Friday, July 24, 2015

6 Questions Christians are Always Asking Atheists

There is an invisible creature that follows me everywhere I go. It reads my mind and knows my deepest secrets. The creature loves me, but it is jealous and will punish me if I don't love it back. Since it reads my mind, the creature can even punish me for my thoughts. I must never have doubts about its complete power over me or I will be made to suffer horribly. I would do anything for the creature, even die or kill, because to do otherwise is to be doomed. The creature rewards me when I’m good. Sometimes it grants me wishes. If I am very good, when I die I will get to spend forever on my knees worshipping at the creatures feet. If you don’t believe in the creature as I do, you are a fool and you are damned for all eternity.

“If you have doubts, it means the Devil is at work. You must push those doubts out of your minds through prayer.” The Reverend Sun Myung Moon

1. “Can you prove that there is no god?”

The burden of proof is on he/she who makes the assertion. If I say I have a hundred dollar bill in my pocket and you don’t believe me, it is up to me to show you the bill. It is not your responsibility to prove I'm lying. No one can prove that there are no pixies, leprechauns, or other inventions of the human imagination and no one should have to. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," Carl Sagan.

2. “Are you angry at god? Are you rebelling?”

Are you rebelling against Odin? Are you angry at Zeus? Do you not believe in Santa because you are angry with him?

3. “How can you see a sunset and not believe in god?”

The sunset is evidence that sunsets exist. It is not evidence for the existence of gods, devils, angels, or any other invisible creatures. How can you see a sunset and not believe in Apollo? After all, he is responsible for pulling the sun across the sky. Is it difficult for you to not believe in Apollo? Because, that is exactly how difficult it is for me to not believe in your god/goddess. The scientific explanation for sunsets seems more likely to me than the magical explanation. Absence of superstition in no way reduces the wonder and appreciation one feels when experiencing a beautiful sunset.

4. “If you experienced what I have experienced, would you believe?”

I grew up a Christian and religion was at the center of my life for many years. I experienced religious ecstasy, speaking in tongues, healing. I was born again and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps and had prayers answered, just like Sufis, Muslims, Christians, Moonies, and the followers of Jim Jones. Religious ecstasy is only evidence that humans experience a wide range of cognitive and emotional states. Emotions are not evidence. I have experienced what you have. Have you ever experienced life without superstition? Have you had the courage to objectively evaluate the validity of your beliefs? Would the evidence you used to support your beliefs be different than the evidence used by any and every other religious cult (ancient stories/books, lots of other people who believe, personal spiritual experiences, the gut feeling that you are right)? Have you ever experienced the power and the uncertainty of being 100% responsible for your life?

5. “What if you are wrong? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry?”

Staying on the safe side would mean trying to appease all 4000 odd gods and goddesses that humans have loved and worshipped across history. Pleasing one deity usually means angering the others. Chances are, I only believe in one less god than you do. Put 4000 gods/goddesses in a hat and randomly pull one out (By chance, you were born into, and probably reflect, the religious tendencies of your family/culture). The odds that you picked the right god are 3999 to 1. In other words, I have 4000 gods and goddesses angry at me, but you have 3999.

What if YOU are wrong? Reality demonstrates its true nature every minute of every day. You don’t need an atheist to inform you that snakes can’t talk, death is permanent, and the physical laws of nature remain in effect regardless. Living one life as a true human adult is an incredible opportunity! Thinking, emoting, moving, changing, being are the real miracles.


6. "How can you have morality without God?"

Babies have no morality. Morality is learned behavior. Feral child research has shown that children who are not exposed to other humans do not develop a moral sense.

We begin to socialize very young children by rewarding culturally acceptable behaviors and punishing culturally unacceptable behaviors. The moral rules for a culture will come from external sources like parents, teachers, religious texts, laws, etc.

At first, children will follow the rules whenever a rule enforcer is watching, but will break the rules when they feel there will be no consequences. Adults who remain at this level of moral development are categorized as sociopaths.

Older children will internalize the rules and will self-regulate their behavior, because they wish to be a “good boy/girl.” This is the stage of moral development where much of humanity remains. After all, at this level one can easily navigate one’s social environment.

However, individuals at this level of moral development are merely reflecting the culture in which they were raised. So, an individual reared in Nazi Germany would feel perfectly moral in following the norms of that culture. In the 1800s, a rural Southerner in the US might feel perfectly moral as he/she enslaves another human being. Modern Christians might feel perfectly moral in the mistreatment of homosexuals.

