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Been Gone May 1, 2011

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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I’ve been away from the blog lately. I’m still a heathen, but I’ve been busy on different forums doing the good work of the outspoken non-believers. One of my activities is somewhat of a private forum, where I was debating and discussing with people I see every day! That is weird, to say the least. But, we’re all good friends, and we really try hard not to get too abrasive. I will say, it is very difficult, and I can feel some pressure from both sides, which tells me we are edging closer to a fatal point where no useful dialog can actually occur.

After thinking about that last sentence a bit, I am inclined to ask myself why I debate with theists. It seems that there really is no point, when both sides are sure they are right, and seem unwilling to consider the other side. But that’s how it goes in our human world, I suppose. As an atheist, I would not accept the reality of a god without something tangible. And if that showed up, I like to think that I would simply accept that there is a real god. I can’t say what that would do for my specific approach to gods and religions, but I won’t deny that which is demonstrably true, through observation, evidence, and facts.

I am not certain at all what would cause a theist to abandon their beliefs. My instinct tells me that it would require a specific and thoughtful journey of research, rational thinking, and stepping outside of the faith. I have heard that some people are looking for a true support group to switch to, which is very difficult to find if you live amongst a highly religious group of neighbors, and work mates. The power of family, friends, and neighbors is strong, and difficult to escape from when matters of religion, and sometimes other world-views are prevalent. When enough guilt or shame is “in the air”, many people will elect to just go along, and stay quiet.

One thing that has surfaced for me recently, is the idea of writing a book. It seems daunting, and I am certainly not a professional writer, but it could be an interesting project. The focus, without giving away the full idea, would be on the differences between believers and non-believers. I’m still tossing the idea around in my head, so I won’t say any more right now.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the respect of ideas in the debate between belief and non-belief. I was thinking just today, that I have been called out, almost directly, but not quite, on what my goal is in “attacking” a belief system that I don’t even believe in myself. After some thought, I decided that it is certainly a fair question. And I have an answer. But what I would like to know, is why it is seemingly OK and/or socially acceptable to assume that believers are correct, and to give their ideas respect, just because. After all, this debate only has one answer; there is a god, or there is no god (yes, there could be multiple gods, but I’m going for simplicity).

In the end, atheists think they are right, and believers think they are right. So, technically, neither side deserves more respect than the other. But it seems apparent to me that the non-believer side is far less socially accepted. As I watched a clip from Christopher Hitchens recently, he was talking about believers who sent him messages asking if he was now ready to accept Jesus (he has been in the hospital in cancer therapy). And Hitchens basically said that it would be unbelievably rude for atheists to go running into hospital rooms to convince the dying patients that the whole religion thing was a scam. And that’s only one example where belief in a god is given special status as more socially acceptable than non-belief.

Anyway, I’m going to start writing some more – even though no one is listening! (Except for you three…)

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Comments»

1. befuddled2 - May 1, 2011

Ahh, yes – the three readers issue. Writing blogs can be lonelier than many would think.

I noticed in your blog that you wondered about what would cause a theist to abandon their beliefs. For me it started by my concerns about moral issues in the Bible – the specific one that started it all off was God hardening the Pharoah’s heart.

From there I spent about two years or so reading and thinking. During that time the number and scale of the moral problems grew and became accompanied by several philosophical problems with the whole concept of an omnipotent, onmiscient God who is moral and gave us free will.

Without any evidence otherwise I saw no reason to continue believing and many reasons not to. So your guess that it would involve a journey of research and thinking coupled with an openess to avoiding assuming that God existed in the first place is correct. Although from talking to many atheists this is not always the case – sometimes it is an emotinoal response – which is why I sometimes cringe when hearing some of these athesits discussing why they are not theists or debating a knoweldgeable theist.

Anyway, good luck with the book. It sounds intriguing.

2. jetson - May 1, 2011

Hey! Thanks for the comment. I have heard similar stories from various atheists from around the world. It always amazes me how much more they know about the Bible, than those who claim it is the actual word of God!

3. bradley - May 3, 2011

Careful not to sum it all up with “atheists know the bible better than believers.” SOME atheists might know more than SOME believers. Anyway… just hate to see you build a foundation on a false stereotype.

For me its not about being right or wrong. With that said, I came to the conclusion years ago that I was wrong. I had the evidence in my life to support that acknowledgment. I had zero proof that my previous personal strategy for living my life was bearing any kind of significant, worthwhile fruit… and in most cases I was literally killing myself.

