Class Warfare Blog

October 23, 2018

Mommy, What’s an Atheist?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:29 am
Tags: , ,

I was reading a book review in The New Yorker magazine, which included the following:

“(John) Gray, author of a new book on atheism, Seven Types of Atheism (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), taught at Oxford, Harvard, Yale, and the London School of Economics before turning full time to writing, starts his book by offering a highly provisional and idiosyncratic definition of atheist: “anyone with no use for a divine mind that has fashioned the world.’

I am always fascinated by systems of categorization, especially those involving numbers of “types.” The numbers rarely come out as “non-mystical,” they are almost always a seven, or three, or twelve. How come there aren’t 22 categories, or 17?

In any case, I found the definition of atheism a bit lacking: the definition in widespread use is rather simple: an atheist is anyone who does not believe in your god. In other words, the definition is personal.

Most Christians are fairly ignorant of the early history (or really any history) of the Christian churches. Prior to Christianity being adopted as a Roman religion (which preceded it being adopted as the Roman religion), Christians were often accused of atheism because of their refusal to worship any of the Roman gods. As, I said, they lacked belief in “their god(s).”

A common trope of atheists is that we are all atheists, which according to my definition, we are. Ask any Jew or Christian or Muslim whether they believe in Krishna or Ahura Mazda* or Odin and they will say “no.” To any worshippers of those gods, they are therefore atheists. There are literally thousands of gods that have been created over our existence. (I have a list! Shut up, Senator McCarthy. But, yes, I do have a list, presumably incomplete, but with thousands of named gods on it.)

In the Bible, there is a clear history of the Israelites making the transition from polytheism to monotheism. No matter what the Bible says, it also says that Jews worshipped more than one god until about the sixth century BCE.

One of the questions addressed by the reviewer in The New Yorker piece was “Why are Americans still uncomfortable with atheism?” Quite a few points were thrown on the table to establish why this is still a question, but they left off one of the most important: the unrelenting campaign by fundamentalist Christians vilifying atheists.

I often ask folks who make disparaging statements about atheists: Do you know any? And, “How well do you know them?” Most of these folks do not have any atheist friends or acquaintances, at least that they are aware of. So, they have no basis for their opinion, other than what they have been taught. What they have been taught is that there is no morality without their god and their god’s punishments for infractions of its rules.

Currently it is well known that a Muslim apostate (someone who was formerly a believer but is no longer) is marked for death. The penalty for apostasy in Islam is death. So, it was in Christianity also. Many of the penalties for rules infractions in the Old Testament are death. Of course, many Christians say that their god is nor love and those old rules no longer apply. That may be so, But I notice all of their Bibles still have the OT in them and, well, there are six states in the U.S. that still have blasphemy laws on their books (Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming).

Theists are taught that atheists are not to be trusted, that we are amoral and a danger to their way of life. Surely this is part of the reason that atheists are trusted less in the U.S. than any other identity group.

So, how do you define atheist? And, really, does it matter? If you are going to smear someone you barely or entirely do not know, do you care whether the epithet is accurate? Do you care if you actually understand that person at all? Or should you just blaze away rhetorically and legally until the danger is vanquished? (And is the danger to you personally, or to your god technician’s job?)

* Zoroastrians believe in one God, called Ahura Mazda (meaning ‘Wise Lord’). He is compassionate, just, and is the creator of the universe. Ahura Mazda is:
Omniscient (knows everything)
Omnipotent (all powerful)
Omnipresent (is everywhere)
Impossible for humans to conceive
Unchanging
The Creator of life
The Source of all goodness and happiness.

Sound familiar?

32 Comments »

  1. Is it really that difficult to just focus on the A in a-theism; meaning without.

    Like

    Comment by john zande — October 23, 2018 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

    • The Romans focused on atheos, without god*s*. Why should we be just singular?

