Destroy this stupid question.

I posted my rant about people telling me their prayers were answered on facebook.  The first comment on it was…

So even if a god was shown to exist through demonstrable phenomena, you wouldn’t want to worship/know/follow it unless it lined up with your standards of character?

My standard is compassion.  If god is not compassionate, the you’re god damn right I wouldn’t worship him.  I wouldn’t even stop at not worshiping him, but would actively oppose him.

This underscores the horror of religion.  Compassion and suffering take a backseat to whatever god supposedly commands, which results in a lot of people doing completely cold, and often inhuman things.  No good person accepts a wicked master, and the implication that I should adopt the failings of the faithful just flat out makes me sick.

I’m going to take my nap now.  You lovely commenters can just destroy this so I have something to make me smile when I wake up to board my next plane.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Brian Fields

    Many theists believe that God is the very definition of good. To those types of theists, this question makes sense. Of course, it shouldn’t – A immoral celestial dictator is not WORTHY of worship.

    • Andrew Kohler

      The idea of God being the definition of good is indeed the heart of the comment in question, as the last clause demonstrates clearly: “…unless it lined up with your standards of character?” The implication here is that our standards cannot be as valid as God’s (I take exception to this).

      Consider if there were a person in your life who does the following:

      1. Commands you to wipe out neighboring towns to steal their land. (Genesis 15)
      2. Is totally fine with slavery. (Exodus 21:7, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, etc etc etc)
      3. Instructs you to cut up your genitals, your children’s genitals, and your slaves’ genitals (Genesis 17) and on a related note:
      4. At one point was about to kill you but only stopped because your wife cut up your son’s genitals (Exodus 4–this happens with Moses)
      5. Rewards people for willingness to commit filicide (Genesis 22)
      6. Instructs rape victims to marry their assailants and orders the death penalty for women whose hymens aren’t intact on their wedding nights (Deuteronomy 22)
      7. Accepts animal sacrifice (Leviticus, etc), and also HUMAN sacrifice (Judges 11)
      8. Hardens a guy’s heart so that he won’t do the right thing, thereby creating an excuse to kill all of the firstborn sons in this guy’s country (Exodus 12)
      9. Tells you that you cannot be a good person because of something your very distant ancestor did, but that you can be absolved if you accept the sacrifice of an innocent being that was made on your behalf without your participation, but that if you don’t accept this sacrifice then you’ll be tortured for eternity. (Genesis through Revelations, really)
      10. Has sexually active gay men put to death (Leviticus 20:13), as well as people who work on the wrong day of the week (Exodus 31:15), and witches (without actually defining what constitutes this; Exodus 22:17), etc etc etc. Oh, and turns people into pillars of salt for looking back when they aren’t supposed to (somewhere in Genesis 19)
      11. Isn’t terribly enlightened as far as gender equality is concerned (the whole thing, except Ruth and Esther)
      12. Has really insane spokesmen (Daniel, Revelations–and I do mean spokesmen as in males; see No. 11)
      13. Is incredibility inconsistent (the whole thing)
      14. Sends she-bears to rip up 42 children for making fun of a guy for being bald, rather than explaining why it’s not okay to be mean to people (2 Kings 2:23-25)
      15. The Book of Job.

      This is by no means a comprehensive list.

      And, to top it all off: this person insists that anyone who doesn’t submit to his or her authority be killed and/or tortured forever. And for all of the “But that’s OLD Testament” folks, who enjoy asserting their religion’s superiority over its predecessor: eternal torture is definitely New Testament. Blood sacrifice is the only thing in the above list that the New Testament gets rid of, and it does so by…having the ultimate blood sacrifice. As a result, one can hardly call it a repudiation of the practice. So that only sort of takes care of Nos. 3 and 7 (note that I include circumcision, a requisite drawing of blood in Jewish law), and I can’t think of any other items that the New Testament gets rid of from the Hebrew Bible (if I’m missing something, please let me know).

      In short: Perhaps you would submit to that person’s authority out of fear, but I would hardly call this worship. I doubt there is a single person who has ever read this blog whose “standards of character” are not vastly superior to those described above. And this is just the god of Christianity (and Judaism, if No. 9 is omitted); how about if the Greek Pantheon were real? There’s a bunch of winners in the definition of Charlie Sheen. Or, how about if we could prove that Allah really commanded the most draconian implementation of Sharia?

      P.S. Some of those verses I actually know from memory; but I needed Google to assist me with the rest.
      P.P.S. Glodson sort of beat me to this post, but I had to do my own anyway.

      • M

        #9 is a Christian-only thing, actually. Judaism doesn’t have anything like Original Sin or Hell. Those are both Christian doctrines and interpretations. There’s certainly plenty of awful stuff in Judaism, so don’t stick it with the things it doesn’t have! Remember that Jews aren’t just “Old Testament only Christians” but rather have their own interpretations, rules, and doctrines that are NOT the Christian but rather their own special brand of weirdness.

        Oh, and don’t forget the sacrifice of Jepthah’s daughter in the New Testament. Jeebus is totally cool with blood sacrifice of human female virgins, even if he stopped the animal sacrifice bits.

        • David Hart

          I can now never hear the comment that ‘Jews don’t have Hell’ without mentally filling the rest of Howard Wolowitz’s line: ‘…we have acid reflux’.

        • Nox

          “I can’t think of any other items that the New Testament gets rid of from the Hebrew Bible.”

          Not anything else from your list, but the new testament does specifically say the jewish dietary restrictions no longer apply (or at least don’t apply to non-jewish christians).

          “Oh, and don’t forget the sacrifice of Jepthah’s daughter in the New Testament.”

          The sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter is in the book of Judges. That’s old testament.

          • Andrew Kohler

            Ah yes, I remember that now (thanks for the reminder!) — part of Paul’s campaign to make Christianity more user-friendly, from what I understand. The user-friendly campaign is no doubt a more significant factor in the elimination of circumcision (the one thing for which I praise Paul) than the fact that blood sacrifices and other blood rituals were obviated by Jesus’s sacrifice.

