What Atheists Have Dead Wrong About Religion

When it's all said and done

It’s been my experience that a great many atheists are keen on claiming that religion causes war. If people would only stop believing in God, goes the reasoning, there’d be much more peace and love in the world.

I want much more peace and love in the world! So let’s carefully consider the idea that without religion that is just what we’d have.

To begin, then, we must imagine that no people anywhere in the world have so much as an inkling of the idea of God. We must imagine that God is a complete, universal non-issue. Total void. Ixnay on the Odgay.

Poof! No more awareness of God!

So all those people who now identify themselves as Christians, Muslims or [insert other religion here] would no longer.

So how, then, would people think of themselves? Following religious affiliation, how do people primarily identify themselves?

But of course: by nationality. Generally speaking, people are deeply into the fact that they are citizens of whatever country they’re from.

Yikes. When haven’t wars been fought in the name of country, patriotism, and national pride?

So, obviously, if an increase in peace and love is what we seek, we’ll have to do more than jettison God. We’ll have to get rid of God and country.

Cool! Done!

So now we have no religion, and no borders. Sweet! Is that Shangri-La I see off in the distance?

Oh, shoot. It’s not. Because we still have racial identity. You take away God and country, and people will still very strongly identify themselves according to their racial inheritance. And more wars have been caused by racial strife than probably any other single factor.

Bummer!

But our way is clear. In order for us to have at least a chance at less war in the world, we must become a Godless, country-less race of people who all look very nearly identical.

Sure, things might be a tad dull. But small price to pay for more peace and love in the world, don’t you think? I sure do.

So in this brave new peaceful world I wouldn’t be a Christian; I wouldn’t be an American; and it wouldn’t even occur to me that anyone might look much different than I.

You know what, though? I’d still be a Shore.

Take away religion, country, and race, and what’s left—first, foremost, and forever—is family.

The irreducible truth about human beings is that we will bond. That can’t change. Finally, we must give and receive love.

And that means coupling up. And that means family. Clan. Tribe.

Yikes redux. A commonly known fact is that people are much more likely to be murdered by their spouse, lover, family member, or acquaintance than they are by a stranger.

More love and peace without religion.

Phfffft.

Not.

It’s not ideas about God that cause people to kill people. It’s human nature that causes people to kill people.

And say what you will about religion (and some of you will, I know), it is founded upon the conviction that the only way to overcome the baser aspects of human nature is through appealing to the transformative, healing power of God.

It’s not a bit more reasonable to suggest that God sends men to war than it is to suggest that God is, in fact, the only thing that can stop men from going to war.

****

Before you hate: Christians: Don’t Too Readily Dismiss Atheists/Rationalists

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Dennis Dawson

    I agree to disagree.

  • Shadsie

    Hmm.

    As far as we know, animals don’t have religions – I honestly cannot say for sure whatever deep-soul searching goes on in the mind of my cat (I’m guessing that her deepest questions have something to do with sushi…), but you know, horses and monkeys and cows don’t have churches or temples, nor live by any organized religious tennants that we know of.

    And animals still manage to fight pretty hard. Some species even do so in an organized, warlike fashion. Chimpanzees and ants for example.

    I guess this is why pinpointing and scapegoating any one, broad human thing as the cause of all war and all strife just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Well, that and that my personal self-analysis has me, if I were to “imagine there’s no heaven” getting some nasty vengence on people that I’ve held myself back from, possibly checking out early because I need the meaning that my personal “fairy tales” provide me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

    God has no healing or transformative powers. Otherwise people would get healed of cancer by praying. Obviously, this does not happen.

    Religion gives good people a reason to do bad things in the name of false morality. It also gives horrible people a moral smokescreen to hide behind.

    Morality is easy: if there is a victim, it is wrong. See, one sentence replaces the whole Bible. There, now that that’s settled, we can all go have a rational discussion about something real.

    • Kate

      Cancer would not be an issue to start with, if people relied on the healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature, instead of placing their trust in man-made food that comes in packets, bleached of all it’s goodness, with a few toxic chemicals tossed in for good measure…(Let’s face it, wild animals do not get cancer, only domesticated ones.)

      Just because YOU personally have never experienced God’s healing or transformative powers, doesn’t mean they do not exist. That would be like me saying that love does not exist because I had never experienced it.

      I think it’s interesting that you find this discussion irrational, and about something that’s not “real”….See that’s what I don’t get. Why are you here, then, exactly?

      • Anonymous

        I am here because I have been discussing religion on this blog for a good long while now. I just don’t find this to be one of John’s best posts. It reeks of regurgitation, where usually he brings a fresh view to the table. He must have been tired or too busy. It happens.Trusting in God for healing could result in death due to lack of medical care, I would not recommend it. Cancer has many different causes, none of which have anything to do with the supernatural.

        • Anonymous

          How funny: I hit the “like” button when I meant to hit “reply.”

          Dear Mr. Unholy Black Death: Your arrogance (and rudeness) yet again astonish me.

          • Anonymous

            I’m sorry I did not intend to be rude. I don’t see how I am being arrogant however, I just disagree with the general assumption you are making.

          • Anonymous

            It’s that you don’t understand how arrogant you sound that proves how arrogant you are.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Which part is arrogant? I would like to not be seen as too arrogant, if I can word things a little differently to try to not be that way, I will do so in future comments. Is it the wording or the idea itself? Sometimes I just comment right away with whatever I am thinking and it comes out worse than I intended. I really did not mean anything personally by what I said.

          • DR

            Imagine a Fundamentalist Christian who is talking to you, but his goal isn’t to listen. It’s not an actual exchange of ideas. You are simply a means to an end to make sure he can sound good on the pulpit. He’s only interested in talking to you because his sermons reflect the rebuttals that atheists give and that his message about God is even stronger as a result. Imagine – when asked – that he expresses his goal to you. That he doesn’t really care about your point of view, your beliefs – he just cares about being able to rebut them, it’s entertaining and most of all, it sharpens his evangelism with others. You on occasion, express something that he agrees with. There’s a bit of a reaction that feels more interpersonal, more authentic. You feel respected. But then you offer something that does not fit within his particular world view, and he’s back to his default posture of contempt.

            Then look in a mirror, because he is you.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            That’s bullshit. I have met every single comment to me with a reply (except those that I knew to be from minors) I hear what is said and I either agree or disagree. I do indeed have contempt for religion sometimes but so what?

            Debate is a hobby for me. Anyone who knows me personally can tell you this. I am a salesman by trade.

            You only say such things because you do not know me, just what I post here. Just because I get entertainment out of disagreeing and I don’t change my mind does not mean I do not listen. That is an assumption on your part. Did you ever think that maybe the arguments are just weak?

            I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I am never closed minded, just that I am not always that way and that I try not to be. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you or not.

          • DR

            LOL – what? You’ve certainly *not* met every comment with any kind of accurate rephrasing. You lead with contempt and at times, with revulsion for what’s being offered. Your contempt almost leaps off the page. And I don’t care, really – you’re just another dude who is using other people as a means to an end to make sure he gets to stay right about everything. You have a way of viewing the world based on a particular filter and type of evidence that you have decided is the absolute decider on what is real and not, and everything that falls outside of that deserves your contempt. You don’t engage in any real meaningful dialogue that would lead you to consider anything outside of the four walls of your understanding, built by the bricks of your particular evidence that you’re carefully selected as the authority on what is right. For Fundamentalist Christians? Those “bricks” are the Word of God. For you? It’s a particular type of evidence about the existance of God that no one would ever be able to offer because God can’t be seen in any physical way. Which is a non-argument.

            And believe that. Seriously. Who cares. I’m not an evangelist, your choice to believe in whatever you do believe is up to you. You find what you look for and you’ll continue to use whatever you discover as a means of justifying what you believe because that is what we all do. But you’re fooling yourself to think you’re any different from a Fundamentalist. I like you, you seem like a nice enough fellow this isn’t personal. But this is, indeed, who you are on this forum. Which is your choice to display.

            And who you are here is what you post.

          • Marcelo

            “Dear Mr. Unholy Black Death…”

            Haha! You’re making me remember the 14th century rather fondly, John….

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            That is my username is why he said that.

        • DR

          William in my experience of you on this blog, you “rebut” in the ways you did within this comment when John’s views simply don’t align with yours.

          For me – simply put – you’re a nice enough fellow but you’re really no different in conversation and debate than the Fundamentalist Christians who have decided quite a bit about you and the rest of the world. You are equally fixated on what it is you believe. You approach this conversation in very black and white, absolute terms and are immediately dismissive of anything that perhaps, suggests that you as well as us may not have all of the answers. Which is way more about *your* need to have everything lined up, in order and in control than it does much else.

          While that’s a little sad to me, what’s strange is that you’d consider yourself to be open-minded when you’re really not.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I am not open minded to things that have no evidence. It is very simple. Are you open to the possibility of unicorns? Elves? Fairy’s? I would bet that you are not. That does not make you close minded however.

            If you have some evidence that has not yet been revealed to the world, then do please share.

            I am not even saying there is no chance that there is a God. I will even grant that he does exist for the sake of argument. Even if he exists, I still disagree with the teachings of the Bible. Maybe I have never made that clear in the past. I am genuinely not quite sure how anyone can find morality in Christian-Judaic religion. Some of it truly horrifies me.

            Also, do not go around claiming I am a nice guy, I am in the sales industry and that would hurt my professional reputation.

          • DR

            The evidence that is being presented to you William is simply evidence that is not valid on your terms. Your filter by which something is “valid” is just as rigid as the Fundamentalists who say what is true can only be found in their interpretation of “God’s Word”. You are absolutely no different. Nor do I care if you’re a “nice guy”, I have enough friends as well as a thick skin, but to admit that you’re here to use others for entertainment and to simply sharpen your own points of view is almost reptilian in it’s lack of human connection.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            What evidence do you speak of? I do not make the rules as to what constitutes evidence.

            Everyone is on the internet for entertainment, that is what blogs are for. If you are not being entertained, then why come here?

            I have already apologized for being an asshole, but now you are not making any sense.

          • DR

            You’re almost willful in your decision not to listen to what’s being offered to you. It’s so weird to watch.

          • DR

            And stop speaking for “everyone else”. You’ve no idea why people are coming here and what it is they are looking for. Again, so arrogant. Be here for entertainment – big deal, I knew that after John busted your Facebook status update along the lines of “Look at me beating up on the Christians!” You let us know what your real thoughts and feelings were at that point, and again – that’s fine. But I’m certainly not here for entertainment, I’m here to be educated. So speak for yourself. Not everyone else. It’s a specific example of the arrogance John was referring to.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Okay fine, I can concede the entertainment point. It was just an offhand comment, don’t hyper-focus on little details. Do not confuse religion with education, they are not the same thing.

          • DR

            Stop telling people what to focus on or trivializing what we “do” focus on. You’re here by your own choice, posting what you do. No one is “picking” out details to focus on, we are reacting to general patterns of interaction with you. OK? If you want to really be listened to, then be more thoughtful, less sweeping and consider listening as carefully to others here as you expect them to listen to you.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Disagreement is not a lack of listening. You keep saying that it is.

            You fully admit that no evidence is available, yet you call me close minded for not buying it. That simply makes no sense at all.

            You can rightfully accuse me of being an asshole, but how can you call me close minded for not accepting something without evidence? I don’t see the logic there.

          • DR

            William, millions of Christians around the world feel a very strong certainty that a loving God exists based on the “evidence” within their lives. It is subjective experience (though some have experienced supernatural moments that can’t be explained that caused change and transformation that eluded them prior to a *presence* they attribute to a God. That – for them – is “evidence” they put forth for consideration. You have articulated a number of times that it is “physical” evidence you insist will be the only thing you respond to. Obviously, “physical” evidence is that which can be proven, replicated and results seen. This is obviously not ever going to be experienced with a God who is invisible. If you have decided that “evidence” is purely physical – is something that can only be rendered a particular way? Knock yourself out. But there are others who have added layers to the meaning of “evidence”. That you don’t consider those layers makes you exactly like the Fundamentalist Christian who refuses to believe or consider the added “layers” of what it means to be “moral”. For them, if “moral” isn’t something that comes from their interpretation of Scripture? It doesn’t exist. You apply this same, black and white rigidity and as a result, you dismiss all other layers to what could potentially point to what is true about a God.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Experience is not evidence. People do not always remember things the way they really happened. Eye witnesses are not even enough to get someone convicted of a crime in court usually, so why would the secrets of the universe get a pass?

          • Mindy

            Oops, did the “like” instead of “reply” thing again. Sorry.

            William, I’ve understood every argument you’ve made. I might even agree with some of them. I “get” that no one can provide you Evidence – with a capital “E” – of God’s existence. You want scientific proof. There is none. So you don’t believe. And that’s fine.

            But for many, myself included, experience has provided me evidence. Of course it doesn’t fit the scientific standard for evidence – it is not reproducible, for one. But a series of events which have no other explanation beyond coincidence, yet are too numerous and specific to simply be coincidences, have pointed me to a belief that *something* is operating behind the scenes. My default position on all things religious is cynical. I don’t buy into either elves *or* fairies. I don’t believe that every single thing happens for a reason. And yet I have grown into an unshakable faith in something inexplicable that knows far more than I do. God? Well, that’s what it is to most folks. I believe in it, I believe it takes different forms for different people, and I can’t prove a damned thing to you. And FWIW, I do remember things the way they actually happened, though, as I have photographic, video and anecdotal confirmation of what I saw and heard in several of the aforementioned situations.

