Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not only do I not believe it; I hope it's not true.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about anti-theism.  In it, I went over how not only do I not believe in any gods, but for the most part, I'd be in opposition to them if they were real.  I briefly went over Christianity and why I wouldn't want it to be true, but I hinted that it would be worth following up in another blog post all together.  So, for those of you who have woken up at the crack of dawn every morning since then, I finally give that particular explanation, but as usual, I need to get a few things out of the way first.

For starters, I am fully aware that there is a difference between what I want to be true and what is true.  The two ideas are separate, but not necessarily mutually exclusive.  For instance, I don't want to believe that zombies are real, and lucky for me, they don't seem to actually exist (yet).  Also, I want to believe that chocolate exists, and the candy aisle and my gut both provide some pretty sturdy evidence that it exists.  However, I also would really like to believe that aliens built some of the ancient wonders of the world, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Secondly, I don't know if this is true for all atheists, but it certainly was the case with me, and I reckon it's probably true for others as well.  I stopped believing before I stopped wanting to believe.  In fact, it was my desire to believe that probably kept me as a believer for several years before I finally just couldn't do it anymore.  I even remember having conversations with Christians where I would say, "Well yeah, that sure would be nice if it WERE true that Jesus died for my sins, but..."  Eventually though, I came around to being really glad that it wasn't true.

Lastly, I realize that different Christians think different things.  Some of them are so slippery in their conversations that it's almost impossible to nail them down on exactly what it is that they DO think.  For the sake of this, I'm just going to go with the basic Christian theology that no doubt covers the majority of believers.

I'm probably not going to say anything that hasn't been said before, and it'll come off as a poor-man's Christopher Hitchens, but hopefully I can put it all into my own words:

1.  You're living in a dictatorship.  No matter how you slice it, we are subject to a cosmic dictator.  You have no say in how the universe is run, and if you don't like the way that he's doing things, then you have absolutely no way to petition him to change it.  If you think that no loving being could possibly allow for anybody to go to hell - TOUGH.  If you think that instead of picking some ass-corner of the world to reveal his message it would have been better to pick a more influential and populated part of the world - TOO BAD.  Who are you to question God?  And this is exactly the kind of thing that I hear in my exchanges with Christians.  When I even get them to admit that something doesn't make sense, their response is often: "Well, what place do I have questioning the creator of the universe?"  Screw that noise - you have a brain, and if this God gave it to you, then you have an obligation to use it.  Just like North Korea, the Soviet Union, etc., you have no place to question anything; you just have to trust that the most powerful one is gonna take care of things.

2.  Might makes right.  This relates to the last point.  Why is God right no matter how screwed up his laws and actions seem to be?  Because he's infinitely powerful.

3.  You're a slave.  Why did he create you?  To worship and serve him.  Fantastic.  Not only that, but you're not even good enough to be that.  Don't believe me?  Do a Google search for Christian praise songs with the phrase "not worthy".  In other words, you suck, but God will love you if you completely devote yourself to him.

4.  The only way to be happy is to develop Stockholm Syndrome.  Instead of speaking out against this horrible being, you have to defend him.

5.  You don't know what love is.  I have a son.  I love him.  I'd do anything, including sacrificing my own life for him.  I wrote a blog post where I told the story of how my great-grandfather did exactly that.  A Christian commented:  "There was one father who sacrificed his son so that we could live forever with him." as though it was somehow relevant to what I wrote.  See, here's the problem - the story of William Johnson and the story of Yahweh/Jesus is THE EXACT OPPOSITE.

A better comparison would have been if William had thrown his son into the lawn mower so he could forgive people for doing things that they couldn't help but doing due to the simple fact that they're fallible.  Oh, and William would also have to be omnipotent and with the ability to create a completely different scenario where nobody even had to die or suffer in the first place.

6.  God doesn't take responsibility.  He could stand to read some Spider-Man comics and learn that "With great power comes great responsibility."  The thing is this - if you're omniscient and omnipotent (never mind the fact that these two ideas are contradictory) then EVERYTHING is your fault.  When questioning basic Christian dogma and why there needs to be suffering in the world, I have actually had Christians say to me:  "Well, what was God supposed to do?"

I don't know.  He's God.  He should be able to figure it out.  Make me omnipotent and I'm on the case.  Until then, if there's nothing else he could do, then as old Epicurus said:  "Then why call him God?"

7.  Just think it through.  I love watching Christians go in circles on this one.  Why did Jesus have to be sacrificed?  So we could be forgiven for our sins.  Who needs to forgive us for sins?  God (Spoiler alert - he is Jesus).