        • Andrew Kohler

          I didn’t mean to imply that Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Hebrew Bible are the same, just that both religions have that foundational text in common. I’m from a Jewish background, so I know how different the two religions are in practice and interpretation. I should have made that clearer in the post above, but I actually did specify that No. 9 was the Christian-only exception on the list (although I should have been more empathic in doing so–mainly I was focusing on how the New Testament does not repudiate most of the problematic parts of the Hebrew Bible). Also, one correction: Jephthah’s daughter is killed in Judges 11 (the citation in No. 7 in the list above), which is still the Hebrew Bible.

          I actually am not as clear as I should be on original sin and Judaism; I’ve certainly only ever heard that phrase in a Christian context, but the underlying idea that we’re all being punished for Adam and Eve is found in Genesis (at least it’s why men have to labor in the fields and women have the pain of childbirth). Of course, the idea of humans needing a savior is entirely Christian; the Jewish concept of the Messiah is very different from the Christian concept. It makes sense that the concept of original sin would be introduced in order to necessitate the savior. Original sin seems to me a repurposing of the Genesis story: the basic idea was there, then Christianity highlighted it and gave it new meaning. Unfortunately I’m not equipped to do much research at the moment beyond Wikipedia, which does indeed describe original sin as a Christian idea and traces its origins to verses in the New Testament and Church Fathers, but also gives one verse from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Yup, sounds like original sin to me. Oddly no mention of the laboring in the fields/painful childbirth verse from Genesis. The page also says that there were some Talmudic rabbis who said, a la Christianity, that the wage of Adam’s sin was death, but that this is not “mainstream Judaism” (unfortunately, the link in the citation isn’t working for me).

          I’m also still not clear on the afterlife/heaven/hell in Judaism; it’s not terribly well defined. Some Jewish texts refer to a place called Gehenna (apparently the word does in fact occur in the Hebrew Bible, unless a troll put that on Wikipedia), which is sort of hell-ish. The Wikipedia article describes it as closer to Purgatory by some interpretations, or as a place for the destruction of the wicked. It seems that Gehenna is a valley on earth, in which sacrifices to Moloch may have occurred, and has been alleged to have been a garbage dump, etc. So, again, certainly not the same as the Christian hell. My personal favorite Gehenna reference is in the Talmud: wicked Jewish men will have stillborn babies’ foreskins stuck onto their foreheads or having angels come and stretch their penile shaft skin to cover the glans, as a result of which they can’t get into the better afterlife place and so they are dropped into the gaping female mouth of Gehenna (for some reason, this didn’t make it onto the Wikipedia page). I really didn’t make that up; I found it in Everyman’s Talmud (and was pleased to discover that Leonard Glick cites it in his excellent book Marked in Your Flesh).

          Before I go, since this is the blog of a music major: Going back to that awful twerp Jephthah, I highly recommend 17th-century composer Giacomo Carissimi’s oratorio Historia di Jephte, an exquisite piece of music based on one of the ugliest stories imaginable (it also features the Latin word “obstupiscite,” which means “be stupefied!”–a friend said this sounds like a spell from Harry Potter). Also, Handel wrote an oratorio called Jephtha as well; I don’t know this piece, but the summary I’ve found reports that a binding-of-Isaac style angel comes down to say that his daughter need only dedicate her life to the Lord rather than be killed. I’m not sure if that’s to be frowned upon as whitewashing or to be commended as an improvement; in any case, I’m sure the piece is marvelous musically, as it’s by Handel.

          Ibunt impii in Gehennam, ignis aeterni. (“The wicked shall go to Gehenna, of eternal fire” – the line from the Sibylline Oracles that ends the first part of Carl Orff’s De Temporum Fine Comoedia)

          • Andrew Kohler

            Correction: “I should have been more EMPHATIC….” As much as I like Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I can’t say I think anyone is actually “empathic” (empathetic, yes; empathic, no) ;-)

          • Anat

            Gehena = Gei-ben-hinom, was an actual place in Jerusalem where refuse was burnt. Before Hellenic times Jews did not have much of a concept of an afterlife. People went into their graves and rested. Following interaction with Hellenic believers in Hades ideas about an afterlife entered Judaism, but there isn’t much consensus what happens there. There are stories about sages studying Torah with God and feasting over leviatan and wild bull. Not clear what happens to anyone else. The more mystically inclined believe that people continue to learn and grow in the afterlife. It is a common tradition that the living can help the dead make progress in the afterlife by studying Torah for them. Whatever punishments that take place in the afterlife are for limited time, until the dead person learns some lesson.

          • Andrew Kohler

            Thanks for the info, Anat! I can just imagine what Christopher Hitchens would say about to the prospect of studying Torah in the afterlife :-)

  • KeganW

    Straw Man for the win.

  • Glodson

    So even if a god was shown to exist through demonstrable phenomena, you wouldn’t want to worship/know/follow it unless it lined up with your standards of character?

    Fuck that shit. I am not going to worship a god that commands his people to rape and murder villages because they lived in an area he promised others. I’m not going to worship a god that commands a virginal victim of rape to marry her rapist if she is unpromised to another man. I am not going to worship a god that commands a woman be killed on the doorstep of her father if she’s not a virgin, or just suspected of not being really, on her wedding night. I am not going to worship a god who routinely murders. I am not going to worship a god that commands such dubious things as plucking out my own eye. I am not going to worship the god that psychologically tortures many of his own people, like by commanding Issac to kill his own son as a joke. I am not going to worship a god who physically and psychologically tortures one of his most pure followers over a bet with Satan, a god who kills the man’s family and robs him of everything to prove a point.

    This is but one god. A god with a weakness to chariots of iron. A god bereft of compassion. A god that allows for a hell to exist and will send people their to burn forever if they don’t love him in just the right way.

    This is a sociopathic god. If any god exists that is compassionate and kind, rejecting the Abrahamic god would like please this compassionate and kind god.

  • sqlrob

    “Judge Not, Unless Ye Be Judged” God claims to be able to judge me? Guess what, I’m holding him to his own rules.

