Rants for Reason

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A few weeks ago, my friend called and told me that she thought there was a mouse in her house.

 
I went to her house to try to help her. We searched around the floorboards, in the cabinets, around any entry points, and any pile of debris we thought could house one. We saw no hair, droppings, or mouse-related damage. We put out some baited traps and waited. After a week we had caught nothing. We eventually rented a blacklight to search for urine stains or anything else that would indicate there was a mouse. We couldn’t find any evidence at all to support the thought of there being one.
 
I asked her why she thought there was a mouse in her house, and she said that her parents and all her older relatives all thought there was. She asked me to prove that there was no mouse in the house. I thought for a moment and realized I couldn’t. She took that to mean there must be a mouse. I took it to mean there probably wasn’t one.
 
Yesterday she called to say she thinks there’s a God.
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Written by nelsonlu

January 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Why I’m Not a Christian

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Definitions and Intro

The title of this essay is an homage to Bertrand Russell’s excellent Why I Am Not a Christian. In it, he methodically spells out exactly why he is not a Christian, and does so in as inoffensive yet effective a manner as possible. Some of the same themes he used will be present here. However, I hope to bring something new to the table, in addition to the obvious personal differences between us. I will also do away with being inoffensive, as Christianity is an affront and insult to me. I don’t know who my audience is as I write this, but I refuse to pander to anyone and water this down.

I am an atheist. The definition I use to describe myself as such is that of “a person with a lack of belief in a God or Gods.” There are tomes written on the differences between weak and strong atheism, and on exactly what atheism means, but as atheism is not a dogmatic religion or church, I feel quite justified in using the term however I’d like. I do not believe that there is an absolute zero chance of a God existing; by most definitions a God would be able to conceal itself from humanity if it were omnipotent. However, I feel the likelihood of this is so small as to be irrelevant. Consider the idea of Russell’s teapot: Bertrand Russell put forth the idea that there might be a teapot revolving around the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. The absurdities in that proposition are obvious, but they serve to illustrate that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to prove. To try to claim that the burden of proof lies upon the atheists to disprove God’s existence is silly – what we should really demand is proof from the believers that God exists.

For a long time in my life, I defined myself as an agnostic, under the notion that God’s existence could not be proven or disproven. But truly, the idea of a God, and more so the Abrahamic God, is such a ridiculous assertion that it cannot be treated seriously without evidence, of which none exists.  There’s far more evidence for Santa Claus or The Easter Bunny, and I don’t intend to live my life for them any time soon.

Before I get much further, it is necessary to attempt to define “God.” After all, if we refer to nature and natural processes as God, we could develop quite a strong religious structure devoted to it, one rooted in evidence and science. Here is how I see God:

· A very powerful being beyond the realm of complete human understanding

· A creator of the known universe

· Exists outside the known universe, in a supernatural realm

Now, to take it a step further and to get down to the title of the essay, here is how I see the Christian God:

· Fits the definition of God above, and further –

· Is omnipotent and omniscient

· Is benevolent

· Is described and defined within the Bible

Unfortunately, this definition does present some possible problems of semantics. I believe most of the terms above are well defined and self-explanatory, but “benevolent” may take some more work. In order for something to be benevolent we really must have a definition of good. I posit that “good” is extraordinarily hard to define. Any definitions that seem satisfying boil down to tautologies. I will be forced to leave it as an undefined term – I think as humans we have an innate idea of what it means. Even Euclid had to rely on axioms.

I take Christianity to be defined in its most well known sense, inclusive of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism and every other branch. If an individual defines him or herself as a Christian I believe they are one. However, some assumptions must be taken in order to be able to discuss Christianity at all. I would say most, if not all Christians, must believe the Christian God as defined above exists. I would also say they must accept God, and Jesus Christ, as their savior and subject themselves to Him as their lord and father. I would further say they must accept that the Bible is either the word of God or was otherwise the result of God’s will, and that it contains the truth, literal or not.

