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Tag Archives: Atheism

Confirmation

In the past, I’ve written here about my view that atheists are actually more moral than those with religious beliefs.  This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom, particularly in America, that you have to believe in God, particularly the Judeo-Christian view of God, to be moral and ethical.

I’ve believed for a long time that conventional wisdom on this point defies logic.  It’s nice to see that one of my fundamental beliefs has been somewhat confirmed.  (Hat tip to my sister, who sent me the article.)  What I find most fascinating about the article, and believe me there are lots of nice little tidbits in it, is this:

“For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated,” writes Zuckerman. “It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs.”

This has been the foundational concept by which I have tried to live my life, not always successful of course.  It is so incredibly simple and one does not need to believe in a god, the afterlife, heaven or hell, or anything other than what is inherently logical and rational.  That one must treat others the way one would like to be treated.  There needs to be no religious basis for this concept.  It is the only way we can survive and thrive as a people.

The second best tidbit is the statistic about how many atheists are in prison.  1/2 of one percent — significantly lower than the number of atheists in society.  This puts a lie to the idea that the prisons are filled with atheists.  Some day, the conventional wisdom may actually reflect reality.  Some day, maybe we can recognize that those who don’t believe are just as capable of moral and ethical behavior, if not more so, and that maybe, just maybe, there is an aspect of modern day religion that actually leads to the opposite result for far too many believers.

 

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Why Atheists Have A HUGE Respect For Life

It’s rather simple … because this is our one and only chance at the thing.  When you don’t believe in heaven or hell, the afterlife, reincarnation, or anything other than ashes to ashes, dust to dust, you realize your only chance to do right by yourself and this world is to live this one life, the only shot you have, the best you can.

I think this is why atheists have a larger problem with torture than believers do.  If you believe in God, or a supreme being, that there is some reward or punishment in a “next life,” that forgiveness here will get you something there, it becomes easier to justify things like torture.  But when you don’t believe in any of those things, torture takes on such a life-changing, life-threatening, life-destroying thing, we atheists simply cannot get our heads around the evil that it does.  You see, those torture victims, many of them, are permanently scarred, damaged beyond repair, and will never be able to function again.  They will never be able to enjoy life again.  The same can be said for the perpetrators of torture.  Doing these things to other humans can fundamentally alter their relationship to the world.  If you believe in God and heaven and hell, or whatever the afterlife might be, this doesn’t seem as bad, because well, there’s always the next life.  That’s not a perceivable option for an atheist — those people’s lives are fundamentally and forever destroyed.  There is no new life coming that will erase the pain.

So, we atheists value this life we all have beyond anything believers can possibly imagine.  We don’t get do-overs.

I have read a number of justifications for an alternate view.  For instance, Hitler was an atheist and look at what he did.  Yes, well, Christians were responsible for the Crusades.  Christians warred against each other in Ireland for decades.  And Muslims are the current “worst” in the world.  So, if the fact that Hitler may have been an atheist justifies the belief that atheists don’t value human life, I’d suggest there’s a whole lot more of that type of evidence to show that believers don’t respect human life, based on what other believers have done throughout history.

I think there are also arguments occasionally made that most serial killers are atheists.  Only problem is that it isn’t true.  Many serial kills were raised in very strict, religious families.  Hard to say then that they lacked moral teaching or the education religion supposedly brings to bear to cause adherents to value life.  What I think this argument really gets at, however, is that the most staunch believers think that anybody who kills others, like Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, etc., can’t possibly believe in the same God as they do.   So, whether they claim to be or not, they really are atheists.  Or something like that.

I know it’s Christmas around the world today.  Plenty of my regular readers are people of faith who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.  This post is not meant to question their morals, beliefs, or respect for human life.  Instead, it is an effort to continue with my post from yesterday.  As I said, I think there is a reason atheists find torture abhorrent.  It comes down to our respect for human life.  Not human life in general.  This human life.  This one being lived right now.  Today.  Because it is the only one there is.  I couldn’t possibly imagine living my one and only life without trying to do the best and be the best I can.  I couldn’t imagine spending this life hurting people or doing anything that disrespects life in its many forms.  And you know what, there are a lot of atheists like me.

Just thought you should know.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

A Rant for Sunday

If you are a person of faith, particularly a Christian and you may be offended by those who think otherwise, read no further.  Which, of course, for most people, is like saying, “KEEP READING!”  Just consider yourself forewarned.  This is a rant.  About “Christians.”

Over the past few months, there seems to have developed a proliferation of people doing this…

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In case you can’t read it, the sign reads “I Confess the Lord Jesus.  Amen.”

This is at the major intersection closest to my house.  There’s also a guy with a similar sign who has been appearing at the corner right by my office for some time now.  The guy in the picture points at every driver and asks them to honk.  I’ve driven by him several times now and when I don’t honk, he insults me.  Today, while I sat in the left turn lane, he looked at me and said “you a hecka idiot.”  Or something like that.  I know this — he was looking at me, I wasn’t honking, and “you” and “idiot” were in his statement, and “are not” wasn’t.  This is the second time I have driven by this guy and not honked and had him say something to me.

Meanwhile, the church near my neighborhood has a message board.  This week’s message:  “God Only Wrote One Book.  Maybe You Should Read It.”

I have written before about this church’s message board.  (Here and here and probably a couple of more times as well.)

What I will never understand and will always have a problem with is why certain members of faith feel that they have to put their message out and in my face.  What they have is a faith.  They do not have a fact.  They do not have anything other than what they personally believe and they should keep it to themselves.  I’ve been a non-believer my entire life.  Even when I went to church as a child, I don’t recall having strong feelings of belief in the whole story of Jesus Christ, God, and the rest of it.  When I turned 18, I stopped going to church and have been entirely comfortable with my lack of belief ever since.

A month or so ago I started reading How Jesus Became God.  I didn’t finish the book but I learned a fascinating thing in the first couple of chapters.  Something I had never heard before.  I believe that there is a historical figure, named Jesus, who lived about 2,000 years ago.  I won’t quibble with that.  It’s the rest, of course, that I disagree with.  The interesting thing about this book is that it revealed for me that around the time that this Jesus figure was alive, there were many (MANY!) other individuals wandering around the Middle East who claimed to be prophets, whose followers claimed performed miracles, and whose followers claimed were resurrected.  In fact, resurrection was an incredibly common claim of the day, but is in fact most likely explained not by the actual fact of a resurrection, but instead by those followers feeling the presence of their leader after the leader’s death.  Think about it.  When somebody close to you dies, don’t you feel something at some point.  Something that feels like they are still with you.  It’s that type of feeling, maybe a little deeper, a little more profound, that turned into resurrection tales.

What’s my point?  Jesus was one of many prophets.  His life story, as put to paper in the bible, was not written by God.  It was written by men who used his teachings to push an agenda, to push an idea.  The idea that somehow he, out of all the prophets the world has produced is the Son of God and we should follow him is something that can only be founded on faith and desire and need.  But, it is certainly not founded on anything related to fact or actual truth and reality.

Believe in his teachings.  I’m good with that. (I actually believe in many of them, probably more than most people who claim they are Christians — I saw a beautiful thing on Facebook the other day, it basically said that if Jesus was alive today, Fox News and Republicans would accuse him of being a socialist weirdo from the Middle East who wants to take over the world and give it to the poor.)  But, please, please stop putting your belief and your faith in my face.

In the Sacramento area, and in a few other places, atheist organizations have started to put their message on billboards.   I wish they wouldn’t (see this for what I think of atheist organizations), for the same reason I wish Christians would worship in their own space and in their own way and leave me the hell out of it.  But, here’s what’s interesting.  Read the article I linked to, read the quote from the Catholic Priest.  Oh, never mind, I’ll provide it to you here:

“I don’t take it as offensive so much as it doesn’t make sense trying to do a thing like that,” he said.

“I don’t know that you have to go to these lengths to push it down people’s throats by trying to put it out there, where there’s no way to escape it,” Kiernan continued.

See that.  It’s OK for churches to have message boards.  It’s OK for people to wander the streets with signs proclaiming their faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s OK to call people who don’t honk idiots.  (Yes, I’m sure the priest wouldn’t condone that, but I’m also willing to bet that there are plenty of “Christians” who wouldn’t have a problem with me being called an idiot because I didn’t honk.)  But it is not OK for atheists to post their message.  It’s stunning really.  As much as I don’t support the idea of the atheist billboards, I love how their existence has once again exposed the hypocrisy of the other side.
One final word — I have absolutely no problem with people of faith.  There are many of you out there who I consider to be my friends, to be talented bloggers and writers, to be good people, and who contribute greatly to my life.  I could sit down with most of you and have an incredible dialog about your beliefs and mine, share ideas, and walk away comforted and more knowledgeable by the conversation.  This post is not meant for you.  It’s meant for the people out there, who are of faith, and who insist that they must constantly push their message, their beliefs, that they are the only ones who could possibly be right.  No, this is personal.  Keep it personal.

 

Things I Care Deeply About

Yes, I’m not supposed to be here.  But it’s 6:30 on a Sunday morning.  I’m in the backyard.  Sprinklers are running.  The crust for my blackberry cobbler is chilling and I have a couple of things to say.  Once I’m done with this post, I’ll be done with WordPress for the day, if not the week.  A couple of things happened this week that I care deeply about.  One that everybody knows about.  The other probably not.

First up … gay marriage is now legal in California.  It wasn’t the sweeping decision a lot of people wanted, but in California and a dozen other states, equality has prevailed.  The thing that bothers me is that it was decided on a technicality — standing — in a way that was the exact opposite of the exact same issue in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) decided the same day.  I’ll try to say this in plain English.  Standing is a legal principle that says that a party bringing litigation must have been injured in some way, or have the potential to be injured in some way.  That’s the basic concept.  There are exceptions and corollaries and tangents to that, but that’s the basic idea behind standing.  A real basic example — I can’t sue you if you caused an accident that I wasn’t in, that I didn’t witness, and that did not result in any injury to me.

So, in the DOMA case, there was an issue regarding standing.  In the midst of the many appeals such cases have, the Federal government in the form of the Obama Administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA in those appeals because they agreed with the plaintiffs that DOMA was unconstitutional.  Well, if the government (which is the defendant in a case challenging a federal law) and the plaintiffs a gree, then there is no controversy for the courts to decide.  The case is dismissed.  Not so fast.  A group of Congressional Republicans stepped in and defended DOMA.  The Supreme Court granted them standing because of their role in passing the legislation.  From there, the Supreme Court was able to decide the case on the merits.

With the Prop. 8 case, the Court reached the exact opposite result.  With a twist.  In Prop. 8, as the case wound through the courts, the Governor and Attorney General of California announced they would not defend the constitutionality of the proposition, which enshrined the opposite sex definition of marriage in the California Constitution.  So, if State government was unwilling to defend a state law, there were no defendants.  No controversy.  Not so fast.  The proponents of the initiative that placed Prop. 8 on the ballot stepped in and sought to defend the proposition.  The Supreme Court said they didn’t have standing and, therefore, there was no controversy, no reason to reach the merits.  The Supreme Court concluded that the initiative’s proponents had no official standing because they had no official connection to the State, no official role in creating or defending the State’s laws, unlike, say, legislators like the Congressional Republicans in the DOMA case.  And that’s where the Court fundamentally screwed up and revealed itself as a results oriented body rather than interpreting and enforcing the law consistently.

For 100 years, California, like some other states, has had a robust initiative system which allows the people to place proposed laws on the ballot for the voters to decide.  Why?  To bypass the Legislature and the Governor.  To enact laws they won’t enact.  Yes, the initiative process has become monumentally screwed up — California voters are just as good at passing stupid laws as their elected representatives.  But, THE ENTIRE POINT of the initiative process is to give the voters of the State of California the ability to make law.  The ENTIRE POINT is to bypass the intransigence of elected representatives who won’t do their jobs.  So, when the voters pass an initiative — even one that I abhor — and government officials refuse to enforce it or defend it — a position I completely support — the proponents of that initiative should be able to stand in the same position on Prop. 8 as the Congressional Republicans who were allowed to defend DOMA in court.  Justice Kennedy is a lifelong California resident.  He got this.

Here’s what I think happened in my cynical little mind.  The majority decision in the Prop. 8 case was an odd combination of both conservative and liberal justices.  The Supreme Court has a few very old people.  Scalia is 77.  Kennedy is 76.  Ginsburg is 80.  Breyer is 74.  Kennedy has always been viewed as the key vote on the issue of gay marriage, as he typically is on these divisive social issue cases.  There has been speculation that other Justices are not sure how he will ultimately vote and that they ruled on the standing issue the way they did to avoid finding out.  I think it’s this:  they’re jockeying, stalling for time, waiting to see who will blink first.  Which one of those oldsters will retire first?  And will it be during the Obama administration or will the conservatives, particularly Scalia, retire before the next Presidential election.  The Court is so close in its votes and its split, every retirement is critical on issues like this.  I think they voted the way they did to kick the can down the road with the hope that the votes for their respective sides will improve before the issue comes back.  And, in the course of doing so, they made horrible law.

Second thing I really care about.

This is just stupid.  If you are really an atheis, if you are comfortable with that title, you don’t need a monument.  Atheism isn’t a religion.  It isn’t a set of beliefs.  It is the absence of belief.  It is … ergh … erecting a monument to atheists makes those who demanded its placement no better than the religious believers they are challenging.

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