            I respect your choice to *not* believe in my invisible friend. But you very rarely sound remotely respectful of any of us who do, and that is, I think, what John and DR were getting at (feel free to correct me, of course). You ascribe motives to “everyone” when you have no idea why any one person visits this site. You say you are here for entertainment, then scoff at those who point out how you use these discussions for entertainment. You make it hard to feel that a real conversation is taking place. So people begin to dismiss you, not read you, or, given your default position, assume that you are insulting when, perhaps, you are not.

            Like DR, how you feel doesn’t matter to me either way. But you can’t claim you are not arrogant when you speak for “everyone.” Even God doesn’t do that.

          • DR

            SO many typos.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            John installed a plugin that allows for comment editing now! :) Okay, I really have to get to class, bbl.

          • DR

            He did? Oh that is so good for me. OK, happy class. Sorry for derailing you in this conversation, I’ll stop now.

          • DR

            Your first sentence here says it all.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            You are being utterly ridiculous! Are you honestly telling me that I am close minded because I require evidence! Seriously? That is absurd.

          • DR

            What type of evidence would you need that proves to you that God exists?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Something that can be tested and verified in peer review. Just like the evidence for everything else. It would not take anything special, just the usual evidence that we use for determining the existence of everything else.

          • Don Rappe

            The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Also, I do not have all the answers and have never claimed to for the record. You are just throwing baseless attacks now, come on. Mankind only has what answers science has been able to provide so far. I know that as well as anyone. There are things man does not know yet. Please stop putting words into my mouth. Thanks

          • DR

            Baseless “attacks”? I’m being as direct about your impact and my perception of you as you are about others here. Honestly, man up a little bit here. This is how you speak to others, why aren’t you just as open to getting a little tough talk in return? Stop being a hypocrite, William. Be willing to get some of the tough talk you dish out with such frequency.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            You are saying things that are untrue. I am not offended, just correcting you. I do not make up the definitions of evidence and you said I do. Stop lying.

          • DR

            William, you’re just not getting it. You’re not able to hear what I’m offering you, or you aren’t willing to. You have a very strict standard of the “evidence” by which you would accept there is a God. Such physical evidence on your terms would never be able to be produced. So you’ve created a world for yourself that will immediately dismiss any evidence outside of those parameters. It’s simple, but I think part of the rigidity of that approach is that you also believe it’s immune to criticism (just like the Fundamentalists do).

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            But you are not telling me what kind of evidence you are referring to. I have no idea what you are talking about., I have asked you 3 times to clarify and you just keep saying that I don’t get it, WHICH I ALREADY SAID! I know I don’t get it, I would like you to explain what it is you are talking about. Did I clarify that? I mean, evidence is evidence. If it is not evidence, then its faith. If there is evidence, then there is no faith because it is not necessary. Please explain what you mean instead of repeating that I don’t get it.

          • Don Rappe

            You sure are patient with him, DR.

          • DR

            And of course you claim to have all of the answers when you refuse to consider any “evidence” about God that falls outside of your parameters of what *real* evidence is. That’s drawing a conclusion, William, without considering anything outside of your own framework. It’s nothing different from Fundamentalists who won’t consider evolution because it’s “not in the Bible”. There’s tons of complexities within comparing the two which I’m sure others will draw, but at its root of how that rigidity manifests itself in what we entertain, it’s largely the same.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I’m not sure what you mean, you will have to clarify exactly what evidence you are referring to. Again I will state that what constitutes evidence is not up to me. You cannot put that at my feet. The framework of science has been set up over thousands of years by minds much greater than mine. I’m not really sure what your point is there. That I should be consider evidence that has no verifiable basis? Is that what you are saying?

            Demanding evidence is not close minded, despite what you seem to be saying. I could be misunderstanding you however.

            I could really care less if God exists or not. That is not really the point for me. The point is that he/she/it is vile, immoral and offensive to me. I will not bow to anyone whether it’s man, animal or magical being in the sky. My ancestors fought to rid us of kings, why would I take a step back and subject myself to that indignity again? The teachings of Christianity are morally repugnant to me either way, whether the deity exists or not.

          • Anonymous

            William: Unless you’ve dedicated a great deal more time to studying, reasoning over, and contemplating the matter than everything you’ve ever written on my blog indicates that you have, you have no idea what the “teachings of Christianity” are. And that you so readily dismiss them all as “morally repugnant” might be instructive for you to consider next time you’re wondering how it is you ever come across as arrogant and condescending. (And are you sure you want to call morally repugnant feeding the hungry, protecting the innocent, and loving your neighbor—to name just three of the teachings of Christ that even you be aware of.)

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I grew up in this filth John, I know perfectly well. Those things you listed are only some of the story.

            Christians think that thoughts can be a sin.

            Jesus, the man you worship so fiercely, was okay with humans owning other humans as property.

            The teachings also put women under men, which I find unforgivable. I have a deep love of women in general, they are clever and represent half of humanities skill and ability at least.

            Hell is the worse part of it at all and the source of much mental child abuse and torture.

            Those are a few of the reasons that it makes me sick. There are more.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I grew up in this filth John, I know perfectly well. Those things you listed are only some of the story.

            Christians think that thoughts can be a sin.

            Jesus, the man you worship so fiercely, was okay with humans owning other humans as property.

            The teachings also put women under men, which I find unforgivable. I have a deep love of women in general, they are clever and represent half of humanities skill and ability at least.

            Hell is the worse part of it at all and the source of much mental child abuse and torture.

            Those are a few of the reasons that it makes me sick. There are more.

          • Anonymous

            I always regret spending time “debating” with you, William, because you just … can’t hear. But I’ll say this one more thing, and leave you be: If you want people to take you seriously, then don’t make the kind of obnoxiously sweeping generalizations that you do. What you wanted to say, in this case, is that you find SOME of the teachings of Christianity morally repugnant. That would make sense; people would LISTEN to that. It’s when you say—-and you most always make your pronouncements via this kind of grand posturing—things like you find “the teachings”—which of course indicates all the teachings—of Christianity morally repugnant, that you sound crazy, reactive, and absurdly close-minded. Then you just become another idiot so in love with the sound of his own screeching voice that he’s deaf to anything reasonable at all.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I guess I did not fully explain then. Don’t you think that advocating slavery and threatening children with eternal damnation if they decide to have a different view pretty much overshadows, and even contradicts those incidental good things you mentioned above? Excuse me if I cannot extol the virtues of a man who teaches such truly wrong things. I have fully thought this out, despite how you are trying to paint me now for your audience. There can be no forgiveness for oppression of the mind, slavery or belittling the opposite sex. Those things make one a monster. The cherry picking of modern moderate Christianity is just trying to sugar coat it.

          • DR

            This is a perfect example of you not even attempting to acknowledge the point someone is making to you. You just go on and continue to make your own points or justify your positions and then a subtle attack that you are being “painted” in any kind of way when a number of us have offered you just what John has offered you in our individual exchanges with you.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            No, DR, that is called a response. I responded to what he said. I explained myself more fully.

            I read his post and answered it. You seem to think that if I don’t change my mind that I did not listen.

          • plasmaphase

            William, you should really read the whole bible, instead of your hateful atheist cliff notes you probably found online somewhere.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I have a copy right here by my desk, what passage would you want me to read that would excuse the slavery, misogyny, forced submission, hell and oppression of thought?

            Is there really something in there so good that it cancels out those crimes? I have read a good bit of it, but not the whole thing. Maybe a suggestion from you will change it all.

          • Don Rappe

            You are confusing what the Bible says with what you think the Bible says.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Enlighten me then. The words say what they say. Did Jesus not tell slaves to obey their masters as long as they were Christian? Does it not tell women to obey their husbands? Does it not say a thought can be a sin? Am I wrong about these things?

            I have a Bible right here, I can follow along if you have a passage to refute the things I found in my readings. I have not read the whole entire thing, but I cannot imagine what would make the things I listed above okay. They are terrible and monstrous.

          • StraightGrandmother

            John, I have not been around here long enough to have background on people who post comments here. i don’t know waht they posted previously. So I just took William Ely’s first comment as a tad blunt and I was surprised at how hard you came donw on him. But then I kept reading and I have read all the way down to here, and now I get it. It was this comment that did it for me,

            “I could really care less if God exists or not. That is not really the point for me. The point is that he/she/it is vile, immoral and offensive to me. I will not bow to anyone whether it’s man, animal or magical being in the sky. My ancestors fought to rid us of kings, why would I take a step back and subject myself to that indignity again? The teachings of Christianity are morally repugnant to me either way, whether the deity exists or not”

            StraightGranmother s-l-o-w-l-y backs away from her first impression…

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Actually… I though that was (at least one of) the most solid argument(s) from Mr. Ely’s side. Granted, as he and Mr. Shore later hash out, generalizing “THE” teachings of Christianity is a bit rough, but then anyone calling “the” practices of, say, Stalinism vile does not really require one to sort through every individual practice, does it? We are all talking to some extend in generalities here.
            Now, I don’t entirely share his point of view, but I think it is quite a defendable position: The character of both God and Church in the Christian tradition can be experienced and judged independent of the question whether or not some deity exists. Submission is a large part of that tradition. The United States was created in a “war of independence”, at least nominally in a fight against tyrany, and with the goal to liberate its citizens of any subjugation save to some extend under the yoke of communal decisions. So, is it really that much less acceptable to say one feels submission under God as repugnant and refuses to go along as it would be to feel repugnance at submission under (again, just for example) a communist regime?
            I, for one, have more respect for someone who claims that he refuses to bow under some rule on moral grounds, than who retreats behind “epistomological” defenses. Science may be founded on the rule of reason, but it rarely makes for a good reason to do or not to do something. ;)

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Thank you for understanding what I was trying to say about the submission issue. I think you were the only one.

            Tyranny does not even have to be involved. The mere existence of a monarchy is wrong, morally and socially. Every man/woman is the final authority in all things as far as their own lives are concerned. God has no right to claim dominion, even if he/she/it exists.

          • Anonymous

            I always regret spending time “debating” with you, William, because you just … can’t hear. But I’ll say this one more thing, and leave you be: If you want people to take you seriously, then don’t make the kind of obnoxiously sweeping generalizations that you do. What you wanted to say, in this case, is that you find SOME of the teachings of Christianity morally repugnant. That would make sense; people would LISTEN to that. It’s when you say—-and you most always make your pronouncements via this kind of grand posturing—things like you find “the teachings”—which of course indicates all the teachings—of Christianity morally repugnant, that you sound crazy, reactive, and absurdly close-minded. Then you just become another idiot so in love with the sound of his own screeching voice that he’s deaf to anything reasonable at all.

          • Anonymous

            An observation that may be way of base, but your comment: “I could really care less if God exists or not. That is not really the point for me. The point is that he/she/it is vile, immoral and offensive to me” comes acoss as someone who’s pissed off at God. I totally get that. But to say you don’t believe, yet claim he/she/it brings about such strong disdain seems contradictory. I don’t think it is possible to hate or be so repulsed by something you don’t believe exists.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I say it does not matter if he exists or not. It is not God I am angry at, that would be silly. It is the teachings that I find to be offensive and harmful. I simply do not agree with the Christian position of submission and guilt.

          • Anonymous

            Hmmm…the words you use are interesting, William. Athiests don’t believe any dieties exist, agnostics don’t know if any exist, and you don’t care. Where does that put you? You seem to have a lot of anger about Christianity as it relates to your past, which I can understand. Your arguments, or the manner in which you convey them, seem mostly out of anger and a need to ‘prove’ you don’t believe.

            I may be transferring another’s experience on to you. No harm intended.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            You are indeed transferring, so I will ignore that part of your comment.As to where that leaves me, I just don’t think there is enough evidence to even consider god to be an option. It is not even on the table yet. Being an atheist for me does not mean that I am sure there is no god. It means that there is no reason to think there may be. If and when properly documented evidence is presented to me, I will have to switch my world view to agnostic to accommodate that new evidence. I hope that makes sense, I don’t want to over complicate it. Just trying to explain my personal reasoning on it. I do not claim to speak for atheists in general. (there is not much we agree on as a group)

      • Anonymous

        Also, wild animals do indeed get cancer. Why would you ever think they don’t? Cancer is simply a condition where an animals own cells get mutated and turn against them (basically). All animals are susceptible to this, it is a flaw in our design.

        • Don Rappe

          Except that the ancients almost never got cancer, including the old ones.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            How on earth would you know that?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            It is not that they did not get cancer. It is more likely that they simply did not know what cancer was. There is no reason to think they did not get cancer.