The last big definition I would like to cover is that of “nature.” Nature exists as it seems, and its actions and processes are examined and described by science. Something supernatural cannot be described by science, as it is unpredictable and/or undetectable. Supernatural occurrences are outside the realm of science entirely; this is not to be confused with those things that are not understood by science. Black holes are not particularly well understood, as they are very distant and very hard to observe. They are not, however, supernatural, as they exist within the universe, are observable, and science can make predictions about them. Ghosts, however, are supernatural, as their definition changes depending on the witness, they have never been observed with any reasonable rigor, and science is unable to make any guesses about their composition or behavior.

Some might say I have a bone to pick with Christianity because I’ve written this. I certainly won’t deny that – I feel oppressed from time to time, and I don’t like being preached to. That people can smile at me to my face while also damning me to eternal punishment and torture in Hell angers me. Christianity has personally affected me, mostly in a superficial, irritating way, but occasionally in a much more profound manner. When laws rooted in Christianity are passed and hold dominion over me, I am extremely offended.

Finally, I don’t hate Christians. I think it takes a certain amount of self-delusion and ignorance to be one, but I don’t hold that against them. I certainly don’t wish any eternal punishments upon them, and I hope that they will see the truth someday. Christians sometimes like to say, “hate the sin but love the sinner,” and I’ll coopt that to say, “hate the idiocy of dogma but love the idiot.”

God of the Gaps

Religion originally came about as a consequence of ignorance. Russell contends that it came about as a result of fear, but fear is begotten by ignorance and ignorance is the root of it all. When our primitive forebears were confronted by phenomena they could not explain, their minds turned to magic, Gods, and the supernatural. Sadly, this type of worldview is still very prevalent today, and this argument for God’s existence has been coined the “God of the gaps” view.

One argument based on this kind of ignorance is that of the “watchmaker.” This argument aims to say that if one finds a watch, one supposes that a watchmaker must have made it. The argument continues that since the universe is such a highly complex place, a creator must have put it into place. The stupidest thing about this inane argument is that it is not self-consistent – using the exact same logic from the argument on itself leads to an endless chain of entities being invoked. Surely the creator of our universe is at least as complex as the universe itself, ergo the creator must have an even more complex creator himself, and so on ad infinitum.

The idea of a Creator to the universe certainly fails Occam’s Razor. The worldly argument says that the universe came to be from the big bang. An intelligent theologian would say that God created the matter for the big bang and set it into motion. Unfortunately that explains nothing, and only serves to try to squelch the desire to know more about the big bang. Similarly, if God can have no beginning and no end, then why can’t the universe? Would that not be much simpler since we have to allow for the universe to exist in the first place?

Now consider the origin of life. The question of how life came to be is one that has been investigated extensively in science, and weighs heavily into most religions as well. Science has yet to come up with a consensus on abiogenesis, but scientists continue to work on the problem. What value is there in saying that God created life? It leads to no further understanding, as we cannot understand God’s actions or motivations. It gives us no ability to predict anything about ourselves or about the future. It does nothing, in fact, but offer a way of retarding real progress.

Science thrives on disagreement and new ideas. Many creationists and proponents of intelligent design use this to try to imply science is weak without perfect consensus. If evolutionists fail to agree 100% on any point, these pseudo-scientists quickly jump to the conclusion that God or a creator must be involved. What they fail to realize is that gaps in scientific knowledge are what fuel the inquiries of the scientific mind. These gaps are exactly what make science so powerful, as they provide questions which science aims to answer. Any increase in scientific knowledge brings with it more questions about how it works and what else it can tell us. Some people see this as a weakness, but it is in fact science’s greatest strength.

Related to this is the notion that faith and religion are somehow superior because they don’t change their story, because they’re unyielding in their beliefs. Again, this is a weakness! Christianity, through its notion of faith, has managed to construct a belief system that automatically punishes the act of questioning it. To let your faith waver is a weakness and one that makes you a worse Christian. Skepticism and inquiry are the father of all knowledge. To demonize them as blasphemy and evil only suppresses progress.

