Saturday, October 13, 2007

Living life as a respectful atheist

I work in an office that is characterised by many different cultural and religious beliefs: there are Muslims, Hindus, and Christians from various denominations. As part of this multi-religious environment, I sometimes find myself wishing my Hindu colleagues a happy Diwali when they are in celebration, or congratulating a Christian colleague on the christening of his or her child. My Muslim friends and colleagues are celebrating Eid ul-Fitr today. As an atheist, should I wish them well? Can I respectfully acknowledge the beliefs of those I know, even though I don’t hold those beliefs myself?

Some atheists might feel that by affirming religious beliefs, I’m flirting with the enemy. Religion is nonsense, they might say, so if I was true to my atheistic beliefs, I should be trying my utmost show my colleagues and friends why they are wrong, instead of affirming what they believe. Should I not be the one to hold the torch of reason high for those in my circle of influence?

Well, I don’t think so. And this is why: this kind of black and white thinking that some atheists advocate is the same kind of thinking that turned me off Christianity in the first place: the conviction that others must conform to what I believe; the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality; and the idea that I have to shoulder the burden of bringing others to the Truth, whatever that truth might be. I swept aside this kind of thinking when I left Christianity; I still reject it as an atheist.


One of my core values is respect for democracy and human rights, and one of these rights is the freedom of conscience and religious expression. The journey of de-conversion that I have shared on my blog is deeply personal to me. My beliefs were a result of me thinking for myself; they were hard fought for, and thus they are dear to me. Many theists, although not all, arrived at their beliefs in much the same way, so should I not also respect their individual journeys as well?


But respect does have its limits. Speaking against American foreign policy, Arundhati Roy once said that she isn't anti-American, but anti-power. As an atheist, I can say the same thing regarding religion: it is not religion in general that I have a problem with, but with religion’s misuse of power through violence, politics, and the dehumanisation of the individual (by using guilt and the fear of hell). I am not anti-religion, but anti-fundamentalism and anti-intolerance. It is against these that I will make a stand.

So when I positively affirm the religious beliefs of others, I am affirming the individual: a human being who holds cherished values, a human being who has a story to tell. I respect another’s journey because I respect my own.

So, to any Muslim who might be reading this: Eid mubarak!

57 comments:

Peterson Toscano said...

Thanks for this post and your musings over this issue. The thing it raises for me is that any religion is a mixed bag of spiritual/religious practice, cultural identity and practice and a center of community. It is not all about faith and power (although some are more so than others). Sometimes the religious celebration is just a good excuse for a good party.

I do appreciate the distinction you make between religion and the mis-use of power. Having navigated three different oppressive Christian faith communities, I ultimately opted for the more decentralized Quaker "faith". So much of my Christian experience was about someone lording their power over me and the rest of us drones who shuffled along to the program set out for us.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
There's a rule I personally live by:

"It's sometimes better to be APPROPRIATE than to be RIGHT"

This is true especially in matters of religion. Being an atheist one sometimes feels that it's your duty to OPENLY reject other people's beliefs and religious practices (making you a fundamentalist atheist if such a term exists)

It's better to keep the moral high-ground: Respect their beliefs. Be honest and open about your atheism, but never attack their beliefs. Actions/Deeds speak a lot louder than words.

They'll be curious if you act this way and will approach you when the time is right - then use the opportunity to discuss these issues with them, they'll be a lot more open and receiptive this way.

Regards,
From a fellow born-again atheist

Stacy said...

Amen! or, um...Selah!
Crap, I mean, I agree! :)

JP said...

Good thoughts and right on. I do not want to become what I absolutely hated. A judgemental prick condemning everyone who does not see things like I. Wishing someone a Happy Holidays (whatever that holiday maybe) during their religious celebration is the right thing to do.

Nicest Girl said...

I would agree that it is only polite and friendly to wish people a happy day on their day of celebration. It is an important day for them and it is a nice gesture to let other people know that you hope they have a happy celebration.

Joy-Mari Cloete said...

Well said! I also wish people good yom tov or eid mubarak or happy Christmas. nothing wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian who is not necessarily questioning my faith but is interested in what is being said about faith matters in our world community, I have been overly impressed with the dialogue found both by those of faith, those who have rejected it, and those still searching.

The one point that I do want to make is this... as a Christian, I want to apologize and ask for forgiveness for all the wicked things that have been done in Christ's name.

I hate it that people are turned off by stupid, mean people who associate themselves with a Christianity.

As Jesus said to the Pharisees (the modern day fundamentalist) "It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." (Luke 6:41, The Message)

I hope we all can reject those who have done the message so much harm, and not the message itself.

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: I hope we all can reject those who have done the message so much harm, and not the message itself.

That would depend on the message.....

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten said: That would depend on the message.....

Great question! What is the message? Have we spent enough time investigating the message or those who have come after and used the message to spread power (the crusades), political agendas (GW Bush), slavery, hatred, and other such evils?

Josh

JP said...

Josh,

There is no need to apologize (speaking for myself here). Many, if not most of us, were christians or in some form religious at one point in our life. We understand that there are bad apples in all groups. Though not always easy, I can seperate the bad apples from the message, though I still do not agree with the message.

Anonymous said...

JP, thank you but as you know, there are many out there who have been turned off because of the televangelist sitting in a mansion begging for donations, those on the street corner holding signs that say that gays are the reason for all the bad in the world, or other misguided people.

Those people have not necessarily been turned off to Christ but instead they have rejected those have used the faith for their own agenda and gain.

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: Great question! What is the message?

I think that's for *you* to answer [grin].

Anonymous said...

Cyber: Like I said before, I have spent some time just reading the blog and comments without giving one myself. One very evident thing is that you are smart, funny and have an open mind about things (I promise I'm not hitting on you... I'm happily married with 2 kids!)

