in a supra-historic way. Jesus Christ is not over history, not in history! Everything in history measures in rapport with his existence; and that’s a fact!

    5. Bible.

    If we take the bible out of our history, what remains for the human history?

    Without the bible, Shakespeare became a tragic jokes teller.(P. Tutea)

    sorry for being so long but the subject is not easy to be treated in few words.

    Have a nice weekend, all of you!
    Sergiu

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Romanian(Sergiu)
    Its unfortunate to hear that atheism was forced on you. Note that most people on this forum would be pro teaching about belief/disbelief to a teen who is mature enough (but not earlier) – and letting him/her choose. You’ll find this attitude more among non believers than you will among believers.

    As to your queries on evidence – here’s a humorous(for a non believer) take on why the evidence for a divine Jesus is poor

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOfjkl-3SNE&feature=player_embedded

  • bernerbits

    All the stories of people who were taught to believe something as children and later “defected”, regardless of what they were taught to believe, is actually a pretty compelling argument against teaching children religion (or atheism) at a young age.

  • Robert W.

    Romanian,

    Fascinating post. Thank you.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Mariam

    Incorrect. You said there was never a man named Jesus Christ that lived.

    Sorry for being so pedantic but your assertion was that a man named Jesus definitely existed. I asked for evidence. I’m sure that a man named Jesus existed and I could pretty much guarantee that someone on this site knows someone named Jesus personally. It isn’t that unusual a name and nor was it 2000 years ago.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Little John

    The atheists wager that you pointed me to is completely faulty

    Gah! That was the point. The same logic is applied in Pascal’s wager except for non-belief in gods. It is the wager that is faulty.

    I said in an earlier post that for me it was evidence enough that thousands and then millions followed his teachings

    Which was pointed out to be an argument ad populum.

  • Little John

    Hoverfrog,

    As evidence that he was God, and the means of salvation, saying that millions follow him is a.a.p. If you review the earlier post, that’s what was pointed out as argument ad populum, and I agreed, As evidence that he existed on earth, which is how I used it the second time, it’s pretty good evidence – it’s like having 10,000 witnesses to an event. In fact, one could argue that no single person has affected humanity as much.

    Do you really think Jesus (the one we’re talking about) didn’t exist, even as a man/teacher, whatever?

    I don’t think “that was the point.” I think you sent me that link because you wanted me to see that the wager can be easily reversed – which in that context, it can”t. The wager is not faulty when comparing two contrasting scenarios – that’s all it’s good for.

    I also just recently voiced what I felt was the flaw with pascals wager, so I’m not on a mission to defend it. I used it earlier as a comparison. (Although I still think it’s a worthy thought experiment).

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Little John:

    Pascal’s Wager sucks as a thought experiment. Anytime someone presents it in an argument I cease believing they have anything worthwhile to put forward to the debate.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Little John

    As evidence that he existed on earth, which is how I used it the second time, it’s pretty good evidence – it’s like having 10,000 witnesses to an event.

    It really isn’t like having 10,000 witnesses. Do you know what is like having 10,000 witnesses? 10,000 witnesses. A lot of people believing he existed is like a lot of people believing that the moon is made of cheese or a lot of people believing that the sun revolves around the Earth. No hang on. This is better: It is like a lot of people believing in John Frum.

    In fact, one could argue that no single person has affected humanity as much.

    Only if you can show that he was actually a person.

    Do you really think Jesus (the one we’re talking about) didn’t exist, even as a man/teacher, whatever?

    The person of Jesus certainly exists as an amalgam of popular myths of the time. Whether they stem from a real person, dozens of people, or a legend is debatable. We simply don’t have enough evidence to say which it is with any confidence.

    I don’t think “that was the point.” I think you sent me that link because you wanted me to see that the wager can be easily reversed

    Do me the courtesy of taking me at my word please. Pascal’s wager is nonsense, the atheists wager is similarly nonsense. I’ll bet if you look there’ll be a Flying Spaghetti Monster Wager somewhere that will be just a nonsensical.

    The wager is not faulty when comparing two contrasting scenarios – that’s all it’s good for.

    So it presents a fallacy of false dichotomy. What on Earth are you using it for?

    Although I still think it’s a worthy thought experiment.

    A very short thought experiment.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Little John

    Do you really think Jesus (the one we’re talking about) didn’t exist, even as a man/teacher, whatever?

    You can’t have it both ways. If Jesus is just a man/teacher then there are plenty of people on this planet who have preached things that we might consider good you don’t worship them , why worship Jesus ?(it’s not even as if the morals Jesus provides were anything new even at that time see for e.g. The golden rule – http://www.atheistcartoons.com/?p=3701
    )?
    If on the other hand Jesus has some divinity , then that’s what is at question and that’s what you must show evidence for.

    The number of people who believe in Jesus is irrelevant (even if you discount the fact that most are indoctrinated as children). The number of people who believe in Ganpati (a man-elephant hybrid God who is the son of the Shiva – the destroyer in the Hindu trinity) is in millions – Do you believe he existed?

  • Brian

    “The same logic is applied in Pascal’s wager except for non-belief in gods.”

    Not quite.

    Pascal’s wager has multiple fatal problems. It presents a false dichotomy when in reality there are infinite Metaphysical constructs to wager on. Most saliently, there is equal reason to believe (none) that the consequences of actions are the exact opposite the wagerer says they are. In other words, it’s just as possible as any religious mythology that a trickster God specifically sends to hell those who follow the one true religion and rewards everyone who does not.

    This flaw is so big that it partially undermines one of the most popular criticisms of the wager: that we cannot choose belief. Any supernatural being or pantheon is just as likely to value (or despise) honest faith as they are craven calculation. Arbitrarily postulating a deity that values true faith and does not value cynicism, the wager will not work for such an entity. Most conceptions of the Christian god are of such a being, so only for an infinitesimal slice of religions of which most of Christianity is a member, Pascal’s Wager does have this additional fatal flaw.

    It also addresses what is rational to do, rather than what is most likely. Even if the Wager worked, it would still be wholly irrational to think there is a measurable chance of Christian claims being true.

    Worst of all, the claim that no sacrifice is necessary to play the game is untrue. For Christianity it is far less of a lie than it is for most religions, as Christianity has the doctrine of salvation by faith. Whereas in other religions holy activity includes wasting time praying, fasting, and even having less sex(!), in (some) Christianity the only sacrifice is the intellectual integrity lost upon believing in the flawed Wager itself. This is the part that fares worst inverted from Pascal into the Atheist’s Wager.

    The Atheist’s Wager generally has these same fatal flaws.

    It assumes that a benevolent god is likelier than alternatives, much as the theist one assumes that a god rewards those who do as he asks just because he says he does. Likewise, there is a huge cost in merely being good on the chance it will happen to be what a deity will reward. Importantly, because there is no salvation by faith proposed, not only must one sacrifice intellectual integrity to follow this, one would actually have to give up stuff! A Christian unwilling to surrender more than his intellect can rightly distinguish between the two wagers and be less willing to take the atheist one.

    The Atheist’s wager arbitrarily postulates a god who rewards wager followers, the same weakness as in Pascal’s. It remains equally likely that a God exists who sends everyone to heaven, except for people who believe in a wager of some kind. (Or one that sends to hell those who die in any month other than June and in any place other than Austin. The safe bet is clearly to book a flight there in advance planning commit suicide…you can’t be too careful when it comes to the eternal afterlife!)

    Once again, we are being asked to do something, but the argument does not seek to convince that anything in particular is likely or even possible.

    The bit about being remembered fondly is just stupid.

    The Atheist’s Wager avoids the objection that faith can’t be cajoled by threats since it calls for action alone. In this sense it is stronger than Pascal’s.

