(Hint: this is a new open thread for Max, and others who would like to engage him or be entertained by him.)
I could ask a New York Yankee fan for info, input, and knowledge on the Boston Red Sox. I might find a number of such persons who would relish informing me about their team’s chief rival. It is likely I would receive an enthusiastic, obscenity-rich dialogue, full of interesting content. But I’m not sure I would get totally accurate information.
Likewise, if I wanted to take my life in my own hands, I could travel east instead of west and hunt down some member of the IS and ask him to wax eloquent on the West, on Judaism, Christianity, and the US. Like the Yankee fan, it is likely I would receive an enthusiastic and critical report. But not likely a full and accurate accounting.
If the Earth were visited by aliens, I might assume these beings were smart. They would ask Boston baseball fans about Boston baseball, Jews about Judaism, Christians about Christianity, and atheists about atheism. They would note antagonism, but it would be the fact of antagonism, and less reliable data.
It is my contention that “Atheist Max” is a misnomer. Our friend Max is an anti-religionist, like most Yankee fans are anti-Red Sox. To their credit, Yankee fans are knowledgeable of and enthusiastic for Yankee culture. Unlike them, Max consistently refers to Christians sources, including his singular (mis)interpretation of the Bible.
Despite repeated invitations to post positively on atheism, Max repeats his stock anti-religion arguments. He cites the Bible far more than Dawkins, Hitch, or the other limelight atheists of our day. He hasn’t to my knowledge quoted a single atheist philosopher, but he does know about some obscure Scripture scholar.
To be sure, there’s nothing “wrong” about this approach as a personal choice. But it would be inaccurate to call Max an atheist.
Here are two questions for Max to start chewing on: What makes you different from a person of faith who is angry at God and denies God’s existence just like a spurned lover might attempt to totally erase a false love from life and memory? Do you have any atheist philosophers you would like to call upon to help make your argument against God’s existence stronger?
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Because you asked….
The Atheist argument:
1. Atheism is NOT the claim that God does not exist.
I am not saying god is impossible and I never did. Perhaps a real god exists. If such a god is good, he must prefer honesty as a virtue. After 40-something years as a Christian, I can no longer honestly bring myself to believe the stories in the Old Testament or the New Testament to have much truth in them or to have been the insights of a God.
Does that mean the Bible is full of lies? I don’t know. I do not call the bible a ‘hoax’.
But I cannot believe the stories to be true. Lack of belief is what makes me an Atheist.
I have read the Bible so much in my life, prayed so much and thought so much about God – it shocked me when I had to confront the fact that this had all become completely unbelievable after all.
2. TODD ASKS: “Do you have any atheist philosophers you would like to call upon to help make your argument against God’s existence stronger?”
Against God’s existence? No!
I cannot prove God does not exist. Lack of Belief is the issue – not proof of non-existence.
I cannot prove Sasquatch does not exist. But I do NOT believe in Sasquatch for the same reason. No evidence of any kind, nor any demonstration which might lead me to believe in it.
3. TODD ASKS: “What makes you different from a person of faith who is angry at God and denies God’s existence just like a spurned lover might attempt to totally erase a false love from life and memory?”
I am not angry at God. So that makes me different.
I do not deny God’s existence. As I said, I simply cannot bring myself to believe in the God you keep talking about, the God of the Bible. That God is just a character in a book. Jesus is a character to me – like Harry Potter. Can I hate Harry Potter? Or Dumbledore? Of course not. You are asking the wrong questions.
Why do I not believe in this God? Because I am reacting to the claims about this God which are clearly repeated often: As when someone says, “God is love” or “God is the father of morality” or “God’s law is written on our hearts” or “Jesus is well documented” or “Jesus preached only love.”
All of these claims are presented as facts. And they are (like Harry Potter) stemming from the claims coming from stories in a book.
And unfortunately these particular bible stories are not up for debate, nor conversation, nor honest examination – as they must first be presented as ‘scripture’ and seen only in that protective light.
Imagine if we looked at Harry Potter as ‘scripture’ to protect it from true examination?
4. The claims about God don’t add up:
For example: How does one know “God is love”?
If God were truly ‘love’ I would have to believe in it. Because I believe love is real.
But now wait a minute and think…..What then is hate? Hate is real too and it is the opposite of love. So is Hate a different God? Is Satan the god of ‘hate’? Then why doesn’t God eliminate Satan? And what about indifference? Is there a God of indifference, too? See?
