Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Bearing the Burden…

Posted by dsc01 on December 14, 2011

I’ve mentioned before that letting go of theism lifted a weight from my shoulders. It certainly did. Believing the unbelievable is an unbearable burden. Carrying constant guilt weighs a person down. But that doesn’t mean that disbelief doesn’t come with its own burdens to bear.

I am fairly “in the closet,” as an atheist, for a number of reasons, the primary one being the likely loss of my job, should I ever come out too publicly. However, whenever I can, I strive to be brutally honest–amiable, to be sure, but wholly unapologetic.

Now, my totally reasonable terror of losing my livelihood is ample evidence of societal discrimination against atheists. That’s only aggravating. The discrimination becomes a burden when it hits closer to home.

Recently, my wife and I were uninvited from an extended Thanksgiving celebration that we had been looking forward to. The bearer of the news, one of my best friends, ever, was pretty irate, but he had to keep the peace with his sister-in-law, who expressed annoyance at the invitation of non-family members. You know, in the grand tradition of the first Thanksgiving, which was about familial insularity and not communion with people one usually didn’t associate with (/sarcasm).

Eventually, it came out that my family–my wife and I, that is–was the specific problem. The aforementioned sister-in-law to my dear friend doesn’t trust us wicked atheists around her children.

And there is the burden. It’s one thing to be able to feel righteous indignation about discrimination in our society. It’s another thing to be barred from a family gathering (and I do consider this friend to basically be my family) because one is an atheist.

That’s pretty rough. And it’s a bunch of bullshit. And it hurts.

But that’s life, after all.

Posted in Rants, Reflections & Memories | 7 Comments »

Be like Christ.

Posted by Ann on November 29, 2011

Okay, maybe not like this one. The other one with the loaves and fishes for every single person in the world.

Posted in Cartoons, Humor | 4 Comments »

Forgive me father…

Posted by Ann on November 29, 2011

P.S. love ya Christians, or at least the ones I love, but can’t help posting this. I know most Christians don’t personally want people to suffer, but God sure seems to want it, and we are told in His Word to be more like Christ…

Posted in Cartoons | Leave a Comment »

I am totally quoting a Facebook friend

Posted by Ann on November 2, 2011

Here’s a quote by a Facebook friend, who also happens to be an atheist, an MK, and a Master of Divinity. Like the contributors to this site, a majority of his friends and family are fundies. He is writing in response to a fundamentalist “friend” who has a long history of going onto his wall and posting incendiary comments under his status updates. His page is public, so I don’t think he’d mind me putting this up, at all…(shout out). Although he has technically “come out” as a non-believer, this is the first time I’ve seen him write this strongly about his lack of faith. He was attacked by more than one fundamentalist in this same thread:

Everyone has had hardships in their life, but I’ve not been ‘hurt’ in some way that makes me broken and angry toward God. You don’t know me, or my heart. Honestly, it’s completely inappropriate for you to speak like that. You should be ashamed of yourself. And it’s completely arrogant for you to assume that if I don’t believe in God I must be angry. What a cop out. You are just making stuff up, that has no basis in reality.

No, I don’t believe in God or Jesus, because I have no reason to. Where are they? What are they doing in this world? Nowhere. Nothing. If Jesus was ruling on earth, I’d serve him. But he’s not. How convenient, he went up to ‘heaven’ to rule. Ya, JFK is ruling in heaven too, right? Anyone can claim that, and it’s completely irrelevant. Unless God is active in the world, unless Jesus is ruling on earth, he’s irrelevant. And anyone who believes in his ‘rule’ is deluding themselves. Do it if you like, but don’t act surprised when others of us consider it delusional. We don’t ‘hate’ God, or run from Jesus because we’re hurt. We just don’t feel like deceiving ourselves and making things up. If it’s true, let’s see it. If it’s not something that we can know, then we’ll let others have their faith.

I’ll leave the condescending judgement to the religious people like yourself.

