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Judeo-Christian Principles December 29, 2011

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I’ve talked about this idea before. The argument that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is brought up quite often. The more I think about the argument, I have to consider that it might be true. I mean, Christianity was popular when the U.S. got started, and it could be argued that the “principles”, which I take to mean morals, were based on Biblical beliefs. But so what?

So what if the U.S. was founded on those principles? It’s not like we are still living in that time period, where women were second class citizens in their own country, and black families were literally slaves, and reduced to almost animals within societies that held their Bibles high and proud during this period. We’ve changed, and we’ve changed for the better.

Do we get to claim that the principles we were founded upon were actually quite bad? Or will this turn into yet another excuse from those who believe those principles were something to be proud of, or perhaps even return to? No matter how you slice it, the U.S. was explicitly endorsing some morals that have since been abolished completely, because they were literally awful, in every way.

To tear families from foreign countries, rip them apart, and feed them into the slave trade to American businesses and families is so disgusting, it would simply never be tolerated today. It has been cited as one of the main reasons for the Civil War in the U.S. Two sides of the argument, holding their Bibles in the air, while proclaiming that slavery was OK, and slavery was not OK, and then going to war over it.

To treat women as second class citizens has very strong Biblical roots. There is plenty of scripture that supports misogyny, and placing women in subservient roles within the family. Today, women have equal rights, they can vote, and they can work alongside men in competition for the same jobs that were once restricted. It took time, but we evolved away from the founding principles that the United States was founded upon, and for good reason – they were horrible. And by the way, women have not yet gained equal status to men in certain measures, such as income for the same jobs as men.

If I were a Christian, I don’t think I would make the argument. It does not look good when considered for a few minutes. Of course, there are still some Christians who are not happy with the equal rights for women, and the abolishment of slavery (luckily, they have been marginalized). But we still have active hatred and bigotry against gays, and non-believers. So we are still battling some of the same principles that sprung from the pages of the Bible, according to some Christians.

In the end, it may be true that the U.S. was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles. But luckily, those principles have been replaced with better ones. Since human morals evolve over time, based on prevailing tolerances and standards set by those societies, we can be sure that they will continue changing, and continue to make things better for each of us. And hopefully we can stop arguing over how the country was founded, as though it is something we should aspire to. Yikes!

My Last Post? May 19, 2011

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I feel compelled to throw out some final thoughts, since the end of the world is upon us! Yep, May 21, 2011, according to this Pastor. Oh well, so much for my plans to become a rock star.

Anyway, of course I don’t believe anything this nut has stated, and neither do most of the Christians I personally know. Weird though, wouldn’t it seem that all Christians should heed this particular warning? I mean, if they know Jesus will return, and the world will be destroyed, how do they know it won’t be this Saturday? What if this pastor has a luck guess? It’s not entirely impossible. I digress.

So, what would you do if you knew the world was ending? I haven’t given it that much thought, but here are some of my ideas. I would definitely want to be with my closest family members, currently my wife and young son. I would definitely eat some really great, and not too healthy meals. I would play my guitar as loud as my amplifier will go! What else?

Let’s see, Giving away money or possessions would be a waste of effort really. But it might be fun to visit someplace I have never been to – assuming I had enough time. The more I think through this, the more I end up just being with my family, and maybe closest friends if possible. I’m somewhat of a recluse socially. I would rather be at home than running around in my community.

I know that the world is not going to end this Saturday, and I really do wish that people would never take this stuff so seriously. Even if you have a strong belief that there is a plan to end the world as we know it, there is simply no reason to spend your life fearing it, or hoping for it. We should be living our lives as though we have one chance to do it, and to do it with compassion and freedom to explore our aliveness.

If you are a believer, keep believing, but don’t worry about this nonsense!

Christian Persecution May 8, 2011

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Are Christians being “persecuted” around the world? Or maybe in one part of the world, like the U.S.? That’s what some Christians would have us believe. For example, one friend told me that not allowing the Ten Commandments to be hung in a U.S. Courthouse is active “persecution” or restriction of religious freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Removing prayer from public schools is another restriction on religious freedoms. But they are completely missing the point of religious freedom.