Now you must invent a story to explain why God doesn’t eliminate Satan. That is called ‘Theology’. Augustine was brilliant at this sort of thing.
But that doesn’t mean Augustine was correct to play along. He was a thinker from a time when people did not know where the sun went at night. It is not his fault that he knew so much less than we know now. He was a brilliant guesser – but it appears he was wrong. Or not. But it doesn’t help me to believe in God to know that Augustine presented no good evidence for a real god.
5. Honesty alone:
Honesty is itself a very positive approach to life:
I am Agnostic (I don’t ‘know’ if god exists) and I am an Atheist ( I don’t believe).
Atheism only means ‘I do not believe.’ Atheism is not a claim which needs to be proven.
But if a God can be demonstrated to be real – I AM FINE with that demonstration and I ACCEPT JESUS if you can demonstrate it to be real. So far, I see no reason to believe these stories are real.
I make no claim. I have nothing to prove. I am an open vessel taking in information wherever it leads.
To me, a God is only one of many possibilities which explain existence.
6. Positive Atheism.
If there is no God running the world (as appears likely) I must face the consequences of all my actions. I must learn why things happen as they do and study all I can so as to protect my children, my family, my neighborhood from needless suffering: Pollution, crime, disease, poor education, etc.
It is my moral duty to care about those who are connected to my life and to those I care about – and those who might be connected to all of us in the future.
The lack of belief in a God refocuses the mind on what can be done to improve our society in practical ways. Once we discover prayer doesn’t work, we are forced to get out and visit our friends in hospitals instead of resorting to praying for them.
7. Religion does many harms.
Most Christians and Muslims and Jews are not dangerous. I was a peaceful Christian, too.
But there are some believers who will follow the literal directions within these religions and cause massive needless suffering. The needless war against homosexuality is one example. The battle against contraception and women’s rights is another. The war against infidels across the middle east is another. Etc.
The holy books are certainly instruction manuals to most believers (to greater or lesser degrees) because they are not books of love – but books of conquest. They speak of armageddon and a battle which they claim is underway right now – and that is why I quote them.
The Eschatological argument alone is a threat to us all because it blesses final solutions.
8. Atheist philosophers do not hold any authority with Atheists. We think for ourselves. Bertrand Russell, Robert Green Ingersoll, Susan B. Anthony, Paul Newman, Oskar Schindler – all were atheist and they only had one thing in common: they didn’t believe in a god.
There isn’t much more to elaborate on. Non-belief in gods is just a starting point for reality – it isn’t a philosophy.
You don’t believe in Allah – yet do you have an Anti-Allah Philosophy? or an Anti-Zeus Philosophy?
Of course not – so don’t expect an Anti-Yahweh philosophy from an Atheist.
9. If you have evidence for a God I would like to see it. If not, you need to ask yourself why you believe these stories. And why you pin so much on something for which we cannot find a speck of an argument. And why you judge Atheists so harshly when all they are saying is “I don’t believe.”
There are many arguments Christians have to disprove Islam.
Islam has many arguments to disprove Jesus.
Judaism has seen both of these ‘prophets’ and has many arguments against both of them.
Do you care about which god is the true one? How would you figure it out? Just because of your birth mother? or father? or village?
10. And why won’t you get started by asking the right questions?
Which God is the real one?
Where is it?
How can it be demonstrated to be true?
How does this demonstrate Jesus to be true?
Why do you believe such demonstrations?
Why not Allah? Or Yahweh without a Jesus? Or a Jesus without a Yahweh?
Why would a real God leave you not knowing which version is true?
Hell awaits for those who choose wrongly – why is that?
And why is Atheism so scary? That someone would reject the authority of ancient stories?
If someone proved to me tomorrow morning that there is no evidence at all for Leprechauns it would not upset me in the least.
But if someone proved to you Jesus was not real, it would have to destroy your entire life. The whole point of all your rituals would have been for nothing.
I know what that feels like, because it happened to me. And it hurts at first. But it gets much better and life is richer afterwards.
It’s very much like a drug, isn’t it: the urge to comment online? Since points four through ten are just tedious, and belong on your blog, not mine, I’ll just address briefly the ones you addressed to me.
