Love and Compulsion

Finding Truth

I’m currently reading a book where the author said that God remains hidden from us today so that we may freely choose to love him or not. You can’t generate love through compulsion, he argued. And he’s right about that. As an illustration, he gave Kierkegaard’s story about a king in disguise:

Once upon a time, there was a king who longed to marry. One day, as he was riding through his kingdom, he happened to see a very beautiful young lady in a poorer section of the kingdom. He was struck by her beauty, so he found reasons to travel through there more often, even getting the chance to speak to her on occasion. As time went by, he realized he wanted to pursue a relationship with the woman, but how should he go about it?

As king, he could have her brought to the palace so that he…

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Is There Any Lingering Theist In Me Five Years Later?

It’s been almost five years since I very suddenly lost my faith and three years since I started identifying as an atheist. When I look back it amazes me that after twenty years of being an extremely sincere and genuine Christian that within a few years my brain would see all those things that I believed in so dearly as pure fable. And all the Christians can save their, ‘she wasn’t a true Christian’ nonsense. I absolutely was.

But I was pondering whether I ever have doubts about my atheism. Do I ever wonder if there is a god?  Does that question ever factor into my life at all anymore? I’m not completely closed to changing my mind about things. I value reality above all else. If some evidence convinced me that my current take on reality was wrong I’d be willing to shift my thinking. It’s reality after all! Not much point sticking my head in the sand about reality!

But even with that taken into consideration, no, the god question never factors into my thinking anymore. It would almost be like asking someone if they spend time wondering if Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is true and how that might impact their life. It just doesn’t factor in at all. And I’m not saying this to convince anyone of anything. I just find it interesting that once my brain realized that what is in front of me is reality, I just settled in to building my life around that and all the god stuff drifted away never to be seen or heard from again.

A big part of me can’t believe that just a short time ago I believed all that stuff. Was I a different person then? How could I have thought that was all true when now it seems so ridiculous and awful? The changes in my thinking have been so drastic, and looking at it impartially, that fascinates me! I guess once you choose a way of looking at the world and take on its methods of discerning truth, everything else follows. A Christian worldview told me a story and then told me that the Bible and prayer and visions were the way to discover truth (and threw in the threat of hell to make sure I didn’t doubt any of that). But once I pulled away from that and started demanding proof for the things people were telling me about the world, everything changed. Evidence is an amazing filter. Once I applied it my world changed – and for the better.

Do You Believe in God?

I came across this great article/book review and thought it was worth sharing:

Religion vs Humanism: Isaac Asimov on Science and Spirituality

I think I’ll get the book and let you know my thoughts about it. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Not surprisingly, I love this excerpt:

He said, “Dr. Asimov, do you believe in God?”

And I said, “Whose?”

He said, a little impatiently, “Come, come, Dr. Asimov, you know very well whose. Do you believe in the Western God, the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition?”

Still playing for time, I said, “I haven’t given it much thought.”

Frost said, “I can’t believe that, Dr. Asimov.” He then nailed me to the wall by saying, “Surely a man of your diverse intellectual interests and wide-ranging curiosity must have tried to find God?”

(Eureka! I had it! The very nails had given me my opening!) I said, smiling pleasantly, “God is much more intelligent than I am — let him try to find me.”

via Philosophy Monkey on Facebook

see also Philosophy Monkey

Quote #40

There is indeed mystery in life, a lot of unanswered questions of vital importance. I would not be a philosopher if I did not believe that, with all my being. Religion and philosophy alike grapple with the deepest questions of all: What is it all about? How should we live? Philosophy is sometimes chided for failing to provide compelling answers to its questions. Perhaps one of the most important lessons of philosophy is to teach us how to live with the questions unanswered, rather than settle for unsatisfactory but popular answers. This is our legacy from Socrates onward and is the source of at least some of the conflict with religion. In exchange for the security, comfort, and certainty of the world’s religions, we offer only doubt and uncertainty, a cold, hard logical look at the universe. But I’ll take it.

From Chapter One of Philosphers Without Gods – edited by Louise M. Antony

Chapter One: Faith and Reason, the Perpetual War: Ruminations of a Fool written by Stewart Shapiro

Poetic Words of Freedom

These poems really spoke to me.  I found them via The Bittersweet End.  Please visit this page on the Recovering From Religion website to read more poems from Bart Phillips.

A Simple Slave
By Bart Phillips

Life was simpler as a slave
Doing only my unseen master’s will,
Devoting all my efforts to his work,
Trusting enigmatic promises made to me
More than a hundred generations ago
In foreign tongues no longer spoken.

“Sacred” texts of spurious origin
Tell me that I am truly loved—
They say that I am worthless, too!
They say that I can be truly free—
They tell me, too, I must yield myself
To take up my “cross” and dumbly follow.

What kind of man would chose to make himself a slave?
How big a fool seeks wisdom for his life in ancient myth?
How silly is the notion that ages past found deeper truths?
Are love and purpose found in succumbing to a “jealous god”?

I refuse forever to be a simple slave
Forsaking the only thing I rightly own:
My limited life on this natural world.
No more! I claim myself for me,
To give my life and love to those I chose,
To live for what my reason says is right.


The Voice Inside By Bart S. Phillips

I once believed the voice inside my head was God.
I once believed the voice in me that said
That taking things that are not mine is wrong,
That hitting and hurting others is wrong,
That saying things which are not true is wrong—
That simple voice was God.

But the voice said many other things as well:
That torture and slavery are savagely wrong,
That subjugating women is inhumanly wrong,
That building gilded shrines and lavish temples
While children suffer and starve is heartlessly wrong.
What voice was this?

This voice inside my head also cried out
That punishing people for working on a “holy day”
Or for having sex with someone they love
Or for denying belief in unbelievable things—
These punishments are undeniably wrong.
Was this a different voice?

I once turned to that voice to decide my path,
To tell me what I should live for,
To tell me what I must oppose,
To tell me who to marry, where to live, what to do—
I tried to pledge myself entirely to that voice.
At that, the voice seemed suddenly silent.

So what is this voice inside my head
That speaks in the accent of my ancestors,
That encourages me when I struggle,
That chides me when I come up short,
That dares me to question and to reason,
That compels me to be better, to know more, to grow?

I once believed the voice inside my head was God,
But now I recognize that voice
As it enunciates my humanity,
That voice of intellect, of passion and compassion, of imagination—
That voice is no one else’s.
That voice is humbly, proudly, simply…me.

Newsflash: My Kids Like to Eat Candy on Halloween

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.

Mr. Deity: Creationism Is So Appropriate For Children

You have to watch Bill Nye in this video before going on to the Mr. Deity video or you’ll miss the whole point.


Now you can watch the Mr. Deity version:

Dan Barker – Making the Case for Atheists

Great compilation of some of the arguments put forth by Dan Barker during a debate.  Worth watching!

via The Friendly Atheist