Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt

Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Those seemingly delightful lyrics are from the song “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and sung by him and LL Cool J. The song often refers to how white people from the south and black people from the north maybe just can’t understand each other, and maybe they’re being a little too sensitive about things, and maybe they should just have a beer together. It’s a really dreadful song and you probably shouldn’t listen to it.

A couple weekends ago, a white 20-year-old wearing patches representing pro-apartheid African nations, and who has been pictured waving a Confederate battle flag and burning a United States flag, and who — according to his roommate — had often spoke of killing some black people and starting a new civil war, went into an historic black civil war-era church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat around for a while while the pastor led his congregation in prayer, and then pulled out a gun and opened fire. The death toll, before he fled the scene only to be captured in North Carolina the next day, was nine.

Based solely on the evidence I listed above (confederate flag, anti-apartheid, yearning for another civil war, historic black place of worship) a lot of people labeled this pretty much immediately as a hate crime. Others claim it’s an act of terrorism, and I tend to agree with both. His intent was very clearly racially motivated, and going by the FBI’s official definition I think it’s clear to say this was an act of terrorism as well. The oddest thing, however, is when you switch your television station over to Fox News, you’ll hear they have taken a different approach to the situation. Obviously this wasn’t a racist hate crime, but an attack on Christianity! Because in Foxnewsland, the spin they put on any story has to make it seem like they, the Christian Right, are the ones being attacked. So far as I can tell, no indication of Roof’s religion has been made.

Anyway, this whole shooting debacle led very briefly to a discussion on gun laws and a lot of old internet memes popped back up for about three days, but that was all swept aside to make room for this week’s new topic of debate, and the real culprit here: racism.

And you know, I sort of agree. I’m no fan of guns. We need stricter gun regulations. We need to make it more difficult for all people to obtain guns. But it’s also important to determine motive and then see if there are ways to quell motivation — in this case, racism — that may lead to heinous acts like shootings that kill nine people. So our first course of action has been, for the first time in 150 years, to villainize the confederate battle flag (CBF). The day after Roof’s killing spree, the CBF was still flying on South Carolina capitol grounds. It still exists as part of the design on several state flags, as well. So obviously we have to have that flag removed.

But why a flag? It’s just a flag! It’s more than a flag, people. It’s a symbol. A symbol flown by supporters of a war 150 years old that was lost to the Union. A symbol of traitorous southerners who thought it was their god-given right to keep slaves. Yeah, technically people have the freedom to fly their CBFs or their Nazi Germany swastikas, but does that mean they necessarily ought to? Furthermore, does it mean they reserve the right to do so free of consequence? Freedom of speech and expression does not grant you immunity to criticism. As a person with German ancestry, I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to fly a swastika to honor my ancestors.

“Southern pride” rednecks can hang the flag from their trailers and lean-tos and claim their ancestors who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve respect, but I refuse to mourn for or respect separatists who, had they had their way, would have maintained their right to oppress a race of people and buy/sell them and force them into servitude.

Hell, the presence of the CBF or its likeness in the form of stickers on the bumpers of Ford trucks as old and rusty as their owners or patches on overalls serves to warn me in advance who the racists are who can’t let go of the past and their ancestors’ failings in the name of heritage, or some other hokey backwoods jargon that secretly stands for “Hey, we tried to [3/5ths] compromise!”

But that flag has no place whatsoever on public or government property. When it exists next to a United States flag, or a state flag, or especially AS a state flag, it gives the Dylann Roofs of the world a symbol to fight or kill for. It perpetuates — and even worse, institutionalizes — racism.

As of this writing, several states have removed the CBFs from their capitol grounds. Several retailers — even huge retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and eBay — have stopped selling CBF merchandise. I don’t think that was a necessary step, but I support their right to sell or not sell what they please. Even video game publishers of historic games are talking about stopping sales of games featuring a CBF. It is absolutely huge that this is in national discussion right now. There are the people who think the flag belongs in a museum, since it certainly has a history within the United States, and then there are the people who refuse to take it down because their “southern pride” is more important to them than supporting their fellow Americans. When all is said and done, the racists will stick out like sore thumbs and we’ll all be better off knowing who to stay away from.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO TODAY’S BIG NEWS

I awoke this morning and turned on the news, like I do, and I picked up my Android phone and started scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed during my slumber. As it turns out, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a vote of 5-4, overturned states’ rights to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This is an extraordinary time to be alive right now, knowing that not only is history being made, but that I’m on the right side of it and have been since I was old enough to understand that boys are allowed to love boys too.