    Their question is moot anyway. There’s no demonstrable phenomena, and any religious definition is so self contradictory that it can’t exist, so it doesn’t matter.

    • Glodson

      Even if there was a proof that some sort of god exists, it isn’t automatic this god is their god.

      It could be another god. Like my proposed God of the Explanation for the Exact Strength of the Gravitational Constant. His name grew a little.

      That god, which I entirely made up but believe in based on faith and an appeal to ignorance, is responsible for the gravitational constant having the exact value that it has. Despite that, this god is mostly benevolent, even though he has a problem with naked singularities. He also has the added benefit of not being a raging psychopath.

      • sqlrob

        Not a raging psychopath? Go jump of a cliff and say that :D

        • Glodson

          The same force that draws me down the cliff is also the same force that allows the Sun to work, the Earth to have formed, the Sun-Earth-Moon system making for our rather pleasant days, and so on.

          At least the bad things this god I made up can cause happen actually have a purpose.

          • Highlander

            And those bad things are exactly predictable and apply equally to everything in the universe, this god does not make exceptions for any reason. The rules are precise and the consequences of attempting to violate those rules are applied universally.

  • Art Vandelay

    It depends what they mean by “a god.” If they’re just talking about a sentient being to whom I owe my existence, even if he wasn’t a complete dick and had some sort of legitimate reason for allowing suffering on such a mass scale or making a universe appear to be godless for the sake of leading so many people awry…I wouldn’t worship it solely on the idea that it created me for the sole purpose of worshiping it. Because that’s psychopathic.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    So even if a god was shown to exist through demonstrable phenomena, you wouldn’t want to worship/know/follow it unless it lined up with your standards of character?

    That’s pretty generic. Let’s fill in a particular name and see if the questioner is still willing to stand behind it.

    So even if Satan was shown to exist through demonstrable phenomena, you wouldn’t want to worship/know/follow it unless it lined up with your standards of character?

    • iknklast

      Beat me to it – my thought exactly. What does it matter what all-powerful being you fill in? I, on the other hand, worship cheese. It exists and it tastes great. As for its character, well, just how sharp is it? ;-)

      • Art Vandelay

        It goes great with the blood of Christ, too.

    • JOhn Horstman

      Well, Lucifer, in opposing the rule of a tyrannical psychopath, does ‘line up with my standards of character’. Were Christian doctrine to somehow be true, I’d be a Satanist, hands down. Yahweh is the bad guy in the story, and even gads of massive, well-funded PR organizations can’t really disguise that fact.

  • kagekiri

    As someone who believed he was in this situation, I’d say fuck that noise.

    Before fully deconverting, I was at the point that I still thought I had evidence of Christianity’s God (emotional prayer/worship, people being affected positively by the religion, other’s claims of miracles), but where I was increasingly horrified at his character (theodicy, how he fucked Job, and people being created worthy of hell).

    I despaired at my existence at that point, that the universe was ruled by a horrible, torture-loving monster who existed to please himself and who refused to apply real justice or love to how he treated his creations.

    The fact I still considered following him made me feel incredibly selfish and disgusting, willing to trade justice and morality to save my own skin. So, I started just asking God to kill me like I deserved, then at least some justice would be served (my “sins” against myself and against God’s supposed standards of requiring blood for sin, at least).

    SO yeah, my morality was more important to me than God’s, and it was just obviously better, too. I mean, shit, just saying “don’t torture people” and “don’t kill a person for someone else’s crimes” is already easily superior morality to God’s, so that’s not fucking hard.

    Eventually, I stopped begging to die and burn in Hell, and realized a God who obviously lied about all his character traits might be lying about EVERYTHING, and started studying evolution and letting all my doubts finally surface after years of suppression (I was a YEC at the time).

    Now I say fuck that biblical god character. Even if some super-beings eventually show up with apparently magical powers and prove they created life on earth, they still don’t deserve the worship, reverence, or effectively-blind obedience most religionists give to their fictional gods.

  • Randomfactor

    There’s a sort of theistic Catch-22 involved. Any being which demands/compels worship is not worthy of it.

    • UsingReason

      Bingo, especially the being that tried to get people to worship him as described in the bible; he actually comes off as pathetic.

      The argument seems to be, ‘god created us, so we HAVE to worship him’. Don’t think about it, don’t use your free will and mental faculties in any way; just apply lips directly to ass, it’s heavenly.

      • John Horstman

        That’s why the story about getting booted from Paradise is there: if we’re capable of independent moral reasoning, it rapidly becomes clear that Yahweh (and by extension the churches that purport to represent his will) is downright evil.

  • Robert B.

    There’s lots of things which demonstrably exist that I don’t worship or follow. Generally I make those calls by observing the moral quality of the phenomena in question.

    Evolution, for example, is totally a real thing, and also is saved from being an evil bastard only by its complete lack of intelligence or self-awareness.

    • Andrew Kohler

      Well said, and a great response to why I have never encountered a person who accepts evolution (theist or atheist) who worships it or apotheosizes it, despite the claims of the creationists that evolutionism (why is that word in the spell check!?) is a religion.

      • Andrew Kohler

        Oops, I was going to say a great response to the claim itself that creationists make etc.; I switched the structure in the middle of writing the sentence and forgot to adjust the verb. (Patheos, pleeeeeease get an edit function?)

  • Heidi

    So the commenter is saying that even if a god doesn’t line up with their standards of character, they would worship it on command? That explains why they worship the guy who lied to Adam & Eve and revile the snake who told them the truth. The liar is the one who commanded them to worship him. The snake didn’t ask for anything.

  • Karen

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    — Marcus Aurelius

    This is my favorite quotation, though I wish ol’ Marc would have included compassion as well as justice. But the Abrahamanic god fails Marc’s test miserably. Personally, I expect the last sentence targets the truth.

    • Andrew Kohler

      This is a wonderful quotation; I love especially how he refuses to be intimidated by divine bullying in the event that the gods are unjust. And how is it that I’ve never heard anyone use it as a rebuttal to Pascal’s Wager!?

