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.

An Atheist Meets God

The following video was made by Edward Current. “An Atheist Meets God”

MAN: Dum-de-dum-de-dum, I don’t believe in god. Dum-de-dum-de-dum, everything came from the Big bang. Dum-de-dum, and the Bible was written by mortal men. Dum-de-dum-de-dum, what the- uh oh! …Where am I?

GOD: Where do you think you are?

MAN: Who are you?

GOD: I am the god of the Bible, the creator of the universe. You are here to be judged before me!

MAN: Am I in Heaven?

GOD: For the moment. According to my all-knowing knowledge, you did not believe in me when you were alive. Explain why. I need to know.

MAN: Uh, because there was no evidence that you actually exist?

GOD: No evidence? Did you ever hear of something called the Holy Bible?

MAN: Well, yeah, but-

GOD: Yeah, but nothing! I wrote that book, and if you had read it you’d know that!

MAN:

GOD: Do you actually admit that you were an atheist?

MAN: Well, yeah.

GOD: As I wrote in the Bible, the only way to salvation is through my son, Jesus Christ.

MAN: But I was a good person; I volunteered at a homeless shelter for like, ten years.

GOD: It doesn’t matter! Did you or did you not worship me, the god of the Bible?

MAN: Uh, no?

GOD: Wrong answer! I created the universe! You should’ve worshipped and praised me! I’m not very happy about this!

MAN: Isn’t that a little petty of you?

GOD: SILENCE! My universe, my rules!

MAN: Okay… how about if I start worshipping and praising you now?

GOD: Too late. You failed your test in life and now you must face eternal consequences.

MAN: But I thought you were supposed to be all-merciful and all-forgiving.

GOD: Only to people who believe that I exist. Once I make someone die, er, and they see me, they can’t change their mind! Exactly how forgiving do you expect me to be?

MAN: Can you make an exception? I mean, I taught my children to be considerate and generous to others.

GOD: NO! What do you think Heaven would be like if I let in every good person?

MAN: Um…

GOD: I only want people who praised me and worshipped me, and thanked me when good things happened to them! Preferably on national television.

MAN: So why do you allow bad things to happen, even to Christians who love you?

GOD: … I don’t have time for this nonsense! Uh, I have prayers to listen to and, and toast to burn images of the Virgin Mary onto! I mean, I could be blessing America right now! You- you can pick up a copy of my frequently asked questions from my assistant Saint Peter on your way out.

MAN: Where am I going?

GOD: Where do you think you’re going? I hate to have to do this, but I am sending you to HELL, to burn in excruciating pain for eternity!

MAN: But- but why? I, ah, I wasn’t a bad person at all!

GOD: You failed to believe what I wrote about myself in my best-selling book. You might as well have been a baby raper! Your fate would have been the same!

MAN: Okay, tell you what. Let me return to earth for a day so I can tell my loved ones that you really exist and that they must worship and praise you, or else.

GOD: NO! They must learn the truth the same way everyone else does: through one of the many questionably translated and edited versions of my two thousand-year-old collection of desert scribblings, uh, and nothing more! Besides, your skull was totally crushed by that bus. Bringing you back to life would be medically impossible, even by miracle standards. There are some things I just cannot fix. Remember that Terri Schiavo chick?

MAN:

GOD: There’s profound brain damage, amputated limbs, rabies…

MAN: But, I thought you were-

GOD: SILENCE! You had your chance! Hell is what people like you get for being skeptical of me or for being born into a culture with the wrong religion and failing to find the path to Jesus Christ instead!

MAN: Can I speak to someone else, like, whoever made you?

GOD: Goodbye, non-Christian!

MAN: Noooooooooo!

GOD: Let this be a warning to the rest of you. Worship and praise me, the god of the Bible, or else!

Thank god!

Thank god for a good fall-back when I don’t feel like thanking the people directly responsible for the situation for which I’m thankful because let’s face it, they don’t deserve any credit for my happiness and it’s just easier to accredit any and all positive happenings to an invisible sky-wizard for which there is no evidence; and also for run-on sentences.