      • jes

        So…coming from a veterinarian and wild-life rehabilitator here, so I do have some informed basis on the topic. Do you have any idea what life is like for wild animals? Have you really thought about it? There is, I will admit, a very low rate of cancer in wild animals. Primarily this is because cancers are associated with old age and the slow break-down of cellular processes, and most wild animals die much too young to develop cancers.
        The “healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature” include starvation, dehydration, frost bite, forest fires, heat stroke, predation by other species, parasitism, infection (both bacterial and viral), dystocia, and traumatic accidents. Your argument falls horribly short of the point you are attempting to make, sorry.
        Here’s a specific example, using cats because it’s what I have numbers on.
        Intact, outdoor only cats (feral population with no human assistance) the average lifespan is 4-6 years. True, they have no diabetes, thyroid disease, or chronic kidney failure, but 4-6 years?!
        Contrast with indoor only, neutered cats, with a life expectancy of 18-20 years. Sure, by the time a cat is 16 years old, living in the world has been rough on the kidneys, but they got a life span increase of 300-500%, don’t you think that’s worth it?

        • Kate

          “The “healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature” include starvation, dehydration, frost bite, forest fires, heat stroke, predation by other species, parasitism, infection (both bacterial and viral), dystocia, and traumatic accidents”

          Yes, but how many of the above things are the indirect result of man’s impact on the world and the climate and natural habitat?? (I realised after posting that it should have read “cancer in wild animals is extremely rare, as opposed to cancer in domesticated animals”, but didn’t know that you could edit…)

          The point I was trying to get across, is in reply to William seeming to blame God for cancer. Cancer is not some God-given curse. It is a MAN-MADE disease.

          (And until we recognise this, the multinational food/cosmetic/chemical companies will continue to poison us, while the multinational pharmaceutical companies will continue to get rich off the sickness they create).

          Cancer can ONLY survive in an internal environment that is acidic, and lacks oxygen. The acidic environment is a direct result of processed food, white sugar and white flour, toxins in food, candida, and stress. The lack of oxygen is a direct result of stress, candida, lack of exercise, smoking, and air pollutants. (None of which are God’s fault.)

          I am convinced that childhood cancers are when a child is born with candida overgrowth in the stomach (passed on from the mother at birth), which then spreads through the vital organs (especially if the child is fed with formula which is high in glucose sugars which feed candida, and especially if the child takes antibiotics) , starving cells of oxygen and nutrients, and allowing cancer cells to proliferate.

          But the studies aren’t being done, because we are too busy trying to find a “cure”, which incidentally has already cost us over $200 billion, and to which we are no closer to finding.

          Preventing cancer would be incredibly simple, but of course, no-one would get rich out of it…

          The love of money really is the root of all evil, sad to say.

          • jes

            “The “healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature” include starvation, dehydration, frost bite, forest fires, heat stroke, predation by other species, parasitism, infection (both bacterial and viral), dystocia, and traumatic accidents”

            Yes, but how many of the above things are the indirect result of man’s impact on the world and the climate and natural habitat?? (I realised after posting that it should have read “cancer in wild animals is extremely rare, as opposed to cancer in domesticated animals”, but didn’t know that you could edit…)

            None of them, that’s why I listed them as specific examples. Which is not to say, for instance, that humans can’t start forest fires, but so does lightning, and humans certainly aren’t responsible for that. Every single thing listed above is something which occurs in natural populations of animals (and humans) on a regular, cyclic basis. It is how nature works–coyotes starve in the winter, and then rabbits and deer have a population boom in the spring. The coyotes eat well that fall on all the deer that are too weak to run away because they’ve overbrowsed the brush after the population boom. These cycles are well studied and well established and not due to human interference. If you believe in God, then you believe he designed this system which includes horribly painful lingering deaths. Whether you claim to understand why he would include such things is up to you. I can’t fathom a good reason for it, but I can’t claim to understand God thought either.

            The point I was trying to get across, is in reply to William seeming to blame God for cancer. Cancer is not some God-given curse. It is a MAN-MADE disease.
            (And until we recognise this, the multinational food/cosmetic/chemical companies will continue to poison us, while the multinational pharmaceutical companies will continue to get rich off the sickness they create).

            I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Yes, there are many chemicals which contribute to various cancers. But you can hardly blame the cosmetic industry for something like cervical cancer, which is caused by a virus, which comes back to God did it for some reason, and cervical cancer is a really awful way to die. So why would an infallible, loving God create such a thing?

            Cancer can ONLY survive in an internal environment that is acidic, and lacks oxygen. The acidic environment is a direct result of processed food, white sugar and white flour, toxins in food, candida, and stress. The lack of oxygen is a direct result of stress, candida, lack of exercise, smoking, and air pollutants. (None of which are God’s fault.)

            Alrighty. You’ve just proved an absolute lack of actual medical knowledge, and I don’t know why I’m going to bother with the rest of this. Lack of oxygen is far and away the least of most tumor’s problems. Neoplasias actually stimulate abundant growth of new blood vessels to supply nutrients (including oxygen) preferentially to the abnormal cells in the tumor. pH has nothing to do with anything in this topic.

            I am convinced that childhood cancers are when a child is born with candida overgrowth in the stomach (passed on from the mother at birth), which then spreads through the vital organs (especially if the child is fed with formula which is high in glucose sugars which feed candida, and especially if the child takes antibiotics) , starving cells of oxygen and nutrients, and allowing cancer cells to proliferate.

            And I’m convinced that you’re making wild assumptions with no basis in actual medical research or disease processes, for reasons that I can’t even begin to fathom.

            But the studies aren’t being done, because we are too busy trying to find a “cure”, which incidentally has already cost us over $200 billion, and to which we are no closer to finding.

            Preventing cancer would be incredibly simple, but of course, no-one would get rich out of it…

            Right. Because by turning our backs on modern medicine, we could all die too young to develop such esoteric diseases as pancreatic cancer. The causes and prevention of various cancers is the subject of much of this expensive research you so denigrate, as is treatment. “Cancer” is not a single disease though–there are potentially as many different cancers as there are cell types in the body, so you cannot just pin every one on a single cause, and for my part, I’m convinced that people who give medical advice based on ill-thought and faulty assumptions with no actual medical training do more to cause problems in the health of the people who listen to their nonsense than can ever be justified.

            For some specific examples, I recommend starting here:
            http://whatstheharm.net/childvegetarianism.html
            http://whatstheharm.net/holisticmedicine.html

            The love of money really is the root of all evil, sad to say.

            The love of money has not a single thing to do with what causes cancer. If God is all powerful and created a perfect system, how exactly do you propose that humans’ collective love of cash lead to the break down of His divine work? That sounds like perfection is awfully brittle and I’d think an omniscient and omnipotent creator with a set plan would see the problems coming there.

          • jes

            Forgot one that’s actually a little more pertinent to your original comment:

            http://whatstheharm.net/faithhealing.html

            Some of the reported tragedies of people who relied entirely on “the healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature” to the exclusion of scientific medical intervention.

            If people like this really believe that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humans as they are–intelligent and innovative and at times arrogant–why can they not accept that he intended for us to develop rigorous scientific methods and study the world around us? I assure you that it was NOT Satan who supplied us with penicillin.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “I assure you that it was NOT Satan who supplied us with penicillin.”How do you know? Satan is often called Lucifer, i.e. light bringer. Such claims are not very agnostic, Jes. ^_^ (But then, who created Satan/Lucifer?)

          • Mindy

            Agreed, FF. This is my problem with atheism, just as it is my problem with the absolutes of religion – the certainty. I can be certain that no divine being or power has ever been proven to exist. I cannot be certain, though, that one does not, in fact, exist. I am a great believer in science, no doubt. But I am also well aware that science doesn’t “know” everything – all one has to do is look at science historically to see that at any one point in time, it “knew” all that it was capable of seeing/proving – but much was left to learn. Why would now be any different?

            I happen to agree with Kate on one point – that we have toxified our world enormously and it is likely that connections will be made between what we now ingest and breathe in and increased cancer rates. Which does not, in any way, assert blame on the victim, as she seems to do. People (myself included) eat what is available and believe that science and the FDA, etc. are looking out for our best interests. That doesn’t mean that information not yet available won’t, at some point in the future, prove that how we are currently eating, whether it be due to preservatives or something else, is dangerous. We also live far longer than we used to, and we have many healing options, thanks to science. So . . . . God gets credit but not blame? Blame but not credit? Weird. I’m all for using these brains in our heads, whether God gave them to us or they are merely the culmination of evolution to this point.

          • jes

            Nah, it’s quite agnostic. I don’t claim to know whether there is or is not a God and/or a Satan, but for the sake of argument, presuming that there is a Satan, I utterly fail to see how medical advances could reasonably be attributed to the champion of evil and lies. Obviously, if there is no Satan, then it also stands to reason that he didn’t inspire antibiotics, so either way, no credit to him. Think more circularly, darling! :D

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            If I think any more circularly my shoulders are gonna get stuck in my bum. :P

          • jes

            That’s some impressive flexibility :D

          • StraightGrandmother

            I saw right trough you on that first comment FireFox, I could totally see you were just trying to stir up trouble, stir the pot so to speak. You just had to jump in and mix it up didn’t ya? Not one of your greatests posts though, but good try. Jess rebutted it short and sweet. Normally your comments are really brilliant, you must not have had your coffee yet when you wrote that comment.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Well, if all the theists here take offence at atheists, than I as a gnostic of course just had to take up issue with jes’s agnostic position. But yeah, more coffee is always a good idea. Worse: I’m in nicotine withdrawl.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “Cancer would not be an issue to start with, if people relied on the healing qualities that God provided for them in Nature, instead of placing their trust in man-made food that comes in packets, bleached of all it’s goodness, with a few toxic chemicals tossed in for good measure…”

        I have experienced both God’s healing and God’s transformative power, but I’ve also lost family to cancer, and I very, very much resent your accusation that they were themselves to blame. There are diseases (incl. many forms of cancer) that apparently ARE caused by human poisoning of our world. But there also are many forms of cancer – incl. e.g. medulloblastoma – where there is no evidence that human behaviour has anything to do with it and every indication that it’s simply basic biology .

        Carefull where you tread, Kate. Please.

    • jes

      “God has no healing or transformative powers. Otherwise people would get healed of cancer by praying. Obviously, this does not happen.”

      I’m firmly in the agnostic/can’t possibly know camp, so I’m not arguing for or against the existence of God’s powers here, but I would like to point out that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You have missed an important logical step in going from “doesn’t happen” to “can’t exist”.

      Religion gives bad people an excuse to do bad things; but they probably would have done them anyway. Religion also gives people a sense of community and a way to find help from others in times of need. It is not entirely without redeeming value.

      • http://williamely.name William Ely

        There is no need to prove a negative, only a positive. Currently, there is not enough evidence to consider God to even be a real possibility. Since atheism makes no claims, it needs no evidence. It is simply the default position. If I saw enough evidence to make God a possibility, I would then consider myself an agnostic.

        I consider the bad to far outweigh any accidental good that may occur from people having religion in their lives. This good actually comes from them anyway not the religion.

        Religion allows those bad people to be heroes or prophets and not only get away with evil acts, but be praised for them, whereas in a sane society, he or she would be prosecuted. This is mostly a problem with Islam these days. Christianity is past that phase in these modern times, thankfully.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          “If I saw enough evidence to make God a possibility, I would then consider myself an agnostic.”

          How do you define “God” so one might see if there’s any evidence for such a thing?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I am (obviously) referring to a being who actually exists and created the universe.No wall of text please, keep it short.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            What do you mean by “created the universe”?

            Are you referring to there being some first cause? If so, who could conceive of such a thing as being except as that initial state of being from which all else might follow chronologically, or else that initial state of being being from which all else might follow ontologically? And who might there be in all the universe to really deny the reality of—the actuality of existence for—such a self-creating creator of self-being being?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Dude, I’m not playing the word game with you. You know what is being discussed here, either say what you want to say or don’t.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Or perhaps you have no idea what is being discussed here.

            The lack of any answer is unsurprising.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Holy shit man, just say what you want to say. You obviously have something on your mind. You are just as familiar, if not more so, with the creation story as I am. Do I really have to explain it?

            It is Friday night and I don’t really like you anyway, so I am not going to humor your word games.

            The festivities are going to begin soon, so I will most likely answer any further comments tomorrow afternoon when I wake up.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I already said what I wanted to say before. Now, however, apparently I ought to explain to you that definition falls within the realm of logos, not mythos. What does one particular account of creation or another—none particularly clear regarding the material realization—have to do with the question of an entity’s existence in (and/or among) a material reality and a causal nature?

            Have a good time at the ‘festivities’!

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            You over complicate issues to the point where they cannot even be rationally discussed. Try using practical knowledge instead of theoretical and you will find actual solutions instead of theological drivel.

            I do not care enough to get drawn into one of these conversations. If you wish to stick to clear, relevant discussions, I will engage. Otherwise, no thanks. Abstract nonsense is not my bag. No solution comes out of it and it wastes a lot of valuable time.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            You’re the one who makes the presumptuous claim of insufficiency in evidence for a possibility of a creating agent existing in the universe, despite the practical benefit of allowing otherwise. So eat your own nonsense. Theoretical solutions are quite actual, and you concretely benefit from abstractions daily. The only unclarity here seems to exist within your own head. If you engage, you could do so in a meaningful and constructive manner, but it seems rather that what you want is indeed just to waste valuable time.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            If you will notice, I never engage you seriously. I do not take you seriously at all. I have said before I don’t like you and I think you are full of shit. So why would I take the time to engage you in “a meaningful and constructive manner”? Why would I bother? You are just going to argue about semantics, splitting hairs about what every single word means. I have no time for abstract nonsense nor do I desire to have a serious conversation with you.

