Tag Archives: freethought

Can You Actually Make Yourself Believe?


Christians often say to Withteeth and I that we can’t properly understand Christianity intellectually and that we just have to believe. We often get told that we should simply believe. I can’t for the life of me figure out how anybody can think that this is a convincing argument.

Withteeth and I understand full well that our not being Christians means that we cannot fully comprehend Christianity as a believer would. However, we do not think that this is a handicap for us. After all, a Baptist and a Mormon both accept two different versions of Christianity (don’t tell me Mormons aren’t Christians: I don’t care), but that doesn’t mean that a Baptist can’t understand Mormonism. The Baptist will not understand the way the Mormon does, and will likely not understand why the Mormon is Mormon rather than a Baptist, but that doesn’t mean that the Baptist can have no understanding of Mormonism. So the argument that we can’t understand Christianity without being Christians is merely a way to invalidate the problems that we bring up without actually addressing them.

But let’s just think about this idea that we’re supposed to just not worry about the problems and ignore what we actually believe and force ourselves to accept Christianity. As I’ve said before, I never chose to be an atheist. I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I didn’t want to believe in God anymore. I also never chose to be a Christian when I was one. I was born to Christian parents. All my relatives were Christian. As far as I knew, all of my classmates were Christian. At the time, Christianity seemed self-evident. When I became an atheist it was because I could not force myself to continue believing in Christianity. I simply found it no longer convincing. I also didn’t find any other religion convincing. As such, I accepted that I was an atheist. But I’m supposed to ignore all that and just make myself believe? For those of you who are Christians, could you make yourself be an atheist? Could you simply chose not to believe in God and succeed? If so, do you truly believe?

A while ago, Withteeth and I discussed what it would look like to make ourselves believe and how successful we thought we would be. And, of course, how we thought people would respond. It all began when Ryan Bell announced that he was an atheist. I think both Christians and atheists reacted much the same when Ryan Bell first announced his intent to live a year without God. Many atheists wondered if he was some evangelical who was trying to prove that atheists can’t be moral or something, though many were convinced that he was in the process of deconverting (which, of course, ended up being the case). Many Christians, however, were afraid of what the experiment would mean for Ryan Bell. They were afraid that he was condemning himself to hell, or that he was lost and needed to be found. This reaction tells Withteeth and I a lot about what we could expect if we did something similar. If we decided that we were going to live as Christians for a year to fake it till we make it as a number of Christians have suggested, how would people react? Wouldn’t a number of Christians assume that we were being dishonest and deceitful? Would many Christians really welcome us with open arms knowing that we didn’t truly accept their beliefs? I’m sure a number of you would like to think that we would be welcomed in such a way, but we’ve dealt with the disdain that many Christians feel towards atheists. We’ve experienced the mistrust and the personal attacks. As such, I can’t imagine that we would be as accepted as Christians think we would be. We’d also have to deal with how other atheists would respond, but I’m not worried about that.

However, how people would react isn’t the real issue, it is merely another hurdle to our actually believing. Neither Withteeth nor I believe that we actually could believe. Even if we spent a year living as Christians, even if we read the Bible, went to church every week, joined church groups, and only associated with Christians, we do not think that we could “just” believe. Why? Because we don’t find it convincing. Surrounding ourselves with the community wouldn’t make Christianity convincing, it just makes it more difficult to leave Christianity once you already believe it. The only way Withteeth and I could ever believe would be to be convinced intellectually. As such, telling us to stop looking at Christianity intellectually, and that we can’t possibly understand it that way, isn’t helpful. In fact, it’s counter-productive (unless you just want us to stop questioning your beliefs, in that case it’s dishonest and I’d like to know what you’re so worried about). It’s unlikely that Withteeth and I will ever become Christians (or, in my case, become Christians again), but, if we were to do it, it would have to be because we were convinced through intellectual pursuit.

