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Someone on Askville asked "what's the difference between Catholicism and Christianity?"

Someone else commented "Before the Reformation, Catholicism was the only Christian faith."

I had to jump in.

Er - no.

The Reformation was sparked in 1517 by Martin Luther's protest against the sale of indulgences. But the Armenian Orthodox church was founded in 301. Many other Orthodox sects also predate the Reformation.
Read more... )

Since Eastern Orthodox churches do not recognize the authority of the Pope, it would be quite a stretch indeed to classify them as Catholic! There are other theological differences as well, of course. And certainly their adherents and priests would object to being classified as Catholic
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A Christian on Askville asked why atheists always answer their questions about Christianity.

It's quite natural for atheists to respond to questions about Christianity, and not just yours. If you think Christianity doesn't have an impact on the lives of atheists in the United States, you obviously haven't had the experience of being an atheist in the USA. We're widely despised and distrusted by Christians; polls indicate that we are the most hated group in America, even more loathed than Muslims and homosexuals. So it should be understandable why many of us want to represent our position online.
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[Another user] also makes a good point: to be an atheist in the USA is not a casual thing. Most US atheists have probably spent a lot more time thinking about religion than most US Christians!


May. 28th, 2009 09:06 pm
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A few Christians on Askville suggested that atheists should be consider "lapsed" Christians. I responded that I preferred to be called an ex-Christian, or better still, an atheist - that "lapsed" implied "failure".

One of the Christians replied that I was making up that connotation, and probably suffered from a guilty conscience; perhaps I would eventually come back to the faith. I had to reply in detail:
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The Christian/Atheist thread that I started a while ago over on Askville has gotten HUGE - it's up to 343 posts with no sign of slowing down - and has taken some VERY odd twists and turns (among other things, I was recently accused of being a racist and genocide supporter).

I'm thinking about copying ALL of my posts from Askville over to my journal, because I really do think that the whole site could easily disappear at any time. In the meantime, here's my latest comment:

Apparently I shouldn't sleep. Because as soon as I do, things go crazy here!
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Okay, I've gone on long enough. I'll be back later.
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I asked a question over on Askville a while ago. I wanted to get atheists and Christians to talk to each other in different ways. There are fairly large and active communities of both groups there, and the site has morphed into a place for discussion more than anything else. I thought it would be interesting to get the two groups to interact without arguing; it might lead to some new understandings on both sides.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.
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Third time's the charm, or so I hoped.

"Christians, atheists: What do you fear/think/feel/believe about people on the other side of the fence?".

It has taken some work, but I think the result has been a remarkably civil and thoughtful discussion!

Eventually, I was asked a tough question in the DB: What's the source of atheist morality? I dragged my feet for quite a while, but eventually responded:

I intended to answer this the first time you asked.

But I ended up putting it off over and over. Why? Well, partly because I am busy (which reminds me: I'll be away and offline from this Friday through Sunday). But mostly, it was because I felt that I had to do a really good job. I didn't want to give anyone - okay, I'll be honest, any Christian in particular - a reason or excuse to despise my personal moral code. Because that's something that I've seen thrown at atheists online a lot, including me: that our morality is somehow defective.

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Haven't felt like writing here lately.

Everyone's basically fine.

Teri's mother recommended a guy/company to strip, repair, and repaint our fence and front porch for $350+paint. We're doing it.

Sebastian has been making us play "baseball" with him in the back yard lately. He hit the ball and it smashed me in the face. Fortunately it was a beachball. No damage.

I've been thinking about political vs. religious discussion:

Really tired. Need to get onto a better sleeping schedule - need to REALLY BADLY.
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I just wrote a lengthy comment about religion and human nature over on Askville. Earlier, I'd pointed out that wearing a blatantly atheistic t-shirt was likely to get get the wearer beaten up and bullied in schools in some parts of the USA.

[An atheist I know wrote:] "Heh.. because that's typical christian behavior, when they are in power or outnumber others."