      On Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 2:20 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2018 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

      • I’m an a-silliest. It can be singular or plural: the devine Twoity

        Like

        Comment by john zande — October 23, 2018 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  2. There is a web site I have bookmarked; A big list of gods. Quite a few I’d never heard of before looking at the web site. Organized religion and I parted company many long years ago. Of course I like dogs, but deep down I’m really a cat person. Dogs have owners, cats have servants.

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — October 23, 2018 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

  3. “In the Bible, there is a clear history of the Israelites making the transition from polytheism to monotheism. No matter what the Bible says, it also says that Jews worshipped more than one god until about the sixth century BCE.”

    This is not true.

    Like

    Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

    • So, all the stories of Moses and Aaron (on the way back from Egypt) beating the Israelis heads in because they would start worshiping Baal at the drop of a hat were not true? And all of the altars in the hills around Jerusalem where sacrifices to other gods were not real and that their eradication was not documented in the OT? (And, and … ?)

      On Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 2:54 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2018 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

      • Your statement is misleading. Polytheism was not part of Jewish tradition. The Jews didn’t “transition” to monotheism. The worship of false gods was in opposition to the Old Testament law.

        Like

        Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

        • Clearly not all Jews accepted the “law” of just the one god. The law was enforced by state power, as the Jews had a governing theocracy. Much of the old testament is devoted to propaganda for the idea of monotheism, which was not the only religious viewpoint of the inhabitants of that region.

          On Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 3:05 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

          >

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2018 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

          • “Much of the old testament is devoted to propaganda for the idea of monotheism, which was not the only religious viewpoint of the inhabitants of that region. ”
            That is correct.

            Like

            Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 3:46 pm | Reply

          • Yhwh eventually became the god of Mamlekhet (Kingdom) Judah, while Mamlekhet (Kingdom) Yisra’el worshiped El (the head of the cannanite pantheon), hence the name, Yisra’el. The effort to spread Yahewism to Israel started after the Assyrians sacked Israel (722BCE), and the Judeans (the lesser of the two kingdoms) aligned themselves with the invaders. That’s why they can’t quite get the name straight throughout the Torah.

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by john zande — October 23, 2018 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

        • Elohim, El, Shaddai, Elyon, Adonai, and Tseboath were all names used instead of or in conjunction with the tetragrammaton YHWH throughout the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon, Tseboath the Canaanite god of armies, and Shaddai was the Sumerian pantheons’ king of cunts, appropriately named The Destroyer.

          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by john zande — October 23, 2018 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

          • Thanks!

            Like

            Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

          • I assume, you meant “king of cults”?

            Like

            Comment by Steve Ruis — October 24, 2018 @ 8:28 am | Reply

            • Sure, if that helps. But nope 🙂

              Like

              Comment by john zande — October 24, 2018 @ 9:58 am | Reply

              • So, what does “king of cunts” mean?

                Like

                Comment by Steve Ruis — October 24, 2018 @ 11:37 am | Reply

                • A bad, not so nice being.

                  Like

                  Comment by john zande — October 24, 2018 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

                  • Ah, I took it as an official title of some sort, since you seemed to be in academic mode! My bad! ;o)

                    On Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 12:00 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

                    >

                    Liked by 1 person

                    Comment by Steve Ruis — October 24, 2018 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

                    • Well, that is the technical coined by Thomas Römer; professor at the University of Lausanne and the world’s leading expert on the OT.

                      Like

                      Comment by john zande — October 24, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

                    • Now I am confused!

                      On Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 1:57 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

                      >

                      Liked by 1 person

                      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 24, 2018 @ 2:33 pm

        • The Jews didn’t “transition” to monotheism. The worship of false gods was in opposition to the Old Testament law.

