Uncommon Sense

February 2, 2023

An Atheist Is . . .

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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I keep seeing this construction in a great many posts: “Atheism is the one-word answer, ‘No,’ to the question ‘Do you believe in any gods?’ Nothing else.”

Uh, actually I beg to differ. I am an atheist because I am unconvinced. This is possibly due to being a scientist and, for example, we scientists believe that all scientific findings are considered provisional because we do not know what data the future will bring.

If someone were to ask me “Do you believe in any gods?” I would have to answer, “Well, no, not so far.”

Theists seem to think there is a default argument on the table somewhere, placed there by their god. They keep asking why do I “reject their god.” I haven’t rejected their god because their god has not approached me or communicated with me in any way. If it had I would be leaning toward believing in its existence (or seeking psychiatric care).

What I have rejected, in each and every case, is theist’s arguments for the existence of their god(s). And, I have not heard from all of the world’s theists so I can’t claim that there isn’t an argument that might convince me. Actually I think the probability of this occurring is vanishingly small because what those theists are trying to prove is the existence of a supernatural being and no one has ever brought forth valid evidence of the existence of a supernatural being or even a supernatural event. Ever.

So, theists, it is not your god I disbelieve . . . it is you I disbelieve. Your god hasn’t failed to convince me, even though you claim it could, it is you who has failed to convince me. Your god probably supports this conclusion because it seems to blame all failures on people like you, rather that claiming any responsibility for itself.

January 5, 2023

Tucker Carlson Has Had It With Those Damned Atheists

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:15 am
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TUCKER CARLSON (GUEST): I must say, my tolerance for atheism has really dwindled to nothing at this point. My – my tolerance for people who are agnostic or aren’t really sure or seeking –

CHARLIE KIRK (HOST): I totally agree with this, yes.

CARLSON: But the idea that there are people who are completely certain as a matter of religious faith that there’s no God, I just find it hilarious and, like, so childish. I just can’t take it seriously.

From the January 2, 2023, edition of Salem’s The Charlie Kirk Show, posted to YouTube

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Dear Tucker,

I am one of those atheists you have no tolerance for and I must point out that you are mistaken as to “But the idea that there are people who are completely certain as a matter of religious faith that there’s no God . . .” My atheism is not an unaceptance of your God, it is an unacceptance of your arguments. Your god has never contacted me, so I have no beef with it. But, you and your theist friends have utterly failed to convince me that your god exists.

So, it is not your god I don’t believe . . . it is you. (I know, shocking isn’t it?)


An Atheist You have Never Met and Probably Never Will

July 10, 2022

Seven Questions for Atheists, A Critique and response

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:40 am
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Recently, Dr. Michael Brown, an Evangelical Christian apologist, asked atheists seven questions. Brown explains his reason for doing so this way: “If you consider yourself an atheist today, or if you considered yourself an atheist in the past, I’d love to ask you some honest questions.

But I do not ask these questions to win a debate. Or to be antagonistic. Or to buttress my own beliefs by exposing alleged weaknesses in your position. To the contrary, I ask these questions so I can better understand your mindset as an atheist.

These questions seemed kind of honest, so, here we go—

Question One: Would you say that you are (or, were) an atheist based primarily on intellectual study or based on experience? Or did you never believe in God at all?

This seems an honest question, one that shows some curiosity. I would ask that the writer of this question do a turnaround and ask himself “Would you say that you are a theist based primarily on intellectual study or based on experience? When did you begin to believe in God?Plus, no other gods except his personal god are being considered here. Why not?

And to answer the question: both.

Question Two: Would you say that even as an atheist you still have a sense of purpose and destiny in your life, a feeling that you were put here for a reason and that you have a mission to accomplish?

This is a bit misleading in that someone can have a feeling of purpose and/or destiny but not feel they were put in place to act those out. The questioner is impressing his belief that “sense of purpose and destiny in your life” is created by some supernatural destiny demon or whatnot. Of course, most thinking people, maybe freethinking people, know that purposes are something we create to help us commit to a direction in our lives and do not come from outside of us. And, of course, we were not “put here.” (My dad admitted to me being a mistake, saying he ”took a chance on a couch.”)

Third Question: Would you say that you are 100% sure there is no such being as God—meaning, an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing being? Or would you say that, for all practical purposes, you have concluded that this God does not exist, although it is impossible to prove such a negative with absolute certainty?