There is simply no rule or law that say’s a person cannot pray in a public school. No one in the government is telling people that they are not allowed to practice their religion in a courthouse. What is actually going on, is the removal of government endorsement of a specific religion. That’s why the Ten Commandments cannot be hung in a government courthouse. That’s why public schools, funded by tax paying citizens, cannot endorse a specific religion, by opening school each day with a Christian prayer.

To be sure, there is evidence through recent surveys that people are leaving their religions at a faster rate than in the past. Non-belief is growing, and switching denominations is more popular as well. Younger people are not attending church at the same rate as in the past as well. But I see that as a reflection of personal decisions and values from people who don’t seem to have a need to be told by a church, exactly how they should be living their lives. It may also be the result of the Catholic Priest pedophile scandal, as well as the 9/11 bombings, and resulting ten year “war on terror”, which seems laced with religious ideology as a basis for hate.

One common reply on this issue is that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and morals. That the founding fathers were Christians, and even held religious services in the Capitol Building long ago. But I say that doesn’t really matter. If we want to stay true to the spirit of this country, we must never allow a specific religion to be endorsed by our government, or in any way forced upon citizens who are not Christian. It makes no difference how many people in this country claim to be Christian. If the founding fathers wanted this to be a “Christian Nation”, they would have explicitly stated so, and they would not have provided a platform where religious freedom was a central idea.

Religion does not make a person better, or morally superior, to others. That takes personal responsibility, courage, and the willingness to accept that we each have a right to be here, and to enjoy our time on this planet without the fear of being looked down upon by someone who claims a moral high ground. This country is great because it allows everyone to believe, worship, and pray to whatever idol they so choose. We’re even allowed to invent a religion if we so need to. It’s time that those Christians who think they are being persecuted, to look in the mirror, and ask themselves what it really means to be a Christian, and stop whining about persecution. Not to mention there are 400,000 Christian churches dotting the United States that prove otherwise!

I Cannot Make the Leap January 9, 2011

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Many Christians support their beliefs with faith. They say that without faith, they might not believe. And I am left wondering why faith is necessary at all? If God is real, then why do we need faith to believe? Well, for one thing, we cannot actually see God, or can we?

Exodus 33:20
There shall no man see me, and live.

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time.

Exodus 33:11
And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.

Genesis 32:30
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

So, here are four verses that claim we both cannot see God, and that God has been seen. I guess we’ll never know, and to be honest, I have never met a Christian who claims to have actually seen God. So, faith it is then.

But faith is a leap, isn’t it? That’s what we mean when we say “a leap of faith”. It means that we figuratively jump, or “leap” to a belief, despite not actually knowing that the belief is real, or true. And it is this leap that I cannot make, at least not with any honesty.

And why should I? What exactly am I leaping to? A god that is so powerful as to have created the entire universe and everything in it, yet cannot make a simple appearance to me? I don’t understand this. According to Exodus, God can and has been seen. I guess I am supposed to conclude that I am not as important or special as Moses. And frankly, according to Exodus 33:20, no man has seen God and lived! No thanks!

As a person who has been trying to understand what all of the fuss is about, I have yet to be shown a clear method to join the believers club. But the one thing that continues to surface, is that I have to believe with all my heart, and have faith. As much as I might want to believe with all my heart, I simply cannot. I don’t know why, either. I don’t hate God, I don’t hate religion. I’ve spent plenty of time in church and sunday school, so I know a lot of the major stories in the Bible. I know that I will burn in Hell for all eternity if I don’t accept Jesus as my savior. Yet, here I am without the ability to simply believe with all my heart.

Faith is empty when it comes to God. It is a leap to nothing. It is exactly like having faith and believing with all my heart that Santa is real. And I realize that Santa is nothing at all like God, but believers must realize that to me, Santa is exactly like God. Imaginary. And no amount of faith is going to change that. I need something else. Something that Christianity simply has been unable to provide. Evidence.

Is There a Fate Worse Than Death? December 29, 2010

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I heard the phrase “fate worse than death” on an unrelated YouTube video, and it got me thinking about the topic. For humans, we know that we will all die one day. Of course, there are many who believe, or at least hope, that there is some kind of life after death. These beliefs are all over the map in terms of details, but they are quite popular. I don’t even have to wonder why this is the case, as I myself do not want my life to end. Or, so I say.

