What’s God Got To Do With It? (Nothing)

God. File photo. Circa... always.

Well, here I am again after a long absence.  No excuses.  I’m a lazy moron crushed by divergent responsibilities.  I apologize.  Onward.

Leviticus  1-9

When we last looked, Aaron, knife in hand,  had slashed his way through a  multitude of bloody sacrifices, seemingly one for every occasion.  Feel guilty about a particular sin in your past?  Amazingly, Aaron always has an animal that can be butchered and toasted to carry away your guilt.  Shocking isn’t it?  Offend God by some small sin?  Offer him a burned and bloody mess, and he’ll forgive you.  Offend him with a greater sin?  Give him an even bigger bloody and charred mess, and things’ll be fine.  There’s little doubt that God does get a bit of a woody from charred flesh, but it’s a wonder that there were any animals left.  Was there anything left for mere people to eat?  Remember that this was the same time that the Hebrews were starving and had to be fed by bread falling from the sky and quail stumbling into the camps and spontaneously combusting.  Yet here they are throwing animals on the  fire to be uselessly burned, all to appease some idea of a vengeful God.  This is just senseless like much else in religion.

Let’s think about this.  Does it make sense in the overall scheme of things?  Could your sins be carried away by the death and barbequing of some animal flesh?    Perfectly logical, right??  Um… Sure, that is if you’re a bronze-age animal-herding tribes-person who is desperately seeking any explanation on how their world works.  Today???  After a trip through modern public education??? Not so much.

The very idea that I could atone for cheating on my wife by taking one of our animals out and ceremonially slaughtering it is ludicrous.  Let me be clear.  Although I’m an atheist, I like the concept of sin.  Bear with me here; I know I’m in dangerous territory. Don’t we all harm people in our day to day lives?  Simply in being human, we create havoc in this world with our unnecessary cruelties  and heartless actions.  People are constantly destroying the things they love through callousness and stupidity, ignorance and fear, through… just being human.  I have no difficulty in calling these persistent human atrocities sin. In addition, I want to live in a world where some sort of atonement is required.  We can’t just say, “Oops.” and go on with our lives.  We should all try to atone for the pain we have caused. Whether it sins against our brother or crimes against our planet, we should try our damnedest to make it better.

The concept of justice has always burned rather fiercely in me.  Even as a child, the thought of someone getting away with injustice kept me awake far into the night.  I stand by this moral system.  Atoning for our sins and crimes is essential for becoming a better society. We need to attempt to fix the damage we have done.  We need an internal sense of self justice.  I understand that this may sound like an archaic idea for an atheistic progressive, yet it was this concept that became central to my fleeing my fundamentalist background.  It was the sheer unfairness of the Bible that drove me forth and made me both atheistic and liberal.

Therefore, the concept of sin doesn’t bother me.  My problem lies with the idea that when we sin, we sin against a god.  How can this be?  Our sins are against our fellow humans and the world we live in.  Against God??? Never!  To atone for our sins or wrongs we must attempt to rectify what we have done with the people harmed and not with some invisible, space-dwelling superman.  God has nothing to do with this!  If I harm my child, it is not to God that I must atone, it is my son.  If I harm my wife, not only must it be to her that I will atone, but God is a jackass for even trying to intrude on that debt.  God deserves nothing in this transaction.  Nothing!  Even allowing for his existence, which I do not, he is simply not part of the equation.  It is between the harmed and the harmer, not some giant, invisible, butt-plug constantly lurking overhead!!

Only if I could possibly harm an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing deity, a perfect being, could he ever deserve some form of atonement.  Doesn’t the very definition of perfection proclaim that anything I do cannot harm him?  Isn’t that what all powerful means.  How religions insist that their gods are all powerful and yet have the sensitivity and temperament of an infant is beyond me.  But let’s allow this too. I seem to be in the mood for allowing illogical impossibilities so let’s give him the exalted position of omnipotent fucking baby.  Think about this.  If my sins against my fellows really does make baby Jesus cry, shouldn’t my atonement to my injured brothers and sisters be the reparation he requires?  Why must I kiss his deified ass too?   What could this possibly accomplish?

If we think about the entire concept, it’s really like a tax on sin.  God, like any overbearing bureaucratic government, demands his cut of the atonement, a pain tax.  Like some Mafia boss, the God of godfathers, if someone’s going to be paying for a sin, he demands his share and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.

This is an idea so absurd that I am continually appalled that there are still modern, educated people who still believe it.  I know I’ve said this before, but to me the single biggest proof that we are not intelligently designed is the utter nonsense that we insist is true in spite of the world of evidence refuting it.  We are simply too stupid to have been designed by anything other than evolution.

What I do find quite ironic in this entire section, particularly as an American in the midst of the great tax debate, is that this sin tax was a graduated one.  A Hebrew was only required to bring and burn what he could afford.  The poor paid considerably less than the rich for the same service.  Even then the wealthy were held more accountable for their errors than the poor.  The sacred idea of a flat tax which the right wing in this country hold onto as a fifth gospel just doesn’t seem to jive with this part of the Bible.  Not that the Bible has any validity when it might possibly conflict with greed, but… well… that’s a topic for a different discussion.

But can anyone refute that even God believed in taxing the rich more.

I’m just sayin’

    • johnward
    • November 28th, 2011

    So I cheat on my wife and am forgiven if I microwave the cat! It may not be very rational but you can surely see why it is an attractive idea to millions of people (men!) Might just convert tomorrow – this religion thing has more to it than meets the eye.

    • so3man
    • November 28th, 2011

    On atheism, how is there even sin? Isn’t it all just our innate animal instincts? So if you cheat on your wife, isn’t it just you giving into your animal desires, which is what nature has instilled in you? How can that be wrong? How is there any sin on atheism, when it’s all just part of the natural process?

    For you to appreciate justice, you have to appreciate sin (which you do). In order for there to be sin, there has to be both a recognition of wrong (something which naturalism should not allow for; everything just is what it is) and a choice not to do it (something which determinism does not allow for).

    So on atheism, sin doesn’t exist, and your concept of justice is either illusion or grounded in a Being much higher than yourself.

    • Oh, come on. This is the ultimate straw man argument. Atheism certainly allows for a right and wrong. We just refuse to believe some invisible space giant is the one laying it all out. Naturalism does not say “everything just is what it is.” Not even close. Naturalism says that everything just is what it is for a reason and that reason can be explained using natural laws. Hardly the same thing. Evolution can certainly create a right behavior and a wrong one, and the entire idea that it cannot is silly. Evolution favors the fittest, and selfish behavior is hardly always the fittest.

      The best question here is not why evolution would design us with morals, but rather why after being created by a perfect god are we still such fuck ups. And please don’t mention concepts as illusions. I have a hard time not smiling at the irony.

        • Mary2
        • November 29th, 2011

        Not that I am a great believer in blaming evolution for all our behaviour (it is hard to see the evolutionary benefit in driving a car or playing cricket); I think humans have moved beyond being controlled by our innate animal instincts and that So3man is being disingenuous to suggest he really thinksthe choice is between a god or animal behaviour.