Well, this is just so bad, it is not even good enough to be called “wrong.” In human affairs, there is no such thing as the absolute of being 100% sure of anything. Nature shows us no absolutes whatsoever. The idea of absolute certainty is a fiction, made up by insecure people, or may just the math phobics who do not want to have to deal with 99% sureties. And what does for all practical purposes, you have concluded that this God does not exist” mean? Gods are not something filed under “practical purposes.” Clearly my claim that nobody has provided me with evidence or an argument that their god exists doesn’t mean their god doesn’t exist, just that nobody has successfully convinced me yet. I do not reject their god, I reject their arguments. And when they claim that they are 100% sure about any aspect of their religion, I know that either they are lying, or they are deluded. (This is why their religions do not allow doubts, they conflict with absolute, blind faith.

Fourth Question: Do you believe that science can provide answers for many of the remaining mysteries of the universe, including how the universe began (including where matter came from and where the Big Bang derived its energy), the origin of life, and DNA coding?

Yes, of course. And this belief is an ordinary one, one based upon evidence. Just as I believe the Sun will come up tomorrow, because it always has, I believe science will continue to answer questions of this type because it has for centuries and continues to do so. If you can get anybody to state odds, this is a guaranteed winner of a bet (not 100% but so close as to be the same).

Fifth Question: Have you had any experiences in life that caused you to question your atheism? Has something happened to you that seemed genuinely supernatural or otherworldly? Or have you been confronted with some information that shook your atheistic foundations, such as a scientific argument for intelligent design? If so, how have you dealt with such doubts to your atheism?

Ooh, I have never seen a scientific argument for Intelligent Design! I wonder if he actually has one. (All they do is criticize the Theory of Evolution, they never try to explain the mechanisms of creation: who did it, how was it done, when was it done, etc.)

My atheism is not subject to question. Either I am convinced by an argument or data set or I am not. It is not a decision I have made or a belief I adopted as recommended by someone else.

I will believe in supernatural events when one is observed properly. So far, nada. Lots of claims, very few demonstrations.

Sixth Question: Are you completely materialistic in your mindset, meaning human beings are entirely physical, human consciousness is an illusion, and there is no spiritual realm of any kind? Or are you superstitious, reading horoscopes or engaging in new age practices or the like?

Yep, completely materialistic. Human consciousness is not an illusion, however, it is a function of our brains (as anyone who has ever fallen asleep can testify to). There is no spiritual realm. First, no spirits have been shown to exist and if they don’t exist, why would there be a “realm” for them to live in? Many people are taught to be superstitious, for example little kids mimic their elders who tip over a salt shaker, spilling some salt and then a pinch of that salt is thrown over the spiller’s shoulder. Try to explain to a fourteen-year old why that is worth doing. But a four-year old will buy it and teach it to his/her little friends.

Seventh Question: If you were convinced that God truly existed—meaning the God of the Bible, who is perfect in every way, full of justice and mercy, our Creator and our Redeemer—would that be good news or bad news? And would you be willing to follow Him and honor Him if He were truly God?

No, that is ridiculous. If this god were perfect, my “honoring” him would be meaningless. We would have no more presence to such a being than an ant in an ant farm has to a Nobel Prize winner.

You say “meaning the God of the Bible,” then describe that god as being “full of justice and mercy” but the God of the Bible is better described as a God of Wrath, or a God of Vengeance. This is a bit of sleight of hand slipping this “all-good” god in place of the actual god of the Bible.

And as a redeemer god, do you know what it is that is being redeemed? Yeah, we are. And do you know why? Because your god cursed us and our children ad infinitum to end up in Hell if we do not love him. Sounds more than a little insecure to me.

June 21, 2022

Ridiculing Jesus? I Would Never . . .

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:38 pm

I was reading a book last night (Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith by David Madison) which I will report on later but here reflect upon a rather disturbing statement. Here it is:

I can’t agree with strident atheists who ridicule Jesus for not knowing that the Earth orbits the sun, that demons can’t be transferred into pigs or that blindness can’t be cured by smearing diseased eyes with mud and spit. Truly, Jesus was a citizen of his time and participated fully in the superstitions of the day.