People at the highest level of moral development will test the rules of their respective cultures against certain universal litmus’ like fairness, harm done, and empathy (How would I want to be treated if I were you?). People at this level morally transcend time and place and achieve a moral sense that can override cultural programming. 

The richness of the human experience is bathed in wonder. Superstition is not required to enjoy the awe and amazement of being alive. Being responsible for your own life is a heavy burden, but it defines what it means to be an adult. Developing the emotional maturity to deal with the realities of death, unanswered questions, and all of the other uncertainties of human life without resorting to magic and superstition requires courage and unyielding integrity. One must be committed to all truths regardless of how scary or difficult.

I have no issue with private, superstitious beliefs. If you believe that walking under ladders is bad luck, I think that is pretty harmless. But, when walking under ladders is made a crime, superstition becomes malevolent. When folks who avoid walking under ladders are given a tax break, then superstition causes unfairness. When monuments and texts dedicated to the avoidance of walking under ladders are displayed and sponsored by government, then superstition becomes exclusionary. When bad luck from walking under ladders is taught in public schools, then superstition becomes a force for ignorance.

10 comments:

  1. The non-existence of God is evidence that God does not exist.

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    1. atheistlibertariancriminalassholeOctober 1, 2015 at 9:48 PM

      i'm not about to challenge the idea that god doesn't exist but your statement 'begs the question'. please ignore this nitpicking if it was intended as sarcasm or facetiousness

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  2. Count the butchered children, mutilated bodies, and the tortured masses of people ---- that a loving god has found acceptable. Religion is a mental / emotional virus inflicted on our world.

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    1. I am endlessly amazed that the average person in 2015 lives under the same level of superstitious ignorance as people did thousands of years ago.

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  3. When the priest quizzed us schoolchildren about what was behind those pretty golden doors of the cabinet on the altar at church, I raised my hand. He called on me and I said, "It's bread and wine, but we worship it as Jesus' body and blood." I watched in terror as he scowled, his face turned purple with rage and he raised his hands to claw at the air. (I thought he was having some kind of seizure!) He screamed, "That is WRONG!" and he swooped down on me, grabbed me by the collar and shook me violently. Some of the children started to cry and some jumped out of their seats and ran away from him. He raged and shouted that it was the actual body of blood of Christ and I was headed for hell to live with all the other demons and sinners. There was no hope for me. Mind you, I was 7 years old.

    My parents were both scientists and I was accustomed to being encouraged to speak precisely, giving complete answers to questions that were complicated. My answer was just that: precise. It actually was bread and wine. Send a sample to a lab and that's what they'll say it is. But I had included the other part--why was it kept in the cabinet with the gold doors--because after it was blessed by the priest during the Mass, it was believed to be Jesus Christ's body and blood, even though it did not change its physical form, that of baked flour and water and fermented grape juice. It didn't turn into meat and gore and I didn't become a cannibal when I received the Eucharist. I always took the ritual as a metaphor, a way to represent taking God into my life by taking this communal meal along with the other members of my community. I understood the definition of "Communion": coming together for a shared experience and a shared purpose. But that was NOT what Father D. had in mind for that day's lesson. He thought it would be better to terrify some innocent children and to be so presumptuous as to speak for God by making the pronouncement that my immortal soul would spend eternity tortured in the flames of hell.

    That event was the beginning of my journey from believer to skeptic to person. I became a real person when I began to understand that I am responsible for my own actions and my own morality. If I wanted to be part of the world I was going to have to stop punting the responsibility for my troubles, actions, fears, thoughts, joys and sorrows onto God. I stopped "offering it up" as the nuns told me to do when I was afraid or suffering. I quit asking God to help me and started helping myself. I got a lot stronger after that. I became a better citizen, sister, daughter, friend and member of my community because of it.
    I no longer believe in a god as a personality, but if God exists and is only a fraction of the almighty, all-loving, compassionate, benevolent and merciful being we are told he is, then why wouldn't he want us to be strong and responsible to ourselves and to others? Isn't that what we all hope our children will be?

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    1. Thank you for your story! I was actually thinking about the bizarre notion that a loving father would burn his children alive if they are not good boys and girls.

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  4. You can't just say there's a God because the world is beautiful. You have to account for bone cancer in children. You have to account for the fact that almost all animals in the wild live under stress with not enough to eat, and will die violent and bloody deaths. There is not any way that you can just choose the nice bits and say that means there is a God, and ignore the true fact of what nature is. The wonder of nature must be taken in its totality.
    -- Stephen Fry

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