Power is back on,

and my weekend was pretty busy, but I’ll be back to writing posts soon. I already have some on my old blog (different site) I’m thinking about copying and pasting because I’d like to hear some thoughts. I’ll be back later today, hope no one is suffering too much from Hurricane Sandy – and if you are, hope you are able to make the best of your situation. Pennsylvania wasn’t hit as hard as was predicted, so I don’t have lots of clean up to do like I thought I would, or like I did last year when that other hurricane hit and I lived in Bloomsburg.

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Possibly the worst argument for Christianity I’ve ever heard – Horton Hears a Who

I came across this on a website called Atheism Fallacies (which actually makes very little effort to debunk atheist views rather than use the word of God to try to prove atheists wrong). Someone was arguing that Christianity is like Horton, and the people who didn’t believe that there was an entire civilization of people living on a spec of dust were real would be the atheists. The antagonist of the story, a stubborn kangaroo, talks about how if you can’t see, feel, touch, etc. something, it isn’t there because there’s no evidence. I’m paraphrasing, obviously. I don’t feel like talking in a Dr. Seuss rhyme scheme.

Then this person went on to say that this proves that Christianity was right because there were Whos’ on the dust, just because the other people don’t believe him doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

Here’s where the entire argument falls apart:

Horton’s community does eventually believe him, after he convinces the Whos to make enough noise to be heard by them. The difference between the Whos and God here being that they were able to prove their existence through physical means. The others obviously apologized to Horton for thinking he was crazy, but only because they were presented with actual proof. God has never done that. The whole comparison is awful and very poorly thought-out.

If you’re one of those religious people who wants to try and tell me that being atheistic is a form of religion, this is what I have to say to you.

Here’s what the Merriam-Webster dictionary says in regard to religion:
re·li·gion
[ri-lij-uhn]
noun
1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3.the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.

I think if you make this argument. you don’t know quite what religion is defined as – but you can’t define it without it already having a set code of rules that a group of people follows and have agreed on in order to be a part of the religion as well as a way to try to explain the universe. Atheists have no such written rule-book. We have no rituals or beliefs that exist solely on the basis of being atheists. We don’t worship. So what is it about atheism that makes it a religion to some people? I feel like this really is just one of those things people say to make it seem like we’re talking about two similar things, and we’re just not.

My beliefs are more rooted in rigorous scientific testing with proof and evidence to back it up, coupled with logic that tears down any hope of the bible describing an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving being. All you have is a lot of really old documents with no credible sources to suggest that anything in them ever happened. Your source of information reads more like a story book than any book containing factual information. So again, how does what you believe even compare in terms of them being in the same field of study? Yes, both concern religion, but both ARE NOT religion.

Religious beliefs depend upon your faith, so all beliefs rooted in religion aren’t backed by anything other than the words in your holy book. Whereas I can say things and provide proof that your arguments or wrong or even rather that his or right. You can introduce philosophy into it any way you want and ask a million ‘what if’ questions, but your beliefs are still rooted in religion and lack evidence rather than in science and with proof. Religion and scientific beliefs are by no means derived in the same ways. If I wanted to be religious, I would be – but I’m not. Am I saying I’m scientific? Yeah, I suppose so – I’m not claiming to have endless bounds of scientific knowledge but science is the only thing that’s been able to explain the world to me without having to just take things on faith in the way that religion requires you to. Atheism wouldn’t exist without the existence of theism, that’s true, but that doesn’t make it a religion any more than a lack of a belief in any other mythological being would be a religion, like Santa, for example. Christians who don’t believe in Santa aren’t religious about it, they just don’t believe in it. The fact that my non-belief in religion would lead me to come up with other explanations of the world doesn’t make whatever explanation I come up with a religion.

You can’t just bend the definitions of something to try and make someone’s argument seem as if it’s on the same playing field as yours is. I emphasize that because this almost always come up toward the end of a discussion when I say something along the lines of people not wanting to consider the other side of the argument because their beliefs are so immersed in religion. Simply, my beliefs and yours aren’t the same, and my beliefs about the world are certainly not qualified as religious (big bang theory, evolution, all the stuff I always talk about) – they satisfy the first part of the definition given by attempting to explain the world but fail to fully conform to the ENTIRE definition of religion .Just in the way a school bus is yellow, and so is a baby duck, but just because they share one characteristic they obviously have other properties that would define them as two separate things.
Religion doesn’t really have much to do with science or gathering proof or valid historical data to back it up. Atheism has nothing to do with religious practices if you’re only looking at the core belief itself and not the topics of discussion that surround it. My beliefs have EVERYTHING to do with proof and evidence and looking at (reliable, very, very key word) historical documents. Religion doesn’t require proof, only faith, and that’s the key difference between where my views come from and anyone who would say this to me.