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    It would be a monumentally evil God that could create beings capable of seeing Him for the monster He is, and then punish them for not adoring Him.

    • John Eberhard

      Stealing this for my status today. Will give attribution to you.

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        Always pleased when someone I admire for his way with words chooses to borrow mine. :)

  • Improbable Joe

    No being worthy of respect would expect or accept “worship” in the first place.

  • Katie T

    So, if this was Mass Effect, then god is a Reaper, yes? Not much opposing that- we don’t have Shepard.

    • Glodson

      I could at least shot the god in its stupid god face if this was Mass Effect.

      And the ending of Mass Effect is way better than the ending of the Bible.

  • BabyRaptor

    This is complete hypocrisy.

    OF COURSE you wouldn’t worship a being who doesn’t align with your beliefs. You don’t keep friends around who don’t align with your beliefs (if the incompatibilities are big enough.) You don’t marry someone who you constantly disagree with.

    And besides, aren’t these people the ones who are constantly screaming that they shouldn’t have to follow laws that go against their beliefs? So why should someone else have to violate their own beliefs to bend over to the christian god, even if he does prove he exists? I guess only they get integrity? (Not that I’ve met very many christians that actually have any.)

  • katb

    How does an atheist decide what is good? Do you get together and vote? Just like the Nazi’s did? They voted. They thought that what they were doing was good.

    • sqlrob

      Yeah, I wonder who told the Nazi’s what was good.

      Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirt of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.

      – Adolph Hitler

      • katb

        He said things like that when if was useful for him to. No serious historian would every say he that Hitler’s beliefs were based on traditional Christian beliefs. He took Bibles off of church altars and replaced them with Mein Kempf. He also removed crosses and replaced them with the swastika. I’m sure that you know that. Hitler was greatly influenced by philosophy. The bad kind.

        • Kodie

          Without morals, people who believed Hitler and the Nazis were doing god’s work had no depth from which to ask if this was the right thing to do. Even if you want to make the argument that Hitler was not a sincere Christian, how do you explain people who followed his orders? People who don’t ask questions because the reasoning made sense at the time, people who are persuaded to believe someone is acting out god’s moral orders, have nothing. They don’t have morals to say “this is wrong”. They follow leaders, you don’t have a different way of sorting out morality.

          From a distance, it’s rather convenient of you to deny Hitler any association with what you believe, but you don’t seem to make any such exception for similar genocides in the bible, ordered by god and carried out by followers. Religious “morality” does not actually enhance your sense of right or wrong, because you have no critical thinking abilities. If someone says they got the word from god and you feel uneasy, you are influenced by others going along. Sort it out afterwards, don’t have to have any empathy to begin with. You don’t actually know what to do. You don’t know how to decide who is telling you what is right unless they have some emblem and belong to your club. Outside of that, you have no way of recognizing morality.

          If it would solve this case once and for all, I guess it would make me the monster to take us all back in a time machine and see which one of us thinks Hitler is an ok dude who knows what he’s talking about. He was apparently very persuasive, you agree, and knew when to expose his religiosity, but I don’t think up close, you would be that critical. You only “know” that from a distance, a revision handed out by your own religious leaders that Hitler wasn’t one of you. Since you swallow whatever is given to you now, I have very little doubt you’d have been swayed by Hitler’s message as well. Don’t peddle your shallow morality here.

          • katb

            Did Hitler follow the 10 Commandments? The Commandments that Jesus Christ summarized when he said to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself? Jesus said that about summed it all up, how a Christian was to live his life. Did Hitler live his life that way? How would you test to see if Hitler was a Christian? Would you look at his life? Was he a Christian? Did he love Jesus?

          • baal

            Hi Katb, Injecting “hitler” and “nazi” into discussion threads is both overdone and the person doing it usually is flagging themselves as someone who makes poor arguments. It’s even got it’s own label “godwin”.
            Also, please look up the logic fallacy “No True Scottsman” and then never do it again. If Hitler says he’s a Christian and that he believes, that’s the end of the story, he counts as Christian. You can go from there to say he’s a poor reflection on the faith or that he fails to meet the usual ideals but you have to grant him his status first.

          • Loqi

            Did Hitler follow the 10 Commandments?

            Do you follow the 10 commandments? I find it hard to believe that you don’t covet. Are you therefore not a Christian? Golly, if that’s your standard, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Christian.

            He said things like that when if was useful for him to. No serious historian would every say he that Hitler’s beliefs were based on traditional Christian beliefs.

            Even if I grant that Hitler wasn’t a Christian (I don’t), Christianity was the dominant religion in Germany by an overwhelming majority. The Christians didn’t seem to have any qualms about firing up the furnaces and turning on the gas.

    • sqlrob

      Oh, and vote? Pray tell (pun intended), how were books chosen to be put into the bible?

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      How does a Christian decide what is good? The Bible presents genocide as a good thing.

      • katb

        God commanding the killing of people who have decadent orgies and torture their children to death as an offering to their gods is a bad thing? Your morality is sorely lacking. I guess you voted on this with the other atheists.

        • Glodson

          God commanded that their children be killed, and the women taken to be raped.

          Those are moral actions too?

          • katb

            The women weren’t raped.

          • Glodson

            The women weren’t raped.

            But the children were killed?

            And really? They weren’t? Moses didn’t order them to be taken to be raped?

            Let’s read Numbers 31:17-18

            Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

            It is actually worse than I recalled. Well done, God’s moral code!

    • Glodson

      This answer is more than you actually deserve for asking such a stupid and loaded question.

      Atheism is not dogmatic. Not all atheist agree. Many of us look to Secular Humanism for morals and ethics. We do our best to decide what is right by using logic and reason. We don’t base it on scripture. We don’t base on the weight of authority granted to a person. We don’t base it on the whim of the majority. We attempt to define these ideas as best we can within the confines of logic, reason and compassion.

      I don’t know your religion. But the morality of religion is fundamentally flawed, as it is based on the commands of the divine. I don’t have some imaginary figure judging my actions. I have myself, looking at what I do. I try to be honest so that I can see my failures and my successes for what they are.

