Posts tagged Atheism
Did you know famed Atheist Christopher Hitchens is going to die? Below is a clip from an interview Hitchens did with Anderson Cooper. I found it very interesting and wanted to talk about it, because there is something to learn in there. And as you read, please consider helping spread this around by copying and posting this in your social media status:
I have regular interactions with a handful of atheists. So long as they’re respectful, I have not problem with them. Why would I make enemies with someone just because they don’t believe what I believe? That’s stupid. Let’s disagree, be direct, but have fun doing it. In fact, last year I was asked to review a book written by several atheists (and a couple agnostics) called The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. It was a valuable experience, although I’m not sure the writers cared for my review.
Sure, atheists like Christopher Hitchens (and Richard Dawkins) can make me mad. In fact, I actually informally quote Hitchens in my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity:
I heard a gentleman on a radio talk show say that the Bible is “obviously myth and must be considered a work of fiction.” He said we must all come to terms with the idea that religion in general is untrue and must be put aside for the sake of reason and enlightenment.
That was Hitchens. This may sound strange, but I find him very likable–not to mention articulate and intelligent. There is a certain charm and genuineness about him even when he is venomously bashing Christianity and saying people of faith deserve to be mocked and ridiculed. Ouch!
In some measure, I understand. Faith is strange. Even God says that those who follow him are a “peculiar people” (in the KJV translation). I think it’s important to remember this. What is a given for me, especially considering I have been doing this faith thing for 23 years now, is foreign to a lot of people. I think when Christians forget this, they are more prone to alienate people and create a tense response to their faith-stance–or develop a faith-stance that creates tension.
What is interesting is that Hitchens seems to fall under one of my two reasons people either stay away or stray away from God. As much as people say there is no evidence for God or that there are so many religions no single one is right, it’s much simpler than that. When there’s a way to find out more about a person’s story, I find two common denominators. They were also the main thrust of some recent lyrics I wrote and screamed for a band called VENIA, which I explain here and here.
What are they?
PAIN and PLEASURE.
It is either that a person’s painful situation has caused them to doubt the goodness of God or his existence. It’s just that simple. It has crushed them and destroyed their faith.
Or it is a battle with some form of morality that people wrestle with (or want to engage in), and it usually brings some sort of pleasure. Most people dabble in a behavior that they know is wrong, don’t want to stop, so they change what they believe so that it is not longer wrong in their own mind.
Back to Hitchens. My heart broke when I heard about his mother committing suicide. How tragic. And clearly he will carry this with him until day he dies, whenever that may be. I can’t imagine the grief of that.
Yes, I am a Christian, but I do not wish death on Christopher Hitchens. I wish him all the best in his treatment and hopeful recovery.
And yes, I will pray for him. Not because it means something to me (and I know it doesn’t mean anything to him), but because I know he means something to God. I also pray he will at least have comfort in the strain, both physical and emotional.
Christopher Hitchens will die, but I hope he lives a long and happy life if at all possible.
Many years ago I was in a band called Strongarm. We once filmed a music video in Southern California while we were on a summer tour. An interesting tidbit is that a director named Darren Doane. At the time, he wasn’t a Christian (he is now). Anyway, he rented the really expensive video equipment to film a Bad Religion video and used it to film our video the next day. So we shot ours for really cheap.
Believe it or not, the band Bad Religion (if you don’t know, they’re a really famous punk band) is still together. The singer, Greg Graffin, is an acclaimed Atheist who also got his Ph.D from Cornell University. He has recently written a book called Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God. Now, I haven’t read it, although I want to. I’m not going to lie and say it’s in my book cue. There’s already 10 there. But it sounds very interesting.
Here is an interview he recently did. He sounds like an interesting fellow. He makes a connection between evolution and punk rock, while in my book there’s certainly a connection between punk rock and my faith. Quite a difference. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Punk rock and evolution seem, at first glance, to be worlds apart. Did similar things draw you to both?
I definitely was attracted to similar things in punk and science.They both depend on a healthy dose of skepticism. My science teachersalways encouraged their classes to “go out and discover something”because all scientific endeavors depend on observation andexperimentation. Through such pursuits anyone can find something new toscience, and if it’s truly novel, the entire edifice of science mighthave to be restructured. In this way, science is a constant challenge toauthority, and no scientist swells with too much hubris because sheknows that anyone might come along with some new verifiable data thatcan cause a revolution. The thread of culture that runs through theentire history of punk is also a dedication to challenging theauthoritarian. So, in this way i see a connection, and i feelcomfortable in both circles.
So let’s continue.