The Specificity of Design

Many Christians, among others, hold that the probability of the natural laws and universe being set up in just such a way to support life is staggeringly unlikely. If the gravitational constant were 1% different, or fluid dynamics didn’t work just the way they do now, nothing could possibly exist – the human body couldn’t work, the earth couldn’t exist, the solar system would never have formed, and so on. This is supposed to be an argument for design, and by extension an intelligent creator who set all of this up.

This argument is worthless, as it views everything backwards. The universe exists as is, and life adapted to it. If we had less oxygen in our atmosphere as a result of the world being set up differently, there would be some other life form that didn’t need oxygen in our place. Voltaire said it best – “Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings.” We are designed (that is, we evolved) to fit the world, not the other way around.

To put it another way, one may look at a pair of pants and think to him or herself, “wow…if humans were put together any other way, with longer legs, or more legs, or something else different, these pants wouldn’t fit at all. So obviously these humans are designed exactly to fit these pants. Amazing.” Discovering the flaws in this argument is left as an exercise to the reader.

Epicurus and the Problem of Evil

The Greek philosopher Epicurus put forth the following argument: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

I have yet to see any decent refutations of this. Here are a few of the arguments some have used to try to reconcile the evil in the world with the idea of an omnipotent, benevolent god.

Augustine of Hippo claimed that evil is nothing more than the absence of good. This offers nothing to refute Epicurus’ argument, as it’s merely a semantic change. Rather than asking, “whence cometh evil?” one could merely ask, “why not make everything good?”

Another argument says that good can only exist because evil also exists, that good without evil is meaningless and impossible. This argument I concede as being fairly powerful, but unfortunately Christianity shoots itself in the foot by supposing there is a place called Heaven that is a utopia without any evil or hardship. Therefore, if you accept this particular argument, Heaven cannot exist; if you deny this argument, then Epicurus was right and God cannot exist.

Others say that evil exists because God gave humans free will, and it is a human invention. I fail to see how the Bubonic plague, smallpox, AIDS, or children with cancer are anything humans invented. Still, even if you accept that those things are the consequence of humanity’s free will, then God, being omniscient, would know that granting humans free will would lead to evil, and thus knowingly brought evil into the world after all. Some would refute this by saying that humans can only reach perfection or a stronger state by having free will and learning for themselves. Unfortunately that would imply that God is not omnipotent as He is unable to create them in their stronger form in the first place.

Still others claim that evil exists as a proper punishment for the wickedness and sin of man. Thus, evil is just. This, however, flies in the face of the thought that God created man…if He created man evil, or with the capacity for evil, then He did bring evil into the world. Being omniscient He could not do this by accident.

Nietzsche

One of my favorite quotes concerning Christianity and its appeal is this one by Friedrich Nietzsche:

In Christianity neither morality nor religion has even a single point of contact with reality. Nothing but imaginary causes (“God,” “soul,” “ego,” “spirit,” “free will”—for that matter, “unfree will”), nothing but imaginary effects (“sin,” “redemption,” “grace,” “punishment,” “forgiveness of sins”). Intercourse between imaginary beings (“God,” “spirits,” “souls”); an imaginary natural science (anthropocentric; no trace of any concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology (nothing but self-misunderstandings, interpretations of agreeable or disagreeable general feelings—for example, of the states of the nervus sympathicus—with the aid of the sign language of the religio-moral idiosyncrasy: “repentance,” “pangs of conscience,” “temptation by the devil,” “the presence of God”); an imaginary teleology (“the kingdom of God,” “the Last Judgment,” “eternal life”).— This world of pure fiction is vastly inferior to the world of dreams insofar as the latter mirrors reality, whereas the former falsifies, devalues, and negates reality. Once the concept of “nature” had been invented as the opposite of “God,” “natural” had to become a synonym of “reprehensible”: this whole world of fiction is rooted in hatred of the natural (of reality!—); it is the expression of a profound vexation at the sight of reality … But this explains everything. Who alone has good reason to lie his way out of reality? He who suffers from it.