The second thing I did this morning, after I had scrolled a bit through Facebook, was to start perusing the comments sections under the posts made by local news organizations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to know the state of things in our country, don’t watch TV, don’t read a newspaper; all you have to do is read the comments sections under local news articles. Because this is your home; these are the people who surround you. Many of them are kind-hearted, reasonable people whose love for life extends to their friends and neighbors and doesn’t just stop outside their own personal egobubble.

But then there are the rabid, hateful, obscene people who want everyone to know how much love they have for family values and Jesus and oh god won’t somebody think of the children! It is to those people whom I address in the remainder of today’s post. Those Christians who assume this progressive country abides by the laws in their millennia-old book.

Your silly book of fairy tales with its laws against shaving your beard and laws against women taking on roles as educators and laws proclaiming bats are birds and stories about talking donkeys and people being turned into pillars of salt and daughters raping their drunken father and god destroying everything a man loves and lives for all because of a silly bet…

That’s not the book from which our normal-people laws are derived. Hell isn’t real, heaven isn’t real, talking serpents and donkeys aren’t real, dragons and unicorns and behemoths and leviathans aren’t real… so do kindly shut the fuck up and refrain from passing judgment on anybody – ANYBODY – seeking happiness and inclusiveness and equality. Because if what they’re doing shakes the very foundation of your fundamental beliefs, then it’s your fundamentals which need to be checked, NOT theirs.

If I learned anything from the Bible, and I have read it cover to cover, it’s that lesson from very early on in the book about the big important guy getting all in a kerfuffle because his two subservient playthings decided to seek knowledge: the ultimate gift.

Too bad satan’s not real, otherwise I’d praise him for setting us free from the Christian god’s shackles.

Equality wins, boys and girls, friends and family. And of you still huffing and puffing about hell or about how icky it is that some people actually had to fight and live through the ridicule and the pain and the insults just to hear their country say “okay, you’re allowed to love each other now,” you huffers and puffers are a dying breed.

This is an incredible time to be alive in the United States. I’m watching history being made. I’m watching my friends finally be recognized as actual people. I get to see my friends rejoice in who they are and know that finally, America is on their side.

If there was a god, I wouldn’t offer cries of “god bless” or “god is great” or any sort of fealty. Not after seeing how his/her/its followers and so-called disciples spit venom and hatred and condemnation toward anybody a little bit different than themselves. Anybody with a different skin color, or anybody with a different sexual preference or identity. No, god deserves no love, no praise, no thanks. It’s the fast-growing majority of progressive, forward-thinking Americans who are to thank for helping bring this country that much closer to universal equality.

Regarding lesser forms of (still) dogmatic belief

When people say that they aren’t really arguing the case for an “old-world god”, and especially when they argue that they’re not even arguing for an anthropomorphic god, they generally seem to be giving up the very basis for a belief in god(s) in the first place.  Considering the religions that nearly all theists come from one can really only argue for the reality of their chosen god and his/her literal influence on the world as revealed to man-kind through some form of revelation (which implies that the knowledge only exists at all in this world by virtue of the fact that its particular scriptures are true), or one has no real basis for believing in a god(s) at all.

Also, and forgive me because I am sort of half responding to a debate that I was watching with Chopra and Sam Harris, I have to say that actually watching a man so blatantly and pathetically appeal to the god of the gaps by saying that god can always exist in the tiniest, most imperceptibly minute fraction of a second after the big bang when physics breaks down because even physicists say that the comprehension of that time is unknowable…<gasps for breath>…and to do so without recognizing how pathetic and sad that argument really is when taken to such an extreme…well, I just find that hilarious.