My personal belief is that when we die, we revert back to the same state we were in prior to conception. Which is my way of describing to others the state I believe I will be in; that of non-existence, and with no ability to recognize or acknowledge my existence. Before the egg and sperm united that created me, I was not, nor was I even intended. I was a rather rare luck of the draw, so to speak. And so it will be, I presume, after I die. But for some, there is a fate even worse if one considers death to be a bad thing.

Christianity claims that those who do not get accepted into heaven will be doomed to Hell. And Hell is described in most sects as an eternal lake of fire, or an eternal burning, gnashing of teeth, etc. Sounds awful to me. Yes, it sounds far worse to me than being a corpse, even if my body were cremated, the burning stops once the fuel (my body) is consumed. But Hell is an eternal burning of my body, while I am aware and alive, and while I can always feel the burning! This sounds horrific. To be fair, not all Christians believe in this type of Hell.

But, no matter how I look at it, if rejecting God, Jesus, or Christianity is going to land me in this awful place, this fate, then I don’t see any way to call Christianity a loving or peaceful religion. I don’t see how I have been given the “free will” to accept or reject this god, if this punishment exists. There is nothing more evil and despicable in my book. As a parent, I would never hold a punishment so severe over my children, for any reason. It is simply not necessary. However, I hold no delusion that fear is not the greatest motivator for most humans. And if Hell is real, it has certainly scared many people enough to keep them at least pretending to believe.

I know there are Christians who will say that the love of Jesus and the promise of Heaven are far greater rewards, and that this is the reason they choose to accept Jesus. But those same people refuse to renounce the punishment of Hell. In other words, they claim that they are not afraid of Hell, because they believe, but they simultaneously claim that we have a choice to believe or not. So, if I don’t believe, they prefer to claim that I don’t want to be in Heaven, or to accept Jesus as my savior. And they believe that it is always my choice to believe, or go to Hell.

If there are in fact only two fates, Heaven or Hell, then the only rational choice, according to believers, is to believe! It never occurs to many of them that a reward alone should be enough to gain believers. It never occurs to some of them that the reward of eternal life would still work for most believers, and that NOT making it to Heaven is punishment enough. Why add Hell to the mix at all? Well, if you’re a god like the one in The Bible, you can add Hell as the ultimate punishment, thereby cutting off all options and choices for everyone. What choice does anyone actually have if the reward and punishment are equally eternal, and at polar opposities in terms of fate?

I do not want to die. But then again, do I really want to live forever? We’ve all seen enough fictional movies to see where eternal life could get awfully boring. For me, Heaven is a human idea designed to ease the finality of death. You don’t come back, as they say. And if that’s what it takes for many humans to accept the finality of death, that’s OK with me. I know I have one shot. And I know it is relatively short.

I can say that at this point in my life, I am happier than I have ever been with the knowledge that I was able to be so lucky to be here, and that I was able to experience the love of my family and my children. I want to be there for my youngest son, and for my grand-children, but I know that I cannot be here forever. That makes everything I am doing right now even more important. It makes me want to be as kind and helpful as I possibly can. It makes me want to share my knowledge, help others in need, and smile a lot more.

But what do I know, I’m just a godless heathen!

What About the Failures? October 19, 2010

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You simply cannot have it both ways. For almost every miracle, there is a failure, or more often, massive failure. When a bus goes over a cliff, and a single person survives, God gets the credit for the miracle. But why does God not also get the blame for the other deaths? The moment you give credit to God for a miracle, you are by default stating that God is also responsible for the tragedy as well. Even the Chilean miner accident had tragedy.

Sure, all of the miners were saved – thanks to the rescuers, and everyone else involved. But a miracle from God? Are you kidding me? Someone even claimed that God was the 34th person in the mine along with the miners! Seriously? What was he doing down there? If God’s miracle saved the miners, why were they stuck in the mine for more than two solid months? How much more incompetent can the creator of the universe actually be? And how is the collapse not the fault of God in the first place?

Anyway, it sure gets old hearing about all of the miracles of God, while conveniently ignoring the disaster that required the miracle in the first place! It’s disgusting. And many people do this without giving it a second thought. God, they say, was the reason that there were survivors in a particular disaster. But simultaneously, God certainly is not to blame for the tragedy and untimely and horrific deaths of the rest of the group. And no one seems to notice, nor care. The last thing on the mind of miracle thumpers is the fact that the miracle was even necessary.