Stop thanking god when good people do good things. Seriously. Maybe I’m just being pedantic and nitpicking when I get offended by this, but it irritates me. I’m not saying you need to sing praises when I do something nice for you, or even that I deserve credit; but the credit certainly shouldn’t be going to somebody else!

If nothing else, thank goodness.

Somebody once told me that “the goodness of Jesus shines through” me. No. Fuck you. The goodness of me is what’s shining through me.

Pray for me!

It bothers me when people tell me bad news, then ask me to pray for them, or their loved one, or a friend. I’m not talking about when people say things like that on Twitter or Facebook; I mean when somebody says that to me directly.

Why does it bother me? Because they’re assuming I pray. That’s what our society is like: it’s perfectly okay to assume, without even knowing somebody, that they are religious. It doesn’t even matter which religion, just as long as they believe in the supernatural. Things don’t work that way for us atheists. I can’t just meet a stranger and speak as though I assume they don’t believe in any god(s).

Hell, even I assume people are religious when I first meet them. But the difference between me and theists (especially, I’ve noticed, Christians) is that I won’t act on that assumption or say anything based on that assumption. Because that would be rude.

When people ask me to pray for someone, my first instinct is to say “Okay, as long as you’ll promise to think for me while I’m doing it.” But don’t worry, I’m only an asshole when I don’t have to worry about retribution. My answer is typically something along the lines of “I wish you the best, and hope everything turns out okay.”

Inspired by a Twitter update by @ParsleyV

Atheism is not a religion

Back on April 11th I made a blog post titled “Is atheism a religion?” That particular post contained a number of analogies to [humorously] affirm that atheism most certainly is not a religion. Ed, a contributor here at Atheist Dave, played the role of devil’s advocate and commented with the following:

A question.
Do you and other Atheists hold the belief that god does not exist? Do Atheists in general hold this belief?

3.The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.

This is one definition of ‘religion’ in a prominent online dictionary. I posit that religion does not require any aspect whatsoever of the supernatural. Atheism IS a religion. However, it is a purely secular one. More accurately, Atheism is more akin to a cult. It’s a gathering of like-minded individuals with a set standard of beliefs. Do not Atheists have gatherings of like minded individuals at which prominent members of said system of thought give speeches (sermons), in the presence of fellow believers of the movement?
This very blog itself is a tool used to ‘spread the word’. In the strictest definition of the term religion, what is the difference between a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors to spread their belief system and an Atheist knocking on doors to spread their own?
Atheism is a religion. It’s just a secular one in which the figure of worship is Logic.

This was my response, which I have decided warrants its own blog post because I love tooting my own horn:

religion, according to Dictionary.com
1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
1. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

spiritual, according to Dictionary.com
1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

atheism, according to Dictionary.com
1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
———————–
religion, according to merriam-webster.com
1a. the state of a religious [person]
1b. (1) the service and wosrhip of God or the supernatural
1b. (2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 (archaic). scrupulous conformity
4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

faith, according to merriam-webster.com
1a. allegiance to duty or a person
1b. (1) fidelity to one’s promises
1b. (2) sincerity of intentions
2a. (1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God
2a. (2) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
2b. (1) firm belief in something for which there is no proof
2b. (2) complete trust
3. something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs

atheism, according to merriam-webster.com
1 (archaic). ungodliness, wickedness
2a. a disbelief in the existence of a deity
2b. the doctrine that there is no deity
———————–

Anybody can take a single definition of a word and twist it to mean whatever they want it to mean. The primary differences between theism and atheism, however, is belief. One is a belief; one is not. Religion is theism. To say atheism is religion is to say atheism is theism. If atheism regarding all gods is a religion, then so would be atheism in regards to every individual god. With that logic, a Christian is atheistic when it comes to the Greek, Norse, and Roman gods. By your definition, a Christian now has four religions (that is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other gods they don’t believe in).

Religious people adhere to a tenet outlined by their holy book, scripture, or by their religion. A Christian believes this, this, this, and that; whereas a Muslim believes this, that, that, and this. Atheists, unlike members of a cult or religion, have exactly one thing in common. A disbelief (remember, the key word for a religion is belief) in gods. That’s it.