    In summary: Pascal’s is stronger insofar as he is not necessarily asking for tangible commitment, and the Atheist’s is stronger insofar as it does not ask for faith at all. Both are nonfunctional, but each has one bit dumber than the other, so you can’t really say that rejecting one has to lead to rejection of the other.

  • Little John

    These friendly atheists sure are touchy!

    Since I now know that you beleive I have nothing worthwhile to put forward this debate, I won’t need to respond to your posts anymore. Sorry you feel that way.

    People have different opinions on things, you have to accept that.
    I know, it “sucks.”

  • Ganapati

    The number of people who believe in Ganpati (a man-elephant hybrid God who is the son of the Shiva – the destroyer in the Hindu trinity) is in millions – Do you believe he existed?

    What exactly are you implying?

  • Brian

    These friendly atheists sure are touchy!

    I never claimed to be friendly. It’s the operator of the site who is. We’re individuals too, you know…

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Little John:

    Hah, just cause the site is called ‘Friendly Atheist’ doesn’t necessarily mean its members are friendly atheists. I’m not a mean atheist, but more of an impatient, snarky, sarcastic atheist.

    I get these very same questions every time I talk to my family and it quickly becomes exhausting to have to remind them every time that ‘no, Pascal’s Wager doesn’t work.’ ‘No, there is no first-hand evidence for Jesus.’ ‘Josephus’s writings probably were added in the Middle Ages, Tacitus likely was writing from tertiary sources.’ ‘Believers in or martyrs for Christianity doesn’t make it the ‘one true religion’ because there are as zealous believers and martyrs for other religions.’

    It’s exhausting, and I have little patience for Bible-apologists thinking that atheists haven’t heard all these arguments before / haven’t read the Bible / haven’t been in Church / or are ‘missing a little something in their hearts.’

    So, sorry. My memory is drawing up a quote about opinions and arseholes.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Hover Frog

    it presents a fallacy of false dichotomy

    That’s a nice short succinct definition of all these wagers (including Pascal’s wager). You take a proposition and another somewhat opposing viewpoint and unwittingly think they represent all of reality. Then you place your wagers based on assumptions of probability of outcomes and some values attached to winning and losing.

    It gets dicey when one of the propositions has an infinite payout (or punishment) and then there is the whole business that the dichotomy is false in that is doesn’t cover the entire possibility space. It’s really meaningless. It only works as a rhetorical tool to try to convince a naive (or uneducated) audience.

    Moving on now…

  • Little John

    Jeff,

    I agree with your dichotomy statement. I have always viewed the construct of the “wagers” as not comparing two opposing beliefs, but rather two people disagreeing about whether or not a particular belief is true – more like betting on a coin toss than a horse race.
    Is that more applicable to this particular debate? I sometimes hear atheists saying that theirs is not a “belief” and should not be pigeonholed as such. So instead of “I believe this, you believe that, one of our beliefs must be right.” it’s more like, “When it comes to your Christian faith, I think it’s false, and I know that you think it’s true – only one of us can be right about THAT.

  • RadicalFreethinker

    LMMFAO! I Love it! Just pissy enough I say!

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    Kevin,

    Do you not think that Christian apologists haven’t heard the same lame arguments from atheists? We have and they don’t get any better. They are based upon wrong and sometimes intentionally false information, or on a false premise that the evidence that does exist isn’t what they would think would be there so the evidence is wrong, etc…..

    And to top it off they conclude with the arrogant notion that even though there have been brilliant people of faith through the centuries, anyone who believes in God is a bumbling idiot who has traded in his intellect and they are the ones who only know the truth.

    I don’t have much patience for that.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Maria

    Maybe you misinterpreted what I said. There was a man named Jesus Christ at one point in time. I don’t understand how you can refute this, you just said there have been people claiming to be the Christ for thousands of years. Is it so impossible that one of them was named Jesus?

    Not at all. Hoverfrog explained it better than I.
    But the existence of a dude who says he’s “Jesus Christ” or “the Son of God” (whether he actually is or isn’t) isn’t such a big deal when a bazillion others have done the same thing. That’s my point.

    Please show me where I said that there was no doubt that the man named Jesus actually held messianic powers. I must be missing that somehow.

    You didn’t say it. The Jesus characters did.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Romanian,

    The fact that your God-given brain has trouble finding the evidence, it doesn’t mean that that evidence does not exist; I cannot say that, do you?

    Nope, but it certainly doesn’t look good for the evidence’s existence.

    We don’t know everything, we know very, very, very little of very small things in our 3 maxim dimensional world. Do you think that this is enough to make statements at such a level? I don’t know if God Exists, but I cannot eliminate the possibility of its existence…

    Yes, you can put existence claims to the test. If the claims fail to hold up, then that says something about likelihood. Easy.

    If the “dearth of his/her/its evidence (you appear pretty irritated by that) [...]

    Irritated? Do elaborate!

    You act like being certain that what we have discovered up until now, it is everything we possible could have discovered and/or it is good enough to state that God, doesn’t exist;

    Nope. But it sure casts a lot of doubt on all gods conceived up to this point.

    I think that what we discovered till now is providing us enough information to make us jump into firm decision about God existence!

    Correct. What we’ve discovered until now has cast enough doubt on the existence of God (a personal one, at least) that we can say that his/her/its existence is highly doubtful.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Little John,
    FWIW…

    I want to add that I originally brought up the term pascals wager in this forum as an example, not as a challenge. people heard the term and jumped all over it. (I basically said, “You’re betting on what you think is right…sort of a reverse pascals wager…”)

    Guess what. Immediately after that original example and bringing-up-of-the-term, you actually used Pascal’s Wager as a challenge.
    Here, check it out:

    You BELIEVE that there is no higher power, I believe there is. One of us is right, the other is wrong. Simple logic. If I am proven wrong, so what? I’ll go to sleep. If you are proven wrong, and Christianity happens to be true, could be trouble…

    ———
    BTW, If you have any updates on Biblical physics and orbital mechanics, I’d still love to hear them!

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Robert W.,

    Do you not think that Christian apologists haven’t heard the same lame arguments from atheists? We have and they don’t get any better. They are based upon wrong and sometimes intentionally false information, or on a false premise that the evidence that does exist isn’t what they would think would be there so the evidence is wrong, etc…..

    Would you be so kind as to provide some specific examples for our scrutiny?
    Thanks in advance!

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Robert W:

    Do you not think that Christian apologists haven’t heard the same lame arguments from atheists? We have and they don’t get any better. They are based upon wrong and sometimes intentionally false information, or on a false premise that the evidence that does exist isn’t what they would think would be there so the evidence is wrong, etc…..

    I second Bonez’s request. Do you have examples?

    And to top it off they conclude with the arrogant notion that even though there have been brilliant people of faith through the centuries, anyone who believes in God is a bumbling idiot who has traded in his intellect and they are the ones who only know the truth.

    Sweeping generalizations suck. I would never say anything of this sort. I agree there are some brilliant people of faith (Isaac Newton) and people of faith who have done some incredible things for everyone (Martin Luther King.) At the same time there are, indeed, people of faith who are bumbling idiots. I call it like I see it.

  • bernerbits

    Robert…

    Please tell me you see the irony in accusing all atheists everywhere of overgeneralizing.

    And I third the request for specific examples of atheist arguments that are “lame,” “wrong,” and “intentionally false.”

    Hell just for kicks, I’ll make it easy on you and offer you one of our many (apparently) trite and defeated arguments for you to pick apart. Have you read Carl Sagan’s essay “The Dragon In My Garage?” It’s a fairly easy read. Can you read it, then come back here and tell me exactly what you find “lame,” “wrong,” and “intentionally false” about his central argument?

