“Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t—indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable—is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” – Charles Bukowski

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Einstein

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.” – Ernestine Rose

“Fundamentalists are like the fir trees in German forests: they cannot stand alone, and are only stable when crowded together, branches locked with those of their brothers. That is why we must always fear them, because they will always hate us for our individualism.” – Brent Yaciw

“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.” – Isaac Asimov

“To say that atheism requires faith is as dim-witted as saying that disbelief in pixies or leprechauns takes faith. Even if Einstein himself told me there was an elf on my shoulder, I would still ask for proof and I wouldn’t be wrong to ask.” – Geoff Mather

“People will then often say, ‘But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?’ This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.” – Douglas Adams

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” – Richard Dawkins

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” – Douglas Adams

“Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” – S. D. Weitzenhoffer

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.” – Richard Dawkins

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason” – Benjamin Franklin

“I credit that eight years of grammar school with nourishing me in a direction where I could trust myself and trust my instincts. They gave me the tools to reject my faith. They taught me to question and think for myself and to believe in my instincts to such an extent that I just said, ‘This is a wonderful fairy tale they have going here, but it’s not for me.'” – George Carlin

“Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac Asimov

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” – Albert Einstein

Hitler, the atheist

Stamp of the Greater German Reich, depicting A...

Image via Wikipedia

On this, the day of his birth, allow me to quote Mr. Adolf Hitler for all of you. Perhaps this will help clear up some misunderstandings about the man.

I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.
Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.
Mein Kampf, Vol. 2 Chapter 1

We don’t ask the Almighty, ‘Lord, make us free!” We want to be active, to work, to work together, so that when the hour comes that we appear before the Lord we can say to him: ‘Lord, you see that we have changed.’ The German people is no longer a people of dishonor and shame, of self-destructiveness and cowardice. No, Lord, the German people is once more strong in spirit, strong in determination, strong in the willingness to bear every sacrifice. Lord, now bless our battle and our freedom, and therefore our German people and fatherland.
– Prayer, May 1, 1933

I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.
– Speech, Reichstag, 1936

The Catholic Church should not deceive herself: if National Socialism does not succeed in defeating Bolshevism, then Church and Christianity in Europe too are finished. Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the Church as much as of Fascism. …Man cannot exist without belief in God. The soldier who for three and four days lies under intense bombardment needs a religious prop.
– Adolf Hitler in conversation with Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Bavaria, November 4, 1936

I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.
– Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941

I hope that cleared things up.

Prayer is Futile

Just to get them out of the way early, here are a couple of my favorite go-to Bible passages:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

What Jesus is telling us, essentially, is that if we pray for something we will receive it so long as we have faith. Obviously any prayer I offer to test this would be futile considering I am faith-less. But what this is telling me is that no truly faithful Christian has ever prayed for an end to cancer, to world hunger, or to war. For if they truly had faith, their prayers would have been answered. All of those child-abusing parents who would rather rely on faith healing and prayer instead of medicine to heal an ailing kid only to have the child die from neglect? Not true Christians. Not truly faithful. I find it hard to believe that somebody who has the utmost faith in their god’s power has never once prayed for an end to all of the terrible tragedies humans have suffered and continue to suffer to this day. Assuming at least one “true” Christian has prayed for such things, we can now discount Jesus as a liar.

And don’t tell me prayers work; that you’ve personally had prayers answered. Think to yourself, were you really praying for something that could only have happened as a result of divine intervention? Or were you praying to pass a test, or for your football team to win, or for a surgery to go well? Here’s a little secret I’ve been keeping: sometimes people pass tests they didn’t expect to pass, sometimes the underdog wins, and sometimes (just sometimes) surgeons know what they’re doing.

Don’t tell anybody I told you that.

With that out of the way, here’s what I really wanted to get out in the open: prayer is futile. Useless. Counter-productive. Selfish, in fact. Prayer has been proven to be ineffective. Insofar, at least, as results are concerned. Prayer can be good for the pray-er in the same sense that meditation can be good. In the same sense that sitting at home, listening to music and letting my mind wander is good for me. With that in mind, praying for somebody else is selfish because the only person who can benefit is you.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe if I were laying in a hospital bed with some horrible disease, or after a terrible accident, somebody simply saying to me “I’ll pray for you” would brighten my day. Probably not. I’d rather somebody just sit by me and talk, or call me, or write me a cheerful letter. After the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) in Japan recently, I heard a lot of people offering to pray for the victims and their families. Do you think that’s what the victims wanted? Prayer? While everybody else was kneeling beside their bed praying I was writing a check to the American Red Cross.

I found a quote online recently, and I wished I had saved it because I can’t seem to find it anymore, that basically said, “The only thing worse than inaction is inaction under the guise of action.”

**EDIT: I had intended to mention this in the post originally, but got carried away and forgot, so I’ll just keep it simple right here. If the Christian god is omnipotent, omniscient, and never changes his mind (Numbers 23:19), then what’s the point of praying anyway? According to the Bible, asking the Christian god to do something is basically asking him to change his mind (or his plan) according to your present desires. Just another example of the selfishness of prayer.