Context doesn’t matter. That one was a little jab. Of course, this is not a stated value of the book, but this is certainly the practical application as the arguments play out. The authors have little regard for context in regards to the areas of Scripture they do analyze. As a result, they are completely incapable (or unwilling) of determining if a particular area of Scripture is meant to be a special circumstance or a timeless principle. For me, this is a daily and mandatory discipline. But rather than try to determine the context, they liberally vacillate between the literal and metaphorical understandings—depending on which will more readily support their current point or eviscerate Christianity more.
In the same vein, they also make no distinction between the religion of Christianity and those actually desiring to be a follower of Jesus. For example, I did not join a ‘religion’ or belief system (and I did not grow up a Christian). I simply wanted to try to follow the teachings of Jesus and apply them to my life.
Religion kills, Christianity is the worst, and Atheism is all sunny days and yummy milkshakes. If someone in history has claimed to be Christian and done horrible things, like Timothy McVeigh (He is a favorite example of Atheists, although McVeigh was a self-proclaimed agnostic, but I’ll let it stand for the sake of argument.), it was because he was a religious nut and religion is to blame (it made him that way). However, if someone was an Atheist or agnostic and did terrible things, like Mao Zedong, his godless worldview is not responsible. It was just because he was crazy or bad. Christianity is held accountable while Atheism gets a pass.
Plus, Atheism is awesome because it has never had missionaries corrupting societies or hurt anyone. So in the “Age of Reason” France never banished pastors, converted churches to temples of reason, and punished people for claiming to “know the truth” I guess? This is a good place to introduce the 2nd major flaw of the book.
Flaw #2-“The Original Sin”. What is the Original Sin of this book? It takes shape as a HUGE oversight. It does not even delve into the very reason for religion. That is to say, it doesn’t offer one thought as to how this all started or where we all come from. More fundamentally, it does not even do a cursory mention or a courtesy bow to the idea of how you get something from nothing. If you’re going to write a whole reference-type book on debunking Christianity, you better offer something on this.
That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? That’s why I believe at all. Where did this all start? What about our origins? Saying “Darwin” or “Evolution” isn’t enough. Give me “Cosmic Goo” or “X” the “Big Bang.” It isn’t an explanation, but its something. What started this all? Did aliens seed all this as noted Atheist Richard Dawkins said could be possible? To not offer anything is a major flaw of a book seeking to destroy Christianity and promote Atheism. You better offer something, or at least say why you’re not offering anything. But let me say, in offering something you may only put forward what science can prove and test. Remember, the natural (or physical) world is all that we may believe in or that can guide us. That means nothing that can be construed as “extraordinary” or hint at something “supernatural” may be proposed. I suppose that may be why our origins is ignored in this book. It is difficult to explain.
How do you get something from nothing?
Christianity can’t be because it isn’t. Christianity can’t be true because it probably isn’t the only religion you (or I) tried. That’s a major contention. They hold that I must treat every religion with the same amount of validity. If I want to have any integrity I must flush out and try each one before I am allowed to decide.
The Outsider Test For Faith. What I gather to be one of the benchmarks of the book is described as the Outsider Test For Faith (OTF). This is somewhat related to the point above. It is something the editor and main contributor, John Loftus, builds his very Atheism on. Unfortunately, he never stated exactly what the Outsider Test For Faith is. I read the chapter several times to try and find it. He laid out questions that he uses to guide his skepticism based on the OTF, answered objections based on the OTF, but never defined clearly what the OTF was/is. In addition, I know he wants us (Christians) to subject the same amount of skepticism to Christianity as we do other religions. I suppose that is what it is. Still, I’m not sure. Nowhere did Loftus say “The OTF can essentially be summarized as…” and then build from there. Perhaps, I missed it. I guess I failed the test.
Marxism and Atheism. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most Atheists are Marxists in regards to their socio-political philosophy (most are Socialists and a few admit to being Communists). And I extend this assessment beyond the confines of this book. I find this somewhat inconsistent and even humorous. It is a true lapse of the ‘unwavering’ logic they profess. They don’t have the integrity or decency to be anarchists at best (the only ‘survival of the fittest’ socio-political philosophy) or Libertarians at worst (the only amoral one). Atheists are so often averse and upset about the influence of religion on society and its ‘oppressive’ morality. Their perfect, reasoned, and logical solution? To revert to another form of moralism. They seek to employ all the authoritarianism of a theocracy, minus the God part.
*The book alleges that the Bible promotes a “flat earth” view of cosmology because it employs such terms as the “four corners of the earth”. This is to show how primitive framers of the Bible were and, subsequently, must have been wrong about God too. Somehow there is no understanding of the poetry and parallelism in Hebrew writings and banter. For example, Jesus once said to take the plank out your own eye before pointing out the piece of sawdust in someone else’s (in regard to being judgmental). This may come as a surprise, but Jesus did not in fact think we are all actually made of wood. It was a creative metaphor.