And if we don't sin, do we not need forgiveness?  But everybody sins.  And why do we sin?  Because we were born with original sin.  Yet somehow, Christians will tell us that we have free will, even though it's impossible for us to not sin.  So, God creates a problem (Yes, he created it - see the power/responsibility thing) and then offers a solution.  He's like a divine L. Ron Hubbard.

I think that it would make for a good story if Jesus and Yahweh were completely separate beings (as some early Christians believed) and Jesus stepped up, on the behalf of humanity, to be sacrificed in order to appease the wrath of a capricious/hateful god.  That would take the Prometheus myth and do it one better.  But once you make Jesus and Yahweh one and the same, it just gets stupid, and if it's true, God is insane.

This whole bit gives me a headache just thinking about it.  So, I'm gonna stop now.  I don't expect to convince any Christians as to how messed up this whole thing is (see the Stockholm Syndrome thing).  If any of them do comment, it'll probably just be the usual hemming and hawing where they will deny what I said by giving a convoluted explanation that basically just amounts to what I said, only more obfuscated.

I figure it's just going to reaffirm the convictions of my fellow nonbelievers, and while it's good to check into differing points of view every now and then, sometimes it feels good to know that the problem isn't you - it's them.

23 comments:

Andrew Nolan said...

"But...but...but...but still"
-The only possible response that won't have a believer doing illogical intellectual cartwheels.

Ingrid Johnson said...

The free will is not about us choosing to sin, but choosing to believe or not. We are allowed to question God. Who can really understand the universe? I believe God created everything for us and he wants us to love him because we are the only ones of his creation who are able to do so, and like we as parents want to be loved by our children so he wants to be loved by us. It is really quite simple but people have to screw up everything on this planet because some think they are so smart, and others don't think at all.

Justin McRoberts said...

Here are some of my initial reactions, as a practicing Christian... who isn't an emotional wreck. Of course these are just my take, since, as you said, not all christians think the same…

1. More of a question: This makes sense as a terrible thought if God is real, yes. On the other hand if God is not real.. then isn't Nature is a "dictator" as well? Is the primary issue when we put a face on the foundational principles of reality?

2. Not really. God's "rightness" has less to do with God being the toughest Kid on the block and more to do with the block being His. The fundamental theology here being not one of might but Creator-ship.

Again, you wouldn't say this about Nature, I don't think. Hurricanes/earthquakes aren't morally out of bounds. They just are because hey are part of the natural order. You're referring to a god who is an aspect or element of Creation rather than the author of it. I get why you don't like the idea (and why it's a bit much to take in.. believe me) but in my take, God's authority is not about God's ability to kick my ass.

3. The way I read it, Humanity was initially created to enjoy life, one another and our work: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The dominion part has do do with stewardship (loving care).

And for crap sake, only a fool takes the words of songs these jackasses are trying to sell as holding any kind of theological water. Unfortunately, I deal with it all the time because it does happen..

4. That has not been my experience at all. I'm happy because I'm living into the fullness of my identity which I find rooted in belonging to and being loved by the Creator. That extends to my relationships and my work.

5/6. These seem pretty contradictory to me. In the Christian narrative, the sacrifice of Jesus is exactly God's taking responsibility for things going sideways. It may seem (and is) a horrible thing, but perhaps the horror of the Cross is appropriate to the horror of what we do to ourselves and one another.

7 seems to contradict 1 as well: Mainly because the "issue" of sin has to do with the misuse of human freedom, which works against the idea of a strict dictatorship. I'm not sure you can say both things.

Also, I would content that creating a "potential" problem is not exactly the same as creating a problem. Just like, as we've talked before (i think that was you and I), a potential life (like an egg or sperm) is not the same as a life. Of course, potentiality doesn't create an ethical buffer for a creator.. so the dilemma still stands to a degree.

When you write "William would also have to be omnipotent and with the ability to create a completely different scenario where nobody even had to die or suffer in the first place." isn't that, in effect, a dictatorship? The only difference being that nobody has the option of fucking things up? In that scenario, "you have no place to question anything." I agree with you in this: "Screw that noise - you have a brain, and if this God gave it to you, then you have an obligation to use it."

Lance Johnson said...

And who create us? God. And since he's omniscient, he knew that we would screw up. And since he's omnipotent, he could find a way for us not to screw up.

Which brings it back to my point - if he's real, everything is his fault.

Lance Johnson said...