I suppose that if California ever experiences a massive earthquake, one that has long been feared and seems as likely as all of the prior earthquakes, God will get all of the miracle credits, while perhaps hundreds of thousands will surely die as the ground swallows them whole, or perhaps a large chunk of the coast crumbles into the pacific, forever reshaping the coast line. But who will actually blame God for the disaster? Did God create the earth, and all of it’s natural disasters? There are certainly plenty of Christians who have no problem blaming tsunamis and earthquakes on sinners. I guess we’ll never know for sure, since God is conspicuously absent from modern times (assuming you believe he physically interacted with ancient humans some 2,000 years ago and earlier.)

As one who is quite certain that many modern humans are simply unable to abandon imaginary gods, I have to say that I am wholly unimpressed by miracle claims where credit is given to God. This god, who is also given full credit for actually creating the entire universe, and everything in it, is apparently incapable of managing the world, and the universe in such a way as to allow his beloved humans to live without fear of getting buried alive by a volcano, or be drowned on an otherwise beautiful beach by the sudden appearance of a tsunami. There is even a ready made excuse for such ineptness – free will! That’s right – free will is the reason that suffering is allowed by God.

Yeah, I tried to understand that one, and I was left with the same bewildered feeling. Pathetic.

What Would Jesus Think? August 15, 2010

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What would Jesus think about the state of Christianity today? Well, to be honest, that’s not even a proper question, since it is quite clear that Jesus never intended to create this thing called “Christianity”, and have it split up into more than 38,000 sects, each having the truth about Jesus’ message.

I’m not a biblical scholar, nor am I a historian, or an archaeologist. I’m just someone who was born into a family that loosely held onto Roman Catholicism as its church. I went to church, sunday school, and eventually through each of the seven sacraments deemed important to that denomination. More recently in my life, I’ve realized that all gods throughout history are from the imaginations of humans – including God of The Bible and, depending on which sect you follow, Jesus the son of the God, and the actual god of The Bible (no, it wasn’t meant to make any sense.)

Anyway, for the sake of argument, I can agree that Jesus was a human who wandered in a region of our planet preaching the word of the god he believed in – just as hundreds of others were doing at that time. Specifically, if you follow the historians and true biblical scholars, Jesus preached that one should love God, abide by The Law (the Old Testament Law), and prepare for the coming Kingdom of God. He was apocalyptic – the end of the material world was coming. To me, he was deluded, just like all the other humans who believed in these types of prophecies. So how did we end up where we are today?

God had his chosen people in the Old Testament. God led these people from slavery to the promised land. Along the way, God commanded these chosen people to slaughter cities, and to take whatever they needed along the way. And suddenly, there was Jesus. Of course, the Jewish believers were unimpressed. And apparently, none of the contemporary historians had much to say about Jesus either. With the exception of the Gospels, written decades after the death of Jesus, there is almost no written words regarding the activities of the human named Jesus – the man that some claim was God himself. Jesus only came to let people know about God.

He never proclaimed that the next 2,000 years were to be used to build Christianity, fight for the religion, kill non-believers, and generally create massive division among humans all across the planet. The murders of millions of people over the years are not the message that Jesus brought. Those things were done because of misguided humans who used scripture to determine who should live and who should be murdered. Sure, there are plenty of bizarre commands throughout scripture that could be used to support murder. But the message from Jesus, as most churches would agree, was love – and the golden rule. Turn the other cheek. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.

It is my personal opinion that Jesus did not preach to create a new religion called Christianity. Rather, Christianity was created by those who were convinced that Jesus was actually God. And they did so with force, in many cases throughout history. The blood of millions is on the hands of those men who made it their mission to murder people who did not agree with them, or who did not follow their interpretations of scripture. Jesus, if he was real, was a simple preacher for the god he believed was real. Saying he was actually god does not change what he did while he was here. It reinforces the delusion that people espouse when they don’t know the facts.

Moreover, there was no New Testament to speak of when Jesus was around. It took another three hundred years to finally settle on the books that comprise the New Testament. That in itself speaks volumes to the idea that it was humans who could not agree to the words that many claim are divine! Jesus uttered many phrases, apparently, and those phrases were written down by memory, by some authors. What are the chances that those utterances were remembered as they were actually spoken, decades after the fact, from indirect “witnesses”?

