God for a Day

Mr. X over at Why I Hate Jesus made a stunning observation. To paraphrase it would do it injustice, so I present it to you in its entirety.

If you were god for a day, what would you do with this power? Maybe you would cure cancer? Invoke your power to create world peace? Create enough resources for all so that people don’t die of starvation and malnutrition? Create a world where we can all live without killing it through polluting fossil fuels? Maybe you would show yourself to everyone so that we could all believe and all could be saved? Or, better yet, abolish hell altogether? These are just some of the potential things that you could do with this power.

So, the question is: why hasn’t god done any of these things?

So, Christians, what’ll it be this time? A defense of god’s inaction based on free will? A defense based on the prevention of dependence? I’m all ears.

The Four C’s of Atheism

The following is from an essay by August Berkshire, president of the Minnesota Atheists.

Like many of you reading this, I describe myself as a flaming liberal. Yet in one area I am a conservative. I am an atheist.

Yes, atheism is a conservative position. We make no leaps of faith. We accept statements only so far as there is reason and/or evidence to back them up. Anything else is speculation.

Atheism is also consistent. We apply our skepticism equally to all supernatural claims. We do not say, “All prophets, saviors, or gods are false – except ours.” We make no exceptions or special pleadings, which makes us consistent.

Another benefit of atheism is that it is contradiction-free. We don’t have to try to reconcile an all-loving, all-seeing, all-powerful god with the existence of evil. We don’t have to define love exactly the opposite of the way we normally define it in order to make it applicable to our god. We don’t have to claim a poor supernatural designer is intelligent.

An atheist also possesses clarity in his or her thinking processes. An atheist has the courage to follow the trail of reason and evidence wherever it may lead. If there should some day be a compelling reason or piece of evidence for a god, then we would acknowledge it and change our views. This is also known as intellectual honesty.

One of the arguments of Pascal’s Wager is that a person loses nothing by believing in a god. I beg to differ. Accepting Pascal’s Wager means saying that we are willing to abandon reason and evidence as our standards of living, and instead make a leap of faith to… where?

It’s true that by converting (or deconverting) from theism to atheism a person can lose his or her cosmic specialness and meaning in life and any hope of an afterlife. But you can’t lose what you never really had.

The reality of atheism far outweighs the dream of religion. There is an excitement and beauty to perceiving the world as it really is, and not as a wishful thought.

That last line echoes a great quote by Carl Sagan. “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Amen to that.

Quotes to Ponder

“An atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An atheist thinks that heaven is something for which we should work for now — here on earth — for all men together to enjoy. An atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, subdue and enjoy it. An atheist thinks that only in knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.

Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to ‘know’ a god. An atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.

He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter. He knows that we are our brothers’ keepers in that we are, first, keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now.” — Madalyn Murray O’Hair

I’m not saying I like what she did or how she went about it, but I like how eloquent that quote is. Her much less eloquent quote, true as it is, was:

“There is no God. There’s no heaven. There’s no hell. There are no angels. When you die, you go in the ground, the worms eat you.”

Why Atheism?

Though the title sounds like one of an informational pamphlet, I intend to provide you with my personal reasons for being an atheist. I’m sure everyone has a different story, and I would love for you to comment with your personal reasons for not believing in the beyond.

I was raised in a household devoid of politics, sports, and religion. For that, I am infinitely thankful as it allowed me to grow in each area without any internal pressure from my family. It will be very hard to raise my children the same way since I am undoubtedly more active in all areas, but if I had to choose one to allow my children to grow in personally, it would be religion. After all, sports teams rise and fall in popularity, politics changes with the times, but religion deals with long-term issues.

I never prayed as a child. Bedtime prayers were never part of my nightly routine. Mealtime blessings were also absent from my day. The only time I was exposed to religion was when I would occasionally attend a vacation bible school with a friend from school. I don’t remember praying there either, but I do remember being incredibly bored. Coloring pictures of arks and watching puppet shows about Abraham were not sources of interest to me at that age, nor are they today. Throughout my entire youth, I can say I probably only ever attended church a dozen or so times. Some say had I attended church regularly, my views on the almighty might be different. I’m sure they might be. If I attended Klan meetings every week, I’m sure I would loathe everything that wasn’t white and Christian. That’s the power of weekly indoctrination.

For the majority of my youth, I never sought a higher being. That changed briefly in high school. I started my sophomore year of high school in Tennessee. A church on every other street corner, a bible thumper screaming of doomsday on the rest, and billboards with quotes from God himself were all warning signs that I was not in Illinois anymore. I didn’t have any pressure from my friends to come to church, because none of them knew that I found the idea of God laughable.

Girlfriends were the source of contention. One attended a pentecostal church which I attended ONCE. That night was one of the scariest of my life. I sat there shifting my eyes back and forth for signs of anyone carrying in a box of snakes. I had my exits chosen. One song that was sung that night involved seven different verses each with a different day of the week. You were supposed to stand up on the day of the week on which you were saved. I thought I had escaped this one by just not raising my hand. Oh no. They were watching. They noticed that my hand didn’t go up at all. I was approached after the service by the preacher. She asked me if I was saved. I told her that I was not. She then asked if she could pray for me. I said yes. After all, at this point in my life, I had come to think that there was something wrong with me for not believing in God. I thought that I had missed some important milestone in my life. So as that woman and a handful of members of the congregation stood around me and asked God to reveal himself to me in the way he knew was best for me, I closed my eyes, forgot the creepiness of the night, and opened my heart to whatever may come. Nothing came.

I don’t remember what day of the week it was; I can’t really pin the date down at all. I gave up on God. If he existed, he would have revealed himself to me by now, but the truth was that I knew what I had always thought. God was a fairy tale. The proverbial “opiate of the masses” created by the ruling class thousands of years ago with the sole purpose of keeping the uneducated lower class in check. What a fantastic document to go along with it as well. The Bible, chock full of miracles, magic, and mayhem has become the only multi-author, ancient text to be quoted in almost every conversation in the South.

I kept quiet about my beliefs. After what I had heard some of my friends say about atheism, I knew that it would be socially detrimental for me to make known my disbelief in the figure that almost everyone I knew held so dear. I grew accustomed to my closet. It was lonely, but it was safe. I remained socially accepted, and my views were not challenged. Even to this day, I have to keep quiet about this subject in certain social circles. Living in a highly conservative and largely unaccepting area of the Deep South, I have to withhold certain things in the interest of success.

I used to keep it quiet so that I wouldn’t alienate my friends, but then I said “Bump that!” No true friend would shun me for being an atheist. Though it has cost me a few relationships and a friends along the way, the friends I have are open-minded and great conversation partners.

If you are holding back your beliefs from friends, family, acquaintances, etc., please find a way that is comfortable for you, and share your thoughts. Someone will always be there to support you. I’m here. Comment. I’ll listen.