Actually, that's typical human behavior under those circumstances. We see some of the worst behavior from Christians here in the USA because they're in the majority. So we tend to assume that it's Christianity itself that is to blame for that arrogance.

But other groups behave in much the same way, if not worse, in those areas where they are in the majority. The basis can be ethnic, religious, racial, or other; as long as human beings can categorize some other group as "other", many of them will take that as a license for all sorts of bad behavior. It's a rare group that doesn't fall into that trap.
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Sorry, I've kind of gone off on a tangent. My original point was that while many right-wing American Christians are arrogant and dictatorial, it's probably not fair to ascribe that to their religion itself. Rather, it's a reflection of basic human well as poor education and upbringing, at a guess.
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Here's a link to a fascinating episode of NOVA about the intelligent design trial in Dover, PA.
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There's an interesting discussion going on over on Askville about religion. The asker's son is being indoctrinated by her fundamentalist mother-in-law, in violation of her stated wishes (and her husband's wishes, too).

"My inlaws are fundamentalist Christians and my husband and I are not."

One of the believers there brought up the old argument that atheists can't "know" that there is no God. My response:

Atheists (most atheists - some may differ) say "There is no god" in the same way that a Christian says "There is no Zeus" or "There is no flying spaghetti monster". If disbelief in any imaginable entity required concrete proof of the non-existence of that entity, Christians would have to spend all of their lives trying to disprove the existence of the countless gods and other supernatural beings which have been dreamed up by humans over millennia. Not to mention the innumerable deities that could be imagined by people living today!

To suggest that disbelief in god(s) requires special proof of non-existence is to insist that belief in that god(s) is the default position - effectively, it is an attempt to force the non-believer to justify their non-belief based on the assumption that God is real. In other words, it's a classic "heads I win, tails you lose" argument. But it's not valid, as Christians show daily through their failure to justify their non-belief in any other god but their own.
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Someone posted a rather nice question asking about the meaning of Christmas for religious and non-religious people. I posted my answer in the discussion board, rather than risk the usual negative ratings from angry Christians. But I've received several compliments from Christians instead.

As an atheist, I celebrate Christmas from a secular mindset. The winter festival or holiday predates Christianity, of course, and many - most! - Christmas traditions actually date back to so-called "pagan" religious rituals, from a number of different religions. Of course, being an atheist I don't take those religions any more seriously than I do Christianity.
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Come, Credit Department! Come, Personal Loan!
Come, Mortgage, Come Christmas Club, Come ---"

- From "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus" by Fredric Pohl, available in The Best of Fredric Pohl

It's quite a nice thread; I hope it continues.

Update: I just extended it myself.

I imagine that when the time comes that my son realizes that there is no Santa Claus, I'll tell him in all honesty that he is Santa Claus - he'll be Santa for his kids, just as his mother and I were for him, and my father was for me.
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Someone over on Askville asked "When was Christ removed from Christmas?". I couldn't resist answering...

Christ was removed from Xmas in a two-step surgical procedure on November 17th, 1952. First, an incision was made along the dorsal seam of the holiday. A set of custom-built expanders were used to keep the incision open. Then, a pair of forceps specially crafted for the occasion by the Business Roundtable were used to extract the Christ (already in a moribund state) from the internal chamber. The process went relatively smoothly, and once complete the incision was closed, surgically stiched, and healed normally. The result was a healthy non-religious commercial holiday, able to serve as a regular stimulant for the American economy.

I'm not sure what was done with the Christ. It might have been disposed of as medical waste...or possibly it was picked up from a dumpster and swallowed by a passing evangelical movement. If so, I'm afraid it metastasized into a cancer of the right wing. In any case, none of the original Christ remains in the now tumor-ridden movement.

Merry Xmas!

I was tempted to make a reference to that Japanese monster movie where a homeless boy, a survivor of Hiroshima I think, found and ate the deathless heart and brain of Frankstein, only to grow into a Godzilla-sized Japanese Frankenstein. But how many people remember that movie? Not many, I'll bet!


