via Atheist Quotes of the Day on Facebook
It never fails that on Halloween a few people throw religious tracts in with the candy they are handing out. Don’t worry – I’m not offended at all. Heck – you’re giving my kids free candy – who am I to complain?
Last year hubby and I tried to grab them before the kids did but this year I didn’t make such a big effort and missed a couple. Funny thing. Found them on the couch later – I’m quite sure they were left unread by my kids who were intent on attaining a sugar high experienced at a level that has never been reached by any human being before. Huh – guess kids like to eat candy Halloween night instead of reading. Go figure.
But it got me to thinking what I would say to my little guys if they actually read every word in that tract. Here’s how it would go:
All those things that they seem so sure about in that tract, how do they know any of it?
They say it says all this in the Bible.
How would the writers of the Bible know any of those things are true?
They say God talked to them.
Do they have any way of proving God spoke to them or are we just supposed to take their word for that? They are making some pretty huge claims with major consequences so you should expect that they can back that up with reasonable proof.
No – they can’t back it up. God’s invisible and they don’t have any proof that he talked to them.
Well – what if you asked a scientist to back up what they are saying. Can they show you how they arrived at their answer?
Yes. They spend a lot of time showing how they arrived at their conclusion.
Well – make that the focus when anyone tells you they know something about the world (or the afterlife). If you can trust the method they used to get their answer then you can at least tentatively trust what they say – unless evidence comes along later to show that their initial conclusion was mistaken. And if they are after truth, then they will correct any mistakes that are made – whether it’s in the answers or the methodology itself. If they don’t have a reasonable method of discovering truth that involves a method you can trust then you don’t need to take any of their answers seriously. And in the case of religion many people believe it out of fear of punishment and you should never trust an argument that tries to use fear to convince you of something. Fear won’t get you to the right answer, only a desire to understand the world as it is will.
Ok – mom. Can I go eat more candy now?
Sure kid – I’ll see you on the other side of the sugar coma!
I’m sure there might be more to the conversation and I have had more in-depth conversations with my older daughter, but that’s where I would start.
But it also got me to thinking about one of my first doubts as a Christian (way before my deconversion). I wondered why God used Christians to spread his message if everyone’s eternal destinies were on the line. Christians screw up all the time and have no trouble admitting that. We’re sinners after all. And sharing the gospel was one thing we often messed up on. Even the people who made a point to be really good at it would still fail to share the gospel with people. And that doesn’t even take into account all the people that we just wouldn’t rub shoulders with in the first place. So if the most important decision of people’s lives is on the line – why would God use a method that is sure to fail in most instances?
Wait! I know the answer! I was a fundy Christian for 20 years after all. God knows who will be open to the gospel and will guide us to those people, so no worries. God’s in control after all, not us. Well – then you need to question your God’s wonderful plan for all those people who will burn eternally. His omnipotence seems to have failed Him. I know, I know .. we have freewill. Here’s a post I have up about freewill if you want to explore that topic more.
I thought of all this as I looked at the tract from my kids’ Halloween candy as it lay unopened and unread on my living room couch. Such a pitiful way for an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving God to spread his message. Good thing it’s not true and it’s just a sad little piece of paper that got tossed aside as my kids gorged on candy. I feel bad for the person who put it in there. They thought eternal souls were on the line as they placed that in there. They thought they might be saving some little child from burning in an eternal torture chamber. I feel bad that they are trapped in a religion that sees the world this way. The guilt, the fear, the tears over lost souls. I wish I could free them from that prison. And again I’m reminded why my blog is here. Not to win a philosophical battle but because I want to be here for people who can see life outside the prison of religion but need to know that others have broken free ahead of them and are enjoying the sunshine and fresh air outside the bars.
Last week I stumbled across this blog and I was transported back in time. I had forgotten about this blog but when I saw it I instantly remembered it as one that I visited often in the early days of my religious doubting. He isn’t currently blogging but I emailed the author to thank him for sharing his story and I let him know how it had impacted me. He replied and we exchanged a few encouraging emails. It reminded me of why it’s important for those who have left the faith to tell their stories. After we deconvert we move on with our lives, but there are others who will go through the same struggles and will benefit in some way from reading about our journey. Enjoy reading Kevin’s story:
I want to share with you a link to a free online book that may interest some of you. It is a story about a loss of faith - but so much more. It’s called An Examination of the Pearl and the scope of it is staggering to me. Click on the Table of Contents and then click on items listed there and you’ll see how exhaustive this book really is! He covers any biblical or doctrinal issue you can imagine. If you’re in the doubting stage of your faith then this book is required reading!
I thought I’d give you the author’s words from the first page so that you can get an idea what the book is about:
The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as comparing the Kingdom of God to a merchant who found a valuable pearl and sold all that he had in order to buy it. No merchant of fine pearls would ever buy one that he had not examined carefully. To take the supreme leap of selling all for the price of one particular pearl would require that merchant to have either found it flawless after detailed examination, or to enter blindly into what might well turn out to be a bad bargain out of impulse, emotion, or deceit.
This book is an honest and unflinching examination of the pearl that Conservative Laestadianism puts on offer as the Kingdom of God. It is a study not just of that obscure revival movement from 19th century Lapland, but also of Martin Luther, fundamentalist and sectarian Christianity, and the Bible itself.