There is no such thing as an atheist

For some reason this comment was moved directly to my spam folder, which meant I was never given the opportunity to approve it for publication. I’m not sure why, as it’s not blatant “trolling” or spamming – then again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic discussed in the original blog post, nor does it seem to add anything to any existing conversations or comments. Nevertheless, I rarely check my spam folder and did not see it until now.

It was originally made in response to my post titled Thank god! but I’m reposting it here because I think it warrants a response – in this case, in the form of its very own post.

There is no such thing as an atheist. Although I know my reply will be deleted, it matters not. My path almost led me down the road to so-called “atheism”. The term “atheist” is derived from two roots “a” meaning “against” and “theos” meaning “God” or “a god”. Thus people who claim that they are atheist because they don’t believe in Him is a contradiction of terms. You can’t be against something you don’t believe exists. You may as well be a-fairy, or a-pomogianisticis. There are no such things so it is impossible to be against them. The funny thing about so-called atheists is that they spend so much time talking about the very thing they claim doesn’t exist. Isn’t this a waste of time? I don’t go around trying to convince people not to believe in the tooth fairy. No, the real purpose of each and every atheist is a deep longer to know. You WANT to see for yourself. You wish deep down inside that God would show you a sign so that you could hold on to something tangible.

As for myself, I used to believe in science and believed that everything had to have a scientific explanation. Then I realized that God’s word was far more consistent that science. Science is limited to the five senses. With science there is no room for anything that our finite human bodies can experience. It didn’t take long for me to see that science has to continue correcting itself because what is scientifically proven one day can be false the very next day. I have very little faith in science these days. I have no faith in doctors either. Doctors prescribe drugs they have little knowledge about. They cannot see the effects drugs have on the human brain, DNA, and a whole multitude of bodily functions. While a certain drug can seem to solve one issue, it will ALWAYS create a new host of side effects that can be and probably are more detrimental to our bodies.

Wasn’t it science that claimed the earth was flat? Wasn’t it scientists that claimed there could not be such things as microwaves, germs, and the like? Why not? Because we did not have the instruments to see such things. Therefore they must not exist.

The truth of the matter is that anyone who puts their faith in science is going to be disappointed over and over again. Scientists are only now realizing that there are things in this universe that cannot be explained because they do not fall into the category of tangible evidence. This is why they have created a whole new field of science called quantum physics.

Don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by blind religion or blind science. Make intelligent well informed decisions. Seek out the facts first.

Remember just because we could not detect sound waves didn’t mean they didn’t exists. Similarly just because we don’t have the equipment to detect demons and angelic beings does not mean they are not all around us. One day science will have to be re-written yet again to contain new evidence. The scriptures, however, remain unchanged since ancient times.

Finally, my story… At the pinnacle of my own arrogance and the height of my intellectual achievements, I stumbled upon a radio station that played hard rock and heavy metal. There I heard a caller describing an apocalyptic event that was all the rave at the time. He asked the disk jockeys if they had heard about a meteor that would kill one third of the population. They laughed at him and hung up the phone and continued on with their jokes, but my attention was focused on one single thought – “a third of the population”… I had heard that in my youth in my Sunday School class. “Yes” I thought, “That’s in Revelation…” So I dusted off an old Bible my parents had and found some old scriptures giving an account of the end of the world in minute detail. As I read, there was a documentary on the Discovery channel about the same topic – a meteor strike of catastrophic proportions.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I read along with the program. The events described in both the Bible and the television show were identical to a tee! God had my full, undivided attention. It was at this point that I made up my mind to have faith like a child. I said within myself, “If God says ‘A donkey talked’ then by all mean a donkey talked. I will never again question His Word.”

It was that very year that things began to happen in my life. Those “signs” I sought after were revealed to me, and I lost all hope in science forever.

I laugh whenever I see Nacho Libre with Jack Black now. Whenever I hear his sidekick declare, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science” I chuckle within myself because I am now the total opposite.

Delete my reply if you insist this is all baloney, but if you expect real discussion on this topic, then leave it and see what other say.