      So your question is a bit of nonsense. Then you try to go Godwin, ignoring the history behind Nazism. Good job there. You ignore what the Nazis did to get into power in the first place, which is a perversion of democracy as they murdered rivals, and then jailed them as they came into power. Finally, it is a bit of cherry picking. You might as well say “hey, the Founding Fathers voted when they wrote the Constitution in a democratic process that included compromise and that’s just the document that we base our government on, and while flawed at places, it was a rather progressive piece of work within that time.”

      • katb

        What does secular humanism use to get morals? Is it what makes one happy? What if murder makes one happy? How do you decide of murder is bad? What if there is a food shortage and killing the weak will help the strong survive, is that moral? How do you make decisions like that?

        • Glodson

          You don’t understand what some words mean.

          Here’s a good primer for Secular Humanism. Secular Humanism that is a branch of humanism, which itself is a way of saying that humans must use reason and logic to find their moral code. The secular part just means we do it without an appeal to a divine authority.

          Let’s go through the rest of your loaded and ill-informed questions.

          What if murder makes one happy? How do you decide of murder is bad?

          What? Murder is bad because you are killing another human being. Who gives a shit if that makes one happy? I didn’t say that it was moral to allow everyone to do whatever makes them happy. I said it was best to make an attempt to define morality using logic and compassion with. Since I include compassion, which means I’m concerned about causing another human harm, that would mean that murder is right out. There’s nothing to justify a murder. Unlike in the Bible.

          What if there is a food shortage and killing the weak will help the strong survive, is that moral?

          No, that is Social Darwinism. A really shitty idea, about as bad an idea as religion. In a food shortage, it would be best to find a way to maximize the survival rate of everyone while making sure there is a fair supply of food for everyone. I find that looking for a violent solution to a problem is often a bad approach.

          How do you make decisions like that?

          With logic, reason, and compassion backed with evidence. As stated in my reply above.

          You see, I am not going to say an act is moral or immoral based on a book complied of the oral traditions of people living several thousand years ago, translated and then interpreted by another who claims he is revealing the divine wisdom of god.

          • katb

            I know what secular humanism is. And it CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR MORALITY. Morals aren’t material. No foundation there at all.

          • Glodson

            No, you don’t know.

            You clearly don’t understand it and believe that having a patriarchal father figure threaten people into compliance makes for a good foundation for morality.

            I know that morals aren’t a material thing. They are a human construct made for use in creating a social structure that is stable. You see, you are failing to even address the basics here.

          • katb

            Morals aren’t a human construct. If humans constructed morals we would be taking everything we wanted from everyone else. Stealing, rape, whatever. All you have to do is take a look at the world and see that fantastic condition it is in to know, humans are about as evil as it gets.

          • Glodson

            No. We aren’t. We are much like our nearest two cousins: Chimps and Bonobos.

            That doesn’t even make sense as anatomically modern humans have existed for nearly 100,000 years, and there’s evidence that we interbred with the Neanderthal people. We see egalitarian societies among the modern hunter-gatherers.

            We have brain structures that lead to certain emotional traits that lead to exactly what I’m talking about. Morality is a human construct, used and codified to help make stable societies.

        • Kodie

          How do you go about making decisions like that? It’s scary how stumped you are why people can be nice to each other and not kill each other all the time. It’s vividly anti-social how close to the edge you are without your god to threaten you. How can someone claim moral superiority when they don’t even naturally care about other people?

    • Reginald Selkirk

      How did God’s chosen people decide what is good? When someone told them to kill tens of thousands of members of a neighboring tribe, including children, pregnant women, and – remarkably – even livestock, how did they decide whether this genocide was “good”?

      • katb

        The neighboring tribe participated in child sacrifice that included torturing their children to death. They also practiced bestiality and other gross things. I don’t think anyone missed them much.
        If you are an atheist (I don’t know if you are or not), how do you decide what is “good”? Do you go by how you “feel”? That is certainly not a sound way to go about it. Do you go into a scientific lab and do experiments with things like kindness, goodness, charity, love, etc. Oh, wait a minute, that is a category mistake. You can’t test those things, they are not material. So, how do you decide what is “good”?

        • Glodson

          The neighboring tribe participated in child sacrifice that included torturing their children to death. They also practiced bestiality and other gross things. I don’t think anyone missed them much.

          [Citation Needed]

          And you failed to answer the question asked of you. Also, is it good to murder a woman on her father’s doorstep if she’s not a virgin on her wedding night?

          • katb

            Baal, Molech, Ashteroth. There is TONS of information on archaeological sites, University sites, journals. You can find hours and hours of reading. I’m sure your really not interested in that.

            As to murdering the virgin, give me the verse.

          • Glodson

            [Citation Needed]

            I need proof that those practices took place from a source outside the Bible. Further, I need proof that the Hebrew People existed with their religion before 1100 BCE, as that is the time when they are first mentioned in any historical record and when we start finding villages without pig bones.

            As for the verses, I give you Deuteronomy 22:20-21:

            “But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”

            And we’re the ones with the problem with morality.

          • baal

            Every time ‘Baal’ get’s a mention, I give to planned to parenthood (don’t make me broke folks, I might have to batch up mentions if it gets out of hand). Fwiw, ‘baal’ is not just one person or even just one god. It’s a semi-generic honorific that’s akin to ‘master’ or ‘lord’ or even ‘mayor’ (stretching a bit on the last one). The Bible, or its modern readers, tend to get it wrong.

        • Kodie

          Have you ever heard of empathy? How could you ignore empathy? If you decide what is good without using your feelings, you are not moral. You are a robotic instrument of hate. You are a follower of orders, a shell of a human being.

          • katb

            And where did empathy come from? Why do you have it?

          • Glodson

            And where did empathy come from? Why do you have it?

            Anterior Insular Cortex.

            We have it because we are a social animal and having the ability to empathize lead to groups succeeding, likely in for the species that eventually gave rise to the Hominidae family, as many in that family tend to larger social structures.