So here is a follow-up question for you (please don't take it as being rude for asking this question!) What is your occupation?

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: So here is a follow-up question for you (please don't take it as being rude for asking this question!) What is your occupation?

Why do you want to know? My occupation is such a small part of my life and is almost a vanishingly small part of who I am.... I certainly don't define myself by my job.

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten said: I certainly don't define myself by my job.

I'm not saying that you do and I apologize if you think that is why I am asking.

No matter what our occupations (and really anything that is important to us i.e. our children, hobbies, partners, etc.) are, we spend a great deal of time preparing for them - either through education or experience. We understand that success (whether it is monetary, or self esteem, position, etc.) comes to those who "know their stuff."

When I ask "What is the message" I'm simply asking have we (me included) taken the time to know and understand "the stuff."

One example that people who have rejected Christianity have done so is because it seems to condone slavery. Unfortunantly, many ignorant so called Christians have used passages in the Bible to justify slavery (again, for which I am eternally sorry for!)

But, knowing your stuff means that you read the Bible and try to understand why it says what it says. For instance, when the writers of the Bible talk about slaves, they are not talking about Africans who were forced into slavery, but people who would get so far into debt that they had a choice, either die or become a servant. This happened all the time in all cultures thousands of years ago. The Christian God was compassionate enough to say, hey - every 7 years, all the slaves must go free and their debts must be forgiven and in the meantime, respect your boss.

So, what is the message that we are believing or rejecting and are we taking the time to truly understand it ourselves before we make a choice?

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: No matter what our occupations (and really anything that is important to us i.e. our children, hobbies, partners, etc.) are, we spend a great deal of time preparing for them - either through education or experience.

Not always. My education has nothing to do with my job & most of my experience has been gained whilst in it rather than before.

Josh said: We understand that success (whether it is monetary, or self esteem, position, etc.) comes to those who "know their stuff."

To an extent yes - and I see where you're going with this...

Josh said: But, knowing your stuff means that you read the Bible and try to understand why it says what it says.

No thank you. Life is too short to read all the major books of all the major (and minor) religions of the world. Or am I just to take as a given that Christianity is *the* religion and ignore all of the rest? If so, on what grounds do I make that decision?

Josh said: So, what is the message that we are believing or rejecting and are we taking the time to truly understand it ourselves before we make a choice?

Many of the people on this Blog seem to have gone through some *very* tough times to become atheists (or non-theists) so I imagine that they have 'taken the time' to understand the choice they have made.

I for one do not understand the religious impulse because it does not make much (if any) sense to me. I much prefer to base my life on other things than myths and fables.

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten said: Not always. My education has nothing to do with my job & most of my experience has been gained whilst in it rather than before.

True, but there was still a learning process involved whether it was before or during.

Cyberkitten said: No thank you. Life is too short to read all the major books of all the major (and minor) religions of the world.

Take a minute and ask yourself - do you truly care? I think you do. What other reason would you spend time reading this blog and posting comments? You care. You are searching for the truth just like all of us.

Cyberkitten said: Or am I just to take as a given that Christianity is *the* religion and ignore all of the rest? If so, on what grounds do I make that decision?

The first step that will take very little time and does not require any reading is just to openly and honestly say something like this... "God, if you are out there and at this point in my life I don't think you are, than reveal youself to me!" You may want to yell at Him, tell Him why you don't believe in Him and why this world is so messed up and where is He in it all. Ask that if He is real that He opens up your mind and your eyes so that you can see it.
But after you challenge Him, give Him the opportunity to reveal himself to you... who knows, He may reveal himself in a child, or in the changing colors of the fall leaves, or in a good deed.

CyberKitten said: Many of the people on this Blog seem to have gone through some *very* tough times to become atheists (or non-theists) so I imagine that they have 'taken the time' to understand the choice they have made.

I completely understand and respect that there were factors that cause people to make the decision to become atheist. But I also believe that everyone on this blog, including the author, is here because of the search for truth and what I am saying is that truth cannot be found through man because men (and women) screw things up - and many of them have done their best to mess up the message found in Christianity which at its core is built on a foundation of love and not hate or power.

Cyberkitten said: I for one do not understand the religious impulse because it does not make much (if any) sense to me. I much prefer to base my life on other things than myths and fables.

In other wors, facts. But do you believe that you need faith to be an atheist? After all, isn't faith just taking all the facts available and making a decision based on what is available to them. Faith is something that cannot currently be proven.

A person who realizes that they have faith can have an open mind to all the possibilities - including accepting and believing in God.

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: You are searching for the truth just like all of us.

Well... My Blog *is* called 'Seeking a Little Truth'... [grin]

Josh said: He may reveal himself in a child, or in the changing colors of the fall leaves, or in a good deed..

Yeah, right.....

Josh said: what I am saying is that truth cannot be found through man because men (and women) screw things up.

Well, there we will have to disagree. If Truth can indeed be found then it will be through the efforts of human brains & human hearts.

Josh said: In other words, facts.

I do find that a modicum of evidence always helps in coming to a decison about things. The God Question is no exception.

Josh asked: But do you believe that you need faith to be an atheist?

No. You need a *lack* of faith.

Josh said: After all, isn't faith just taking all the facts available and making a decision based on what is available to them.

No. Faith is a leap beyond what is reasonable. I try not to make such leaps.

Josh said: Faith is something that cannot currently be proven.

Faith is a belief in something without any evidence to support it. Indeed faith is often a belief held in the face of contrary evidence.

Josh said: A person who realizes that they have faith can have an open mind to all the possibilities - including accepting and believing in God.

..and can a person of faith also be open to the possibility that they could be dead wrong?

rodolfo said...

Josh said: I hope we all can reject those who have done the message so much harm, and not the message itself.