About 18 centuries ago, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, then let it be destroyed; for it will have been proved that we do not possess the truth.” Many dare not take the risk to their faith, or the faith of those under their influence, of reading or allowing the reading of anything critical about what they supposedly believe. But is that really faith in anything other than the others in the fold who are themselves just repeating the old slogans? They, too, are all too often ignoring the facts about their own unexamined faith that is itself supported only by the claims of others.
There are many such unexamined and fearful faiths competing in the marketplace of religion, some of them also claiming to be the truth outside of which no one will be saved. And without critical reflection like that found in this book, each one is a self-sustaining doctrinal bubble that quivers unsteadily in the air, vulnerable to being poked by the slightest intrusion of fact.
I’d love for you to check it out and to let me know what you think of it: An Examination of the Pearl
“The idea of an omnipotent God who creates a creature capable of reason, then throws an eternal hissy fit when that creature doesn’t spend all his time telling God how wonderful He is… Well it seems like rather insecure behavior for an all-powerful, all-loving being.”
How will we handle criminals as we learn more about the brain? I was discussing this issue with my husband the other day so I was thrilled to come across this video. It’s 34 minutes long but well worth watching if this topic interests you (and it should!)
Loved this documentary. Christopher Hitchens is the closest thing I have to a god now so I guess not a big surprise.
‘Collision of Lives’
I have this book in my hands:
Reading this book now was great timing. After I’d written this post I had a lot of second thoughts. Something about it really bothered me. I didn’t really feel I’d tackled Zacharias’ arguments well. There was something missing. One of the main points that Zacharias weaves throughout the entire chapter is that life is meaningless without a god to explain it and to give it purpose (and in his view it must also follow that it is the Christian God.) He presents this as though it is fact and I was a bit lost as to how to answer him even though I had found purpose in my post-christian life.
Well this book has brought some clarity for me. The author, Dan Barker, is also the author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists. He is a former minister and Christian songwriter who renounced all religion and now is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Godless book really helped me when I was searching for answers.
The Good Atheist is mostly a book of quotes and short biographies of atheists who have had no problem finding purpose in many different areas of society. But the first part where he talks about the concept of purpose was a great read. I wish I’d read it when I was struggling with this topic. He made some really good points that I hadn’t thought of before.
The book is partly in response to The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. When Barker finally got around to reading Warren’s book he was appalled by the notion that in order to have purpose in our life we need to lead a life of servitude (to god). I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms before. I know Christians pride themselves on being slaves of Christ – but have we really thought about what that means and what it says about our purpose?
So I’ll just go through and share the parts from the first part of the book that I underlined. As I said before, the second half is filled with wonderful quotes from a wide variety of atheists, past and present. I’d encourage you to buy the book especially if you’re struggling with this issue.
“I don’t believe in God, but even if he did exist, and even if he did save my life, I’d find it hard to imagine that he would be the kind of creature who would demand that I submit to his will.” (p. 27)
“If there were such a God, demanding servants kneel before him, glorifying his name, why should we respect him? Even if we were oppressed people who wanted to avoid the wrath of a ruler who had the power to punish and kill, we might pretend to go along by kissing the feet of our oppressor, but why should anyone think such a master deserves to be admired?
Suppose I decided to breed children as slaves. What would you think of me? Yes, there would be purpose involved, but it would be my own selfish purpose of needing to be doted and waited upon. Those children would exist for my satisfaction, with no free purpose of their own. That would make me an egotistical monster.” (p. 27)
“The forced or mandated subjugation of ‘inferior people’ by a ‘superior person’ is evidence that the ruler is actually insecure, scared of any possible challenge to his authority, jealous of any praise not directed at his person, craving all the attention, fearful of freedom, nervous about rebellion – otherwise, why coerce or demand submission? If there truly were an all-powerful and unchallengeable god, why would he need or want to be worshipped? What is he afraid of? In any master/slave or dictator/servant arrangement, I wonder who is more fearful – the sovereign or the subjects?” (p. 28)
“Asking, ‘If there is no God, what is the purpose of life?’ is like asking, ‘If there is no master, whose slave will I be?’ “ (p. 29)
“Who made the rule that existence is meaningless if it is free?” (p. 29)
“Purpose is striving for a goal, intentionally aiming at a target. Purpose is life.” (p. 30)
“Hoping for a heaven without struggle is longing for a life without purpose. There is no purpose in glory. Glorifying God is not a problem to solve. Why does he need to be glorified? If he does, his life lacks something, and that would be an embarrassing admission for a perfect being to make. Striving to fulfill that need in his empty life might give him purpose, but not us. To glorify is to fatten up someone’s ego. Why do that? Are you afraid you will be killed, hurt or denied a blessing if you don’t help the ‘Lord and Master’ feel great? If so, you are being manipulated to meet someone else’s need.” (p. 33)
“It wasn’t until I got out of the master/slave business that I learned what true purpose is. It comes from solving real problems, not phoney ones such as ‘how can I be saved?’ ” (p. 35)
“The demand for a purpose of life is a cry of discontent. To reach outside your life for meaning is to abandon the value of what is inside your life. It is to diminish and deny the value of life itself. It is to be embarrassed at who you really are. Transcendence is the ultimate put-down of humanity.” (p. 36)