  • RNofHearts

    Everyone is different… You can CHOOSE what you want to choose. You can believe whatever you WANT to believe, no matter how much proof or logic or reason you throw out there. It’s all a matter of choice! ANY religion is a matter of choice and beliefs.

    All I am thinking is how can anyone be so rude and disrepectful of others beliefs? What kind of person does that?? Isnt that a form of racism? Dont athiests have feelings? , sensitivity?, respect for others? Or is that not in their nature? I have no gripes with atheists . If thats what youve chosen to believe than thats fine with me. But by totally disrespecting someone elses beliefs tells me that they are just not nice people , no matter what they believe.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Little John,

    It looks like we are starting to agree on things.

    The false dichotomy comes in when considering “Christian” and “atheist” as covering all the possibility space. It leaves out the Muslims, Hindus, etc. There are other beliefs out there besides just Christian.

    If you compare “Christian” with “not Christian” then the false dichotomy goes away but the wager breaks down.

    For instance, if the Christian is right, then the Christian goes to heaven and the non-Christian goes to hell. If the Christian is wrong, then we don’t have enough information to make any kind of additional statement based only on “non-Christian”. “Not Christian” is undefined and could mean all sorts of things including Muslim, Hindu, atheist, etc. We don’t have enough information to complete the terms of the wager.

  • Deepak Shetty

    RNofHearts

    But by totally disrespecting someone elses beliefs tells me that they are just not nice people , no matter what they believe.

    Well if religion was only a matter of you believe what you want and I believe what I want , perhaps you would be correct.
    The problem is that some religious people try to enforce social constructs (e.g. Marriage is only valid for heterosexuals) , encourage discrimination (e.g. look at surveys about the electability of atheists) , mix religion with politics (government must favor MY religion!), encourage gender discrimination (the womans place is at home), spread nonsense about sex education (the use of condoms increase AIDS!) , deny science (the age of the earth is 6000 years) and so on.

    Do you *respect* the above beliefs? – if not you are no different than us.

  • Robert W.

    Kevin, Bonez, Bernerbits,

    As to your requests, Kevin listed some of the arguments I was talking about. You can also include intentionally misrepresenting the date the Gospels were written, the higher standard for historical evidence of facts described in the Bible as opposed to other ancient documents or events, the disregarding of archeological evidence confirmed from the Bible, the whole list of arguments based upon what modern man would expect to see as potential evidence and then claiming that because more is not there it never happened, the false attempt to compare other mythologies to the stories in the Bible and claim they are similar until you look into them and there are no similarities at all (such as saying the story of the birth of Christ is really just a recasting of the story of Hercules for example), the misrepresentation that the Bible translations we have now are not accurate because they were copied several hundred years after they were first written and thus not reliable, the misrepresentation of the Christian beliefs of our founding fathers in an attempt to show this was not a nation founded on Christian principles by Christian people, taking certain passages of the Bible intentionally out of context in an attempt to prove a point, intentionally failing to recognize that the Bible is a book made up of multiple books and stories some of which are clearly allegories and some of which are meant to be historical and thus claiming it can’t be interpreted as such. The list can go on.

    As for Carl Sagan’s essay it is lame. It is simply an attempt to show that science based upon natural laws can’t prove the supernatural. I think that would be self evident. It also attempts to claim that all people who believe in God (or gods) are mentally deranged. A pretty bold comment to make about over half of the human population.

    As for a broad brush over generalization I apologize. If that description doesn’t apply to you then I am thankful. However I have seen very often on this site comments similar to what I said from multiple posters so there is some basis for the statement.

  • bernerbits

    As to your requests, Kevin listed some of the arguments I was talking about. You can also include intentionally misrepresenting the date the Gospels were written, the higher standard for historical evidence of facts described in the Bible as opposed to other ancient documents or events, the disregarding of archeological evidence confirmed from the Bible, the whole list of arguments based upon what modern man would expect to see as potential evidence and then claiming that because more is not there it never happened, the false attempt to compare other mythologies to the stories in the Bible and claim they are similar until you look into them and there are no similarities at all (such as saying the story of the birth of Christ is really just a recasting of the story of Hercules for example), the misrepresentation that the Bible translations we have now are not accurate because they were copied several hundred years after they were first written and thus not reliable, the misrepresentation of the Christian beliefs of our founding fathers in an attempt to show this was not a nation founded on Christian principles by Christian people, taking certain passages of the Bible intentionally out of context in an attempt to prove a point, intentionally failing to recognize that the Bible is a book made up of multiple books and stories some of which are clearly allegories and some of which are meant to be historical and thus claiming it can’t be interpreted as such. The list can go on.

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ. I personally tend not to favor these particular arguments in debate because I’m not a historian and don’t claim to be one. However, my personal intuition tells me that anything making supernatural claims is going to have to be held to a higher standard of historical evidence than something that doesn’t.

    It is simply an attempt to show that science based upon natural laws can’t prove the supernatural.

    So you’re saying that it doesn’t prove that? If so, can you explain how science can demonstrate the existence of something supernatural (ideally without getting into an evolution debate because for one thing, it’d be like yelling at a brick wall for both of us, and for another, debunking evolution is not sufficient to prove the existence of God)?

    If you’re saying naturalistic science cannot prove the existence of the supernatural, can you give me an example of something else, besides God, that is supernatural and cannot be proven by science?

  • bernerbits

    However I have seen very often on this site comments similar to what I said from multiple posters so there is some basis for the statement.

    So? Most integers aren’t prime. This doesn’t mean that there are no prime numbers.

  • Robert W.

    Bernerbits,

    Actually my reading goes well beyond Less Strobel but I have read his books. I would recommend books or essays from Norman Geisler, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig or Timothy Keller for more in depth information.

    As for the Sagan article, what I am saying is that it is not much of an argument to point out that the use of natural laws fails to prove the supernatural. Maybe I wasn’t clear.

  • bernerbits

    Actually my reading goes well beyond Less Strobel but I have read his books. I would recommend books or essays from Norman Geisler, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig or Timothy Keller for more in depth information.

    One of these days I’m going to get around to starting into a reading list over at commonsenseatheism (apparently Hemant’s site isn’t letting me post links) which contains an even balance of skeptics and apologists, including several you mentioned above. I figure knowing both sides is the best way to understand any contentious issue.

    As for the Sagan article, what I am saying is that it is not much of an argument to point out that the use of natural laws fails to prove the supernatural. Maybe I wasn’t clear.

    I think that misses the point slightly, and I think apologists are too quick to dismiss this argument. It’s all well and good to say “science isn’t the only way we can know truth”, but you must then provide a convincing argument that an alternate epistemology is viable. After his hypothetical scenario, Sagan asks, “Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?” Put slightly differently I guess my question to you would be, how do you propose proving the existence of something that fails to adhere to natural laws?

  • Robert W.

    Bernerbits,

    Put slightly differently I guess my question to you would be, how do you propose proving the existence of something that fails to adhere to natural laws?

    I think Timothy Keller says it very well. He argues that science can give us some clues for God’s existence but it can’t prove it nor can it disprove it. The case for God is built upon alot of different factors beyond science, and William Lane Craig has his list of about five arguments that cumulatively build a compelling case.