*The book contends that we are all moral relativists because we view someone else’s view of morality as relative to ours (often a clear distinction between belief and non-belief). But that’s not what I view as moral relativism. I am not a moral relativist because I believe in absolutes that are intrinsic and fixed. Perhaps we are operating from two different meanings of ‘relative/ist.’
*Christians must give opponents of Christianity more validity than promoters of it if they want to truly find the truth. Of course, no one ever does this. Do the environmentalists look to skeptics to learn how to protect the earth? Do pro-choice advocates glean wisdom from pro-lifers when weighing their decision? (And so on) This is simply hedging and an air of moral superiority, because we’re all guilty here—even Atheists.
*Science picks up where philosophy leaves off, is what they say in this book. In direct contrast, I say the exact opposite in my book. Philosophy offers a theory or explanation when science can’t.
*Atheists get mad that Atheism often gets called a religion by Christian apologists. While I understand Atheism is not a religion, in that it is not a belief system and is more accurately non-belief or non-religion, can we agree that sometimes this is an argument about semantics? Religion can be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Does Atheism not sometimes fit that description when having these debates? Perhaps Atheism can sometimes be viewed as a religion with a little “r” and not a big “R”, as it is not an organized and formal religion. But you get the idea, academically speaking, when we’re having these talks, don’t you?
*Atheists also dispute Christianity because there are so many variations of it (with the denominations, non-denominations, and cults, to a lesser degree). In essence, Christianity (and Christians) can’t agree with itself, so it must be false. So am I to understand that because there are varying viewpoints on a particular subject (the result of free will, mind you) then none can be correct or worth considering? That makes no sense. Bring that into a marriage or friendship and see where that gets you. Not to mention, this isn’t exactly a fair point to make at all. Atheists only have to agree on ONE THING: there is no God. In the inverse, Christians unanimously agree on this point (that there is a God). And they agree on the most important element of Christianity: Jesus. Beyond that, there can be no more comparing, since we have doctrine, principles, and lessons to learn from and interpret. If Atheists had the same to consider they would obviously find themselves in the same predicament.
Flaw #1-“The Epic Fail”. The very title “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails” is an epic fail. That is to say, the very premise of the book fails. Why? Because Christianity is alive and well. In fact, it started with just 12 followers 2,000 years ago and has bad BILLIONS of followers since then. If we put this in an empirical and scientific context, as Atheists claim to guide their lives with, we see that the evidence proves that the title breaks down in a major way with very little analysis—because faith hasn’t failed.
In fact, the very first sentence of the first chapter confirms my point. It opens with, “One of the great mysteries is why, despite the best arguments against it, religion survives.” There it is: an inadvertent admission that the title does not stand up under the weight of its own scrutiny. And if that’s the case, then doesn’t the whole premise of the book fail? Perhaps a better subtitle would be something like “Why Faith Should Fail”. A title with a qualitative word in it helps to deliver on the promise. This is something I learned writing my own book. With all the contributors claims of intellect, experience in academia, and fancy letters after their names, how did they miss this epic fail?
Lastly, a word to Atheists:
I do not hate you. I am not trying to convert you. I do not want to control you. I do not want to create a theocracy. I understand your frustrations and doubts—I have them weekly. I believe in God. You do not. I believe there is a spiritual element to life. You do not. I believe Jesus was the Son of God. You do not. But make no mistake:
I believe because I know it to be personally true. Sometimes resolute and sometimes strong. And sometimes a little more dimly. But I know this:
I will always believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. To me, that’s just the best news ever.
I recently finished reading The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) in order to review it on my site www.jasonberggren.com. It was recommended to me by one of the contributors, Edward Babinski, who is a reader of my blog (named above). I’ve had many pleasant back-and-forths with him and was excited at the prospect.
I suspect I was approached to read TCD because of the title of my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith —that I am perhaps a borderline Atheist convert, or a “New Atheist” as they’re called. It’s a fair point, but it is not the case as many Atheists have discovered (and then gotten mad about). I suppose there is a frustration that I used such a shocking title, but used it for good (to build faith and bring attention to Jesus) and used it before they did/could. The irony is, much that is covered in TCD I discuss in my own book.
So what about The Christian Delusion?
Following are my overall impressions and thoughts. By the end of this, I will also reveal the three major flaws of the book, as I see them. Please keep in mind, when I refer to Atheists in this review, I am referring to the contributors of this book only unless otherwise noted.
I appreciate the content of the book. It was well written and presents many valid points. I think it’s important to constantly review the objections many raise concerning Christianity. They are questions worth asking and discussing. We, as Christians, should never resist these dialogues. We should be committed to healthy, productive, and respectful discussions regarding our faith. Unfortunately, the ‘respect’ part is difficult in this heated subject from both sides of this aisle.