Is this the message?
Luke 19:27
"But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."

Why does Jesus hate so much?

Anonymous said...

rodolfo said: Is this the message?
Luke 19:27
"But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."

Why does Jesus hate so much?

You are quoting from Jesus as he was speaking in a parable - or story. It was not like Jesus was standing there telling somone to bring an enemy to him so he can have him killed.

It would be like you quoting the nursery rhyme "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after." Now, you are telling this story to a bunch of children because you know they have heard the rhyme before and you are using it to warn them against tripping so they don't hurt their head. But I come into the room and only hear the end of the story and become upset because all I heard was that these two kids broke their crowns.

Jesus was using this story to connect with His audience. They would understand that if a King gave His servants a command and they didn't follow it, there would be consequences.
In this instance, he is saying to his audience that we have been each given special gifts and talents and that we are to use them. Whether we believe in Him or in nothing, we each have a talent that makes us special and different.
Now, think about your life and how it would be if you didn't use your talent - if you were a great artist who never picked up your paintbrush or you loved fishing but only watched it on TV or you love children and know you should be a volunteer at an orphanage, or teacher.
How would you feel if you never used what makes you special?

Now, for Christians, this has an additional message... use your talents for Christ. Christ showed compassion, so use your love and compassion for Him. Has he given you great organizational skills? Volunteer at the soup kitchen and help them keep their stock in order. Are you a doctor? Go on a trip to help with the AIDS crisis in Africa. He wants us to use our talents and not just sit around and waste them. He wants us to use them to make this world a better place so that those who don't believe will see Christianity as a light that they will want to follow.

I hope when you take this verse and use it in context, taking into account the rest of the story and the period when it was told, it will help you better understand the message.

Josh

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten said: Well, there we will have to disagree. If Truth can indeed be found then it will be through the efforts of human brains & human hearts.

That is a statement of faith.

Cyberkitten said: No. You need a *lack* of faith.

Faith is having confidence in something. Therefore, an atheist has gathered all that is known and made a statement that there is no God and done it in confidence. They have faith that what they believe in is true even though there is no explicit 100% positive evidence that there is no God. If that was the case than it would become truth - which you said will come in the future through the efforts of human brains and human hearts.
Christians take the evidence and believe by faith when Jesus said that He is the truth.

Now, your next question will be - what is the evidence. Well, those who believe in God look at our world and its small details and say that it must have been designed by someone much more creative and powerfull than us. Everything from how the world is positioned in perfect balance to allow for life to the small details in the eye that allow us to see. Atheist have faith that it all happened very randomly - now that is faith to the extreme!
Christians believe that Jesus was a real man who lived, died and rose 2,000 years ago. Many non-Christian experts believe that a man named Jesus lived and died. So the question is the evidence that He rose and here is just some of the evidence - people were willing to die horrible deaths (as mentioned by non-Christian Jewish, Roman and other historians) not just because Jesus lived and died - that would make him just a regular guy who did awesome things - but that He proved Himself worthy of being called the Son of God by rising from the dead. A second piece of evidence is all that was written that we have (and not just the Bible) from that era of time that confirms much of what the Bible says about Jesus and His followers.

CyberKitten said: ..and can a person of faith also be open to the possibility that they could be dead wrong?

Yes. But as a Christian - if I'm wrong than when I die I simply become dust until the sun becomes a supernova and engulfs the world in fire. But, if I'm right, than I'll enjoy eternity in heaven.

Josh

rodolfo said...

Josh Said: In this instance, he is saying to his audience that we have been each given special gifts and talents and that we are to use them. Whether we believe in Him or in nothing, we each have a talent that makes us special and different.

I really don't see what talent has to do with this. Metaphorical or not he's saying to kill non-believers. Is he saying if I don't use my talent(free will?) to believe in the preposterous I will suffer in hell? What an immoral person Jesus was to teach that! The fact is Jesus hates people who won't accept him as the one true messiah and condemns them to hell for eternity. I don't care how heated my conversation with a Creationist ever gets but I will not condemn someone to suffer for ETERNITY just to prove a point. I think that's petty and highly immoral.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo said: Metaphorical or not he's saying to kill non-believers.

Do you believe that Christianity would have survived its infancy if the 12 disciples would have gone around and started hacking up those who didn't convert to Christianity? It also wouldn't have survived the Romans, who would have seen it as a threat.

By the way - Jesus died for you and He loved you enough to allow you the choice to accept that love or not. And yes, there are consequences for not accepting his love, but we do have a choice.

And also Rodolfo - I love you too! It doesn't matter how heated an arguement I get with you are any other atheist - I still love and respect you all.

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: That is a statement of faith.

To an extent yes. But it's also backed up by plenty of evidence from the last 200+ years of human endeavour. We are getting pretty good at finding things out.

Josh said: Faith is having confidence in something.

...*without* good reason to.

Josh said: Therefore, an atheist has gathered all that is known and made a statement that there is no God and done it in confidence.

Maybe some atheists have. Not me however. I don't not believe that their is sufficient (actually *any*) evidence to support the existence of God - therefore I do not believe He exists. That doesn't mean that He doesn't. He might.

Josh said: Now, your next question will be - what is the evidence.

Have you been arguing with Atheists before...? [grin].

Josh said: Well, those who believe in God look at our world and its small details and say that it must have been designed by someone much more creative and powerfull than us.

Ah, the *much* debunked 'Argument from Design'...

Josh said: Atheist have faith that it all happened very randomly - now that is faith to the extreme!

You *really* need to read better books if you're going to put forward 'arguments' like this. Let me just say this once - Darwinian Evolution is NOT random it is by Natural SELECTION which is NOT random. Also - the opposite of planned is not random... it's UN planned.

