Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm an atheist and proud!

Atheism: unbelief in God or deities: disbelief in the existence of God or deities
Agnosticism: view that God's existence is unprovable: the belief that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists 

In the past few years I have become quite annoyed with how atheists have allowed themselves to be bullied into playing the semantics game. Although I have nothing against academia; it is the academicians need to name and classify everything that is at fault. Before I get into that let me start by clarifying what this post is all about. 

If you glance at the top of the page you will see that I have taken the time to define the words atheism and agnosticism in their simplest form possible. To state that one is a theist is to say that he/she is a believer in God or gods etc. But if you add an “a” in front of the “t” then the word takes on a negative meaning and asserts the opposite position, that you do not believe in God or gods of any kind. It’s as simple as that!

There are times when I surf the web looking for new blogs or atheists communities that have interesting content and articles to read. Every so often I come across an atheist who is ashamed to call himself an atheist. He calls himself a freethinker, agnostic atheist, etc. The big problem with this is that instead of making your position clear it further obfuscates your beliefs or in the case of atheism, your non-beliefs. The moment you state that you don’t believe in God or gods etc. you are an atheist no matter what you choose to label yourself. 

I’ve read academic posts where the author refuses to be called an atheist because it has such a negative connotation. Really, well it is a negative assertion about the existence of God, so what is wrong with that? I’m an atheist and proud of it! Just because theists and some others may have misconceptions about what it means to be an atheist does not mean that we should go around like chickens with our heads cut off looking for an alternative term that won’t be so offensive to the ignorant masses. Just because someone doesn’t accept my position doesn’t mean that I have to modify it to make it more palatable for them. I’m not selling a product nor looking for customer support. I am simply stating a position which I happen to think is a very rational and valid one.

I have read blogs where they state that the most rational position is agnosticism since we don’t have any way of disproving the existence of God or the knowledge to rule him out definitively. Well, it is not the job of the atheist to prove the existence of God, the burden of proof sits squarely with the theists who not only state that he exists, but that he exists absolutely and undeniably.

Here is the way I see it. Once you come to the conclusion that God or gods do not exist because you don’t have enough evidence to convince you that he does, then that is the end of the story. Abusing philosophy to try to rationalize an irrational concept is in and of itself irrational. We don’t sit around racking our brains trying to figure out ways to disprove the existence of Santa Clause, Buddha, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, etc. We treat them for what they are myths. Why should Judaism, Christianity, and Islam be treated any differently? What gives these three faiths the right of exclusion? In my view, nothing does. 

I like to say that today’s myths were once yesterday’s religions and I feel that this statement applies to all religions that involve the existence of supernatural deities. Christians particularly like to ask the question about why we exist. Well, if you take the view of the scriptures, our sole purpose on this earth is to worship and glorify God. Your prize for being faithful to God while in this world is that you get to do it for all eternity in the next world and bathe in his “holy” presence. Sin is what God says it is yet he can do as he wishes since he is God. Sounds a lot like something you would expect to come out of the mouth of a tyrant such as Adolf Hitler. The divine empire is a monarchy with God as King and Jesus as the prince of the kingdom. The biblical deity demands from you love, worship, and absolute obedience (which by the way is impossible). These are all the hallmarks of a tyranny that is not much different from the relationship between a slave and his master.

The fact that in my opinion the gods, and I mean all the gods are the creation and invention of man is proof enough that they don’t exist. I find meaning in life by giving of myself to those I love and helping out others who I may be able to assist. My life is fulfilling to me and I find joy in being a good father to my girls, a great husband to my wife, and a good son to my parents. It’s absolutely true that “little things mean a lot” especially when we are aware of the frailty of life. I don’t bet my life away on the hopes of another life in some other realm where time ceases to exist and life becomes eternal.

In closing there is no need to be ashamed to call yourself an atheist. Sure, we may disagree on many things but the one thing that we all agree on as atheist is that God or gods do not exist. The matter of proof is not our problem to solve. It is our job though to demand it if you make the assertion that the existence of God is true and expect me to bow down beside you and give away my life, my freedom, and my right to think as I please.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's all about the evidence!

About a year ago I attended my very first and possibly my very last atheist meet up. Leading up to that evening we were all told that we should read chapter one of ‘The Demon Haunted World’ since that book would be analyzed and discussed then and on subsequent meetings that followed. It was the first time that I had ever come into contact with atheists that have never subscribed to any religious belief system. They were for the most part brought up without religious beliefs in a secular environment with non-religious parents.

One of the things that stood out with me during that meeting was the look of amazement on their faces as I briefly informed them that I had at one time been an evangelist with the Pentecostal faith. Another thing that shocked me was how difficult it was for them to grasp how a fundamentalist believer could be taken by such foolishness as religious beliefs without any evidence. I came to the conclusion that some things have to be experienced to be fully understood.