The author is a recovering minister and he seems to be taking comments by other atheists personally. This is a common attitude: people claim that as atheists we “hate God,” that “we just want to sin,” and other nonsense. They ignore the fact that since we are not convinced that their god exists, it hardly can whip up strong emotions in us. If I am disappointed in the behavior of a character in a book, a movie, or a play, I don’t get mad at the character, I get mad at the author. And, as to wanting to sin, sin is a violation of god’s laws. If we do not believe that this god exists, how restricted by “its laws” do you think we are?

And to casually call atheists who criticize what has been written about the character “Jesus,” as being strident, that is, well, hurtful. We have feelings, you know.

My good buddy, Merriam-Webster says “Some common synonyms of strident are blatant, boisterous, clamorous, obstreperous, and vociferous. While all these words mean ‘so loud or insistent as to compel attention,’ strident suggests harsh and discordant noise.” This sounds as if the author’s Christian sensibilities are still tender.

As I will report later, this is a book very much worth reading if you are an atheist. But this paragraph shows why we are leery of Christian privilege, the fact that if we gainsay them, we are “attacking” them, waging war on them, e.g. the War on Christianity, etc.

As to the meat of the quote, we aren’t criticizing Jesus for his lack of knowledge, because we don’t accept that Jesus was or is a god, so why would he know such things? We are ridiculing perfectly modern “believers” who believe that kind of thing rather than their lying eyes. Plus you cannot hold the idea that Jesus is part of the Trinity, being omniscient and omnipotent, and “Truly, Jesus was a citizen of his time and participated fully in the superstitions of the day” at the same time. Such cognitive dissonance is quite worthy of ridicule, although I prefer reasoned discourse over ad hominem slurs.

June 12, 2022

Theistic v. Atheistic Morals/Ethics

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
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This topic is bandied about continuously. It never seems to end, having become a zombie topic. Kill it and it will rise again. (Zombies often utter the word “Brains!” as they shamble around because if they had one, they would realize they couldn’t possibly exist.) Theists claim that atheists are at best amoral and are typically immoral. Atheists, like me, demure.

Actually this can be put to bed immediately. (I will address Christian morals solely as my knowledge of other theistic moralities is weak.)

Christians make believing in god a basis of their morality. They must do this because the foundation of their morality is obedience. If their god says Jump! the only response is “How high?” Obedience is actually the only moral tenet of Christian morality. In order to be obedient, they have to believe in the god to which they are enslaved. Christians are taught that they are not to run a moral issue through their reasoning capacity because, if they did, they would be doubting the divinity of their god. (And just who do you think you are, doubting god?)

So, from a Christian standpoint, atheists, because we do not believe in the Christian god, are automatically immoral, end of debate.

Here is the iron clad logic:
Only Christians (or god believers, if you wish) are moral.
Annie is not a Christian (or is an atheist).
Annie is immoral.

So, there really is nothing to debate. Atheists explaining that moral and ethical systems are worked out over time by all social species (we have observed such things in quite a few social species) is a waste of time because Christians cannot hear it and are forbidden from even processing the claim.

You cannot debate another over a topic they have defined into existence.

May 2, 2022

How Can You . . .

Filed under: Culture,History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
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(I know, I know, I should have posted this yesterday, on Sunday. S)

I am reading yet another book on atheism (this time a classic! “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith) and the author included a series of questions that have been thrust at atheists in the past, here’s a partial list of those:
Without god, what is left of morality?
Without god, what purpose is there in man’s life?
If we do not believe in god, how can we be certain of anything?
If god does not exist, whom can we turn to in a time of crisis?
If there is no afterlife, who will reward virtue and punish injustice?
If god does not exist, what becomes of the worth and dignity of each person?
Without god, how can man achieve happiness?

I am going to address a number of these questions in this post.

Without god, how can man achieve happiness?” Ah, happiness. A much over touted emotional state. So, do a little experiment for me. Think back to the last three or four times you felt happiness. In each case, what was the cause of that happiness? In my case, I felt happy watching the family dog running with abandon. His sheer exuberance is delightful. And then I felt happy at just being alive at that time and place. And I was happy to hear that my son and his family all got “the COVID” but that none of them had significant symptoms and everyone is now well.

In your case, was “god” (or “God”) the source of your happiness in any of those instances? I would guess not. Happiness is a short term feeling that lasts just a few minutes or even less, that is triggered by very nice things: running dogs, lovely scenery, the night sky, ice cream cones, being warm and cozy inside while a storm rages outside, etc. Religious zealots often claim God is behind everything they see or feel. But that is a position they have predetermined and will interpret any situation through that filter.