1. "On the other hand if God is not real.. then isn't Nature is a "dictator" as well?"

No. Come on. Do I really have to point out the difference?

2. "God's "rightness" has less to do with God being the toughest Kid on the block and more to do with the block being His"

Just as bad.

3. "only a fool takes the words of songs these jackasses are trying to sell as holding any kind of theological water. Unfortunately, I deal with it all the time because it does happen."

Well, I'm talking about the folks who believe that then.

4. "That has not been my experience at all."

Are those who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome aware that's what they're doing at the time?

5. "In the Christian narrative, the sacrifice of Jesus is exactly God's taking responsibility for things going sideways."

Never heard that before, but...seriously? He's taking responsibility by dying and coming back three days later? Huh? How random is that?

"perhaps the horror of the Cross is appropriate to the horror of what we do to ourselves and one another."

And again, a horror for which he is responsible. When you're God, the buck stops with you.

7. It doesn't contradict it at all. What say did I have in the sacrifice of Jesus? And are you trying to say that I can sin all I want without any consequences? Do I have the free will to not believe without going to hell? Most Christians would tell you no, although they don't word it that way because it shows the contradiction inherit in their idea of what free will is.

Justin McRoberts said...

1. The difference is the personhood, yes?

2. Well, only if you're willing to say that about Things As They Are. Which is why I was asking about Nature. Theologically, God's Will establishes reality. That's semantically/philosophically equivalent to saying "Things Are As They Are." So, insofar as God's world (in your estimation) is fucked up, don't you have to say that Things As They Are are fucked up? Real question. Like… F'reals.

3. I'm guessing they're not reading your blog (or mine, for that matter).

4. Do you sincerely see me as someone suffering from this disorder.

5. It's kinda random.. but it also parallels the Natural Order of life and death from which the vast majority of religious philosophy emanates. So.. maybe not so random. And yes, the buck stops with God, which takes me back to the Cross.

7. I'm missing what you're saying. Can you restate that?

Lance Johnson said...

1. Yes, but I can't blame a non-person. It's like cursing the ocean.

2. "God's Will establishes reality. That's semantically/philosophically equivalent to saying 'Things Are As They Are.'"

Yeah, but you're talking about something or which absolutely no proof exists, so you might as well say that Cthulhu's will establishes reality. So what?

4. I see you defend stuff that I seriously doubt you'd defend if it were applied to anything else.

5. "And yes, the buck stops with God, which takes me back to the Cross."

Which is totally random. "I'm God, and even though I knew that I'd screw everything up before I started, I'm going to make things right by picking the Earth's equivalent of Tatooine to come in the form of a human, die, and come back. I will be sure to do this before they invent video cameras. Oh, and I won't bother telling them anything useful, like how boiling water alone will help prevent the spread of many diseases. This magic trick should suffice."

7. My point is that it's all his show in which I am forced to play a part. Saying that I have free will is like me saying that you can choose any restaurant you want, but if you don't choose Mexican, I shall damn you for eternity.

Lance Johnson said...

Ultimately, it all gets summed up here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOfjkl-3SNE

Matthew Holderfield said...

Ok, I see your point on most of this, but critiquing orthidoxy religion is a little like shooting fish in barrels. I like the slippery theology better because it is thoughtful. Put yourself in the shores of a Christian apologist. I'd like to see you answer these critiques under the assumption that god exists. I have an idea how I would wiggle past most of them, but what do you see as the most reasonable responses?

Connie L. said...

This doesn't necessarily directly address the specific points you're making here, but I had to say...I just picked up an audio CD course (University level) on the making of the New Testament. It is FASCINATING. It's completely from a historical point of view, not theological, meaning it doesn't take sides on the question of whether God exists,etc...it's not trying to "debunk" Christianity, just explain how it came about...but just learning how these writings came together is extremely illuminating. Frankly I don't understand how anyone who knows the facts about how the Bible/New Testament was written and compiled can possibly believe 99% of what's in it. I read a book some time ago called "From Jesus to Christ" which had some of this information, and since then I've always been curious to dig deeper, which is what I'm doing now. Oh how I wish THIS was required reading in schools.

Lance Johnson said...

@Matthew - Calling the slippery theology more thoughtful is one way to put it, but I don't find it to be any more honest. It's basically smart people trying to justify stuff that they know doesn't make sense.

As for the most reasonable responses? I think that the only one that's reasonable, while still taking the point of view of a believer, is: "I just don't know why it is that way." At least that's honest.

@Connie - I've read some similar stuff, and I agree.

Ingrid Johnson said...