That experience led me to think a lot about evidence and how it is interpreted by both believers and non-believers. The two main types of evidence are subjective evidence and objective evidence and the difference between the two is quite substantial. We both look at the evidence and interpret it differently and this leads us to very different and contradictory conclusions.

Evidence: Your basis for belief or disbelief; knowledge on which to base belief.
Objective: Undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena.
Subjective:Taking place within the mind and modified by individual bias.

A theist bases his/her beliefs primarily on faith. In the book of Hebrews 11:1 it says: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is a perfect description of subjective evidence. In the bible it is often repeated that you do not need evidence that faith should suffice to sustain your belief.  After providing evidence of his resurrection Jesus scolds the apostle Thomas with these words: Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

When theists are pressed into a corner and asked to present evidence for their beliefs every possible argument that they present is subjective and based entirely on the presupposition that what they believe are facts. Even William Lane Craig arguing for the evidence of the resurrection states all of his points as facts.  The following is how Dr. William Lane Craig presents his arguments for the resurrection.

FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

As you can see he states all of these “facts” based entirely on his presuppositions and his faith on the truth of the biblical narratives about Jesus. For those of you interested in reading this article you can find it here. He even went as far as making the following statement in his book ‘Reasonable Faith’

 “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.] 

When you read the statements by Christianity’s foremost apologist, it is so much easier for you to understand how the theistic mind thinks. An atheist on the other hand thinks quite differently, in fact we think a lot like the apostle Thomas who has been dubbed doubting Thomas by believers. Like Thomas we want objective evidence. Your so called experiences based on faith are invalid to us and because of their “supernatural” nature they are also unverifiable by any natural means. In a court of law most “evidence” presented by theists for their beliefs would barely be considered evidence at all. In fact, hearsay is not admissible in court and since the bible is nothing more than a book based entirely on hearsay it is not recognized as evidence by the standards of evidence.

Objective evidence is based on what can be observed both directly or indirectly inferred from what we observe. For example; we can’t see oxygen with the naked eye but all that it would take to convince someone of the existence of oxygen is to simply deprive him of it. Doctors are able to diagnose certain diseases and physical disorders by their symptoms indirectly.  When an atheist asks for evidence he is asking primarily for objective evidence. What you felt or heard or thought you saw is useless to us since we haven’t had the same experience as you. 

In closing, it is evidence that divides theists from atheists. The definition of evidence and what each side considers evidence. When I was a theist I had religious experiences, visions, dreams, and experienced the so called 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those experiences were sufficient evidence for me at that time. The physical sensations I felt due of course to my mental conditioning and my beliefs, was evidence enough for me to establish my beliefs as the absolute truth. Theists speak as if their beliefs are absolutely true and undeniable and it takes a special person to dare to be bold enough to challenge what they believe and notice the inconsistencies in those beliefs. Subjective evidence alone will only keep you deluded, while objective evidence will set you free.

Note: All biblical citations are from the NIV of the bible.

As usual all my word definitions were taken from the Sage Dictionary and Thesaurus if you are interested you may download the latest copy here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God demands your love!

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment.  Matthew 22:36-38 

After having left the faith, one of the things that I later found most disturbing was that the biblical deity demanded the love of his creation; namely, humans. This sentiment was expressed in both the Old and New Testament, and was later as seen in the above quote and several others as being supported by Jesus Christ. As in the N.T. there are numerous texts in the O.T. that refer to this commandment further emphasizing its importance. 

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 

It is my opinion that love is something that like respect should be earned. The bible has a lot of good advice that actually implies to us how we should behave towards one another. Matthew 7:12 expresses this sentiment and is known more for its more modern interpretation of treating others as you expect to be treated. So if this is the case then why should God be exempt? Because he allegedly created us is not a sufficient enough reason to make him exempt from all the moral ideals that our society holds dear. 

As in normal human affairs nothing says I love you more than open displays of affection towards the one you hold dear. We tend to treat the ones we love with compassion, affection, and understanding. We guard them from all things that we may deem harmful or by our own ideas of what we think is evil or in some way detrimental. It has been said many times that love is a two way street. When we give so much of ourselves to someone we appreciate reciprocity although at times this is not always the case. 

With the biblical deity it seems that love takes on a meaning that is completely alien to our modern concept of love. With God love is like his law; in that it is what God says it is. God’s law is contingent on your unconditional obedience to him. This is brought out often in the O.T. and once again Jesus supports it. 

"If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

The more I think of this the more it irritates me to think that God demands your love. In appreciation for being created we are supposed to be completely submissive to what we believe is his will. This doesn’t sound like the attitude of a divine being or creator. It sounds more like something you would expect from a human dictator. This is truly one of those situations where life certainly does imitate art; although, I would hardly call the horrors contained in the bible art. 