Man O God

http://www.godlyfather.blogspot.com/

I don’t plan on addressing everything said in the comment, but will try to catch what I think are the most important points:

There is no such thing as an atheist…
Well, there definitely is such a thing as an atheist. As long as you’re bringing up the roots of the word I should point out that a does not mean against; rather, it means precisely the same as the a in asexual, that is, without. I, and all the other atheists, are without theism.

You are right in bringing up disbelief in fairies, and the fact that it doesn’t have “its own word.” I actually agree with you – atheism shouldn’t even be a word. Atheism should be the norm. Just like we would question somebody who told us they believe in fairies, we should question somebody when they say they believe in gods. Gods are, after all, just as likely to exist. The reason we – the atheists – speak out so fervently against religion is because it plays such a huge (and, more often than not, unwanted) role in our lives despite the fact that we do not share the same beliefs. I guarantee that if politicians and educators were trying to pass laws that were directly or indirectly inspired by their belief in Bigfoot, we would speak out against that too. If belief in Bigfoot were so widespread that it affected our lives on a nearly daily basis, we might even start using a word to describe ourselves which separated us from those who believe.

No, the real purpose of each and every atheist is a deep longer(sic) to know.
This is somewhat accurate. I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can certainly speak for myself when I say I would much rather know something than to just believe in it. That’s why we’re called skeptics. We won’t take something based on faith alone. Faith is okay, in fact I have faith in plenty of things, but my faiths are reinforced by evidence. Religious faith is not.

You’re incorrect when you say we want your god to give us some sign of its existence based on the simple fact that we do not believe it exists. I can’t want a god to prove its existence any more than I can want Harry Potter to prove he exists. He most likely doesn’t, nor does any god – especially not your god. That said, if I believed in a god I would certainly want – or at least expect – it to prove it exists.

Then I realized that God’s word was far more consistent that(sic) science.
First, you’re terribly wrong. The Bible (“God’s word”) is littered with inconsistencies and contradictions. This isn’t the place to point all of them out to you, but a quick and easy Google search for “Bible contradictions” should be all you need.

That being wrong, you also said science has to continue correcting itself. You’re absolutely right here. That’s how the scientific method works: a question is asked, research is done and information is collected regarding the subject, a hypothesis is formed, experiments are performed, data is interpreted and, if the data supports the hypothesis predictions can be made and a theory may be formed. If the data does not support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is scrapped. This is where science and religion seem to clash. Despite all the geological, astronomical, and biological evidence that specifically conflicts with the young-earth “theory” so many religious believers adhere to, they continue to ignore the data, preferring to believe that what a non-scientific 2,000-year-old book says is probably more accurate.

As more evidence is discovered or collected, scientific theories may change. But that’s what rational people do – they admit when they’re wrong, and reshape their theories to fit the evidence. A religious person, on the other hand, reshapes the evidence to fit their so-called theories.

The scriptures, however, remain unchanged since ancient times.
If we do not count the frequency at which the Bible is re-translated, or the fact that multiple books have deliberately been removed from the earliest copies of the bible, you’re right again. Incidentally, the scriptures are just as implausible and inconsistent now as they were back when they were written.

The events described in both the Bible and the television show were identical to a tee!
First, I’d like to know which show this was on the Discovery Channel. As a fan of the channel and their publications, I’m fully aware that they do air a lot of religious programs featuring “what if” scenarios. I hardly believe a scientific program would talk about the likelihood of a dragon falling from the sky, a beast with multiple heads emerging from the ocean, angels blowing their horns at the “four corners” of the earth, or people ascending into Heaven while others found themselves marked with the number of the beast. So unless this show was specifically about the Revelation chapter in the Bible, no, they were not identical to a T.

“If God says ‘A donkey talked’ then by all mean(sic) a donkey talked. I will never again question His Word.”
I’ll just rebut this one with another one of your own quotes: Make intelligent well informed decisions. Seek out the facts first.

I lost all hope in science forever.
I would assume, then, that you never visit the doctor, never take any medicine, never drive a car, never use the internet, never watch television, and never pay any heed to documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

In other words, I’m calling you a liar and a hypocrite.