Christianity is a religion of self-delusion for those too weak to accept the real world as-is without some father figure looking out after them. Those who are unable to go out from under their parents’ wings without being crippled by fear must turn to a God figure or other authority, else they risk debilitating inaction or impiety. This, unfortunately, is simply human nature – how else could one describe the rise of the corrupt, the fascist, the totalitarian regime? There is always a possibility for a breaking point, as the masses, if they were truly discontent, would rise as one, and through numbers overcome whatever terrible government or religion has shackled them. But no, most people like being told what to do and how to think. It saves them the trouble. In some cases it even absolves them from any sense of responsibility for their own actions. And so, these oppressive authoritative entities are allowed to exist.

I cannot understand why Christians dislike reality so much as to try so hard to divorce themselves from it. There are cruel injustices in this world. There is evil in this world. But why use an imaginary man in the sky to try to deal with it? Why not find the good in the world? Why use the constructs of salvation and the immortal soul? Why not seek salvation on earth, in the real world? Why must an eternal punishment called Hell be invented? Why not simply be just to your fellow man?

Other wonderful quotes from Nietzsche put the absurdity of Christianity into a great light. Even though they’re translated from the original language, these quotes convey some great points much better than I ever could.

“A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.”

“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”

“The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.”

Other Religions

One thing that would help a lot of Christians interested in an introspective look at religion would be to consider all of the other religions in the world. Why is a Christian able to dismiss arguments for Islam or Judaism or any other spiritual system, but is unable to do the same for their own religion? When it comes right down to it, the only difference between them is in what’s familiar.

Why accept Christianity? Because the Bible makes the claim that it is the word of God and thus is correct? Well, the Torah and the Quran make the same claim. Should one accept Christianity because so many others have found peace and enlightenment through it? The same applies to a multitude of other contradicting belief systems.

Pascal’s Wager is a thought from Blaise Pascal that it is best to live as though God exists, as the benefits of doing so far outweigh the negatives of failing to believe. What it ignores is that choosing to believe in the wrong God might have just as many negatives or more as not believing at all, depending on which scripture you take as true. Believing in Christianity on the off-chance that Heaven is real is thus not a very good gamble, as there is a price to it, and being a practicing Christian won’t get you to Valhalla.

God Doing Evil

At a relatively early age – I was probably about 7 or 8 – I made the decision that the whole business of Christianity made no sense and that God never did anything for me or anyone else in the world. I later came to my more recent conclusion, that even if I accepted the Bible as true and believed that God did exist, I would still not worship Him, as He is not worthy of my respect, much less adoration and fealty.

“Hell stands as a constant reminder of the essence of Christianity: God is to be obeyed because, in the final analysis, he is bigger and stronger than we are. And in addition, he is incomparably more vicious.” – George Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God

Hell is a great example of the kind of curious vengefulness that the Christian God shows. He creates a world with no evidence that He exists. He turns his back on humanity and stops intervening with our day-to-day lives, instead giving us free will and allowing us to make our own decisions. Then, at the end of the day, if we haven’t accepted Him as our savior, or possibly if we haven’t been baptized, He tortures and punishes us for an eternity – a Goddamn eternity (and I use that word literally here). Honestly, it’s so petty it’s despicable. Any reasonable person with an eye for compassion would allow someone a chance for rehabilitation or to reconsider what he or she has done, but not God. No, He’d rather have people burn forever for not being obsequious enough.

In Genesis, when mankind misbehaves, God decides to kill everything on earth with the exception of Noah and his family, and two of every animal. Later, he kills everyone, including children and babies, in Sodom and Gomorrah by raining down fire and brimstone. When Lot’s wife, out of curiosity (which I’m assuming God must have supposedly instilled within us), turns back to see what happened, God immediately turns her into a pillar of salt. According to Leviticus 24:16, any blasphemers should be stoned and put to death. In Numbers 25:6, God is pleased that Phinehas kills both members of an interracial couple, and stays a plague because of it.