        But, if you want an evolutionary root for ‘sin’, it can be found in the fact that humans, like many other species, are social animals and for social animals to survive they have to get on with each other. Most species of social animal have behavioural restrictions that we would recognise as morality; dogs and elephants will both give up their desires to mate so they can help rear the young of the pack matriarch. Social species will also share food, which does not happen with animals who do npt love in social groups, e.g. Lions vs leopards.

        • Mary2
        • November 29th, 2011

        Oops – last line in previous should read ‘not live’ rather ‘npt love’ – fat thumbs, small keyboard.

        • Daz
        • November 29th, 2011

        It’s really quite simple. Sin is the causing of unnecessary harm. No need of a god, and it even allows for complicated ‘lesser of two evils’ grey-area decisions, via the word ‘unnecessary’.

        • so3man
        • December 6th, 2011

        KK, but how do you reconcile being able to choose right and wrong if determinism (a must for the belief in evolution and atheism) says it is causally bound for whatever choice you make? Wouldn’t evolution always select an option that is most advantageous to the furthering of the species, which would imply that adultery would be a better selection on evolution than marital faithfulness? Explain that for me, please.

        Mary, if humans have moved beyond animal behavior, in what way can we confirm this? How can you confirm that humans behaved in a different way in the past than they are currently? For you to make such a leap you need to prove both points of the chain, otherwise there’s no evidence that evolution is responsible for the way we are, as you suggest.

        Daz, can you please define “unnecessary” for me? If that is how we define sin, then it’s important to define unnecessary as a piece of that. Otherwise an act can be both a sin and not a sin, depending on who the judge of the act is.

        • Dave
        • December 6th, 2011

        So much drivel in only a few paragraphs, well done so3man.

        I had to look up determinism, sounds like nothing more than a whole lot a philosophic masturbation. Since its nonsense, its clearly not required reading for being an atheist.

        Evolution is simply the change in heritable characteristics across generations. It is an observable fact, no belief required. Evolution shows no preference for furthering species. You mean natural selection, which is only one of the mechanisms that drive evolution.

        And fidelity to a partner certainly fits with natural selection, especially in species who’s offspring require a significant amount of parental care to survive. It is behavior that can be observed in many species, not just humans. To suggest that fidelity needs a title like “marriage” and sanction from a god to occur and be beneficial is ludicrous.

        As for proof that behavior has changed, read the bible. The barbarity of the ancient Hebrews is far more animalistic than anything our modern society would tolerate.

        Which pretty much answers there question whether or not an act can be both a sin and not a sin. The ancient Hebrews were a barbaric tribal culture, in a time of barbaric tribal cultures. They did what they must to survive, we don’t condemn their actions as sinful. If someone were to go out and live by the morals of the old testament today, you can be sure that even good xtians would be damning them to hell.

        • Mary2
        • December 7th, 2011

        Dave, this time you beat me to it.

        So3man,

        a) The existence or religion is proof that we have moved on from instinctual animal behaviour. Religion is a complex set of rituals and actions which are built upon by successive generations and serve no useful function in acquiring the means of day to day living. Name one other species that engages in such complex behaviour. If animals a lot less intelligent than we are are capable of establishing rules of conduct by which to live as a group, then surely humans can design notions of good/evil?

        b) determinism is not a necessary component of atheism. Atheism merely means lack of belief in gods. After that, we can have any beloefs we like – there is no excommunication for atheists who think for themselves.

        c) adultery is not a better evolutionary trait than monogamy – see Dave’s explanation.

        d) what makes you think monogamy and not
        adultery is the ‘natural’ human position?

        e) “something can be both a sin and not a sin depending on who is the judge”. Now you’ve got it! This is why we have parliaments and courts; to decide these things. This is why definitions of sin change over time. I believe even God changes his mind about what is a sin. First you are not allowed to eat shellfish, then you are. First you are allowed to own slaves, then you are not – oops, that’s right, he forgot to change his mind about that one. You are still allowed to own slaves.

        • Ron
        • December 7th, 2011

        @so3man

        unnecessary

        adjective

        – not necessary or essential; needless; unessential.

        Synonyms: dispensable, gratuitous, inessential, needless, nonessential, uncalled-for, unessential, unwarranted

        Examples:

        Unnecessary harm (UH): hacking off people’s limbs with a machete

        Necessary harm (NH): amputating a limb to rescue someone who’s pinned under a collapsed building

        UH: knocking out someone’s teeth
        NH: surgically removing an impacted molar

        UH: slashing someone’s throat
        NH: performing an emergency tracheotomy because they’re choking to death

        Re: Sin

        The word ‘sin’ a religious concept with no application for atheists — i.e. it’s a term theists use to convey the displeasure their professed deity will experience if you don’t follow their prescribed moral code.

        Re: Monogamy

        Where in the Bible does God condemn polygamy? Because the patriarchs certainly didn’t practice monogamy: Abram bonked his wife’s handmaiden Hagar (at Sarai’s request); Jacob married two sisters and bed their servants too (again at both of his wive’s request). Moses enjoined his men to keep all the virgins as war booty after a conquest. King David had seven wives and multiple concubines. King Solomon had Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

        And in 2 Peter 2:7-8, Lot — who pimped his daughters to an unruly mob and later impregnated them both in a cave after two consecutive nights of binge-drinking — is described as a “righteous” man (twice) with a “righteous” soul.

        • Daz
        • December 16th, 2011

        Just want to thank Ron for covering ‘unnecessary.’ I meant to do so before, but life got busy.

        Mind, I would argue that sin doesn’t have to be a religious concept. The problem is that religions have so totally hijacked concepts of morality and philosophy in general, that it would be hard to discuss them without using terms with religious overtones to them.

        Another is the ‘soul.’ In the religious sense, it’s bunkum, but try thinking of another word for the ‘you’ that feels non-physical. It may be an illusion, but the illusion itself is a real thing, yet the only words to describe it—spirit, soul—have religious or supernatural connotations.

        We either need to coin new words, which probably wouldn’t catch on, or would be appropriated by the religious if they did, or work with the ones we have and make it clear we’re dismissing the supernaturalists’ definitions.

      • Ron
      • December 7th, 2011

      I believe even God changes his mind about what is a sin. First you are not allowed to eat shellfish, then you are. First you are allowed to own slaves, then you are not – oops, that’s right, he forgot to change his mind about that one. You are still allowed to own slaves. ~ Mary2

      Yep, and as far as I know, the prohibition against wearing mixed fabrics, planting mixed crops, mating different kinds of animals, cutting the hair at the sides of your head and trimming the edge of your beard is still in effect.

      So animal breeders, farmers, and all those clean-shaved pious folks who attend Sunday service dressed in poly-cotton shirts with wool blend blazers are making God vewy, vewy angry.