While I haven’t been hurt in some way that has broken my ability to think rationally and that has caused me to “run from god”, I have heard the same line from many people and my patience for that tactic is gone. I will not tolerate it. It does however go along with what I’ve consistently witnessed in the Christian community by a minority of people, albeit those in positions of power. I’ve seen it used against others and I’ve had it used against me. I’m speaking of this tendency for Christians to start thinking they have some special insight into the heart or spiritual life of another. And it’s usually masked in “concern” for the wayward brother, but it’s mostly arrogance and manipulation to accomplish some agenda. Very often it’s completely mistaken, like your comment. But these leaders have such spiritual authority in their dominions that few people are able to challenge them for fear of being labeled a rebel and trouble maker so the spiritual abuse continues. This has been rampant in nearly every Christian community I have been a part of, and that is a lot. It’s a way for these leaders to defend themselves by asserting spiritual superiority, and to avoid dealing with issues by projecting weakness in other people, under the guise of the holy spirit’s insight. I makes me so angry to witness that sort of abuse. That’s the background hopefully you can understand why I recoiled at you statements. And hopefully you will think twice before ever doing that to someone again.

I apologize for my inciting words as well. You are right that we have different perspectives. I didn’t post this to start an argument with you. But if enough people poke the dog, don’t be surprised if it bites back. It was a diary of my own thoughts on my wall. I welcome feedback but only if its intelligent and on topic. I do my best to respond to the numerous trails that fork off but I do get frustrated by statements which are patently false, e.g. It violates the laws of thermodynamics.

It really drives me crazy to hear someone say that they are the protectors of true science, contra all the scientists that disagree with them. Especially when that person’s entire world view is based on faith without evidence, and is the opposite of “good science”. It is difficult to hear you attack evolution as bad science, even though it has been rigorously debated and studied and tested for two hundred years by eminent scientists that know their field and the scientific method far better than you or i will ever know, meanwhile your beliefs are the exact opposite of good science. How can you condemn evolution as bad science, which is a very difficult thing to prove, and at the same time embrace a belief that flies in the face of all science. You can’t ride the same horse you are beating. Any claims you make against a closed loop equally apply to creation and God. We talk about physics because these laws govern how our known universe works. But there is much about our universe that we don’t know about. Origins of matter are mysteries we haven’t discovered yet, but that doesn’t mean we won’t learn. Or if they remain mysteries that is okay too, the physics and biology we can observe and test can still be true even if we don’t understand the origin of matter. It may call into question our perception of time, of start and end, and we may learn that to ask where something came from is in fact a silly question if there is no beginning or end but only a time loop where all things simply are. Will we understand, maybe never. But that doesn’t mean that within this reality plane things don’t work the way we observe.

In seminary Bruce Waltke pointed out the plain fact that there had to be cellular death before the fall. Trees have bark, animals ate plants, overpopulation of bacterial that never died would have killed the host animals that rely on them. Bugs and animals would have overpopulated and destroyed all life like a swarm of locust. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And it only has to if you assume the authors were writing a modern scientific history, which clearly they were not.

The point is that Christianity does not teach science. It is skewed to the cultural knowledge of the writer’s time. And it’s preposterous to try to take the creation story as science because it simply is not written for that purpose. You are fighting a battle that isn’t important. And in the process you are condemning good science because it challenges your view of the bible, and this makes you suspicious of all science do you become an obstacle for responsible environmental stewardship as well. It’s all connected.

The fundamentalist guy comes back with the comment:

Just defending my God as you defend yours.

My friend CM, after deleting the guy W as a friend, responds:

You didn’t act like a friend W…. You never had anything but criticism for me. So I’m sure it’s no surprise that you’ve made yourself unwanted. There are consequences for your behavior. I’m sure it’s no great loss for either of us. You didn’t value anything I said anyway.

Take that! lol!!