And before saying something like “Well, a disbelief in gods is a belief there are no gods; ergo, religion,” just remember that I also disbelieve in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the monster under my bed, and Never Never Land. Whoops, looks like I’ve got four more religions!

Your definition above mentions a set of beliefs and practices. What set of beliefs do atheists adhere to? What practices do we do?

Do not Atheists have gatherings of like minded individuals at which prominent members of said system of thought give speeches (sermons), in the presence of fellow believers of the movement?
We do. Just like potential homeowners go to seminars about buying houses, or bibliophiles go to book signings by their favorite authors, who make speeches at the event. Or like students attend class regularly to learn about government, math, or science. Or when thousands of people stand at the foot of the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and listen to Glenn Beck ramble on about human rights. Or when Holly and I go out of our way to attend concerts put on by our favorite bands and musicians?

Have I told you about the beauty and wonder in Timeshareism? REO Speedwagonism?

what is the difference between a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors to spread their belief system and an Atheist knocking on doors to spread their own?
When was the last time an atheist knocked on your door and told you to stop believing in gods? I know it’s never happened to me; yet I have been awoken by Jehovah’s Witnesses. This blog has absolutely nothing to do with going door-to-door to spread the word. This blog is not in-your-face. Like every other site on the internet, it is accessed by choice. Also, there is no threat of punishment for disagreeing with the things said on this blog.

god, not God

Any time I debate somebody about the existence of the supernatural (which, admittedly, isn’t very often – I tend to keep my debates online only) they always seem to have reasons why they believe in a god and why I should too. Nobody has ever given me a convincing argument, obviously, but that’s not the point here. What I find amusing is that nobody has ever argued with me in favor of their god.

You can tell me all you want that evolution is a hoax and we were created. You might even give me “evidence” that we were created (you can’t – I’m just sayin’). But your “evidence” doesn’t support a theory of creation by your god. Just by a god. Not even necessarily by a god, but by some supernatural force. You’ve provided me with no argument whatsoever why the particular god you believe in must have been the one who created us.

To me, no religion makes sense. But deism makes far more sense than any organized religion. “There is something out there that started all this, but I won’t presume I know any more about it than that.”

There is no thought or reason behind believing in one god but disbelieving in all others, there is especially no reason behind choosing a particular god over others, and frankly I find the notion of choosing a god to believe in quite silly anyway.

Miracles?

Yeah, yeah, Brandon made a post with this same title a while back. But mine has a question mark. So it’s different, see? See? Anyway, the subject matter is slightly different and it’s been, like, almost two months. Now that we’ve settled that this is an entirely different post from Brandon’s, we can continue.

What is a miracle?
A miracle is any event that betrays the laws of nature. It is not simply something science has no answer for, but something science and scientific laws explicitly state could not happen. It is a phenomenon which, without “divine guidance,” would otherwise be impossible. A meteor hurtling toward earth and then stopping, abruptly, about a mile before impact is an example of something that betrays the laws of nature and science and could legitimately be called a miracle.

Some people think a miracle is “anything that happens at just the right time when it is not expected.” This is okay, if you’d like to consider every single coincidence or stroke of good fortune a miracle. By that definition, you would say that winning the lottery is a miracle, but it would be one hell of a stretch to call it an act of god, let alone proof for god’s existence.

There are no miracles, ever.
Now that we’ve got that explanation out of the way, I can make my assertion: that there has never in history been such a phenomenon which, by the above definition, would be considered a miracle.

For the record, I should point out again that as an atheist I am prone to disregard the Bible as a factual account of historic events, so using any examples from the Bible would be completely futile. To argue while citing the Bible as proof is to assume the Bible is one hundred percent factual and accurate. That just doesn’t fly with an atheist. To quote Damon Wayons in one of his greatest characters ever, Homey don’t play dat.

Word of mouth also doesn’t count as a legitimate source. If that were the case, I could tell you that I fell from the top of a skyscraper the other day and landed head-first in a garbage bin full of nothing but broken glass and fire ants, yet suffered no injuries whatsoever. And you’d have to believe me. Because you believe personal accounts of miracles.

All that said, you are welcome to provide me with examples of any miracles for which there is not only documentation (from a reputable source) but, ideally, photo and/or video evidence.