          • sqlrob

            Because it’s in your brain? Not exactly a difficult conclusion, when you can see it in other animals.

            “I don’t understand, therefore god” doesn’t fly here.

          • katb

            Oh please. That is the biggest load of doo doo that I have seen here so far.

          • Glodson

            Oh please. That is the biggest load of doo doo that I have seen here so far.

            So empathy doesn’t come from your brain?

            Then you tell me where it comes from? Is it delivered by angels? Is the problem people who lack the ability to feel empathy because the angel got lost?

          • sqlrob

            So katb, so you have a better rationale than “I don’t like it, therefore it’s false?”

          • Kodie

            You wallow in ignorance, katb. Even rats have empathy.

        • Andrew Kohler

          So you are saying, katb, that every single person is every single tribe against whom God ordered genocide was an evil person and deserved death? I when I was in Hebrew school (this would have been around age 11 or so, I think) asking about the morality of the extermination of the Canaanites and hearing that exact rationalization. I didn’t say anything at that time, but I remember thinking: “Hmmm, so they were all deserving of death; that seems awfully convenient….”

          But even assuming there were tribes of people exclusively deserving of murder, what about the people whom God ordered executed for picking up sticks on the Sabbath? Does that reasonably seem like a capital offense to you? Does death seem a fitting punishment for an unruly child or being a sorceress (especially since there isn’t any such thing as a sorceress?) And you’ve still quite a lot of work ahead of you to prove the morality of slavery, subjugation of women, persecution of gay people, taking knives or sharp rocks to infants’ genitals, murdering someone’s children as part of a bet (I refer to Job), human sacrifice (Jephthah’s daughter), making raped women marry their assailants, offering young men to be raped in place of men instead of insisting on no rape at all (the allegedly righteous Lot in Genesis 19), incest (also the allegedly righteous Lot in Genesis 19), murdering women for not being virgins (or, having been too physically active?) on their wedding nights, Jesus’s exhortations to his followers to abandon their families to follow him, the practice of powerful men acquiring wives and concubines like property…I’m repeating myself from my previous post, I know, but it would seem that the point must be belabored: following an absolute authority is no guarantee of moral behavior. Ironically, doing this violates one of my favorite Bible verses (there are some fine ones, after all, and credit where it’s due): “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2), which Christopher Hitchens reported was one of Bertrand Russell’s favorites as well.

          I pose the same question to katb that (s)he posed to us: How do you know right from wrong? How do you know what love is? Do you really thing the abominations listed in the paragraph above are worthy of being called “good”?

          My answer to this question: I have empathy and compassion. I judge actions based on their effects on people’s lives, both my own and those around me. I know I can’t expect to treat me well if I don’t treat other people, and I have a vested interest in creating a world in which it is nice to live for the brief time our species gets a chance to live in this universe. I have a conscience that is distressed when I see people being harmed, and the idea of doing something wrong or hurting another person is extremely distressing to me. That’s all it takes to know right from wrong. It really is that simple.

          Even asking nonbelievers “Whence does your morality come?” indicates that one can have morality without belief. And to ask “How can you know what’s good without God?” is meaningless unless the person being asked (very often an atheist) does not value goodness. And yet apologists use this question all the time: it would seem to me that they are aware that most atheists, like most theists, want to live in a society in which being good and kind is valued.

          • Andrew Kohler

            Oh damn, I’ve found yet another error in one of my comments here (I don’t bother to correct typos and such, although they also pain me): “…offering young men to be raped in place of men instead of insisting on no rape at all” doesn’t make much sense, given that young men are still men. It should of course be “offering young women” (and one’s own daughters no less).

            And while I’m at it, I noticed “Do you really thing”–blah. One should never look over one’s posts once they’re up.

    • Kodie

      How do you think you know what’s good and what’s not good? Threats?

      • sqlrob


        And as a corollary, if someone only does good because they’re under threat, they aren’t moral in my book.

      • John Horstman

        Might makes right: this shared philosophy is why Right-wing authoritarianism and Christian fundamentalism are so thoroughly complementary.

        • katb

          I agree, Christian fundamentalism does fail. That would be the Westboro cult.

          • IslandBrewer

            But the Westboro Baptist church is one of the few groups that actually DO get their morals from the bible. Most theists use reason and logic to derive their morals (just like non-theists!) and then later use magic or god or leprechauns or jesus to justify their morals because they can’t be bothered to articulate the logic:

            Respecting other people, their persons and property, is necessary for society to work. Having a trusting and trustworthy society benefits all individuals, thus it behooves us to participate in pro-social behaviors. It’s NOT ultimately logical to steal or murder on a whim, as you seem to want to believe.

            Frankly, if you people (and here I definitely mean christians such as yourself) are so fundamentally immoral in the absence of religious belief, the whole lot of you should be locked up as a preventative measure, because you’d be so obviously dangerous to society compared to nonbelievers.

    • Andrew Kohler

      I’m presently researching a dissertation that deals with music in the Third Reich, and so I am rather sensitive to Hitler references. Suggested reading: Positive Christianity in the Third Reich by Professor D. Cajus Fabricius, a Nazi ideologue and Christian theologian. Most people in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s were Christian (although how religious I can’t presume to know). Therefore, one finds Christian rhetoric in Nazi statements and also in the resistance: as to the latter, Dietrich Bonhoffer comes to mind, and the White Rose fliers accused Hitler of pretending to be Christian as he headed an atheistic state). The fact that such radically opposed factions both could use the label of Christianity speaks to just how malleable religion can be in practice. It also demonstrates that religions cannot provide a guarantee as to how their followers will be behave (this applies both to people who do evil despite the exhortations in their religious texts to do good and also to the people who good despite the exhortations in their religious texts to do evil–any given religious text will contain a mixture of good and bad ideas).