Brainwashing in religion

I’ve been hesitant to touch on this subject, people see the word “brainwashing” and they think of some scary movie scene where the CIA or some other secretive organization has children sitting in a poorly-lit classroom secretly embedding trigger-words in their heads that will later enable them to control that person simply by saying that and make them kill some dictator somewhere. Okay, yeah, that’s a rather extreme form of brain-washing, but I hope that’s not the image you all get in your head when I talk about brainwashing.

So what is brainwashing in terms of religion? Usually, it only happens to those who are what we call the fundamentalists, I say usually because it doesn’t always happen to these people, there are plenty of people who don’t fit the fundamentalist description that I would still say are brainwashed. So let’s get down to what that means: indoctrination into a certain set of beliefs that are rigid and set, and an unwillingness of the person to question or research them. Teaching of the beliefs is usually coupled with some sort of coercion or incentive, such as implementing a fear of hell or making you believe that God’s love will always be there for you.
This is a rather confusing concept to a lot of people because they don’t feel that they haven’t come to these conclusions by any way other than their own will (or maybe whatever God they believe in led them there).
So what methods of coercion does the church use that effectively brainwashed (usually) otherwise intelligent people who are capable of free-thought?

Please note, I’m looking at this through the scope of Christianity since it’s the one I’m most familiar with having been a Christian before coming to be an atheist.

The church and bible teaches us that there is a God that has eternal love for us, and yet hates us at the same time. He loves you, but you don’t deserve it. He wants to help you, but only if you help yourself first. He has a plan for you, but your sinfulness gets in the way. There’s nothing you can do to avoid being sinful because we’re all born that way. Even though a perfect being made us and could potentially have created any variation of human beings, he chose to create them without any hope that they would ever be worthy of his love – he created us this way so that we would need him in order to reach heaven (supposing that it exists for the sake of this argument).
You’re taught not to question, and when there is a gap in knowledge for why your God does horrible things, people say to trust him. God works in mysterious ways. And people listen, because they think they need god to get to heaven. They’ve reached this mentality that without this being in their life, they will be utterly lonely or lacking purpose – which simply isn’t true. Human relationships may be ultimately disappointing most of the time, people are falliable and can’t always be depended upon – so they create a substitute. A ‘best friend’ that watches over you and loved you even though you suck and will let you into heaven if you do what he says.
If that whole entire idea isn’t brainwashing, then I’d just as soon say that that the grass isn’t green.

However, it’s very good at not giving the illusion of brain-washing you because it gives (basic) answers to how life and death work, which is what you were probably looking for in the first place. To question it is sinful, to not believe is the work of the devil – excellent way to keep people from questioning, because that idea fosters a belief that when they do, they will only anger God and won’t feel this supposed love from him anymore, and they want that so much.

But why? Why not enable people to know both sides of the argument, or even encourage it? Why not teach evolution and the big bang theory properly in schools and get rid of the misconceptions about them that many people have (such as this belief that we came from monkeys, which just isn’t how evolution works)? If your side is the ‘right’ one, then the evidence the other side presents should only cause your side’s evidence to look stronger.
The problem this poses for religion is that people are questioning, and the numbers of the non-believers are rising. Because we see evidence for the other side that actually presents proof. Because while it would be nice to go to heaven for an eternity and be reunited with the people I love, I can’t logically accept that it’s real because there’s no evidence that would point to it.

I’ve had this conversation with a religious person before, and the first point they brought up was how did I know science wasn’t brainwashing me? And the answer is simple, that science exists for the sole purpose of finding answers. It encourages you to question it, unlike religion. Science also doesn’t get angry when something is proved wrong, theories are just revised and our understanding of the world grows. You don’t get punished for questioning science – assuming you understand it, first. There’s no large group mentality that if we don’t listen to what science tells us that I might burn in hell. Nothing about science even needs brainwashing as a method to get people to listen, since we have proof that is tangible, testable, and observable.

Does brain-washing mean that a person is unable to break away from their beliefs? No. Does it mean they’re less likely to once it takes root? Yes. Which is the obvious reason why so many people won’t even consider the other side of the argument for where the universe came from and what we’re doing here. Or, they cling to misconceptions about evolution, abiogenesis, the big bang theory, and so on to validate their beliefs – when in reality if they actually understood the processes or had been taught them properly, maybe they wouldn’t be so ready to think that some all-powerful being creating a man out of dirt and then a woman from the man-of-dirt’s rib is more plausible than us evolving over time into the creatures we are now.

But, what if…

I’ve been getting this a lot lately in regards to my atheism.

What if there are things you can’t understand about the universe that God does?

What if you go to hell for not believing?

What if “such and such predicted biblical event, like the rapture” happens?

What if a lot of things. What if a meteor falls out of the sky and hits me? What if I was switched at birth and don’t actually live with my family? What if I walk outside and see Big Foot (not trying to be offensive, because I guess that this comment tends to offend religious people, but I don’t believe in God nor do I believe in Big Foot so I can’t think of a better comparison)? My point being, you can say what if about anything, but it doesn’t actually support your cause.