Let’s get started.
Summarizing Atheism. Let’s begin at the foundation. From what I gather, Atheism hinges on two rejections (in regard to religion in general): 1) there is no spiritual element to life and 2) there is no such thing as the supernatural. That’s my bottom-line description. For this reason, the physical world can be the only guide. What can be tested and proven with scientific methods can be the only evidence for living. This is summed up quite well by Richard Carrier, PhD on page 296, “That’s why I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead: it simply isn’t a plausible event, and is not supported by any sources I trust.”
Intellectual honesty. That was perhaps the favorite phrase in this book when critiquing Christianity. Much was made of our (Christians) intellectual dishonesty. In other words, Christians would cease to be Christians if they were intellectually honest about…(and so on). But anyone who is intellectually honest will realize that much of the counterpoints to faith in this book are not exactly intellectually honest themselves. But then again, I am no intellectual, to be honest.
For example, there is a railing of Christian apologists for not being authentic in their approach since they seek to prove their faith—that they shouldn’t enter into the endeavor with a defined bias. It’s a fair point. But nothing is said of many apologists becoming converts by doing precisely this. At face value the Atheists make the same mistake (regardless of what they may say). They also enter into their undertaking with a defined bias: they seek to disprove God and Christianity. Personally, I could care less. Just be honest about it rather than assuming some level of moral superiority, especially when you do the same.
Humorless, condescending, and cynical. That is the overall tone of the book. One of the last lines of the introduction is, “To honest believers who are seeking to test their own inherited religious faith, this book is for you.” Sounds so magnanimous and polite, right? As if we are all just sitting around a coffee table together after Thanksgiving Dinner just shuckin-n-jivin. Unfortunately, up to that point the introduction spends a great deal of time talking down to people of faith.
For example, if you are a Christian, have faith, or believe in God this book has no lack of descriptions or directions for you. Allow me to elaborate about you (and these are no exaggerations). You are mentally ill, an obstacle to society, unenlightened, uneducated, brainwashed, sexist, prejudice, primitive, stupid, gullible, superstitious, uncivilized, racist, ridiculous, inferior, embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, wildly deluded, a liar for Christ, a tragedy, programmed to distrust skeptics, in a cult, and scary. You will hopefully evolve out of your need to believe, must realize that Rome didn’t really persecute Christians all that much, should know there has never been much of an effort to destroy the canonical evidence of Scripture or supportive artifacts, must be open to Atheists ideas (but not vice versa), may not use the Bible when discussing faith with Atheists (although Atheists can use the bible in every argument against it they make and are allowed any other bit of supporting work, theory, innuendo, or otherwise to proselytize their non-God worldview), believe in a savior (Jesus) who was an ignorant xenophobe, should be a socialist, should follow Marxism at least (according to most) and Communism at best (according to a few), contribute to the violence in the world, need to appreciate that Atheists are patient enough to ‘deal’ with you, and need to realize that the Apostle Paul hallucinated himself into belief because of guilt. Oh yes, and you have also likely hallucinated and have low self-esteem (which explains your need to believe).
Now you may be wondering why I included so many direct descriptions. Believe it or not, this is just a small percentage of what the book included. I think it’s important to point out that the book attempts to cloak itself in a guise of respect, reason, and magnanimity (as I stated before). But as you can see, these words are quite antagonistic. This dialogue environment is not egalitarian and altruistic as it claims to want to create. These are words of anger and revenge. And if that’s the purpose, again, then just be honest about it.
“Insiders” of Christianity. That is the claim of nearly all the contributors—that they were former ones, that is. I am very suspicious of this because of the blatant disregard for context (which I will get into later). It just seems to me, if this is true, there is quite a but of willful ignorance as the arguments play out. Or perhaps they had very bad mentors when they were “insiders”.
The Bible has NO credibility. Any source seems to be more valid than the Bible to them. Even one with only one or two copies citing a particular event holds more weight (so long as it casts doubt on Christianity) than the thousands of manuscripts of the Scripture. If two books record the same event, the Bible is automatically wrong. Why? Well, because it’s the Bible, of course! Aren’t you paying attention? This is a good place to introduce the 1st major flaw of the book (in descending order) and end part 1 of this review (part 2 posts tomorrow).
Flaw #3-“The Idiot Genius Contradiction”. In my observation, this is a major pillar of the Atheists (again, I refer to the contributors of this book) contention to Christianity. And in order to accept it, you must accept two contradictory theories at the same time and believe them both simultaneously. Although they should largely negate each other (if we are ‘intellectually honest’), somehow they survive each other, together.
