Smug Methodist Responds to ‘Why I Raise My Children Without God’

In response to Deborah Mitchell‘s incredibly popular (and highly controversial) CNN iReport article about why she’s raising her children without God, Ryan Barnett has issued a response called “Why I Raise My Children With God.”

Surprisingly, “I like to lie to my kids” isn’t on the list. But this is:

God is everywhere.

Look about you! The rising of the sun is a reminder that we do not have to live in darkness. We are not required to live in fear. If we seek God, we will find him. He is in the sunset, in the smiles of children, in the love of committed spouses. He is in the healing around tragic losses. When we don’t see Him, it is often because we don’t want to. It is said that God is a gentleman — He only comes where invited. Perhaps there is great truth in this.

Yeah, a vomited a little in my mouth, too. But I shouldn’t be too upset, because God is apparently in my vomit.

Don’t worry, baby. I won’t let the Methodist Man harm you.

Then there’s this:

When we raise kids without God, we harm them. Things unseen are real. Your love of your child is real. Pain is real. A lack of justice is real. The solution is a deep and abiding faith. But nobody can sell you on this. Much as the alcoholic must “reach a bottom,” most of us get to the place where we know we need God. There are many great stories out there on how people get there. They’ll inspire you if you are not yet ready for God. Fear not. He is patient.

How dare all you atheist parents harm your children by being honest with them and teaching them science and reason and critical thinking?!

I would urge you to read Barnett’s piece, but instead of commenting there and making CNN think they did something right by publishing that drivel, just comment here instead.

On a side note, how much do you want to bet that post won’t get “flagged as inappropriate” like Mitchell’s article was?

(Thanks to David for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • freethinkercro

    The first reason:

    God is the ultimate parent and role model

    I stopped reading right there. This guy obviously never read the old testament (and large parts of the new).

  • Cat MacKinnon

    according to his bio the guy is a lawyer. he’s used to defending bullshit ;)

  • C Peterson

    It is sad to read this. We have someone who appears otherwise intelligent and articulate basing his life on a fantasy. Inventing, or believing the inventions of others, solely on a feeling. Willing to accept a complex and improbable story without evidence, willing to ignore the clearly unethical behaviors inherent in that story. And finally, willing to continue the vicious cycle by passing this defective meme to his children. A tragedy, really.

  • Gideon

    “If we seek God, we will find him.” “When we don’t see Him, it is often because we don’t want to.”

    And there you have it. A god is a stereogram, e.g. “Magic Eye”. It’s there if you diverge your eyes and look really, really hard. If you don’t see it, then all you need is more practice and encouragement. Don’t trust the normal operation of your eyesight. Exploit the advanced circuitry in your brain to make surprises “pop” into your consciousness.

  • 7Footpiper

    I don’t see a point in my life when, as an atheist I’m going to “reach a bottom” (I’ll leave that for the RCC thank you!). Since I am ultimately in control of my life I’ll never feel a need to reach out and thank or blame any deity for my good or bad fortunes, only myself and possibly those around me. Consequently I find it moderately offensive to compare non-believers to alcoholics who must hit rock bottom before finding help (or god).

  • Cecelia Baines

    And yet another delusional mouthpiece gets a public soapbox. The shit this broad said is akin and no different to the pap street preachers scream on every corner of the land. It is mental instability and absurd.

    How anyone can believe in fairy tales and make-believe pie-in-sky bearded fairies in this day and age is scary. And the fact they try to make their myths the law of the land fills me with so much anger I feel like turning into the She Hulk.

  • Brian Pansky

    indeed, god is more like the biggest fail in terms of “with power and knowledge comes responsibility”

  • Cecelia Baines

    And cue the dumbass known as RWLaw in five….four….three…two….CUE.

  • NoYourGod

    Wow – “Much as the alcoholic must ‘reach a bottom,’ most of us get to the place where we know we need God.” Yep – nothing says “conviction!” like waiting for a point of weakness to convert. Seems to me a true conversion would occur during a point of strength, but then, I never try to convert folks…

    Reminds me of a discussion I had with my neighbor about religion and his god. He is one of my best friends, and normally thinks about things in a clear manner, but on the religious front he fails miserably…

    During this discussion he described a troubled time in his life. Not horribly failed – he was happily married and had three healthy and happy kids, but he was under a lot of stress at work and had a stress fracture in his shin. His boss, a hard-core bible-thumper who proselytized at work saw a weakness and invited my neighbor (I’ll call him “T”) and his family to the boss’ cabin for a weekend. After a late-night discussion with T, the boss invited T to church the next morning. He nailed T (so to speak) at a weak time, and T found his god.

    T found it so strongly that he started proselytizing on his own, and rather obnoxiously per his own admission. He only stopped doing so after he spoke with his god (yes – he stated he spoke directly with his god), and his god told T that T was pushing too hard, and pushing his god’s potential converts away. “It will take me another year or two to bring those people back into position to be saved” T told me his god told him…

    I guess even his all-powerful god needs to beat the shit out of his children to get them to the point where they will believe its bullshit.

  • C Peterson

    I think it is themselves they compare to alcoholics. Stories of the religious sinking into these great pits of darkness, reaching depths of despair that only fantasies can drag them out of are legion. Not so much for nonbelievers.

    People have ups and downs. All people. But I really question how many ever, at any time in their lives, truly hit rock bottom. Perhaps the religious are simply not very adept at dealing with personal crises that the more rational would effectively deal with.

  • C Peterson

    Well, he’s right. God is indeed the ultimate role model for those whose philosophy of parenting includes beating children, scaring them into submission, and killing them if they are disrespectful.

  • ortcutt

    “It is said that God is a gentleman — He only comes where invited”

    I’ve put out a standing invitation to God since I was became aware as a child that other people thought that such a being exists. He hasn’t been enough of a gentleman to respond yet. Maybe I’m not sending the invitation to the right address, but more likely there is no one there to reply.