But I can’t just ignore all of the scientific research that points to your theories being wrong and mine being right. I can’t ignore all of the logical arguments that make far more sense to me than the arguments that religion presents to explain the world or where we came from. I feel if there were a just God in any case, certainly not the God that is worshiped, he would care more about my morality anyways – regardless of whether or not there was an afterlife. I feel it would be incredibly unjust to take one measly lifetime, however, to use it to judge where a person’s soul would go for an eternity. That’s not exactly “fair” not that I’m claiming life is. You’d just think a trial for something so important would be… well, better thought out.
I also can’t ignore that religion itself is just something that’s evolved with humanity and only existed in the first place because people had no idea how to explain the world around them. We now laugh at early religions and don’t even give a thought of validity to Gods like Zeus or Athena or creatures like Chiron – all once regarded as very real. Religion changes with the world as we learn more things, it adapts to keep up with logical, scientific findings in the world. Right now it’s the Judeo-Christian religions that rule the world, before them it was Paganism, and after that who knows – it’s been an obvious trend that the numbers of atheists, agnostics, and a more vague group of “nones” have been rising steadily. I can’t ignore that even when some very good philosophical points are made when speaking with intelligent people of faith, they can still offer me nothing in the light of proof. The bible proves nothing. Hearsay proves nothing. I, on the other hand, have mountains of evidence that is testable and observable and that hasn’t failed the test of logic (if you actually understand it, that is) once for me. I spent the first 16 years of my life as a Christian until one day, for no particular reason, I just wondered if there were better answers to explain the universe because religion just wasn’t convincing to me anymore. I don’t know what changed, honestly, I just decided to start reading about evolution and accounts of people from both sides of the argument. I talked with my parents. I talked with other atheists and even with people at church. Eventually I stopped going to church, and one day I realized that I couldn’t logically accept that God or heaven or hell or anything in the bible was real at all. And I kept reading, I kept talking, and I’m still learning. I have a thirst for knowledge that wasn’t there before, and a want to do good in the world that I (strangely) never felt as a Christian. The world started to look better to me, my life seemed more meaningful rather than just a test to please a very confusing God. It scared me at first, to think of life in terms of being all I get, but it isn’t anymore. I suppose it would be nice to have more time, but an eternity of anything seems boring to me. What’s the point of living if there’s no incentive to appreciate that I’m alive and here at all? That is just a personal thought though.

I suppose what sparked this post was that I decided to come to this website at all, and only having been a member for I think 3 days (?), I’ve already talked to people who really made me think about religion. But I come back to my atheism every time, having carefully considered their words.

Maybe some of them are expressing concern or their own personal fear of hell when they ask me what if I’m wrong, but I simply cannot feel fear for something that I believe to be imaginary. Humans imagine great things all the time, just look at J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, or any of Van Gogh’s paintings. The bounds of our minds just may be limitless – so why is it so hard to think that we imagined God back when we were just barely intelligent creatures because we wanted a way to explain the world?

Science may not be able to answer every single question I have (yet) but it does a lot better job than religion ever did for me.

A beautifully (and logically) thought out explanation on the complexity and yet simplicity of the truth of atheism.

Average Atheist

Dear Paul,

I had a chance to share our correspondences with my wife last night and I think you’ll find her initial reaction as entertaining as I did, especially considering you hinted at a similar feeling in one of your previous letters. She said: “Can’t you find a way to make these letters shorter? You write too much; just simplify it.”

I took her idea to heart and I want to attempt a “shorter” version of my feelings towards religion and atheism.

View original post 1,711 more words

Anger mode.

I went to the library in my university today, hoping to pick up some books written by Carl Sagan or really anything interesting on the debate between science and religion. Do you know what I found?

None of the books I was looking for were there. Even though the books are listed in the library’s catalog system, I found very few books on the subject – most addressing only evolution. When I asked the librarian on duty where all the books are, she sighed and said a lot of them get checked out and never returned, they just go “missing”. Some of them are returned with graffiti telling the reader how they’re going to hell. I was shocked and appalled.

I feel fairly certain that a lot of these books aren’t returned because people don’t want others (like me) to read them. They don’t want anything out there that questions their precious beliefs. I wouldn’t have easily come to this conclusion had the librarian not heavily suggested this.

So why are religious people SO afraid of people questioning them? If your faith is strong and you ‘know’ that you are right, why do books like these threaten you so much? Your faith should remain untouched. I’m just very, very angry that I don’t have the opportunity to read these books because someone else decided they were poisonous when they probably have no idea what the information in them is all about because they never dared consider the other side. I’m just very angry, and generally upset with my fellow humans at my university.

I would NEVER do this to the books written in support of theology, no matter how much I disagreed with them. Simply because I know I have truth and evidence on my side, so I don’t feel threatened or a need to do away with them in fear of it threatening my views on the world.