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Prayer in Canadian City Councils


Like in the United States, Canada has been having public debates about the role of religion in society for a number of years now. But, unlike in the US, religion, while it prevails in the public sphere quite openly, is not something that we openly discuss. If I go to a store at Christmas time, I will hear “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” as often as I will hear “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” There are also churches everywhere, and religious groups have a lot of privileges where taxes and land ownership are concerned. And, of course, we have prayers in public offices. Our country has a National Day of Prayer and council meetings tend to start with a prayer. While these prayers are often more on the interfaith side of things, they still assume a god and they are still religious in nature. As such, this has sparked a debate.

One of my city’s news papers, the Herald, published this article on recent events:
“City of Calgary lawyers will review the Supreme Court of Canada’s 101- page ruling against prayer in council to determine if Mayor Naheed Nenshi can still recite the 30 words that begin every council meeting.
Many cities have announced they will suspend or cease their traditional council prayers after Canada’s top court ordered the town council of Saguenay, Que., to discontinue the practice and remove Catholic symbols from council chambers.
The reading of a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion, the court said in a unanimous ruling Wednesday.
Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a ‘concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs,’ the judgment said.
‘The state must instead remain neutral in this regard.’
The ruling puts an end to an eight- year legal battle that pitted atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular- rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.
Several municipalities reacted swiftly to the ruling. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson skipped prayers at a council meeting Wednesday pending a review of the decision. Windsor said it will do away with the Lord’s Prayer in the wake of the ruling, but the mayors of Winnipeg and Oshawa told reporters they would not immediately put an end to the practice.
Calgary isn’t yet sure how to proceed at Monday’s special council meeting.
For council’s long- standing custom, the mayor asks everyone in chambers to stand for a customary opening prayer that invokes God but doesn’t single out a particular faith:
‘O God, author of all wisdom, knowledge and understanding, we ask thy guidance in our consultations to the end that truth and justice may prevail, in all our judgments. Amen.’
Nenshi, a practising Ismaili Muslim, recites the same prayer used by predecessor Dave Bronconnier, a Lutheran.
In an emailed statement, the mayor said the city’s law department will review the decision.
‘However, I do believe that faith has a role in the public square and we will explore ways of doing that in the context of today’s decision,’ Nenshi said.
Council has begun with a prayer since at least 1977, according to the city clerk’s office. A policy in place since 1986 allows for a minister to recite a prayer, but commonly the mayor or presiding deputy mayor does the honours.
Although the Supreme Court decision ruling is based on the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the province’s legislation parallels the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms on these tenets, says law professor Errol Mendes.
That would make a legal challenge by another community an uphill climb, according to Mendes, who teaches constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa.
‘I think it’s a fairly strong signal to the councils across the country that they really have to look at their practises,’ he said in an interview.
While many Calgary councillors are not religious, Jim Stevenson, a member of his Lutheran Church board, says it’s not the court’s place to decide if council prays.
‘Asking the Lord to watch over what we’re doing and to guide us — that’s what the purpose of prayer is, to look for spiritual guidance,’ Stevenson said.
‘So that would be offensive to me if they said we can’t do that if we choose to.’
If the regular prayer was stopped, Stevenson said he would silently pray to himself.
Coun. Gian- Carlo Carra, a nonpractising Catholic, said he understands separation of church and state but also likes the interfaith tradition that commences each meeting. ‘I’m fine with it. Apologies to the atheists out there,’ he said.
In the Saguenay case, Simoneau filed an initial complaint in 2007.
City officials introduced a bylaw in 2008 that changed the prayer to a new one it deemed more neutral.
But in 2011, Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers and religious symbols.
The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the tribunal’s decision in 2013, expressing some reservations about religious symbols in the council chamber, but concluded the city imposed no religious views on its citizens and ruled reciting a prayer does not violate the religious neutrality of the city.
The Supreme Court of Canada disagreed.
‘This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non- belief,” the ruling read. ‘It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.
‘When all is said and done, the state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non- believers in public life to the detriment of others.’
In the Alberta legislature, the speaker starts each daily sitting with prayer. The justices’ ruling makes a point of not touching the House of Commons prayer because of parliamentary privilege, and that would also apply to Alberta’s house, legislature law clerk Rob Reynolds said.