Oct. 13th, 2008 09:59 pm
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A response to a question on Askville which complains that children are forbidden to read the Bible in school, but can read it in prison:

This is sheer fantasy. You're indulging in a persecution complex.

Your children are perfectly free to read the Bible. They are even free to study the Bible in a comparative religions course, for example. What they are NOT free to do - and what teachers are not free to do - is to use the Bible to indoctrinate students using tax dollars which are collected from all of us, including Christians of other sects than your own, and non-Christians. Why is that so hard to understand?

Children can and do learn about religion in public schools. They are perfectly free to follow their own religion in school, too; for example, I read the Bible several times during recess and lunch while in public school. What is forbidden is indoctrination, proselytizing, and evangelizing, because they interfere with the religious freedoms of others. They also interfere with learning time which is paid for by ALL of us, including non-Christians.

Children are young and easily impressionable. They are required to attend school. It is unconscionable for teachers or even other students to use that school time to try to push their faith on others.

You want to be able to convert others in school because you believe that yours is the majority religion; that your own children will not be forced to endure proselytizing from others. But this violates the Golden Rule. You are NOT giving others the respect and consideration that you would wish for yourself.

Please try and put yourself into the shoes of someone who belongs to a faith other than your own. Some have relatives and ancestors who died for their faiths, even if you consider it to be a "wrong" faith. How do you think they would feel having their children be told in school, perhaps by teachers whose salaries their tax dollars pay for, that their faith is wrong? Do you have the empathy to understand the outrage and hurt that such arrogance inflicts? Can you see the injustice?

It should also be noted that some have used their children to try and force their faith on their fellow students. Since children are compelled by the State to attend school, this is just as wrong as having the teachers force a specific religion on students. School is a place for learning. Part of the price we pay for living in a pluralistic society is that on the subject of religion, the State must show the maximum consideration for the rights of the minority.

Because otherwise we will end up with a tyranny of the majority in every aspect of society. That may seem appealing to you, since you believe that your faith is the majority one. But the time may come when the majority opinion changes - our nation is constantly changing - or that you, yourself, may change your beliefs in some way. When that time comes, you will realize that the tyranny of an unchecked majority is one of the greatest injustices ever devised by Man.

Please consider tolerance.


May. 6th, 2008 12:01 pm
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I'm home sick today. I'll spare you the details. If only I could spare myself the details as well!

Here's an epigram I just derived from an answer I wrote over an Askville about the "risk of faith" in being an atheist:

"We are feeling beings that think, not thinking beings that feel."
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My answer to the Askville question "If atheist believe in free speech, why do they slander Christians?" I've been discussing this a lot, of course, so my apologies that most of this isn't new.

Maybe I should write a book about the whole topic of atheism. What do you think?

I'm afraid that the question, as asked, doesn't quite make sense. Let me deconstruct it, and then I will try to give an answer.

1. Not all atheists necessarily believe in free speech. Atheists are not a uniform body. They share one point in common: they do not believe in the existence of any god or supernatural entity (and there are probably some self-described atheists who DO believe in some sort of supernatural being, although I can't see the sense in that myself). Apart from that, there are Republican atheists, Democratic atheists, Communist atheists, Libertarian atheists, neo-con atheists, socialist atheists...atheists who like chocolate ice cream...atheists who like vanilla ice cream...atheists with diabetes...pretty much the entire human spectrum of experience and thought is represented in the atheist community (with the obvious exception of theism, of course).

So while I hope that most atheists believe in free speech, I'm sure that some don't.

2. Belief in free speech does not preclude slander. In fact, it would be closer to say that the reverse is true; that free speech must, by definition, allow for the possibility of slander. In any case, this is very much an "apples vs. oranges" point. Free speech and slander are neither opposed nor interchangeable.

3. Suggesting that Christian belief is delusional or not based on demonstrable evidence is not "slander". Slander has a specific meaning: "In law, defamation (also called vilification, slander, and libel) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressively stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation." (Wikipedia)

For such statements to be slander, they would have to be shown to be false. Since no one has irrefutably proven the existence of ANY supernatural being or force (much less the Christian God) no case for slander can be made.

