Oneproblem

It is so turned around these days.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

One of the leading voices of atheism.

I like to visit Onegoodmove to keep up with the latest Daily Show and Colbert highlights. There is also an insane amount of Bush bashing there to boot. It is also a haven for highlights occuring in the atheistic world as well. Today they have highlighted an excerpt from atheist Sam Harris's book A Letter to a Christian Nation. I posted a respone over at Onegoodmove but it is waiting moderation. But here is the passage. It blows my mind that athiests look to this as a viable reason as to there not being a God.

The Goodness of God

Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture, and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of six billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl's parents believe—as you believe—that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?
No.

The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. An atheist is simply a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87 percent of the population) claiming to "never doubt the existence of God" should be obliged to present evidence for his existence—and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. An atheist is a person who believes that the murder of a single little girl—even once in a million years— casts doubt upon the idea of a benevolent God.


It is so easy and simple minded to say that bad things happen therefore God doesn't exist. Or dare I say "evil" (though most atheists will dismiss that word from being accurate). Yes there are bad(evil) things happening to innocent people as I type, as you read. Are these not the acts of men and not God? Atheists link that to whether or not God exists? Where's the connection? How come nobody ever asks the converse? Why are we allowed to experience pleasure? And some exteme pleasure at that. Most of which doesn't cost us a dime. If we are going to equate bad with "no God." Then wouldn't it be fair to equate good with "there is a God?" For us to be able to distiguish bewteen good and bad (evil) pleasure and pain means that there is a standard by which these things can be determined. Who or from where does the standard come? I believe from God. An atheist will probably say " it comes from within ourselves." Fine, but I feel you now have a monumental struggle to find an anchor for your objective moral basis. Everything then would be anchored to some sort of construct of man. Since everything is just material then there really is no meaning. Wouldn't that lead to a moraly reletivistic world? Void of meaning or purpose. Void of any ability to clearly deliniate between right and wrong. But then maybe atheists have come to terms with the idea that this is all meaningless. If thats the case then we should at least be clear about it. I would love to hear an atheist just be truthful with themselves and say something like "after review of my life, consciousness and existence I am certain it is all meningless and I am fine with that." Fine, then stop living as if you have purpose and meaning.

In closing, I would like to put a twist on Mr. Harris's last sentence:

An atheist is a person who believes that the murder of a single little girl—even once in a million years— casts doubt upon the idea of a benevolent God.

A Christian is a person who believes that the smallest amount of joy—even once in a million years— casts hope upon the idea of a benevolent God.

16 Comments:

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being simple minded is believing in a fairytale. Why don't you show some proof or stop already. This country needs less of your half baked apologetics and more rational thinking. Oh, and by the way,

After review of my life, consciousness and existence I am certain it is all meningless and I am fine with that.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

After review of my life, consciousness and existence I am certain it is all meningless[sic] and I am fine with that.

I don't believe you. Thanks for catching my spelling error though.

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHO IN THE HELL DO YOU TIHIN YOU ARE TO SAY YOU DON"T BELIEVE ME?!! Isn't that a pretty arrogant thing to say? Does your belief in fairytales give you some sort of all knowing power that lets you see my thoughts? Get real and stop pretending to act like you actualy know what you are talking about.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

Whoa.... settle down big fella.

The reason I say that I don't believe you is because your vary saying of that phrase infers meaning. But since you are "certain" that all is meaningless then why even bother saying it? That's why I go on by saying "stop living like you have purpose and meaning" if that's what you really believe.

 
At 9:08 AM, Anonymous knight in dragonland said...

Atheism is as much a statement of faith as Christianity or Islam.

BJ ... check this out. I think you'll find it interesting. It's very well written and presents a thesis diametrically opposed to Sam Harris' criticism of religious moderation.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1541466,00.html

I do hope there is some middle ground where we can call a spade a spade yet still find acceptance for the beliefs of others.

I'm agnostic, if you're curious. I, like Sam Harris, have trouble with magical & absolutist thinking and strongly believe in the separation of church and state. When religion and politics mix, it only serves to corrupt both. I'm also a strong defender of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and believe that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are essential pillars of our society. I'll have to read his books to see exactly what solutions he proposes to the problems he sees.

 
At 9:17 AM, Anonymous knight in dragonland said...

I suppose I should add this addendum to my statement "I do hope there is some middle ground where we can call a spade a spade yet still find acceptance for the beliefs of others." Let's change that last part to "yet still find acceptance for the beliefs of others as long as they conform to certain societal norms." Who determines those norms? We all do through democratic debate ... just as the Founders intended.

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

"Atheism is as much a statement of faith as Christianity or Islam."

Exactly, it seems so obvious to me. It is amazing how utterly arrogant it is to think that there is not an element of faith in ateistic thinking.

Knight,
Just so you know, I am a Christian (in case you haven't figured that out). I try to be fair as possible in my worldview. I feel that there is truth in this world and you and me are not the authors of it. I love taking on liberal progrressive ideas because I feel that we both have the same ambitions, just different motives. I accept the truths in the beliefs of others and the truths that can be found in other religions. I am all for seperation of church and state but not for the re-education of a society as to what is cosidered "offensive." I find that "most" of the stuff that people like the ACLU and similar find offensive has to ultimately be taught that it is offensive in the first place. I hope to engage you in the future.