2 & 3: I’m not asking for proof, only a coherent positive argument. You deny being an atheist by your writing, and seem to confirm you are an anti-religionist. I think you’ve expected “fact” when in reality, good religion presents itself as a search for the truth. There is an important distinction between fact and truth, and that, my friend, is where you and I have a divide wider than the one between faith and anti-religion.
If you are inclined to reply, I challenge you to be concise and do it in as many or fewer words than this comment.
I am a gentle skeptic. I only look like an ‘anti-religionist’ because I challenge claims. “Anti-claimist” is a better description.
You said, “There is an important distinction between fact and truth”
Why? I don’t see it. Sounds like an argument for corruption. Please offer an example.
You said, “You’ve expected fact…when good religion is a search for truth”
Okay, But how can you call it a “search” if the primary unfounded claims are accepted at face value as absolute markers?
Shouldn’t a search include a pursuit of the initial claims themselves? “God made man in his image…” How would one know this? Shouldn’t that be examined first?
The drama of the “Lamb of God” (a blood sacrifice) has been imbued with various meanings by successive interpreters (theologians).
But…if you have evidence of its truth, bring it on.
God became man and brought an unclear message in a language which would go extinct and be mistranslated, then later he died for humanity as a sacrifice to Himself to save us from a Hell he made for most of us but somehow didn’t initially intend.
Do you believe Jonah literally lived in a fish for 3 days? I can’t.
Yet the character of Jesus insisted it was true – it is why Jesus claimed He needed to be in the ground for 3 days. Jesus made it a literal connection (Matthew 12:40).
Why did Jesus do this if it wasn’t literally true?
I challenge these claims because I don”t think it is good to be dishonest
These claims are not harmless. They are used as a weapon against innocent people.
Anything can be used as a weapon. If a person has a severe intolerance to gluten, then a grain of wheat is a danger, and a slice of bread may be fatal. Closer to home for you, a gun may be used to hunt food or engage in a sporting contest of aim and hand-eye coordination. But we know a gun can be abused to great suffering and despair.
I’ll post on fact and truth in a bit–watch the main page for that.
Meanwhile, I would take issue with your gentleness. Your skepticism comes off as tenacious, persistent, and not completely rational–your occasional name-calling and insults, for example. You seem not to listen and have the ability to re-state your opponents’ arguments accurately so as to formulate a personal reply. As a debater, you fail greatly at that.
“Name calling and insults”
I don’t think I’ve ever done that. I was a believer in Jesus. Why would I ever disparage someone who was no worse than myself?
“A slice of bread might be fatal”
But for most people, bread is nutritious. It has value to society.
What good is religion? It has no nutrition that I can see. What good thing can a religionist do that an Atheist cannot do? Name something.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”
Most insulting people don’t see themselves as having transgressed. You routinely disparage Jesus–that’s something very personal to many people. In order to find out if you have insulted people, you would need to ask them. Not ask yourself.
For many, if not most people, religion is a value. At the time of the death of a loved one, it offers hope for the future. As far as I can see, for an atheist, the occasion of death is looking back, not forward.
“Most insulting people don’t see themselves as having transgressed.
You routinely disparage Jesus.”
I am sorry if I insulted anyone. I apologize if I did that. I see no evidence that I did.
But if you are a golfer, and you hear me disparaging golf, please do not take it as a personal insult. You really shouldn’t be insulted by that. Getting a small ball in a little hole is very boring to me.
I don’t like smoking either. But that doesn’t mean anything personal about you as a smoker. Some of my very closest friends are victims of cigarette addiction. I hope they quit!
It doesn’t mean I love them any less.
Some people don’t like Jesus. It is WRONG for you to take that personally. Just as your own disregard of Mohammed does not mean you hate most Muslims! You don’t hate them! I know that. But still…..you have no regard at all for Mohammed – admit it!
“For many, if not most people, religion is a value. At the time of the death of a loved one, it offers hope for the future.”
Okay. And you have every right to it. I do not interrupt funerals. That would be incredibly immoral of me.
But don’t call it righteous or humble. You are just giving in to a set of wishes – that life goes on, when it clearly doesn’t.
“As far as I can see, for an atheist, the occasion of death is looking back, not forward.”
So what? At least we don’t miss the one life we know about.
You need to learn. Especially about the consequences of pretending.
Pretending you have a million dollars just because it feels good is nothing to be proud of.
Wishing for a life after this one – especially an eternal life in return for a few beliefs – sounds suspiciously like a con game. Don’t you think?
When people face the facts they can at least begin to deal with reality.