There are many, many more instances of ridiculous pettiness, unspeakable cruelty, and vengeance in the Old Testament – people buried alive (Numbers 16:27-34), burned to death (Numbers 16:35), forced to cannibalize loved ones (Jeremiah 19:9), innocent newborns killed (Samuel 12:14). The New Testament does not lack examples of this either, however.

In Matthew 7:13, Jesus spells out quite plainly that most people will go to Hell. In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus says that entire cities will bear everlasting punishment worse even than Sodom got, simply because they did not accept his preaching. In Thessalonians 2:11, God admits that he’s intentionally trying to deceive mankind so that they “might be damned.” When Jesus returns, everyone will burn and die horrible deaths.

What the Bible shows us is that God is petty, insecure, violent, sadistic, uncompassionate, and cruel. I’d sooner stand up in defiance against such a tyrant than ever come to love or even accept Him.

Imperfections in the World

If God, a benevolent and all-powerful being, had created the world and the universe, why would He make it so flawed? Is it out of cruelty? One argument I’ve heard is that without a trial, we cannot gain strength through experience and overcoming adversity. This does not hold water, of course, as if God were omnipotent, he could simply create us stronger in the first place.

Take the human body, for instance. Any reasonably good designer would do away with any vestigial body parts, as they take up space, can become diseased, and consume energy that could be used to make us more efficient. The appendix, tonsils, male nipples, and probably other organs could simply be removed. Why make it so that our bodies turn against us and cause cancer? Could we not be more resistant to radiation? How about making it so that we can drink salt water? There’s an almost cruel amount of salt water on this earth as compared to fresh water, and yet, here we are, unable to use it without some very costly desalination processes.

The answer, of course, to why we are who we are, is that we weren’t created by an intelligent designer. We came to be through millions of years of selectively favored genetic mutations. Give us another hundred million or billion years with natural selection in place, and we may become the better creatures alluded to in the previous paragraph, but we just haven’t gotten there yet. As time is no object to an all-powerful and eternal being, God could have created us as the apex creature, one that could not be any better. The fact that we’re not only shows that God either doesn’t exist or His power is limited.

Absurdities

God created humanity in His image, as explained in Genesis 1:26. If this is so, are we to believe that God suffers from cancer? Does he suffer from the ravages of aging? Does he get sexual urges and if so, what can he do about it? Does he occasionally get diarrhea? Does he suffer from nocturnal emissions? Is his body odor very noticeable?

In Genesis 4:17 Cain found a wife. Either we are to believe he slept with his own mother, or there were other humans around, in which case Genesis isn’t actually telling the story of creation and/or Adam and Eve were not the first two humans alive.

The story of Noah is rife with absurdities as well. We are somehow to believe that a 450-foot long boat held every species of land animal in existence, and that they somehow got along? Also, the flood covered the highest mountains on earth, and rose even fifteen cubits beyond that (Genesis 7:20). Anyone with even a grade-school amount of scientific knowledge knows about the water cycle on earth. Where did all this water come from? Where did it go? The flood ends with a dove coming back with an olive leaf. Where was this magical tree that could survive being submerged for 150 days?

The tower of Babel likewise is ridiculous. God’s issue with it seems to be that it may reach all the way up to heaven. One must suppose that ancient architectural techniques were capable of reaching greater heights than our manned journeys to the moon.

In Judges 9:13, the Bible says that wine cheers both God and man. It is unclear whether this means God can get drunk or buzzed, but it seems quite ridiculous all the same.

In Malachi 2:2-3, God threatens any priests who fail to give Him glory and listen to His word by saying he will make them sterile and smear dung on their faces.

One of the most easily tested absurdities in the Bible is in Mark 16:17-18. The Bible says that believers can drink deadly poisons and successfully heal the sick. Unfortunately, Christian doctors do sometimes lose their patients, and some Christians have been poisoned, so this does not hold up under scrutiny.

Indeed, the very idea of omnipotence is an absurdity, as it leads to a contradiction. Is God capable of creating a stone too large for Him to move?