Oh, just because people will die for their beliefs doesn't go *any* way towards proving the validity of their beliefs. If pre-Christian pagans are willing to die for their various Gods & Goddesses does this prove to you that their God were in fact REAL? I'm betting not!

As to the documented evidence for Christs existence and life... I am *far* from an expert on the subject but it does seem rather less that iron cast.

Josh said: Yes. But as a Christian - if I'm wrong than when I die I simply become dust until the sun becomes a supernova and engulfs the world in fire. But, if I'm right, than I'll enjoy eternity in heaven.

Sounds like Pascal's Wager.

Josh said: And also Rodolfo - I love you too! It doesn't matter how heated an arguement I get with you are any other atheist - I still love and respect you all.

That's just *so* sweet......... Bless.

Rodolfo said...

Anony said:
Do you believe that Christianity would have survived its infancy if the 12 disciples would have gone around and started hacking up those who didn't convert to Christianity? It also wouldn't have survived the Romans, who would have seen it as a threat.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how Christianity spread. For genes or memes to survive it needs to be passed on to the next generation. There's historical evidence that shows that my ancestors in the Philippines were converted by the sword. Once the natives submitted and the church was established then passing the belief system down to the next generation was a piece of cake. It's kind of interesting because the only reason Catholicism didn't take over the entire country was because of the Muslim influence that crept up from Indonesia years before Magellan "discovered" the islands. But that doesn't prove anything about Jesus at all. For one thing it proves how long religion has divided this world up into he said, he said and he said. The only reason the Philippines is not exclusively Muslim today is because of Magellan. But again that doesn't prove anything about either Jesus or Muhammad.

Anony said:
It doesn't matter how heated an argument I get with you are any other atheist - I still love and respect you all.

What a wonderful world this would be if only Jesus was more like YOU. Peace.

StinkyWigFiddle said...

Very well put.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo, I could sit here and quote Jesus speaking about, showing and being an example of love until I get writers cramp and you fall asleep at your computer. So, lets depart from that for a minute. Here is my question...

Do you believe in Jesus? I'm assuming that you must because you quote from Him.

Josh

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten. Actually, I have never debated or argued (or, I would rather say have a respectable conversation) with an atheist. As I said before, I just stumbled across this blogspot a few weeks back, and started reading the posts and comments. I knew based on the comments that there was a genuine respect for both the atheist and the theist and therefore I decided that I would join the conversation. I hope that I have continued the respectful dialogue that existed beforehand.

That bring me my question: You said: You *really* need to read better books if you're going to put forward 'arguments' like this. Let me just say this once - Darwinian Evolution is NOT random it is by Natural SELECTION which is NOT random. Also - the opposite of planned is not random... it's UN planned.

OK. I am not an expert on Darwanism, but my understanding of Natural Selection is that the stronger survive through adaptive processes. And based on my belief that God made one man and one woman after He created the earth, I can agree with that to an extent. How else did Africans get their dark skin? I don't agree with the idea that man came from monkeys and there really isn't any evidence to support that.
So my question is, how does that disprove that God does not exist? It shows how we got in our current state, but it doesn't prove that millions of years ago two amino acids accidently, randomly or had an unplanned meeting and accidently bumped into each other and poof, life started. That is a theory, or a statement of faith, correct?

So, to go back farther, what evidence do we have that has "debunked" the Evidence of Design? Is it simply that we as humans have become too smart for that arguement to have any validity?

Also, you said that maybe some atheists have (come to the conclusion that there is no God). Not me however. I don't not believe that their is sufficient (actually *any*) evidence to support the existence of God - therefore I do not believe He exists. That doesn't mean that He doesn't. He might.

How did you or did you ever go about looking for the evidence that there is a God?

Josh

rodolfo said...

Hi Josh,

You asked:
Do you believe in Jesus? I'm assuming that you must because you quote from Him.

Yes I think he probably existed. But I don't think he was any more special than Martin Luther King Jr or even my mom. He was a normal Earthling just like you and me. It would require a tremendous amount of faith (to believe without evidence) to think he was anything supernatural. There's people in modern times that claim divinity and yet you and I don't take them seriously. We both know they're just human. The reason I quote Jesus is because he is the guy your religion is centered on so sometimes its best that he speak for himself. It's always a treat to show my Christian friends those passages because they didn't know they were in there. Of course you can interpret the meaning behind the bad stuff all you like but if any of the interpretations truly made any sense then I seriously doubt Kevin's blog would even exist.

I don't know Josh. Maybe it's because I asked too many questions. Maybe it's because I always felt like you can't bullsh*t a bullsh*tter. Maybe I don't like the idea of some of my family, friends, or neighbors who simply THINK differently spend eternity in hell. Life here on Earth is already unfair. For me some of the things Jesus say just makes life even more complicated than it already is. Maybe the sooner more people admit this the sooner human beings can achieve their potential.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo, do you believe that all would be good if somebody proves without a doubt that there is no God? If so, why?

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo - Josh left the last comment - I guess I'm going to need to get a google account...

rodolfo said...

Hi Josh,

You asked:
do you believe that all would be good if somebody proves without a doubt that there is no God? If so, why?

I'm always struck by the way these types of questions are posed. In your previous comment you asked me if I "believed" in Jesus. For me there's a world of a difference if you had asked me instead:

Do I think Jesus existed?

So I answered by saying yes he probably "existed." I try to be as specific as I can but I understand we all don't have the time.
Anyway do I "believe" that "all" would be "good" without "god?"
Honestly I don't know. Even if I say I "believed" it to be true one could argue that my belief is debatable. I think it was Carl Sagan that was fond of saying that he preferred "knowing" rather than "believing." Was he implying that without sufficient evidence one can't really "know" for sure? Well I don't have sufficient evidence to answer such a question like that so I don't know.