P.S. Something he wrote earlier in this thread, in response to the claim evolution does not explain the complexity of life on earth:

You said “evolution” is bad science. Micro evolution is evolution. There is no difference, except scale and time. It’s the same principles. The universe is about 14 billion years old. We can see that in space radiation. We can calculate down the first fractions of a second when the big bang occured. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old. That’s a long time. Like it or not, a lot of micro-evolution has happened over the course of earth history. You and other Christians have way too simplistic a view of evolution. You fail to comprehend the scale of a millions of years and the minute changes that accumulate over time. The fossil record shows these subtle changes. Living species show how fast species can adapt. It’s crazy to think about. It’s mind blowing to comprehend, but then again, so is that scale of time. We can’t comprehend the size of the universe, or the scale of 14 billion years. And yet, it’s real. Just because we can’t comprehend it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible.

Evolution is a theory. Just like Gravity. We don’t know everything about it. Science doesn’t claim to have complete knowledge, only what it knows how to test today. But we can know enough, to have confidence that gravity is real and predictable in most situations. The same is true of evolution. We don’t know with certainty how everything happened, we can’t literally look back in time. We can only study the fossil remains and living biology. And we will continue learning more. But we have learned enough to say that evolution is the best theory about the origin of the species, based on the best science that is available to us. In the future we may have better science and our theory may improve, but it is the best explanation for the facts that we currently have.

You may accept six day creation by faith (many christians hold that it’s a poetic myth told for theological purposes). That’s fine. But it has no scientific evidence to support it. So don’t attack evolution for not being completely provable. At least evolution has way more proof than creation. If you don’t care about science, fine, believe in six day creation and ignore the science of evolution. But don’t pretend that it is ‘bad science’ because it contradicts what the bible says. Just agree to believe the bible regardless of science, because that is what you are doing.

You may not like the science because it makes you ask hard questions about your faith. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that the science is bad. Don’t try to claim science as your defense, while at the same time believing in a faith that has no scientific evidence. You can’t have it both ways.

Bang bang!

Posted in Quotes, Rants | 3 Comments »

I believe in Superman

Posted by Ann on October 27, 2011

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

Christopher Hitchens

Posted in Comics | Leave a Comment »

Permission Slip

Posted by dsc01 on October 17, 2011

One of my favorites:


Posted in Humor | 7 Comments »

How Militant Atheists Compare

Posted by Ann on October 9, 2011


Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

Science as a “belief” at best, as a target of attack at worst

Posted by Ann on October 9, 2011

Lately I’ve been following recent discoveries in the science news more than in the past. And I’ve realized, as I attempt to talk with other people about the stuff I find interesting, there is very little interest in science in general in our wider society. I am boring, and yet, to myself, this stuff is fascinating! Where is this disconnect coming from, this shrugging off disinterest at best, antagonism at worst, toward the best method in our possession as humans for gaining an understanding of our world?

Our brains are extremely belief sensitive, and this knowledge draws me to science in a way I can’t explain. Imagine what it is like to become a person that is not only skeptical about the world around them but about their own ideas, so that they understand the illogic that makes themselves them, or me me. I question myself on my views, such as with my views about racism, sexism, homophobia–am I seeing these things clearly enough or too clearly? It is easy to see a boogie man where there is none. But I have to say, even atheists, although logical, from my observation frequently are not logical enough when it comes to themselves–which makes me wonder about me. I think it is sometimes easier to see outside of ourselves more clearly than we see ourselves. People are emotional. We tie our thoughts into our emotions, especially those strong chemical emotions based in our memories. Am I missing something, I ask myself, some truth about myself?