    These include a cosmology argument, a moral argument, the historical record for the resurrection, personal revelation etc. Taken together I believe they make a very compelling argument which in the end I agree ultimately comes down to an element of faith. And even having an element of faith doesn’t kill the argument because we all operate on a level of faith unless you are an extreme rationalist which no real functioning humans are (that is a shorthand statement for complex thought but basically the idea is that if you were an extreme rationalist you would be frozen and unable to do anything so everyday life includes an element of faith it just depends on where you place that faith)

  • Sarah

    By reading all of these comments, it seems to me that this billboard is reflective of the nature of those within the athiest community! You all are so unaccepting of *each other*, some are even incredibly insulting to each other! Why would any non-athiest (like myself) even consider being apart of this community, if whenever I have a dissenting opinion, the result will be a full blown attack on my character and general knowledge? Billboard aside, you all are setting a hell of an example about what being an athiest is all about – and it is not appealing in the least.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Robert W:

    These include a cosmology argument, a moral argument, the historical record for the resurrection, personal revelation

    I’ll take these one by one. Since you haven’t, exactly, explained what they are I’ll have to make an assumption based on what I’ve heard:

    Cosmology Argument – I will assume you mean the following “the universe seems fine-tuned for our life in it.” I propose that the truth behind this is that were the universe not adequate for our existence, we would not be here. We evolved to fit our universe, not the other way around.

    Moral Argument – I will assume you mean that “atheists have no basis for morals,” a big load of bullpucky. I am a moral person because when something bad happens to someone, it makes me feel bad. When I do something good for someone, it makes me feel good. If something I do helps someone out, it’s a good thing. If something I do hurts them, it’s a bad one. We do not need some invisible judge passing out laws for us to be moral, we’re a social being. (That stated, the laws of your god aren’t even all that moral.)

    Historical Record of a ResurrectionWhat historical record of a resurrection? The only written record of Jesus resurrecting from the tomb is written in the Bible. That’s like using the Harry Potter series as evidence that Hogwart’s is real.

    Personal Revelation -The plural of anecdote != data. Here’s my ‘personal revelation.’ When I was young, I prayed to get an A on my science mid-term. A booming voice called out from the sky and I looked up to see a mass of wheat noodles and two giant meatballs in the sky telling me that the will of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is for me to pass my mid-term. I did, and it changed my life. Does that make you a believer in the FSM?

  • bernerbits

    William Lane Craig has his list of about five arguments that cumulatively build a compelling case.

    These include a cosmology argument, a moral argument, the historical record for the resurrection, personal revelation etc.

    And you see, I don’t find any of these compelling. The historicity of biblical accounts is controversial and not accessible to the layperson, the moral argument is easily explained by evolutionary advantage, and the only thing we can conclude from the cosmological argument is that either infinite regress is possible, or something can exist without a cause.

    Personal revelation is the weakest because they’re impossible to verify, they’re notoriously inconsistent with one another, and they rely on a person’s trustworthiness and their ability to correctly interpret an experience. If my brother tells me he saw a giant spider on his deck I’d believe him without having to verify the experience myself, because I don’t believe he has cause to lie to me and I know by prior experience that the spiders where he lives are damn scary. But if he tells me that he entered a wardrobe and found a snow-covered world with fauns and witches and talking lions, or that he got acupuncture and it cured his arthritis, or that he had a ghost in his house, you can bet your ass I’d be skeptical, at least until I was able to see any evidence of these claims.

    I’m not feeling motivated to get into a lengthy discussion about whether each of these apologetic arguments is sound or not (and please excuse my reticence to discuss them in detail, but that feels like a massive undertaking that I really don’t have the intellectual stamina for), but hopefully I’ve at least shown, since we find your arguments weak the same way you find ours weak, that either of us trying to convince the other is an exercise in futility.

    You’re right that humans employ a level of trust (or “faith”) in assessing whether to believe anything at all. But in most cases that trust is trust founded in experience or evidence. But you and I perceive the amount of trust/faith required to accept the existence of a god (let alone tenets of a particular religion or sect thereof) very differently.

  • bernerbits

    You all are so unaccepting of *each other*, some are even incredibly insulting to each other! Why would any non-athiest (like myself) even consider being apart of this community, if whenever I have a dissenting opinion, the result will be a full blown attack on my character and general knowledge?

    Forgive my pedantry, but I’m not going to be able to mend my ways if you don’t point out what I have said that was insulting or a full-blown attack on Robert W’s or Little John’s character and general knowledge.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Sarah

    some are even incredibly insulting to each other!

    Some are , Some aren’t. For me it depends – If I believe the view being expressed is harmful , I’m not averse to insulting said person. I do not believe that all views are worthy of respect.

    Why would any non-athiest (like myself) even consider being apart of this community,

    That depends on what your motivation is. If you want to learn something then join , if you wish that all of your views be treated with respect , unchallenged then dont.

    if whenever I have a dissenting opinion, the result will be a full blown attack on my character and general knowledge?

    It depends on what the dissenting opinion actually is. For e.g. what is the right way
    to respond to an opinion like my religion tells me the earth is 6000 years old?
    There are many who might argue with you without being insulting , you can choose only to respond to them.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @Robert W,

    You can also include intentionally misrepresenting the date the Gospels were written,

    Intentionally? How do you know that is so?

    the higher standard for historical evidence of facts described in the Bible as opposed to other ancient documents or events, the disregarding of archeological evidence confirmed from the Bible, the whole list of arguments based upon what modern man would expect to see as potential evidence and then claiming that because more is not there it never happened,
    [...]
    the misrepresentation that the Bible translations we have now are not accurate because they were copied several hundred years after they were first written and thus not reliable,

    Hoverfrog covered all this several times above.

    the false attempt to compare other mythologies to the stories in the Bible and claim they are similar until you look into them and there are no similarities at all (such as saying the story of the birth of Christ is really just a recasting of the story of Hercules for example),

    “no similarities at all”?? The Zeitgeist people are mostly wrong, that’s for sure, and Skeptic mag tackled that in depth last year. But similarities certainly abound. Gilgamesh, Hades, Dionysus, for starters.

    the misrepresentation of the Christian beliefs of our founding fathers in an attempt to show this was not a nation founded on Christian principles by Christian people,

    Their own writings dispute what you say.

    taking certain passages of the Bible intentionally out of context in an attempt to prove a point,

    Again, intentionally? How the hell is one to even know the context anymore after so many translations?

    intentionally failing to recognize that the Bible is a book made up of multiple books and stories some of which are clearly allegories and some of which are meant to be historical and thus claiming it can’t be interpreted as such.

    Clearly allegories?? I can direct you to many fundies who disagree.

    The list can go on.

    By all means, go on.

    ——————

    As for Carl Sagan’s essay it is lame. It is simply an attempt to show that science based upon natural laws can’t prove the supernatural.

    What better methodology do you propose?

    It also attempts to claim that all people who believe in God (or gods) are mentally deranged.

    No, it does not attempt make that claim. It only leaves that open as a possibility, as it should.

    A pretty bold comment to make about over half of the human population.

    “If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.” – W. Somerset Maugham

  • «bønez_brigade»

    BTW, Hemant, is there any way you could be persuaded into increasing the dimensions of this textarea box? I vote for cols=150% & rows=20.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Sarah,

    If you stay around a while you might find this website an interesting place to discuss matters pertaining to religion. Don’t let one or two seemingly rude people prevent you from voicing your opinion or adding to the conversation. We can all benefit from engaging in discussions with those we don’t agree. Most people here will be friendly. Just ignore the occasional comment that might accuse you of being a troll. Odds are the person who said it was just having a bad day or was inappropriately transferring some anger your way that should of really been directed elsewhere.

  • RNofHearts

    Well if religion was only a matter of you believe what you want and I believe what I want , perhaps you would be correct.
    The problem is that some religious people try to enforce social constructs (e.g. Marriage is only valid for heterosexuals) , encourage discrimination (e.g. look at surveys about the electability of atheists) , mix religion with politics (government must favor MY religion!), encourage gender discrimination (the womans place is at home), spread nonsense about sex education (the use of condoms increase AIDS!) , deny science (the age of the earth is 6000 years) and so on

    Do you *respect* the above beliefs? – if not you are no different than us

    I actually do have respect for all those beliefs. I may or may not agree with some of them but i do still respect them. And on the subject of science, I love science. It has always intrigued me , especially the medical aspect science. But, I also think that there is room for both God and science. Really , if there was no science learning ,and discovery , we’d all be bored to death, and actually we probaly would all be dead. So I am pretty sure God planned it that way.

    Notheless, I still would never consider placing a huge public buildboard mocking someone elses beliefs for the whole world to see, no matter what they may be. It just seems like something a little kid would do to get someone back for something that annoyed them. That doesnt seem like a really good quality to have as a logical reasonable adult.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @RNofHearts

    I actually do have respect for all those beliefs. I may or may not agree with some of them but i do still respect them.

    To be clear we are talking about Gender and Sexual discrimination, Science denial (you may not have these views but some religious people do). If you *respect* such views (defined as any common dictionary will) – then I have nothing more to say to you.

    Notheless, I still would never consider placing a huge public buildboard mocking someone elses beliefs for the whole world to see, no matter what they may be.

    An Atheist does believe that religion is a myth. Stating his belief in a billboard is not mocking someone anymore than the Catholic billboard stating Christmas is real is mocking Atheists.

  • AGinNYC

    Santa Claus, although transformed into a mythical creature by man and time, actually did exist, as a bishop in what is now known as Turkey. His name was St. Nicholas. Just as Christ did exist, but his legacy has also been distorted by time and man. Christmas means Christ’s Mass. Don’t celebrate a holiday you do not believe. How arrogant and foolish to try and engage in a celebration of something in which you despise. You can spend the rest of your lives trying to dispute a creator. One thing is certain, when I look at a beautiful painting I need no proof that a thoughtful painter created it, just as when I look at a person with all of there complexities I need no proof that they also were thoughtfully created. I think Blaise Pascal captured the concept of faith sufficiently…”There is sufficient light for those who desire to see, and there is sufficient darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”
    Pensees 149

    Merry Christmas

  • AGinNYC

    And Sonja,
    Actually “Yule” was not what we know as Christmas. It was a winter pagan festival which was moved to December 25th and absorbed into Christmas when the Julian Calendar was adopted. Christmas has always been Christmas. Unfortunately trolling the internet in the middle of the night does not equal a history lesson.

  • RNofHearts

    To be clear we are talking about Gender and Sexual discrimination, Science denial (you may not have these views but some religious people do). If you *respect* such views (defined as any common dictionary will) – then I have nothing more to say to you

    ok , so yes , perhaps you are right that using the word “respect” was not the correct way to phrase it. And, I am certainly not saying that I agree with any sexual/gender discrimination. I am just saying that even if I totally disagree with another person , and feel that what they believe in is crazy or ridiculous in my mind, that person still has the right to believe in what they want, no matter what others say or think of it. My one and only point here is that , I still wouldnt display a big sign , which basically says ” only idiots can believe in this stuff” ( even if I actually felt the person was one)…. it just seems a bit self righteous to state your belief in such an arrogant fashion? I am not here to debate whose right or wrong in the religious/non religious world, but only that it felt like a deliberate attack on Christianity and the way in which we celebrate Christmas. Perhaps it wasnt meant to be , but still insensitive in my mind…And, I think the Catholic billboard came up only in response to the atheist one. Fair is fair I guess if you’re looking at it in that way. Maybe atheists should have done something on a smaller scale…maybe a bumper sticker? .. in order to avoid all this attention… or possibly ..is that really what they were looking for???

  • Deepak Shetty

    that person still has the right to believe in what they want, no matter what others say or think of it.

    Sure , but then why would you deny the right for people to say his beliefs are idiotic? Why do you say everyone has the right to believe what they want, but people don’t have the right to criticise? Why should the words crazy/idiotic/ridiculous/stupid/harmful/bigoted not be used when appropriate? For e.g. a creationist who believes the earth is 6000 years old needs to be told that the age of the earth is not just a matter of belief – he is wrong. He is either ignorant, or stupid or dishonest(or a combination).

    it just seems a bit self righteous to state your belief in such an arrogant fashion?

    Ok. A test for you – is the belief that Jesus is the ONLY son of God or the ONLY path to salvation arrogant? – This is stated in various places by some Christians(not all). If yes then please point out instances where you have said this is arrogant and I have no argument with you – I’ll still disagree , but you would be consistent. If on the other hand you don’t believe this is arrogant then you need to see why you apply different standards.

    And, I think the Catholic billboard came up only in response to the atheist one.

    Maybe this particular one. But billboards with an Atheistic message are a fairly recent occurrence. Religious billboards /campaigns/messages have been present from a long time and can be much more aggressive – Did you complain about them ? If so, then again I have no argument with you , but If not you again need to figure out why you have different standards.

    in order to avoid all this attention… or possibly ..is that really what they were looking for

    I believe one of the motivations is publicity – Atheists exist, these are their(I see myself as agnostic) views , live with it.

  • Robert W.

    Bernerbits Bonez, and Kevin,

    I haven’t ignored your comments. I do agree with Bernerbits that to respond to all of this during this post would be laborious and lengthly. I am sure we will address them all in other posts as we continue.

    Kevin, I can tell you that your understanding of the arguments aren’t exactly correct.

    I would however direct you all to William Lane Craig’s website reasonablefaith.org for a much more detailed description of his arguments. He also describes them in various debates that you can find on the internet. A particularly good one is with Hitchens.

    As for Hoverfrog answering some of these questions we have had discussions on these issues and I have enjoyed them, but must say that I disagree with his information and conclusions.

  • RNofHearts

    Sure , but then why would you deny the right for people to say his beliefs are idiotic? Why do you say everyone has the right to believe what they want, but people don’t have the right to criticise? Why should the words crazy/idiotic/ridiculous/stupid/harmful/bigoted not be used when appropriate? For e.g. a creationist who believes the earth is 6000 years old needs to be told that the age of the earth is not just a matter of belief – he is wrong. He is either ignorant, or stupid or dishonest(or a combination).

    Anyone can say or criticise whoever they want it happens all the time. BUT , If i were to say to a Muslim or a jewish person, “what is wrong with you people , how can you possibly believe in what you beiieve , it’s totally ridiculous” Dont you thinkthat would cause a bit of anger on their part? I think I can understand that atheists feel that Christians are trying to shove theirbeliefs on everyone , but when you have very strong faith in something it probably will come across that way. Trust me I get annoyed when another religious affiliation come knocking on my door, and tries to push their views on me . Even though we both believe in the basic existence of God , I still dont want them coming to my house uninvited. So i can understand to some extent.

    But… what is the big deal about saying “Merry Christmas” ? OBVIOUSLY, I wouldnt say that to someone that doesnt celebrate Christmas. And If I am not sure if they do or not, theres no harm in saying “have a nice Holiday” . Cmon people can we just use a little common sense here?!
    And if there are actually people who go to church and dont believe in GOD , then that is just insane. But please dont confuse people who do believe in GOD but may not always do the right thing with a “closet atheist”
    Remember we still are only human, and we are meant to make mistakes and learn from them. Well,at least hopefully anyway. … and yes I do believe in one SON of God , but I dont find that arrogant , its what I believe , so I guess we all need to just learn to live with what we each believe in.

    However I will not tell you that if you dont believe in Jesus that you are going to burn in hell. Thats just not right. Ultimately nobody knows what will happen after death. My belief is that we will have everlasting life after death, and no scientist or genius can show me any evidence or fact or figure or statistic that can prove me right or wrong. ITs , as you say , just what I believe. But I am still not calling you a fake or phony.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @RNofHearts

    The problem has already been stated why atheist groups target Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with Merry Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with belief in god or gods or whatnot. It becomes a problem when people use that kind of belief to try to push legislation in a way that negatively affects someone – denying equal rights to homosexuals, making women second-class citizens by denying them the right to their own bodies, lying about contraceptives or making it difficult to get them, and the list goes on.