          This is not what the archaeological evidence suggests.
          There is plenty of evidence that the Israelite religion started out as the general Canaanite polytheistic religion and that it gradually evolved into monolatry and henotheism, and finally into monotheism
          There is evidence (biblical and archaeological) that the early Israelites have worshipped El and his wife Asherah, as well as other gods in the pantheon, for example the storm and rain god Ba’al

          I can go further if you want

          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by Jonathan — October 23, 2018 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

          • Right.
            The point is that polytheism was never Jewish orthodoxy. Polytheism is always condemned in the Old Testament as paganism. The very first commandment on the big list of “10” is “You shall have no other Gods before me.” and you can find “Hear oh Israel. The Lord our God is One” repeated in the Old and New Testament (by Jesus!)

            The Jews were a fickle bunch who ignored the law and worshiped various pagan gods. That isn’t a “transition from polytheism”. It’s similar to someone claiming to be a “Packers Fan” and rooting for New England.

            Like

            Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 11:34 pm | Reply

            • The point is that polytheism was never Jewish orthodoxy.

              Monotheism is relatively recent in the history of the jews. Polytheism was once Jewish orthodoxy

              Polytheism: Polytheists say that many gods exist and they worship many gods.
              Henotheism: Henotheists say that many gods exist, but they worship only one of them. They say that it is acceptable if other people worship other gods.
              Monolatry: Monolatrists say that many gods exist, but they worship only one of them. They say that it is not acceptable if other people worship other gods.
              Monotheism: Monotheists say that there is only one god and they deny the existence of other gods.

              Judaism was not monotheistic out of the gate
              Judaism only became fully monotheistic after the jews came in contact with Ahura Mazda and zoroastrianism during their captivity in Babylon and that’s why the bible starts denying the existence of the other gods in those parts that were written after the captivity.
              Prior to Babylon, Judaism was fluctuating between monolatry and henotheism

              Liked by 2 people

              Comment by Jonathan — October 24, 2018 @ 3:06 am | Reply

              • “In the Bible, there is a clear history of the Israelites making the transition from polytheism to monotheism. No matter what the Bible says, it also says that Jews worshipped more than one god until about the sixth century BCE.”

                That is the statement to which I was responding.
                You will not find a single reference to polytheism as part of Jewish orthodoxy in the Bible. The Bible DOES NOT say the “Jews worshipped more than one god”, ever.

                Why is it so important to you guys to make the Jews into polytheists?

                Like

                Comment by John Branyan — October 24, 2018 @ 6:46 am | Reply

                • You do realise, don’t you, that when the high priest Hilkiah *miraculously* found the “ancient” books of the Torah (the scroll of the law, the Sefer Torah) in a wall there were Jews (from Judah) and Israelites (Yisra’el) worshiping El and the bevey of his Canaanite gods.

                  Like

                  Comment by john zande — October 24, 2018 @ 7:48 am | Reply

                  • If the Jews were cool with polytheism, why did Hezekiah go berserk when those “ancient” books were found?

                    Like

                    Comment by John Branyan — October 24, 2018 @ 7:56 am | Reply

      • Wassamatta’ with you Steve? If brainyawn says it’s not true, then for goodness sake, accept that it’s not true. After all, he’s studied under Wild Mel so surely he has all the right answers.

        Liked by 4 people

        Comment by Nan — October 23, 2018 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

        • Wassamatta’ with you Nan? If you wrote a whole book about the Bible, then for goodness sake, you ought to know Judaism was monotheistic out of the gate. After all, you could look this up yourself since brainyawn has never suggested you accept what he says as true.

          Like

          Comment by John Branyan — October 23, 2018 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

  4. When you get right down to the heart/meat of the current day (also past days) xtians, they still do not have one doG. They have 3 doGs. Yep, count ’em off; they have big sky daddy doG, son of big sky daddy, and they even have their own version of Casper the maybe/maybe not so friendly ghost. Yes sir boys and girls three of ’em. Or one could say they resemble, but are not quite as useful as 3-in-1 oil. Three doGs in One. Or one dog with three parts. Maybe I’m just an old, broken down former Marine/machinist, but triangles don’t roll very well.
    As old Bugs Bunny used to say; ain’t I a stinker?…..LOL, damn straight I can be.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — October 23, 2018 @ 11:01 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: