Why atheists should respect believers

Mark Poprocki / iStock Certain atheists are happy to proclaim their disgust for religion and believers whenever they get a … Continued


Mark Poprocki / iStock

Certain atheists are happy to proclaim their disgust for religion and believers whenever they get a chance. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a 21-year-old atheist former Christian from British Columbia, who is actively seeking greater tolerance for Christianity than he has at present. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is, in a time of escalating rhetoric and hardening of ideological positions, to find someone who recognizes his own prejudice and wants to let it go. He told me he has “an instinctual desire to mitigate or annihilate my disgust for much of Christianity,” but that he finds this difficult to do. He eloquently elaborates his desire, saying, “There is nothing more effective at pickling the state of the soul and congealing the lucid flow of critical inquiry and the intellect than a rankling prejudice.” I will address just two of his objections to Christianity here: its enshrined anthropocentrism, and its glorification of absolute certainty.

My intention is to help my new friend get past his rankling prejudice, and I hope against hope that this may inspire other intolerant atheists to do likewise. My only qualification for mounting a defense of Christianity–given that I was raised a non-observant Jew and have experienced neither the gifts of Christian faith nor the outrage of disillusionment in such faith–is that I can assure an atheist audience that I have no desire to promote Christianity or to silence criticism of it. I have no doubt that he is perfectly accurate in his criticism of the Christianity that he experienced. The way for him or others to transcend their prejudice is not by being argued out of their considered criticisms, but by being shown that Christianity (like other faiths) is more than its faults. The vapid, punishing, close-minded version of Christianity he is responding to may well have been prevalent in his childhood congregation and in countless other churches, but decent, thoughtful, admirable Christians do exist in the world, and the reason such people remain Christian is that they see something else in Christian doctrine than he sees. The defenses these people might offer would certainly be richer than mine, but, based as they are on assumptions that atheists don’t hold, they would have even less chance of convincing this audience than mine will. So, without further ado, here is my ad hoc atheist apologetics for Christianity in response to two specific charges.

To the charge of anthropomorphism: Anthropomorphism of God is only a metaphysical problem. Given a contemporary, scientific view of cosmology and evolution, imagining the creator of the entire universe to have human qualities or to care about human affairs is absurd. God has human qualities because humans invented God, not because God made humans in his image. Whatever certain Christians may say or believe, atheists should not have a problem understanding this. To criticize Christianity for believing in a God with human characteristics is easy, but it misses the point that a god without human characteristics would be useless in a religious context; such a god would not help people bind themselves into moral communities and give themselves moral support and strength in the face of adversity, violence, temptation, and dissension. As atheists we can scoff at an anthropomorphic creator of the universe, but the function of God in contemporary human life is in the moral sphere, not in the cosmological sphere. Christians, as we know and they themselves know, have to perform all sorts of dubious mental gymnastics in order to hold on to a cosmological view of God in a scientific age. The reason they do so is that it is worth it to them for the sake of the moral and communal benefits they enjoy as a result of their belief, not because they are less capable of understanding the big bang or biological evolution than the rest of us.

Moving on to the charge of “the glorification of absolute certainty”: Faith is not certainty. Belief in the omnipotence of a being who is invisible, intangible, and undetectable–especially in the face of scientific theories that remove the need for God in explaining the origins of the universe or intelligent creatures–requires a lot of faith. If the language expressing that faith sometimes seems over the top, full of hyperbole, expressive of an impossible certainty, let us have some sympathy for what believers are trying to overcome with such language. People don’t believe because they are certain; they use professions of certainty as a support for a nearly unsupportable belief–and, again, they do so because it is worth it to them.

The more evidence we provide that belief is wrong, the harder believers will work to maintain their faith. Their beliefs and justifications are riddled with absurdities, but demonstrating that only serves to push each side further into its corner. The question for thoughtful atheists is not how believers manage to sustain their belief, but why they choose to do so: what do they get out of it? They are not primitive people needing myths and fairy tales to explain a frightening universe. They gain a source of hope, purpose, camaraderie, and moral guidance that some atheists find enviable.

As atheists and humanists we have some responsibility to use our critical powers for good. Even though we may see the ways that religions are corrupt and wrong-headed, society suffers if we proclaim that that’s all that religions have to offer. We are particularly well-suited, given our clear-headedness about the natural world and the fit between scientific theories and reality, to provide a corrective force to the harmful use of religion, but only if we also cultivate our compassion for religious people and our understanding of the good religions do in some people’s lives.

Sigfried Gold writes at Tailored Beliefs and designs interactive data visualization software. Follow him on Twitter: @godforatheists.

Sigfried Gold
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  • arensb

    Faith may not be 100% certainty, but you still define it as certainty far beyond what the evidence indicates, or despite evidence to the contrary. Why is this praiseworthy?
    Yes, a lot of people believe, on faith, things that seem crazy, be it Mary’s ascension or the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Why should we encourage this?
    If you met someone who claimed to have long conversations with her toaster,and did everything the toaster told her to do, and I said that was crazy, would you argue that I’m mean for trying to deprive her of what she considers meaningful conversations?
    If not, then why is religious faith a good thing?

  • Rongoklunk

    I used to see belief as a kinda silly but innocent pastime. But 9/11 changed that. Eversince that terrible day I’m a strong atheist, and I believe that religion is not just a stupid concept but an extremely dangerous one. One of these days some religious nut will finally carry a nuclear bomb in a suitcase – and I can only hope it won’t be in my town. 9/11 showed clearly how religion makes people believe the stupidest things about the world, and about invisible skygods – and lifeafterdeath. It is clearly wishful thinking and denial of death.

  • Secular1

    Well put arensb. This person who converses with her toaster, in general is embarassed to publicly tell all about her toaster and does not demand that we respect her delusions of conversing with the toaster. On the contrary the theist demand that we respect their hair brained ideas and delusions. We can be respectful of christians, jews hindhus, & muslims, at the same time derisive about their delusions on the other front.

  • VirginiaJim

    I believe that Joe Stalin and Pol Pot have proven that one does not need religion to commit mass murder – scientific atheism is fully capable of filling the bill of inspiring and excusing evil.

  • Catken1

    True. Which is why even atheist ideologies imposed from above are dangerous.
    But religion, as an ideology, has a particular compulsive sort of behavior pattern and identity fixation – you’re either with us or against us, a believer or a heretic, saved or damned, a slave of God or a rebel against God, etc. – that leads often and often to oppression, cruelty and murder. Secular states can be just and free states, and often are. Religious theocracies, at least of exclusivist religions who believe they have the only Truth, are always vicious, oppressive places. (If you disagree, name one that isn’t.)

  • Cameron McMillan

    Pol Pot and Stalin were also scientific “a-unicornists”; how do you know it wasn’t this particular un-belief which drove them to do commit their evil deeds, rather than their atheism?

  • Exant13

    As much as unquestioning or societal imposed belief in anything is a problem (and it is) one thing it is much harder to convince an atheist to do is kill themselves for a cause. None of that handy afterlife stuff to fall back on…

  • C. Hitchens

    “Pol Pot and Stalin were also scientific “a-unicornists”; how do you know it wasn’t this particular un-belief which drove them to do commit their evil deeds, rather than their atheism?”

    Straw Man argument; They simply replaced (pick your deity) with a cult of personality that took advantage of peoples need to believe in an absolute authority. People like yourselves could easily understand the mind-set of those regimes. Modern Atheists are not (that I know of) Marxists in any way shape or form. atheism/skepticism/agnosticism per-dates Communist ideology and is thriving. Whereas Communism, well…. let’s just say it’s going the way of religion.

  • C. Hitchens

    “I believe that Joe Stalin and Pol Pot have proven that one does not need religion to commit mass murder – scientific atheism is fully capable of filling the bill of inspiring and excusing evil.”

    The above quote is the straw man argument I was referring to

  • Ranmore

    “Certain atheists are happy to proclaim their disgust for religion and believers whenever they get a chance.”

    So you start your article with an evil slander? Name names and give examples please. Atheists generally hold to the saying “Hate the religion, love the believer”.

  • nkri401

    What is “scientific atheism”??

    Untill we can invent a theometer, there is no science in any theism or atheism.

  • nkri401

    What?? you mean my toaster does not really love me???

  • nkri401

    I suppose you should respect religious people as you would respect that your buddie’s wife is hot and their kids are smart…

    Indeed, would the author respect the religion of human sacrifice?

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Mencken rolls over in his grave every time he is quoted without attribution.

  • jbuettner2

    Sorry, C. Hitchens, your “Straw Man” response is a classic form of the old “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy so well explained by atheist then deist Antony Flew, i.e. in this case any atheist who holds a position distasteful to you (or others) is “no true atheist.” You just move the goal posts to avoid anything but a simple-minded response. The fact is that there are many atheists who belive and advocate all kinds of positions politically and socially, and because they don’t agree with your said positions doesn’t make them any less disbelievers in god(s) and the supernatural.

  • jbuettner2

    Sorry, C. Hitchens, your “Straw Man” response is a classic form of the old “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy so well explained by atheist then deist Antony Flew, i.e. in this case any atheist who holds a position distasteful to you (or others) is “no true atheist.” You just move the goal posts to avoid anything but a simple-minded response. The fact is that there are many atheists who belive and advocate all kinds of positions politically and socially, and because they don’t agree with your said positions doesn’t make them any less disbelievers in god(s) and the supernatural.

  • nkri401

    Sorry, I didn’t know. I do realize it was not an original quote…

    BTW, isn’t a respect suppossed to be earned, not demanded? Also not my original quote…

  • arensb

    @nkri401 Rest assured, there’s no way on earth that your toaster could possibly love you any more than it currently does. My teakettle told me so.

  • nkri401

    Touché & LOL.

  • American_Patriot

    Asking a person without a specific belief to respect others who believe say pedophilia is good for kids, or that murder is a reasonable way to resolve simple disputes, or that the one true god just happens to be the one they happen to believe in is a bit too much to ask.

    No one would ask a person to respect the belief or the believer if it we were talking about some other absurd notion. Why would a specific supernatural diety of one of the world’s many religious groups make any difference.

    Crazy is crazy, you don’t deserve respect for being crazy.

    …and by the way strip off the begat, begat, begat stuff and what you have left isn’t religion that is the “good religions do in some people’s lives”. Its is the basic human instinct of caring and consoling, of helping each other that stands on its own and has no need of religion for its existance. Charity exists as well within the religious context as it does outside of it.

  • American_Patriot

    In 1894, at the age of 16, Joseph Stalin enrolled at the Orthodox Theological Seminary of Tiflis, to which he had been awarded a scholarship. Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church in order to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. Stalin was responsible for opening the Russian theological schools, and thousands of churches began to function. Even the Moscow Theological Academy Seminary was re-opened, after being closed since 1918.

    Pol Pot was raised a Theravada Buddhist and Catholic. He studied at a Buddhist monastery and then at a Catholic school for 8 years. Cambodia’s communism was influenced by Theravada Buddhism.

    Hitler allied with Pope Pius in converting German society and made a deal with the church whereas the church absorbed Nazi ideals and preached them as part of their sermons, and in turn, Hitler placed Catholic teachings in public education.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Would we respect a 50 year old man who still believed in Santa Claus? Would we respect an author who suggested we should just respect the faith of a 50 year old man who still believed in Santa Claus? The answer is no. We SHOULD ridicule a silly belief such as an adult believing in a childhood myth.

    Atheist have every right to CHALLENGE theists on their beliefs. Just as if you meet a person who said give me $10,000 and I’ll give you back $1,000,000 in 10 years. A sane person has the right to ask for evidence as to how that person is going to turn $10,000 into $1 million. If the investor said it was a mystery you must have faith and faith alone, I would tell you not to invest your money with that person.

    But when a theist claims to know the very mind and thoughts of the most powerful being in the Universe and how god himself has told him the very secret of how to live forever, these absurd unjustified claims according to Sigfried Gold should not be ridiculed out of respect?

    The world will be a much better place when we all need to make sound decisions based on testable reality. People who live their lives thinking everything is god’s will and they are special because their version of a god has blessed them should be ridiculed. It is the same exact thing as the people who thought god told them to fly planes into the twin towers on 9-11.

    Morality has nothing to do with a imagined god. Plato figured it out with The Euthyphro dilemma a long time ago.

  • PhillyJimi1

    It does take courage to challenge people on their beliefs. It causes great pain to the believer and it can ruin relationships. While I don’t suggest telling your grand mother she is crazy for believing in Jesus.

    There are forums like this where you can express your views and slowly change the world for the better one person at a time.

  • BAL1953

    Atheism has the same characteristics atheists accuse traditional religions as having:

    1. They believe theirs is the only true (un)faith
    2. They mock and persecute those who believe differently–just read the comments on this board.
    3. They send out missionaries to convert people (demonstrations at religious monuments).
    4. They are forcing people to make their (un)religion the state religion (suing any city that isn’t an orthodox atheist city. Tear done those unorthodox manger scenes!).
    5. They can’t explain how the very first matter came into being that produced the “Big Bang” (which theory, by the way, doesn’t affect my religious faith any because it’s logical and all truth comes from God no matter what the source), They can’t explain what “there” was there before this great nucleus of matter was.
    6. They have blind faith in their prophets (such as Hitchens)

    Anyway…why should atheists care about religion? According to atheists when you’re dead you’re dead–which would be the cessation of all memory. Their children’s and grandchildren’s memories will also be extinguished so everything they experienced in this life from birth to death will be as though it never happened. They will have never existed.

    Atheism needs to stop being such an intolerant religion and its coreligionists need to leave people alone to be happy as they see fit.

  • Catken1

    1. Atheists would change their mind if provided with adequate evidence.
    2. Mockery is not “persecution”. Where are atheists suggesting that Christians should, for example, be required to affirm atheism in public schools, or be denied marriage if they do not conform to specifically atheist rules concerning one’s choice of spouse?
    3. Persuasion is an acceptable form of argument, always has been.
    4. Denying Christians the right to special privileges from government- like taxpayer-funded manger scenes while other religions, and atheists, do not get funds for their displays – is not “making atheism the state religion.” It is simply asking for equal treatment. Of course, to some Christians, being denied their sacred right to have all the cookies all the time, at everyone else’s expense, is “persecution”.
    5. Scientists are working on that very question. The difference there is that atheists say “I don’t know yet but we’re working on it”, whereas religious sorts say, “I don’t know and I’m too lazy to do the work to figure it out, therefore I will attribute it to the same God to whom my ancestors used to attribute thunderstorms and diseases, because they didn’t understand weather patterns or germ theory and were too lazy (or didn’t have the tools) to do the work to figure them out.”
    6. Whine whine whine. Atheists don’t have blind faith in Hitchens or anybody – they argue all the time. What gets your goat is that they don’t have blind faith in YOUR favored religious leader.

  • BAL1953

    Perhaps we can all be tolerant

  • BAL1953

    It would be true, though, that life=memories, wouldn’t it? And if dead is dead, as you believe, you will no longer know you existed because those memories will be extinguished?

  • Catken1

    So? Why does that have anything to do with the matter? It does not make religious people’s beliefs more worthy of respect (though their right to HOLD their beliefs is as important as anyone’s), nor does it make them more true.

  • Catken1

    And how do you define “tolerant,” BAL?
    Does that mean a fair shake for everyone, or does it mean “tolerating” Christians’ rights to get exclusive center stage and public funding for THEIR celebrations alone, their right to require our children to pray to their god in the schools we fund, their right to teach religious myths (but only theirs!) in public schools as though they were equally tested and just as evidence-based as scientific theories, their right to require us to adhere to their religious dogma when choosing a civil spouse or be denied civil marriage, their right to refuse us service in their businesses if we don’t abide by their religious laws, while they expect service from us even if we find their religion anathema, and generally their right to take the public pie all for themselves and throw us what crumbs they condescend to permit us?

  • BAL1953

    I can understand those points. I wouldn’t want my child praying to a Hindu god so I can empathize with that. But, just as you resent me, I also resent you for trying to force your beliefs upon me and others. That’s what the “we all need to be tolerant” means–both sides of this issue. I also resent your sweeping generalities of what you think all religious people stand for and believe and your harsh condemnation of people who do their utmost to live meaningful lives by serving and sacrificing for others. Plus, you only seem to be aware of a very small sub-group of way out there people who in no way represent the majority of religious people as a whole. You’re extrapolating.

    I’ve just been making a point (through a bit of humor that you didn’t recognize) that some atheists can’t see within themselves the intolerance they think is only in others. And that many atheists’ seem to believe that only their ideology can be respected. It’s the only “true” belief.

    But on a serious note, it does seems that atheists have totally blocked out a whole dimension of their existence–the spiritual side. You probably fulfill it with nature and that’s wonderful but there still seems to be a willful blindness.

    You haven’t answered my question about memory = life. I’d be interested in your answer.

  • AttyFAM

    BAL1953 –
    I know you have copied this from somewhere, because it is the stock quotation brought out every time against atheists. And it is not true. It is the view of one so far to the right that the center seems left.

  • UMCane95

    I can not “respect” the notion that another human is certain that I am destined to burn in a hell forever because someone told them it said so in a book. We, as a nation, so disrespect the idea that some believe a magic sky wizard demands certain humans kill other humans (us) in order to earn sex with mystical spirits of dead virgins that we hire and train men and women to hunt them down and kill them before they kill us which is to me the ultimate in disrespect and something our tax dollars pay for every day. Being overtly rude, hateful or acting like the monotheistic Abrahamic God of the Christian bible should be avoided, yes. Being passive and submitting to the majority instead of being civil and yet appropriately confrontational in the interest of respect is to not respect reason, liberty, growth and critical inquiry. To make an extraordinary claim is to subject yourself to extraordinary critique. Saying your ideas are born of “faith” is not a “get out of debate” free card. Ideas breed politics and law which translate to money and power. Now, if this hurts your head, just pray about it, I suppose.

  • itsthedax

    I don’t have to “respect” anyone, any more than anyone else has to “respect” me.

    What we need to do is TOLERATE each other, and TOLERATE any differences between us that do not cause harm. In the case of religious vs non-religious, it means that no one’s right to practice their religion can be infringed upon. It also means that religious people cannot require their faith to be taught in public schools, or that school science classes comply with their creation story, or that state and national laws comply with their religious practices.

  • Ron Wilton

    Who has ‘the wrankling prejudice’ that dulls the mind?

  • nkri401

    Philly,

    I’m with you except that rather than simply ridiculing the ridiculous, I’d like to understand why some people hold the ridiculous idea with such conviction even with their life….

  • nkri401

    Bal,

    You call those who collect the stamps “philatelist.” What do you call those who do not collect stamps???

    Alas, pretty soon, no one will know what is a “stamp”, I’m afraid.

  • Catken1

    “But, just as you resent me, I also resent you for trying to force your beliefs upon me and others.”

    When have I tried to force my beliefs on you or others?
    I want science taught in science class, yes, but there’s reason for that. And I don’t quarrel with you teaching anything you like in your church, though I reserve the right to speak up and say what I believe is wrong about it when I have the opportunity (I won’t come to your church and do it, though).
    I am entitled to criticize religious beliefs as I see fit, as you are entitled to criticize atheism. That is freedom of speech, not “forcing my beliefs on you.”

  • AttyFAM

    Bal1953 wrote at9/4/2013 8:40 PM EST
    Atheism has the same characteristics atheists accuse traditional religions as having:
    —————————————————-

    That is not so. Atheists and agnostics rely on science for a description of the natural world. Religion involves an attempt to describe a supernatural world and its alleged interaction with the natural world. The main vehicle of religion is usually a sacred scripture and belief in the truth of that scripture. Science, on the other hand, uses the process of observation, experimentation, gathering evidence, interpretation, evaluation, review and reevaluation, to test the proposed truth of a proposition. Scientists are willing to be wrong; a religious believer does not have that luxury.

    Those, like Bal1953, who criticize atheism, tend to lump science, agnosticism and atheism into the same basket, and fail to notice the distinctions between them. Worse yet, they lump all atheists into the same basket (now that is something that some atheists tend to do with various religious people, and it is something that some Christians tend to do with respect to Islamic religions).

    Bal1953 criticizes atheism and science in the same breath when (s)he complains that “they” cannot explain the Big Bang. Rather, that should be proof of the honesty of science. It does not proclaim to answer all questions, at least on the available evidence. Science answers what it can, and in the last 100 years, what it can answer has grown exponentially. We know now far more about the nature of the universe than we did 100 years ago. We have millions more points on the evolutionary tree than we did just 50 years ago. But critics always try to discredit science by pointing to the gaps. That is a fallacious approach. Science is not a finished work. It is a humble work in progress.

  • larryclyons

    OK is he is all seeing, all knowing, infinitely wise and just, then please explain this:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

    Epicurus
    341 BC – 270 BC

  • itsthedax

    Naah, that’s easy. Try this:

    God supposedly is omniscient, prescient, infallible, perfect and eternal; and created everything.

    Since creation is a deliberate purposeful act, then there must be a purpose in his having created everything. And since all human activity is supposed to have been known to him, in advance, at the instant of creation, then he must have intended for all human actions to take place. Since he is omnipotent, we can not do anything other than what he intended. Since we can only do the things he created us to do, and since he is perfect, then all of our actions are part of his perfect plan.

    So, why does he punish humans for performing actions that he created us to do, cannot avoid doing, and are part of his perfect plan?

  • VirginiaJim

    I will attempt to give what must be a short answer to complex issue understanding that those who are asking the question have likely heard the answer and have exercised their free will to make the choice to reject it.

    We are not robots. God has given man free will, and man reaps the results of their choices and the choices of others whether good or ill. At the beginning God gave man the choice to follow the path of working in concert with God to live an abundent, eternal life, man went the other way.

    Through various means, God continues to reach out to man to help him understand the right path. The greatest means is when God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to come in a form that finite man could better understand and to give an “escape mechanism” from the sin which infects the human race. Man has the opportunity to follow that path. Those that seek God will find him.

    This physical life is chapter one. There is a chapter two.

    Between chapter one and chapter two, there is a final judgment where God will evaluate what we knew and did with what we knew. Based on that assessment people will receive the eternal result of this earthly experience and set of choices. It you want, it is an eternal process not unlike natural selection in the physical world or getting a grade in a university class, pass/fail. The Bible is out there, I recommend starting with the Gospels and the book of Acts.

  • VirginiaJim

    I have a great interest in science and for myself have come to a comfortable balance reconciling my Christian faith and science.

    I also understand the limits of science. Science is not a moral force. Despite the integrity of individual scientists, the scientific community is almost always the lapdog of money, power, and public appetite as it seeks research grants and tenured teaching positions. The bio-weapon, or profit-oriented genetically engineered food always gets the priority over cancer research or developing healthy foods to feed the poor. Much of the money in social science research is geared to helping the rich manipulate the poor (mass advertising, etc.).

    Science will not be the force to save mankind but rather give mankind more powerful tools for good or evil.

  • VirginiaJim

    In the end, what a society tolerates will be shaped but the moral or immoral beliefs that society holds. Every society has laws and prisons/executions. In the US a farmer can get a felony conviction for moving dirt on his lands even if they are only seasonally wet as a violation of the Clean Water Act.

    The question is not whether someone’s moral code is enforced but whose.

    As for the “creation story” issue. The question is whether at some time in their academic career, kids can hear an opposing view or in the area of history even understand the role that faith had in the formation of this country. Islamic thoughts and practice are been introduced in classrooms throughout the country but Christian views are being driven out even though those Christian views has a major role in the formation of our views of liberty and justice.

  • VirginiaJim

    I believe that we hunt down Jihadist who have declared war on the United States and worked to kill its citizens. The US government has gone to extreme lengths to say that their problem is not with Islam but just the radical Jihadist who wage war, regardless of the basic theological elements of Islam that drive its adherents to conquer or kill non-believers.

    BTW in my world travels having talked to some of those very folks who are hostile to the US, I have found that the major point of irritation that enflames them on a regular basis is the sexual immorality that they see coming into their countries through western media. They don’t want their daughter to be like Britney Spears or their son like David Bowie.

  • larryclyons

    who whence comes evil?

    Also if your deity is as all powerful as you claim, then can he create a weight he cannot lift?

  • larryclyons

    And religion is a moral force? Considering its history (Tamerlane, the Crusades, the Islamic Conquest, the conquest of the new world, the Aztecs slaughtering 20,000 people a day in religious ceremonies for years etc.) its more of a ant-moral force.

    You do not need God to be good, that was demonstrated over 2500 years ago by the ancient greek philosophers like Epicurus and Zeno.

  • larryclyons

    Lets see David Bowie has been married to the same woman since 1990 or so, raised two children (one from a prior marriage) who are doing quite well (one an aclaimed director, the other a teen), gives a substantial part of his income to charity and lives a very creative fulfilled life.

    Sounds to me like a pretty good life to me.

  • VirginiaJim

    Can God set limits on God, probably so, as long as God wanted that limitation to exist.

    My God, who does exist, has qualities that I with my finite mind in this physical body (the imperfect) cannot fully understand as we see the eternal very dimly. I believe that I must seek to understand God and God’s will for me to the limits that I am able in order to love God and love my neighbors, as God has commanded. We in the future beyond this physical existance (when we are raised in perfection) will understand more if we have chosen to follow that path. The Bible puts it this way:

    1Co 13:4-13 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  • VirginiaJim

    To the various atheists I have been blogging with. I will be moving on from this comment/blog stream, likely to the on to the On Faith article on Syria action, having worked in the Middle East and having a deep concern for the persecuted Christians there. Feel free to post the last word on the various threads here understanding that I will not be reading your responses. We will possibly meet in other forums.