Have you ever asked yourself can you be "good" without miracles? Can you be "good" without the "good" book?

CyberKitten said...

Josh said: Actually, I have never debated or argued (or, I would rather say have a respectable conversation) with an atheist.

I hope that you're learning a lot.

Josh said: OK. I am not an expert on Darwanism, but my understanding of Natural Selection is that the stronger survive through adaptive processes.

Kind of. It's actually all about genes rather than individual creatures. The genes that are best adapted to the environment they find themselves in tend to increase in number. Those who are less adapted tend to decrease in number.

Josh said: And based on my belief that God made one man and one woman after He created the earth, I can agree with that to an extent.

So... You believe that the story of Adam and Eve is the literal truth? If that is the case I hope that you don't visit some atheist sites I've been to.

Josh said: I don't agree with the idea that man came from monkeys and there really isn't any evidence to support that.

[sigh]. That's because we DIDN'T 'come from monkeys [shakes head saddly] Present day apes, monkeys and ourselves all had common ancestors.

Josh said: So my question is, how does that disprove that God does not exist?

It doesn't. The only impact Evolution has on the God Question is that it is a *far* more resonable explanation than Creation. So if God didn't create life on Earth then what else didn't He do...? So you can see how the idea of Evolution can be rather corrosive to faith - which is usually why Theists reject the idea.

Josh said: It shows how we got in our current state, but it doesn't prove that millions of years ago two amino acids accidently, randomly or had an unplanned meeting and accidently bumped into each other and poof, life started. That is a theory, or a statement of faith, correct?

We don't know how lfe began on Earth. We've got some ideas but nothing definitive yet - except that it was BILLIONS of years ago and not MILLIONS. I strongly suspect however that it was by a purely natural process.

Josh said: So, to go back farther, what evidence do we have that has "debunked" the Evidence of Design? Is it simply that we as humans have become too smart for that arguement to have any validity?

Darwin debunked so-called 'evidence' of Design... and yes, we should all be smart enough to see that it is without validity.

Josh said: How did you or did you ever go about looking for the evidence that there is a God?

Over the years I have been presented with much that was touted as evidence for God. After examination none of it made the grade. You can try your best shot if you like... What's your two best pieces of evidence for His existence?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rodolfo,
You answered my Jesus question as I wish I would have phrased it. Here is what I meant by my God question...

Would this world be a better place if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it had been 100% proven that there is no God?

Now, you said have you ever asked yourself can you be "good" without miracles?

I'm not sure I understand the question. Miracles do not cause me to be good. The Bible is full of instances where people saw a miracle and still disobeyed or ignored them. To me, a miracle is simply evidence that we as humans are not in total control.

You said "Can you be "good" without the "good" book?"

Depends on how you define good and what your are comparing it against. If there is no "good" book (I'm assuming you are speaking about the Bible), what governs what is good?

Josh

CyberKitten said...

Josh asked: Would this world be a better place if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it had been 100% proven that there is no God?

No - but it *would* be a more honest world... though probably one containing quite a few disillusioned and rather annoyed people.

Josh said: To me, a miracle is simply evidence that we as humans are not in total control.

What gave you the impression that humans are in any kind of control - never mind *total* control!

Josh said: Depends on how you define good and what your are comparing it against. If there is no "good" book (I'm assuming you are speaking about the Bible), what governs what is good?

Now *that* is a Good question and one philosophers have been struggling with for the past 2-3 thousand years.

Anonymous said...

I totally relate to all that you have said. I dispise the black/white thinking that caracterizes believers and athiests alike. My journey up until this point was also hard won and I expect to contiune on it with respect for others...no matter what they belive.

Lorena said...

"God, if you are out there and at this point in my life I don't think you are, than reveal youself to me!"

If I could get a penny for every time I said that to "God."

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten and Rodolfo,
It has been a few very busy weeks since i have been on and posted a comment. During that time I have thought about how to respond to your questions, especially Cyber's questions about evidence of God. Several times I have built my response based on evidence but instead I wanted to show you the evidence that has convinced me.

I believe that God leaves his evidence everywhere for people to see if they want to see - if their minds are open to seeing it. I believe that the Bible is evidence because whether you believe that its message it true or not, it has proven to miraculously accurate in describing events that occurred thousands of years ago that archaelogist are discovering true today. I believe that evidence continues today as it describes a time when people as 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says "in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly."

But, while you may or may not consider any of that evidence, I found the real evidence that I need last night while watching TV. I saw a program about a girl who was born without a face. Her head was made up of 2 eyes dangling out of their sockets and a tongue hanging out of an opening in the front of her head. She breathes and eats through a tracheotomy and now at age 4 has undergone 21 painful surgeries. But, the evidence is found not in the physical, but in the love her parents have for her, the hope and faith they have that she will beat
all the odds against this little girl and survive to live a normal life. The sacrifice they have made financially and with their time, because what they see is something they don't need any evidence to see. Here is a song posted on their website (http://www.julianawetmore.net):

"I can see the tears filling Your eyes
And I know where they're coming from
They're coming from a heart that's broken in two
By what you don't see
The person in the mirror
Doesn't look like the magazine
Oh, but when I look at you it's clear to me that...

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of God

Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God's hand
And perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what He's been creating
Since the first beat of your heart
Is a living breathing priceless work of art and...

Just look at you
You're a wonder in the making
Oh, and God's not through, no
In fact, He's just getting started and…"

That is evidence enough for me. Could it be for you?

rodolfo said...

Hi Josh,

You asked?
That is evidence enough for me. Could it be for you?

No. This is evidence of human compassion. Humans are perfectly capable of being compassionate without believing in a supernatural.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rodolfo,

I'm glad you responded. I was afraid that my response would get lost...