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, Withteeth and I aren’t really fans of our government having a religious bias. However, what Withteeth and I think isn’t as relevant as the data. To give you a bit of insight into the state of religion in Canada (unfortunately I don’t have the most up to date data because our Prime Minister doesn’t understand the value of it), in 2011 non-religious people made up 23.9% of the population. It has risen since then, but I don’t have reliable data on how much. I have read that anywhere from 30-53% of the Canadian population now identifies as non-religious. The 23.9% was an increase from the 16.5% of people who identified as non-religious 10 years earlier in 2001. Catholics made up 38.7% of the population in 2011, which was a decrease from the 43.2% of the population that had considered themselves Catholic a decade before. Again, I don’t have the numbers on how much it has decreased since 2011, but it has been suggested that the decrease in the number of people who consider themselves Catholic has continued. In fact, from what I read, it appears that only Orthodox Christianity has recorded an increase in followers in recent years. The Baptist church had gone from 2.5% of the population to 1.9%. The Presbyterian church had stayed at 1.4% of the population. The United Church had gone from 9.6% of the population to 6.1%. And the Anglican church had gone from 6.9% of the population to 5.0%. However, the Orthodox Church had stayed at 1.7 during that 10 year period and has apparently grown by 14.82% since then. Non-Christian religions as a whole made up 8.1% of the Canadian population in 2011, which was an increase from the 6.4% that they had made up in 2001. As such, the religious traditions of Canada’s past are a little out of date. While I mentioned that the prayers in councils tend to be more interfaith, they do still have a distinctly Christian feel to them. But we are no longer living in a time when Canada is nearly all Christian. In fact, we may have entered into a time when Canada is more non-religious than religious (though I don’t believe we are quite there yet). I believe that it is time that Canada begins to reflect these changes in how things are done.
But not everybody agrees with me. My interfaith group received an e-mail from a man who does not like the Supreme Court’s decision. He wrote “The Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision below [referring to the Herold piece above], is wrong – period!” His reasoning? “If there were ‘No GOD’ ~ the term ‘GOD’ could NOT have come about!” This is very faulty reasoning. We have a lot of terms for things that don’t actually exist, such as “unicorn” and “fairy.” And the concept of what a god is as changed over time. Many early gods were essentially just really strong humans. Humans are storytellers. We use stories to help us make sense of things that we don’t understand. We also use stories to teach values and traditions. Stories don’t necessarily reflect reality, so there is no reason to believe that gods must exist simply because the word exists. And, if the existence of a word did mean that the thing itself existed, then wouldn’t that mean that Thor exists? And the Flying Spaghetti Monster? And every other god that has ever been given a name? This logic simply does not work.
The man went on to say that “They [the Supreme Court] should have UNANIMOUSLY decided to STRENGTHEN the Social/Moral/diverse Religious ‘Fibre’ of our Canadian Mosaic Society by changing the House of Commons Prayer & that of ALL City Council & Government Public Sessions, etc.” When your society is highly secular, as Canada is, pushing religion on the populous doesn’t strengthen it, it tears it apart. Look at the US. Has it been strengthened by the push to make the country more religious? From where I stand, the growing non-religious populace has just been made to feel attacked and put on the defensive, which has led to them fighting back against the religious push. All of the court battles over 10 commandments and school prayers have resulted fro the push to make religion a more dominant part of the social landscape. Those types of battles don’t occur in countries that allow the populace to worship how they want while religion is kept out of the public sphere. He also assumes that religion and morality are interchangeable. This is not true. The moral strength of Canada is not threatened by the removal of prayer. He suggests that we make “All religions are facets of the same TRUTH ~ Let the different faiths exist & let them flourish in our Great Country of Canada to the Glory of the ONE GOD!” the prayer used at all government events. This is not adequate. For one thing, most religious people do not believe that all religions are facets of the same truth. Saying that they are will only enrage the most conservative of religious believers. For another, the one God remark makes it very clear that the Christian God is assumed to be the only true god, which kind of destroys the whole attempt at interfaith that occurred in the beginning. Further more, it ignores the secular populace completely. We make up a large percentage of the population, so we deserve to be represented as much as the religious do. Nobody is taking religion away, they are merely saying that no one group deserves to be represented above all others. This fact seems to go over the heads of so many religious people, and it is quite annoying.
He finishes by saying “Our Founding Fathers based our Canadian Constitution upon the Judeo/Christian Faith – the above would add & proclaim our ‘Unity in Diversity’ & ‘Unity in Divinity’ of ALL Canadian citizens!” Yes, the “our founding fathers” argument exists here too. The hilarious thing about this is we don’t have founding fathers like in the US. We have the Fathers of Confederation who came together to negotiate the creation of the country of Canada, but this is not all that similar to the work done by the Founding Fathers to create the US. For one, we were still a British Colony and had no intent to change that. For another, we had a lot larger of a land mass to deal with and were largely interested in preventing the US from taking any of it. They negotiated terms with one another to bring the various provinces (only some of which joined at the time) together as one country, but they did not need to make a constitution since Canada was still a colony. The original constitution of Canada was developed for Canada by the British parliament. Our constitution is not based on any religion any more than the American constitution is. It is merely a set of rules that has been revised many times to reflect changing times that is meant to give Canadians certain rights and freedoms. And no, the prayer he offered does not in any way support or reflect all Canadians. My diversity is ignored, as is my right to not believe in any divinity. How can anything that ignores a large chunk of society proclaim anything about all of us.
It is a huge mistake to assume that representing your personal beliefs represents all beliefs. Just because you feel represented doesn’t mean that everyone else will. And just because you believe something to encompass everyone doesn’t mean that it does. We all have biases, and those biases blind us to the various beliefs that we don’t hold. What is more, not representing anybody is not the same as taking away your rights. If the government doesn’t say a prayer, then they aren’t representing any specific religious beliefs. However, they also aren’t removing any freedoms from anyone. The religious can still pray when and where they want to, they just no longer have the right to force their prayers on me. They are losing a privilege that I don’t have, but their rights and freedoms are still in tact.