I read an article in Shermer’s eSkeptic periodical today that grabbed my interest (as much as his stuff does!): Denialist Demagogues and the Threat to Science. The article is a review of a book by James L. Powell on the general reaction to the science of climate change called The Inquisition of Climate Change. Frightening how adamantly people deny climate change is a reality. It’s not even an area for debate in the scientific world, even conservative scientists knowing it is real. But scientists are painted as left-wing liberal conspirators, driven by a desire for riches and pushing a liberal agenda. This despite most scientists being too interested in their science to give much attention to politics at all, almost across the board. Scientists simply aren’t interested in politics. There are no riches to be found in science, except metaphorically speaking in reference to knowledge. But interestingly, there is a disparity in pay for the science professions when compared to those of the people who attack science with their rhetoric the most vocally, such as businessmen and politicians. Most scientists spend 5-7 years in grad school only to make teacher’s salaries or receive fragile “soft money” grants to do their research; lucky if they are one of the few to get a six figure salary as they near their retirement as scientists. What scientists as a whole do pursue is the truth, but people cannot sift through their own perceptions based in belief to understand this concept. They can only understand scientists as they understand themselves. Their minds are clouded by their own perceptions. So all kinds of ulterior or manipulative motives, often their own, are ascribed to scientists.

Knowing fundamentalism well, I personally think some of these people probably think Satan is at work in science, with His Satanic hands over those of the scientists. Donald Prothero, the geologist reviewing Powell’s book, quotes Powell regarding this conservative belief that scientists have an agenda and support “belief” in something–such as an anti-God agenda or an agenda to destroy America as we know it:

Scientists…show no evidence of being more interested in politics or ideology than the average American. Does it make sense to believe that tens of thousands of scientists would be so deeply and secretly committed to bringing down capitalism and the American way of life that they would spend years beyond their undergraduate degrees working to receive master’s and PhD degrees, then go to work in a government laboratory or university, plying the deep oceans, forbidding deserts, icy poles, and torrid jungles, all for far less money than they could have made in industry, all the while biding their time like a Russian sleeper agent in an old spy novel? Scientists tend to be independent and resist authority. That is why you are apt to find them in the laboratory or in the field, as far as possible from the prying eyes of a supervisor. Anyone who believes he could organize thousands of scientists into a conspiracy has never attended a single faculty meeting.

Powell’s main point is that the current right-wing attack on climate science is very similar to how the Inquisition threatened Galileo because he spoke truth to power. Ironically, Rick Perry even managed to further emphasize his ignorance of science when in a recent debate he said he admired Galileo and how he “was outvoted for a while.” Bad analogy, Rick! If Perry actually knew any science, he would realize that Galileo was championing an unpopular scientific idea (heliocentric solar system) that was “outvoted” by the conservative power of that time, the Catholic Church and the Inquisition. Eventually, scientific truth won out, not the political delusions of the conservatives.

What’s crazy is these climate change scientists receive death threats, with one climate change scientist finding a dead animal lying on his doorstep. A dead animal. For some reason I don’t think it was intended to be interpreted like a rat gift from a cat… As though these scientists are some kind of activists. Maybe they are? Activists for the truth. Check out these articles on the death threats received by climate scientists, so intimidating they have begun to disguise their identities from the public!:



Sometimes I think we live in a world of apes with the ability to speak, and we call ourselves humans, but we are really just another kind of ape that has gone insane and is now aware of our existence and mortality…but we are still just animals mainly acting on instinct…and we must destroy any perceived threats to our manufactured reality and identities.

Science is not a belief, no more than atheism is a belief in nothing. But people insist on this because they MUST fit science and atheism into their own box. It is how they are able to integrate it into their belief systems. Why do I personally love science? Because, I can’t get outside of my perception, but science brings me closest to seeing through the fog of human bias. As Prothero writes:

There may be biases in our perceptions, and we may want to find data that fits our preconceptions about the world, but if science is done properly, we get a real answer, often one we did not expect. That’s the true test of when science is giving us a reality check: when it tells us something we do not want to hear, but is inescapable if one follows the scientific method and analyzes the data honestly.

Thomas Henry Huxley said it best over 150 years ago: “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”

Posted in Reviews, Science | Leave a Comment »

Thank you Jesus?

Posted by Ann on October 8, 2011



Posted in Humor, thoughts | 3 Comments »

Obama Bait: Catch Those Heathens Any Old Time

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on September 1, 2011

At a gas station yesterday I found this $1,000,000 bill. Someone had placed it against the Exxon mini-billboard ad over the gas pump I was using:
The front side of this gospel tract disguised as a bill features a pretty good shot of Obama that doesn’t appear to be caricaturing him. This leads me to conclude Obama is being used as bait to attract unsuspecting liberals. The creators of this tract know how much liberals love Obama and free money from the government! Those sinful Obamabots are sure to pick up this bill, only to find their hearts convicted by the message of God disguised in fine print.