  • Esperanza Casteneda

    My exact reaction.

  • Chris

    A lawyer, whose solution to a lack of justice is “a deep and abiding faith”? If I had to choose one, I’d prefer one who believes in fighting for justice, thanks.

  • DougI

    Lot’s daughters were raised with God and they got their dad drunk and fucked him. Does any more need to be said?

  • Mick Wright

    Reminds me of the awesome comic series Preacher, when the ex-pastor hero describes how he lost his faith.

    ‘That’s what God’s for…when you’re so low, you turn to Jesus or you stick a gun in your mouth.’

  • m6wg4bxw

    I’m not sure how many more times I can hear the “God is obvious — Look at this object” line before I become a danger to the people who say it.

  • ggsillars

    The thing I find striking about so much of what “Christians” say and write is how breathtakingly unoriginal it is. It’s as if they’ve abdicated their obligation to think for themselves. Oh wait…

  • Ubi Dubium

    Don’t forget the “torture them forever after you kill them” part.

  • Ubi Dubium

    But when we look at a magic eye, and the image “pops”, those of us who can see them all agree on what the revealed image is. But religious people all disagree on the “god” that pops out of their picture. God is more like a magic eye picture that’s just random dots without any actual image embedded.

  • observer

    I always find it an amazing that it they’re so sure it’s “their” god, and not someone else’s.

  • Rich Wilson

    Excerpt from something I left elsewhere:

    Considering how often my child will be bombarded with the message of faith, I’d feel guilty if I gave him less of a chance to see faith as pretending to know things you don’t.

  • Rich Wilson

    Lot, the only good man in the town, was ready to give his daughters to a crowd that wanted something to rape.

  • Octoberfurst

    Reading that article was just one long eye-roll for me. It was the usual vacuous arguments in favor of faith. His first reason for believing in God was that, “God is the ultimate parent & role model.” Seriously? Has this man ever READ the Bible? (Especially the Old Testament.) Role model my ass! More like ultimate psychopath if you ask me.

    Then he does the “God is everywhere– just look around” BS & says that if you can’t find God you are obviously not looking hard enough. (He said God is a “gentleman” and won’t impose himself on you. Which sounded a lot like what that idiot Bryan Fischer said about the school shootings in Connecticut—i.e. “God won’t go where he isn’t wanted. He is a gentleman.”) Birds of a feather I guess.

    As a Humanist I was also ticked off when he wrote that the word “Humanist” is a “comical notion.” Really? What’s so funny about it smart guy?

    The only good part was reading all the comments by atheists to the article. They did a great job of taking him to task.

  • m6wg4bxw


  • houndies

    Yeah, I read that article yesterday and it was the same old same old you hear from xtians. We dont understand but we have to have faith blah blah blah. Nothing of substance.

  • MargueriteF

    God is a Rorschach test. You see what you want to see, but all there really is to see is a blotch of ink. There’s not really a picture there at all.

  • Themsen

    Alright, gonna start taking this piece apart.

    First off, the guys argument for why God is definitely real.

    “We avail ourselves of much we don’t understand. If we are honest
    with ourselves, we truly understand very little. Explain electricity. If
    you are an electrical engineer by chance, explain the neuroscience
    behind smell. Even in our respective areas of “expertise” there is much
    we cannot define.”

    So unless you have all the knowledge in the universe residing in your skull, you have to agree that god exists? Never mind that in his example you could just ask someone with a degree in neuroscience, so there isnt really anything unknowable about it? Oh Christians, you are a funny breed.

    “God is the ultimate parent and role model.”

    Like some of my fellow commenters mentioned, 2 words in response to that. Old Testament.

    “What of God and logic?”

    This argument is neither here nor there. There is nothing coplicated about this question. Either god has the power to stop tragedies from happening, but chooses not to, or he cant and has as such been lying his ass off about his powers, or he cant stop it because he doesnt exist. So logical Christians get to choose between him either being a strong asshole, a weak liar, or nonexistant fantasy. Good odds…

    “It is important that they learn how to pray, not how to simply “ask” for what they think they want.”

    In other words, teach them to pray for things so vague you can pretend the prayers worked… The rest of his argument here is allso weak, basically saying that god might say no to make you grow…Sounds like evasive christian speak for “God really doesnt care much about you, so start convincing yourself its his plan all along when things go south…”

    “God is present with the innocent and the not so innocent.”

    The basic “god is testing you” argument is in this paragraph. Funny how he should get credit for people getting out of the mess he never bothered to fix in the first place…

    “God is everywhere.”

    And yet he still hasnt showed up for a press conference…I hate his central argument in this paragraph, that things like sunsets prove god is here and great. The sun rising and setting proves that the planets in our solar system are still doing what they should be doing. Nothing more. Stop trying to turn it into some magical hogwash, its astronomy, plain and simple.

    “God gives us a path for a life of spiritual peace if we are willing to work for it.”

    I have to outline this one:

    “I have yet to meet a faith matured person who is not peaceful. I
    know plenty of “humanists” (what a comical notion) who’s lives resemble
    the chaos that is within them. When we live a life of “imitation,” of
    truly seeking to bear out love and service – we find peace.”

    Nice ridiculing of a huge movement thats better than organized religion in every way there buddy. No, what really is a comical notion is that religius people are peacefull. For every nice protestant i can find atleast 2 fundamentalists spitting acid and rage and calling for gay people to be exterminated. Find me an example of a humanist hating someone solely based on their sexual preference and i will eat my shoes.

    “God teaches anything but narcissism.”

    Funny, since narcisisst is perhaps the best moniker i have ever found for the christian god, judging by the bible. His argument that gods plan is loving even when he doesnt give you the best life has zero weight, coming from a laywer. Try living as a hobo for a few years, then tell me how much love you felt.

