Tag Archives: god

Distinguishing Between Fiction and Reality

Today I stumbled upon an article published in The Telegram of Worcester, Mass. It is titled “When atheists turn to God,” and it is completely bizarre. I encourage you to read it.

Anyway, I couldn’t let such a strange piece go unchallenged, and the comments section didn’t seem the forum for a rebuttal, so I decided to write a letter to the editor in order to voice my thoughts. The full text of my letter is below:

Dear Mr. Sinacola,

At the outset of Dr. Gary Welton’s recent As I See It article, “When atheists turn to God,” it appears that Dr. Welton is preparing to present a rebuttal to the American Humanist Association’s latest lawsuit to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. He had the opportunity to guide readers to reasons he believes this lawsuit misguided, which could have generated genuinely interesting conversation about the implications of the phrase and the impact of the lawsuit.

Instead he elected to deliver a strange lesson in literature.

After briefly introducing us to the AHA case, Dr. Welton sets forth a barrage of quotes related to the initial subject in varying degrees. Why Dr. Welton chose to use fiction as the backbone for his article concerning real issues is beyond me. It’s one thing to utilize an excerpt from literature to bolster one’s argument; it’s another thing entirely to build a whole article out of quotes. In total, Dr. Welton’s article consists of 12 paragraphs of literary quotes and only six paragraphs of original material.

However, what is more concerning than Dr. Welton’s uninventive writing style is his conformity to the notion that, when faced with strife, atheists also turn to a higher power. If Dr. Welton had taken the time to talk to nonbelievers to discover how they cope with trying situations – rather than regurgitate quotes – he might have found that atheists have established a number of ways to deal with tragedy and hard times in a purely secular way. Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger, has written extensively on the topic.

Atheists have a hard enough time in this deeply religious country without people like Dr. Welton spreading lies about our behavior. I’d like to invite Dr. Welton to join me in a conversation about what life as an atheist is really like. I’ve found that one of the best ways to increase understanding of atheists is for believers to actually meet them, and I’m not sure that Dr. Welton ever has.

Though atheist characters in popular fiction might display a tendency to drift back to the supernatural, nonbelievers in real life have a much different story to tell.

Timothy Pate 

Washington, D.C.

I genuinely hope to hear back from The Telegram, and I hope that this letter will lead to conversations with Dr. Welton. I will post any developments on this site.

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Frank Turner Isn’t a Subtle Atheist

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Frank Turner
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

It’s not a secret that many musicians have given up on religion. From the outwardly atheist band, Bad Religion, to Bjork, plenty of prominent artists have confessed their lack of belief. Others, such as Macklemore and Green Day, include lyrics in their songs that condemn the actions or beliefs of the religious.

Yesterday, Denver alternative-rock radio station 93.3 hosted its annual “Kegs & Eggs” St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which features an early-morning rock concert and – you guessed it – beer and eggs. Among the artists performing at this year’s event was Frank Turner, whose song “If Ever I Stray” has earned him rapidly increasing popularity in the past few months.

I wasn’t able to attend the live event, but 93.3 aired the concert live on its station. Turner performed a song that I had never heard, “Glory Hallelujah.”

Brothers and sisters, have you heard the news?
The storm has lifted and there’s nothing to lose,
So swap your confirmation for your dancing shoes,
Because there never was no God.
Step out of the darkness and onto the streets,
Forget about the fast, let’s have a carnival feast,
Raise up your lowered head to hear the liberation beat,
Because there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

No cowering in the dark before these overbearing priests,
Not waiting until we die until we restitute the meek,
No blaming all our failings on imaginary beasts,
Because there never was no God.
No fighting over land your distant fathers told you of,
Not spilling blood for those who have never spread a drop of blood,
No finger pointing justified by fairies up above,
Because there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

And I know you’re scared of dieing man and I am too,
But just pretending it’s not happening isn’t gonna see us through,
So just accept that there’s an end game and we haven’t got much time,
And then in the here and now we can try and do things right.
Forget about the crazy things that people have believed,
And think of wondrous things that normal people have achieved,
‘Cos I’ve known beauty in the stillness of cathedrals in the day,
I sang Glory Hallelujah! Won’t you wash my sins away?
But now I’m singing my refrain and this is what I say,
I say there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

It’s nice to see atheism nonchalantly becoming part of pop culture. Turner’s song is an uplifting anthem for nonbelievers. Here’s hoping it resonates with those who felt they were alone in their atheism.

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A very confused argument against homosexuality

On my last post, in which I chastised Rob Schwarzwalder for his dimwitted argument against homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, I received a comment that contained only a link. I clicked the link, and I was taken to a very short blog post. The person who posted the comment left no context to indicate the meaning of the link, so I will have to assume that it was meant as a rebuttal to my argument. I would like to take this opportunity, then, to break down the argument I found in this little blog post, here on my own blog.