For instance, on both the upper left and lower right, next to Obama’s devilishly handsome, anti-Christ-like grin, the question “Do you believe?” is hidden in the bill’s serial number. Also check out the signature by someone who heads the “Department of Eternal Affairs.” The seal on right reads: You Shall Not Steal.

The reverse side of the bill presents an interesting narrative almost as irresistible as the pull of Obama’s smiling face and the prospect of getting a free handout from the government at the expense of other hardworking, God-fearing Americans. And I’m not kidding about the fear. This tract was made by Custom Tract Source, and the opening lines of text on their website homepage read:

Welcome to Custom Tract Source!

Most Christians don’t realize that every second two people die…

That’s 160,000 people every single day walking into eternity forever: Heaven or Hell. Does that thought concern you?

But back to the narrative on the reverse side of the Obama-bait bill. You can try reading the text off the image of the bill above, or you can read my transcription of it below (along with my first-thing-that-popped-in-my-head mental annotations in brackets)

The world is changing and crisis grips the nations: economic uncertainty, wars, the threat of terrorism…where can we find hope in these uncertain times?

[This must be a political flyer.]

As distressing as it seems, there is a crisis even more urgent: the fact that death awaits us all.

[Wow, you must be great fun at parties, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Julie.”

“Nice to meet you too. I’m David, and your doom awaits!”]

When we die, we will all stand before the Judge of the Universe. How will you do?

[Um, what?]

Ever lied, stolen, or looked with lust? Ever taken God’s name in vain or failed to put Him first? If you have broken even one of these laws, God sees you as a lawbreaker.

[Holy. Fucking. Shit.]

Picture yourself in a courtroom guilty of many serious crimes.

[I think I missed something. Is there a parking or speeding ticket involved? Is this a felony we’re talking about, here?]

The Judge’s sentence is: A million dollar fine, or life in prison.

[I gonna have to go with the fine.]

You are unable to pay the fine,


so the guard begins to lead you away.

[Now where to? Anther courtroom? More judges?]

Suddenly, someone you don’t even know steps in and pays your fine in full. That means you are free to go!

[Yay! For a minute, I thought this message was a bit pessimistic, but clearly I was wrong.]

That is what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago. He took your punishment upon himself by taking God’s wrath on the cross. Then he rose from the grave, defeating death.

[Wait. So this guy was drawn and quartered…sorry, I mean crucified…and he survived? And he lay in a coma, or something, for a whole three days? And why is God so pissed at me?]

Repent (turn from sin) and put your trust in Jesus Christ to save you.

[What are these “sins” you’re talking about? Those laws about lying, stealing and lust? Aside from lying and lusting, I leave the other one pretty much alone, and I try not to overuse the others too much.]

God will grant you eternal life.

[How’s that work, exactly? Coz I don’t remember seeing any eternal, vampire-like Christian creatures roaming around the city. You’d think there’d be millions of them accumulated over the past 2,000 years.]

Don’t wait until tomorrow…You may not have another day. Please visit www.TheGoodTest.net

[I’ll head right over…let me just get my cellphone out…]

[I’m supposed to be asking a different question? Your question does intrigue me though, because it’s got to be difficult to come up with some kind of objective measuring system to judge the quality of my goodness. I was gonna fill my car up with gas right now, but suddenly I realize that’s a complete waste of time when compared to the questions I could be asking myself about the possibility of finding a cure for human death and entry to an eternal realm of everlasting life!]

[Oh, I CAN objectively measure my goodness? Okay, let’s do this!]

[Hatred for your parents, siblings, friends and even your own life? Your worldview sounds hardcore! Is it at all based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War?]