            No evidence is no evidence, you cannot make up for that fact by changing word meanings or claiming abstract nonsense can replace actual evidence.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            And evidence is evidence; you cannot change that by purporting ambiguous meaning or claiming abstract nonsense.

          • Mc2writer

            I don’t want to get in the way of the pissing contest going on between you two, but evidence is not always evidence, MT. Ambiguity and abstraction can most definitely dilute purported evidence into nothing helpful. And you can be good at doing that. William can be curt and cranky, but his point here is valid where you are concerned.

            Exiting, back to your fussing at each other.

        • jes

          I’m not trying to prove or disprove God. I was merely pointing out a flaw in the logic of your argument. And I disagree with your claim that there is no need to prove a negative–if you want to prove a point, it doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or negative, you still have to prove it to claim proof. From a strictly scientific hypothesis point of view, you are exactly backwards; an absolute positive can never be proved, as it takes only one exception to disprove it while a negative can be proved with a single instance.

          The fact remains though, that just because you’ve never seen something happen doesn’t mean it can’t possibly. For all any of us know, God is floating right behind my shoulder laughing silently at all the fuss and enjoying the cosmic game of hide-and-seek that he’s playing. I couldn’t possibly explain WHY, and I don’t really think that’s a very high probability, but I can’t begin to postulate how I’d prove it wasn’t so.

          I am not trying to convince you to become religious. I’m not religious myself and frankly don’t give a rip whether you are or not. I was merely pointing out that religion is not all bad all the time as you seem to think. Just because I don’t want to join a religion doesn’t mean I need to have a hate-on for all religion everywhere.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Atheism makes no claims, so has no need to defend claims. I simply refuse to consider religious claims due to lack of evidence. They make a lot of really bold claims and cannot back them up. Only those making claims are obligated to defend claims.

            I find the teachings offensive and immoral. That is all I need to be dismissive of it. I do not support immorality and I do not support ignorance. Religion includes both. Whether it has a few accidental good qualities here or there is not enough to make up for the bad.

  • John

    I agree with a lot of the things you say but I cant agree with the end. I havent seen this love from religion you talk of. People can be as loving as they can evil. I dont think God factors into it. Though I wont deny I’m bias due to experience. I’ve seen more love from athiests then any religious person in my life.

  • vj

    It has always struck me as somewhat ironic that believers are grateful to God for all the good stuff in the world (love, sunsets, chocolate), while atheists blame Him for all the bad stuff in the world…

    John, this piece so perfectly demonstrates why the bad stuff is not His fault! :-)

    • Anonymous

      If God created everything, then the bad stuff would certainly be his fault too. Not even God can escape logic.

      • plasmaphase

        Or one could argue that perfection is in the little imperfections. How would one learn without being allowed to make mistakes?

        • http://williamely.name William Ely

          The horrible things that exist cannot be seen as simple “imperfections”. That would make God a monster. He could have made things differently and still allowed for free will. The universe is poorly designed. You can claim a perfect being created it if you wish, but the end product speaks for itself to me.

          • plasmaphase

            Oh I see, because you could make one better I presume. I forgot, you are the guy who knows not of his arrogance.

            If you wouldn’t mind, would you provide a short list of these “poorly designed” things you speak of?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            If I knew how to create a universe, that would be amazing!

            short list:

            cancer cells
            the difference in physical strength between men and women
            birth deformities
            viruses
            the whole predator/prey dynamic

            the list goes on and on, but I have an 8:00am class to get to, sop I will leave it there for now.

            God could have made this world a better place to live if he was indeed responsible for its creation.

          • Marcelo

            Hmmm….You might consider adding universal humility to the list. That would be a good thing. :-)

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Universal humility does not exist, so it would not be on this particular list of design flaws. Please pay attention and follow the conversation so we don’t have these sorts of mistakes.

          • Anonymous

            Wow. So you’ve just given up even trying not to seem like a complete dick. Bummer.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            It is perfectly acceptable to pounce on someone who comments without reading the post.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            It is perfectly acceptable to pounce on someone who comments without reading the post.

          • Marcelo

            You know, Mr. Ely, I did read your post, and you understood my point. You felt it fine to dismiss my point because I wasn’t either: (a) commenting only on physical features of this world, or (b) bowing down to your superior intellect?

            I can’t help but feel based on this response and your response to others elsewhere that you’re just plain rude. That doesn’t advance the discussion, but of course, you’re here just to polish your knives. And your mea culpas as to your brashness or being an asshole are pretty disingenuous. You keep being rude. So, either you don’t care or you’re clueless about it.

            Well, I’ve got knives of my own and it’s time to carve this turkey.

            Good day to you, sir.

          • Don Rappe

            I would have to agree it would be acceptable for a complete dick. Now, we need you on the other side to notice that your statement he hadn’t read the post is a lie.

          • Anonymous

            Wow. So you’ve just given up even trying not to seem like a complete dick. Bummer.

          • Marcelo

            Glad you’re working on your assholism. :-D Seriously, dude, if I weren’t paying attention I wouldn’t have noticed that. If we’re talking about making this world a better place, a little humility in our belief that we could make a better one is probably called for and very much a part of this conversation…unless you’re also dictating how this converstaion is supposed to go, too.

            All the things you mention are good, and no, I do not claim to understand why God would create or allow the existence of these things. I’ve just learned in my meandering stumbling called my life that, God or no God, I’m definitely not one.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I was just giving you a hard time anyway.

            But no, the list was of poorly designed things in our world. The things I listed are bad, not good. So, if you had said arrogance, that would have worked. You have to read the post I was replying to as well to get the full idea.

            Actually arrogance is not a design flaw, it is just a character trait so really it would not work either. The list was of things that God messed up on if he created the universe, not ways to improve the world. Only a subtle difference.

            I actually have a better idea: get rid of “belief” altogether. Then you are just left with information. That would be grand!

          • DR

            Dear William,

            You providing excuses for being an asshole is getting really annoying. How about just stopping it instead of giving excuses for it.

            Signed,

            An asshole who is in recovery

          • Kate

            But I don’t understand. Why is the difference in mens and women’s strengths a bad thing? Men may be able to lift heavier things, but they probably wouldn’t manage childbirth very well. We’re just different, with different strengths and weaknesses – that doesn’t make it a bad thing…

            The other things you listed such as birth deformities, and cancer cells are most often the result of nutrient deficiency/toxic overload/stress/acidic internal environment. God doesn’t really have much control over those things, since we are responsible for what we put in our mouths…

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Do you realize, Kate, that when you write birth deformities, and cancer cells are most often the result of nutrient deficiency/toxic overload/stress/acidic internal environment what you are suggesting is that these things are the fault of these victims? You are peddling straight up naturopathic woo here, as if by ‘balancing’ one’s acidic environment through diet one can avoid genetic inheritance, that by getting rid of the body’s ‘toxins’ one can avoid cancer. Within this woo, you insert common sense – stress reduction – which has nothing to do with eating. Your ‘excuse god by blaming the victim’ belief is as disheartening as it is unreasonable.

          • jes

            So you’re saying that my (very conservative Christian) uncle died of brain cancer (astrogliocytoma) because he ate too many sugar cookies and made his brain acidic? Sorry, but this is completely contrary to actual evidence validated by scientific studies, and just demonstrates a huge deficit in your understanding of how physiology and the body’s regulatory systems actually work, as well as a heartless “blame the victim” attitude.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            Have you never heard of rape and violence against woman? It has been going on since there have been men and women. Kinda obvious really…

            God made the system in which these things form. He could have (I am assuming for the sake of argument that he exists and created the earth) made a system where cancer cells did not exist. Many cancers form by simple mutation naturally. How is that the act of a benevolent deity?

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            I was just giving you a hard time anyway.

            But no, the list was of poorly designed things in our world. The things I listed are bad, not good. So, if you had said arrogance, that would have worked. You have to read the post I was replying to as well to get the full idea.

            Actually arrogance is not a design flaw, it is just a character trait so really it would not work either. The list was of things that God messed up on if he created the universe, not ways to improve the world. Only a subtle difference.

            I actually have a better idea: get rid of “belief” altogether. Then you are just left with information. That would be grand!

          • Anonymous

            Non believer asshole=ass holism.
            Believer asshole =ass holiness.

          • Anonymous

            Predator/prey—done away? Hello disease, plagues of insects, vermin, frogs, bacteria, virus. Circle of life changes, William Ely is consumed by rats and bedbugs in his sleep. (just kidding)No cancer, no birth defects? Overpopulation. Depletion of resources. Starvation. William Ely has a pantry full of Noodle-Roni, Cheetos and Red Bull. Kill HIM! (again, kidding)No difference in the physical strength of men and women? Are you good with no difference in physical appearance? No difference in physiological traits? Hormones? Hey WIlliam, check out the babe at the bar with the rock-hard guns and the Tom Selleck ‘Stache. Woo-woo! (not kidding, need protection from bugs, rats, and crazed interlopers looking for Cheetos, while I sleep).

          • jes

            Actually… there’s a point there. If the system was designed by an infallible being with the best interests of all individuals in the system, why not just have a timer on each individual? Timer runs out, they die–suddenly, quietly, painlessly. No need for diseases, nor overpopulation. No long, painful, lingering deaths. It COULD be designed in ways I would consider better.

            And what’s wrong with a little androgyny? There’s really no reason that women have to have huge breasts just because of estrogen, most apes don’t, and certainly other mammalian species don’t.

          • Anonymous

            “It COULD be designed in ways I would consider better.”

            I agree, jes. And I believe it WAS designed better. Unfortunately the gift of free will was misused and man began his journey toward a state of inert uniformity. However, I believe the designer was keen to provide a failsafe.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            That assertion utterly fails to make sense as it relates to basic biology and the ridiculous ‘engineering’ we find prevalent throughout the animal kingdom. Or do you enjoy your the wonderful design of wisdom teeth in a jaw too small, your prostate enlargement and prostatitis, your vestigial appendix, your laryngeal nerve, choking on food taken through the windpipe, and so on. There are so many bad design bits that to relate them all to a human failure to exercise free will in spite of a perfect designer seems rather… well, silly actually because it makes no design sense.

          • Don Rappe

            Nope, can’t explain all the nuisances in God’s creation by free will. Consider mosquitoes; only the majestic mystery of God can explain them. He may have created mammals just to make the blood they need to breed more available to them. Still, pretty good job designing a little redundancy into my bicameral brain.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            You seem particularly taken by the bicameral brain. And we all should be because of how easily we assume our brains are a single entity rather than two very distinct ‘voices’ in our heads, which has particular relevance to better understanding how easily we experience that other entity but attribute it to some outside agency.

            Fascinating stuff, eh?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            So that is where the voices come from? When I asked them, they got all evasive… ^_^

          • Anonymous

            I was trying to say that God designed everything to be eternal. Human free will changed that when man and the animals were ousted from the Edenic environment. Neither were designed for entropy, yet entropy ensued when the flaws of mortality enveloped a perfect creation. Corruption wasn’t intended, but it wasn’t unanticipated. Of course this is just my opinion of how our condition relates to my own spiritual beliefs. What we may see as ridiculous engineering is what I believe to be the vestiges of perfect design, subjected to ages of corruption by flawed human free will. It certainly wasn’t meant to be a scientific discussion.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Well, if you present the creation story as a metaphor or myth, then of course you’re welcome to infuse it as meaningful for you… as an insight into the human condition and I won’t say ‘Boo’ about it. But when you present it as an historical event with ramifications derived from its truth claims about how we have come to be as we are, then what you are doing is making up your own facts and I have to call ‘Foul.’ You are presenting your take on the effects derived from this event it as if they were explanatory and factually true, and that, my friend, is most definitely the domain of science.

          • Anonymous

            I presented theory based upon a biblical accounting in Genesis. I didn’t mean to imply that anything I mentioned theoretically, was factual. Retrospectively, my opening sentence should have read, “I was trying to say that I believe God designed everything to be eternal.”

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Well, you are using very specific scientific terms when you speak about entropy. And we see entropy increase (as far as information is concerned) all around us – as well as decrease – so I’m confused by your point. If we were ‘re-engineered from a perfect state, then it has turned out strangely to re-engineer other critters (innocent of man’s sin, I should add) to reflect our own. It’s kind of bizarre idea, doncha think?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            There is another possibility, though. God might exist and have created the universe, but maybe He simply likes it filled with cancer as well as motherhood, tsunamies as well as beautiful sunsets, nature red in tooth and claw as well the possibility of human kindness, etc. He also simply might not give a damn about some things.

            I agree however that God cannot be the creator and not be to blame for most of what sucks in the world. Even if you factor in free will.

          • jes

            I’ve often wondered if God might be some ansgty tween and Earth is the equivalent of the ant farm on his homework desk….

      • Anonymous

        Yes. IF that supposition made by the created is guided by correct inference.

        The way I see it, IF there is a God…wouldn’t our logic be subservient to the Logos? Simply by virtue of being the creator, God would not be subject to the conclusions of the created. Escape infers containment? If God is a Genie, WE are at fault for wishing awry.