It could also be argued that atheist arguments that Christianity is not based in fact do not harm anyone's reputation, since the vast majority of the American public is putatively Christian. Are they going to believe a fellow Christian, or the statements of a godless, immoral atheist - statements which impugn their own Christian belief just as much?

I'm afraid that simply disagreeing with Christian belief, annoying and frustrating as it undoubtedly is, is not in itself, slander. It's simply disagreeing. Yes, some atheists insult Christians, sometimes gratuitously; as an atheist myself, I regret that they do. But that's hardly a vice restricted to atheists. I've seen far more hatred and insults directed by so-called Christians towards atheists! Probably because there are so many more Christians than atheists.

You'll also see just as many - no, far more - insults being hurled around online and in the real world over politics, sports, and virtually any other topic on which two or more opinions exist.

I have seen a growing tendency in some Christians to claim that any disagreement with their belief, any expression of disbelief in theism, is somehow a brutal attack on Christianity. It is a common truism among some extremist American Christians that Christians are a persecuted people. This completely overlooks the fact that Christians rule America, rule atheists, and have since the founding of the Republic.

Every President has been a Christian, or at least a nominal Christian Deist. Every Senator has been Christian or Jewish. Virtually every Representative and state governor has been too. And it's not as if their faith isn't relevant; every single one of them has loudly proclaimed their religious devotion. This despite the fact that the Constitution mandates that " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"! (Article VI, Section 3)

Meanwhile, atheists have lost jobs for not being Christian. They have had their cars keyed, tires slashed, and their children have faced ostracism and death threats in school - all for the "crime" of not being Christian. And (perhaps worse) for the crime of not shutting up, keeping their heads down, and quietly accepting extremist-Christian-inspired efforts by the government (the Christian government) to infringe on the basic protections afforded to all Americans by the First Amendment. Atheists in our schools and our military face real persecution and discrimination daily for their unbelief...and Christians claim to be persecuted in this country?

That's an insult to Christians and other theists around the world who really DO face persecution - and rape, torture, and murder - for their faith. At the hands of governments in the Middle East and China, for example.

I really am sorry that you feel attacked by the statements of atheists. And I regret any instances where you've been insulted or flamed by atheists; I think that such attacks are not only unproductive, but are actually harmful to the whole idea of inter-faith dialog. I've counseled atheists (and Christians) to try to avoid that approach, because all it does is hurt your own argument.

Having been on the receiving end of such flames (on all sorts of topics) I know how much they hurt. I'm an old Usenet veteran, so I've been called every name in the book. Heck, I was once called "an annoying little a--hole" in a nationally-distributed magazine. Now that was slander! I'm nearly six feet tall, and used to be a defensive tackle - no one has ever called me "little" to my face.

I still get a little angry when I think about that, to tell you the truth. But what I've learned is that is someone starts flaming you, it's a sign that they've run out of other things to say. The secret is to respond reasonably, and let the flames roll off your back - a lesson that I'm still learning.

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I wrote this as an answer to a question over on Askville about the so-called "Platform of the American People". If you haven't heard of it, it's a list of Republican talking points slightly figleafed to pretend that it's non-partisan. Turns out that Newt Gingrich is behind it.

The question was asked by a religious-right idiot I've dealt with before; he wouldn't even respond to my points in a previous discussion, after a while. So rather than post my answer AS an answer (which would allow said idiot and his friends to down-rate me) I'm going to abandon the answer and post it in the discussion area instead.

Why give them a shot if I don't have to? :D

One problem: that's NOT the platform of the American People

I think that the people of the United States should always set the agenda. Of course, it's worth noting that politicians and the people who make up the parties are also a part of the people of the USA. It's not as if our politicians and political party members are martians, or foreigners!

That said, I think it would be a fine thing for a platform to be worked out expressing those ideals and policy goals that are shared by the vast majority of the American people. Unfortunately, this "Platform of the American People" isn't that document. It's mainly a list of right-wing Republican goals, as evidenced by the fact that Republican leader Newt Gingrich is sponsoring it.