    • Federico Bär
    • November 28th, 2011

    …..to me the single biggest proof that we are not intelligently designed is the utter nonsense that we insist is true in spite of the world of evidence refuting it. We are simply too stupid to have been designed by anything other than evolution….

    You may have said this before, and you may say it again some other day, as far as I’m concerned.
    “Intelligent Design” sounds so simple, so easily understandable that I refuse to accept even the mere idea. You found an excellent wording to reject it.
    If I am a Product of such a Designer, well, then I would remind him/her that the tip of that Intelligent Pencil urgently needs some sharpening.
    Greetings,
    Federico

    • Mary2
    • November 29th, 2011

    Welcome back KK. I have to admit that my bible reading has flagged since you have found other priorities! I have been reduced to inviting the Jehovah’s Witnesses in for a chat.

    I love the way that God (through Moses) is very specific about which animal to sacrifice for which crime and even more ridiculously detailed about how you have to kill them and in which direction you must face etc. To steal requires the death of one pigeon and two chooks, while a lie requires you to bbq a sheep and flambe three pythons and a sloth while facing East and standing at the north gate of the town while humming the theme song from The Sound of Music. Does anyone else think that God was just having a laugh at the Hebrews’ expense?

    Have to mention that ‘God’ is very careful to proscribe how much of each sacrifice is the priest’s cut. I’m sensing a conflict of interest with these laws coming to the people through Moses, and the priests all being (coincidentally of course) Moses’ brother and his sons.

    • ‘3 is where you start to go off the rails..There does have to be a reason for beeilf, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have to be a correct reason, or even make sense.Your logical leap between #4 and #5 is where you crash and burn, I’m afraid.

    • Dave
    • November 30th, 2011

    Yay! New post from the blessed atheist.

    Boo! Mary2 already ninja’d my answer about social species. Although she probably phrased it better than I would have.

    Welcome back KK, I’d be mad at you for being gone so long, but I found Pharyngula because of you and that makes up for anything.

      • Mary2
      • December 1st, 2011

      Sorry Dave,
      not my original thought: I stole it from The Atheist Experience. While KK has been busy having a life or whatever he has been doing, I too have been reduced to getting my fix elsewhere.
      I feel lik I have been unfaithful :-(

    • Anonymous
    • December 1st, 2011

    You asked: “But can anyone refute that even God believed in taxing the rich more.”

    Not as a general rule, but he did make an exception in Genesis 30:15:

    “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.” An odd sort of arrangement.

    Oh, and Mary2 mentioned the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have you seen their Advent Calendar? It has 24 doors, and none of them open.

    • I saw this on Fark. It’s a great article. Sadly, but prbedctaily the comments section was full of Christians and Athiests acting like prickish douchebags toward one another.Gots ta luv tha inranets.

    • rustiguzzi
    • December 1st, 2011

    Apologies – that ‘Anonymous’ was me. I hit ‘Enter’ too soon.

  1. Good to see you back kk, another great post as always!

    • rustiguzzi
    • December 3rd, 2011

    Dammit, I made an error back there . . . I typed ‘Genesis’ 30:15 when I should have typed ‘Exodus’. Hope I haven’t confused anyone.

    • Nancy B
    • December 17th, 2011

    It baffles me that christians think you need to be a christian in order to be a good person. That atheists have no god and therefore can’t be trusted (one study shows that atheists are thought of as worse than rapists).

    Yet, the exact opposite is true. The fundies, they hurt someone, they just tell their invisible friend who *always* forgives them.

    But as an atheist, when I screw up, I lose sleep over it. I have to apologize to whoever I hurt, and I have to actually *do* something to make things better – such as pay for damages, learn from my mistakes, or promise to never do it again.

    • Nancy, I take issue with your comment. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person. In fact, many atheists are better people than Christians I would say. I’ll bet some of your are much better people than myself even. To care about the world and the people in it can be done equally, whether you are a Christian, an atheist or neither.

      Christians just believe that atheists have no real foundation on which to base their goodness. This is the constant moral debate; it’s not on who is good, but why there is good to do in the first place. We’ve already beat that horse to death, so I’m not going to re-address it here. Just wanted to be clear that the moral issue is one of ontology, not semantics.

      For the record, Christians still lose sleep when they wrong someone. I’ve spent many a night awake thinking about some of the things I’ve said on this blog alone. Christians are also called to ask forgiveness, reconcile with those they’ve wronged, etc. We’re no different on that front.

      I don’t take issue with your being offended if you believe that is what Christians are really like. I just think you’re mis-informed in what Christians really think about atheists, because no informed Christian would believe no atheist is a good person and no Christian is a bad person.

      Not trying to be antagonistic here (which I know may seem the case given our past squabbles), but rather helpful. I don’t think I’m better than you, and I hope you don’t feel that way about me either. I feel like we both believe we’re right on this issue of God/no God, but that doesn’t give either one of us superiority on a base level.

      Hope that helps.

      • Mr Hubbo, you might want to read this before making sweeping statements about Christians. (Be sure to put any hot liquids down first. Either laughter or shocked incredulity is likely to happen, pretty quick.)

        You might also want to reflect on the fact that polls in the USA, even post-9/11, when you’d pretty much expect it to be Muslims, regularly find atheists to be the least trusted ‘religious’ group.

        It’s not that all Christians think that way, just that very many do. And ‘you can’t be good without god’ is a very common accusation.

      • It’s a fair point, Daz. Many Christians are uninformed and do make generalizations like “all atheists are evil.” But I would go so far as to say informed Christians do not, because they understand the principles of what is “evil” and realize that we all meet the same standard for “evilness,” namely, we all sin. So informed Christians do not believe we are better people than atheists. That’s one piece of the argument I was trying to make.

        I would go so far as to say that many atheists believe Christians are deluded idiots and act condescendingly as a result, but not all do. But does that mean I should generalize and say everyone on this blog feels that way? Of course not, because it’s the same fallacy. If we all treat each other on a case-by-case basis, it’s easier not to make sweeping statements about any group.

        Now the “you can’t be good without God” argument is also a mis-informed argument, as I was trying to tell Nancy. It’s not about semantics, it’s about ontology. The real issue is, “You have no reason to be good without God.” That is, there is no reasonable foundation apart from God that grounds morality and basic goodness. But as I’ve said, we’ve had this discussion before, and so no need to start the engine all over again.

        Just as it is your obligation to correct Christians who make uninformed arguments (i.e. you can’t be good without God), I also feel obliged to correct atheists who make mis-informed generalizations about Christians (i.e. we all believe we are good and you’re not and so we’re better than you). That is all I was attempting to do. Hope that came through.

      • Yeah, it came through. I even agree to a point. Thing is though, for many American atheists, the truth is that they are besieged by Christians of the less tolerant kind. It’s something I still have trouble believing at a gut level; more like something from a history book than a modern democratic country. There’re attitudes openly and commonly on display, there, that sound like rhetoric from Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate in the 17th century, when seemingly every sect with more than five members wanted their own brand of Christianity imposed by law on everyone else. Scary stuff.