  • C Peterson

    Luckily, parents can’t torture their children forever, or harm them after they are dead. Only God can do that.

  • Hugh Kramer

    You’ve got to love the argument that, because some real things are unseen, someone’s pet belief is real too. With that kind of logic you can justify the existence of fairies, unicorns and compassionate conservatism too. Well, sorry Mr. Barnett, but what children ought to be taught is that better evidence is required to believe the existence of anything unseen, including God and all the rest.

  • Houndentenor

    I had an uncle who refused to tell my cousins about Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny because he believed that if they grew up and then found out he had lied to them about those things they’d think he’d lied to them about God and Jesus too. Ummm….well….

  • Houndentenor

    I had an uncle who refused to tell my cousins about Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny because he believed that if they grew up and then found out he had lied to them about those things they’d think he’d lied to them about God and Jesus too. Ummm….well….

  • Houndentenor

    i think they just can’t conceive of how empowering it is to face reality and realize that no supernatural entity is going to swoop down and fix your problems for you. Taking responsibility for your own well being is sometimes difficult but it’s what adults do. It’s interesting how often theists lapse into baby talk when discussing these issues. It’s because waiting for someone else to come in and make everything better for you is childish behavior.

  • Houndentenor

    The other gods are fake. Didn’t you know that?

  • Houndentenor

    *bangs head on desk*

    These theistic arguments are just so illogical! Comparing proving that god exists to explaining the neuroscience of the sense of smell? How is that related? No one argues whether or not we have senses nor that electricity exists. They aren’t even remotely related, and yet this is the kind of argument that a smug theist will pull out as a slam dunk. *sigh*

  • Houndentenor

    The best thing you can do for children is to teach them how to think for themselves.

  • mb admin

    “I begin any consideration on the question of God with the realization that
    we cannot convince men (or women) of the existence or non-existence of God.”
    Mostly men, right? I would have commented on CNN but vulgarity was forbidden.

  • Themsen

    Honnestly, i think that deep down they know they are grasping at straws, and flawed arguments like this are their best attempt at delivering something more simmilar to the grounded arguments non-believers use. They stumble in execution because their mind just cant frame religion as anything but the pleasant lie they prefer to harsh reality. The fact that they allso dont know much about science surely doesnt help.

  • allein

    I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to see Magic Eye pictures. Actually, I’ve probably looked harder at Magic Eye pictures in the past than I have looked for God. (Cue someone coming along to tell me therein lies my problem. ;) )

  • allein

    I hate when people don’t RSVP.

  • allein

    And I think Santa and Co. are useful tools for just that reason ;)
    That and when kids are little they’re fun little fantasies; most kids naturally grow out of them. No one ever had to sit me down and break the news to me, I just figured it out on my own around age 7 or 8. The night my mom came in and I wasn’t asleep yet, and I heard the quarters clinking together in her pajama shirt pocket, and the next morning found them under my pillow in place of my lost tooth…I don’t remember when I figured out Santa and The Bunny but it was probably all around the same age. I suppose the God thing took me longer, but it honestly wasn’t something I really thought about until well into adulthood (long after I had stopped participating in any kind of religious activity, however), but looking back I’m not sure I would really say I was ever truly a believer. Mostly, religion was a thing we did on Sundays and didn’t have much impact on the rest of my life.

  • allein

    Does this seem to imply that women are more gullible?

  • allein

    “Things unseen are real. Your love of your child is real. Pain is real.”
    Yes, pain is real. I have felt pain. And when I see someone wince or limp, or certain facial expressions, or tears, or hear them cry out, I can reasonably infer that that person is in pain of some sort, and I can offer my support and help if I am able. All based on physical manifestations that I can perceive with my eyes and ears.
    I know my parents love me because they are there. They do things for me, they make themselves available, they are around when I need help. I know I can call on them because they have always come through in the past. Their love is not a physical thing to be held in my hand, but that does not mean I cannot “see” it.
    No god required.

  • Garry Paul Keeler

    Ouch–I hope Hemant explains why it was required that his children deserve to be taken to the gates of the city to be stoned to death if they are cheeky, why they deserve to be mauled to death by she bears if they mock a mans bald head, why Jesus wasn’t being petty when he shriveled the fig tree because it could not bear fruit out of season, why zombies do not walk the streets, why he cannot heal the sick,drink deadly poison and handle deadly serpents despite what the big j said after he was resurrected

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I can never see the images either no matter how long I stare at them and it is not my eyeballs. I have really good vision.

  • A3Kr0n

    I was raised Methodist, and look what happened to me, I turned into a purple octopus!

  • Richard Wade

    Look about you! The rising of the sun is a reminder that we do not have to live in darkness… He is in the sunset,…

    Does this guy worship Ra? Apollo? Amaterasu? Inti?

    When these people try the aesthetic argument, aka argument from beauty such as sunsets, babies’ smiles, etc., they always use the same poetic cliches. They could at least try to be original. How come nobody insists that God’s existence is confirmed by a camel’s rectum, or pond scum, or Donald Trump’s hair?

  • allein

    I was raised Methodist, too! Judging by my profile pics on other sites, I have apparently turned into a small dog.

  • ctcss

    ” Consequently I find it moderately offensive to compare non-believers to
    alcoholics who must hit rock bottom before finding help (or god).”

    I also think the example was ill chosen because it wrongly presumes bad or weak character on the part of the person who has decided not to follow God. An alcoholic is willingly engaging in self-destructive behavior whereas a non-believer is simply not finding a useful reason to pursue a religious pathway in life. Very different motivations are involved in each case.