You said:
No. This is evidence of human compassion. Humans are perfectly capable of being compassionate without believing in a supernatural.

I think we agree on something here. Is it fair to say that whatever you believe (or don't believe), we each have a free will to accept or deny God, do good or evil, love or hate, do right or wrong, etc.?

Josh

Rodolfo said...

Josh,

You asked:
Is it fair to say that whatever you believe (or don't believe), we each have a free will to accept or deny God, do good or evil, love or hate, do right or wrong, etc.?

No. People diagnosed with mental disorders have a difficult time making normal decisions.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo,

You said:
No. People diagnosed with mental disorders have a difficult time making normal decisions.

Again, I tend to agree with you, though I still don't think that we humans still have a lot to discover about the minds and choices that people with mental disorders have.

So let's talk about the 95% of the human population that are not mentally handicapped. Do they have the choice to do right/wrong, accept/deny God, hate/love, good/evil, etc.?

Josh

rodolfo said...

Josh,

Yes I think 95% of us have the capacity to make our own choices. I completely disagree with your statement that humans don't have much more to discover about the mind. Neuroscience is probably the most exciting field right now. What we're learning because of fMRI is absolutely incredible. Google V.S. Ramachandran's TED talks.

Anonymous said...

rodolfo,

Next time I will proof read my comments. I meant to say that we do have a lot more to discover about what mentally challenged individuals and their capabilities. I find it facinating when we hear stories of those individuals who the 95% have thought displayed very little mental capacity and by giving them a computer and a way to communicate they end up astonishing us with their hidden intellect. Sorry!

Let's pretend there is no God and through the course of history, we humans discover the ability to create a living, breathing organism that has capabilities and characteristics close to ours, would we be willing to give it the ability to make choices that could destroy or do good or to love/hate, to accept or reject us, its creator?

And if we were to decide not to give them this "conscious" ability, could there ever be more of a relationship other than a machine-like creator and created? In other words, without free will, could our "creation" ever love us, its creator?

Josh

rodolfo said...

Hi again Josh,

You asked:
would we be willing to give it the ability to make choices that could destroy or do good or to love/hate, to accept or reject us, its creator?

Yes. I would also teach it to be rational and compassionate.

btw, why do we have to "pretend" there are no supernatural beings to discuss these type of futuristic scenarios? Is that really necessary?

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo,

You said:
btw, why do we have to "pretend" there are no supernatural beings to discuss these type of futuristic scenarios? Is that really necessary?

It is and and it is not necessary, depending on your view. Up to now, we have had a very open minded conversation during which both of us have had to imagine, pretend or put ourselves in the other's belief system. These phrases are meant to establish the situation that is being discussed or proposed and is not meant to disparage the other (at least, that is not my intention). It is in no way meant to place a limit on such situation. After all, imagination - or pretending - is what has led to many of our most significant discoveries and to me is one humans most unique and significant characteristics.

You said:
Yes. I would also teach it to be rational and compassionate.

Great - those are also two great qualities. Would we also teach that there are consequences to irrational, incompassionate behavior, hate, evil, etc.? Would it be fair to show what good come come when you are fair, compassionate, loving, rational?

Would we be treating our creation with the same compassion and love if we just spoke of the good and leave out the bad and the consequences that comes with it? Just let them learn it themselves...

Josh

rodolfo said...

Josh,

You asked:
Would we also teach that there are consequences to irrational, incompassionate behavior, hate, evil, etc.?

yes.

You asked:
Would it be fair to show what good come come when you are fair, compassionate, loving, rational?

Sounds fair to me.

You asked:
Would we be treating our creation with the same compassion and love if we just spoke of the good and leave out the bad and the consequences that comes with it? Just let them learn it themselves...

No. I would find creative ways of demonstrating "good" and "bad." The last thing I will do is condemn this creation to a lifetime of suffering for not "believing" in me. I think that's silly. Is that what you believe?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rodolfo-

You said:
No. I would find creative ways of demonstrating "good" and "bad." The last thing I will do is condemn this creation to a lifetime of suffering for not "believing" in me. I think that's silly. Is that what you believe?

If I were created by humans I could not believe in them after seeing the bad they are capable of doing. Now, as a created being if a human came along who, as you said, spoke, demonstrated and lived a life based on good, demonstrated and taught the consequences of doing bad, evil, etc. all of which I as an intelligent created being would consider sensible... if this person said that they have a way to escape eternal death then I would at least listen to what he has to say with an open mind. And not only that, but if this person loved me enough to die for me than that would definitely make me think twice before dismissing him.

Now, if all I was going to be was closed minded about it and only listen to him when he is demonstrating the consequenses of doing bad and say that this guy is way too negative - than that would be a choice that I made. Even if that meant that I ignored his warning that I would be condemning myself to eternal death.

I don't in any way think that is being silly. I think that is being intelligent and open minded.

One more question about our senario - if you as the creator warned/demonstrated the consequences of doing bad but gave the creation the choice to do good or bad, would you be condemning them to the consequences of doing bad if it was their choice to make?

Josh

rodolfo said...

Hi Josh-

You wrote:
if this person said that they have a way to escape eternal death then I would at least listen to what he has to say with an open mind. And not only that, but if this person loved me enough to die for me than that would definitely make me think twice before dismissing him.

I have listened to these arguments more than twice. As I get older the less and less they make any sense. First of all how does one know that everyone wants to live forever? There are people who want to do their 70 or 80 years on this planet and that be the end of it. Heaven is a nice thought but it’s all made up. The only heaven I know is right here on Earth. It’s also the only hell that I know of too. So what can I do? I guess just take it one day at a time.

Now Jesus dying was horrible. But there are many people like him who make life and death sacrifices everyday. They mean well but not every claim they make is necessarily true. Especially if they provide no evidence for their claims. Those hijackers sacrificed themselves believing what they were doing was right. Is it? Nope.