      • I see your point. It does go the other way though. There are plenty of zealous, Dawkins-esque atheists that spew venom at Christians too, so we are no less beseiged. And there are plenty on both sides that are uninformed and throw out ridiculous statements just to make people angry. We are two sides of the same mirror, which is probably why we argue so much.

        I think what we both have to agree on, however, is that our tolerance can only go so far. We all have a right to believe whatever we want, and must tolerate others in their equivalent right. However, neither Christianity nor atheism is a tolerant worldview, because neither one believes anything else can be true. So while I agree intolerance is a problem, to a degree it is necessary to hold fast to how we believe the world works. I hope that makes sense, too.

      • There’s a big difference, though. In most nominally Christian counties, even the mildest, meekest, nicest believer is taking money from our pockets every time they step through the doors of their tax-exempt church. Nearly all anti-abortion and anti-LGBT laws are campaigned for largely by religious groups. The list goes on.

        We’re not asking to have our personal beliefs passed into law, since the thing we share as a group is a disbelief. We just want other people’s beliefs kept out of law as well.

        That’s why the big kerfuffle a while back, regarding the existence of god(s). Lack of evidence for the basis of the belief = lack of grounding for laws based on that belief. It’s more than just a fun debating point. It’s the basis for the whole of the unjust free reign that religion is given to impinge on the lives of even those who don’t believe.

        See what I mean? An individual believer might be the nicest person on the planet, but she’s still messing with my life.

      • I see what you mean. All I’m saying is that the same is true on the other side of the coin. But that wasn’t even Nancy’s point or the point we were talking about initially. It was about the “good without God” attack atheists feel, not about the political agendas. While I think the two can sometimes be linked, they weren’t in this discussion. And regardless of the stance, atheists and Christians try to impose their belief (or disbelief) on both the other group and on society in a variety of ways. Neither one of us is better than the other in that regard.

      • That was kind of my point: Christians, all religious people who belong to an organised church, are being ‘bad,’ in that they take advantage of an unjust privilege.

        Please show me where atheists are trying to “impose” atheism-derived values on believers. In fact, just showing some atheism-derived values would be a good start, ’cause I have no idea how the statement “I don’t believe in gods” leads to any socio-political conclusions.

        • Ron
        • January 15th, 2012

        Christians just believe that atheists have no real foundation on which to base their goodness. This is the constant moral debate; it’s not on who is good, but why there is good to do in the first place. ~ sabepashubbo

        No foundation? What about empathy and compassion? Or the fact that practicing goodness makes life more pleasant and tolerable for everyone? Being good for these reasons is sufficient in itself; and certainly more commendable than being good solely for the sake of avoiding eternal punishment.

      • Daz, that’s what I mean about sweeping generalizations in calling all members of an organized church “bad.” The implication is that all atheists are then “good” because they don’t “take advantage of those privileges,” and that logic just doesn’t follow. As for an example of atheism imposition, what about arguing against the steel cross at the 9/11 monument? The atheist group arguing against it said it was unfair because not every organized religious group (which atheists are considered a part of, under the law) had similar representation. But their argument wasn’t that they wanted to put something up, but rather that the cross NOT be allowed to be put up. That’s atheism imposing it’s will on the law and rights of others.

        Ron, I don’t know if we really need to go down this road yet again, but since you brought it up I will bite. The things you mention as foundations don’t work on their own, because you imply the determination of goodness from the outset. The foundation is what determines good from bad, so without God, there can be no reasonable determination about what kinds of things are actually “good” and what things are actually “bad.” An action that benefits most of society but hurts others can’t be judged good or bad based on the merits you laid out, because it doesn’t benefit all.

        Christians aren’t good solely to avoid eternal punishment. That’s a mis-informed argument. If that were the case, than salvation would be justified by our works. But the Bible makes it clear that is not the case. No, Christians try to be good in order to show God that we love Him and thank Him for being good to us by sending Jesus. That makes the motive a whole lot purer, even if Christians often fall short of that standard.

      • Mr Hubbo, you miss my point, I think. (And please note the scare-quotes I used around ‘bad’. They were there for a reason.)

        My claim isn’t that all Christians are actively bad, merely that laws which give them advantages I don’t enjoy are unjust, and that by taking advantage of those laws (tax-exempt churches is a good example), Christians are doing me harm. Such laws are based on social conventions which give undue and unjust deference to a belief system which has no supporting evidence for it’s central premise.

        When they try to get their beliefs passed into law (a blastula having a completely unevidenced ‘soul,’ for instance), then yes, they are being actively bad, though possibly, in some cases, through mistaken but good intentions.

        I have no interest in your philosophical ‘how can we be good without god?’ argument;* just looking at what atheists are actually like, rather than playing philosophical word-games, shows that atheists are perfectly capable of goodness. Nor do I claim, as you seem to assume, that all atheists are good. I merely claim that not having a belief in gods is no barrier to their being good.

        ————————————————————–

        *If you want to make that argument, I say that being good because you believe you’ve been instructed to by a higher power does not constitute moral behaviour, merely obedience. Moral behaviour is doing good because you choose to do good. We could debate that one for weeks and get nowhere, but you should be aware that the alternative view exists.

      • I think we misunderstand each other’s points a little, because I think you took something I said as an inference based on what you said and assume that I feel that way. I don’t think all atheists are “good,” nor do I think all atheists are “bad.” Atheists are absolutely capable of behaving in a morally good way. My argument to Ron and Nancy is simply that there is no justification for doing so on atheism, which is the argument we’ve had many times.

        And again, I can say just as easily that atheists taking advantage of certain laws do me harm, so it’s not like Christians are alone in that regard. I’ve merely been trying to say all along that both sides are playing pot and kettle, so we shouldn’t make generalizations about the other side, because they apply right back in our own faces. Neither one of us is the problem; we BOTH are.

      • My argument to Ron and Nancy is simply that there is no justification for doing so on atheism, which is the argument we’ve had many times.

        In that case, see the footnote under my previous comment.

        And again, I can say just as easily that atheists taking advantage of certain laws do me harm

        Yes, you’ve alluded to this several times. Examples please. What atheism-derived laws are doing you harm? Indeed, what atheism-derived laws could you possibly mean? I have yet to spot a law which says that disbelief in gods is mandatory.

      • And I have yet to see a law that says belief in God is mandatory as well. Atheism has been the driving force for laws against sharing Christian beliefs in a private forum in many Asian countries. I gave you the 9/11 example. Atheism was also the driving force behind the legislation that I can no longer, as a teacher, post the 10 Commandments as a decoration in my classroom.

        So you see? It’s not a one-way street. Doesn’t it seem like a little bit of a superiority issue to think that atheists take the high ground politically while Christians slum in the depths? It’s clearly not the case, nor is it even a black-and-white issue. Neither side is high and mighty over the other, so to pretend that’s the case is a bit unfair.

        To your footnote: moral behavior is being good, regardless of your intent. Having a reason for being good is moral ontology, for which there is no reasonable answer on atheism. Again, that’s my point. Everyone here is confusing moral ontology with moral semantics. That’s not the dispute.