    But, as a believer, I think the main point stands. I don’t think anyone who has run out of options and is facing a very difficult situation in life (a brick wall) would willingly turn down help if it seemed like help from that unexplored avenue was possible, even if not necessarily likely from their perspective. People like to feel that they are in control of their lives, but humans are very small, very fragile, and very limited creatures whose fortunes in life can be altered for the worse without warning. I’m curious, if faced with a dire outcome (say, the brick wall of inoperable cancer with no hope of treatment or recovery, and having exhausted all other options) would you actually turn down help from a religious source just because it was religious? Even if you thought that prayer for your recovery wasn’t likely to work because you had never considered God to exist, would you actually turn down someone offering to help you in that way just because they believed in God and you did not? And if, while being prayed for, your cancer condition was cured and you found the whole prayer-for-you experience not off-putting but actually rather peaceful and comforting (remember, you had been facing a certain and very possibly painful death and now you weren’t), wouldn’t it just slightly open up your thought to the possibility of the existence of God?

    Yes, questions or doubts would probably still exist in your thought, and the possibility that prayer had nothing whatsoever to do with it would still exist, and all sorts of questions about God and God’s nature would be out there as well, but wouldn’t it at least slightly call into question your previous points of view? And if it did, you might find yourself considering whether or not to explore a pathway (the possibility of God’s existence) that you hadn’t considered very likely before.

    The point is, unless one is going to be dogmatic in their outlook, notable experiences in one’s life can alter the previous pathway that one has pursued.

  • Rich Wilson

    I can’t but I know it’s because I have monocular vision. I can only use one eye at a time, so I don’t have 3D in any case.

  • smrnda

    I get irritated how theists equate things that we don’t observe physically like ‘love’ or ‘justice’ or ‘suffering’ with god. Love, justice,suffering etc. are words we use to describe actual behavior and words. Even if ‘love’ isn’t a physical thing I can pick up like a stone, my actions convey love or they do not. Pain is subjective, but a person can explain what observable things caused their pain. God? No such luck.

    But god is in the sunset? How? This type of poetic blither-blather really means nothing, just another empty platitude. I see the sun, the clouds and the sky. Behind the kindness of people I see their personalities,values and actions, not god.

  • MelissaLitwin

    I wouldn’t turn down help, and I’d be grateful for it, but I wouldn’t start believing in God(s) either. If I got cured while being prayed for, I’d make the rational assumption that my treatment happened to work and I got lucky while the prayers did absolutely nothing. After all, lots of people get prayed for: they get better or not independent from prayer. A statistical improbability is certainly not going to make me think there’s supernatural things out there. After all, a one in a million chance is likely to happen to one in a million people, and since there’s 7 billion of us those rare things happen all time!

    I don’t consider myself dogmatic in outlook. I’m just cognizant of statistics.

  • allein

    I would of course accept actual help if someone offered, but I don’t find prayer to be particularly helpful. I’d rather people make me a meal, or do a load of laundry if I am unable, or just keep me company. If someone wants to pray for me, I certainly won’t stop them, assuming they don’t expect me to be there for it. If I were sick and people came in to pray over me, I would find that especially unhelpful; just being present for grace before a meal makes me a bit uncomfortable, and if people came to my sickbed just to say prayers I would be very upset with that. But if you want to say a prayer for me before bed or on Sunday morning, it doesn’t affect me either way; if you tell me you are doing so I will simply say thank you. And if saying a prayer makes someone who cares about me feel a little better about my impending death, I certainly don’t begrudge them that comfort. It just doesn’t do anything for me, and like Melissa, I would not attribute any improvement in my condition to it.

  • chicago dyke

    i do wonder about believers that way.

    does jeebus talk to you? can you hear him, but no one else can? can you see angels? did one fly over your house, but DHS thought it was a drone bomber and shot it down?

    i have this joke with my sister. she’s a cleaning freak. she loves to clean, really. i, do not.

    one time i was over at her house and she was down on her knees cleaning the floor in her kitchen, and i quote, “dirt that nobody but me can see.”

    i rib her endlessly about this moment, and she’s a good sport who gets why it’s funny. believers, they don’t seem to be able to understand why we mock them.

  • chicago dyke

    An alcoholic is willingly engaging in self-destructive behavior

    no, actually. that’s not true, according to science.

    addiction, and specifically addiction to alcohol, is a medical/psychiatric condition that has to do with chemicals in the brain and substances in the body, which is altered by them and causes specific behaviors. some people have a ‘wrong’ brain chemistry and after the first drink, they are hooked. others can drink any time they want, and choose not to, because their physiology makes that possible.

    if there’s one damn thing in this world i’m going to do, it’s shoot down the whole AA mentality about “why people are alcoholics.” AA utterly failed my father, my grandfather, and a host of other people i know, because you can’t pray away the drunk. sorry, it’s not about willpower.

    we don’t blame cancer victims for getting cancer, or people who are born with defects for being, you know, born. it’s long past time to start using medical science.

    there’s a program in MN run by a PhD in nutrition. her program success rate? twice that of AA. think about that.

  • Jonas Green

    ‘We are not required to live in fear’ — Well the Old Testament God is certainly one of fear. — Lots of absolute no nos, that invoke the punishment of death.

    The kindness of human nature might be in what is listed in the first section ‘bold face’ God is everywhere. — But calling that thing God just confused the matter.

  • kaydenpat

    With over 80% of Americans identifying as Christian or otherwise religious, is it surprising that Barnett’s article is not flagged as inappropriate?

  • AtheistSinceBirth

    “We are not required to live in fear.” This, I think, is in response to a line in Mitchell’s original post: “It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that
    one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist.”

    I had objected to that line when I read it, and I knew it would provide fodder for people like Barnett. I grew up, in the 70s and 80s, without religion, without any gods, raised by atheist parents who found no need for supernatural explanations.

    I do not live in fear. I do not think I am “alone in the universe,” because I can see all that is around me. I can even see, with the aid of science and technology, what is invisible or very far away.