By the way I would love to here your response you your comments over at The Briar Patch

 
At 7:31 AM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

Let's change that last part to "yet still find acceptance for the beliefs of others as long as they conform to certain societal norms.

I would disagree with that. Right now the social norm is for girls to be proud of dressing like skanks. Kids not respecting parents and authority. My generation and younger growing up with no sense of commitment or shame. These are not the social norms that I will accept. And I hope any decent person religious or not would not accept either. I will live here and do my best to get along. But I will not accept these things.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Vonster said...

Geez, BJ: I see I'm not the only one afflicted with trolls...

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous knight in dragonland said...

I guess I should have said "certain fundamental human rights" instead of "social norms." I wasn't thinking of styles of dress or attitudes. I was thinking more along the lines of basic ethical standards like don't murder, don't steal, don't lie, don't torture. You know, the most basic ethical standards that every decent person agrees on. Anyone who violates these standards should CLEARLY be condemned.

 
At 10:06 PM, Anonymous knight in dragonland said...

Re: Our Conversation on the Briar Patch

Your question: When was the last time somebody got murdered by rejecting Christianity?

Answer: Probably within the last 24 hours. The National Liberation Front of Tripura is a Christian separatist group in India that utilizes standard terrorist tactics - murders, bombings, kidnappings. They also like to do forced converstions. I’ll grant you that it took much more digging to find a Christian group responsible for this kind of activity than it would to find a Muslim group – but they do exist.

Let me now counter with this question – when was the last time someone was murdered for rejecting agnosticism? Agnosticism … not atheism. Atheism has its own champions of brutality in the former Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China and North Korea, and certainly members of many religious groups were and continue to be persecuted in those countries.

Regarding my mention of the Westboro Baptist Church … I'm not trying to humiliate anyone, BJ. Your underlying thesis seems to be that Christianity is superior to Islam. I’m simply providing recent examples of those who do evil things in the name of Christianity, and Westboro is a perfectly legitimate example. Hate doesn't have to include murder to be evil, and Christianity is not immune to the culture of hate. I am not in any way condemning Christianity wholesale. I just think that the idea that your religion is immune to this sort of thing is dangerous.

Regarding your comments on the Crusades … “I hope you can be fair enough and admit that Christianity has made significant improvements since then.” I agree, actually – although I would contend that larger societal progressions such as the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment forced the religion to adjust or be abandoned. I find it interesting that the divinely inspired word of God needs improvement. Do you see the logical disconnect there? Many absolutist factions DO see that as a logical disconnect. The trouble is … they’re right. Certainly many people accept that logical disconnect as a part of their faith – they believe in spite of that – and you could probably mount a convincing scriptural defense of religious adaptation. However, you can mount a scriptural defense of almost any abomination as well – slavery being a good historic example.

Many people find absolutism comforting. They want certainty, not ambiguity. They want answers, not more questions. They see the Bible as the infallible word of God. They say “shouldn’t the most perfect and beautiful church have been in existence immediately after Christ walked the earth, only to be corrupted by us fallible humans as time goes on?” That’s why Christianity is full of themes like “revival” and being “born again” – a renewal of the ancient, not an adaptation to the modern.

I admire your humanist adaptation of your religion. The problem is … that’s not what’s in your Book, and lots of people read it without making that adaptation. They feel they are the Elect, the Chosen – and THAT idea leads to an us vs. them tribalism as bad as any other. That certainty of chosen status – in any religion - leads to discrimination in the least, mass murder at the worst. It leads to sanction of clearly immoral acts such as torture by otherwise good people.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

Wow...I don't even know where to start. I guess at the top. The first time I have heard of The National Liberation Front is from you. If what they do is true, then it is truly evil and I condemn it.

I would imagine the last time someone was killed over agnosticism is when they rejected the religion they were being forced to accept. I don't know how frequent that happens. Are you saying that agnosticism is exempt of fanaticism? Wait...wait ...the more I think about it the more ridiculous that question is.

"when was the last time someone was murdered for rejecting agnosticism? Agnosticism?"

That question doesn't make sense. What would somebody actually be rejecting? And how would the questioner ask it?

"Do you swear to align yourself with (nothing) for the sake of (nothing)?"

"uh....I guess so."

"All Praise (nothing), today your life has been spared."

I would say that Christianity is superior to this current form of Islam. Wouldn't you? Or do you see the current radical evangelical as the same as the current radical Muslim? Yes our radicals are freaking embarrassing. I hate the fact that Westboro people claim the same religion as I. They are not killing innocent people and I do not fear them. They are just ignorant and the vast majority of mainstream Christians will quickly call Phelps a heretic.

I don't understand how you can infer this from my writings, but I will say it loudly and clearly. I do not think Christianity is above criticism.

What example are you talking about when you say the Divinely Inspired Word of God has needed improvement? Our religion has changed over the years as does any social structure, but the word hasn't. "Love thy neighbor" still means the same today as it did 17,000 years ago.