    I pray that you will see the evidence for God in a way that speaks to you, as He spoke to me when I could not see the evidence of His existance myself. I know that I needed a solid stepping stone of physical evidence direct from God before I could make the “leap of faith.” I was more of a “doubting Thomas the twin” who would not take the word of anyone than any giant of faith.

    See you on other forums.

    In love, Jim.

  • VirginiaJim

    As a Christian, I do not believe that other religions can be a consistant moral force for good as they are relying on man attempt to climb to God, whereas true Christianity is a response to God inviting man into a personal relationship. Where Christian communities were secularized into becoming a subordinate part of the world order, or under the authority of any one man, they quickly look like other world religions.

    The Crusades were a series of complex events over hundreds of years. Generally, over simlified in historical description, just as the American Civil War is. A thinking mind overgeneralizes what happend good and bad at the risk of getting it very wrong. By the way the Crusading Conquestadors ended the abuses of the Aztecs (then went on to let greed and lust for power bring on other abuses).

  • larryclyons

    The spaniards then proceeded to launch as large of a holocaust as the Aztecs. All in the name of your Christ. According to the historical record, when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem the streets ran with blood a half a foot deep. All in the name of Christ. Same with Aleppo and Antioch. Tamerlane slaughtered an estimated 4 million in his conquest of central Asia and northern India, all in the name of Islam.

    As for morality, Christianity has much to answer for. It is no more moral than Buddhism and in most cases much less moral.

    Finally

  • itsthedax

    VirginiaJim, does your god know what we will do in the future, or do our actions come as a surprise to him?

    Can we do anything that he does not intend us to do?

  • UMCane95

    What I mean to say is we don’t “respect” things that are religious if they are also unethical. If it is built into your religion that you must kill Americans we don’t then say, well… Okay, I must respect your belief because it is a religious one so…

    I agree, others claim it is the overt expression of sexuality by females that makes Arab nations frightened. Women gain power when they are allowed to flaunt curves the way men are allowed to flaunt biceps. My time in Afghanistan taught me that women are often treated like cattle for breeding by the men who would kill us for being so immoral as to allow the women here to make there own choices about how they use their bodies.

    I say we should disrespect the belief that to be moral is to kill a woman who won’t cover her face. The jihadists are called “extreme”, but they are the ones reading the book and doing what it says.

    In that since I disrespect anything that isn’t built on reason, logic and science. Tell me you worship the pink dragon behind the cloud – ill respect you as a human – but the belief itself… Prove it. Else, I withhold my respect for something else.

  • UMCane95

    According to the bible God slaughtered untold numbers of Egyptian children to avenge a Pharaoh. If the bible is a moral code and we are to be “godly” we should slaughter infants when we have a temper tantrum just like god did. Even the New Testament validates slavery as legal and ethical. Sickening and morally depraved is that book.

    Primates exhibit moral behavior between each other and establish social norms. Some of the worlds most giving philanthropists are atheists (Bill Gates for instance). It is possible to love and give and share without God and without a Priest harming our children. The world’s lowest homicide rates are in countries with the highest rates of atheism and lowest rates of religiosity… However uncomfortable these truths are.

  • itsthedax

    So, do you equate your particular religion with morality? If so, does not mean that anything not in accordance with your religion is immoral?

    And why would it be a bad thing for children not to indoctrinated in “christian views” inpublic schools at taxpayer expense? Why would you want local governments to require that muslim, hindu, buddhist or atheist children be indoctrinated in christianity?

    Are you under the impression that the christian creation story is scientifically sound, and should be included in public school science curricula? Or do you think that science classes must be limited to subjects that do not contradict your particular religion?

    Face it, the disestablishment clause of the constitution was put in place to protect the rest of us from you.

  • graemelacruz

    one sentence in the penultimate paragraph of this essay says it all.

    “they are not primitive people needing myths and fairy tales to explain a terrifying universe.”

    but that is exactly what they are, what we all are, primitive people, and there’s no shame in believing myths and fairy tales if it gets you through the night, but the desert religions have always gone beyond private or shared belief into demanding that others must also believe or god will fling them all into the depths of eternal, unthinkable torture and torment. with divine and absolute love, of course.

    much of the desert religions’ teachings can be explained by sunstroke. true fact. also, some french guy once said “man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

    words to live by.