      As to whether or not Hitler followed the 10 Commandments: The only time the phrase “then Commandments” is used in the Hebrew Bibleis in Exodus 34, the revised commandments post-golden calf incident. The only two in common with the list of ten in Exodus 20/Deuteronomy 5 (to which people erroneously refer as *the* ten commandments) are the ones about idolatry and the Sabbath day. Evidently God decided that, on second thought, murder, theft, and bearing false witness aren’t really all that special. And so, I do not care if Hitler followed the 10 Commandments or not. I don’t see how the Sabbath day has anything to do with anything. Although I’ll give you the relevance of idolatry: Hitler worshiped himself and his sick, racist ideology.

  • Kodie

    There is a difference between worship and ass-kissing to stay on someone’s good side, and different still from groveling. I mean they are different in degrees. I could see myself ass-kissing god to stay on his good side, but I don’t see me groveling. In my life, I have a hard time feeling that I’m beneath someone else on the ladder and what I have to do to please them because they appear to have power. I’m not very good in these situations either. I think this is where the Christian will accuse atheists of being rebellious. If you just flow with it and accept you are lowly like that, “worship” comes easily. But it often comes across as more like, you’re not an ass-kisser like me, you will go to hell. You aren’t shocked and racked with guilt over what could happen to you and that things could be so much worse for you that you fall on your knees and praise HIM.

    I don’t believe in him and he hasn’t been proven to me in all these scenarios where he sacrificed himself, and just knowing that or accepting or believing that should remove pride from my habits. I had a mother like god and bosses like god and I don’t feel the love there. I know my mother loves me but I relate every description of god to “standards” that apply in that relationship – I can never be good enough. I don’t typically stay employed anywhere long enough to fit. I think I’m a good worker, and a hard worker, but none of that is what matters eventually, I can’t stand giving my goods to a person who favors other people because they are better at puffing up his ego than I am. I understand this dynamic really frightens people. I’ve heard “nobody likes their job” but if you keep your head down and never complain about anything, you could work somewhere for years and that’s where money comes from. Fearing that you could lose the income drives people to suck it up and put on a persona that causes self-loathing, the over-eating, the drinking, fights with spouses about money, and a poor relationship with one’s own kids. The actual work isn’t hard to do (if you know how to do it), it’s the groveling that drives you into the ground. God doesn’t work like that. Not even. No money. Your only blessing is that you get to live. You get to live in fear that you will fuck up at work and lose that job, your identity, the love of people around you, or a tree might fall on your house or your car breaks down on the railroad tracks, or a shooter goes to your kids’ school, or your daughter gets raped at college, and for what. Heaven. Sometimes life is easy-going and you don’t have all these dramatic things going on. Maybe you have a hobby, maybe you go out dancing with your spouse once a month and you have a good romance, and your kids don’t disappoint you as much as your neighbor’s kids disappoint them. Phew. Lucky. No drugs or illnesses, no supporting adult children who fail to thrive in the real world, no house fires or embezzlement scandals in your life, you can afford comfortable shoes, and you never forget your umbrella when it rains.

    Take a job where you get your basic needs met, no time to enjoy yourself, no real security, but if you do it right, but you can win the lottery after you die. You don’t know. All that good stuff in your life could go away any minute, if your life is good at all, you might worship god that your life is not a piece of shit like a lot of other people’s. You might say all that is because he favors you, he doesn’t seem to ask very much of you, it’s just not that hard to worship a guy like that, except that you know it could all be taken away. No one is immune to suffering, and if you have a long way to fall, it’s going to be harder. People sell their souls for a life with no worries. People I know do look around at times and are grateful for the life they have, the people in it don’t suck, well, they’re actually really great, and they are not in immediate want of anything important. Is that “worship”? If you could prove that god indeed provides you and not other people with an enviably smooth life, then you might be prone to worship him, and be prone to the attitude that people who aren’t living like you do are to blame. They did something wrong to god along the way and didn’t meet up with that one opportunity, it was withheld and put them on a path where they are resentful of god. Resentful that their life is hard and it’s hard to wake up and face the day, and I know people like this too – they dwell on a past mistake that put the rest of the story in motion. Something bad happened that if it didn’t happen, everything might be better now. Something you had right in your hand slipped away because you didn’t know how good it was. God let you let that slip away because of “free will”. You chose to deny him, you didn’t listen, you had pride, and you dropped the ball – and no matter how much you want that ball back, god’s never going to let you have another chance. Your life would be directly rotten because god is teaching you via regret, and you’re supposed to worship this god also. Thank him for the lesson. Praise him that you are alive and make up a narrative where you accept that the state of your life is directly due to at one time being too proud to let him guide you. You did it to yourself! He was there and you didn’t answer the door.

    Now I know that’s pretty common psychology. It’s painful that this concept of god is so easily recognized in revisions to the story, how people really look at their own lives. People who have enough judge people who cry. People who cry can’t help sometimes but measure what they don’t have against people who have more. If your life is great, that’s god, and if your life is crap, that’s your fault and also god. The very simple parental dynamic of teaching you a lesson through deprivation – like being grounded for two weeks or something, having your toys thrown in the garbage. There are material rewards for responsibility and discipline, like not getting your utilities shut off, and if you can manage your time, you might find there is time to do more things you like, but god is a monster of a parent. If you can manage your time, you might have to work 3 jobs just to keep yourself in a place and feed yourself. That’s 3 times as many jackass bosses as a lot of people have and probably twice as many hours as most people work to make not enough money. Because you dropped the ball? Because you should be happy to wake up and be useful to someone? This whole “being useful” is code for “you can be replaced”. You’re supposed to be thankful for being the person who serves that person because that’s where money comes from that you have as long as you serve and the person who would replace you has none. Your whole life, no matter what it is, is a step up for someone else. Nobody likes you for being you. Oh, but god does. He likes you so much, you’re allowed to have the toil that someone else envies. The people who step over you on their way might not appreciate your piece of the puzzle but they would miss it if it went away, and no matter what you do or are, it’s “important”. It makes things run. The guy in the restaurant eating a fish that you scaled would have a difficult life if he had to order something like beans. Do you have too much pride of yourself that you will not scale a fish?