    I do not mind Christians, I mind those Christians who tell me ‘you’re evil, you’re going to hell, you have no morals, you hate America.’ It’s not uncommon to hear that at all as an atheist in a predominantly Christian society – and it’s put up on billboards and signs over the entire country.

  • RNofHearts

    @kevin,

    Which Christian signs say , “If you do not believe in what We believe you will go to hell” ? I am not sure what signs you’re talking about, but I would like to know what they say. I have seen bumper stickers saying “jesus is the Reason” , but it’s not saying… “you KNOW he is the reason , so you better believe” It’s just a general statement by that person driving that particular vehicle. So I am not sure if that is what you’re talking about.

    I DO NOT however, believe in mixing religious beliefs with politics, so on that point I will agree with you 100%.

  • Deepak Shetty

    BUT , If i were to say to a Muslim or a jewish person, “what is wrong with you people , how can you possibly believe in what you beiieve , it’s totally ridiculous” Dont you thinkthat would cause a bit of anger on their part?

    Well sure, but it rarely starts with a non believer saying this. As before if people kept their beliefs as a private not imposed on others matter , no one would care. The problem starts for e.g. when the Muslim imposes that his wife must wear a burkha and brainwashes his daughter into doing so. That’s when someone might ask “what is wrong with you?” – Will it cause anger – yes – but the alternative is to keep quiet. You can choose what is better.

    But… what is the big deal about saying “Merry Christmas” ?

    As far as I know nothing. Non believers wish believers all the time. Its made a big deal because of nutcases like Bill O’Reilly or Bill Donohue. Note that the problems non believers always have is with government endorsement of religion – private individuals are free to celebrate and wish as they choose. I will say that wishing a non believer makes as much sense as making him swear on the bible though.

    And if there are actually people who go to church and dont believe in GOD , then that is just insane.

    See now your calling me insane(I’m kidding). I go because my wife requests me to come for company (though she knows my views) . I also find it amusing to dissect the sermon. It’s surprising, but I think I’m one of the few who actually pays attention to what is being said – the rest seem asleep – half run away as soon as they get the Eucharist without waiting for the end of the mass. I get a good deal of amusement when they read parts of the Bible that totally contradict whats being done (e.g. that you must pray in private!)

    and yes I do believe in one SON of God , but I dont find that arrogant

    The arrogance depends on the word “ONLY” son of God.

    My belief is that we will have everlasting life after death

    Everyone? The good , the bad, the ugly, the evil – all get the same thing? The problem with believing in life after death is either its unfair or its unfair :).

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @RNofHearts:

    They exist, a lot of them. The NJ Turnpike has all the ones mentioned. Do a Google search for ‘anti-atheist billboards’ and you’ll find quite a few examples. By comparison “You KNOW it’s a myth” is tame (admittedly I think the AA should’ve put emphasis on YOU instead of KNOW, but the difference is subtle, and that kinda makes it sound cocky.

  • Pat

    How can anyone “Celebrate reason”? It takes more faith to say there is no god and say that is reason. The billboard may have offended many people who “believe in Christmas,” but like many have said, Christmas isn’t about Santa Claus, Christmas trees,candy canes and all of the parties. Religion is man’s ideas about god, god created in his own image, but Christianity is the celebration of God reaching out to man. Either there was a Jesus born in Bethlehem, who fulfilled the messages foretelling of his birth or there wasn’t. Have people really done their homework?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Pat

    It takes more faith to say there is no god and say that is reason.

    Why?

  • RNofHearts

    See now your calling me insane(I’m kidding). I go because my wife requests me to come for company (though she knows my views) . I also find it amusing to dissect the sermon. It’s surprising, but I think I’m one of the few who actually pays attention to what is being said – the rest seem asleep – half run away as soon as they get the Eucharist without waiting for the end of the mass. I get a good deal of amusement when they read parts of the Bible that totally contradict whats being done (e.g. that you must pray in private!

    Well I will say this, I am truly impressed that you attend church , because your wife wants your company. That is truly considerate and caring of you, and your wife is very lucky to have you! You are an exception though I think. I think it is very funny how you describe being in church, because I notice the same exact thing. I guess people who have been going for so many years , feel its old hat to them, and if its the Catholic mass your speaking of , then true, its not a lively upbeat song and dance, but that is fine by me, I prefer quiet, calm and peaceful in church anyway. Which brings me back to why would anyone want to go to church if they didnt actually believe?? Unless they are all just going as a nice gesture to their wives?? And dont forget…. church is only an hour tops , so there is plenty of time for praying in private at home.

    Everyone? The good , the bad, the ugly, the evil – all get the same thing? The problem with believing in life after death is either its unfair or its unfair

    Well, I guess in that case we will just have to wait and see.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Pat:

    I second Hoverfrog’s question. Why does it take more faith to not believe in gods than it does to believe in one? And you’ve got a great false dichotomy there at the end:

    Either there was a Jesus born in Bethlehem, who fulfilled the messages foretelling of his birth or there wasn’t. Have people really done their homework?

    I can come up with a few other possibilities:

    There was a person named Jesus who was a good preacher and talked about god and love and such and his followers created a religion based on his teachings, and when they wrote his gospels they tweaked the wording to fit the prophecies in the Old Testament which they were all familiar with.

    There was no person named Jesus, but there were people who wrote a religion based on a bunch of similar stories, using the teachings of the Old Testament to formulate a character appropriate to those teachings.

    Some combination of the two.

    @RNofHearts:

    I went to church on a communion night because my sister wanted me to hear her sing. It was awkward and I was a bit bored and found hilarity in all the preaching about how ‘god was love’ but still I went.

  • RNofHearts

    @kevin

    I went to church on a communion night because my sister wanted me to hear her sing. It was awkward and I was a bit bored and found hilarity in all the preaching about how ‘god was love’ but still I went

    Here again, you are going to church because you are a loving brother and being considerate to your sister. Which is different from someone who goes regularly to church “pretending” to be believe in GOD? That just seems very odd to me, and cant imagine why anyone would do that.

    @Pat

    It may be harder ON the person , who says they don’t believe in God, only because of all the arguments and judgement they may hear. But I feel it is just “easier” for a person to say they dont believe. Then they dont have to deal with trying to comprehend such a thing . Lets face it , GOD is incomprehensible and will make your head spin just trying to imagine that there could be such a force, and that is why it is so hard for some people to believe. It also allows people (some, not all) to not feel guilty if they do something that the Bible has said is not right. I myself cannot live as the Bible teaches 100%, I dont think any person actually can. But i still wont waiver in my Faith.

    And I am sure I will get a lot of slack from the atheists AND the Christians for saying these next 2 statements , but I truly believe that the Bible is just a guide, and I really dont think its meant to scare us or anger us. Just help us to do what is right. What is so wrong with TRYING to be a good person? Just trying to do what is right? And YES, that is our own choice how we decide to treat one another.

    And secondly, I believe that even if you dont believe for whatever reason…. If you are a person who at least TRYS to do the right thing ( even with a few mistakes in there every now and then) then GOD Is not going to “condemn you to hell”. But that is my personal opinion and I am sure many will disagree.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @RNofHearts:

    That just seems very odd to me, and cant imagine why anyone would do that.

    I think they go for the fellowship and to keep up the image of them being a believer to outsiders. If I truly cared to do so, and didn’t find their beliefs repulsive, I would probably still go to church just so my parents wouldn’t have to worry about me in hellfire. However, since I don’t want to lie, I’m not going to do that.