I have always felt that one possible treatment for depression is playing recordings of young children laughing. They laugh infectiously, with such freedom and abandon. It is hard not to laugh along with them. Is “god” the cause of their happiness when they do not really know of any gods yet?

This question is an ignorant application of the god principle that their god is responsible for everything, so “Happiness?” sure, check that box.

Without god, what is left of morality?” I could just as easily answer with the question “With god, what is left of morality?” Christian morality deviated from its Jewish roots by invoking an afterlife that included eternal punishment for sinners and one’s enemies and eternal rewards for the faithful. (An Aside I saw a believer claim that the eternal torment, even the Lake of Fire, was not an eternal punishment but because the sinners refuse to repent under torture (and of course supplied a citation to that very reliable source, The Book of Revelations). How one could feel the torment claimed and not repent is beyond me. If I were being tortured like that after I knew I had died, I sure as Hell would become a believer with lightning speed, so that argument is specious at best. To someone who claims there is no evidence of an afterlife, tormenting demons and a Lake of Fire sure seems like fucking evidence to me.)

So, Christian morality is more than a little bankrupt. Who is acting morally if they do so out of fear of punishment? Jesus also made the famous “not one jot or tittle” of the law will be changed until this age is over, implying that “his followers” were to keep the Law (all 600+ commandments of “the Father”) and, well, they do not. Does that mean all Christians are destined to be riding the “3:10 to Hell” when they die? (Oh, and if you are someone who claims there is only one way to be saved, why then does the Bible list next to a dozen ways to be saved? Is the Bible mistaken?)

If god does not exist, whom can we turn to in a time of crisis?” I sincerely hope it is to someone who can actually help because calls to the 9-1-1 God Line do not get answered. You can pray for relief all you want, but your god is not providing it. True Believers, though, who experience a downturn, like an automobiles accident and are rushed to a hospital by EMTs and under the knives of a surgical team, and then the care of a team of physicians, and whose community provides short-term relief from bills that accrue while they are laid up and cannot work (unemployment assistance, Medicaid, etc.) always thank their god for the assistance they were provided. Right. Hey, one of the EMTs was named Jesus, a sure sign that God did it!

If god does not exist, what becomes of the worth and dignity of each person?” This is a new one for me. Is this the same dignity that Yahweh showed people when he drowned everyone, including infants, pregnant women, aged seniors, and the good people mixed in with the bad? Is this the “worth and dignity” Yahweh showed his people, the Canaanites, when He ordered them slaughtered, along with their farm animals?

Is this the “worth and dignity” He shows to women when they are treated like possessions of men throughout the Bible? Please, Christen writers should be forced to display a sign when writing “Please do not disturb, making up bullshit.”

One more and I will stop! “If there is no afterlife, who will reward virtue and punish injustice?” WTF? The Christian afterlife doesn’t reward virtue, nor does it punish injustice. What it is claimed to do, is to reward the faithful and punish sinners. Why do Christians (yes, a Christian wrote these questions) make up stuff like this? By asking the question they are implying that the virtuous go to Heaven. Ask any Evangelical whether someone who is a paragon of virtue, but hasn’t accepted Jesus into his/her heart is going to Heaven, their answer will be an unequivocal “No!” An ox accidently steps on your foot breaking several bones; you can’t work your fields because you are laid up. You family goes hungry and you can’t pay you taxes, so your land is confiscated and you and your family become members of the itinerant poor. This is clearly an injustice. So, what is God going to do? Punish the ox in Hell?

Christians, please stop making stupid stuff up. You are only embarrassing yourself.

April 14, 2022

What Happens When Fido Dies?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:52 am
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I have heard or read the following opinion many, many times. This one is from one of my favorite political cartoonists, Clay Jones:

I’ve explained this before but I’ll repeat it. I’m agnostic. I don’t consider myself a full-fledged atheist because we don’t know anything about what happens after we die. Neither the Pope nor Neil DeGrasse Tyson are experts on life after death. I believe claiming you know what happens after this mortal life kinda makes a person an obnoxious asshole. You can say, “I believe,” but when you say that you know, you’re teaching something you don’t know anything about. We are all ignorant about this. So, I’m agnostic.

Well, this is not only wrong, but a form of special pleading with a side order of arrogance.