While Christianity has obviously spread and become the largest religion on the planet, it has also created more division among it’s own believers than any other religion. This cannot possibly be what Jesus was trying to do with his ministry. One would think that if Jesus truly wanted to create a religion, and call it Christianity, he would have said so in no uncertain terms. Where is it written in scripture that Jesus wanted Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and all of the rest of the denominations? Where is it written that Christianity was to replace Judaism as the one true religion?

I can almost feel sorry for the Jews in this case. They had their book, they had their god, and then along came the people after Jesus died. Historically, Christianity is a split from Judaism. It really is that simple when looked at academically. And given the fact that their book is called the New Testament, it is even more obvious that the new book was designed to replace, or at best augment the Old Testament (no, I don’t agree with the OT prophecies, they are far too vague and weak to be considered worthy of recognition.)

Christianity will be around long after I am gone, I’m sure. The division will also remain, and if one were to model the splitting into denominations and sects, one could easily argue that the division among Christians will get worse. I have not personally met any Christians who even consider the massive number who disagree on scripture to be problematic. They honestly never give it much thought, is my guess. And why should they? They have their church, their preachers, and their own beliefs. So why would they be concerned about what everyone else believes?

Far be it from an atheist to stick his nose into other peoples beliefs and business regarding the delusion that their god is the one true god. But given the fact that Christianity claims to provide the answers to eternal life, or eternal damnation and hellfire, I would think that any reasonable Christian who wants to make it to heaven would be at least a little bit concerned about who Jesus really was, and what he really wanted while he was preaching. Of course, dropping the delusion altogether is another option, joining the ranks of horrible people like myself in the everlasting lake of fire that is sure to come at the end of my life!

Jesus would probably be quite disgusted if he were to see where his ministry has led us today. Then again, if he is God, he already knows! See you all in hell!

Is Religion a Pre-requisite for Morality? May 13, 2010

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Here I go again, assuming there is a god, in order to have a discussion! Anyway, let’s take a look at this question and see where it leads. I have heard from many Christians who believe that God provides them with a moral base for their lives. Some even go as far as practically admitting that without God, they would be unable to act morally? I find that almost impossible to believe. Although, I have had two otherwise normal friends, who said that if God asked them to kill a baby, they would do it. To be fair, they had no choice but to assume that their “real” God was “really” asking them to do such a thing, and thus, they chose to submit. How they can distinguish a real God command from their own imaginations is beyond me.

I like to ask believers if there is anything good that a Christian can do, that cannot also be done by a non-believer. The intent of the question is to challenge them on human acts of kindness, as an example. So the challenge would be to name an act of kindness, or goodness, that physically cannot be done by one who has no god belief. I have yet to hear a single response outside of some things that are done as part of a church ritual or service, which the non-believer could easily do, but chooses not to be involved in church services. However, even those actions don’t hold anything morally superior over others outside of that belief system.

Non-believers are free to take any action they choose, without regard for specific church rules or restrictions on such actions, so you could almost argue that there may be some actions that a non-believer could do, which would be frowned upon by some churches. However, if the church deems it a bad thing, or inappropriate in some way, they would never acknowledge the act being good if done by a non-believer. What if an atheist was handing out condoms in a poverty-stricken area of Africa, resulting in fewer cases of aids through heterosexual contact between married couples? The Catholic church has deemed this a sin, and tells these people that the use of condoms is a sin. No matter what your church leaders say, they simply cannot continue to ignore the fact that using condoms saves lives in these areas.

I think I can argue that religion is not a pre-requisite for morality. Even if a person gains a set of morals through religious indoctrination early in their life, if they drop their god belief, or switch to a completely different religion, they do not automatically start behaving immorally. I have directly challenged some progressive Christian friends on this issue. They have no basis whatsoever to claim that I am less moral than they are, yet they argue their case as though they do have that superiority. They know me, and they know that they cannot directly challenge my morals simply because I claim no god belief. Yet, I sense that they silently claim victory.