    Whenever I hear people use terms of religion in place of terms of chance, it’s remarkable to me. It is exactly that this universe doesn’t care about you. It’s nice if you want to think god loves the fish-scaler because no one else would, and if you are a fish-scaler, your reward is in heaven. Don’t ask for more money, benefits, better conditions because then no one can afford to order the fish. It’s already expensive. You can be replaced. Earth needs fish-scalers. Someone who doesn’t scale fish wishes they could take your place. Heaven. Worship the god that lets you have that and your other two jobs. Some people who need 3 jobs only have 2! God loves you, and this is the plan he has for you. What are you learning? If you don’t see the wisdom, then you have too much pride. You are rebellious. If you are not successful, it is your own fault. But god loves you, and besides that, you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes. Life is already hell for some people, a life-long punishment from that one error that could never be corrected. But guess what! If you worship god and you learn your lesson, you get ONE SINGLE OTHER CHANCE. Worshiping god right now will not have an immediate effect on your path, but just wait until you die. Then there are no more chances… and you could die today. Or tomorrow. You have to decide very quickly. I can pray for you to live long enough to change your mind, but I can’t change your mind for you and I don’t know when you will die. Only god decides that.

    While some of this is true – the world needs fish-scalers, and you can be replaced, and a difference of attitude about that could make some improvement in your life, where does that turn to worship of a supreme deity? You are alive by chance, and you are not the victim of one random error that could have set your path differently. This is your last chance, you don’t even get one more extra chance after you die. Where is there room for worship of a being that cares about you when no one else seems to? And it’s not necessarily true that you can be replaced. The responsibility of caring for others with the money you make at your several jobs cannot be replaced. If you die tomorrow without turning your life over to god, or even if you do, that is not much solace for your family and the income from your 3 jobs they are without. God’s love is meaningless to their practical needs. The comfort they may get might be due to belonging to a church. People have, when they belong to a community of people, a way of taking care of others that they would overlook if someone in the household had 3 jobs doing it for them. And how long can they sustain a family in need? Where were they when the family was living on a shoestring so close to devastation, helping them up, providing for their security? Where was god? Teaching them a lesson. Worship this guy? Heaven? Heaven seems to be where it’s at. Worship this guy because you could be taken tomorrow and all your hard work in life that you were grateful to have will not feed and house your family.

    The government is where you turn. Food, housing, job programs. The church fails at anything but platitudes. The church succeeds at making people feel guilty for wanting things they don’t have. The church succeeds at making people feel guilty for having a better place to turn in need. There, you’re supposed to have pride. There, you’re supposed to fend for yourself. There, you are supposed to rebel against the sin of sloth with the sin of pride and finally admit you deserve to live a life in peril of going hungry. Stop rebelling against the lesson god is demonstrating to you and worship the motherfucker already!

  • B-Lar

    If god was provable, then I would believe, but I wouldnt worship unless he/she/it was demonstrably the actual source of compassion, morality, truth and glory that would deserve such worship.

    Lets note that it has to exist before you can pin labels on it.

  • ButchKitties

    Apparently the Christian God can’t tell the difference between genuine love and Stockholm Syndrome. Or he can tell the difference, but doesn’t care which he gets. The important thing is that his ego is gratified.

    • Andrew Kohler

      Combined with Karen’s quotation from Marcus Aurelius, this comment makes a perfect refutation of Pascal’s Wager. :-)

  • Lawrence

    Boilerplate evangelism: “God is love. Jesus is the light of the world. Etc”
    The Facebook comment: “God exists, he is all powerful, he demands your worship, he will punish the uncooperative.”
    Evangelists pretend their claims mean both of these things at once. I find that argument lacking in force.

  • katb

    This has been fun. I do enjoy talking with you guys. I know you don’t understand, but when I speak with atheists my believes are reinforced. It does my soul good. Take care and thanks.

    • Glodson

      It is called Confirmation Bias. Often we seek out a source that confirms what we already hold to be true.

      However, sometimes we look for a source that challenges our preconceived notions. And you are feeling the Backfire Effect, in which the exposure to the opposing view and rejecting the evidence or arguments presented actually reinforces your previously held beliefs.

      We all do this, to some degree or another. Every cognitive bias is felt by everyone. Some people just try to be aware of this.

      • Andrew Kohler

        Very true, Glodson; the only way to combat these instinctive ways of thinking is to be aware of them and to challenge oneself as much as possible.

        I do wish that katb had addressed some of our questions before taking off; it seems to me that the dialogue ended prematurely. If you read this, katb, I’d be interested to hear more about what it is that you believe and why you believe it (to channel Matt Dillahunty). In any case, thanks for the parting well wishes.

        • Glodson

          The funny thing is that I feel a bit of sympathy for the apologists. I guess it is that I still remember my own deconversion and how easy it is to fall prey to these lines of thoughts.

          Luckily, I had started to educate myself on the cognitive biases before I examined my own faith. it helped.

          • Andrew Kohler

            Even though I was serious about practicing Judaism for three or four years as a teenager, I’ve never “fall[en] prey to these lines of thoughts” and thus can’t say that I really can understand what it’s like. I do, however, understand how the desire to see things turn out alright can overwhelm reason (it’s a form of denial, really), and for this reason I share your sympathy (depending, of course–not so much with the William Lane Craig types).

          • Glodson

            I feel a twig of sympathy for even the Craig types. Not for the dishonest tactics and abuse. But for how they reconcile their idea of faith with normal morality. They so desperately want their god to be good, and their book to be true. They’ve been told it is, and they’ve invested so much into it. So they invent shitty ideas like “Divine Command Theory” wherein the most evil of god’s acts are recast as good.

            It shows that they at least see a problem and know they need to rationalize it away. Of course, it should be noted that my small amount of sympathy is often overwhelmed by the complete horror and disgust I often feel for their ideas and how they lie to perpetuate them.

  • John Harrington

    [Comment edited in accordance with my ban policy]

    I’m very upset. Blah, blah, blah, pay attention to me, blah, blah, blah, insults because I’m mad at JT for insulting people, blah, blah, blah…

  • John Harrington

    [Comment edited in accordance with my ban policy]

    Profanity! Lots of it! I’m not upset, but profanity!