Biblical miracles
Even the so-called miracles in the Bible can be more or less explained away by science. It is entirely possible that “back in the day,” natural events happened. God-fearing people did what they did best and feared god. They embellished the natural events in their tales and as they were passed down more and more through the generations, by the time they were written down they had been so embellished they could now be mistaken for miracles.

Look, I realize the Bible is an actual book. It was written by people who believed in the business they were writing down. That doesn’t make it any more accurate, however. While some of the primary parts of the Bible (Jesus, as an example) are clearly sampled from previous religions, I’m sure some parts are simply huge exaggerations of actual events. Fascinating stories require fascinating embellishments in order to be fascinating.

I, Art.

I, Artist.

Why God?

One answer, easily offered by a secular view of early humanities transition to an agricultural way of life, is that it was an invention of clever hustlers seeking community power. Convince the populace that you have a connection to an ineffable power, and therefore become powerful.

This argument applies to even pre-agricultural societies which were based on a hunter-gatherer/wandering  system. This would be the archetypal tribal ‘shaman’, or holy person, a system yet extant in many indigenous peoples worldwide. The one who could read the signs, read the stars, talk to the dead and predict animal migration behavior. A position, which in post-ancient society would become the ‘priest’ or ‘priestess’.

Another answer would be a passing along of primitive beliefs derived by the common individual of the species which attributed the then unexplainable to a divine source.

Or it could have been based in a primal fear of the cessation of existence. This may even be present in the tentative evidence of burial practices amongst Neanderthals which purportedly speak to a belief in an afterlife, evidenced by the inclusion of everyday tools and items amongst a burial.

However, I would posit another theory based solely on speculation.

Take for instance, a very young child, only recently capable of speech, who is in an environment composed only of atheists. The first time that child saw lightning, would it ask if it was god doing that?

I think not. A child not introduced to the concept of a god, has no preconceived notion of it. Therefore, why would an ancient hominid suddenly turn to this conclusion for the unexplainable? If the god concept is not present in modern infants, then how/why did it occur in primitive hominids?

What did they perceive that acted as a catalyst for this leap in thought? How did they concoct such a seemingly ridiculous concept?  Why did thunder or fire or an unusually rare sandstorm fuel the concept of the supernatural?

In this, I am speaking of peoples existing before the archeological record. Before writing as we know it, before complex art, before the idea of architecture as an enduring structure.

Why did our most primitive ancestors come up with a ‘god’?

Why would a species of hominid, at the time, who relied utterly and totally on the ability to rationally assess the world around them for their very survival turn to something they couldn’t measure or define?

Take lightning as a simple example.

I as a modern Human have a basic scientific understanding of what causes it, and what it is. However, after a bolt of nearby lightning, I can smell the ozone in the air. I can associate the presence of lighting with darkly colored clouds in the sky, the sound of thunder and rain.

How is it that an ancient primitive human, so finely attuned to the environment out of the sheer need for survival, would not perceive this as well? Why come up with a divine figure to explain lightning when they could easily connect it’s occurrence to dark clouds, thunder and rain, all of which would have been easily predicted through millennia of observation?

Why didn’t they attribute lightning to dark clouds in the sky and instead take up a belief that an invisible hominid in the sky was causing it?

I can easily understand the answer that they didn’t know where the dark clouds came from, why they produced lightning or why fired caused pain upon contact.

But why, WHY, did the choose a SPIRITUAL answer? Why not say ‘we just don’t know’?

Could it be that clever charlatan answer? A potential leader perceives the confusion of the community and decides to explain it by offering the spiritual as an answer? ‘Only Powers-That-Be that he/she could access?

But that again beggars the question. Where did THAT first charlatan get the idea of the divine?  It would be easy to say that this person stood up and said to the community, “ I KNOW THE ANSWER! BUT YOU MUST MAKE ME LEADER OR I WON’T TELL!’

And of course, his/her answer was ‘there is an invisible power at work that guides and creates these things you do not understand’. And the cycle comes back upon itself.

Here is my answer as to how we as a hominid species came up with god.

We are Creative. And God is the Ultimate Creation. What work of Art down the long line of history can compare? God is Humanities very first work of Art. And obviously, the critics are abound.