    A church is also a kind of community center, a place where people gather and discuss things, despite the way the people behave sometimes, it’s still a place that you can talk and communicate with other people.

    And I am sure I will get a lot of slack from the atheists AND the Christians for saying these next 2 statements , but I truly believe that the Bible is just a guide, and I really dont think its meant to scare us or anger us. Just help us to do what is right. What is so wrong with TRYING to be a good person? Just trying to do what is right? And YES, that is our own choice how we decide to treat one another.

    Unfortunately for me, a lot of the Bible has some pretty repulsive teachings. The first thing Christians should have done was distance themselves from the Old Testament part of the Bible. Understandingly most of the New Testament is pretty repulsive, too, but it’s at least better than the beliefs of the Old – kill disobedient children, commit genocide against god’s enemies, and so forth.

    But I can at least appreciate the parts of the New Testament that ask for charitable behavior, good deeds, and love. Those are all fine and wonderful ways to live, but I don’t need a book to tell me that. I’m fine and charitable without being a believer in god. Better yet I don’t feel guilt anymore when I look at a guy and think he’s cute or has a nice bum.

    And secondly, I believe that even if you dont believe for whatever reason…. If you are a person who at least TRYS to do the right thing ( even with a few mistakes in there every now and then) then GOD Is not going to “condemn you to hell”. But that is my personal opinion and I am sure many will disagree.

    I truly think that if a benevolent god did exist, he would be this way. I think god would be more happy with a person who, instead of blindly following a book written 2000 years ago by nomadic priests, decides to look at the world around them and try to figure it out. I would think a person like me, who tries his hardest to make everyone around him happy, would be a joy in that kind of god’s sight.

  • Liza

    As a Christian, I was honestly frustrated to see this billboard up, but I am thankful for the insightful discussion that it fostered. I will admit that I don’t agree with everything the Bible has to say or everything that the church does – I hate church and bible-thumpers and believe that everyone should have their own opinion on what they believe, spiritually or religiously. I seem to never fully address issues on evolution and the craziness of most of the Old Testament against my non-Christian friends who want to confront me (or vegans). I just believe and I don’t think anything would change that. When confronting my own issues with self-loathing and suicide, I always look toward passages in the Bible when I am at my lowest. From the book, I have learned that anger will consume you and if you want to change your life, you have to take action. I think Christianity (namely the teachings of Jesus Christ specifically) are about love, hope, and forgiveness. When I think about the deaths of my relatives, the Bible comforts me. I look at the beauty of the world and have some spiritual connection.

    Christmas, which is just two days out of the year, is about being with family (even if they drive you crazy). What about Hanukkah and Passover? I don’t see any billboards addressing those holidays, which I think are equally wonderful and important.If you disagree with the holiday itself, then don’t practice it. I have a few Jewish friends who have Christmas trees and celebrate Christmas and I never say that they shouldn’t because the festivities are pagan based.

    I have more friends who are atheist, Buddhist, agnostic, and Catholic than those who have the same ideas as me. The general morals of the Bible (mostly the 10 Commandments) have shaped society as a whole as to what is wrong and what is right. Everyone makes mistakes though, so that doesn’t automatically mean that you will go to Hell. Even then, how can there be a Hell anyway? Either everyone is saved or no one is. My point is everyone has a right to believe whatever they want. What I believe is just my choice. God loves everyone – it’s up to us to love each other and love ourselves.

    About evolution vs. creationism…does it really matter? You’re here now so you should make the most out of your life. Definitely did not like the other billboard crossing out evolution. HELLO! FREEDOM OF RELIGION and SPEECH PEOEPLE!! I wonder if a billboard said something like “No life here” or “It’s just a fetus” for an abortion clinic if people would have such extreme reactions.

    Anyway, great discussion here and I think a lot of people bring up good points. I apologize if anything I said sounded preachy.

  • RNofHearts

    @kevin

    The funny thing here is , you think a lot like me! I, however do not take the words of the Bible so literally. Some may call me a hypocrite for that, but I honestly believe that most of the writings in the Old Testament are not meant to be followed literally. If the “kill disobedient children” message was meant to be followed through, then how could be also at the same time follow the Ten Commandents ? “Thou shalt not kill” to be specific. I think the way they wrote the Bible was definately written in an extreme metaphoric way, so as to get its importance across. Obviuosly stoning ones own child for disobedinece is ridiculous. If that were the case all my kids would be dead by now lol. I just take it as kids need discipline, not in the form of abuse, but they need to learn by some form of punishment or consequence if you want your kid to grow up right. So , even though I am not a huge fan of HOW it was written, I still cant “write God off” just for that. I will agree it sounds too extreme the way it is written , but sometimes you have to say things in that way to get the importance of the message across. I think if we didnt have that , people may be acting and behaving even worse than they already are now. Even in other religions, that dont believe in God , they still teach discipline and obedience to their children. I think alot of how people behave now is because they dont have any beliefs in ANYTHING anymore. But , thats all I will say on that.

    …and Kevin , as a married woman, I still look at other guys bums too lol, so I think in different ways we are both in the same boat, but truthfully, I dont feel guilty one bit!

    I truly think that if a benevolent god did exist, he would be this way. I think god would be more happy with a person who, instead of blindly following a book written 2000 years ago by nomadic priests, decides to look at the world around them and try to figure it out. I would think a person like me, who tries his hardest to make everyone around him happy, would be a joy in that kind of god’s sight

    Well, I guess this is where my stubborness comes in … but I DO believe in that God that you mention. Even if others say I cant and that I have to follow the BIble to the letter, in order to “qualify” for everlasting life. Thats just impossible for humans to actually live up to every word in the Bible or even most words. But I think what you have nailed right on the head here is when you say “tries his hardest” . As human beings, it’s all we can do really.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    @RNofHearts,

    I, however do not take the words of the Bible so literally. Some may call me a hypocrite for that, but I honestly believe that most of the writings in the Old Testament are not meant to be followed literally.

    What about New Testament writings?
    How is one to know whether or not something written in the Bible is to be followed literally?

  • friendlyChristian

    To those who have been attacked by over zealous Christians, I am truly sorry. I honestly have no doubt you’ve suffered at the hands of someone who was acting in ignorance.

    I am a Christian, not a blindly following one, but one who questions at every turn – which I’ve been encouraged to do not just by my parents but my faith, and I seek out the churches that encourage the same, that don’t just accept one man’s interpretation and spoon feed it to the people.

    I am however surprised by how many atheists resort to closed minded rhetoric and blanket phrases about groups of people here. It sucks that you seem to have not met any decent Christian and hopefully one day someone will change your mind, but remember, part of the core of our faith is that we are not perfect.

    Finally, The post says that this billboard encourages people that don’t believe to “just admit it” but as shown here, people are more than willing to admit they don’t believe.

    Placing a billboard that just insights anger closes the doors for open communication. We’ll never get anywhere that way.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @RNofHearts:

    I used to think somewhat similar to the way you did prior to becoming an atheist. I took the Bible as more of a metaphor than anything, a good thing to read to try to behave properly, with the stories being no more than stories that were used back then. I discounted the way that God was portrayed, I considered the reality of Jesus as more in line of him being a preacher that was elevated by his followers to divinity.

    I took a quick look at all of it and realized I’d completely rationalized away everything in the Bible, so why bother continuing to pretend like I was a Christian. The only thing that I went to church for anymore was Tuesday Bible study, but they booted the pastor that taught it (because he got back into drugs because of his back pain.) When he left I didn’t have any reason to go.

    I don’t need a god to be happy and to act moral, and I’m fine that way.