Both parties always declare that only THEIR goals represent the true wishes of the American People. Both parties are full of it, of course.

This "Platform" is nothing more than a political tool to further Gingrich's Presidential aspirations, I suspect. It panders to the religious right, revising history to undermine the basic protections that all Americans enjoy under the First Amendment. It also makes some blatantly false statements.

For example, take the fourth bullet point under "AMERICAN CIVILIZATION": "We reject the idea that the times change and the language in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Declaration of Independence must change with the times." The Pledge was, of course, revised several times since it was first written in 1982, most recently with the addition of the phrase "under God" in 1954. This was adopted during the height of the Cold War for political reasons and to distinguish the USA from the officially-atheistic USSR.

Since then, many proponents of American theocracy have used the presence of the "under God" phrase in the Pledge (as well as "In God We Trust", which was adopted as the national motto in 1956) to claim that the Founding Fathers intended the USA to be an officially Christian nation. Since the religious addition to the Pledge was added long after all the Founding Fathers had died, this claim is entirely specious.

As for the rest of the document, it's pretty much a laundry list of Republican political points. For example, bullet #9 in the Freedom of Religion section: "We reject banning all prayer in public schools." Since no one has ever banned prayer in public schools - how can you stop someone from praying? - this can only be a back-door way of trying to justify the institution of organized group prayer in classes, with the ultimate goal being mandatory teacher-led Christian prayer in public schools. This is, of course, a popular issue with the religious right.

But it's hardly a shared goal of the American people.

Just to be absolutely clear: the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment did not allow organized, mandatory prayer in public schools, and has ruled that a "moment of silence" (as recommended by the "Platform of the American People") is simply a back-door way to get mandatory prayer back into the classroom. But no one can control silent prayer. As for spoken, mandatory prayer, shouldn't children be spending their time in school learning, instead of being forced to recite prayers?

It's a pity; this document represents a wasted opportunity. An honest attempt to work out true points of general agreement among the vast majority of the American people would have been a worthwhile accomplishment. For example, it could have included the goal that no American child should be without adequate health care, food, and education. It could have said that Americans should be able to count on having clean water to drink, food and medicines that are untainted, and clean air to breathe. It could have advocated the elimination of Congressional earmarks and the revolving door between industry lobbyists and the agencies which regulate those industries. I'm sure there are other goals which could have been worked out.

But this so-called "platform" is just another cynical political ploy. It's Newt Gingrich and his cronies pretending once again that their goals are, of course, what the American People really agree with. If that were the case, though, the Republicans would still hold Congress and Newt would still be Speaker of the House. Instead, he's nothing more than a pundit on TV and an inveterate hinter that he'd really like to be President.

Only the credulous would take this document as the impartial and idealistic platform that it claims to be, rather than the cynical political tool that it actually is.
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A post from the discussion thread for the question "Do you believe in any supernatural beings? (GOD COUNTS!)"

Antony Flew? I hadn't heard of him until several Christians started mentioning him. Then I did a little research.

He's quite an old man - 84 - and didn't publicly express deist views until he was 81. Apparently there is some question as to his mental competence, although of course that could certainly be just an attempt to discredit his conversion. Still, it wouldn't be at all surprising for an old man with fading mental powers to be vulnerable to pressure and/or the fear of death.

I also note that a number of well-known atheists and freethinkers have been falsely claimed to have converted on their deathbeds - Darwin being the most famous example. Not that I doubt Flew's conversion, since it's a matter of public record. However, my understanding is that he has taken a deist view, not a specifically Christian one. You may know more about that than I do, Christian.

It really doesn't matter though. Unlike theists, most American atheists don't subscribe to a leader principle. Christians can swear up and down till they're blue in the face that Darwin, or Sagan, or Einstein, or Flew was (or is) really a Christian. But since atheists neither worship nor follow the religious dictates of ANY human being, the point is really irrelevant.