    I do not worry about an afterlife – good or bad – precisely because I know that when I die, my consciousness “will cease to exist.” No pain, no suffering, no hellfire, no clouds and angels. Barbara Mitchell, your children will know this too, and they will not have to live in fear.

  • Jonas Green

    “I have yet to meet a faith matured person who is not peaceful.”
    — true Scottsman fallacy, or this author doesn’t know anyone who found god in prison.

    “I know plenty of “humanists” (what a comical notion) who’s lives resemble the chaos that is within them.”

    Strawman? — facts assumed w/o evidence — If you call yourself a humanist, I shall see only chaos in your life.

    “When we live a life of “imitation,” of truly seeking to bear out love and service – we find peace.”

    — do we? — or are we only deluding ourselves into thinking we have found peace, and in times of doubt think we are failing god, and disappointing him

  • wmdkitty

    “we don’t blame cancer victims for getting cancer”

    Yes we do. If you get lung cancer, and you’re a smoker, people blame you for it. Females with cervical cancer caused by HPV are blamed for “being sluts”. (There has also been huge opposition to the HPV vaccine based on the premise that promiscuity in women must be punished, and therefore the vaccine “encourages sexual activity”.)

  • wmdkitty

    “God is the ultimate parent and role model”

    Ha. Ha ha. No.

  • MD

    I had some people pray over me once. I was too doped up from the epidural to react at that moment. Annoyed as anything at their presumption afterwards. On the brightside , they left the most obnoxious book with religious advice on how to have the perfect (godly) family. Ripping off the pages was a great stress relief I those first few weeks of parenthood.

  • chicago dyke

    i don’t disagree.

    i’m just tired of blaming/shaming the ill and sick for things that eventually affect everyone.

    everyone dies. from something.

  • chicago dyke

    when i realized that “santa’s” handwriting on the gift labels looked… strangely similar to my mother’s, who is a doctor. odd, that.

  • ctcss

    Melissa, I find it interesting that you consider (in this hypothetical case) the medical treatments (none of which were working, nor were the doctors expecting them to work since the condition was so far gone) to have somehow “worked”, yet you consider that the prayers (often a very ill-defined and unknown quantity, no matter how often commonly employed) not to have had any impact on the case. Wouldn’t your conclusion be much better founded if you actually spent time trying to investigate why the cancer had been cured, rather than assuming that one unlikely set of treatments (drugs that been repeatedly proven to be ineffective in this particular case against a condition that was completely out of control) were somehow more effective than another unlikely set of treatments (prayers that you had no information as to how they might work) would be? The fact that a person with a stethoscope around their neck (self-admittedly without any proof or hope of effective treatment) was involved, vs the involvement of another person with a cross around their neck (self-admittedly not knowing whether their prayers would be effective) should lead one to conclude that patient’s successful recovery is very much in doubt, rather than that any helpful outcome must be credited to one set of neckwear rather than the other.

    Statistics of unknown specificity aside, you appear to be jumping to a conclusion that is unwarranted. In this instance, you seem to be leaning toward the favorable bias that you have towards the medical, even though in this case the doctors were not considering anything about their medical treatments to be a factor in the case. (Their treatments had consistently failed and the case was simply beyond hope.) All that you know is that the cancer is now gone. You don’t really know why. And in my post, I was not trying to say that 7Footpiper should immediately conclude that God exists, I was simply asking him if his previous viewpoint about God might have been altered slightly, perhaps enough that he might consider possibly looking into the question of God after the experience. To reject the possibility of God outright in this hypothetical instance, rather than investigating things somewhat further, would strike me as being a dogmatic response, not a reasoned one.

  • ctcss

    Perhaps I’m missing something here, but you appear to be making out humans to be nothing more than chemically programmed robots. That somehow, conscious thought cannot alter our behavior in any way whatsoever, that chemistry trumps all. That we cannot, in any useful way, choose to do anything against some inclination. Thus if we feel murderous and murder someone, we should be forgiven because it wasn’t our fault, it was our faulty brain chemistry. It would have been impossible (because of our brain chemistry) to evaluate the possible negative outcome beforehand, and then reconsider what we were doing and walk away from the situation, thus sparing someone else’s life, as well as making our own future better. Mind you, I can understand a situation where a person is completely delusional, thinks they are in a jungle and sees a tiger coming at them and shoots it, and then it turns out to be someone in a striped coat innocently taking a walk down the sidewalk of a city. But when you see someone in front of you in a completely normal setting and, knowing that murdering someone is wrong you proceed to do it anyway, that is a conscious act, not a delusional one.

    Would you really want to live in a society where the ability to think rationally and to decide better outcomes was declared to be an impossibility? Where the presence or absence of pills was all it took to excuse guilt?

    I am glad to hear about the MN program. Anytime people can be helped, that is good news. But people can also choose to avoid problematic areas. If 1 drink is too many, one needs to make a firm decision to never to expose one’s self to alcohol again. If 1 bet is too many, one needs to make a firm decision never to expose one’s self to games of chance again. That is not so much a question of will power. It’s just a decision to never cross dangerous a threshold again where will power (once over the threshold) may not be sufficient to extract a person from danger. But before the threshold is crossed, it is very possible for rational thought to make a huge difference in one’s life.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    This is a “There are no Atheist’s in a foxhole” argument. A plea to the divine or an argument from credulity. A(atheist) + P (prayer) =PG (possibly god). The real equation is A+P=Absurd. Prayer is a step backwards from the certainty of a meaningless existence. Atheist’s find meaning, for their existence, in the moment. To inject Hope that there is even the slightest possibility of something more to reality than the current experience is to reject our position of non-belief. Camus postulates “that when all possible options are exhausted the search for meaning becomes absurd” not “when all options are exhausted the search for meaning returns us to god.” Surrendering your will and your life to god when you have hit rock bottom is a cop-out. It is a cowardly excuse saying your are not the source of your experience. Attributing random chance to god is just another divine plea.This is the paradox of AA. AA proposes that we are accountable for all our affairs and then asks us to turn our will over to god. Once the AA member completely embraces Accountability he will find that all his experiences are the result of his own doing. He is responsible for every action or inaction. Turning over your will to a higher power only perpetuates your alcoholism because the alcoholic’s god was once the drink, a higher power, and the source of your delusional thinking. Now that you’ve given your will to an “all powerful” supernatural being what stops you from personifying that? Nothing, because you can say “Well god willed me to do that.” or “I am not accountable for that because this is god’s will for me.” Power corrupts and it is proven science that adulation effects the same chemicals in the brain as alcohol.

