I was talking to my friend Courtney the other day who lamented that she hadn’t logically bitch-slapped a believer in too long. It occurred to me that I could say the same. With all the stress lately and the SSA Annual Conference coming up, there’s been little time for doing blog posts on religion. For an atheism blog, that simply will not do.
In order to fix the situation, Courtney and I both agreed to find some believer online and hand them their ass. Mine is Cliff Sanders of DailyShepherd.com. Cliff recently wrote a post about how people sadly never check their god mail. It is criminally lame.
How many times does God speak to us, letting us know that we have mail from Him? Many people are too busy to check their God mail. Some simply ignore or turn a deaf ear to the voice of God. Friend, you’ve got mail. God is constantly speaking to the world and to you.
Too busy? Not really. I’m listening and all I’m hearing is a bunch of people like you, Cliff, trying to tell me what god wants. It’s the damndest thing too: lots of people check their god mail all the time and arrive at extremely different conclusions. Hell, you can find Christians who think god told them pre-marital sex is ok or that gay people are peachy keen. You can also find Christians who will swear up and down that god has told them the opposite. These people are either attaching divine will to their own opinions or god, though omnipotent, is a shitty communicator.
So Cliff, how does god speak to you?
God speaks in many different ways. He speaks through nature. His magnificent creation leaves us without excuse to believe in God. (See Romans 1:17-21.)
Really? It seems to me that everything mankind has explained has been found to be the result of purely mindless, natural forces. All of it.
Diversity of life? Natural forces.
Star formation? No appeal to god is necessary (even though the book of genesis tries to give god all the credit).
The natural disasters we’re so often told are god’s handiwork? Natural forces. You get the idea.
So if nature creates order/complexity all by itself, what use do we have of a superfluous, order-creating intelligence like god? None.
And as far as ‘magnificent’ creation goes, I’d like you to meet your friends cancer, AIDs, and hurricanes that kill all kinds of people, many of them Christians. I think you have a very loose definition of ‘magnificent’, Cliff.
Sometimes God will use nature to give us a wake-up call. He did so with my friend Shirpa, who spent three days buried up to his waist in ash and debris after Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.
She nearly died? If a parent were to implement a wake up call in that vein, it would be called ‘abuse’. Surely god, what with being all-knowing, could think of a way to give a wake up call without the immense agony. If he can, then the fact that he elects to give people wake up calls in this manner betrays his nature, and it’s hideous.
Your friend survived a natural disaster and that’s proof of god? Because clearly, people never survive natural disasters. Hey! I’ve had a friend die in a natural disaster! That means god doesn’t exist, right?
God’s wake up calls seem to make no sense. I mean, what would we think of a mafioso taking a baseball bat to someone saying “Hey! Wake up! I’m here! Love me…or else I will so fuck you up!”? That’s not love, nor is it kind. To call something like that a ‘wake up’ call is to be desensitized to the severity of human suffering. Wouldn’t it be surprising if later in his post Cliff found the temerity to lecture others on morality?
God’s wake up calls (via his ‘magnificent’ creation) can also be a little severe…like to the point of being death tolls. What can we say of the people who actually did perish during the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s? Were those people less worthy (or unworthy) of god’s mercy than your friend? What a positively insulting position to take. And they say Christianity is a religion of humility…
But even though he kills people at random (some of us would attribute this to a random, uncaring universe, but Cliff seems content to ascribe wanton homicide to the hands of the god of love), god is apparently kind…
God spoke His love and care by raven express when He provided food twice a day to the prophet Elijah in the desert.
You know what would have really looked like love? Not orchestrating Elijah’s sojourn into the harsh desert conditions in the first place. Or how about just not making a desert in which people would die and suffer? Kind of like shooting somebody in the leg and then handing them some aspirin and boasting about how much you love the victim.
Speaking of god’s love in relation to Elijah, even though god seems to get kicks inflicting genuine agony on others, including his prophets, how does he show his love when children call his prophets bald?
He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Throwing a prophet into a miserable environment? That’s a sign of love. Children who don’t know better calling his oversensitive kid bald? Those shenanigans are punishable by mauling to death. Thanks, god of love.
God speaks to us in many different ways – in visions, dreams, and through circumstances.
In that case, god is telling me to go to work in just my underwear, because that’s what I dreamed about last night. Or maybe, just maybe, we dream about lots of different shit. Think of all the ways god could convey a message – he could swing by your fucking house and bring tuna helper if he wanted to. Why would he use a means like dreams that lead people all different manner of loopy ways? Dreaming something doesn’t make it true. In fact, perhaps the most notable quality of dreams is that reality is suspended (this is why we have flying dreams). Why would anybody reach into imagination, wading through the mass of flying, three-ways, and other nonsense to grab hold of something resembling god if not for a lack of communication from said god in reality?
God speaks through our conscience. Conscience is God’s built in warning system. Be very happy when it hurts you. Be very worried when it doesn’t. God speaks through His still small voice within us. He speaks through signs and wonders, through the counsel of godly friends, and through the preaching of His Word.
The fuck? Then god speaks to monkeys through their conscience as well. In 1964 Jules Masserman and her team at Northwestern University published a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry dealing with the behavior of rhesus monkeys. In the study, the monkeys could not get food unless they pulled a chain that would deliver them a meal, but would shock one of their companions. These anthropoid apes (our closest relatives), soon began starving themselves to avoid shocking another animal (one monkey went 12 days without food). Can we expect to find these monkeys in heaven?