The truth is, there is simply no credible evidence that non-believers are less moral. Unless non-belief itself is categorized as immoral, then we have to also consider that moral sets from one religion to the next are not the same, so each religious group gets to claim moral superiority over everyone else! This is an issue that comes up a lot in internet discussions, and it saddens me to think that modern humans still believe that people can’t possibly behave without religion.

Why Did God Create the Universe? May 7, 2010

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If you have never given much serious thought to the size of the known universe, you really should. It is staggering, almost beyond belief. It is difficult to imagine the sub-microscopic planet we live in when it comes to how it compares to the rest of the known universe. I don’t know how to even begint to explain it, really. I’m not sure I could really do it justice.

Some of the greatest minds of modern time have pondered the question “why are we here?”. For many humans, this question seems to invoke some level of “spiritual” consideration. There must be a reason why humans are here. But is that reason any different than why giraffes are here? Do people really think that humans are so much more important than giraffes, in some grand scheme? I think they do believe this. And I think they feel justified, simply because they asked the question, and the giraffe, apparently, has not.

If God (character from The Bible) created the entire universe, and everything in it, including the planet we live on, there must have been a reason. God must have wanted this universe. Did God have a purpose, or a mission, or something in mind when he decided to create this universe, and subsequently, this earth – with us humans asking why? If everything happens for a reason, then there must be a reason that God created the universe and everything in it. Does anyone know what the reason is?

Many claim that we humans cannot know the mind of God (ignoring the fact that those same humans seem to actually know the mind of God). If we cannot know, then isn’t it true that we can only guess? Is it even important to know Gods reason for creating the universe and everything in it? Let’s see…

  • God created the universe because he wanted to?
  • God needed humans to worship him?
  • God was lonely?
  • God created humans because humans need God?
  • I’ll stop there because I think this question is best answered by those who believe God created the universe, and understand exactly why. Let’s get some feedback!

    Deeply Offensive March 28, 2010

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    I have heard this phrase tossed about in debates and discussions over religious beliefs, or the lack of religious beliefs. My bias tends to see the phrase tossed at atheists more often than the other way around. “When you attack Christianity, it is deeply offensive to Christians.” This is an example of something I might read in the forums and blogs. What exactly does the phrase “deeply offensive” really mean though?

    It’s not hard to agree that there are grades of offensive. A sentiment can easily be more or less offensive, perhaps on a sliding scale from least to most. The problem though, is that I don’t see many atheists spewing real hatred or vitriol in their dialogues. I know it happens, but it is certainly a minority of atheists who are just mean and hateful people. I think that when someone uses the phrase “deeply offensive”, it is a way of trying to dissuade or belittle a person for attacking or not respecting their personal beliefs.

    Personal beliefs are not something that deserve respect. Let me repeat that. You personal opinions and beliefs do not deserve respect. Respect must be earned. And it is not earned by holding a belief! Earning respect for your beliefs is actually very easy. Rule number one; don’t expect respect. If you hold a personal belief, such as a belief in a particular god, it will not be respected by everyone. In fact, some people who believe in a different god will be offended! Yes, offended!

    I am not personally offended by peoples personal god beliefs. I am offended when they use those beliefs to act or behave in a way that is superior to other humans. You see, when you are “deeply offended” by one who doesn’t agree with your personal beliefs, then you must feel that you are superior to them, or you must feel that they think they are superior to you in some way. Why else would something be deeply offensive? If a Muslim does not believe that Jesus is God, then should a Christian be deeply offended? I don’t think so. I think the Christian should go on believing that Jesus is God. The Muslim could be deeply offended that Christians are placing a human as a god!

    Deeply offensive, when it comes to personal religious beliefs is a very weak position for a true believer to take. It directly challenges their beliefs. It makes the believer appear to be unsure of their own beliefs, to the point that they must proclaim they are “deeply offended”. On the other hand, as an atheist, I am deeply offended when religion enters into the secular aspects and laws of societies. I am deeply offended when real action is taken on behalf of personal beliefs, such as real hatred and ridicule of homosexuals, or laws that directly exclude certain people from benefits based on personal beliefs. These things are examples of real action on behalf of personal beliefs. You see, atheists are in no religious camps, demanding respect for their personal beliefs. They are simply responding to the real actions taking place throughout the world, where religious dogma interferes with society in a way that is, well, deeply offensive!