You wrote:
Now, if all I was going to be was closed minded about it and only listen to him when he is demonstrating the consequenses of doing bad and say that this guy is way too negative - than that would be a choice that I made. Even if that meant that I ignored his warning that I would be condemning myself to eternal death.

Jesus or no Jesus you and I and will be dead in less than a 100 years. That’s a fact. That is one fate you and I both share on this planet. One key difference between you and I is that you believe in a heaven/hell afterlife. The ONLY afterlife that I care about is the life for my friends and family on this Earth after I die. This is why Dawkins and others call Jesus a bully. Jesus threatens everyone who doesn’t believe in him to eternal suffering. Mark 3:29 Why does Jesus consider disbelief the evil of all evils? I mean let’s be honest. Who’s suffering for my disbelief?

You wrote:
I don't in any way think that is being silly. I think that is being intelligent and open minded.

Well again we depart on this. I don’t think condemning any of my creation to a lifetime of eternal suffering to be intelligent or openminded. This is highly immoral. But a more important question is why can’t Jesus forgive people with disbelief? What does Jesus do with those who say they are agnostic? Should Jesus make these people suffer? Apparently he does.

You asked:
One more question about our senario - if you as the creator warned/demonstrated the consequences of doing bad but gave the creation the choice to do good or bad, would you be condemning them to the consequences of doing bad if it was their choice to make?

It would appear that way. But what if everything I told them about the afterlife was imaginary? Are they really condemned if they simply realized that I was imagining things?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rodolfo,

You said:
I have listened to these arguments more than twice. As I get older the less and less they make any sense. First of all how does one know that everyone wants to live forever? There are people who want to do their 70 or 80 years on this planet and that be the end of it.

Why is the vast majority of people afraid to die? Why do scientist explore ways for us to live longer? Why do people get cosmetic surgery so the can look younger? Why are countless stories written with the ending " and they lived happily ever after..."? Why continue to search for cures for cancer and AIDS. Why? Because it is part of our nature's desire. a basic instinct not to die but to live forever.

You said:
Heaven is a nice thought but it’s all made up. The only heaven I know is right here on Earth. It’s also the only hell that I know of too. So what can I do? I guess just take it one day at a time.
Now Jesus dying was horrible. But there are many people like him who make life and death sacrifices everyday. They mean well but not every claim they make is necessarily true. Especially if they provide no evidence for their claims. Those hijackers sacrificed themselves believing what they were doing was right. Is it? Nope.

Those hijackers died because of their own selfishness. Jesus died because he was selfless - which is what he taught throughout his ministry (Do unto others..., Love your neighbor as yourself... Love your enemy... do not judge... give to the widow and the poor). Now, imagine a world if everyone followed those rules as well as "don't murder, don't steal, etc." You talk about heaven on earth! And that is what the Bible is, guidelines on how to make heaven on earth... and Jesus was sent to live it out so that people will see it in human form... but he was killed for it. But the difference between Jesus and the others who "make life and death sacrifices" is that Jesus rose from the dead. You and I would not be discussing Christianity if He did not rise from the dead. It would be a paragraph on a page in the history books... once upon a time a nice guy was born, he did some incredible things, spoke a good message on love, and he was killed. The end. Instead, 2 billion people are called "little Christ's" (Christians)... that is a lot of evidence.

I'll respond to your other comments soon.
Josh

Rodolfo said...

Hi Josh,

You asked:
Why is the vast majority of people afraid to die?

Fear of the unknown. But why should you be? Do you remember what it was like before you were born? I’m betting that’s what it will be like when we’re dead.

You asked:
Why do scientist explore ways for us to live longer?

There are many answers to this. But why shouldn’t they? Although I say there are those who don’t want to live forever I agree most of us do. Should we stop searching for ways to ease our suffering simply because there’s an imaginary heaven when we die?

You asked:
Why do people get cosmetic surgery so the can look younger?

I suspect because of the social pressures imposed on them.

You asked:
Why are countless stories written with the ending " and they lived happily ever after..."?

Nobody lives happily ever after. That’s the myth. Watch the very last episode of Sopranos. Nobody knows the ending.

You asked:
Why continue to search for cures for cancer and AIDS. Why? Because it is part of our nature's desire. a basic instinct not to die but to live forever.

Right. Now Jesus and the other messiah’s all promise an afterlife. All you have to do is suspend reason and you will be admitted. Where’s the evidence for heaven? Because it says so in the bible? The bible is not evidence.

You wrote:
Those hijackers died because of their own selfishness. Jesus died because he was selfless - which is what he taught throughout his ministry (Do unto others..., Love your neighbor as yourself... Love your enemy... do not judge... give to the widow and the poor). Now, imagine a world if everyone followed those rules as well as "don't murder, don't steal, etc."





Do we also have to follow these teachings?
If anyone comes to me and does not HATE his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple
-Luke 14:26-33

Why does Jesus hate so much? Why does Jesus want me and infidels to suffer eternally? How is that good moral teaching?

You wrote:
You talk about heaven on earth! And that is what the Bible is, guidelines on how to make heaven on earth... and Jesus was sent to live it out so that people will see it in human form... but he was killed for it.

I guess I understand the bible differently. I always thought that the bible is a guideline on how to get to heaven. Since Jesus lacked the power to make Earth his kingdom where do you think it is now? Where do you think heaven is?

You wrote:
But the difference between Jesus and the others who "make life and death sacrifices" is that Jesus rose from the dead.

The only evidence for this outside the bible is hearsay. And the bible is not evidence..

You wrote:
You and I would not be discussing Christianity if He did not rise from the dead. It would be a paragraph on a page in the history books... once upon a time a nice guy was born, he did some incredible things, spoke a good message on love, and he was killed. The end.