Atheism 101: Atheism and the Koran


My last post discussed the Bible. This one will focus on the Koran. So what does the Koran have to say? And why don’t atheists agree with it? Please keep in mind, this post is about the Koran and not about how terrible Islam is. Please do not leave Islamaphobic comments. And, if you are a Muslim and are unwilling to read criticism of your Holy book, please do not read this post (though I’m assuming I’ll have a lot less people automatically jumping to the conclusion that I don’t know what I’m talking about with this post).

For one, non-believers are treated as criminals deserving of death simply for not believing. Sura 2:191 says “You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict thems whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.” Basically this is saying that it is okay to kill non-believers. Now, this isn’t exactly an odd thing for a religious book to say: Deuteronomy 17:2-5 says “If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” However, the concept that a person is deserving of death simply for not believing is incredibly problematic. Sura 4:101 parrots the view that unbelievers deserve to be killed. It says “When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.” The act of simply not agreeing with your religion makes us enemies? That’s a scary thought. Though, what’s even scarier is that some people actually agree with this passage. I can’t help but feel that any person who believes that my disagreeing with them makes me the enemy is dangerous, because I don’t know what they might do to me. Sura 5:33 says “Those who wage war against God and His Messenger and strive to spread corruption in the land should be punished by death, crucifixion, the amputation of an alternate hand and foot or banishment from the land: a disgrace for them in this world, and then a terrible punishment in the Hereafter.” What constitutes waging war? If this is referring to actual physical attacks, then, while I don’t agree with the methods, I do agree that defending oneself is acceptable. However, I do not agree that anything less than physical attack is deserving of this kind of treatment. The problem with this passage is that it doesn’t clarify what making war means, and earlier passages suggest that simple non-belief is enough to be considered the enemy. Sura 9:29 adds to this concern by stating that “Fight those who do not believe in Allah-until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a states of subjection with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” Basically, attack non-believers for no better reason than because they are non believers, and make them submit to your will and become your slave. Apparently making people believe like this is easier than, I dunno, revealing yourself to the world? Sura 9.123 goes so far as to say “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you.” Really? Kill your loved ones for no better reason than because they don’t agree with you? That seems a bit harsh.