The New World Encyclopedia defines anthropomorphism as: “the attribution of human characteristics and qualities to non-human beings, objects, natural, or supernatural phenomena. God, animals, the forces of nature, and unseen or unknown authors of chance are frequent subjects of anthropomorphosis.” This sounds a lot like one of the many and most likely origins of religious beliefs. It also strengthens my theory that man created God due to his lack of understanding the world around him.

It is because of anthropomorphism that man is claimed to be created in the image of God. In God all of mans’ attributes both positive and negative are embodied. The biblical deity is an exact replica or reflection of man. When I read the bible I don’t see a divine being. Except for his so called divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence I don’t consider his attributes divine at all. I see this God in the dual description of anyone we can encounter right here in our friends, neighbors, enemies, etc. 

I see God in Martin Luther King Jr. as I do in Adolf Hitler. The biblical deity in my eyes represents the duality of man as is also demonstrated in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. God is an authority figure whose authority is as imaginary as his existence. He demands love and the demonstration of that love through absolute obedience. In the end it seems that religion is a very useful tool to instill fear and enforce laws and control over a society. 

In closing I will summarize this article with a quote from one of the greatest and most evil propagandists that ever lived: 

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Adolf Hitler

Christianity is a lie as are all religions that require submission and faith in imaginary beings whose existence cannot be proved because they only exist in the hearts and minds of those that accept them as true. God demands your love, but reason demands your skepticism.

Note: All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version of scripture.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Your master does not exist!

I was watching the show The Atheist Experience hosted by Jen Peeples and Russell Glasser entitled ‘The Bible as Fan Fiction’ for 2/10/13. During the call in portion of the show they received a very interesting call from a man who had suffered an accident and as a result of it had been in a coma. Whenever he spoke of his atheism with fundamentalist theists he was told that his atheism stemmed from his being angry at God. You can watch the show and listen to it firsthand here.

After hearing his story I found that this man and I have a lot in common, and that his experience was not a unique one. Although I did not suffer some injury or traumatic event in my life at the time of my departure from theism, it seemed that everyone in my church or who knew me from my ministry days knew why I left the fold. Of course as you might’ve guessed by now they were all wrong.

It seemed that they couldn’t or wouldn’t accept the fact that I left the church after having read the bible in its entirety and found it appalling instead of inspiring. I found the O.T. God to be lacking in morals, cruel, despotic, racist, and misogynistic.  This God, instead of inspiring awe and worship from me only brought out my disgust. I made the connection with the church under Roman rule and was able to see how through their beliefs they were able to justify their evil actions. They learned from their father in heaven that killing and punishing unbelievers and heretics was the way that God traditionally dealt with those sorts of people.

I understood how Hitler believed he was doing God’s will by attempting to exterminate the Jewish race for killing Christ. Many of these backward and twisted believers were just following God’s examples as they are narrated in the scriptures. I recalled how God had his prophet Elijah murder and slay 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah 1 Kings 18:19,40 just to prove to the people of Israel that he was God! He killed 850 people for believing in the wrong God and leading Israel away from him. Those prophets of the so called false gods were not even given a chance at repentance. Their punishment for leading Israel into the worship of false gods was death. 

I further understood how the Anglo-Americans of the south thought that the Negro was inferior and created for the purpose of being slaves. The Hebrew’s were even given rules on how they were to treat their servants, and guide lines regarding the sale or release from servitude of those slaves. The South in its bid to maintain its God given “right” to keep slaves alluded to the bible as justification for slavery.

Only by reading the bible did I understand the mindset of the Middle Eastern man. The idea that men were superior to women: and that women were created to serve men. To this day we see this attitude in the Middle East where a woman is considered a second class citizen not based on her merits but on the Bible and that other disgusting book the Koran which is derived from the Bible. There are places in this world where a woman is forbidden to drive a car or walk down the street with a man that is not her brother. I blame these attitudes on the stupidity of religious indoctrination and the so called holy texts that contain those teachings.

I left the church because once I had read through the Bible I saw it for what it was. The thought of worshiping a celestial tyrant was to me abhorrent, ignorant, and degrading. The idea of attributing my life’s misfortunate events to my offending an invisible monster in the sky was ridiculous beyond explanation. Even worse was the idea of calling self-debasement and loathing humility. The begging and groveling for favor with this God was an insult to my intelligence and at the time I was angry with myself for having fallen prey to such backward stupidity. These are not the beliefs of a twenty first century mature mind, but the beliefs of an ignorant and superstitious fool. There is no difference between Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. They are all derived from ignorant and silly myths and superstitions no more true than witches, ghosts, angels, demons, big foot, etc. 

I am convinced that if anyone reads the bible in its entirety without any presuppositions and with an open mind, they  would come out enlightened to the point that they would laugh at having ever believed in it in the first place. It’s almost embarrassing how much of myself I gave to those beliefs and how little I got back from allowing myself to be enslaved by an institution whose master does not exist!