If a child asks you what happens to her dog when it dies, how do you answer? I have heard some foolishly talk about dogs in heaven, but most of us would come up with something along the lines of “That’s it for Fido.” And even the “Dogs in Heaven” people won’t extend that privilege to her pet frog or the belly-up goldfish in her bowl. We actually know a great deal about what happens to animals when they die. If left exposed to nature, they decompose and are scavenged by larger animals and finally smaller animals (microorganisms, etc.) until all of their atoms are recycled into other aspects of nature. There is no speculation of a “spiritual” nature as to what happens to Fido’s soul or spirit, except by the fringiest of the fringe.

Have you seen the syllogism:
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal

Well consider this: all animals, exposed to nature when they die, decompose and are scavenged until their atoms are recycled into other natural processes/organisms. On rare occasions, dead animals are engulfed by river mud and eventually become fossilized, but their original atoms are replaced by mineral atoms and their original atoms are where, now? (Hint: recycled into other natural processes/organisms)

Okay, are you ready? This atom recycling process happens to all animals we see/observe. And “men” (meaning “and women and children, etc.”) are animals, so. . . ?

But, but, but . . . something special happens to people, no? (Hint: No.) People, or their souls, are taken up into Heaven and our bodily remains remain to be resurrected after some supernatural event (even though our atoms are dispersed back into nature?). Do all people believe this, I wonder. (Hint: No, not even close to all people.)

Is there any physical evidence of the existence of these “souls,” or this “Heaven?” Nope.

So, is it arrogant to say that all of this soul and Heaven talk is nonsense, another manifestation of human beings intense desire to be special? I don’t think so.

Basically this argument (quoted above) is “Well, this is what I believe and you can’t prove otherwise.” This is an attempt to shift the burden of proof off of the claimant and onto the persons unconvinced of the claims.

In addition, agnosticism is not a way station on the way to atheism or theism. Agnosticism is a statement about our knowledge. Atheism and theism are statements about belief. So, one can be a theist and an agnostic because you believe in the supernatural stuff, but you don’t have sufficient evidence to support that belief. Or you can be an atheist and an agnostic by not believing in these supernatural entities, but admitting our knowledge is not complete, so we can’t be 100% sure.

Let me break it to you, Bubby, we will never be 100% sure of anything. The idea of “absolute truths” comes up in philosophy and religion. Outside of those imaginings, they do not exist. To ordinary people, what we consider to be true is always tinged with doubt, for the simple reason that we cannot know what we do not know or what has yet to become known. So all truths are provisional. This is what scientists “believe.” All “truths” are based upon an estimate of likelihood. For example, how likely is it that human animals are treated by nature differently from all other animals after they die? Not likely at all. In fact, this claim is outrageous and would require extraordinarily massive amounts of evidence to support that conclusion.

Since sports are in the news quite a bit lately, I had one thought about an absolute truth: so-and-so team won a contest yesterday (or whenever). The score is in the books, the victory is acknowledged, millions of people witnessed the game on TV, this is a done deal. That “truth” is 100%, right? Maybe. What if it turns out that later, the winning team was discovered to have used an illegal player, and the league rules are that all games in which such players participate are forfeit. So, they didn’t win the game. (See what I mean. Oh, and they are still debating whether the cheating, lying MLB Houston Astros should forfeit their World Series win from several years ago.)

Philosophers investigate absolutes out of intellectual curiosity. Religionists declare absolute truths as a form of mind control. If you believe what they say and what they say is declared to be the absolute truth, who are you to question what they’re saying? And other religionists and, Gasp!, atheists saying contradictory things are automatically wrong because those things conflict with the absolute truth, so this is a form of protection against attacks from other religions and the irreligious, too.

Addendum And for mathophiles out there: 1 + 1 = 2 is defined to be true and is not true in any other sense. Consider what you have if you break a rock in half. You do not have two “half rocks,” you have two rocks, so 1 = 1 + 1 = 2. For people who grumble at this, allow me to clarify with this statement: (3/4) + (2/3) = 5/7. Clearly this is false, the sum is surely greater than one (each of the two fractions is greater than one half) and 5/7 isn’t. So, you don’t even have to do the math to show this equation is not true. But it is. A baseball player on the day before yesterday had three hits in four plate appearances (3/4). Note: His batting average for the day was 0.750, the decimal equivalent of the fraction 3/4. The next day he had two hits in three plate appearances. Over the two days, he had five hits in seven plate appearances: 5/7. You see, people use fractions in various ways, assuming that a set of fractions are generic fractions, like you learned (or didn’t) in school, may not be warranted.