      • And I have yet to see a law that says belief in God is mandatory as well.

        No, but I’m made to abide by laws derived from belief in the Bible as God’s word.

        The 9/11 cross: a structure made of steel beams welded together at right-angles was almost bound to leave at least one Christian cross-like remnant, if any verticals were left at all, when it collapsed. To see that as a sign from God, even for a believer, I would suggest, is stretching the imagination somewhat. If your god was going to leave a sign of his presence, I’d think miraculously disappearing the planes just before impact would have been of more practical use.

        As for objections to its inclusion in the museum, my personal feeling is that they were correct on technical legal grounds (there were, after all, people of most major religions—including Islam—and of none, in the buildings; not just Christians), but that the objectors should have seen that it would be a public-relations disaster, making them appear like grinches to casual onlookers.

        Atheism was also the driving force behind the legislation that I can no longer, as a teacher, post the 10 Commandments as a decoration in my classroom.

        That’s separation of church and state; an entirely different matter. You, as a teacher, have no right to foist your religion onto the children placed into your care. If only the same could be said of parents, the planet might be a much less divided place.

      • And you’ve just made my point for me. Both of your responses show laws being enforced with anti-religious intentions. Given that I’m a Christian and have a right to my religion, it sure seems like atheism has been doing me harm politically. That you seem to think that it’s right for religion to be suppressed but not atheism shows the bias of your perspective. But I can’t blame you for that, because all of us have that same bias, just on different sides.

        Again, that’s my entire point. It’s silly for either of us to point the finger when we’re both so blatantly at fault for this.

      • Where did I say religion should be suppressed? What I say is that your private belief in an unproven god should have no impact on my life.

        It is not anti-religious to ask for your beliefs as to God’s wishes to not be foisted upon those who have different beliefs about those wishes or about whether they even exist. Which is exactly what a religion-based law does.

        An anti-religious law would be one which actively suppressed your right to worship and believe as you wish.

        I will defend your right to your own beliefs to the utmost, no matter how deluded I may think them. I just don’t want to have to abide by the tenets of them myself. Which is exactly what a religion-based law forces me to do.

        It’s a very simple point. I’m starting to wonder if your misunderstanding isn’t just a little bit wilful.

      • Daz, the 10 Commandments law is very much a suppression of my right to worship as I wish. By paying homage to God in posting them on a wall, I’m not forcing kids to look at them or even abide by them. But telling me I can’t put them up is an active suppression, and it was a law that was driven by atheism.

        I’m not saying religious-based law is correct. But neither is religious suppression by atheism. You seem unwilling to concede that atheists have done anything wrong in this forum, and that it is all the religious that have caused the problem. That’s shortsighted in my opinion. If you would be willing to stipulate to my contention (that both of us are at fault), then we could agree, wind up on either side of the discussion, and go about our business. But religion is not the only one to blame politically, so let’s call a spade a spade and move on, shall we?

      • Your classroom is not your house or a place of worship. You should not be treating it as such. A poster hung on a classroom wall will be seen as authoritative information by children reading it, not as mere decoration or as something which applies to you but not them. You’re really going out on a limb here. Frankly, if you can’t see the difference, I question your suitability as someone who is given care of other people’s children.

        You have yet to state a case where a law derived from atheism actually impedes your right to believe or to worship your god in an appropriate place.

        Nowhere have I stated that ‘all problems’ are caused by religion. One helluva lot are, though, and many others are excused or exacerbated by it. I speak as one whose 13 yr old sister was in London when some Irish Catholics decided to protest against Irish Protestants by blowing up a portion of that city which we knew she was in the vicinity of.

      • Daz, I’m not even a teacher. I’m speaking all of this hypothetically. Don’t you think it says something when you release the hounds at me (calling me unsuitable to look after children) in such a way when I’m simply illustrating a point? An inference that a kid will look at something on the wall and assume it authoritative is silly. So I can put up a picture of a laughing dragon, and kids will assume that they have to laugh in class all the time? It’s an argument that doesn’t have any merit.

        And nowhere have you shown a law that impedes atheism and atheists’ right to “worship” in appropriate places either. We’re on equal footing, and I feel like you’re being intellectually dishonest not to look at your own position before barreling forward and attacking mine. I feel like I can at least criticize both positions. I don’t think you’re willing to do the same. I don’t wish to have that type of discussion. I believe in sincerity and objectivity, and I just don’t get that feeling here.

        I’m not saying religion is scot free. I’m just saying atheism isn’t either. An unwillingness to look at that for what it is I would consider to be an unwillingness to be objective and intellectually honest. But you have a right to your opinion, and I respect that. I just respectfully disagree, and in looking at it objectively, I don’t see anything that warrants me changing my perspective if both sides are in the wrong. Sorry.

      • Don’t you think it says something when you release the hounds at me (calling me unsuitable to look after children) in such a way when I’m simply illustrating a point?

        No. You referred to ‘your’ classroom. I have no way of knowing you’re not a teacher.

        An inference that a kid will look at something on the wall and assume it authoritative is silly. So I can put up a picture of a laughing dragon, and kids will assume that they have to laugh in class all the time? It’s an argument that doesn’t have any merit.

        Except that they’re told that dragons are fairy tales. False analogy.

        We’re on equal footing,

        No, we are not. There are laws stating that some situations where you shouldn’t proselytize, as in classrooms. Apart from that, you are free to live by the tenets of your religion. If your religion says that you must rub blue mud in your hair on the first Saturday of the month, you are free to do so. Keeping with that metaphor, there are also laws in place which force me to do rub blue mud in my hair, even though I don’t believe in the blue mud god.

        You’re being dishonest and wilfully misunderstanding me. Fuck off or debate honestly.

      • Nice language. Thanks for the discussion.

        • Ron
        • January 16th, 2012

        Ron, I don’t know if we really need to go down this road yet again, but since you brought it up I will bite. ~ sabepashubbo

        If you throw the ball out on the field don’t complain if it gets put into play. :P

        The things you mention as foundations don’t work on their own, because you imply the determination of goodness from the outset.

        First, I think we can safely agree that most (if not all) humans operate under the basic assumption that we exist as conscious beings. If not, then the discussion ends right there.

        Second, as conscious beings, we’re constantly pressed to choose between continuing our existence, or ending it (in which case questions concerning morality have no practical application) — a decision influenced by factors affecting the quality of one’s life. It’s a general observation that conscious beings with a strong will to live usually exhibit a vested interest in maintaining their own sense of personal well-being.

        Sam Harris defines values as “facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.” This provides us with an empirical framework to test truth claims about morality.

        The foundation is what determines good from bad, so without God, there can be no reasonable determination about what kinds of things are actually “good” and what things are actually “bad.” An action that benefits most of society but hurts others can’t be judged good or bad based on the merits you laid out, because it doesn’t benefit all.

        The “divine command theory” is deconstructed here.