It starts:

To the advocates of homosexual marriage: what is the purpose of sex? “The expression of love between two people in a committed relationship.” Wonderful.

Whoa there. You don’t get to answer the question that you posed to someone of an opposing viewpoint. If you’d like to debate, you have to address the points they make; not the points you imagine they would make given your question. That’s called attacking a straw man, and it doesn’t bode well for you.

As for your assumption, I take issue with all three points. First, sex does not have to be an expression of love. In many cases it is simply an expression of attraction. In others it is an expression of love. And in the case of rape, it is an expression of power. Second, sex is not limited to people in committed relationships. One night stands are just as legitimate a form of sex as is marital sex. And finally, sex is not confined to only two people – to which the adventurous among us can attest.

It sounds to me as though you have simply defined where you find meaning in sex. It’s a perfectly acceptable stance for you to take, but do not assume that your definition is representative of the entire human population.

This means you find prostitution immoral. It contravenes the purpose of sex.

Do I? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. You don’t know, because you’re making up an argument that is totally unsubstantiated by the words of your opponent. In my case, I do find prostitution immoral in most situations, but not because it violates your narrow definition of sex. When I philosophize to determine whether or not I find something to be immoral, I take into consideration a number of factors – foremost whether the act causes any type of harm to a person or a group of people. In the case of prostitution, many woman and men are harmed because of the act. In some cases, they are forced into it. In others, they are abused by their pimps. One could also consider the implications prostitution has on women as a group – does it lend to the continuing objectification of women? Does it create a system in which some women feel the only way to provide for themselves is by selling their bodies? These are the questions I ask, rather than does it contradict my view for how sex should take place.

Now, do I find prostitution immoral in all cases? I doubt it. If a consenting adult pays another consenting adult money to teach the first adult something about sex, is it prostitution? In countries such as the Netherlands, where prostitution is a unionized profession, do the women choose the job voluntarily? These are complex questions to which your binary test cannot be applied. It is foolhardy for you to think such dilemmas are so simple.

Does this, therefore, make you unscientific, hate-filled and whorophobic? You’d likely reply, “No.”

What we have here is a false comparison. Opposing homosexuality because of religious reasons is by definition unscientific. My approach to the question of prostitution must be carried out scientifically, and I am not relying on my subjective morals to come to a conclusion. Furthermore, though I’m opposed to men (by and large) taking advantage of prostitutes, I’m not attacking the rights of the prostitutes in order to solve the problem. See the difference?

You would contest such a description because you understand the following: (1) moral judgment requires man be free, no matter what the Calvinists and philosophers say; (2) any behavior could be said to be partially induced by genetics, especially having a mistress; and (3) the moral vision that supplied you with the purpose of sex is not a matter or product of scientific inquiry.

Such convoluted reasoning (again coming from the viewpoint of your absurd strawman) is difficult to follow, but I’ll give it my best shot. (1) If I understand correctly, you’re proposing that in order to determine something to be moral or immoral, humans must have the ability to make decisions, which can then be judged to be good or bad. I would probably agree, but free will is a tricky subject that you have again condensed far too much. (2) If you’re going to propose that behavior could be the result, even if partially, of genetics, why emphasize having a mistress? That seems an odd non sequitur. (3) No, the moral vision that you supplied for the purpose of sex is not the product of scientific inquiry. I think that determining the purpose of sex is definitely a matter of scientific inquiry. And, as I have mentioned, I think that determining whether or not something is moral must be done scientifically as well.

If the Fool were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, you might grow worried over where such a philosophy would lead.

Are you referring to yourself in the third person as “the Fool”? Anyway, if you were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, I’d say you likely would have a healthier understanding of sex than you do currently, but that’s really a subjective personal issue. I would have no quarrel with that definition of the purpose of sex (such a silly concept in the first place).

You might not be mollified by my assurances that the moral envelope would not be pushed further. You might claim that my formulation of sex’s purpose was self-serving. And the Fool might reply: that’s what a whorophobe would say.

You’re lucky I took a look at the tags you added to this post; otherwise I might not have noticed that you were trying to make an argument for the slippery slope of accepting homosexuality. Either way, the point you are so poorly trying to make has already been shredded. What, in your mind, is the envelope that might be pushed should advocates of gay marriage have their way? And would you please address the implied negativity of sex being self-serving? A freshman course in logic would serve you well in this arena.

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God and Sports

It looks like God is a betting man. At least, this is the logical conclusion one might come to based on a recent survey that revealed how many Americans actually believe the almighty plays a role in the outcome of sporting events…

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes.

And here I was worrying about the number who believe in creationism. These are people who literally believe some all-powerful being, master and creator of the universe, gives a very serious shit about which team wins a game on a spec of dust floating through the universe. It’s not just infuriating; it’s really telling about why this country has such a god problem.

I would really love (and by love I mean hate) to have a conversation with these people. I’d ask questions like: How does your lord pick a side? Why does he hate other teams? Why does he keep changing his mind? Is he a bandwagoner? Are you crazy?

Listen, I get it: if your god is omnipotent, obviously he has control over even the minutest of details, including whether the rather shady Ray Lewis gets a trophy in his final season.

And sure, a lot of Christians believe in a very personal god, one who interacts with and/or controls their petty lives. So perhaps this survey isn’t that revealing. But come on! Isn’t it just a bit silly to believe in any of that? Doesn’t it make more sense that the outcomes of games are determined not by some sky monster pulling strings but by some athletes outperforming others?

Finally, if this sports-loving god does exist, shouldn’t there be some outrage on behalf of the folks who have been swindled into worshipping him? If Kurt Warner’s success has somehow trumped the needs of the world’s desolate and despondent, shouldn’t believers be really pissed off at his priorities.

I don’t believe in any sort of entity that is responsible for the joy and despair of humans; but if I did, I’d be mad as hell.

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Distinguishing Sincere from Opportunstic

Brother Jed

An old man putting his insanity on display.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Brother Jed is batshit crazy. There’s no doubt about it. A man who has spent 38 years of his life traveling the country in order to tell college students that they are doomed to an eternity in Hell lest they accept Jesus as their lord and savior is certifiably bonkers. I have my suspicions that as he fades into old age his condition has grown worse, but I can’t confirm that.

When Brother Jed made an appearance at a local university, the resident skeptic organization politely invited him to speak to their group. I attended the meeting and listened to what Jed had to say. There was plenty of the anticipated petulant condemnations, but Brother Jed did have some personal insight that I did not expect. Describing his experiences on various campuses, he recalled a time when a nonbeliever had come to his defense amid the onslaught of chastisement from Christian college students. The secular student argued that despite his disagreements with Brother Jed, he did not doubt that Jed was sincere in his lunacy. The student continued that he was skeptical of the sincerity of the “Christian” students berating Brother Jed – for if they truly believed what they claimed, they would be doing the exact same as Jed.

I have come to the same conclusion. During my extensive interaction with the religious, it is quite clear that the ones who dedicate their lives to their faith are the ones who are most convicted in their belief. It is a point that has also been made by Sam Harris: he has said often that indeed the most fervent believers on September 11, 2001 were the hijackers. It is then here that a clear line must be drawn – between the fervent believers and the ruthless opportunists.

Fundamentalists – henceforth deemed “sincere believers” – range in the amount of threat they pose to civil, peaceful living. On one end of the spectrum you have Brother Jed, whose lunatic rantings are essentially harmless. In fact, people like Brother Jed and others of the mentally-ill evangelical variety probably do a great deal of good for the secular community. (When a psychotic slimeball vomits putrid messages of intolerance and hostility upon passerby on college campuses, the group that stands up and tells students to be themselves seems quite welcoming.) On the other end, there are the violent faithful – the jihadists and abortion clinic bombers – who have no reservations about harming others to advance their beliefs.

Opportunists, on the other hand, are almost universally harmful, some more than others. The level of conviction among this vile segment of the religious community is often unclear. In this category I place such groups as the Westboro Baptist Church, the Family Research Council, and the Catholic Church. The goal of these groups is completely self-serving (whereas the sincere believers are genuinely concerned with continuing what they believe to be a God-ordained mission). The opportunists seek money, power, recognition. Those desires are not in and of themselves harmful, but opportunistic religious groups rarely seek means to their ends that don’t lay to waste certain segments of the population on the way. In the case of Westboro, it’s American soldiers. For the Family Research Council, it’s homosexuals. The Catholic Church’s primary victims may be its very adherents!

The point I am trying to make is not that the attention of the nonreligious community should be focused more on one group or the other – sincere believers and opportunists both present the potential for tangible harm to others. Rather, I think that it is important to make the distinction because the approach to be made in defeating these groups is necessarily different.

In the case of the believers, one must argue with the intention of dismantling the belief. Because this group is so committed to what they believe, the only thing that can shake them from continuing their wretched crusades is to crumble the foundation upon which they stand. By no means is this an easy task. Such deeply held beliefs are difficult to shake; and in cases such as Brother Jed, it may indeed be too late to teach an old dog new tricks. There are, however, some who are not beyond hope – and I don’t believe our efforts are wasted in discussion with them.

Tactics to dismantle the opportunists may not be based in arguments against their belief. After all, it is difficult sometimes to understand specifically what their beliefs are, and they are unlikely to be affected by reasonable arguments against such beliefs. There’s a reason that the Family Research Council doesn’t care about current scientific understanding of homosexuality and that the Catholic Church maintains antiquated beliefs about contraceptives and abortion. To abandon such premises would be to forfeit their positions of power, so they are not interested in updating their principles. Instead, the plan of attack against these groups must be legal. Keep the sickness of Catholicism from influencing health care law. Thrash and shred attempts by anti-gay groups to legalize “gay therapy.” By all means continue to expose their nonsense for what it is for the benefit of onlookers, but understand that truly defeating these forces of evil cannot be accomplished by debate alone.

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“Heaven Just Gained Another Angel”

Posting from my phone here, so I’ll make this one brief.

We see this saying a lot when people die (which has been painfully frequently as of late). To me it’s a curious statement…one I find desperately hypocritical.

Here’s the thing: in life, we are quick to pass judgement on our fellow humans. Nobody is ever good enough. This behavior is hyperactive in religion; especially in religions for which faith is the utmost of human virtues.

These religious people are constantly told (and telling each other) that nothing that they do is good enough. No amount of charity or goodwill can save them from the wrath of their god unless they truly believe.

Often, their criteria for belief is abnormally strict. You have to believe the right way. People of different faiths are eager to condemn those who don’t share their viewpoints, even when these people are their friends.

I’ve asked a few of my religious friends what they think will happen to me when I die. Many of them don’t shy away from responding that I’ll likely end up in Hell unless I redeem myself through faith. They also don’t balk at the idea of their friends of separate faiths spending eternity in the grips of Satan.

So why are they so sure that the recently deceased are in Heaven? After so much doubt and condemnation during the living hours, why are the religious so quick to confidently predict the whereabouts of the departed?

To me, this demonstrates the real purpose religion serves for most people. It’s a matter of comfort and convenience rather than a conviction of knowledge. Religious belief, like many beliefs concocted by our complex brains, serves to make sense of what is around us in a way our brains can manage.

Religion is not the result of divine inspiration or divine revelation; it is the trickery of our brains as they try to appease their foolish possessors.

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Why Do We Keep Offering Unanswered Prayers?

The following essay is a guest post from an atheist mother in response to the massacre in Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

“Some of God’s greatest gifts…are unanswered prayers…” sang country singer, Garth Brooks. It sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it?

Why do we keep praying to a god that obviously has no interest in us-or more accurately, probably does not exist at all? My theory is that we do it because we feel we have nothing else to offer. The danger being that we start to believe it and prayer is all we do. Prayer will not change the incidents of December 14 or the days before or the days to come. Action might. At least action has a fighting chance. Continue to pray if it helps you in some small way, but do not stop there. Unless you are so egotistical to believe that your desires are more important than others’ desires, that your prayers somehow deserve the attention of some deity that the other prayers obviously did not, DO SOMETHING MORE THAN PRAY.

Why do we offer prayers for the families whose children were murdered? Do we not, as parents, know that every god believer in the group had spent every day – no every moment – since the birth of their children praying for their well-being, just as each of us who are parents would have done? I know I did. I spent hours in conversation with a “god” in desperate plea that my children would be safe, happy, healthy, not to mention joyous and compassionate.

Why should your prayer for these parents be any more effective than all the prayers those parents made for all those years? Were they praying to the wrong god? Do you pray to the right one? Please do not even attempt to tell me that God loves each of us more than our own parents. BULL SHIT! Don’t even try to compare your god’s love with my parents’ love or the love I have for my children. I guarantee you that either of my parents, being in the building as God was supposedly, would have stopped that idiot shooter or died trying to save me or any other child. No force on earth could have stopped me from getting in between a shooter and one of my children…where was your god?

Do not tell me that we cannot know God’s will. God gets let off the hook time and time again using this ridiculous claim. If it was “God’s will” that those children were gunned down, then what the fuck are we doing worshipping such a god?

Then comes, “…but god gave man free-will…” You might be right- we might have free-will, but that makes any god ineffective, no longer omnipotent. What then is “god”? If you claim God is omnipresent, then I repeat, where was your god? Omniscient? Then God should have known not to give us freewill.

If you live in fear of eternal damnation, then when the time comes to decide to obey God on your appointment to hell, just use your all-powerful free will and choose not to accept.  In the meantime, continue to pray if you must, but do not stop there. It is dangerous to believe prayer is all we can do. Prayer will not change the incidents of yesterday or the days before or the days to come. Action might.

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