The contradiction is this: Christianity (and Judaism to a lesser degree) is built on the brilliantly maniacal manipulative writings of an elite group of people (i.e., the Bible). This group has been able to translate, re-translate, craft, and re-craft the Bible in a way that has enabled them to control the masses, proliferate their religion throughout the centuries, and maintain their own positions of power. With it and through it they prey on fears, promise rewards, and punish disobedience.
And at the same time…
Somehow this elite group was not smart enough to make God perfect, his followers flawless, and his will universal and clear as the Caribbean waters in those same writings. Obviously, this would require no apologies and phony justifications while helping this elite ensure more power, influence, and amass more money. Instead, in the Bible, they make much of alleging God (and often his followers) is an ethical tyrant, moral monster, racial hatemonger, oppressive master, violent father, indifferent to suffering, and permissive of evil. But somehow we were all tricked into following this God while reading all this. In short, this elite crowd was not smart enough to frame a God that didn’t seem bi-polar and is at least good, yet somehow invented the most successful religion (Christianity) ever. It’s very similar to the 9/11 conspiracy theories: somehow President Bush was an evil genius that destroyed the Word Trade Center to line his (and his cohorts) pockets by starting a war for oil without leaving a hint of evidence but was the biggest bumbling idiot at the same time.
So the Bible is brilliant and stupid all at once. Somehow both are true. That’s the Idiot Genius Contradiction.
“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” -G.K.Chesterton
Come on! You know that made you smile a little, at least after you thought about it for a moment.
I quoted that because I am working on my 2 part review of the book The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (which I have mentioned here and here ). It’s going to be quite long, because it’s more than a review really (of course). I will try to have it done next week. Let me at least say now that it was a very informative. And I apologize for it taking so long for me to finish.
Have a great weekend!
So I was doing radio interview. In one segment, the host had on a secular humanist to offer some opposing points to someone ‘religious’ like me. Although I detest the term ‘religious’, I get it for the sake of rhetoric. The secular humanist was offering some things that he thought those from the faith perspective should know. One of his counter points was this:
Don’t assume that because I am a secular atheist I don’t have morals (or that I am immoral).
I don’t (and didn’t). But if I’m going to be honest, I do have one concern.
Humans tend to go in cycles. One cycle (and I know this to be true personally) is to become more permissive and loose in many areas of our lives. For example, we tend to gradually spend a little more money, eat a little more, experiment a little more, etc. Personally, I snap back because I have a set standard of principles and absolutes that guide me. Because these are not sourced in me and are above me, I can never change these. I can bump up against them, get mad about them, disregard them, but they don’t change.
For example, I make the rule that my kids can’t drink directly out of the milk jug in our homes. But because I made that law, I frequently decide when not to obey it. With regard to the absolutes I believe in, I cannot do that (or shouldn’t).
My concern is that, if morals are relativistic or you (as a human) are the supreme authority on your moral standards and code, where do you snap back to (if ever).
At this, I have been told that we have a type of social contract with society that guides all of our morality. It is an agreed upon moral code that we as a society have made law (this would be our Constitution and Bill of Rights).
I understand this, and agree to a degree, but basing it solely on what we all agree upon (or me/us) has it’s limits. For example, in ancient Roman culture pedophilia was common. So if society were to eventually agree that pedophilia is not a big deal for some reason, would that be okay? If this was reflected in the social contract, would it then not be immoral?
Now since I believe in absolutes, this would never be okay with me. Jesus held children in very high regard, so I do. I also believe in the dignity and sanctity of human life. Another reason pedophilia would never be okay. These standards are above me, so I can never change them to fit my particular emotional whim (not that I would with regard to this disgusting example, but you get the point).
So I do not think secular humanists are immoral. And I don’t think atheists don’t have morals. I also don’t believe all secular humanist are going to become pedophiles. I know many who are very good people. That’s not my point.
But I guess I do wonder, can a moral relativist have absolutes? And what do you base your absolutes on if you do not believe in a Creator or believe that there are inherent absolute truths out there? And will they change?
I recently received an email from a gentleman trying to ‘convert’ me. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say ‘unconvert’ me from my faith. He was bringing to my attention a book he was a contributor on. Although it may not sound like it, the email was a very friendly. He was wanting simply to create a dialogue–which I am all for.
The book is called the The Christian Delusion (Why Faith Fails).
Now let me make it clear, I HAVE NOT read the book. I have, however, read the extensive summary on each chapter over here. (BTW-I have requested a review copy).
From what I can gather, through a variety of approaches (from different contributors) it seeks to prove that those who believe in Jesus (are Christians) are delusional, stupid, and dangerous.
Now, I was doing a radio interview in Sydney, Australia last week. The host mentioned Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to me (since one of them had been on the show the day before). I described this movement as “Fundamentalist Atheists”–which he gave a good laugh to. This is a good description of this book.