        Christians aren’t good solely to avoid eternal punishment. That’s a mis-informed argument.

        How so? Jesus himself said “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Are you suggesting that he was in error?

        If that were the case, than salvation would be justified by our works. But the Bible makes it clear that is not the case.

        That depends on which doctrine of salvation you subscribe to: faith alone; faith and good works; predestination; baptism in the Holy Spirit; confessing Christ as your Savior; confessing Christ before man; etc.

        …or some combination of the above.

        No, Christians try to be good in order to show God that we love Him and thank Him for being good to us by sending Jesus. That makes the motive a whole lot purer, even if Christians often fall short of that standard.

        Try to be good? What does that say about the strength of inner personal convictions? Or the assertion that God works as a powerful presence in your life? Moreover, why would you need to demonstrate your love for God? Isn’t he supposed to be omniscient? The whole argument sounds like a cop-out to excuse bad behavior.

        And what should I make of Jesus’ command given in the parable of the ten minas:

        “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

        Does that sound like something you could get into — go out and slay a few non-believers in the neighborhood — to demonstrate your deep-felt appreciation for God?

        No, I think that Daz has already addressed this quite well. To wit:

        “Being good because you believe you’ve been instructed to by a higher power does not constitute moral behaviour, merely obedience. Moral behaviour is doing good because you choose to do good.”

        The only thing I might add is that the Judeo-Christian view of morality stands diametrically opposed to practically everything rational human beings consider good and decent.

      • Hey Ron, I have no problem discussing this. I just feel like we’ve already gone down this road several times. But if you wish…

        It’s a general observation that conscious beings with a strong will to live usually exhibit a vested interest in maintaining their own sense of personal well-being. Sam Harris defines values as “facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.” This provides us with an empirical framework to test truth claims about morality.

        This would be acceptable if people didn’t generate different value systems based on their well-being. This is why on Harris’ view the Holocaust was both right and wrong–the Nazis viewed it as increasing and maintaining their own well-being, so for them it was completely justified, while for the Jews (and pretty much everyone else) it was wrong and barbaric. But under Harris’ framework, we can’t really hold the Nazis responsible, because they were just exhibiting their own value system. See the fatal flaw? We can’t hold anyone responsible for wrong actions, because we can’t deem them wrong unless we hold them to our own value system. And who is to say that one particular value system is correct over another in such a scenario.

        The “divine command theory” is deconstructed here.

        I understand the guy’s point, but he’s oversimplifying the argument. While the statement “Goodness comes from God, because God is perfectly good” is often used as a theistic argument, it is so much more in-depth than that. For starters, the standard of goodness must be immutable (aka unchanging), because otherwise something that was good could become bad, and vice versa. It must also be something that has no possibility of doing anything wrong, because a standard cannot fall short of meeting itself. So when we look at the characteristics of what defines goodness, a measuring stick has to have certain qualities that can’t be found on any atheistic value system. This blog post takes Eurythphro’s dilemma and just uses some different words to argue the same point. But it’s a false dilemma.

        How so? Jesus himself said “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Are you suggesting that he was in error?

        This is classic cherrypicking, friend, but I appreciate you bringing it up. Because the rest of the passage actually makes my point splendidly. It’s a perfect example of Jesus saying that keeping the law is not enough for salvation. Here is the passage in its entirety:

        “17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

        18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

        Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

        20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

        21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

        22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

        23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

        25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

        26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

        This passage makes it perfectly clear that all the good works that you do mean nothing, for you can never do just good works. We all sin and make mistakes (the rich man’s sin was selfishness in wanting to keep “his” money, by the way). So when the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responds by saying man can’t do it alone, but only by God’s grace will it be possible. So I feel completely justified in making the statement that a person who reads the Bible for what it actually says will understand that to be good on Christianity does not keep you from eternal punishment, which is why your argument is mis-informed.

        The only thing I might add is that the Judeo-Christian view of morality stands diametrically opposed to practically everything rational human beings consider good and decent.

        How so? The Christian view of morality is based on two simple rules: Love God and love those around you. How is “love your neighbor as yourself” diametrically opposed to any other ethical system? Perhaps it is your opinion of Christian morality that makes it seem diametrically opposed, which would show inherent bias. I would spend more time evaluating your own moral system before telling me what mine is. Just sayin’.

        • Ron
        • January 17th, 2012

        This would be acceptable if people didn’t generate different value systems based on their well-being. ~sabepashubbo

        Yes, well the underlying assumption is that we’re dealing with fully competent, rational agents who employ reason and apply the rules of logic to the evidence.

        Furthermore, in order to be considered objective, moral principles must be both prescriptive (i.e. define a course of action) and universal (i.e. apply equally to everyone).

        So a rule that proposes: “I’m permitted to steal your belongings but you’re not permitted to steal mine” would fail that test, whereas a rule that proposes: “No one is permitted to steal another person’s belongings” would not.

        And a rule that proposes: “Everyone is permitted to steal other people’s belongings” would be counter-intuitive because following such a rule would undermine the collective well-being of everyone.

        This is why on Harris’ view the Holocaust was both right and wrong–the Nazis viewed it as increasing and maintaining their own well-being, so for them it was completely justified, while for the Jews (and pretty much everyone else) it was wrong and barbaric. But under Harris’ framework, we can’t really hold the Nazis responsible, because they were just exhibiting their own value system. See the fatal flaw? We can’t hold anyone responsible for wrong actions, because we can’t deem them wrong unless we hold them to our own value system. And who is to say that one particular value system is correct over another in such a scenario.

        [Citation needed]

        When did Sam Harris (who’s a secular Jew) ever express an opinion that the Holocaust was both right and wrong? In every talk I’ve ever heard him give on the subject he’s not only denounced the Nazi worldview, but explained precisely why it was irrational. May I suggest that you actually view some of his speeches and lectures on morality to better inform yourself of his opinions before making ill-informed statements?

        Also, are you aware that the Nazi regime’s hatred of Jews was informed by centuries of anti-Semitic rhetoric propagated through both the Church of Rome and Martin Luther himself? The “good” Christians could have denounced Hitler’s speeches, but didn’t. Why? Because these sentiments, along with acceptance of blind obedience, had been inculcated into Germans from the pulpit from birth.

        And isn’t the fact that millions of people suffered horrific deaths sufficient evidence to conclude that their value system was seriously flawed?

        Re: The “divine command theory”

        It’s really quite simple. An external standard is required in order to determine whether or not God is good. Simply asserting that God is the standard of good is begging the question.

        This is classic cherrypicking, friend, but I appreciate you bringing it up. Because the rest of the passage actually makes my point splendidly. It’s a perfect example of Jesus saying that keeping the law is not enough for salvation. Here is the passage in its entirety: [...]

        So I take it you’ve sold all your possessions, given the proceeds to the poor, and are now posting your responses from a public computer, right? Yeah, thought so.