Jesus vs. Jeezus

If it is too small and difficult to read, please click the image to view it full size (1000×1409). If it simply isn’t working, here’s the text which I hope isn’t too difficult to understand, as the cartoonist was kind enough to sort everything out in an easy-to-read table for us:

Jesus vs. Jeezus

On sexual immorality
Jesus: “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)
Jeezus: I hate fags!

On alcohol and drugs
Jesus: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not defile him, but what comes out of his mouth, that defiles him.” (Matthew 15:11)
Jeezus: But only say ‘Nay!’ Get ye high on me!

On abortion
Jesus:
Jeezus: Bring the little fetuses unto me, for they are precious to me. On this issue shalt thou vote, and on this alone.

On war
Jesus: “All who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Jeezus: Slay ye every one of them, and I shall sort them out!

On separation of church and state
Jesus: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
Jeezus: I am the state!

On money
Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:23)
Jeezus: Make thy pledge now, at our toll-free number.

Tim Kreider The Pain — When Will it End? http://www.thepaincomics.com

A Post-Independence Day Post

People trying to understand what the framers of the constitution meant and who try to stick to that, or Originalists as they’re called, remind me of people who stick to old religious texts and try to understand what their authors meant as a means of finding a way to live today. Both are focusing far too hard on the wrong things. The authors had literally no concept of what our world would look like today, and so their strict meaning at the time is meaningless and unimportant to us in this day and age. We can focus on the IDEALS of the authors when and where they have merit, but what they wrote and why they wrote it is only applicable where it makes sense in accordance with what we know about the world and about human nature in modern times. The major difference is that religious texts are less and less sensible in modern times, and often seen as barbaric if taken literally (and yet religion is not on the decline in the US), while the political texts are still very applicable, as they were written to be so, but this somewhat religious approach to the political texts, while not surprising to find in a country like America, throws an unnecessary wrench into the gears. And those gears weren’t exactly running at 100% in the first place.

The idea that things in the world change and the documents that relate to those things need to be able to change with them seems obvious on it’s face.  In constitutional interpretation it’s called The Living Constitution Theory.  Ironically the religious texts have been interpreted and reinterpreted over and over ad infinitum, which is partly where the Protestant Reform came from, but most Christians, at least, seem to ignore this fact when considering their viewpoint on a given topic.  This is most obvious when politics and religion collide, usually on social issues.  Religious folks will use the same texts to argue against abortion and for the death penalty.  They use them to to argue against homosexuality and gay rights, medical research and procedures, scientific advancements, etc.  However, the bible has also been used to support things like slavery and institutionalized racism, the shunning of science, the crusades and various aspects of World War II, to name but a few.  Most people can take a step back and see how the world has changed and how our interpretations of that world have been forced, often through struggle, to change with it.  If only people would start to take more of an active role in those changes instead of fighting so vehemently against them (and against the course of history!).  If only people would take a step back and try to look at themselves, their beliefs and their consequent actions as objectively as possible before just deciding that they  believe what they believe and they don’t need to think about it because someone long ago who didn’t know very much about the world wrote some stuff down that, I’m told, is absolutely true…to some degree or another.  If only…

Silly Theist Logic

Devoted Atheist Dave reader “Andrea” added a decent comment on my post from 2 April, Prayer is Futile, but then followed up with the inane I don’t believe you’re an atheist. You wouldn’t be spending this much time writing about a Person whom you claim you don’t believe in.

By this incredibly well-thought out religious logic, we can conclude that:
J. R. R. Tolkien believes Middle Earth and hobbits exist.
J. K. Rowling believes Hogwarts and the wizarding world are real.
George Lucas believes wookiees and Jar Jar Binks exist.
– Jim Davis thinks bright orange talking cats who love lasagna exist.
– Walt Disney really believed in talking mice, dogs, and ducks.

And so on, and so forth.

The point here is that a lot of people write or talk about things they don’t believe exist. This is entertainment, baby. It’s called “make believe.” You, as a theist, should know about making believe all too well. It’s all right, I had imaginary friends when I was a kid, too. I even believed in Santa. But I grew out of all of them. That’s another one, by the way: parents, especially around Christmas, seem to talk about Santa Claus an awful lot. Does that mean they believe he exists?