For example, it attacks the resurrection of Jesus as a ridiculous myth, asserts that many Christians have believed in a flat-earth and alleges the Bible supports this) so Christianity must be false, calls God retarded (yes, that’s in there), says God is evil, and the Bible is filled with silly fairy tales–to name a few things.
A few things struck me as I read the summary:
1. If Christianity is so inconsequential then why not ignore it? Why all the effort? It would seem to me that the best why to deal with something that is so ridiculous, is to give it no mind or effort. For example, I do not believe in the Loch Ness Monster, so I am not going to write a whole book on why I don’t. I simply let it be inconsequential by ignoring it.
2. This book seems to be very angry. I know that sounds funny coming from a guy who wrote a book called 10 Things I Hate About Christianity, but it’s true (and my book isn’t actually an angry one). Many atheists take Christianity to task for being ‘mean and hateful’. I get it. But It is also ironic, since many atheists reciprocate to a venomous degree as a solution.
3. Delusion implies deceit. I am not trying to deceive anyone. I actually believe in God and Jesus. And yes, some atheists are mad at me because: 1) I used that title (of my book) before them and 2) am still a Christian.
Anyway, there are some brief thoughts. I have no particular animus for atheists or agnostics. I have several that I call friends. I am simply commenting on this new book. I look forward to reviewing it.
*So now it’s time for some atheist jokes to add some humor.
What did the atheist say when he was about to smash into the car in front of him at full speed? GOD HELP ME!
How many atheists does it take to screw in a light bulb? I don’t know. They’re too busy telling me that since there is not light that they can objectively see right now, then there is no reason to believe another bulb will produce this thing you call ‘light’.
Got any of your own?
As a person of faith, I frequently feel like Atheists are antagonistic toward people like me. And I’m sure they feel the same way. For me, it’s because so many of them are bent on either disproving the existence of God or barring the idea of God from entering the public arena in any way. Beyond that, there is the common framing of people of faith as either idiots or evil.
For example, I found the picture above from an Atheist website that claims not to be about hate. They simply want to present all views. There is irony since the picture is meant to be funny, but is obviously quite insulting.
There are also those that celebrate Blasphemy week in which they do things like celebrate the freedom to denigrate and insult religion. Some trade pornography for Bibles. Others de-baptized people with hair dryers. And in Washington, D.C., an art exhibit opened that shows, among other paintings, one entitled Divine Wine, where Jesus, on the cross, has blood flowing from his wound into a wine bottle.
Now I know this does not represent the majority of Atheists. It’s just they’re the ones who get and want the attention. Do I like this stuff. No. But I also affirm the freedom of individuals to celebrate what they believe–or don’t believe–so long as it doesn’t tread on my rights.
But did you know that Atheists fight with each other? Why?
NPR has an article chronicling the issue. And it’s for the reasons named above. There are those Atheists that find it very offensive and unnecessary to take such insulting and seemingly hostile approaches to people or ideas of faith.
For example, the renowned Atheist Christopher Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair and author of the book God Is Not Great,told a capacity crowd at the University of Toronto, “I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred and contempt, and I claim that right.” His words were greeted with hoots of approval. This is known as the New Atheism and there are plenty of Atheists who don’t agree with the antagonistic and hostile approach.
I know there are many underlying issues and tangents that enter this
discussion. But I simply wanted to draw attention to it and ask what
the right approach from all sides of this?
Because of the nature of my book, over the last year I have ended up on several Atheist discussion threads. And there is always a common thread: they want a world that is free. Don’t be fooled. It’s a world free from religion. That’s depicted as true freedom. Again, there is irony. They want people to be free, just not free to worship or believe in anything that reason can not clearly prove or dictate. But that’s not really freedom. Because in a free world, people would be free to believe…or not believe.
Am I mad or offended? No.
What does this mean to me as a Christian? Will I still tell people about Jesus. Yes, because he said in the Gospel of Matthew that I should.
I will continue to believe and write books that make it into discussion threads that call me stupid and superstitious.
It’s been awesome. I have been in contact with all kinds of different people over the last six months. Old friends and new friends. The spiritually curious and spiritually convinced. Lovers and haters.
I don’t know if you remember the group ABBA from the 70’s and 80’s. Dancing Queen anyone?
I sure do, having a Swedish dad and all. I’ve heard it over and over:
*ABBA has sold more albums than the Beatles.
*ABBA recorded all their albums in Swedish, English, Spanish, and Jive (I made that last one up).
There’s more, but I’ll stop there.
Anyway, Bjorn from ABBA has recently come out and said:
“Freedom from indoctrination ought to be a basic human right for all children,” argues ABBA star Björn Ulvaeus in a passionate plea for Sweden to rethink its policy on faith-based schools. -quoted from The Local The Local
His problem (shared by many others in Sweden) is that he does want any Swedish schools to be able to have a specific religious emphasis in their purpose, mission, and some of their classes, not even private schools that receive no public funding. So he has joined the effort to stand against them all and pass legislation to prevent this.