        BTW, you don’t need to copy and paste entire passages, because I’m more than familiar with them, and atheists tend to get rather annoyed with having to scroll over large blocks of text… especially if you quote scripture to proselytize your beliefs. A simple reference is sufficient for anyone who wants to go look up the passage in question.

        How so? The Christian view of morality is based on two simple rules: Love God and love those around you. How is “love your neighbor as yourself” diametrically opposed to any other ethical system?

        It’s not, if Christians actually practiced the golden rule instead of fixating on OT laws which Jesus supposedly abolished. Unfortunately, loving God (OT style) is incompatible with loving one’s neighbor.
        The Gettysburg Times

        • Mary2
        • January 19th, 2012

        I’m in two minds about whether to bother answering Sabepashubbo for a smell a troll. His first few posts are always polite and reasonable and then degenerate into disingenuousness and deliberate missing of the point he is supposed to be responding to so he can repeat his mantra. . . .but I can’t help myself.

        I may be a bit thick but I don’t understand the ‘without God there is no basis for morality’ argument. Does it boil down to ‘with God there is an objective, unchanging set of values while without God everyone is free to make up their own mind so even mass murder is moral as long as the murderer believes it is’? Because this argument is just silly. Even if you only take the bits of the bible directly attributed to God (through Moses) or Jesus definitions of good/moral change frequently. One minute you must sacrifice goats and eating shellfish is an abomination, the next minute the opposite is true.

        An we haven’t even begun to look at 2000 years of reinterpreting the morality of the bible to suit the morality of the times. Is Sabepashubbo really going to tell us that killing unruly children or owning slaves is ok? Because the moral justification for these things comes straight from God’s mouth to Moses.

        As for the basis of atheist morality, I think Ron has pretty much covered it, except to say that humans live in social groups, to live together they need a common set of rules to live by, so as a good they work it out. Some groups will have a morality that seems immoral to others, but the Nazis actions were considered wrong even by the standards of the day therefore they were not moral. Morality is decided at a group, not an individual level and we are never all going to agree. But neither do Christians about their ‘absolute and unchanging’ morality.

      • I suggest we start our Back To Biblical Values campaign by issuing every teacher with a she-bear for punishment of unruly pupils…

      • Ron, I’m not saying Sam Harris said Nazism is OK. You misunderstand me. I’m saying on his moral framework, he has no justification for believing that it’s not. On his view, the goal is to maximize well-being. The Nazis believed they were doing what would maximize the well-being of the world by exterminating the Jews. That means that the Nazis couldn’t be faulted for their intentions for two reasons: 1) they thought they were maximizing well-being, and 2) we don’t know if they were right or not because they didn’t win World War II. So we have no grounds on Harris’ framework to decry the Holocaust as “evil,” because we don’t have enough information and can only go off of what we know. It’s not Harris’ opinion that is wrong; it is his entire landscape that is inconsistent with his opinion.

        Asserting God is the standard of good is not begging the question, because when you take all of the characteristics of the classical theistic God, you have enough support to say this God would have a perfect working knowledge of what “good” actually is, and would therefore be a reasonable standard by which to determine this.

        I copied and pasted the entire passage because I wanted to make clear how you cherrypicked the text to suit yourself. I never said I was perfect, so no I haven’t sold all my goods and given everything I have to the poor. I’m not making the point about how good I am. I’m making the point that salvation is not about the law, which the entire passage makes clear.

        Finally, your issue about whether Christians practice what they preach is not what’s at debate. It’s whether the Christian moral framework is incompatible with other ethical systems. Can you tell me how “love your neighbor as yourself” as a principle is inconsistent with your moral worldview?

        • Ron
        • January 19th, 2012

        Ron, I’m not saying Sam Harris said Nazism is OK. You misunderstand me. I’m saying on his moral framework, he has no justification for believing that it’s not. On his view, the goal is to maximize well-being.

        Again, I suggest that you watch his videos and/or read his books to familiarize yourself with his arguments. He expounds a moral code that maximizes the well-being of ALL members within society, not just some.

        I’m saying The Nazis believed they were doing what would maximize the well-being of the world by exterminating the Jews.

        Belief — “the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true” (Wikipedia) — is the operative word here. They believed, without evidence that their propositions were true. And as I’ve already mentioned, those beliefs were conditioned by religious indoctrination which justified animosity towards Jews based on a very narrow interpretation of “let his blood be upon us” in Matthew 27:25. (Incidentally, the term “perfidious Jews” wasn’t removed from the Catholic liturgy until 1955 — ie., ten years after World War II.)

        That means that the Nazis couldn’t be faulted for their intentions for two reasons: 1) they thought they were maximizing well-being,

        The fact is they weren’t thinking, or at least they weren’t thinking straight. Their actions were clouded by emotions and fueled by personal animosities against an out-group, much in the same way that the religious right in America attempts to blame the breakdown of traditional marriage on gay rights activists.

        2) we don’t know if they were right or not because they didn’t win World War II. So we have no grounds on Harris’ framework to decry the Holocaust as “evil,” because we don’t have enough information and can only go off of what we know.

        So in other words, your conception of morality is based on the premise that might makes right? Well, at least you’re consistent, because divine command theory presupposes that God’s edicts are good simply because he has the capacity to enforce his viewpoints unilaterally

        Asserting God is the standard of good is not begging the question, because when you take all of the characteristics of the classical theistic God, you have enough support to say this God would have a perfect working knowledge of what “good” actually is, and would therefore be a reasonable standard by which to determine this.

        You’re evading the point. From whence does God derive a perfect working knowledge of what “good” actually is? If it’s from within himself, then it’s purely subjective to his whims.

        And how do we decide that his opinions are congruent with our own unless we already have a working definition of what it means to be good?

        I copied and pasted the entire passage because I wanted to make clear how you cherrypicked the text to suit yourself. I never said I was perfect, so no I haven’t sold all my goods and given everything I have to the poor. I’m not making the point about how good I am. I’m making the point that salvation is not about the law, which the entire passage makes clear.

        I didn’t cherry-pick anything. I directed you to a passage where Jesus states that eternal life was conditional upon following the commandments. The remainder of the passage adds additional riders, but takes absolutely nothing away from my original point.

        Finally, your issue about whether Christians practice what they preach is not what’s at debate. It’s whether the Christian moral framework is incompatible with other ethical systems. Can you tell me how “love your neighbor as yourself” as a principle is inconsistent with your moral worldview?

        No, it’s not what’s at debate. But I often wonder why professing Christians never actually follow through with Christ’s teachings. A perfect example of this was given when the crowd attending the GOP debate in South Carolina loudly booed Ron Paul for suggesting that the golden rule should be adopted when it comes to US foreign policy.

        • Mary2
        • January 20th, 2012

        See what I mean? TROLL. He has ignored all the points that refute his argument and instead has answered a ‘mistaken’ interpretation of a point of Ron’s. “The Nazis can’t be called immoral because they thought they were acting for the greater good”. What rubbish. As if Jesus was the first person to suggest the world would get along fine if everybody treated other people as they would like other people to treat them. As if this hasn’t been a basis for morality since we came down from the trees. Of course it has always been used alongside that other favourite ‘I will do what ever I can get away with before the others turn on me’. What more do you need to work out a group morality?