  • Callice Equality Lieder

    Speaking from personal experience, I did not find people praying for me comforting and my experience did not call into question my lack of belief. It only strengthened it. For what it is worth, I turned down several people who wanted to pray for me and instead asked them to go home and hug their loved ones.

  • ctcss

    “This is a “There are no Atheist’s in a foxhole” argument.”

    Actually, I was not trying to say anything of the sort. I was simply asking that if someone hit a “brick wall” in their life, would they reject an offer of help relating to prayer to God, not that hitting a brick wall in their life would automatically turn them towards God. In my example, the possibility of turning to God was being brought up by an outsider, not the person in the “foxhole”. I was simply curious as to whether 7Footpiper would reject that offer of help out of hand, or would he graciously consider it? Some here have said that (if it were not done in an annoying fashion) they would accept it. Others have said they would not. I am assuming you are one of the “nots”. Duly noted.

  • coyotenose

    An alcoholic is willingly engaging in self-destructive behavior whereas a
    non-believer is simply not finding a useful reason to pursue a
    religious pathway in life.

    Alcoholics are not willing.

  • Anna

    Smug, arrogant, and filled with the same tired, old stereotypes. And this is from a Methodist! I thought the Methodists were supposed to be one of the saner denominations.

  • coyotenose

    We have overwhelming evidence that medical treatments often help cancer patients.

    We have close to overwhelming evidence that positive mental health sometimes helps cancer patients recover. That group reasonably includes people whose approach to life involves prayer

    We have zero evidence that anyone has ever been physically assisted by someone else’s prayer.

    You are the one jumping to conclusions here. Don’t project. And do NOT try to equate medicine to prayer. That is garbage. Modern medicine is the result of millions of hard-working people and hundreds of millions of suffering people overcoming human ignorance over the course of millennia. That includes medical ignorance set down in the Bible as fact. Do you have any idea how many people have not received the medical help they needed specifically because of the Bible and its nonsense about prayer as a treatment?

  • Cathy McGrath

    So do vampires!

  • Anna

    Pardon the pun, but amen. I’m also atheist since birth, never indoctrinated, and I believe much of this angst is experienced by people who were taught that they were immortal, only to later realize that they weren’t. I think it’s much healthier just to tell children the truth from the beginning, so they can accept the finality of death when they are still young.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Your proposition quoted

    wouldn’t it at least slightly call into question your previous points of view? And if it did, you might find yourself considering whether or not to explore a pathway (the possibility of God’s existence) that you hadn’t considered very likely before.

    Offhandedly I would not reject to someone praying for me. If it makes them feel better then so be it. Who am I to stop someone from feeling good about themselves. But just because I’ve accepted someone praying for me doesn’t manifest the existence of a supernatural being. Atheism is a position from nothingness. Prayer does not substantiate a
    possibility outside of nothingness. Your praying for me does not create god in me and it’s delusional to think otherwise. An Agnostic might pursue such
    courses of reasoning but an Atheist knows that such pursuits are absurd.

    If I still have questions and have the time and desire to research them; then I would still turn to science and reason. These fields of research exist in the here and now and they are rarely vague or ambiguous in meaning.

  • coyotenose

    You are under the misimpression that “Free Will” in the Biblical sense exists. It does not. Everything occurs because of chemical reactions. They limit what your mind/body is capable of. The self is both mind and body as one unit, not mind/body and some abstract outside “soul”. If there was a soul with “free will” that had any effect at all on the mind and body, then it could simply choose to not suffer alcoholism or any other mental issue.

    As soon as you called alcoholics “willing”, it became clear that this was the position you were coming from. You need to educate yourself on alcoholism, because it’s an incredibly condescending and ignorant position, and I don’t think you intend to be either. That the alcoholism rate is extremely similar everywhere* that alcohol is available should tell you that you need to know more. If it were just a matter of willpower or decision making, different cultures would produce vastly different rates. It’s a biochemical problem


    Thus if we feel murderous and murder someone, we should be forgiven
    because it wasn’t our fault, it was our faulty brain chemistry.

    No, this does not logically follow. This is just moral relativism, and does not take into account our empathy or need for security.

    *Not the percentage of alcoholics who drink. The percentage of alcoholics.

  • Anna

    I’m curious, if faced with a dire outcome (say, the brick wall of inoperable cancer with no hope of treatment or recovery, and having exhausted all other options) would you actually turn down help from a religious source just because it was religious? Even if you thought that prayer for your recovery wasn’t likely to work because you had never considered God to exist, would you actually turn down someone offering to help you in that way just because they believed in God and you did not?

    Yes, absolutely I would turn it down. After receiving a terminal diagnosis, I would not like to waste what little time I had left with things that I find ludicrous. I can appreciate that religious people might want to help me, but I don’t want them to pray for me. If they really want to help, they can do actual things that would improve the quality of my life, like drive me to a doctor’s appointment. Or they can donate money to cancer research to try to prevent other people from suffering the same fate.

  • Anna

    Yes, the “rock bottom” bit sounds like a huge exaggeration. I mean, I consider myself a sensitive person, but life really isn’t that hard. Yes, there is illness. Yes, there is death. We know that. We know to expect that life isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows all the time. Anyone with a decent support system and a moderately well-adjusted personality ought to be able to deal with those things without falling completely apart.