Have you ever wondered how religions spread? I think the most simple answer is that it is an ideology that is easily transferable to other human beings. Most people are afraid to die and want to live forever. They want quick and dirty answers to life’s most important questions without actually looking for evidence. It’s so easy to just say the bible is the guideline for everything you wanted to know about the universe without actually doing any experiments.

You have no concrete evidence for the resurrection. All you have is hearsay. Millions of people believe the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation. Do you believe that too?

You wrote:
Instead, 2 billion people are called "little Christ's" (Christians)... that is a lot of evidence.

How do you define evidence? To me that’s just two billion people who has taken a mythology and declared to themselves and the rest of the world that this real. If Islam one day surpasses Christianity in terms of converts does that make Islam and it's doctrines true?

Anonymous said...

My dear friend, Rodolfo -

We seem to be set spinning in a circle around this issue... it is really too bad we couldn't solve it for the rest of humanities sake!

I am under the impression that no matter what I write you will dismiss it as being unintelligent or silly. Is that true? I'm not speaking just of evidence... but if you're mind is already set, is there anything that you could open not just your mind but more importantly your heart to?

Josh

rodolfo said...

Josh,

You wrote:
We seem to be set spinning in a circle around this issue... it is really too bad we couldn't solve it for the rest of humanities sake!

I agree. I have tried to answer every question you posed and comment on other statements. The question that's left for me now is not whether a god(s) exist but more does a person have good reasons for their beliefs. I have yet to see any good reasons offered by you to convince me that Jesus was more than a literary figure. Although you may say that I can’t disprove that he isn’t the burden of proof will always fall on the person asserting a claim. I’m simply asking you to prove it.

You asked:
I am under the impression that no matter what I write you will dismiss it as being unintelligent or silly. Is that true?

I don’t mean to come across as close-minded or even worse disrespectful. I wouldn’t be in this forum taking time off my schedule if I didn’t think what you had to say was important to me. But I’ve lived around believers all my life. I was one too. I would never tell my grandmother I don’t “believe” in god because I don’t want her to get hurt thinking her grandson is destined for an eternity of suffering. This is one type of thinking that I find unintelligent, silly and in all likelihood untrue. But she is in her 80s now and unfortunately I seriously doubt that she was ever exposed to these kind of heretic talks during her childhood.

You wrote:
I'm not speaking just of evidence... but if you're mind is already set, is there anything that you could open not just your mind but more importantly your heart to?

Of course. I suspect you and I can find common ground in other issues and it is in these issues we can work together. I care deeply about poverty in third world countries. I don’t like seeing people oppressed and taken advantage of. I care about this planet. So far it’s the only planet we have. I don’t want our species to become extinct because of some worldwide calamity that our political leaders failed to acknowledge. I care deeply about the teaching of science and religion. I am actually in favor of teaching creationism in public schools. I’m thinking of a comparative religion class where young students are exposed to the other religions. I think that's only fair. But keep it away from out biology class. I care about the rights of homosexuals. They should not be treated as if they were suffering from some disease or scolded for making the wrong choice. I am also a feminist. Some of the women in my life have been the best at bruising my ego but I still think the world would be better off if they were treated equally as well. There are many others....believing in one god is the least of them. It's been a pleasure Josh. I wish you a lifetime of understanding and wonder. Thank you Kevin for this blog and allowing two souls to respectfully disagree with one another.

"Let passion fill your sails, but let reason be your rudder"
--Sherwin Wine

"It doesn't matter how beautiful the guess is, or how smart the guesser is, or how famous the guesser is; if the experiment disagrees with the guess, then the guess is wrong. That's all there is to it."
--Richard Feynman

Anonymous said...

Hi Rodolfo,

It has been a pleasure as well. I hope this is not an end to our correspondence because I already value you as a friend no matter the differences that we have.

You wrote:
Although you may say that I can’t disprove that he isn’t the burden of proof will always fall on the person asserting a claim. I’m simply asking you to prove it.

I recently visited a men's homeless shelter and drug rehab center in the resort town of Panama City, Florida. My evidence is those men whose lives have been torn apart by drugs and alcohol and have not just recovered, but have found meaning and purpose by coming to faith. They have tried everything that the world has to offer, both good and bad - but their salvation from it all came when they became Christians and were brought in and taken care of by men and women who loved them for who they are, not what they have done. If you spent a day with those men you would probably agree with me that there is evidence that can be found there.

You wrote:
I suspect you and I can find common ground in other issues and it is in these issues we can work together.

I agree! One of my favorite Bible verses and one I build my life around is "faith and good deeds, good deeds and faith, fit together hand in glove." and "faith without good deeds is dead." (see James 2:14-26) There is not one human alive that does not deserve love, respect and a chance to live without wondering when they will eat next or if that misquito bite is going to kill them. James 1:27 says: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows (homeless and loveless) in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." I think that is something that we all, Christian, Muslim, atheist, conservative, liberal, American, European, African, etc. can work together to accomplish.

You wrote:
I wish you a lifetime of understanding and wonder. Thank you Kevin for this blog and allowing two souls to respectfully disagree with one another.

AMEN!!

Josh

Anonymous said...

I typed in "respectful atheism" in Google and it brought me to your blog. How fortunate! I hold basically the same view as you about the relationship between atheism and religion, and I was wondering what some of your influences have been. Any suggested reading?

Please email me back at thevelveteenman@hotmail.com. Thanks.

AW

Anonymous said...

Oh, also, how do you deal people with people being saying being intolerant of intolerance is a contradiction?

AW

ahogan2 said...

Great post. I did the same as thevelveteenman, stumbling upon your site via a Google search for 'respectful atheist'. After hanging around a Hindu friend, I've been pondering the appropriate way to respect his faith.