Bjorn is a Humanist. Not that I am trying to take a stand against Humanists or have anything against them. I just want to point out what has unfolded in this situation.
He (Bjorn) feels that it should be a basic human right for children not to be indoctrinated by any ideology or religion. The view is that this breeds intolerance and an “us-and-them” mentality. If there is religious teaching, let schools must teach all religions as equal and not emphasize one being true over another. Say, for instance, like a Christian private school built on the statement Jesus said when he emphasized, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”-Gospel of John 14:6
It’s humorous because isn’t this indoctrination as well? Sure, it is not religious in nature. But it is certainly an ideology–an ideology supposedly built on tolerance.
Doesn’t this seem strange. Whenever I hear that word in social/political discourse a red flag goes up in my mind. Most of the time people claim to be so enlightened and intellectual while manifesting the very same characteristics they supposedly stand against.
What do I mean?
This whole premise of promoting human rights under the guise of tolerance and freedom (from stuff) is done so through promoting intolerance of certain views and ideologies. You know, for the ‘greater good’ and all. By mandating through law, they wish to bar certain viewpoints and actually limit freedom.
It is so blatantly contradictory. It shocks me that it goes relatively unnoticed in these arguments.
Here’s what I say. Mamma mia, let’s ALL mind our own business and stop telling other people how to live! Live and let live. Yes, I teach my children about God. THAT is actually my human right and THE human right that I should be able to exercise as I see fit, even if someone doesn’t like it.
Get out of my home and my business…MYOB. Everyone is happier that way!
*On a side note, I also think this is funny for another reason. ABBA means father in Hebrew. It is a
reference and reverence for God. It’s what Jesus called God..
Okay, normally I’ll highlight something that Christians are doing that is cheesy, or even negative, in order to challenge followers of Jesus in how they represent the teachings of Jesus. This is in an effort to help us all step up our game, so to speak, both in character and quality.
But today, it’s time to have some fun with the Atheists…
Here is a promotional video for the Atheist Alliance International Convention and it sucks! You’d think people trying to step up their evangelism for Atheism might do a better job (boy that sounds weird). Come on people! If you’re going to get people to believe in your non-belief system, you’re gonna have to do a better job. So for all those Atheism missionaries, watch and learn:
*MY (SORT OF) OFFICIAL STATEMENT TO MY CRITICS*
That’s right ladies and gentlemen; I used the word hell. I am not a cussing man, unless, of course, I smash my thumb while working on a home improvement project. Or if my vintage truck (that thought was so cool when I bought it) breaks down yet again⎯leaving me regretting that I ever purchased it. But the expression fits these days.
I would like to take a moment to respond to some of my critics. And by critics, I mean people who are emailing me all kinds of nasty things about my book but have never read it. Normally, I would not do this. It is standard public image strategy to never respond to your critics, since a response is a type of validation. But in all fairness, I can’t write a book called 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith and not expect to have any critical reactions that need to be dealt with.
Let me begin where I might end, in anticipation of some not finishing this long statement. I just want to make sure everyone is left with my most important points:
• Believe it or not, my book is overwhelmingly positive (you can read the reviews to verify this).
• You can’t believe everything you see. Interviews that are prerecorded (like on TV) often do not communicate every detail of the story being covered. Therefore, the full context of said subject is never revealed. They are more like interest-generating highlights.
• Christians should be thanking me for writing the book. Sorry, but you’ll have to keep reading for my explanation on that one.
So let me move on to some comments I have been receiving. What’s interesting about these comments is that the harshest ones have been from Christians and these individuals have NOT read my book. This does not surprise me. This probably does not surprise you. In fact, I write about this in my book (Chapter 10 on what I hate about Christians).
The proverbial “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind here. They truly personify the expression. You’d think Christians, who are mad about someone judging them and their faith, might not want to be so judgmental. The irony is that I believe my book is exactly what they need to read. If this is how they treat me (a fellow flawed follower), I can’t imagine how they treat people in their daily lives: cousins, co-workers, neighbors, schoolmates etc.
I want to share the sentiments I’ve been sent because I think it is a learning moment. Shockingly, these emails have not been anonymous. I suppose I should give them credit for that, at least. In respect to the senders (because I am actually not the savage that some claim), I will simply paraphrase the thoughts and not give you their names.
I have been called a sick-o, loser, idiot, the dumbest person in the world, offensive, that I need to get a life, that I’m promoting ignorant trash, and that it breaks the heart of God that I would ever release a book like this. Surprisingly, I have not yet been told I am going to Hell. But I’m sure it’s coming (especially since I just mentioned it). Let me say it again, all these comments are from Christians who have not read the book. It’s not like I can’t take it. I invite critical thinking…so long as it is informed.