This kind of dialog has been going on for centuries and it won't stop here, but as a parent you know that to save your child from disease or death you have to have him vaccinated. You know how you suffer for him. Doctors had to cut into your little body when you were three years old to save your life, you can imagine how we as your parents felt but we had to go through with it. We cannot imagine why God would allow his son to suffer because we are not capable of loving the way He loves us. This is how much God loves us, to save us from satan and for eternity he had to watch is son suffer. Either you believe it or you don't. I don't know why He still loves us, because we are certainly not deserving. Logical explanations just don't make it, because everyone has a different way of feeling and those of us who believe understand this. It is of no use discussing the matter.

Tony from Pandora said...

1. If you want to compare Christianity to a government system, then yes. But we're referred to as sons and daughters... in that context God is a Father, not a dictator.

2. Why do you assume it's God who must be screwed up if we don't understand his actions?

3. Again, viewing God as a father and not a slave master changes this point.

4. Only applies if 1. and 3. are true... if not, then this isn't true, either.

5. Not as cut-and-dry as your scenario. You forget that Jesus was willing and chose to die. He knew the price required and willingly paid that price.

6. Justin said it as well as it could be said... He did take the responsibility on the cross.

7. "Hemming, Hawing... convoluted explanation..." sounds like evolution to me...

Free will is complicated. Here's my hem-hawing on it...

Yes, God created us to worship Him. If we don't, we go to Hell... all true. But here's my take on the omniscient, omnipotent God. God CAN'T change His nature. God is good, through and through, so to dwell in evil changes the nature of God by definition (the plot to 'Dogma' comes to mind) He created us with free will to choose to have a relatiionship with Him. He wants us to, but won't force us. If we don't... God says, "Okay, I won't force you." But by doing that... we remove ourselves from the presence of God. And since God is good... everywhere God is NOT (i.e. Hell) is going to be really bad.

And concerning your 'no proof of God' comment to Justin (which has been hashed over quite a bit already... nothing new here...) I'll refer to my earlier blog posts that say if you limit the tools you use by which to obtain proof, you won't find it. You can't see x-rays if you won't use the films...

Lance Johnson said...

Mom, if you could snap your fingers and make me instantly better instead of me needing surgery, wouldn't you have gone that route? You make it sound like God doesn't have a choice. And if he wants to save us from Satan, then why doesn't he just DO IT already?

" Logical explanations just don't make it"

Exactly. This should tell you something.

Lance Johnson said...

Tony:

1. And Stalin wasn't a dictator, he was "Comrade Stalin". You're playing word games.

2. What makes you so sure that I don't understand? Maybe the problem is that I DO understand. See, I can play these games, too.

3. See #1

4. See #3 and #1.

5. And who demanded that price must be paid? HIM. Geez...see objection #7 - THINK IT THROUGH.

6. How that counts as "taking responsibility" is beyond me. You can say it, but that doesn't mean that it makes any sense.

7. You know what, if you feel that way about evolution, then stop going to the doctor and taking medicine when you're sick. And if you don't know what one has to do with the other, then it only goes to show that you don't understand what it is.

And again, it must be nice to be so much smarter than 98% of the world's biologists. You really oughtta go collect your Nobel Prize.

8. "God CAN'T change His nature."

Then he's not omnipotent, and then why call him God?

"if you limit the tools you use by which to obtain proof"

I limit my tools the same way that you do, only I don't make a special exception for stuff I want to be true.

Tony from Pandora said...

*sigh... why do I ALWAYS feel compelled to respond, when I highly doubt much gets accomplished. Maybe, at minimum, it's slightly entertaining? at most, maybe make people talk things out? Anyway... here we go...

1. My point is that the overarching relationship as stated in scripture is one of Father to sons... not as a dictator to his/her subjects... A Father has his children's best interest in mind. And while it does seem to be a 'while your under my house, you need to follow my rules' mentality, it's based on a Father who knows better, not a Stalin-esque powermonger. So I don't quite understand the 'word games'. A dictator is one in power not elected by a democracy. In a way, so is a father, but I don't mean to play with the words. I know some teenagers think parents ARE dictators... but that reflects more on the stubbornness/immaturity of the teenager...

2. "...play these games too." I guess that because I disagree with premise #1, I don't follow this point. Even with my imperfect earthly father, my disagreements with him were usually a lack of my understanding/immaturity.

3. I willingly serve... I'm not a slave... no one's forcing you... although there are consequences...

4. (we're just going in circles on this... so I'll move on)

5. What's your definition of love? And why are you sure that's the correct one?

6,7,8,9...yadda-yadda...