Now, even if we had no idea how humans developed empathy (which we do), that doesn’t mean you do know, Cliff. How do you get from “I don’t know why we have a conscience” to “This is god speaking to us!”? Once there, how do you get over all the evolutionary evidence for the development of empathy naturally?
Compassion, the root of a conscience, is born of empathy, and empathy is derived simply from neurochemistry regardless of what animal is demonstrating compassion (and countless species do). How the chemicals in your body are arranged determines your disposition. It determines whether or not you are aggressive, passive, cooperative, etc. If you doubt this, try imbibing different substances that alter your chemical equilibrium (marijuana, alcohol, etc).
Compassion is displayed by species who share a tremendous amount of DNA with us. It is not the product of a god, who mauls 42 children for insulting a bald guy, trying to communicate with us.
What’s more, the communications of god seem to frequently make people do some very unconscionable things; things that would cause any morally sensible person to vomit. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac…
And this is just the thing: the whole point of this story is that Abraham passed god’s test by being willing to gut his offspring (forget for a moment the inanity of an all-knowing being having to test somebody). Any human being possessing something in the vicinity of a conscience would tell god to fuck off rather than murder their child. Are we to believe the god who regards servility to the point of being willing to murder a child so highly is also the one who imbued us with a conscience? Fuck off.
The most frequent and sure way that God speaks is through the Bible – His Holy Word. The Bible is not a dead letter, but the living, authoritative, infallible Word of God.
Yes, the lesson of Abraham is god speaking to us. The idea of someone else receiving the consequences for our actions is truly the greatest wisdom of the cosmos rather than ignorant, medieval rubbish. Gag me.
If you took a random person from biblical times and matched them up against a modern day ten year-old, the ten year-old would own their ass on literally every academic subject (save for what the bible says). Science? No contest. History? It’d be a nerdy bloodbath. Cliff, the book you’re claiming to resemble the infallible word of god was written, quite obviously, by the former category. It would not even come close to representing the wisdom of mortal ol’ humanity if it had been written by the latter category. This should tell you something.
If a student were to give the genesis account of star formation on even a high school astronomy test rather than explaining some portion of the Jeans Instability, that student would fail. God’s account should not be so inadequate that mankind can do (exponentially, immeasurably) better.
Jesus said a wise man is one who not only hears the Word but does the Word (Matthew 7:24).
Tell it to Abraham. Tell it to Jephtha. For somebody who assures us that our conscience is evidence of a loving god, Cliff is eager to direct us to a book that implores us to abdicate compassion in god’s service.
Blind obedience is evil. It is a surrender of the power of reason that has made humankind the unquestionable master of this planet. Through our ability to question we arrive at the truth. Through continued skepticism, we have refined the ideas that make god’s deserts, hurricanes, diseases, scarce resources, etc., manageable. To ask us to obey rather than to question is the zenith of immorality – it is an idea that anybody with a conscience should defy with every ounce of mettle they possess.
In times past God spoke through many different times and means. But now God “has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds – who – when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
God’s greatest message to the world and to you was when Jesus said, “This is how much I love you.” He then stretched out His arms on the cross and died for your sins and my sins.
God’s greatest message: that it’s morally sound for somebody else to be punished for what I’ve done. God’s greatest message is the diametric opposite of justice. If the police sent you the ticket when I was caught speeding, how fair would that be?
Or consider the moral validity of the idea that by simply believing the impossible with no corroborating evidence, that a man rose from the dead, that malicious actions are irrelevant. Had Osama Bin Laden found a way to believe that Jesus really had risen from the dead, the man who arranged the deaths of 3,000 innocent people would be well on his way to a well-earned paradise while somebody like me would, in the eyes of the vast majority of Christians, be deserving of an eternity of suffering. This idea is an insult to the very concept of integrity, and yet Cliff holds it up as god’s greatest message. This says quite a bit about the value of god’s messages.
Furthermore, god is all-powerful. He could have changed his moral rules with the blink of an eye. He could have merely willed the change. Instead, for some inexplicable reason, he decided to torture his son. Perhaps his affinity for Abraham is not so confusing after all…
Be sure to answer your God mail.
A – Admit you have sinned. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
If god’s glory includes half the shit in the bible, you can bet your ass I’ve not done it. What’s more, I enjoy ‘sinning’. I do not merely admit that I have sinned, I proclaim it with gusto from highest mountain tops – and I do so with no regrets. Sex is fun; so is eating shellfish; so is dancing, and cursing…and so is sleeping in on Sunday. Also, gay people are generally pretty cool and their love is far more beautiful than the love of a god who has demanded child sacrifice.
B – Believe in Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
No. There’s not a shred of evidence for this, and your empty threat of hell is unmoving, or at least it should be to anybody with a couple brain cells to rub together. What’s more, as Christopher Hitchens points out, had I been around to stop Jesus from dying I would have tried. Only in the backwards moral arena of Christianity would that fail to make me more moral than god.
C – Confess and leave your sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us form al unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9-10
What sins shall I leave? Pre-marital sex? And what do I get in exchange? An eternity of singing god’s praise? Snore.
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun!