Seventy-five percent of Americans currently identify as christian – a number that has slowly but fairly steadily been dropping since 1990. Mark Galli, managing editor of the Evangelical magazine Christianity Today, said: “I feel sorry for those people who don’t think there’s anything greater than themselves. It must feel like a lonely and frightening world for them. Lone-ranger spirituality is not conducive to taking us to the depths God designed us to go. It leaves out the communal dimension of faith. If you leave out the irritations, frustrations and joy that community entails, you miss something about God.”
It must feel pompous to make enormous assumptions about the lives of people whose beliefs (or, in this case, lack thereof) you cannot possibly comprehend, but the theme is relatively common in christianity. This blog is from two years ago, but the attitudes are still expressed today. Let me give you a few sample comments, with brief commentary of my own:
C.S.Lewis (among others) addresses this question, saying that if we don’t base our concept of Good on something eternal and unchanging, then that concept may be manipulated to serve evil purposes (such as killing newborns).
To base our concept of good on something eternal and unchanging is of course a refutation of evolution – change over time – but this doesn’t make sense. People do “evil” things, every single day. Some could easily argue that, just by living in westernized country, you contribute indirectly to evil, simply by existing.
Certainly atheists can be good people, but when they are good it is not because of the atheism – but despite it.
I could say the same about christians – as a matter of fact, given the fact that the bible is full of acceptance and condoning of genocide, torture, rape, murder, incest, slavery, sexism, homophobia, and infanticide; it far more applies to christians than atheists!
Platitudes like “be nice, seek happiness and don’t harm others” are what we often hear from people who acknowledge no faith… They get away with reducing their views to such greeting card banalities because they are not conscious of the fact that they live in a culture that is founded upon religious principles… They understand intuitively that this is wrong, they just can’t articulate it in secular language. Their objection is really a reflex resort to a conscience that was formed in a culture built upon religious principles.
Now you’re telling me our culture was built upon religious principles, and that shaped our laws, and we abide those laws and thus, religious principle by default.
This is a fascinating argument, given we don’t follow biblical principles at all. Our laws don’t justify killing bad children, women who aren’t virgins when they marry, or those who follow another faith. I could go on and on, but let’s just cut to the chase: the only two commandments that are laws (not killing or stealing) are laws because they’re common sense, not because of the bible. Otherwise, they’d all be laws.
the “non-believers” still have this moral standing because god has imprinted his rules on all mans hearts before they are born.
Obviouslythere is no free will then, and no sociopaths or bad people in the world. Check.
I don’t accept the argument… not because I don’t “like” it, but because I believe in the dignity of the human person. I don’t believe that the tiniest human is simply a “cluster of cells.” I believe, that from the moment of conception, a human being is a glorious creation with a soul.
So? Your inability to grasp the concept doesn’t make it less true.
One Sunday our priest outlined the difference between animal and man by pointing out that if a dog is hungry and you give him food, he will eat. He cannot choose not to eat, if that’s the answer to the formula. A starving man, on the other hand, can turn down food if he so chooses.
Is your point that, when it comes right down to it, dogs are smarter than people? And if this is an analogy… You’re saying a man can choose and a dog can not. So a dog automatically believes in god, since this choice is about faith? Or god doesn’t exist, because, obviously, dogs don’t believe? Am I missing something here?
According to many of these comments and ideas from other christians I have heard over time, atheists are not really free to be atheists. They are bound by religious rules, whether they “see” it or not. One woman even went so far as to claim that atheists spoke out against her because they could hear god’s voice within them, yet actively chose to ignore it. (Apparently, she’ll get back to us on why – perhaps god has sent us to be damned just to test her faith! And frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she did believe that.)
Such beliefs unfairly deny atheists what we truly are and give us no say – We have been violated by a parasite that uses our bodies as a host and then judges us after we die for not recognizing they were responsible for our good deeds. What these christians think of sociopaths, child rapists, and murderers is far less clear… And far more disturbing, when you realize that these people have a better chance of eternal reward than atheists; as the majority of them are christian or later repent and become christian in prison.
This “god is the inherent good inside of you, whether you recognize it or not” argument (displayed in a brilliant show of nonsense last week when someone thus claimed atheists do not exist) would seem to challenge the christian notion of free will. If I only do good because of the god inside me (I choose not to embrace but who violates me, otherwise – the most intimate and ultimate of rapes, in my opinion), then where is my free will? And, more importantly, how do you describe people who don’t do good things? Ah, we are all sinners! But, wait. God is inside of us, controlling us, making us good. But we aren’t all good! Because we’re sinners… And round and round we go.
What makes animals good?
In their book ‘When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals‘, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy argue that nonhuman animals experience emotion and provide several examples of animals going against survival instinct to display such emotions. (Emotions, by the way, that many humans deny them on a religious base ideal that humans are somehow special and separate from the natural world.) Can you explain why, when having to choose to either electrocute themselves or another monkey to obtain food, most monkeys choose to shock themselves? If it is the inherent good given to them by god, then what do you say about the small number of those who choose to shock another?
There is altruism in nature that sometimes even extends to other species, but humans seem to have an innate desire to describe this as something bigger than it actually is. Is god in the heart of the dolphin that saves a dog? And if so, then where is god when a child is being brutally raped and murdered? What “lesson” is learned from this scenario? To whom does it benefit?
These are questions with which we all struggle – but in my opinion, christians probably struggle more in this department. As such, they’ve twisted their “loving” god into a being who “works in mysterious ways” and “has a reason – it’s just higher than us, so we can’t understand.” But by giving a child’s death a reason or a calling, they are, in actuality, condoning it. In a world where miracles happen, so too, must crimes be allowed to happen. God either intervenes, or he doesn’t. And if he is within us all and making otherwise immoral atheists do good deeds… Well, round and round we go, again!
And such is the problem with faith – it offers answers, but not real ones. The truth is, we don’t have all the answers. And just saying god has control, everything happens for a reason, etc is a means to no longer look for those answers.
Multiple christians in my life have told me that I am incapable of experiencing love or joy without god. (Who is apparently within me, controlling my good deeds – but unable to allow me to experience the full gamut of emotions only believers are privy to!) A couple weeks ago, a catholic blogger wrote:
To conclude with a phrase: I heard the expression ‘joyous atheists’ the other day and it struck a tinny note against my lexical eardrum. Indeed I refudiate it on the grounds it is an oxymoron. ‘Joyous’ has spiritual connotations and atheists have rejected the life of the spirit. They can of course be ‘happy’ – a word that is much lower in the hierarchy of the emotions.
You can be either ‘joyous’ or an ‘atheist’; you cannot be both. Discuss.
I would think the author would have more important things to talk about than her mastery of the English language (the majority of the blog), capped off with a ridiculous lack of comprehension of the word joy and stirring a pot of hate toward her fellow man… After all, isn’t her church still protecting child abusers and telling Africans that condoms have AIDS? Oh, but you want to focus on your slice of the self-righteous christian pie, instead.
Well, the word ‘joy’ means “happiness; delight”, so now christians are apparently denying us happiness, as well. Spiritual connotations? Only about a third of humans on earth are christian – leaving four billion or so people out of the ability to experience “real” happiness and love and doomed to eternal suffering.
I find myself in shock when someone says I am incapable of loving fully or experiencing true happiness. (Of course, all of that can be negated in a nanosecond, once I casually accept that a man was brutally tortured to death so that I would no longer have to be held accountable for my transgressions – truly, the most amoral of amoral concepts!) Christians have painted me as some bitter, empty waste of existence, struggling with my demons and full of contempt for them. Indeed, many have noted the vitriol from atheists against them; acting like petulant victims who are being persecuted for their faith. Really? The victims here are the majority, and not those who are basically told they cannot experience human emotion because they don’t believe?
I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that the reason christians get so much flak from atheists is mainly due to this subhuman treatment and furthermore, because they are attemption to change our laws drastically in ways that infringe upon our civil, reproductive, scientific, and educational rights! One need only look at the preposterous changes to Texas textbooks to fully understand just why so many atheists are getting angrier – and more vocal about their anger.
The chemicals in our brains (assuming we’re mentally fit) are the same. And, even though people don’t like to hear it, that is the stuff that love and joy are made of. Many of us experience the same things – believing a story about a supposed man’s existence doesn’t change that. Your brain while in love experiences the same chemical change as mine while in love – exactly the same. You do not have something that I do not. You are not capable of emotions that I am not capable of. You are no more human than I am, just because you want to believe in things you cannot prove.
This man sums up many christians’ views of us far better than I can (I am so intrigued by his entry that I plan on dedicating another entire entry to it, at some time!):
Atheists come from no one and nowhere, are going to no one and nowhere, and exist for no valid purpose or reason whatsoever. The atheist’s emotions are of no consequence – they do not truly love, they have no true compassion, they have no true joy. In truth, atheists have no soul, no spirit, no mind or valid thoughts – they are no more than the chance crashing together of purposeless atoms; an exclusively material ‘thing’ that is a byproduct of a random, meaningless explosion of unaccounted (for) matter. That’s it.
When the atheist dies, the deep, cold, empty truth is that their pessimistic life was altogether purposeless, absent meaning, and did not matter.
…unless God exists.