      • Don Rappe

        I don’t think God tries to escape from his logic.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          Nah, just from the “logic” of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar… who apparently won’t shut up trying to “defend” God, even after He told them to. ^_^

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VSGWLTCLQ6SDRAC7SXNZG2YBHA Jayne says READ MORE BOOKS

      “while atheists blame Him for all the bad stuff in the world…” Um, no, we don’t blame “Him.” WE DON’T BELIEVE IN “HIM”.

      Geesh — I had no idea that most readers of John Shore’s blog — and, based on this blog entry, John Shore himself — did not understand that atheists do NOT believe in “Him” or “God” or “her” or whatever!

    • jes

      Alternately, atheists enjoy the good while trying to avoid or ameliorate the bad, and not crediting or blaming some higher power for either.

      By the very definition of atheist (one who believes there is not a god), an atheist cannot blame God for anything. They can, however, blame the folks that do things “in His name” for the consequences of their actions. Just as they can blame other atheists for the consequences of their actions.

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        jes, I’m going to quibble with your definition: atheism means non belief in deities. The difference is important because I would believe there is a god if that cause best met the effects we find in nature. But without good reasons to do so, the default opinion is non belief. If I don’t collect stamps, I am better described as a non collector of stamps and not some other kind of collector. When you write that atheists “believes there is no god” then you are saying that you believe a negative, which really is another kind of belief. But I don’t buy that; I don’t think you are a believer of a different kind.

        But as for the rest of your point, well said.

        • jes

          I’ll concede the point.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          I think this one is a mite more complicated: Almost any attampt to deal with the world implies quite a lot of belief: The scientific method – which I wholeheartedly cherish as the best of all methods known to me in dealing with the physical world – implies belief in consitancy – that something repeatablility means predicatability. At least, in real life that is what it implied. The hardcore scientist of course would concede that anything is “just” a working hypothesis until disproven. That nothing can ever be certain. But that brings me back to saying ANY attempt to navigate the world means relying on a lot of assumptions… i.e. belief. Faith.

          Yes, it is possible to be an Atheist in the hardcore scientific meaning of “having a default lack of belief”. Common language refers to that usually as Agnosticism. Real humans, including you, I am rather certain, do mean by that that they have built a worldview on this “default” assumption, projecting beyond the basic doubt into the actualy, postivist “belief” that there is no God.

          (Was that too complicated? Can someone help me pare that argument down into less messy and overwrought sentences?)

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I understand what you’re saying. We can use the same argument to back the notion that reason itself is a belief because any attempt to justify reasons becomes an a priori argument (in that we have to rely on the framework of reason to understand what reason is)!

            But what is conveniently forgotten when it comes to science that differentiates its method of inquiry from religious belief is its extension into the world and judged on its practical merits. In other words, does it work?

            If that answer is yes, and it continues to work reliably well, then it has become something more than just a belief based on a framework of belief. It has used an outside point of reference to help judge whether or not its practical results are self-appointed or universal. And, as you well know, this additional requirement to any working hypothesis of some belief based on a belief is not the only one. It has to be my belief and your belief yielding exactly the same result… not just once or twice but consistently so.

            There is also falsifiability, in that we have no way to judge something is true if we cannot find some way to show that it is false. This criteria, too, makes the method of scientific inquiry open to change when there is cause. Beliefs based on beliefs alone don’t require this and we get very lazy thinking that because we believe something is true, it IS true, and this leads us too easily into folly and self deception (but he told me he was a Nigerian prince who needed my help to get his inheritance!)

            So one of the common characteristics of people who call themselves atheists is that we have a legitimate claim to respect what is true over and above what we believe is true, meaning that we respect the method of inquiry that allows more verification and practical testing than just a method based on one’s opinion and belief. This respect itself is not based on some kind faith taken on at the beginning of pursuing what’s true but a conclusion reached on a method that seems to continue to yield practical results that works consistently and reliably for everyone today, yesterday, and probably tomorrow. Again, that’s significantly different than someone who has a religious faith best predicted not on what’s true per se but primarily on the geographical location of one’s childhood.

            So although there is some philosophical merit in asserting that atheists like everyone else navigate the world relying on belief, I think that description misses out entirely on why atheists and ‘everyone else’ (mostly) think this same way in all areas of life… except when it comes to very specific religious truth claims, in which case the religious adherent will change methodologies (epistemology) entirely. I don’t think this sleight of intellect is an improvement, especially when it emphasizes its lack of methodology for veracity as a virtue. Recognizing this switch of methodologies to produce a system of belief beyond any means to verify its truth claims is not a different kind of ‘world view’ or a different kind of ‘belief’ in the religious sense of the word. It is a recognition that the product from this substituted methodology is not trustworthy, is not independently verifiable, is not open to change. This recognition is one of non belief in the products from this kind of altered methodology and not simply another kind of faith.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            To me personally the universe I experience is far better described by calling a certain (to me very important) pattern-forming part “God” than by calling it coincience or dividing it into a lot of different, intention-free natural forces (even though I don’t doubt that “God” uses these forces to manifest His will, or that the general rules science has discovered for them are in any way not real.) I also found that on the whole “God” is pretty well characterized by a lot of scripture, including both his loving, glorious acpect as his jealous, vengeful, and sometimes downright psychotic aspect.But I’ll grant that personally I have never seen a shred of scientifically permissible “evidence”, i.e. hard data that suggests God’s existance to more than one person at a time in any falsifiable way. I’d say that belief in God is akin to ackowledging the beauty of a poem, the ecstasy of foreplay, or the pain over the loss of a loved one. I’d never dream of trying to convince anyone who hasn’t had these experiences personally of God’s existance. Actually, mostly I’d exchange personal experiences and how the word God (depending on how you define it, of course) might be *useful*, or maybe just *practical* in describing some of them. In the end all language is metaphor, even scientific language.But you were nibbling semantics: “When you write that atheists ‘believes there is no god’ then you are saying that you believe a negative, which really is another kind of belief.”Technically you may be correct. But I am still quite convinced that even someone as logical and rational as you appear to be (and few are) in the end has created a mere “belief” with all its prescriptive and interprative power, out of “Atheism”. In my experience it’s human nature to assume firm ground under our feet, simply because experience has tought us it is there, without keeping the possibility of sudden emptiness always in mind.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “…we have no way to judge something is true if we cannot find some way to show that it is false.”

            You keep bringing in this sort of argument; would you care to share, tildeb, how we’re to recognize such a claim itself as true (i.e. to find a potential way of falsifying it)?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            That’s up to the person making the truth claim. Hint: use your imagination and consider what it might take to reveal that the claim is false. It doesn’t even have to be specific. It could be general. But if you can’t even imagine what that might be, then your claim in all likelihood cannot be falsified and if it cannot, then there is an increased likelihood it is unknowable and is no different in substance than ‘simply making something up.’

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Indeed, I can’t imagine such a thing for that claim. But as you said, it is ultimately up to the person making it, which is why I asked you. So, instead of giving hints, just tell us how we might falsify your claim that what is true must be conceivably falsifiable.

          • Guest
  • http://williamely.name William Ely

    Okay, allow me to try this again:I will fully agree that the argument that religion is the cause of war is false. What religion does is make the situation worse because you have 2 or more groups who think thier way of thinking is God’s will. These different views are often mutually exclusive. So, you have different groups of humans who each think God is on their side. This is a scary thought, because people are much more willing to take it too the next level if they are caught up in religious fervor (example: suicide bombers). If they think they are doing God’s will and will be rewarded in the afterlife then they are not concerned with their own safety or how many they kill. Religion is just another way to divide humanity. We already have race, politics, gender, sexual preference, etc. Do we really need any more division? That is what I should have said the first time and I apologize for my assholish criticism earlier. I am honestly trying to work on that aspect of myself.

    • Anonymous

      This IS better than “this smells like barf.”

      • http://williamely.name William Ely

        I’m sorry, I am an asshole. These things do not sound as bad in my head. I really should say it out loud before typing it.

        • Don Rappe

          Sometimes this feeling can be related to a state of denial. I once believed people liked me better when I was drunk.

          • http://williamely.name William Ely

            No, it is just like blurting out whatever is in my mind without thinking about it. It is rude and I should not do it. Saying things out loud helps me gauge the statement first.

    • plasmaphase

      I suppose it depends on the individual’s interpretation of their religion…and the religious context itself, but last time I checked, not all Christians were hateful and unforgiving, nor all Muslims suicide bombers.

      What most don’t understand (because they often over focus on the old testament, and never bother reading the new) is that Christianity, if truly practiced and believed, is meant to do exactly the opposite of divide us.

      • http://williamely.name William Ely

        I am certainly not claiming all religious people are like this. I am just saying that religion is used as a tool by those in leadership capacities. Religion adds a fervor to actions that would not be there otherwise. To be perfectly fair about it, nationalism and tribalism do the same thing.

        When you claim to have the secrets of the universe and that anyone who disagrees is going to burn in a pit of fire forever, that is divisive by nature.

    • Don Rappe

      Or perhaps religion is one more way to unite humanity. Do you really believe humanity would be more united if it were not structured in any way?

      • http://williamely.name William Ely

        We would have 1 less thing dividing us. There would still be nation, race, political parties, etc.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com/ Ric Booth

    Excellent post, John. I too believe there are many factors contributing to war. More often than not, the common element seems to be one or more insane leaders. If we could only stop putting the crazies in power. Unfortunately, the crazies appeal to many of the things you bring up. Anyone for Tea?

    • jes

      The small problem with keeping the crazies away from the leadership is that nobody sane wants to be in charge of the mess!

  • http://www.vastvariety.net/ Amradorn

    God doesn’t send men to war, men send men to war in the name of God, among other things. Everyone becoming an atheist won’t end wars, but neither will the complete embrace of religion by everyone in the world.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      What a dull, depressingly harmonizing point of view. I so wish it wasn’t true…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VSGWLTCLQ6SDRAC7SXNZG2YBHA Jayne says READ MORE BOOKS

    Wow. You get angry that people make sweeping generalizations about Christians and how they think — and then YOU do it about atheists! You are getting dangerously close to losing your “not-a-douche” credentials with this post.

    When I became an atheist (or, I should say, finally admitted that I was, and had been all along), I did not become an ultra-nationalist. I’ve never met an atheist who is an ultra-nationalist, though I’m sure there is a few out there.

    And when I became an atheist, I didn’t strongly identify myself according to my racial or ethnic heritage.

    And when I became an atheist, I didn’t kill my family.

    “It’s not ideas about God that cause people to kill people. It’s human nature that causes people to kill people.”

    As a person who doesn’t believe in God, I agree with you — it’s people ideas about a God that does, indeed, often cause people to kill other people.

    Atheists do NOT suggest that God sends people to war — remember, we do NOT believe in God. There is no God. I know you love believing in your imaginary friend, and that’s fine — but you can’t claim atheists’ belief God sends people to war, as you have said, when WE DON’T BELIEVE IN YOUR IMAGINARY FRIEND.

    “Imagine”, by John Lennon, remains one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I do dream of that day.

    And I dream of a day when Christians such as yourself, if they don’t give up their fantasy, will at least accept that we atheists do NOT believe in God. Just as you don’t believe in Vishnu or Isis or Tonatiuh, I don’t believe in any of those NOR yours.

    • Kara

      The patronizing tone of your comment makes your statement that John is “close to losing [his] ‘not-a-douche’ credentials with this post” really, really ironic.

      I fully respect your belief that there is no God. I personally disagree, always keeping that respect in mind. But calling others’ personal spiritual experiences a “fantasy” and saying that religious people “love believing in [their] imaginary friend” shows a lack of respect in kind. I understand that many Christians say terrible things to and about atheists. But nothing is helped by a further loss of civility in discourse.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VSGWLTCLQ6SDRAC7SXNZG2YBHA Jayne says READ MORE BOOKS

        The patronizing tone of my comment is meant to challenge John’s *incredibly* patronizing tone about atheists and what we most certainly do NOT believe.

        Atheism means I do not believe in the concept of a “God” — yours or anyone else’s. And John Shore just said and/or implied some rather horrible things about atheists. Absolutely horrible. He invites comments on his blog — so, I’m commenting.

        I’m stunned that someone I thought was really respectful of atheists would try to define me and my lack of beliefs in such horrible ways. Absolutely stunned. I’ve read and re-read this blog, and it just makes me even more angry every time. Wow.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          Hi Jayne,

          Could you tell me what horrible things John Shore said exactly regarding atheists? Was it condescending to note that they often don’t like the role religion appears to play in world strife?

          Where did he indicate that any atheists believe there’s a God who sends people to war?

          Perhaps could you be merely reading what you want to read instead of what the author is actually saying? When you think you might have facile certainty of what’s in any one else’s mind, how are you much different from those who think themselves privileged in their knowledge of the mind of God (e.g. those who really do claim unequivocally to know whom some god would wish us to wage war upon)?

        • Anonymous

          Jayne,

          John didn’t make any declarative statements about atheists beyond saying that they are wrong about religion. What, exactly, did you expect a believer to say?
          Your first comment, with all the sputtering about the terrible things that you didn’t do when you became an atheist, has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Then you offer absolutely no argument or support against the point of the post. However, you did reference “Imagine” which absolutely no atheist, anywhere on the internet, has ever done before so good job there at least.
          Then your next two comments are devoted to reiterating that you are an atheist. Okay, we get that. But what “horrible” things has John said specifically about atheists beyond a rather general condemnation of human nature, religious and nonreligious alike?

        • Anonymous

          Wow. What dreadful reading skills you possess. You’re everywhere attacking nothing I even said.

        • Anonymous

          Wow. What dreadful reading skills you possess. You’re everywhere attacking nothing I even said.

        • DR

          Would you copy and paste the specific references you’re having trouble with?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VSGWLTCLQ6SDRAC7SXNZG2YBHA Jayne says READ MORE BOOKS

            I’ll do better than copying and pasting. Since my response just simply isn’t getting through to the Christians here, including John Shore, see the first three entries of my new blog, Your Atheist Muse. Obviously, our message is not getting through! http://youratheistmuse.blogspot.com/
            Please — no more Christians defining Atheism or our values!

    • Marcelo

      “You are getting dangerously close to losing your “not-a-douche” credentials with this post.”

      Okay, I can’t resist a schoolyard taunt: It takes one to know one?

      Please, let’s keep the crudities out as much as possible, please.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VSGWLTCLQ6SDRAC7SXNZG2YBHA Jayne says READ MORE BOOKS

        It’s okay to say atheists are “dead wrong” about God — that’s not insulting? Oh, but goodness forbid we atheists say, “Sorry, but we don’t believe in your imaginary friend.” *That’s* insulting?

        You get to say “there’s something out there/up there/whatever.” That’s what makes you a believer. Say it all you want. But I do NOT believe in your imaginary friend. That’s what atheism is, folks — the lack of belief in a “God.” It’s not said to be insulting — it’s said to be an accurate wording for my lack of belief.

        • Marcelo

          Well, I’m not sure if you’re intending to respond to me or to John Shore. My entire point is not to defend my belief (which you don’t even know) or criticize your belief, just that stating that John is approximating becoming a feminine hygiene product is not exactly a reasoned response or really very constructive, is it?

        • DR

          How you phrase your belief system is entirely up to you. You get the last word on what an atheist is. That you are “dead wrong” about *my* experience of a God? Yes, I get to say that as well, simply because I am articulating my experiences.

          That being said, you are not “dead wrong” in any conclusive sense because I could never prove the existence of God in any way that would leave out any doubt that a God exists. To watch Christians do that is embarrassing. But to watch Christians offer their experiences as justification for why we believe God exists and have an atheist counter that by saying such things as “your imaginary sky god doesn’t exist” based on your particular criteria for what makes something real is equally unproductive, not to mention inflammatory.

        • Don Whitt

          Me thinks the lady doth protest a bit too much. Come on, Jayne, there’s room under the big top for a deity and a flying spaghetti monster, isn’t there?

    • Anonymous

      Yeah. I would have said “some” atheists. Also the first paragraph is incorrect in that “some” wars certainly ARE caused by religion. But the general gist of the blog makes sense that without any religious influence or justification of will, wars would still occur. I mean, take the Middle East. That’s ALL about religion. I personally don’t believe any of the big three have a mandate from God to make war. As tildeb said, it’s about man’s suspicious interpretation of what they see as “God’s will”. While I don’t believe in pacifism at all cost, I do believe that it’s God’s will that we would all seek peace with all mankind…at least if it’s at all possible. But the “possibility” of being passive and NOT being slaughtered for seeming weak or being a pushover, is still a matter up for each one’s interpretation. Oh Geez!

    • Anonymous

      Yeah. I would have said “some” atheists. Also the first paragraph is incorrect in that “some” wars certainly ARE caused by religion. But the general gist of the blog makes sense that without any religious influence or justification of will, wars would still occur. I mean, take the Middle East. That’s ALL about religion. I personally don’t believe any of the big three have a mandate from God to make war. As tildeb said, it’s about man’s suspicious interpretation of what they see as “God’s will”. While I don’t believe in pacifism at all cost, I do believe that it’s God’s will that we would all seek peace with all mankind…at least if it’s at all possible. But the “possibility” of being passive and NOT being slaughtered for seeming weak or being a pushover, is still a matter up for each one’s interpretation. Oh Geez!

    • Anonymous

      Yeah. I would have said “some” atheists. Also the first paragraph is incorrect in that “some” wars certainly ARE caused by religion. But the general gist of the blog makes sense that without any religious influence or justification of will, wars would still occur. I mean, take the Middle East. That’s ALL about religion. I personally don’t believe any of the big three have a mandate from God to make war. As tildeb said, it’s about man’s suspicious interpretation of what they see as “God’s will”. While I don’t believe in pacifism at all cost, I do believe that it’s God’s will that we would all seek peace with all mankind…at least if it’s at all possible. But the “possibility” of being passive and NOT being slaughtered for seeming weak or being a pushover, is still a matter up for each one’s interpretation. Oh Geez!

    • DR

      It’s fascinating to me to watch some of the atheists who are regular readers here cheerlead the critiques regarding Christian approaches to belief and to the world, yet *bristle* and react with such hostility when confronted with your own inconsistencies. Which make you part of the human race.

    • DR

      One last thing, JohnB. To refer to peoples’ beliefs as “fantasy” and “imaginary sky gods” is simply your choice to be an asshole. Period. There’s no need for it and you could characterize it much more artfully and/or graciously. That you choose to not is way more about you than it is what is “true”.

    • jes

      John didn’t say that atheists blame God for war. He said that they blame religion for war–key difference. Religion is an institution created by and run by humans, with all the human failings that entails. I may or may not agree with what John says in his posts, but I do think you should address what he actually said instead of flying off on a tangent and deriding him for something he clearly didn’t say.

      • Anonymous

        Ahhh … the fresh, cleansing rain of the sane ….

        • jes

          I try :)

        • jes

          I try :)

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          She’s great that way, huh? You gotta love scientific thinking. ^_^
          (And I just discovered that I cannot unlike things on Disqus that I liked before fully understanding what I read… sometimes I wish technology would save me from my hasty, undisciplined free will…)

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      Hmm. This got me thinking… if an Atheist does not believe in any deity, and a Christian believes in one kind of God, and a Hindu into another set of Gods, what does that make me if I believe in the Abrahamic God, including Yahwe AND Allah, and the Egyptian pantheon, and the Hindu Trimurti (Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer), and the Mother Goddess, Fate, and guardian spirits? (Though NOT in Jesus, at least not in the common interpretation…)

      (*musing* I am inviting you to call me crazy right now, aren’t I?)

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        I give up… a deist?

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          Lol. This wasn’t a trick question. I don’t know either – except maybe ‘barmy’. But nah, would ‘deist’ include spirits, the soul, and similar stuff that doesn’t pertain to truly ‘divine’ powers?

          • jes

            From Wiki: “Deism (pronounced /ˈdiːɪzəm/, us dict: dē′·ĭzm)[1][2] in the philosophy of religion is the standpoint that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that a supreme being created the universe. Further the term often implies that this supreme being does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe. Deists typically reject supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, tending to assert that God (or “The Supreme Architect”) has a plan for the universe that is not to be altered by intervention in the affairs of human life. Most deists see holy books not as authoritative divine revelations but as human interpretations.”

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            So, definitely not a deist. My God definitely intervenes in human affairs. In fact, that – to me – is His main definition: That force which moves events in a meaningful way. The rest I’m okay with – I can see no credible indication that He suspends natural laws (and if He did, well, they wouldn’t be what I call a “natural law”), He has some sort of plan – though that plan appears to be prone to change as events warrant, and holy books definitely went through human hands (and minds) are tainted by the cultural and individual bias of those who wrote them down, translated them, or passed them along.

          • jes

            Perhaps you are uncategorizable. No pigeon hole for you!

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            I dug around a little and consulted my main spiritual guidebooks (first and foremost Joseph Campbell), and have decided that I’m probably a latter day Gnostic. ^_^ (Yeah, that’s right, all you poor mainstream Christians, I got gnosis where all you got is faith. My religion just got more oomph! Yay, tribalism!)

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Really, FF? You think the Primal Being or Bythos as the beginning of all things who, after ages of silence and contemplation, gave rise to other beings by a process of emanation? Do you really think the first series of beings, the aeons, were thirty in number, representing fifteen syzygies or pairs sexually complementary? Do you maintain that through the error of Sophia, one of the lowest aeons, and the ignorance of Sakla, the lower world with its subjection to matter really is brought into existence? Are you quite confident that man, the highest being in the lower world, participates in both the psychic and the hylic (material) nature, and the work of redemption consists in freeing the higher, the spiritual, from its servitude to the lower? Are you comfortable that this was the word and mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            ROFL. Nah, not all of that. ^_^ The numberology of classic Gnosticism has some metaphorical value, but only ina narrow cultural framework that now, 800 years later, is hardly applicable anymore. But I’d say that I’m a monist Gnostic. I would say that the world as I experience it is best described by having a Yahweh-like creator, but that the physical world (that you hold to be the only “real” world) was created only by the demiurgic part of Yahweh that can be described as non-sentient, i.e. the set of natural laws and phyiscal properties of the universe that physics tries to describe. I would say that Sophia describes quite well the intersection of the, hm, deepes intuitive or “divine” part of human wisdom and the most base part of Yahweh, i.e. that part of God’s will that is experiencable by individual humans. I do believe that as far as Christ was indeed God’s son, he did not deliver us of our sins by dying on the cross (no man, not even the son of God, can absolve someone else of his sins; we each have to bear our own cross), but – like Siddartha, who used another cultural famework for a similar message – by showing us the way to achieve enlightenment ourselves (not that I am anywhere close to being there). I could go on, but since I assume that you were only mocking me I’ll stop thise here… Cheers, mate.

          • jes

            I absolutely love how you grin and roll with the taunting. :D

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Indeed I was poking fun. I, too, am enamored by and of Sophia.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Hey, did I just push cancel? Okay, I’ll repost:

            I was poking fun, FF. And like you, I am also enamored of and by Sophia.

      • Diana A.

        A polytheist?

  • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

    Atheists – as well as historians and anyone else who looks into causes for conflict – recognize that getting along can sometimes be hard work. Part of that process is recognizing the notion that my right to swing my fist freely ends where your nose begins and that in order for us to get along, both of us have the same vested reason to mutually agree on this human boundary.

    Religious belief has a tendency to award its justification for human actions to something beyond appeal, beyond criticism, beyond allowable disagreements, beyond redress, beyond compromise, beyond toleration, beyond reasonable negotiation. That justification is implementing god’s will. Religious belief can be a very powerful tool to motivate not only the swinging of the fist in god’s name but justifying its use to go beyond the boundary of whatever less divine obstacles may be in its way, like your nose, but it is presented as if it is an act carried out to honour a love of god and respect his wishes. And herein lies the problem.

    Religious devotion to loving god through our actions is held by many to mean that acts carried out under this banner are beyond any other constraining boundaries imposed by us humans. Who are we, many here have written, to question god’s will, god’s desires, god’s law. We must do as god commands, that it rightly belongs only to god to determine what if any the boundaries he will respect and not be curtailed by the temporal and transitory and relative wishes of us lesser beings.

    You see the problem; we have faith in god on the one hand, and actions on the other. Faith in god is fine… but we can avoid trouble as long as that belief does not translate into action. But when it IS translated into action, we find ourselves without any means to find a mutually respectable way to constrain what people call god’s will, god’s commands, god’s law, god’s wishes, god’s teachings, god’s moral imperatives. It is nigh on impossible to agree where to set the boundaries of god’s fist where someone’s human nose begins.

    This idea of a primary belief set that respects no boundaries set by man is not true of nationalism where disrespecting boundaries does not mean the idea of mutually agreeable boundaries itself is denied. This is not true of the boundaries of blood ties and race where the idea of what constitutes blood ties and race is beyond human discrimination. But it is true of religious belief, that one religious set is believed by divine command to be right and blessed by god, and all others sets are wrong and are cursed by god.

    Do most religious adherents believe and act in this way? Thankfully, almost all do not. Most of us moderate between a tyrannical god and a loving one that respects moderation of this specific belief set! (How fortunate.) But that doesn’t change the fact that the certainty of religious belief itself, which is held to be seen as a virtue in religious terms, is capable of motivating and justifying horrendous excesses of hostility in the name of god.

    And I don’t know about others, but I have always found it impossible to argue with god himself over certain human interpretations of his will that have been imposed on me by those acting supposedly in god’s best interests for all of us.

    • Marcelo

      Well, I thought most of what you wrote to be well-reasoned, and agreeable to me. You fell short a bit, if I may say, by ascribing the evils in religiously-justified actions to the “certainty” of the belief. I think a distinction needs to be made between “certainty” of “belief” (a broad concept) and a certainty in knowing the will of God (or other deity, deities, universal powers, etc.) in all circumstances. That is where we as humans almost invariably fail (as a species). Albeit a trite phrase, but oh so relevant in oh so many situations: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Certainty in belief should certainly be tempered with a certainty of the consequences of one’s actions…and what that informs about one’s beliefs.

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Or one could realize that certainty is the path to folly, that a modicum of skepticism is healthy and wise in all other avenues of life?

        I hear what you’re saying, Marcelo, but here’s my point: once the notion of certainty is cracked at the front end of belief (the broad concept that certainty is a virtue when it isn’t), only then can doubt be allowed to play its moderating role on actions (in the millions of specifics).