  • J-Rex

    “A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role model, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased. Otherwise, how will children ever understand the concept of God?” – Stephen Colbert

  • coyotenose

    To protect total strangers who were grown, healthy men who traveled (relevant because it would make them on average better able to defend themselves than most men.)

    Now if Lot was a fuckable guy who had offered HIMSELF, that would actually make for a pretty awesome story.

  • Cecelia Baines

    BS. Yes, they are. No, it is not a disease. Yes, they can stop.

    Rehab/Recovery methods and mentalities currently popular do not stand under fact and scrutiny as valid or correct.

  • allein

    My mother did a decent job of disguising her handwriting, at least until we figured it out. She still signs a few tags from “Santa” each year.

  • cr0sh

    “…when I see someone wince or limp, or certain facial expressions, or
    tears, or hear them cry out, I can reasonably infer that that person is
    in pain of some sort…”

    I’ll just leave these here…

  • MelissaLitwin

    Ah, but we know the action path of the medicine/drugs. We can postulate how the drugs chemically interacted with the cancer cells to kill them. There is evidence of things happening. Heck, sometimes cancer goes into spontaneous remission! We don’t know how or why, but it’s definitely not a higher power doing it. It’s a biological quirk. On the other hand, what is the action path of prayer? Magic happy thoughts –> ?? –> profit?

    What if I got prayed for by a Hindu, a Christian, a Druid, a Satanist, and a Shintoist? Which god(s)/spirits should I take as real? Or should I accept that something physical yet odd happened- perhaps a new mutation of the cancer caused it to react to treatment, perhaps dosages were upped enough to make a difference, perhaps prolonged exposure to medication made the difference, perhaps changing body chemistry as I weakened made the cancer cells more vulnerable, perhaps there was a spontaneous remission. Just because the action path isn’t known doesn’t mean god(s) did it.

    Basically, your argument requires someone to accept that God(s) saved hir after striking hir with cancer in order to make that person look for God(s). That’s a pretty jerk move. Rejecting the possibility of that god is the only rational response.

  • MelissaLitwin

    I would be a little annoyed that instead of an actual helping hand, they’re praying for me. You know, brick wall here! The loan of a (metaphorical) sledgehammer would be much more useful than prayer.

  • Miss_Beara

    “The rising of the sun is a reminder that we do not have to live in darkness. ”

    Sun goes up, sun goes down. There is no explaining that, therefore god.

  • wmdkitty

    At least there’s physical evidence of the Sun’s existence…

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Technically speaking you could pick up love like a rock. It’s neural-chemistry, for example cells, proteins, molecules, and a miniscule amount of detectable electricity. It may very well be possible, in a number of years, scientists will be able to isolate the chemistry that makes up love and put it in a test tube for all to see. Don’t even get me started on moons lacking an atmosphere.

  • Anna

    Ugh, how unpleasant. Were these people you knew or total strangers? I find it odd that so many religious people seem to assume that we would not only welcome their prayers, but find them comforting. It’s like a kind of blindness on their part, an inability to understand how someone else might feel.

    I was never a Christian. I find their rituals creepy and bizarre, and the very last thing I would want in a dire situation is to have to deal with someone else’s religious mindset. The whole thing comes across to me as weird and cultlike. Causing stress and discomfort to an ill/injured person is surely not their goal?

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    God is with in my flatulence

    Enveloped in his scent,

    He leaves his mark upon my shorts

    My pain and suffering released,

    Like a soft breath upon my cheek he warms me,

    And I fear the substance of his wrath.

  • Anna

    You know, the more I think about this, the more I am bothered by the fact that it was written by a Methodist. More liberal Christians are constantly telling us not to lump them in with the evangelicals and fundamentalists. And yet, here is a moderate, mild-mannered Methodist spewing the exact same smug, arrogant tripe as his more conservative brethren. If we can’t even trust the United Methodists to be somewhat more open-minded on these matters, what hope is there?

  • xeon2000

    Yes. We are essentially chemically programmed robots after a fashion. I don’t think you quite understand all the psychological factors involved though. Humans are not purely rational robots. Case in point: religion.

  • Revyloution

    God is obvious! Just look at the Bot Fly! Or the Guinea Worm! God exists, and he’s a sadistic bastard!!

  • coyotenose

    Bullshit yourself. The medical community is explicit about its being a complex disease. Pretending that this or any other addiction is something that people can just stop is condescending towards them.

  • coyotenose

    Just anecdotal evidence of course, but I’ve seen this many times. They’re supposed to be very moderate, but they have a large element that is pretty nasty.

    It’s worth noting that my ex-girlfriend and her family are Methodists, and they’re quite progressive people who volunteer and don’t rub it in anyone’s face. She worked PBS phones until her health shut that down. She’s a Seattlite, which implies to me that the dichotomy is more regional than denominational.

    She pitches an absolute fit when I jokingly call her a hippie for some reason though. She will rant for like five minutes over that. It’s actually a crack at my own region, where so many people are conservative dimwits who lump together and deride West Coasters like that. Can’t figure that one out.

  • starskeptic

    I have to cover my mirrors when God visits…

  • MD

    Extended family.

  • bernardaB

    I agree, God must know where to find me. Maybe he is just too busy healing around tragic losses. Hey wait. Why does he get credit for healing but not blame for tragic losses?

  • poose

    Is it just me?

    Every time I hear about an article like this one I just KNOW I’ll go to the source and his (her?) picture will smile back at me and practically scream “I’m a smarmy, better than thee ass, and have REALLY good hair”?

    Puke. I’m glad I’m going bald.