    • Ron
    • December 23rd, 2011

    The Gettysburg Times
    Wednesday, November 16, 1921

    No Jail or Church in Richest Town

    Walcott, Iowa is a City of Freethinkers, Seven Days a Week.

    (By Associated Press)

    Davenport, Ia., Nov. 16 — There are two institutions that Walcott, Iowa, the richest town per capita in Iowa, prides itself in not possessing. These are churches and jails.

    In its religious beliefs, Walcott is unique. For more than fifty years the town has been without a church. It once had a jail, but like its only church, established sixty-five years ago and which existed but a few years, it was put in the discard. While the jail building stands, there is no vestige of a church edifice. But there are no locks to the jail, and the hinges have rotted off.

    “We are freethinkers and believe in free American citizenship seven days a week. We do not need preachers to dictate to us. We are better off without them,” states Mayor Strohbeen, in expressing Walcott’s lack of churches.

    Mayor Strohbeen states that while any denomination has the privilege of establishing a church in Walcott, the people will simply not patronize them. They would have empty pews and empty collection baskets every Sunday.

    “We are getting along very well as we are — much better than with churches. We like to be let alone. There is no more peaceful or law-abiding town in the United States than Walcott. Why should we want churches? They bring strife and dissension — we want peace and quietude,” commented the town’s popular mayor.

    http://tinyurl.com/77g6cyn (Google News Archive)

    • rustiguzzi
    • December 25th, 2011

    Interesting. A little internet searching reveals that, although the population of Walcott has grown from 384 to 1655 in the intervening 90 years, and they now boast the world’s largest truck-stop, there is only one church – and that is one of the smaller protestant varieties, the Calvary United Methodists. How long it has been therer, and how successful it has been, is anyone’s guess. FWIW, the stats claim 48.4% of the population have some religious affiliation, of which the largest group are the Catholics.

    As far as I can make out, there still isn’t a jail (maybe it’s out of town?).

    Better keep this information quiet, or all the other churches will want to set up shop there.

    Sources: http://www.city-data.com/city/Walcott-Iowa.html (and Wikipedia, of course)

  2. KK,

    I don’t think we need to “try our damnedest to make it better” when we make a mistake. I also don’t think we need to atone for anything. There’s no such thing as karma, and therefore there’s no way to bring the world back into harmony. Government should enforce laws when we break them, and our relations should decide when we’ve acted in a way that is unforgiveable.

    I do think we need to admit our mistakes to ourselves and try to learn from them. All to often we justify our mistakes as the fault of chance, or the fault of someone else in the equation. Most people can forgive actions over words. If we’ve learned from our mistakes we won’t make the same mistake again . . . and atonement won’t be necessary.

    Fuck sacrifice for sins. I understand that livestock then was the equivalent of money now. So, I see the point in paying a fine for breaking a law when caught, but I don’t see the point in burning my money everytime I get away with breaking a law.

    Just sayin’

      • Daz
      • December 30th, 2011

      To be fair, KK isn’t talking about some mystical karma-like atonement to a god, but rather a ‘repayment’ to the victims of our sins-against-humans:

      To atone for our sins or wrongs we must attempt to rectify what we have done with the people harmed and not with some invisible, space-dwelling superman.

      Whether you want to define that as atonement or not, it’s a laudable ideal.

      FWIW, I took a stab at the idea of sin myself a while back, if anyone’s interested. What I said there is also applicable to atonement, I think—it’s not the concept that’s wrong, merely the religious framework its been forced into.

  3. Daz,

    I read your post (and checked out your page). Excellent work!

    I’m currently mulling over your thoughts to see if I can fit them into my world constructs. I think my support of rebellion against capitalism interferes. Your thoughts make sense logically, but conflicts with my logic . . . if that makes sense.

    • Nancy B
    • February 28th, 2012

    ” In most nominally Christian counties, even the mildest, meekest, nicest believer is taking money from our pockets every time they step through the doors of their tax-exempt church. Nearly all anti-abortion and anti-LGBT laws are campaigned for largely by religious groups. ”

    YES!!!! YES!!!! In fact, it is precisely the laws that turned me from not caring about what people believe into being a flat out anti-theist.

    I never cared about religion until the “good honest christians” decided to put Amendment 48 (“Personhood” Amendment) on the Colorado ballot. Then when it failed to pass, these conservatives who say the government should listen to the voters put it on the ballot AGAIN as Amendment 62, in the NEXT election. I am married and I am 47 years old – neither abstinence nor pregnancy is an option. Yet the bastards – warriors for Jebus all – think the government should be able to force me to die if one little sperm sneaks in. I am female! I am not to have sex! It’s fun and therefore must be punished!

    Women could have sex with their husbands in the privacy of their own bedrooms and not have to torture anyone with the TMI, but the damn christians keep dragging everything into public display, into the news, onto the billboards where everyone, even innocent children (won’t someone please think of the children!) are exposed to it.

    But *I*, godless heathen, am the bad one.

    And the tax-exempt churches – ugh, don’t get me started. MY taxes have to pay for the roads that lead to the New Life Church, extra traffic lights required for the extra traffic, and the cop that directs traffic every Sunday. How come the good christian conservatives don’t at least say that they’ll pay for the infrastructure themselves because they believe in less government? What about the government-funded program that gives money to churches so they can address “social issues?” How come they keep mum about tax dollars spent on religious books in the public library? My own library has 2 aisles devoted to books about christianity, but half a shelf (so about 2 feet) devoted to atheism.

    But, poor little fellas, they’re being opressed.

    • The God Hypothesis is more of an assertion than an hoityhesps. I’m fine with people saying that evolution is a theory. It is. If they understand that the theory offers our best explanation for the variety of organisms on the planet and how they change and have changed over time then so much the better. If they don’t understand that and equate theory with I think that maybe it was aliens who stole the toilet paper then there is a problem with their understanding. I don’t even have an issue with people who say that evolution is wrong. Presumably they are biologists who have come up with a competing theory that explains everything that evolution explains only better. I eagerly await their peer reviewed papers on the subject. If they are an ignorant religitard who doesn’t know that the cosmology isn’t related to biological evolution as a science then they have a problem.

    • Nancy B
    • February 28th, 2012

    “That’s separation of church and state; an entirely different matter.”

    Separation of church and state? Our courts are overflowing with cases in which the government is forcing christianity on others: http://www.au.org/

    “You, as a teacher, have no right to foist your religion onto the children placed into your care. ”

    Why do christians*** insist that the old testament doesn’t matter anymore, but then they want to splatter the 10 commandments all over the place?

    ————-

    ***note to the illiterate and to the strawman-challenged – of course I don’t mean *all* of them! You know exactly what I’m trying to say! Anyone who uses language as a hindrance to communication knows deep inside that their opinion is wrong.

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  1. December 16th, 2011

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