        • Marcelo

          “Or one could realize that certainty is the path to folly, that a modicum of skepticism is healthy and wise in all other avenues of life?”

          Yes!

    • Don Rappe

      “But it is true of religious belief, that one religious set is believed by divine command to be right and blessed by god, and all others sets are wrong and are cursed by god.” I find your discussion extremely well thought out except this sentence. This seems to me to represent a divide within major religions rather than a characteristic of them. Paul Tillich stated that from this belief it follows immediately that all religions are false. This is precisely one of your arguments, as well. I find it necessary to expect religious truth in other religions as well as my own. For those who may be concerned with me over this I remember Jesus saying of a pagan centurion: “Faith such as this have I not found in Israel.”

      • Don Rappe

        I would also comment on the distinction between trying to follow God’s will and trying to “implement” it. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I believe this expresses the will of God, but, if I tried to implement my concept of this upon you it is unlikely I would make much peace.

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Well, I know it sounds very reasonable to say that every religion shares a single truth expressed different ways, but is that actually true when central tenets are in direct competition with conflicting truth claims? I don’t see how.

        And, yes, it is a powerful argument in that it exposes a significant problem inherent in religious belief: how can we know which religious belief, which set of core tenets that define the boundaries of this religion versus that religion – if any at all – are true? Because they compete, we can figure out that not all can be true leaving us to figure out which one(s) is(are)/ true. We have to start discriminating, start justifying with something other than belief alone why this one is better than that one. And it is here where I think John’s idea of Christianity 3.0 can take root when belief is understood to be a personal choice of favoritism that can work in tandem with other truth claims that are reasonably justified and properly reject those that are not. When my beliefs come smack up against a reasonably informed truth claim, I have to be able to allow flexibility in my religious beliefs to incorporate the two successfully rather than stand firmly against those truth claims that are well informed that compete with my beliefs. Without this built in recognition of the need for personal flexibility in one’s beliefs, religion as a rigid belief set – that I describe as ‘this one is right and that one is wrong’ – is doomed to be broken by our advances in knowledge. Remember, though, I am talking about core or central tenets that define the belief set itself and not the more trivial notion that within the whole there are claims that are mutually compatible.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MGURD3ER4MWTMSTSZKEANXZ4XI Matthew

          What central tenets might you consider to be mutually exclusive among major world religions (and not mere differences of terminology or practice)?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Come on, MT. You know perfectly well the examples abound and have stark and negative consequences. If you don’t believe the qu’ran is the perfect word of god – one of the central tenets of islam – for example, you are committing blasphemy. That crime has rather severe consequences in many parts of the world that go far beyond quibbling about terminology. Pretending that that is compatible with Jainist beliefs is delusional.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            The differences in practice are admittedly stark at times. However, I see no inherent contradiction of realities so described.

  • Kara

    So, I mean, I’m just an undergrad student. But one of my majors is Peace, War, and Defense Studies.

    I’m not really going to speak to specifics of the post, or as to what effects the disappearance of religion would have on the world, except to say that war would absolutely, definitely, certainly still happen. And would probably not diminish enough to be noticed, if at all.

    War is generally about power, security, fear, or seeking material gain. Religion is sometimes used as a pretext for war, or to motivate popular support for war, but it is almost never the core motivation for a modern war. It’s a myth that several of my professors took pains to debunk in my first semester.

    War, peace, and why they happen is a topic that is of great interest to me, so I thought I’d chime in on this one. An atheist could very well argue that there would be many benefits to a world without religion. I’d probably agree with a lot of those arguments. But to say that the end of religion would lead to any significant decrease in warfare is mistaken at best.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Right on, Kara. I know of no atheist who would suggest all war is caused by religion, nor any who actually think that eliminating religion would bring an end to war. But I do know a lot of people who can quite successfully argue (as you do) that religion can be used as one of the influencing factors that promotes war. After all, war is politics by another means.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Right on, Kara. I know of no atheist who would suggest all war is caused by religion, nor any who actually think that eliminating religion would bring an end to war. But I do know a lot of people who can quite successfully argue (as you do) that religion can be used as one of the influencing factors that promotes war. After all, war is politics by another means.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Right on, Kara. I know of no atheist who would suggest all war is caused by religion, nor any who actually think that eliminating religion would bring an end to war. But I do know a lot of people who can quite successfully argue (as you do) that religion can be used as one of the influencing factors that promotes war. After all, war is politics by another means.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Thank you Kara, I really learned something from your comment.

  • JohnB

    John, you’ve based your argument on a false premise. No atheist would want people to forget about the thousands of gods that people have believed in.

    The bazillions of conflicts due to religion serve as an example of what happens when people believe too strongly in something that has no physical evidence.

    We simply want people to stop fighting over who has the best imaginary friend.

    • Marcelo

      …Or maybe more relevantly what happens when people believe too strongly in what they think God’s will is in all circumstances? I believe in consciousness, despite there not being “physical” evidence for it, after all.

  • LeAnn Weiss-Rupard

    Way to go! But then again, common sense and athiesm never go hand in hand! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      ?

      That’s rather a blanket assertion. Or are you just a drive-by sniper without the wherewithal to ‘share’?

      • Don Rappe

        Sniper, I think. In many ways atheism seems to be characterized by common sense and sometimes intelligence.

    • Anonymous

      Hi LeAnn—I was an atheist with as much common sense as I still maintain as a Christian. While some of my senses aren’t reconciled any longer to atheism, I would never say that I had no common sense as an atheist. FWIW.

    • DR

      That’s an awfully ignorant thing to say. You obviously don’t know too many atheists, they are some of the smartest, moral and loving people I know.

    • jes

      I’m gonna go ahead and be offended by that, which is pretty close to a first for the comments on John’s blogs. Chalk that up if you’re keeping score as a troll.

  • Anonymous

    Jayne,

    John didn’t make any declarative statements about atheists beyond saying that they are wrong about religion. What, exactly, did you expect a believer to say?
    Your first comment, with all the sputtering about the terrible things that you didn’t do when you became an atheist, has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Then you offer absolutely no argument or support against the point of the post. However, you did reference “Imagine” which absolutely no atheist, anywhere on the internet, has ever done before so good job there at least.
    Then your next two comments are devoted to reiterating that you are an atheist. Okay, we get that. But what “horrible” things has John said specifically about atheists beyond a rather general condemnation of human nature, religious and nonreligious alike?

  • Anonymous

    Ring around the rosey, you nailed it on the nosey!

    Remember that speech Sally Field gave about how ,”if only women ruled the world, there would be no more GD wars in the first place!” Uh…hello…Cleopatra, Matilda of Tuscany, Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou…Margaret Thatcher. Does anyone think if Hillary was C-I-C, she would be beating swords into plowshares if our nation was threatened? C’mon. Diaper fudge.

    My ex-wife believes that religion (AKA Christianity) is the cause of most suffering in the world. I asked if her current employer is a particularly “Christian” employer. She didn’t answer, but I knew the answer was no. So…if a workplace devoid of religious influence needs her HR services as a lawyer to settle legal battles between employer and employee, I’d say that such disputes erupt regularly enough without any religious help. It would be interesting to know how many terminated employees have come back with an AK-47 because of religious conflicts.

  • Anonymous

    Ring around the rosey, you nailed it on the nosey!

    Remember that speech Sally Field gave about how ,”if only women ruled the world, there would be no more GD wars in the first place!” Uh…hello…Cleopatra, Matilda of Tuscany, Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou…Margaret Thatcher. Does anyone think if Hillary was C-I-C, she would be beating swords into plowshares if our nation was threatened? C’mon. Diaper fudge.

    My ex-wife believes that religion (AKA Christianity) is the cause of most suffering in the world. I asked if her current employer is a particularly “Christian” employer. She didn’t answer, but I knew the answer was no. So…if a workplace devoid of religious influence needs her HR services as a lawyer to settle legal battles between employer and employee, I’d say that such disputes erupt regularly enough without any religious help. It would be interesting to know how many terminated employees have come back with an AK-47 because of religious conflicts.

  • Anonymous

    Ring around the rosey, you nailed it on the nosey!

    Remember that speech Sally Field gave about how ,”if only women ruled the world, there would be no more GD wars in the first place!” Uh…hello…Cleopatra, Matilda of Tuscany, Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou…Margaret Thatcher. Does anyone think if Hillary was C-I-C, she would be beating swords into plowshares if our nation was threatened? C’mon. Diaper fudge.

    My ex-wife believes that religion (AKA Christianity) is the cause of most suffering in the world. I asked if her current employer is a particularly “Christian” employer. She didn’t answer, but I knew the answer was no. So…if a workplace devoid of religious influence needs her HR services as a lawyer to settle legal battles between employer and employee, I’d say that such disputes erupt regularly enough without any religious help. It would be interesting to know how many terminated employees have come back with an AK-47 because of religious conflicts.

  • Anonymous

    Ring around the rosey, you nailed it on the nosey!

    Remember that speech Sally Field gave about how ,”if only women ruled the world, there would be no more GD wars in the first place!” Uh…hello…Cleopatra, Matilda of Tuscany, Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou…Margaret Thatcher. Does anyone think if Hillary was C-I-C, she would be beating swords into plowshares if our nation was threatened? C’mon. Diaper fudge.

    My ex-wife believes that religion (AKA Christianity) is the cause of most suffering in the world. I asked if her current employer is a particularly “Christian” employer. She didn’t answer, but I knew the answer was no. So…if a workplace devoid of religious influence needs her HR services as a lawyer to settle legal battles between employer and employee, I’d say that such disputes erupt regularly enough without any religious help. It would be interesting to know how many terminated employees have come back with an AK-47 because of religious conflicts.

  • Marcelo

    Well, in an attempt to get the conversation more back on track, here is one of my ruminations.

    If God exists, and He does not wish His religion to be mis-used in starting wars, justifying genocide, oppressing half the population, encouraging people to model the latest in self-destructing apparel, etc., then what is the lesson for us here on the mortal coil and what are we supposed to figure out in all this? After all, I don’t anticipate an aerial epiphany with God appearing in the sky in some huge vehicle, like “Independence Day” or something.

    Trust in Him? Check. Pay attention to the merciful news of the Golden Rule? Check.

    If Jesus said, as in Matthew 22:37-40, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    So does it really matter all the other things that are written? All the others sermons and theodicies, and theologies, and apologetics, and wonderful prayers? Have we been given everything we need? It seems that the second part, the Golden Rule, is one that even the hardest boiled atheists would rally around.

    Is the rest really window dressing and cultural accessorizing?

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Yes, the golden rule is terrific advice and shows up in almost all major religious scriptures and ancient philosophies (where we have texts). It’s good common sense that in no way requires some belief in supernatural deities.

  • Shaw

    People killing people and going to war over ideology are not the same thing.

    Murder is seemingly random, usually meaningless and with a handful of people involved at most. A by-product of genetic variation and pockets of bad environmental conditions. Certainly an abhorrent evil, but relatively small in the human experience.

    Religious violence and the massive wars and genocides which are created in that conflict can be prescribed to human nature but that is such a relativist way of viewing the world that you might as well say that all wars are created by us existing in the first place. The truth is that some ideas are better and less violent and more rational than others.

    In our reality– the one that actually exists, and that people live in every day– most wars are caused by people who do not know their enemy but who hate them for what they believe in.

    Sometimes a religious organization goes to war against people it hates. Sometimes it is coopted by people who wish to drive their fellow believers into a war for non-religious profit or gain. Sometimes it is justified as the beacon of hope for an oppressed people and sometimes it is the sole cause of such phenomena as suicide bombings and inquisitions. More often then not the machine of religion has been self-serving and unconcerned with the welfare of those outside an immediate constituency and those who can be converted.

    What you are suggesting, John, is the eventual outcome of globalism and probably the most likely path to worldwide peace and unity in the human experience.

    One day our races will have all had sex with each other until the idea of race is gone. Our family ties have very little way to go, as many in the industrialized world have lost any sense of family at all and that seems to be the trend. Our sense of nationality is already much weaker than it ever was, and the vast majority of people with “proud to be American” stickers probably identify with God more than America.

    Eventually we will be able to unify under the banner of one Earth because we will not be able to see ourselves as separate from other Earthlings. Ideas will still exist and compete with each other, but the competition will be slightly more refined.

    God will be alive, but redefined. Instead of seeing God as this separate, alien thing, we will recognize God as everything that ever is, was and will be, and that if God is actually infinite than it is only mathematically logical if we exist inside of God instead of apart.

    Religion will be destroyed, but humans will recreate it with a clear emphasis on celebrating our existence and the awesomeness of the Universe. One day, groups of God-loving people may grow to disagree about things, but because they base their understand of God on actual observation of the Universe they will be able to settle disagreements in time with intellectual insight and scientific advancement.

    And wars shall be no more. Unless there are aliens.

    • jes

      Very nicely phrased. And a beautiful vision for the future.

      • Don Rappe

        War broke out in Heaven, Michael and his angels battling against the powers of darkness.

  • JohnB

    Well, I’ve read through a bunch of comments, and even looked up some stats…

    To suggest that religion causes all wars is laughable. With borders, resources, and other things much more at the forefront of our lives, these things are by far much more likely to cause troubles.