  • AJ

    I thin you’ve hit the nail on the head, “Anyone with a decent support system and a *moderately well-adjusted personality*…”

  • Don Gwinn

    If gawd were actually ubiquitous and obvious, there’d be nothing to talk about. I’d acknowledge it just as I acknowledge the rest of the world, and teaching my children to think things through and look for evidence would lead inevitably to their find gawd. Guys like this would love parents like me, because my kids would come to real personal belief on their own.
    But that’s what would happen if things were other than they are.

  • Scott Lewis

    While I agree with the overall sentiment of this post, I take issue with the tone. By using labels like “smug”, we drown out our message: reason. This is not an “us-against-them” issue. Most people, when they feel criticized or attacked, will only become more entrenched. How do you feel when a Christian tells you you are going to burn in hell? Your first reaction is most likely emotional. The fight instinct kicks in. It’s not productive.

    When I became a born again Christian in 1991 (I de-converted 10 years later), I did so not because Christians convinced me of the truth of their beliefs, it was because someone with whom I was already friends treated me as an equal and appealed to my emotional needs. I think we atheists are making a mistake by belittling and acting like we are smarter. We come across as angry atheists, and I even I, as an atheist, don’t like those (though I do understand the anger).

    I’m not suggesting that we theists use emotional manipulation to win people over to our way of thinking. I’m suggesting that we be respectful and treat people as individuals and never forget their humanity, except in extreme cases where more aggressive defense is warranted. By belittling we shut down any chance of communication.

    Also, I think it’s great that CNN ran both pieces. By saying they shouldn’t run that “drivel” we are acting just like theists who fear any view other than their own. Truth should never fear debate or discussion. If it is true, then an honest query into its nature will always lead to the same place.

  • tkmlac

    I accidentally left the following comment on your James Randi post, but I edited it. I often open different posts from FA in many tabs from my google reader and it gets confusing sometimes! Anyway, here is what I originally wanted to say about this:

    Happy to see that some people either didn’t listen to you, Hemant, or didn’t find that article here and have responded in the comments respectfully, expressing their arguments against this methodist’s hurtful article. :) I like it when we gather in public spaces and defend ourselves.

  • Eric B

    “I begin any consideration on the question of God with the realization that we cannot convince men (or women) of the existence or non-existence of God. ”

    This sentence struck me as oddly dismissive. Why do women need to be in parenthesis? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just write “men and women”. Unless you want to make it clear that women are an afterthought in the eyes of god.

  • Mark W.

    Lawyer…what a shock.

  • tobias27

    Mr. Peterson,

    I agree with you on every count, but, as a person raised in the southern bible belt, I have to tell you all that this is pretty typical of most believers here. They are not morons, or particularly hateful. They have been indoctrinated, at a very early age, to believe that there is a greater truth underlying these wordly affairs and that whenever they are troubled by the vagrancies of this world, there is someone unseen who has a plan and can bear their burdens for them. It is a very comforting myth and it has been built into everything that they have learned since the age of one. They are often otherwise intelligent, caring, and active in their communities.
    I am not saying all of this because I think it’s OK or just a matter of different strokes. I am quite convinced that religion is a great albatross around the neck of our necessary progress. I am as committed to the end of belief in all silly mythology as some of you may be. But we all need to understand these people and why they became so dependent on this mythology, before we can formulate the best way to end this madness. It may make us feel better to snipe and snark at some of the more ridiculous among them, but my personal experience is that most of them do not deserve this – and it is counterproductive to persist in this ridicule.
    I have certainly found no silver bullet argument that will convince them to join me in the joy and freedom that rational thought brings me, but I continue to speak to believers as if we shared more than we disagree upon and I continue to look for the ratinonale that will allow them to let go of that burden of guilt and powerlessness. If we can all find just one person ready to hear the voice of reason, then we can begin to grow exponentially and give some hope to a world of science and reason.

  • Anna

    Well, most people have to got to be at least somewhat well adjusted. Society wouldn’t work very well if everyone forever teetering on the brink of emotional collapse.

    That’s why the “rock bottom” bit comes across as hyperbolic. Barring mental health issues, most people are capable of handling bad things. Most people are never going to hit rock bottom. It’s really selling humanity short when Barnett claims that everyone is so weak, they’ll be crying out to his god sooner or later. The people who have those kinds of extreme emotional reactions to religion are the ones who genuinely find themselves at the lowest point in their life sans support system.

  • Anna

    I did find this on Barnett’s website:

    I am a recovering Southern Baptist and a practicing Methodist.

    Apparently not recovered enough! What he wrote is indistinguishable from what a Southern Baptist might write.

    At least not all Methodists are closed-minded. Your ex-girlfriend’s family sounds like a much better example. And of course Seattle must be a more religiously liberal environment, Mark Driscoll and his scary followers excepted.

  • Anna

    I do agree with your general point, but he did go out of his way to be deliberately insulting, calling humanism “a comical notion” and saying that humanists’ lives reflect the chaos within them. I’d use a stronger word than “smug” for that. That’s just plain nastiness, and if he’d said it about Buddhists or Muslims, there’d be a firestorm of controversy.

  • Anna

    It sounds like he’s implying that men are the only ones who even consider the question. Either women are too virtuous (blah) or unintelligent (double blah) to worry their pretty little heads about that.

  • Scott Lewis

    I understand where you’re coming from, and I get sick of being labeled as immoral, told I’m going to hell, etc., etc. But I think those kinds of statements speak for themselves. When we atheists react emotionally, we only confirm theist impressions of us. We need to respond with reason, humility, and compassion. I think we will make much more headway in opening a dialog than by being defensive, no matter how warranted it is.

    We need to be careful not to alienate those theists who are, perhaps, on the fence and willing to listen to reason and make up their own minds. When we retaliate in kind to the verbal attacks, we push those in the middle to choose a side. Since the “angry atheist” is a common stereotype, we lose a lot of the time in those exchanges.