As far as what I would or wouldn’t be doing as an atheist, who are you to say? The only thing you know I will not be doing, based on my being atheist, is believing any gods exist. That is the only thing my atheism tells you about me.

I didn’t think I’d have to point this out, since my audience is made up primarily of atheists, nonbelievers, agnostics, and rational thinkers (surprise, I’m not actually trying to [de]convert anyone – I have a feeling it’d take more than a blog to do that). But let’s see if this helps you understand:

Sometimes when I make a post specifically talking about the Christian god and pointing out its logical inconsistencies and flaws I will assume, just for the sake of argument, that said god actually exists. That’s a literary device. It’s akin to saying, “Okay, if your god exists as your Bible describes it, then we know these things about it…” That doesn’t mean I believe it exists. For the sake of simplifying things I omit the disclaimer at the end of every post, but I’ll provide one for you now.

Disclaimer: I do not believe in a god or gods, nor have I as long as this blog has been active. If I ever come across as though I do believe in a god or gods, just remind yourself that I do not believe in a god or gods.

Morality and the Bible

This was originally meant to be a brief little blurb, but then I just kept typing. Anyway, here it is. Today’s episode of Atheist Dave, titled Morality and the Bible:

Do you subscribe to the “moral code” laid forth in the Bible?

Do you acknowledge the fact that the Bible not only condones slavery in multiple passages, but even encourages it at times?

Do you acknowledge the fact that several parts of the Bible show the Judeo-Christian god committing or endorsing mass genocide?

Do you agree that slavery, murder, and especially genocide are morally wrong? Do you sometimes find yourself saying things like “Yes, but that’s not how the world is anymore. Things were different back then“? This is called grasping for straws. That’s fine, though – you’re right – the world isn’t like that anymore. Yes, there’s still genocide and slavery going on in some parts of the world, but on a much smaller scale, and we both agree that they shouldn’t be – that humanity is better than that. Right?

Okay.

What you’ve just proven is that your morality exists outside of your religious beliefs. Your morality is not dependent upon your religion, or upon a book that was written thousands of years ago. You can still say “Okay, so the Bible teaches some pretty good lessons sometimes, but these other things in it are bad.”

Your next step is to discover that if everything in the Bible really is true – if it really is the word of some sky god – then regardless of your set of moral beliefs, this god still endorses slavery and genocide and lets rapists get off easy, unless you agree that a rapist’s punishment should simply be that he marry the woman he raped. Your next step is to realize that even if the god of the Bible exists (whom we’ll give male properties to, to make it easier), then he’s not such a great guy. He flooded the world, killing countless children, infants, and animals, to punish the fact that there were a lot of bad people. Would you burn down an entire forest just to kill the murderer hiding in it?

“Oh, but he regretted it,” you might say. That raises another question: how does a so-called “perfect” god do things he’ll regret later? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. If he exists and what the Bible says is true, then he killed everything. That’s not the sort of thing you look at and say, “Well, as long as you’re sorry…”

Let’s use the story of Lot. Lot lived in Sodom and was saved because he was the only “good” person in the entire city. Apparently god still saw evil in the rest of the city (including the children) and figured they deserved to die. Not to mention, when a bunch of men were about to rape a couple angels Lot sent out his daughters for them to rape instead. And yet the entire family was saved. Except Lot’s wife – as the city was burning, she turned around to look and god killed her. Afterward, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and then essentially raped him, became impregnated by their own father, and each bore a son.

It that how god judges good character? To me, and to most rational people who look at the story of Lot without the context of it being in the Bible, the story is nothing more than obscene. Please tell me this is not where you gather your moral standards. This book has a few good messages, sure, but so do most books – Aesop’s Fables teach wonderful moral lessons but you don’t believe animals can talk like people, do you?

Oh wait, there was that snake in the garden at the beginning of the story.

Long story short, morality is just another product of evolution and even you (not you, you – over there – the religious one) didn’t get yours from a book.

Is god evil?