[So the concept of a kind, loving god is idolatry? Let me think: guilty or innocent…I think I’ll click on innocent, since I didn’t know God was so angry and hardcore until you told me just a second ago. God couldn’t be mad at me if I didn’t know, right?]

[I guess I say “Oh my God!” a few times a day, but that could be any god. I never say “Jesus Christ!” so I should be good. God gave me everything precious, like family and my life? Aren’t those the same things I was supposed to hate a few slides ago? Using Hitler’s name in vain? As in, “Holy fucking Hitler!”? That doesn’t roll off the tongue too well–that might explain it. Since I’m only a user of a generic “Oh my God!” I’ll go ahead and click on innocent.]

[I relax all weekend long. Two days! Innocent!]

[Honor, as in chivalry? Or do you mean normal arguments people have with their folks in adolescence? I thought it would be ok. I didn’t know it meant I was guilty of a crime. I’ll click on guilty for this one…]

[Man, it is SO easy to sin! So hating someone is murder? I thought murder meant killing someone? There are so many truths I’ve been so ignorant of my whole life! Thank you for sharing these truths with me! And to think I found these truths at the gas station. I feel convicted…yes, I have murdered a whole lot of people–already several today.]

[What about wet dreams? Are those okay? What if I throw away my pajamas and burn the sheets?]

[I always thought the title of “thief” was reserved for folks like Robin Hood. I did steal candy once as a kid, but I chalked it up to my just being a kid who was learning society’s social rules. Lord, I’m sorry! I didn’t know you’d get so pissed!]

[My mom made a horrible casserole last week, and I told her it was good. How can I tell her the truth while also honoring her? Please Lord, teach me the complexity of your laws!
That murderer thing is still connected to hatred, right? It’s crazy how doing something once brands you with a permanent title. That makes me a dishonorable, murdering, thieving, lying adulterer! Oh my God! Oh no, and a blasphemer! A lake of fire? What the hell is that?! Lord, please save me!]

[But what if I see another Christian, like the creators of this tract and website, who have learned the secrets to successfully obey God’s laws? Would it be okay to covet their lifestyle? Could I covet Jesus’ lifestyle? Maybe this law only applies to coveting sinful stuff? I’m so confused. Maybe you have some more slide series like this one, but with more information on them?]

[Well, yeah, NOW I can see that I haven’t been measuring up. Frankly, though, the finer points of what is or isn’t a sin, and the equivalency between hatred and murder…that stuff isn’t exactly apparent without these great slides to point it out. I hope it’s still not too late for me to join your club…]

[Um, no. I had NO IDEA I was doing anything wrong. I mentioned that casserole thing–it really did seem to be a gray area, morally speaking. I did know that murder was bad before, but you got me with the hatred=murder thing. I definitely didn’t know that. Why do you ask, is it bad I didn’t know this stuff before?]

[I also had no idea God was so pissed! Is this where that lake of fire you mentioned comes into play?]

[No, no, I don’t think He’s good. I picked that part up when you mentioned how pissed He gets and the lake of fire. Someone with that kind of a violent temper is definitely not good.
No, that wouldn’t be a good judge, but I just want to add that I’ve never raped anyone. It seems like there might be some confusion on your part, when it comes to that.]

[I don’t follow. Was the judge offered a bribe? The terms “overly forgiving,” “too lenient,” or “incompetent” might apply better.]

[Lake of fire, right?]

[Oh, God loves me? I thought He was pissed? I got an invitation? Do I have to do something to get the invite? I thought it was taken care of, because Jesus was going to step in and pay the fine?]

[Ah, great, so it IS all taken care of! You got me all worked up about this hatred=murder thing, the lust, etc., and come to find out Jesus already settled everything. You really should make this stuff clear earlier in the slides to avoid scaring people.]

[And now I DO have to do something? Make up your mind!]

[I once did this with a parachute at Vacation Bible School when I was a kid:
It makes a lot more sense now. Ok, so creating my prayer after reading Psalm 51 and believing in Jesus isn’t enough, and I need to also put Him on like a parachute too. Got it. This free bail money is looking more and more difficult to get, but nothing in life is free so it makes sense. What’s next? I am ready to learn the secrets.]