December 13, 2020

The Atheist Secret of Christmas

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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Have you heard the phrase “the first Noel” or the French “Joyeux Noël?” Did you know that the word Noel is a hidden message for atheists? Think about it . . . Noel means “no El,” El being one of the many names for Yahweh.

So when people refer to “noel” which they think is a synonym of Christmas, they are signally to atheists that there is no god! Ha!

Okay, yes, I am messing with you. There is no truth to this. But . . . but, I think it might be fun to use when messing with those who claim there is a War on Christmas. Those folks already have a persecution complex, so this would fit right in with their existing paranoias.

Enjoy the holidays!


July 19, 2020

The “Respect My Beliefs” Campaign

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
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Note What you have come to expect on sabbath days, a religious post! Enjoy!

* * *

Well, maybe it is not a campaign, but it is a trope of the modern Christian movement. I have argued that any one demanding that atheists respect their religious beliefs is wrongheaded. You see respect is earned, not demanded. I acknowledge that people have such beliefs. I actually think that many are sincere in those beliefs, but respect them? No, not in the least. I do not respect anyone who elevates the supernatural, the mythological over the real. I just do not and will not.

And should not this be a two-way street? I firmly believe that sciences, especially foundational science like physics, chemistry, and biology are the best sources we have of information about the nature of reality. Are my beliefs respected? Not particularly, I guess they must be the “false beliefs” the religious rail about so often.

I see preachers telling us that the “Blood of Jesus” will save us from the COVID-19 disease (and then contracting it and dying, which should be a sign from god, but apparently . . . is not). I see people wanting to refuse medical treatment, even inoculations because of “religious beliefs.” These particular so-called beliefs actually endanger the rest of us by keeping a population of the disease ridden alive in our communities.

That other people are claiming that, for instance, being required to wear a mask and distance ourselves minimally from others violates our rights under the Constitution is equally ridiculous but doesn’t make the religious claims less ridiculous. And the religious are claiming special privilege for their beliefs.

Basically, I think you can have any cockamamie belief you want, but once you step into the realm of bad behavior, you lose my respect and you can even gain my opposition.

I just got off of Quora and someone summarized this point this way: “I think that any atheist who respects all god-based religions is a fool. Atheists, in being atheists, have no respect for gods, simply because they do not believe in them. So an atheist who respects god-based religions is respecting other people’s worship of the very thing that he or she does not believe exists, which is foolish.”

And . . . I keep coming up with additional points as I type . . . is the respect I should offer like the respect that Christian fundamentalists extend to Catholics? (They are not True Christians™.) or Muslims? Or any sane theists and Scientologists? Most religions don’t respect other religions because, well, they are just wrong, that’s why. So, we are supposed to respect all of them when they don’t respect one another. Talk about setting a high bar, much higher for atheists than for True Believers™.

June 26, 2020

Christians Horrified

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:33 pm
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Many Christians seem horrified that atheists can spout their heresies freely through social media. Any number of conservative religions consider social media to be tools of the Devil for that and other reasons. (As evidence, the highest usage rates of hotel porn were in Salt Lake City and if that devil machine can do that to the Mormons, none of us is safe.)

Let’s break this down a bit, unpack it as it is said. Why is it that atheists like me can make atheistic claims and criticize religions openly on forums such as this? The most common answer is that our Constitution gives us freedom of speech. But it doesn’t give us freedom from reciprocity.

In my lifetime, an atheist who espoused her status openly would receive a heavy dose of public condemnation and vilification. I think back to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded American Atheists when I was in high school. I heard terrible things about her character, exclusively from people who had never met her, nor spent any time in her presence.

And what happened to Mrs. O’Hair and her family? The NY Times reported in 2001 “Officials said they believed the three were killed and dismembered in an Austin storage locker and their bodies dumped at a remote ranch in Real County, 90 miles west of San Antonio. One of the men suspected of involvement in the case, David R. Waters, 53, accompanied the authorities to the grave site in January as part of a plea bargain.”

What Christians need to ask themselves is when threats, including death threats actually carried out, are removed and an ever larger group of people show up who say, simply, “I do not believe you,” you have to ask how good are your beliefs if they need such threats to support them?

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