However, you can mount a scriptural defense of almost any abomination as well – slavery being a good historic example.

Yes slavery is evil and was practiced by just about every society. But the abolition of slavery was rooted in America spurred by Judeo-Christian values.

That’s why Christianity is full of themes like “revival” and being “born again” – a renewal of the ancient, not an adaptation to the modern.

Are you just making this stuff up as you go? Being redeemed is as old an idea as it goes. Yet it is something that still needs to happen at every level today. Yes we believe in redemption. I am fully convinced that the 3 most powerful word are not "I love you" but "I am sorry."

If there is one thing that I could get you to not hold me to is this "humanist adaptation" notion. I feel that I and many others like myself are starting to realize that we need to have good arguments to those who challenge our beliefs. Just saying "Jesus saves" isn't going to cut it anymore if we want to have an impact on our society. If anything we are adapting to what the truth of God's word really requires of us. And not to what our current culture requires. It's easy for us to look back at history and tally up all the bad. But we must not ignore the vast amount of good that has come from it as well.

To be fair I do not hold that Christianity holds the market on truth. There are pieces of truth in Islam, in Buddhism, heck even from Kurt Vonnegut. But I as a Christian humbly acknowledge that all truth is God's truth.

 
At 11:57 AM, Anonymous knight in dragonland said...

"'when was the last time someone was murdered for rejecting agnosticism?' … That question doesn't make sense."
EXACTLY!! My point is that agnosticism is the polar opposite of the kind of fundamentalist belief that leads to murder & mayhem. To characterize agnostics as believing in nothing is incorrect, however. We simply do not take a stand on the question of the existence of the divine. The answer to the question CANNOT be known. Through faith one can believe or disbelieve, but none can KNOW ... so why kill each other over it?

"I would say that Christianity is superior to this current form of Islam."
The current form of Islam ... and which of the hundreds of Islamic sects are you talking about? Islam is divided into as many factions as Christianity. To lump all of them together as one monolith is frankly ignorant in the extreme. And which of the hundreds of Christian sects are you talking about? Heck, even WITHIN a specific church there is often a wide range of belief. If you try to boil away everything except what ALL Muslims and what ALL Christians believe, you’re pretty much left with “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet” vs. “There is One God and Jesus is his only begotten Son and our Savior.”
When it comes down to it there are 6 billion different religious viewpoints on this planet. In college I read a book by an anthropologist who interviewed every member of a small Middle Eastern village - I believe it was in Iran - about their faith. NOBODY believed exactly the same thing even though they all considered themselves Shi’a Muslims. There were VAST differences in belief just within this one tiny village! I don't find these comparisons of broadly encompassing labels useful. MUSLIM and CHRISTIAN both describe about a billion people each, with each individual holding their own set of religious beliefs & disbeliefs. Instead of worrying about those with a particular label, I choose instead to oppose hateful & intolerant LANGUAGE and immoral BEHAVIOR wherever it may arise. Generalizing the behavior of certain individuals is not only inaccurate, but it can be a dangerous excuse for further immorality.

"do you see the current radical evangelical as the same as the current radical Muslim?"
If they support the Bush administration's utilization of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial in violation of the most basic principles upon which our nation was founded ... well, that's better than advocating mass murder, but still morally reprehensible and hypocritical. If they evoke a call to arms for a religious war, I don’t see much difference at all.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

"We simply do not take a stand on the question of the existence of the divine."

Which to me is almost as scary fundamentalism. Because not only are most agnostistics not able to take a stand on the divine but they can't take a stand on most value based things. I do applaud you for calling these terrorist as "evil" in another discussion.

I don't know if you can delineate sects like you do. Yes people may not believe the exact same things but the core is generally the same. Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic are very different but most of the values are the same. The same can be said of Islam. Oppressing women and not considering them equal is a value of Islam. This is not a value held in the Judeo-Christian religion. So would it not be safe to say that the values held by the Judeo-Christian religion are superior or at least better? I know as text that looks and sounds incredibly arrogant and ignorant, but it is strikingly obvious as well. But I have to go back to what I have said before, "Christianity is not above criticism." But we have to be bold enough to be able to distinguish between what is better or worse for our existence.

 
At 6:30 PM, Blogger BJ Stone said...

Knight, great posts. You say many things I've been saying for a long, long time.

I, too, am agnostic, not athiest. Agnostics are open to proof from both sides, but know that as of this day, right now, no proof exists either way.

Great reading from both of you, btw, I most always respect BJA's opinion on things as well.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Robin Lionheart said...

I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't know whether a god exists, and I lack belief in one.

I think atheism is a stance of humility, not arrogance. Is it not more humble to think that we little apes, on one little world, in one random galaxy, among billions and billions in the vast universe, are not the God's favorite creatures, formed in His own image, the center of His vast creation? Is it not more humble not to presume to know beyond doubt the answer to great mysteries to which no human has yet a definitive answer?

Recognizing how limited our knowledge is, compared to how vast our ignorance, leads me to take nothing on faith (not to believe without empirical evidence), and just be a humble seeker of truth.

 

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