The other interesting thing is that some of the kindest emails (in response to my first ABC News interview) have come from self-proclaimed humanists, pagans, atheists, and agnostics who read the book. In fact, I was surfing around the web and found an atheist discussion-thread on some forum in which an atheist was actually defending me:
“So…get over yourself (Jason) and move on with your life. If you’re pathetic enough to need a religion to give your life some sort of self meaning then shut up and stick to your faith.”
Response from another Atheist:
“Why should he do that…I’m pretty sure he didn’t write the book for atheists to tell them to stop whining, he wrote it for other Christians to read it and stop being d*#ches to the rest of the world…no one forced you to watch the video…so maybe you’re the one who needs to get over yourself and move on.”
In closing, I was sincerely hoping Christians would be less judgmental. I know that was naïve, but I wanted the Christians to prove me wrong. It saddens me that they would make parts of my book so true. They send me a hateful email because they’re mad that I would say anything negative about Christianity? How does that make sense? It’s life imitating art (Or is it art imitating life since my book is about life? Not really sure how that expression works in this context). Does it discourage me? Yes. But it also fires me up even more. I will simply think of them as that strange family member that everyone tolerates because they have to. And maybe they can think of me in the same light and still let me come to the family picnic. But let this be a lesson to us all.
The funny thing is, Christians should be thanking me for writing this book. That’s right. Read it again: thanking me. Why? For two reasons:
1) It would only have been a matter of time before someone else would have written a book under the same title. And it would not have been so constructive, healthy, positive, and motivational. Frankly, I’m surprised that someone didn’t beat me to the punch. As a matter of fact, somebody approached me to buy www.10thingsihateaboutchristianity.com, but I told him I already wrote the book. I haven’t heard back.
2) I have been able to give them a tool that will help them bring dialogue about Jesus in front of diverse audiences that would otherwise ignore the subject. And isn’t that really the point of it all, Christians? We call it the Great Commission in my neck of the woods. The more people that talk about Jesus the better, I say.
I operate my life under the assumption that God is okay with questions, doubts, honesty, and passion. If not, then he is no God worth following. That is the premise of my book and why I have any measure of sanity and peace at all. So let us not judge a book by its cover, unless you are merely commenting on the artistic design. Besides Christians, if we were all to judge the Bible by its cover alone, we would be forced to admit that it looks like the most boring book in the world. Instead, it continues to be the best-selling book in history year after year, because it is by opening the pages we discover that only certain parts are boring. The rest reads like:
“General Hospital meets Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings meets Monty Python. It’s filled with stories of action, adventure, fighting, sex, love, and humor. There are even fire-breathing dragons and a talking donkey. But no ogre. (Sorry, Shrek.)”
–taken from 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith in Chapter 3 on The Bible.
[UPDATE: I just got compared to Hitler and my book got compared to Mein Kampf. Once again, it was from a ‘Christian’ who has not read my book.]
This weekend brought many reflections. If you are intent on following and understanding the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth, it better. That’s what commemorating his death and resurrection should do at a minimum.
Maybe I’m really messed up, but I was sitting there during my church’s Easter service as I began reflecting on an odd musing.
What was it?
I started to realize how much I despise Atheists. For a few seconds it became very potent. My passions seemed to flood my mind and distract me from what was supposed to be a very somber and respectful moment. Here was jerky old me destroying a once-a-year-special-event with jerky thoughts and my usual jerkiness. But hear me out for a second before you send me jerky emails.
Why do I hate Atheists?
Because they have decided. They’re done. They’ve settled the matter in their minds and moved on.
For me, faith requires a constant and untiring vigilance. I continually battle doubt, discouragement, pain, and unmet expectations (to name just a few). I always have to figure out how what Jesus says applies to my life. What does it mean to me as a husband? A father? A business man? A citizen? Is my world-view influencing my faith? Or is my faith affecting my world-view (which is my goal)? Not to mention, did he really rise from the dead (what it all hinges on)?
So I guess, in a way, in this regard, I am really jealous of Atheists. I wish I could let it go and be done with it all. And not let it bother me. I just can’t. I have to fight every day to maintain my faith. Yes, I choose the fight. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.
Make no mistake, I choose my way over theirs. I mean no disrespect. I simply mean to solidify what I do in fact believe with my final thought. I hold dear the wager that the philosopher/mathematicians Blaise Pascal held dear (and said much better than I):
“But your happiness? Let us weigh
the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain
all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation
that He is.”
|Decision Matrix||God exists||God does not exist|
|Wager for God||Gain all||Status quo|
|Wager against God||Misery||Status quo|
[chart courtesy of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]