I don't believe because I don't believe. What others believe, or don't believe, has no effect on my own lack of faith.

As for many atheists becoming believers, I must point out that likewise, many believers have become atheists. Me, for example! Given the social pressure and childhood indoctrination that most Americans experience, it's amazing that there are as many atheists in this country as there are.

Regarding all the books you've been recommending: while I do enjoy this topic, I simply don't have the time to read all that. I've read the Bible many times; if that didn't speak to me (and it didn't) do you really expect some other book will? Particularly since you consider the Bible to be the Word of God - do you think a book written by mere men would be more effective than that?

My reading list is simply too full at the moment. We're finishing Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (359 pages!) and will soon be starting Jenny's Moonlit Adventure and then Doctor Dolittle's Circus. After that, the next Dolittle book will be waiting at the library. I'm booked ahead for months.

In any case, I made my spiritual quest. I read, and thought, and prayed extensively over the years as I made the transition from Christianity to agnosticism to atheism (well, I wasn’t praying in the agnosticism-to-atheism leg of the journey). I reached the answer that satisfied me; the answer that I feel and believe is the truth. I am willing to discuss and consider the issue - in fact, I enjoy it - but I am not going to spend time reading books in order to justify my disbelief in the supernatural.

Keeping up with Christian apologetics would be the full-time hobby of a lifetime. Since I believe that this is the only life I get, I'm not going to waste any more of it than I must.

I’ll still read what you have to say here, of course.
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A post from the discussion thread for my question "Christians - tell me your story of being discriminated against or oppressed by atheists?"

By the way, I imagine this topic is now as boring to everyone here as the Hillary/Obama topic. I'll try to stop posting these here.

[A user talked about dishonest, so I asked him if he felt that I was being dishonest. He replied that HE wasn't judging me, and included a parable about honesty and guilt.]

I wasn't concerned about judging; I was asking about your feelings! Or your opinion, if you prefer.


This is, I suspect, an example of the gap of understanding between us. I laughed at the idea that I would fear a divine judge, just now. And I was a little offended at the implication that I was not honest, but was rather haunted by guilt.

Because in order to fear God's judgement, or to be haunted by guilt for speaking about atheism, I would have to be a believer! And since I am not a believer, I don't have that fear and I am not haunted.

You are effectively insisting on thinking of me (and treating me) as a believer despite my own repeated affirmation to the contrary. In essence, you're saying that I am lying about my atheism. I believe that you are doing this because the atheist position is one that you either cannot or will not understand.

I could try to make the point through analogy. If I were to warn you that for various sins you faced the wrath of Thor, and would need to consider whether you might be on the recieving end of mighty Mjolnir (Thor's hammer), would you tremble with fear and doubt, deep inside? Or would you find the implied threat silly, and laugh?

I'm afraid that no matter how I put it, I cannot get across the point that atheists don't believe. We do not fear God, or judgement, or any supernatural entity. We fear other things; things like injury or the illness of a loved one or ourelves, for example. But our fears are based on the world around us - a world in which we do not perceive a god.

I fear that the power steering on my car is going to need repair soon. And I don't even want to think about the repairs we need to make on our porch roof; that's probably going to eat our tax refund right up.

But I don't fear judgement.

I will admit it disheartens me that I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that atheists really don't believe. I will continue to try to make that point, though. It seems worthwhile.

Just to clarify, I am not trying to insult your intelligence by saying "...the atheist position is one that you either cannot or will not understand." Since you firmly believe in God, it's only natural that it should be extremely difficult (perhaps impossible) to put yourself in the mindset of someone who truly doesn't share that belief.

I've seen it over and over; Christians making arguments that rest upon the assumption that the listener shares Christian beliefs, deep down. I imagine that it's frustrating when the arguments don't work. It must make atheists seem all the more stubborn, antagonistic, dishonest and (perhaps) insane. God is obvious to you, but we still insist on saying that we do not perceive Him!