Christians have a tendency to use their god’s name in vain or, as Ricky Gervais reworded it, “in vanity,” without even realizing it. What it means to not use god’s name in vain is to not attribute his power or blessing to the fulfillment of your personal desires. In other words, thanking god for helping you win that Grammy award or helping your team win the Super Bowl is using his name in vain. To clarify, one need only ask why god didn’t also let the other nominees win the Grammy, or why didn’t god let both teams win the Super Bowl? As much as I’d like to imagine god is a Green Bay fan, I imagine that if he existed and were as all-powerful as the writers of his memoirs said he is, then he’s got some more important things to do.

More important things such as sheltering the homeless, feeding the starving, rescuing the cast of Gilligan’s Island, and making sure hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes never strike populated areas.

So god’s got his hands full. While Michael Phelps is busy earning his sixth gold medal, god is too busy making sure people never suffer or die, ever. Because that’s within his power. And he is loving.

Okay, so maybe god doesn’t end all suffering. My question is why? If he can, why doesn’t he? Is god evil?

What is evil? Evil, in our natural and earthly realm, can generally be accepted as acts of malice without any concern for consequences. The unjustified killing of another person whilst seeing absolutely nothing wrong with your actions, for example, could be considered evil. I could go into what does or does not justify the taking of a human life, but that could take a while and I’m trying to keep this relatively short. Let’s just try and agree, then, that torturing and murdering millions of people is evil or, at least, really really bad. Or at the very very least, not good. Okay, so the Holocaust was not good. We’re starting to see eye to eye now. We could also probably agree that the people still alive today who had nothing to do with the Holocaust but think it was completely justified (or deny it ever happened at all) are not good people. I would go so far as to say that person is a bit lacking in the morality department.

So what if somebody has the capability to snap his fingers (hyperbolically) and end all the suffering in the world immediately, but chooses to do nothing despite his powers? One could then blame the continued existence of suffering on that somebody (or in this case, on that god). That somebody is knowingly allowing children to suffer from starvation on a daily basis, all the while having the power to make it stop. Does a child deserve to suffer from starvation? Absolutely not; no sane person would ever say a child (or anybody, for that matter, but I’m using children specifically because people don’t seem to be as emotional about adults suffering) deserves to suffer, for any reason. Choosing to ignore or even prolong suffering is not simply apathy – it is evil.

A good god is not apathetic to suffering, and an apathetic god is not worthy of being worshiped. Is god good? If so, why is there pain and suffering? If not, why do so many people look up to him?

Miracles

I was thinking on my drive home about a true story of a man who wrote to Charles Darwin and sent him a beetle with a tiny clam attached to it’s leg.  The beetle arrived alive, but barely, so Darwin put it in a jar with some plants and the fumes gently put out its life.  It’s a really beautiful story on it’s own, but the amazing part is that this man who sent the beetle was just a cobbler and an amateur naturalist, but his grandson was Francis Crick who co-discovered DNA, which backed up Darwin’s theory even further, and continues to prove it over and over again.  That is such an amazing and fun coincidence, and there are so many more in the world every day that are far more unlikely than that.  How amazing that this sort of thing happens all the time!

Then I thought about the fact that christians would say that god did it.  They would probably argue that it practically proves he exists.  But I have to say that it’s far, far more miraculous my  way than it is their way.  My way it’s so incomprehensibly unlikely that it’s moving to imagine the sensation that it must produce in the people involved, and in some cases they can’t know because they’re already dead.  I wish Darwin could have seen such an interesting event, and so it’s moving in a slightly more sad way to think of it like that.   But either way it’s incredible to think about! It’s truly miraculous that these things can happen for no real reason.  To think that god did it is not miraculous.  It’s just a meaningless answer to a beautiful question.  It takes away so much of the symmetry of the truth.  I know that their answer can’t possibly feel as good as my answer because that’s one of the main reasons that I stopped believing in the first place.  It never really seemed like the real miracles in the world get enough credit and the fake ones that they made up were not only lame but also unprovable anthropologically, historically or scientifically.  If any proof that they had actually happened had been found we would have heard about it by now.

My thoughts on  these matters create feelings of true wonder in me, and I appreciate that for what it is chiefly because I know that no god or higher power or intelligence of any kind made it happen.  THAT’S the thing that makes it amazing!  No religion has anything on that.