    However, we aren’t just animals. Animals fight over food, mating rights, territory, and other more base things. We fight over these too, and we also fight over ideologies; and one of the strongest is the notion of religion.

    True enough that religion hasn’t been a primary cause of many of the battles on the planet, but it has been a contributing factor in many of them.

    THIS atheist doesn’t want to see an end to religion, because I see the value it adds to our cultures. However, I do want to see it removed from the political arena. I believe that among the best things that have happened to world government has been the separation of family from government and the separation of church and state.

    As long as people can strongly hold to the belief that “I am right because my god tells me I am right”, there is no room to negotiate. When this kind of belief is escalated into government affairs, lives are put at risk.

    I’ve seen atheists make statements like the one in your first paragraph, but the logic in the remainder of the article doesn’t follow theirs. It’s more along the lines of:

    * If people would recognize that their religion has no more truth to support it than anyone else’s, they wouldn’t be as inclined to fight over it.
    * If people took a critical look at how much pain and suffering their particular religion has caused, perhaps they would be more understanding of why people feel negatively about their culture.

    These two things would serve to promote empathy, which is the largest deterrent to war that one could ever hope to see.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Its not God or religion that causes people to have wars. It is because there are people who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to force their beliefs on others, whether those beliefs are about religion, nationalism, race, gender, sexual identity, etcetera ad nauseum.

    If there were some way to guarantee that nobody ever be born with a pig-headed, hateful nature? We’d have it made in the shade. Sadly, this will never be true. There are too many people in this world who are afraid of anything or anyone different than themselves.

    Personally, I don’t think all atheists believe that reglion causes *all* war. Zealotry has, however, certainly caused more than its fair share.

  • Anonymous

    After reading this post and some of the comments, I’d like to add two things.

    First, many commenters have said that john stated “Atheists are dead wrong about religion” which isn’t what he said. He is giving his opinion about “WHAT atheists have dead wrong about religion.” In this article, the “what” is that “Atheists are keen on claiming that religion causes war.” It’s actually a pretty narrow point he is making but SO MANY of you have read much much much farther into it.

    Secondly, I would like to remind everyone of “The Butter Battle Book” by Dr. Seuss. We are not much different than than the Yooks and the Zooks, I think. I personally identify with the Yooks because I prefer my bread with the butter side up.

    • JohnB

      Nice :)

    • Anonymous

      thank you thank you thank you, Ben Husmann.

  • jes

    “Atheists are keen on claiming that religion causes war. If people would only stop believing in God, goes the reasoning, there’d be much more peace and love in the world.”

    I’ve personally never heard this argument before, and find it rather lacking. There are many points good and bad about religion in general and specific religions in specific. Being the root cause of all war is not something anyone who’s actually put thought into the topic can claim with a straight face. Being a contributor and exacerbating factor in many wars is though.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      Unfortunately quite a lot of “outspoken” atheists from the Dawkins end of the spectrum DO claim that, in about as simplistic and black-and-white terms as Mr. Shore paints it here. But then, they are the crazy fundamentalists of Atheism and no more represantative than the flat-earthers on the other side.

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        I think the argument from the four horsemen is that there would less likelihood for war when one of its causal factors is removed from the scene.

        I have to take issue with your use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ in regards to atheism. No such beast… unless you consider it equally descriptive to claim someone who doesn’t collect stamps to be a fundamentalist non stamp collector.

        As for Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens, the four horsemen of New Atheism, what you have is a group of folk who are passionate about respecting what’s true. If this is crazy, then I wish more people were. But none of their arguments criticizing respect for religious truth claims is simplistic, or black and white. What they each write is very articulate, often quite witty, passionate, and very well reasoned… as are similar works by Stenger, Onfray, Coyne, Blackford, Shermer, Kitcher, Baggini, Grayling, Dahl, Blackmore, Benson and so on. And yes, all of them are very much representative of the diversity found within invigorated atheism as it is today.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          I do not want to argue about Mr. Dawkins as a person – in the end I have not followed his writings and public speaking closeley enough to be able to judge. But there are a lot of fans of his who I have met and talked to personally, and quite a number of them I would call fundamentalist and doubt that “truth” is really what is foremost on their mind.
          Granted, they generally do not shoot peeps who violate their beliefs or bomb buildings, and in the end that of course makes a BIG moral difference. But many of them argue purely for the sake of argument, abuse logic (often completely unnecessarily) in the pursuit of their argument, disregard basic rules of conversation, and follow flaming passion a lot more than rationality.
          Because – your “semantics” in all honours – to them “Atheism” is NOT a mere lack in the provable existance of something but indeed a passionate, almost ‘holy’ faith in the lack of existance of that something, and they do defend it with (at least verbal) violence.

        • Diana A.

          “I have to take issue with your use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ in regards to atheism. No such beast… unless you consider it equally descriptive to claim someone who doesn’t collect stamps to be a fundamentalist non stamp collector. ”

          See, a fundamentalist non stamp collector would not be someone who merely refused to collect stamps his/herself but who also insisted that anyone who did collect stamps was somehow evil or inferior and thus deserving being treated with less respect than one who did not collect stamps.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think you are confusing the criticism of the message with the intention of the messenger. As far as I know, the gnu atheists denigrates the beliefs held sacred by many. Dawkins calls it no different than a delusion caused by the religious meme. Dennett calls believers enthralled as if under a spell that needs study. Harris calls it dangerous and that to save our species we need to end believing in supernatural agencies and start studying its neurological roots. Hitchens thinks it is poor thinking that poisons its effects. In each case, the root problem is the belief itself and the victims are everybody – believer and non believer alike.

            What is the fundamental element that you think describes in similar fashion the certainty of a religious believer in the fundamentals of that religion with an atheist who does not believe? I fail to see it. Perhaps the tone of the message is what you don’t like. But calling this tone fundamentalist I don’t think clarifies anything; I think it’s simply a smear term used to create a straw man.

      • http://williamely.name William Ely

        Those people do not speak for us. They are just authors and atheism is not capitalized, it is lowercase.

      • jes

        Huh. Well, I guess one of the advantages of agnosticism is that I don’t have to feel bad about not reading the atheist books any more than I have to feel bad about not attending Christian services. :D

        One of the few “new atheist” writers that I follow is the Blag Hag and she seems rather fond of analysis and thoughtful examination.

  • buzz

    All wars are fought over money.

    So in a sense, yeah, religion is the cause of war; specifically Mammon worship.

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    “It’s human nature that causes people to kill people.”

    I have to wonder though. IF this is actually part of human NATURE, and not just single, individual humans exercising free will in an evil way, then – to those of us who are NOT Atheists and DO believe that we were created by God – doesn’t that imply some sort of design flaw and corresponding responsibility on His part?

    • jes

      Yep.

  • Gksafford

    I know I have come late to this little party, and I’ve perused the comments none too deeply so I don’t know if this point has been made. The two greatest mass murderers in history were Mao Tse-tung and Josef Stalin. Tens of millions of people died as a direct result of their various psychotic whims and fantasies. This isn’t hyperbole.

    Both men ruled nations that were officially atheists. Among the many victims of both were priests and monks and nuns and religious believers of various kinds. Just because they were, you know, believers. Didn’t matter if the believers were Christian (or what variety thereof) or Buddhist or Muslim or what ever. It was enough that they held their faith. Poof – instant non-person.

    So please spare me the scolding about how much better off we’d be without religious belief of any kind. John is quite right. Human beings are very adept at finding excuses for their violent behavior toward one another. No believing in God turns easily enough in to the desire to eradicate those who do believe. Just read Sam Harris if you don’t believe me.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      One would think that in today’s day and age with so much good information available on line (as well as the crappy – and we’ve learned through a good education how to identify that) one could do a bit of devil’s advocating on one’s beliefs just to see what kind of scholarship is out there and aligned against what we think might be true.

      You should try this, Gks. You might be surprised how…

      …what’s the word…

      OVERWHELMING is the evidence against what you suggest here. Hmm. I wonder what that might mean?

      People, not nations, are atheists. Atheism is not an ideology but simply means non belief in supernatural deities. Non belief does not coherently lead to justifying mass murder. Is that true of various religious beliefs? Atheists tend to be much more of the non violence kind of people: more of the Let’s-grab-a-beer-and-talk variety than a wearer of a backpack-filled-with-explosives-and-sharp-bits-of-metal disco crasher.

      • Gksafford

        “Atheism is not an ideology but simply means non belief in supernatural deities.” That’s so funny, and I’d laugh but the mass grave that is the 20th century keep me from doing that.

        Since you really have no idea what you’re talking about here, I’ll leave it at that.

        My point is similar to John’s. People kill people for all sorts of reasons. It’s the killing that’s the issue, not the why’s and wherefore’s because even if we stripped away everything we currently think would lead to war and mass death, we’d do it and find all sorts of novel excuses for it.

        “Atheists tend to be much more of the non violence kind of people: more of the Let’s-grab-a-beer-and-talk variety than a wearer of a backpack-filled-with-explosives-and-sharp-bits-of-metal disco crasher.” I have heard that, and that DOES make me laugh. It’s such a conceit of the western, bourgeois mindset that we are sophisticated and non-violent. Except, you know, the past decade’s experience in this country kind of proves that we are willing to torture and kill and bomb tens of thousands of people and disrupt whole nations with no appeal to religion whatsoever. Except, of course, some of the war’s supporters do refer to religion, and consider Islam – a faith of deep and abiding peace and personal discipline, of singular devotion to Allah and Muhammed – some kind of weird barbarism. No less a peace-loving atheist than Sam Harris once insisted that torturing Muslims was OK because (a) they were Muslims, and therefore, as religious believers, less worthy of our concern; and (b) this author whose devotion to science is so great that he ignored every single study ever done on coercive interrogation/torture and insisted that it does, indeed work.

        So, please, again, spare me the special pleading. This is an old argument, I’ve had it many times, and the simple reality is this – rather than point fingers at some boogeyman (Religion! Atheism!) it might be better to work together to figure out ways to settle differences that don’t involve mass death, while respecting the integrity of human difference. My guess, however, is this is too much to ask from someone who thinks there is overwhelming evidence that the USSR and PRC were officially atheist countries, and tens of millions of people died in those countries in large measure because of the atheistic ideologies that governed them.

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Gk, your argument is that because Hitler, Stalin, and Hussein all had mustaches, this kind of facial hair is the common root of murders carried out in these regimes. It’s ludicrous. It’s just as ludicrous to suggest that Hitler was somehow led to killing jews because he was a non believer. Any non trivial historical inquiry will reveal that Hitler respected religion, persecuted atheists, worked closely with the Vatican, repeatedly called on god during his speeches, implemented religious inscriptions as part of the military uniform, and repeatedly presented jews as christ-killers to the applause of his catholic and lutheran audiences. Your claim is simply ludicrous.

          As for your equally ludicrous claim about deep abiding peace of islam, can you successfully argue that the religious notions of martyrdom and jihad play no part in suicide bombings, that religion plays no part in the lesser legal status of women under sharia, that religion plays no part in scraping away the clitoris of 8 year old girls with a sceptic blade or sharpened rock, that religion plays no part in establishing the proper response to infractions of family honour, and so on. Can you be that… what’s the right word… blinkered?

          I’ve read Harris and he does not suggest its okay to torture people because they are muslim. He does present an argument that because modern technology is helping to create ever smaller, easier to use, and deadly weapons of mass destruction, we need an end to the kind of faith that excuses violence done in its name. Furthermore, he explores what it might mean if a islamic fundamentalist regime to comes into possession of nuclear weapons… a regime that endorses and supports mass murder against non believers and infidels. He suggests that there may indeed come a time where a pre-emptive nuclear strike is preferable than first accepting mass destruction to one’s homeland before retaliating. But these issues are not born from atheism and the suggestions are cause for more discussions about what unfettered religious dogma can mean to the safety, respect, and well-being of billions of people. Harris does exactly what you propose, to work together to figure out ways to settle differences that don’t involve mass death, while respecting the integrity of human difference. His suggestion is to withdraw religious reasons entirely and deal with people about people’s welfare rather than gods and their capriciousness.

          Non belief in deities does not translate into mass murder, and you point this out by the deaths caused by people who claim to be religious. Hitler’s soldiers were almost entirely catholics and lutherans but you don’t see any atheists here suggesting that the Holocaust was caused by religion alone. Let me clear: by this standard alone we can easily deduce that religious belief does not thwart such atrocities.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm…the words you use are interesting, William. Athiests don’t believe any dieties exist, agnostics don’t know if any exist, and you don’t care. Where does that put you? You seem to have a lot of anger about Christianity as it relates to your past, which I can understand. Your arguments, or the manner in which you convey them, seem mostly out of anger and a need to ‘prove’ you don’t believe.

    I may be transferring another’s experience onto you, so no harm intended.

  • Pete

    The only reason most people believe in anything is that they were conditioned as children to believe so. take a kid brought up christian, and make him born in India, he’ll be a hindu. Most of us are conditioned to believe.

    My cousin was brought up an atheist, when he started learning what others believe, christian bible stories and Jesus rising from the dead, my cousin couldn’t fathom that people would ACTUALLY believe those thing, because he was raised to believe in the NATURAL world and that matter is all there is, and nothing “super” natural exists. so it really all comes down to what we are conditioned to believe.


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