The Easter story is arguably the cornerstone of Christianity, and it amazes me that anyone would believe it. One would have to weigh on the one hand the likelihood of a dead person coming back to life — death being something we’re all fairly familiar with and have never seen any corpses, out of billions, return to life — versus the likelihood of someone lying in a book — something that has been witnessed by all of us countless times. Why do so many millions accept the former? It’s a very simple act to weigh the evidence on each side and come to a very solid conclusion.

With so many absurd ideas, how could any reasonable person accept the Christian belief system as being self-evident? There is a dearth of evidence that any of this ridiculous crap occurred or is even within the realm of possibility. If somebody tells me they can walk across water, I would want to see it before I believed it. Apparently there are many that would read it in a book without any collaborative sources and simply accept it.

The Result of Christianity

One of the earliest instances of Christian atrocities with which I’m familiar is the sanctioning of the Crusades. The recent bloodshed in the Middle East mirrors what the Christians started in the Middle Ages. Though so many Christians fail to understand the violence there or the mentality behind it, their own religion did the same thing by invading other nations and killing almost indiscriminately in the name of God. The Church leaders at the time promised them absolution from sin and passage to Heaven as a reward for their violence. It was racism, xenophobia, and a sense of entitlement lent them by the Bible that enabled these crusaders to commit horrors with self-perceived justification.

Slavery is one of the worst crimes ever visited on mankind, and Christianity condoned it. Likely estimates of the death toll of African American slavery alone vary from 6 to 60 million dead.(White, 2005) Concentrating solely on the death toll would ignore the grave injustices of abuse, captivity, and dehumanization. The repercussions from slavery still resonate to disparage an entire race even today, though progress is being made.

The Bible implicitly and explicitly condones slavery. It gives rules for owning slaves based on racism (Leviticus 25:44-46) and for the appropriate manner in which to sell one’s daughters into sex slavery (Exodus 21:7-11). It even says that slaves can be beaten to within an inch of their lives, as long as they don’t die immediately (Exodus 21:20-21).

Modern atrocities attributable to Christianity are of a subtler but more widespread and insidious nature. The Christian Right of today, though thankfully not the perfect example of what most Christians believe, seems to be increasing in power and influence. It seems appropriate, as the demagogues within the movement thrive on the type of fear that the current administration of George W. Bush fosters. These self-described moralists yearn only for power, money, and pushing their beliefs onto as many people as possible. They apparently see no value in diversity and allow no leeway for others to hold opposing views. One of the greatest things this country has ever known is the Bill of Rights, and these far-right religious groups are battling the first amendment in every way possible.

One of the greatest affronts to truth and progress they have perpetrated is an attack on our children. It’s very bold to target the youngest and most impressionable, but these savvy Christians know that indoctrination from an early age is the best way to get anyone to buy in to their absurd and self-deprecating belief structure. I speak of the decades-old push to remove the teaching of proper biology from our schools, to be replaced by talk of gods and mythologies of creation. There are tomes written about the attacks on evolution, so I won’t go into depressing amounts of detail here. Suffice it to say that history will view this as another one of Christianity’s impotent attacks on the obvious, to be viewed with contempt alongside their attacks on heliocentricity and global warming.

The condemnation of homosexuality preached by so many Christian churches is another thoroughly despicable practice. It seems to be largely rooted in belief in the Old Testament, specifically from some passages in Leviticus that appear alongside the denunciation of eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10-12) or wearing linen and wool in a single garment (Leviticus 19:19). This has led to gays being treated as second-class citizens not just among individuals or sections of society, but even by our own government. A great number of states have passed amendments banning gay marriage with their only (secular) justification being one of semantic pedantry. How else could one classify the argument that marriage is between a man and a woman?

These examples among others go to show that Christianity is not the benevolent force in the world that its followers would like us to believe. It has retarded scientific progress, tried to set our citizens against one another, and incited violence against people based solely on race and sexuality.