So, I accepted a leader for my life. I chose to the let the One that claims to be the life-giver rule my life. I became a “slave” to life. I don’t really care anymore whether I’m “right or wrong”. I am perfectly willing to accept that the bible is truth. Now, I’m able to build on that foundation with confidence and assurance. It brings me peace. Some things come along and cause me to tear down parts of my theology that I’ve built on that foundation, but I always have that foundation.

The thought of building a structure, or life, on things that are in a perpetual state of change seems a lot like building on quicksand to me… or living a life as a nomad.

So… whatever your beliefs are, put a stake in it. Be done. Build your spiritual civilization and grow, man. Life is short. Your life will be the evidence of whether your right or wrong…

jetson - May 3, 2011

Yes, I said “various” atheists!

4. bradley - May 3, 2011

Ah, I guess its the part where you are amazed that there are VARIOUS people that know more about the content of a subject than other people in the world that had me confused.

Various people in the whole, big, wide, 8-billion-people world knowing more about a subject than someone else in the gigantic, blah, blah, just doesn’t seem amazing.

jetson - May 4, 2011

Yes, I’m only pointing out that I would never make a claim that more atheists know more about the Bible than Christians, as my perspective is biased. In my opinion, no one, theologian or otherwise, has any truth about scripture. Rather, we each have a personal understanding based on our reading, combined with individual research or study using someone else’s work.

For example, I have two very good Christian friends who know that I am atheist. One of them is certain that I am a child of God, while the other say’s I am certainly not. Both of them use scripture to back up their claim. Obviously, it doesn’t matter much to me, but it does prove that one can use scripture to come to more than one conclusion, rendering any “true” meaning, rather difficult to gain.

5. bradley - May 4, 2011

Yeah, I was actually referring to a possible straw-man you have created for yourself that all christians must be experts in scripture to have a relationship with God. Then it would be “amazing” when they don’t know shiz about it.

I personally think believers SHOULD know scripture, and all that surrounded Paul while he was trying to articulate it… as well as the early church. That’s just my opinion though… it makes sense. However, Jesus encountered gentiles that probably didn’t know scripture at all, and yet they had faith. So…

Anyway, the foundation on a false stereotype is better articulated in your last comment. It’s amazing to you that “so called Christians” don’t accept atheists perspective of the truth in the bible… but more than that, “how can they even claim there’s truth in it at all”

My dad used to get mad at me for questioning everything he said. He would tell me, “If I tell you to jump… the only thing you need to ask is ‘how high’… If I tell you the sky is purple… you ask ‘what shade of purple’.”

It makes me laugh now… but honestly… the only reason we say its not true that the sky is purple, is because the majority of people consider the color purple to be a violet kind of hue.

6. jetson - May 4, 2011

Well, I can certainly agree that knowing scripture is not a requirement for believers, based on my own reading. However, where would Christianity be without scripture? Nowhere. So, pastors, priests and preachers read scripture every week in their churches (chosen verses), and the church-going public assume they are all going to heaven. Some take it more seriously than others, and some go to extremes.

The part that gets me is when a denomination’s truth claims are made, and they flatly contradict another denomination’s truth claims, and both are reading from the same book. I would like Christians to stop claiming they have some truth, when all they have is personal understanding.

I can say that I think I’m right when I say there is no god, but I can’t say it is an absolute truth.

7. bradley - May 5, 2011

Sure, but where would science be without claiming current understanding as truth? We accept that the absolute truth (once political and selfish motivation is eliminated) is directly contingent upon our current understanding. We even celebrate the fact that scientific discovery causes an ever-changing truth.

It seems no different for believers… We all (evangelicals at least) accept that a life following Christ is a long journey of spiritual growth. A new believer can spout off every personal evidence he discovered about the truth in the bible with passion and ferocity, only to embrace vastly different truth a few years into it. The bible wasn’t written in a day, and the truth isn’t revealed in a day.

as for “I can say that I think I’m right when I say there is no god, but I can’t say it is an absolute truth.”

I’m willing to claim the opposite as an absolute truth. Believe it or not… and it feels good to be unshakable with the grace God is currently giving me. I pray I can stand in anything he sends my way.

Why does that bother you?

jetson - May 5, 2011

It bothers me because no matter how much you might believe, you simply cannot prove it. As I cannot prove there is no god, neither can anyone provide absolute proof of a god. But honestly, it’s not people like yourself that bother me, it is those who are actively using their belief to lessen the equal rights of others.

I suppose there really is no harm in believing “absolutely”, but that is not the same thing as asserting it, and insisting that one is right, without proof.

8. bradley - May 5, 2011

So what your saying is, and you have implied this consistently for well over a year now… you think you should be in charge of what people think and do. People are “free” to think what they want, as long as they don’t really think it?