I do take medicine. I work with medicine, I see doctors and work with doctors. I've said in other posts that I concede that evolution has spurred the incentive to study biology. And I'll even concede that if Darwin never existed, we may not have advanced as far in the development of treatments for disease. That proves nothing. Motives for study don't necessarily correlate to results of study... though it certainly may impact the interpretation of the findings.

Now if you'll excuse me... I must leave to celebrate my 11th year anniversary (it's tomorrow) with my gorgeous wife, who I of course find gorgeous because I (having genetically recessive blue eyes) am instinctually attracted to women who have blue eyes. This obviously means that my children will be sure to have blue eyes, thus proving that my wife has been faithful to me and not been reproducing with some brown-eyed milkman... do they still have milkmen?

Lance Johnson said...

"why do I ALWAYS feel compelled to respond?"

'Cause you're a glutton for defeat?

1. Keep hammering that square peg - it'll fit that round hole eventually.

2. "my disagreements with (my Earthly father) were usually a lack of my understanding/immaturity"

Ah yes, but your father, if he had the ability to get you to understand, he would give it to you, wouldn't he? Your "heavenly" father chooses not to...until after you die. Fantastic.

3. "I willingly serve... I'm not a slave... no one's forcing you... although there are consequences..."

See my metaphor about the Mexican restaurant. You can choose any place you want, but if it's not Mexican food, I will smash your face in.

That's not a choice, and it's not free will. It's an ultimatum.

Ya know, I had an imaginary friend once, but my relationship with her wasn't nearly as dysfunctional as this one.

5. I'll answer the second part first - I'm not certain of anything. As for what love is, it's the willingness to put somebody else's happiness and well-being above your own. Read "Cyrano de Bergerac" and you'll understand what I think that love is. 19th century Frenchmen agree.

"And I'll even concede that if Darwin never existed, we may not have advanced as far in the development of treatments for disease. That proves nothing. Motives for study don't necessarily correlate to results of study... though it certainly may impact the interpretation of the findings."

You'll forgive me, but that might very well be the most asinine thing I've ever read. Well, maybe not the most, but it's in the competition.

"Despite the fact that his theory has yielded in real, tangible results, that doesn't make it true." You might as well have just written that.

Tony from Pandora said...

"Mexican Restaurant... smash your face"

It would be a more accurate metaphor if that restaurant was the only restaurant with nourishing food... and it was at God's table. He says, "You're free to go to any restaurant... but they don't have food like mine!" He doesn't smash your face... but the lack of nourishment simply comes from not eating the right food... i.e. from His table. That's our choice...

"Cyrano de Bergerac"

I've seen 'Roxanne' starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah... does that count?

"... most asinine thing you've read"

Well then, you haven't read enough!

"..."Despite the fact that his theory has yielded in real, tangible results, that doesn't make it true." You might as well have just written that"

Yes, that would have been simpler... but less asinine... I'm going for consistency...

Lance Johnson said...

"It would be a more accurate metaphor if that restaurant was the only restaurant with nourishing food... and it was at God's table. He says, "You're free to go to any restaurant... but they don't have food like mine!" He doesn't smash your face... but the lack of nourishment simply comes from not eating the right food... i.e. from His table. That's our choice..."

Heh...it just gets worse and worse when you guys try and explain this stuff. "You can choose this steak dinner or the plate of dog shit. Your choice."

And I'll stand by the smashing your face, only it's getting your face smashed...forever. (Unless you're the type of Christian who doesn't believe in Hell as an everlasting punishment, then it's just a smash in the face that kills you.)

Tony From Pandora said...

Hey, don't complain to me because you chose to eat dog shit...

Lance Johnson said...

Does this mean that my analogy works? If so, you're admitting that the "choice" isn't really a choice at all.

Tony from Pandora said...

"...you're admitting that the "choice" isn't really a choice at all."

I actually sort of agree. But not so much that it's 'not a choice', but that the choice is a no-brainer. From my view, you ARE choosing to eat dog crap. Evolution and atheism are on the menu, and it looks convincing and appetizing, with all the trimmings served up on fine china and warm atmosphere. Looks perfect, but it's still crap... or soylent green.

And that's about as far as I have time for this... after all we're arguing as if you believed Christianity were true, which we know you don't, so this whole thing is moot.

Side note... many people at work say 'mute point' and it drives me crazy...!!

Lance Johnson said...

Well, something certainly seems like a bunch of crap.