Christian predation

Christianity preaches asceticism. Matthew 19:23 says “…a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” James 5:1 says, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” Asceticism has its place. When done in the name of helping the poor and distributing wealth, as described in Matthew 19:21, it is a wonderful concept. Unfortunately, not all see it that way, and some of today’s best-known Christian leaders and churches are extremely rich indeed. Perhaps this is more a condemnation of individuals and certain ministries rather than one of the faith itself, as I believe hypocrisy has led these people to do what they do.

Their religion does create an environment that fosters this kind of immoral plunder of the gullible, though. To suppress all questioning of belief behind the mask of the strength of blind faith sets people up for conmen. To discourage individual thought and skepticism in exchange for following a leader allows crooked leaders to swindle their followers out of almost anything.

I have not yet decided for myself whether Christianity sprung from the minds of the psychotic, schizophrenic, and deranged, or whether it was the work of conmen. This particular aspect of Christianity has me leaning toward the latter.

Consider the position of a leader of the church. He has convinced his followers that they must tithe to the church. Further, the bible has told them that being rich is a terrible thing, something which will bring them misery and bar them from their paradise in the afterlife. Where should their money go? To the church’s coffers, of course, and to that leader. As long as he himself does not believe in the same tenets, his profit is huge. His cost for all that is simply a promise of repayment in an imaginary world that nobody has ever seen. Examples of disgusting excess appear in megachurches throughout the world, and their leaders. Televangelists and their ilk are likewise within this group. Of course, the most highly visible and prominent consequence of this phenomenon is the Vatican. What would Jesus say if confronted with the heavily bejeweled papal tiara?

Christian leaders have a huge interest in fostering this belief, so it fits in as one more piece of the puzzle damning the entire profiteering aspect of Christianity.

The World to an Atheist

I’ve recently come to realize that some people remain Christians simply because they can’t imagine what it would be like without God in their lives. I can assure anyone interested that it is not impossible, and it is not unfulfilling. This section will dictate some of how I choose to live my own life. It is not meant as any sort of spiritual guide, but rather proof by example that a fulfilling and moral life does not need to rely on any supernatural elements.

I consider myself to be a very moral and ethical person. I do not murder, rape, steal, or act without compassion. I try my best to consider others’ feelings in all of my interactions. None of this requires a fear of eternal punishment to do, nor does it require some sort of divine mandate.

Generally speaking, the Golden Rule is a wonderful way to live one’s life, and I wholeheartedly agree with it. It is not altered or enhanced by the addition of a deity or any other supernatural elements. Honestly, it scares me to consider that some Christians apparently act nicely to their fellow man simply because of fear of hell or because God told them to. No, following the Golden Rule has a very practical and secular result – it leads to a better world. Being nice to people tends to make them be nice to you. It provides a benefit, and evolution was kind enough to fit most of us with an internal mechanism to be happier when we treat others well. Being kind and helpful has both immediate rewards and tangible utility later on.

What is the meaning of life? Unfortunately, I can’t say I know how to answer that question. It’s also quite evident that most if not all religious people don’t know either. On one level, the meaning of life is to perpetuate itself. It’s not a very satisfying response though. The way I live life is to try to be a better person when I go to bed each night than I was when I woke up. Self-improvement and the quest for knowledge and truth keep me going, and Christianity tries to squash the quest for knowledge and truth by purporting to have all of the answers. Why accept those answers and be told that questioning them by trying to learn more is blasphemy, when you can simply bypass all of that?

Christianity does not enrich life. In fact, it does the exact opposite by belittling it, saying that it’s nothing more than preparation for the wonderful world beyond. It denounces many of life’s greatest joys and tries to make ascetics of everyone. It encourages people to use their money to try to convert people instead of trying to help people. In short, life without Christianity is the most fulfilling existence there is.

Bibliography

White, M. (2005, July). Historical Body Count p.2. Retrieved July 30, 2008, from Twentieth Century Atlas: http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatv.htm

Written by nelsonlu

August 25, 2008 at 10:15 am