I can see how that would be annoying.
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A post from the discussion thread for my question "Christians - tell me your story of being discriminated against or oppressed by atheists?" "

[A pagan user was angry over mistreatment from Christians.]

I fear that I am going to sound pedantic or - still worse! - patronizing. If so, please forgive me.

I understand your frustration, [user]; believe me, I do! But I think it's also important not to turn the issue into a war. Because for one thing, Christians outnumber all non-Christians in the USA combined. If we have a war, we will lose.

Calling them names like "Bible-thumpers" just offends them to no point. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't disagree with them. Nor am I saying that we should stay quiet and try to hide. Not at all! But I think that if we start using angry words and pejorative labels, even in response to theirs, we only give them confirmation of their prejudices (recognizing that not all of them HAVE those prejudices).

And by returning anger for their anger, we give ammunition to those political-religious leaders who are constantly screaming about the terrible danger of non-Christians. That issue is an extremely useful one for them, one they use to incite their followers into a state of useful pliability. Recall the "Two Minute's Hate" from 1984. I think it's a bad idea to help them spread that view of us.

Think of it as a form of verbal non-violence. Gandhi showed how effective that can be. :D

Speak out. Let them know that you don't agree. But remember that your tone and the specific words you choose are also part of your overall message. Make them work for you, not against you!

Here endeth the sermon. I hope it wasn't too annoying. :D
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Still more from the discussion thread for the question "God is more interested in you listening to God, than talking to God. Can you explain this?"

[A user - a Christian, I suspect - who is new to the conversation discussed the question of the desire to have faith, which he considers a gift from God - which seems to imply that God intentionally made atheists.]

I don't think that the issue for atheists is a lack of the desire to have faith. Many atheists who were once Christian desired faith rather desperately, before we deconverted.

Rather, I think it's an actual lack of belief - coupled with an unwillingness or inability to continue trying to fool ourselves or pretend to others.

But I imagine that you could consider belief itself to be a gift from God as well - if he made you, he made your capacity for belief, I would think - so your point still seems valid to me.

It's certainly an issue I've pondered. If God exists, and he loves all human beings, why did he make so many of them that are apparently on that Hell-bound train? "Free will" is the answer, of course, but I don't think it makes sense. Why couldn't God have made a human race that had free will, but was also essentially good enough that most or all of them would go to Heaven? Why did he make a race of "children" of whom the vast majority (according to most mainstream Christian thought) will be consigned to damnation for all eternity – something that he had to know WHEN HE MADE THEM?

Perhaps "free will" is unmodifiable? That is, God's only option for making a free-willed species was one that was mostly defective, from his point of view? But if he is all-powerful, he can change the rules.

If he is omniscent, omnipotent, and all-loving, then the universe must be EXACTLY as he wanted it to be. Every rape. Every murder. Every child molestation. Every war. Every lie, injustice, crime, and sin, no matter how great or small - all of it exactly as he planned.

Free will and omniscience cannot co-exist.

But maybe he's deliberately keeping himself in ignorance, sort of the supernatural equivalent of keeping His eyes shut so as not to spoil the surprise? Even so, since he supposedly DESIGNED human beings, he surely must have known what he was doing - right? So couldn't he have designed a nicer race of human beings, one more pleasing to him and deserving of Heaven?

Sorry; I know that when I start talking like this I probably sound like a Christian, or as if I'm ripe for re-conversion. That's not the case, I can assure you. I just find this sort of intellectual exercise to be fun, to tell you the truth. :D

[More on the topic of free will - someone claimed there was no such thing.]

If free will is an illusion, then this conversation has no meaning. There would be no "I" and no "you" - we would lack self-consciousness, and be nothing more than a pair of mindless meat-robots blindly following the entropic patterns which were established at the beginning of time.

That's why the free will vs. determinism argument always seemed senseless to me. Because if there is no free will, there is no argument. So put me down on the free will side every time!

My understanding is that there is a level of fundamental uncertainty on the quantum level which makes absolute determinism impossible. But I'm not a scientist, so you may have more information on that point than I do.


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February 2016

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