    But at least we can agree on one thing. Men’s bums are rather nice to look at *laugh*

  • Citygirllost

    This is a First Amendment issue the same way the mosque in lower Manhattan was. Christians take umbrage at anyone practicing a faith different from theirs or not practicing.

  • A Believer

    Hey, I am a Christian and the billboard made me laugh. The world will never be unified in it’s belief system so we have to live life listening to the opinions of others. For me my faith is a story of experiences I have had. A true believer understands that the bull horn doesn’t change people. Anyone who is “converted” by the manipulation of their emotions will eventually return to the state they were in and probably with a lot of guilt. I say that it is my responsibility to live “life” to the fullest, to be honest about my faith, and encourage others to seek for themselves what they believe. The billboard states one of many opinions out there, in the end the truth will be known to us all.
    Until then, let us all enjoy every Christmas we have with our loved ones and create our own traditions and stories.
    Merry Christmas to all or Happy Holidays “Whatever Cranks Your Tractor”

  • Monty

    The right-wing fanatics cannot stand to be questioned because they think they are right and people in this country are afraid to go up against them. It’s so easy to say “I don’t believe in this god theory”, but the cowards of America are scared to death to say it. There is not one iota of fact to support the theory of god’s existence other than the writings of other right-wingers.

  • RNofHearts

    @Monty

    There are “fanatics” in EVERY religion , not only Christianity. And these fanatics will go to extremes to get their point across. Thats not really anything new. I think anyone that displays a billboard against someone elses religion ( that goes for Christains too) are just one of those fanatics that want attention and probably just feel they are the only ones that can be right and theres no room for any other views , opinions or beliefs.

    I can totally believe in the research of how the world and humans came to be… and although , scientists may be able to show proof of how it all happened, can they show proof of WHY it happened??? And can they show proof and facts of what was there to MAKE it happen in the first place?? .. I dont think anyone can actually say for a fact the WHY of it all… Sure they can theorize and show all the scientific facts of it all and blah blah blah , but …do they know for sure??? Science is a wonderful thing , but if you really look at how this world is and what it has to offer and how the human body functions , it is really hard for me to believe that it was all just a random thing that just happened all of a sudden…. out of the blue??

  • OpenYourEyez

    It’s about time someone stood up to the religious right and their hateful campaign against anyone/anything not solely ” Pro-Christian” this time of year. If I hear one more idiot whine about wishing people happy holidays instead of merry christmas I’m gonna puke.The winter solstice has been around since the world began(4.54 billion years ago, not 3000 years ago) and Chrisianity is only approx 2000 years old. If people want to believe in fairy tales then thats fine but when they start shoving the fairy tales down others throats then I say FIGHT BACK. I think David Silverman is GOD. And he’s actually real. David Bless everyone this Holiday Season.

    • Dee_wilson40

      I would never consider a meer human who is flawed God.  to each its own, but how arrogant of us to think humans can compare to God.  By the way, the intent of this comment is to share my opinion, as you have done.  Not shoving anything down anyone throat.  Perhaps the conviction you feel when hearing Christian opinion, is actually God convicting you of the truth.  Food for thought or “reason”.

      I urge you to please consider the possibility that human brain processes are not the ultimate knowledge.  That a higher knowledge exist that our brains cannot contain, because we are limited by our humanness. This knowledge explains all things, and the phenomenon of the world in which we live.  This knowledge is belongs to the creator alone, for you can the student be greater than the creator of the student. :)

  • RNofHearts

    How can you Bless anyone if you dont believe in GOD? Its amazing how anyone can think a human being can be GOD…sorry no such thing. …and how can an atheist celebrate a secular Christmas??? I dont get it … it makes no sense at all. If you want to celebrate winter , then by all means celebrate winter, but Christmas means Christ- Mass …and I thought they dont believe in Christ or go to any sort of Mass… now who is calling who a phony ? make up you own celebration and call it something else.

  • DoubtSalmon

    This isn’t anything against Christmas, just the fairytales used to support it. To quote Jeremy from the british sitcom Peep Show “I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in Christmas, I’m a Christmasist.”
    @RNofHearts: Christians just took a pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice and swapped the name and the backstory, and I’m sure that atheists will eventually do the same with Christmas,, but until then there’s always Festivus

  • RNofHearts

    @Doubtsalmon

    My only point here is the ONLY REASON Chrstians celebrate Christmas is because of these so called “fairtales” that you believe they are. Sure it is definately hyped up, which I am not a big fan of myself …and other things have been added to the whole holiday, but really, any celebration or party you have, if you think about it, you decorate for and try to make it as festive as possible so whats the big deal? BUT, if I believed they were all fairytales , why would I even celebrate Christmas?? I wouldnt! This is what doesnt make sense to me . Celebrate your birthday, celebrate a graduation, celebrate an anniversary , celebrate ANY special occasion , but for people to celebrate something they dont believe is the only the part i dont get. For example , If i lived among all Jewish people ,I wouldnt celebrate Hannauka just because thats what everyone around me is doing , and the main reason for that is because I dont believe in what they are celebrating. I would be true to what I believe in and stick with that. It just so happens that the Christians outnumber the atheists , so yes I guess you could say you are overwhelmed with Christmas type stuff , but thats just the way it is , why is it such a big deal?

  • Lonnie

    For those who promote epistemology as first philosophy you seem to be lost in a sea of Cartesian uncertainty. You talk about reason as if whatever exists inside your mind is the only truth. How are you any different than Christians?

    Do you know 100% of everything? How about 50% or maybe 10%? To place an over emphasis on reason as the only source of truth is as unrealistic as placing an over emphasis on faith. This boolean concept of black and white, right and wrong, true and false was explained thousands of years ago with Aristotle’s Golden Mean.

    Anyone that confident in their opinion that they “Know for a fact” when they’ve never read a book, learned another language, been outside of their city, state or country is an idiot. Only idiots don’t know they’re idiots, so it make it tough to talk any sense to them.

    As far as the Christmas story goes… your presuppositions are no more based upon truth or reality than the Continental Rationalists. You gotta read books. To begin, start reading anything prior to 1600. History books are good place to start.

  • Dee_wilson40

    It would be great if we could use our “reason” to explain our life, God and the world around us .  The problem is our “reason” is limited. 
    Flawed.  Just think about how many decisions you have carefully researched, and contemplated, only to realize later that there were dynamics you had not considered, and you ended up making a bad decision.

    There are some phenomenal that cannot be explained with human reason.  We don’t know everything about the planet we live in, despite  centuries of research. As a recent college graduate, I am rather unimpressed by some of the so-called PH.D’s and other authors of graduate level textbooks.  The theories, rationale, and  human reasoning concocted by the human mind in an effort to explain the world, and morality is mere foolishness when compared to the depth of God’s Word. 

    Christians use reason as well.  We use our reasoning and experience has made it clear  “our reasoning is flawed”. Not useless, but imperfect.  We cannot rely on our human mind alone to guide us.

    Christians seek Truth, which outweighs facts, is  God’s knowledge.  Truth cannot be found in a textbook.  It comes from a relationship with God.  

    Consider the possibility that the human brain processes
    are not the ultimate knowledge.  That a higher knowledge exist that our
    brains cannot contain, because we are limited by our humanness. This
    knowledge explains all things, and the phenomenon of the world in which
    we live.  This knowledge  belongs to the creator alone, for how can,  you, 
    the creation ever be greater than the creator.  It is arrogance to use a flawed mind to understand the wonders of God. 

    We see the sun everyday, yet we don’t know all the ends and outs of how and why it burns so brightly.  Yet we know it exist.  Why do we have to understand everything about God to believe in him  :) 

  • Rentgould

    it’s certainly time to revisit the creation myths we were taught as children. 

  • Lovely

    Uh, I don’t mean any offence, but you have to respect every religion no matter what kind it is.


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