[It’s true that I do still have a lot of questions, but I agree with you that I sure don’t want to fall out of the door of death, grasping for a missing parachute: all because of my petty need to have my questions answered.
It’s not magic, yet I’ll be transformed? (Forget about the questions, forget about the questions, grab the parachute, grab the parachute…) ]

[Ok, I’d better check out Hell real quick…]

[I get it: if Hitler got no punishment other than extinction, without eternal damnation and burning in the fiery pits of hell, then that would be pretty unfair. That must mean that a scary, burning hell, where worms never die must exist. It’s so obvious! Sinners are so blind to the truth!]

[I don’t want anything to do with that everlasting shame and that blackness of darkness, and the teeth and fire thing. Creepy. I’ve not a fan of the concept of eternal anything, but since I have to choose, I’m going to have to go with exhibit A: the Jesus paying the ransom thing, if you strap on His parachute and stop having wet dreams.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord,
Thank you for loving me enough to make these people feel lead to not get real jobs, but to get jobs creating the Obama-bait gospel tract and website to change my positive attitude of myself–from kind, giving, helpful, hardworking–and to convict my heart by revealing my true murdering, hating, lying, lusting, abased and abhorrent, sinful heart.]

Posted in Humor | 18 Comments »

Compassion easier without belief

Posted by Ann on August 27, 2011

“If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist?…Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”–Thomas Jefferson

One of my peeves is believers who argue their beliefs by asking nonsense questions that really don’t make sense, and for which there is no answer to convince them from their firmly entrenched beliefs. It’s like some kind of game they like to play I think. I don’t like this game. Ask me a real question but not these play questions. They irritate me, because then I feel sucked into the game by answering, or rude for not, and I know when I do answer they will simply write me off in their heads even though I know my answer is better than anything they think is true in their heads…For instance the questioning of my morality, “If you don’t believe in God, then where do you think morality comes from?” My first thought when hearing this questions is “This has got to be one of the stupidest questions.” At least for me, it really is dumb. Of course I don’t tell the person they are being a dumb ass, but I sure am thinking this is gonna be another one of those dumb interactions where they listen politely to my answer and then politely write me off. And yes, I have already written them off, that is why I don’t ask them why morality has to come from God. That would be a dumb ass thing to do, lol! The answer: Of course there is no cosmic code we live by, morality is in the mind, the same place as our reason. There is no police officer in the sky…

Anyway, I picked up Godless again today and opened it by chance to chapter twelve, “For Goodness Sake”. Once again Barker is inside my mind. I wish I was as articulate in expressing my thoughts as him, but then why not let his writing help me express myself? Some do it a hell of a lot better than others, so here’s a selection from the chapter that gets me down to a T. So theists, next time you ask me the dumb ass question about my morality, read this and then let’s move on to more jovial interactions like hanging out, knowing we have serious differences of thoughts.

“How does an atheist account for the existence of objective moral values?” is a question I often hear. “If you don’t believe in God, then what is your basis for morality?” To me the question is obvious: we atheists find our basis for morality in nature. Where else would we look?

Most atheists think moral values are real, but that does not mean they are “objective.” They can’t be. A value is not a “thing”—it is a function of the mind (which is itself a function). To be objective is to exist independently of a mind. So, an “objective value” is an oxymoron; the existence in the mind of something that is independent of the mind.

Most atheists think that values, though not objective things in themselves, can be objectively justified by reference to the real world. Our actions have consequences, and those consequences can be objectively measured.

Although most atheists accept the importance of morality, this is not conceding that morality exists in the universe—that it is a cosmic object waiting to be discovered. The word “morality” is just a label for a concept, and concepts exist only in minds. If no minds existed no morality would exist.