I wonder how deep this goes…

Let’s say…

Doctors and scientist say that kids’ unhealthy diet is having a negative impact on US society… should we force kids to eat a healthy diet?

Economists say that our sedentary lifestyle will cause an unnecessary burden on health care costs and destroy US society… should we force people to exercise?

Scientists say that CO2 from cars and energy generation is destroying our environment… should we force people to live in pre-industrial conditions?

Clerics say that women exposing any part of their body causes men to lust and will ultimately destroy society… should we force women into burqas?

God says that marriage is between a man and woman… should we force all relationships to be hetero?

Sociologists reveal that the best performing familial structure for a healthy society is a nuclear family with a full-time domestic care-giver… should we limit all relationships to that structure?

Gay rights activists claim that everyone must accept their lifestyle… should everyone be forced to accept that lifestyle?

Pedophile activists claim that everyone should accept their lifestyle… should everyone be forced to accept their lifestyle?

Racists claim that everyone should accept their hatred… should everyone be forced to accept their hatred?

Jewish law states that God prohibits the eating of unclean animals… should we force a vegetarian diet?

Animal rights activists claim mass food production is cruel to animals… should we force a vegetarian diet?

Agricultural food scientists claim that the resources used to feed livestock is causing a food scarcity for developing nations… should we force a vegetarian diet?

Judeo-Christians claim that 10%-30% of income should be given to God, for distribution to the poor and needy… should we force everyone to tithe?

Socialists claim that capitalism is wrong and wealth needs to be redistributed… should we force the wealthy to pay more than their fair share?

Corrupt politicians say that a 2-party system inhibits any real progress to be made in government… should we just have a dictator?

…sorry for the wall of text, but I’m just trying to get a grip on what your version of “equal rights” are. They seem a lot like you want to control what people think and do.

9. jetson - May 6, 2011

My personal version of equal rights does go beyond what society accepts today. A broad interpretation would be that people should be able to do what they want with their own bodies, as long as it does not break the law, or harm other people. But I do realize we have societal values and morals that would preclude certain activities, like running around in the nude in public (my opinion is that most people would not really want to do that.)

I do support same-sex marriage, I support legalizing marijuana, and a few other things that are generally on the liberal side of the fence. But I do not support any form of thought control. I’m not sure where you got that idea? I am an atheist, which means I do not believe there are any real gods. Beyond that, I take my personal stand on religion, and I am outspoken against the use of religiously-backed ideas, principles, morals, rules, or any other form of control over anyone in a free society. This does NOT mean that I want those people to stop practicing their religion. I believe they can do that without bothering everyone in their society if those people choose not to believe.

I suppose you could make an argument that the religious belief requires that everyone in society act a certain way, or follow a certain set of morals, or rules, but that is where I would step in and say that they are free to practice whatever beliefs they want, as long as they do not impart those beliefs onto the rest of us.

So, from my perspective, people can think whatever they want to think. But when they begin to take action that literally inhibits the freedom of others, I speak out. Maybe I’m wrong for doing this, but in the end, isn’t that exactly what some religious fundamentalists are doing when they proclaim that same-sex marriage is an abomination before their god?

A final thought; I am on the response side of religious assertions and god assertions. Atheists are people who reject a positive assertion, they are not the side that has made a positive assertion. Atheism, if it is used as a platform, does not attempt to inhibit people’s rights. It attempts to remove the ability of religious people to inhibit the rights of others who use their holy books and claim moral superiority.

10. bradley - May 6, 2011

Wooo, that was a close one… I almost tripped over your hypocrisy oozing onto the floor.

Forgive me Morally-Superior Atheist… I’m just a rights-inhibiting holy-booker. Godspeed in your mission of hate.

jetson - May 6, 2011

I really have no idea what you are talking about? Where have I claimed that I am morally superior to anyone, and where am I espousing hate?

I have seen you go down these paths in past replies, but I have never seen you actually provide any substance to your assertions.

11. bradley - May 6, 2011

I’m not going to do this game with you. Your blog is all the proof that is needed… but, only God knows what’s truly in is your heart…

Good day to you, sir.

jetson - May 6, 2011

Yes, I’m OK with disagreements, but it does not help your case to make such a bold claim, and then run away as though you have no responsibility for what you say. I realize you were not actually making a case, you were just being a good Christian, I suppose.

I understand why some Christians would not like this blog. But I don’t stand by in silence just because people use their God card. God is not real to me, so it has absolutely no impact on me.

In the end, I did not make any claim whatsoever that you, personally, were inhibiting anyone’s rights. If you openly say that you are trying to inhibit someone’s rights, then I would stand against your actions to do so. Otherwise, you’re blowing smoke.


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