There is no big mystery to morality. Morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm. Since harm is natural its avoidance is a material exercise. Organisms suffer as they bump into their environment and each other, and as rational animals with some ability to anticipate the future, we humans have some choice about how this happens. If we try to minimize harm and enhance the quality of life, we are moral. If we don’t, we are immoral or amoral, depending on our intentions. Even if we make a mistake, we can still be called moral or ethical if it is truly our intention to minimize harm. And the way to avoid making a mistake is to try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered. To be moral atheists have access to the simple tools of reason and kindness. There is no cosmic code book directing our actions.

Of course, relative to humanity, certain general actions can be deemed almost uniformly right or wrong. Without the Ten Commandments would it never have dawned on the human race that there is a problem with killing? Prohibitions against homicide and theft existed millennia before the Israelite story of Moses coming down from Sinai.

The way to be moral is to first learn what causes harm and how to avoid it. This means investigating nature—especially human nature, who we are, what we need, where we live, how we function, and why we behave the way we do.

Why should I treat my neighbor nicely? Because we are all connected. We are part of the same species, genetically linked. Since I value myself and my species, and the other species to which we are related, I recognize that when someone is hurting, my natural family is suffering. By nature, those of us who are mentally healthy recoil from pain and wish to see it ended.

Of course, we often act in positive ways to stop the pain of others. This is compassion. Although I don’t think there is a “moral imperative” nor a “compassion imperative:–you can be considered moral if you are passively not causing unnecessary harm—I do think most human beings who are mentally healthy will empathize with the sufferings of others and will naturally want to reach out. Atheists can perhaps express compassion more easily than believers because we are not confused by:

  • Fatalism: “Whatever happens is God’s will.”
  • Pessimism: “We deserve to suffer.”
  • Salvation: “Death is not the end.”
  • Retribution: “Justice will prevail in the afterlife.”
  • Magic: “Pray for help.”
  • Holy war: “Kill for God.”
  • Forgiveness: “I won’t be held responsible for my mistakes.”
  • Glory: “Suffering with Christ is an honor.”

Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now.

Yet notice how leading theists deal with the real world: “Ye have the poor with you always,” said the “loving” Jesus, who never lifted a finger to eradicate poverty, wasting precious ointment on his own luxury rather than selling it to feed the hungry (Matthew 26:6-11). “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ,” Mother Teresa added. “I think the world is much helped by the suffering of poor people.” So much for theistic compassion!

Jefferson may have been wrong to call compassion an “instinct” because many appear not to have it—it seems optional. Or perhaps he was right and the “compassion gene” (to oversimplify) varies across the population like any other human feature (height, intelligence, musical ability, etc.), and some of us have more of the instinct than others have. But it is fortunate that there are enough of us who love life to protect ourselves from those who don’t. We have systems of law, enforcement, justice and defense. We encourage kind, ethical actions through moral education and critical thinking. And though there is no cosmic moral imperative, all of us who value life and consider ourselves moral—atheists and believers alike—can choose to actively exhort others to join us in expressing our innate feelings of altruism and compassion.

Compassion is, after all, a characteristic of being human. When someone commits a horrible act, what do we say? “That was an inhuman thing to do!” We assume that the natural “human” attitude is nonviolent and peaceful. We are not corrupt, evil creatures. A few of us are off to the side of “saintliness” (to borrow a word), and a few of us are off to the other side, the side of mental disease, with sociopaths and criminals. On the bell curve of morality and compassion, however, most of us fall somewhere in the large middle area.

Many believers, including Christians who are ordered to “bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ,” have an underlying distrust of human reasoning. Yearning for absolutes, they perceive relativism—the recognition that actions must be judged in context—as something dangerous when it is the only way we can be truly moral.

Theists are afraid people will think for themselves; atheists are afraid they won’t.

It is interesting the irrationality of compassionate, kind people who yearn for world peace, who understand the value in humanity, yet internally still believe God is necessary for morality to prevail in the world…

Posted in Liberal Christians, thoughts | 4 Comments »

Family Get Together

Posted by dsc01 on August 12, 2011

From “Space Avalanche,” heir to the “Far Side” throne:

Posted in Humor | 4 Comments »