The Koran also has some problematic things to say about the rights of women. In Sura 2:282 it says “Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses.” Basically, women are only half as trustworthy as men. And Sura 4:34 says “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.” This is saying that women are created to be the slaves of men. Women are not allowed to be self-sufficient and instead must rely on men, and they must do as the men bid them do. Again, this is not an odd concept for a Holy book. 1 Peter 3:1 says “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” And 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 says “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” The problem with this type of passage isn’t the context, it’s that people still believe it today. People still believe that women should be subservient to men. This is why these passages are a problem.

Like the Bible, the Koran also has some issues with its scientific accuracy. In Sura 12:4 Joseph apparently saw eleven planets in a dream he had. There aren’t 11 planets in our solar system. There are 8 planets and possibly as many as 100 dwarf planets (though there are at least 5). Sura 21:33 claims that the sun floats in an orbit around the earth. We know that this is not true. And Sura 27:61 says that the earth is fixed and does not move. Again, we know this is not true. The earth revolves around the sun. Like the Bible, these are only issues for those who take the Koran literally. However, there seem to be a larger percent of Muslims who claim that the Koran is scientifically accurate then there are Christians who say the same of the Bible.

All of the problems I presented are reasons why atheists don’t agree with the Koran. Thugh the biggest reason is simply that we don’t find the god claim compelling. We do not believe that there is enough evidence to support believing in Allah, just like we don’t believe the Bible provides enough evidence to believe in God.

https://atheistforums.org/thread-5493.html
http://the-militant-atheist.org/quran-quotes.html
https://godkillzyou.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/an-atheist-me-reviews-the-quran/
http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/science/long.html


Do Prayer Spaces Belong on Secular University Campuses?


If so, what should they look like (ie. should they be multifaith or for an individual faith)? And who should pay for them? And what rights issues might be violated by providing them?

If not, why not? What should the religious do if they find they must pray while on campus? And what rights might be violated by not providing them?


What Atheist Conferences are You Looking Forward Too?


The Atheist Conference season has started. From March until September hundreds of Atheist Conferences will be taking place (of course there are conferences that happen throughout the year, but this is when most of them take place). For those of you who intend to go to a few of them (or just one), which ones do you intend to go to? Why did you pick that one, or those ones? And why do you want to attend them, or attend conferences in general?

This year I will be attending Gateway to Reason in St. Louis and Secular Women Work in Minneapolis. I chose those two because Gateway to Reason has a lot of speakers and was relatively cheap, and Secular Women Work is a new conference that looks well worth supporting. I go to conferences to meet people and to go some place that I wouldn’t otherwise go to. Those two will be the fourth and fifth Atheist Conferences I will have attended (followed by TAM, INR4, and LogiCon).


There Is More Than One Interpretation of the Bible


So why do so many people assume there is only one?

Whenever I make any post on the Bible, I inevitably get a ton of responses telling me that I don’t understand and I’m misinterpreting what the Bible says. I even get this from atheists. To a certain degree, this is amusing, but mostly it’s just annoying.

Yes, I understand that Christians are taught one interpretation, and they are taught that theirs is the only true interpretation, but they still need to understand that others disagree with them. As to you atheists out there who react the same way the Christians do: why do you think that yours is the proper interpretation? You may want to think about this before you cry “you don’t understand.”

I say this as a historian. The Bible was written thousands of years ago. We are able to get a basic understanding of the Bible, and we can determine it’s relevance in the modern world, but it has been translated so many times and into so many languages that even scholars who study the Bible debate proper translation and meaning of various parts of the Bible. I’m not saying that I know exactly what the Bible is saying, and I’m not saying that my version is right, but I am saying that these attacks of “you don’t understand” are misplaced and show there own level of misunderstanding. I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I don’t trust my own knowledge of the Bible to criticise it without help, so I got help in that area. Thus why I add sources when I discuss the Bible: I want to know that people who have looked deeper into the Bible than I have are asking similar questions.

I’d also like to point out that, while I do look to others to double check my issues, I’m also reading the Bible for myself without anybody telling me how to interpret one thing or another. I double check my criticism to make sure that I’m not completely off base, but my criticism is also based on what the Bible means to me. Again, this will not be perfect, but I am putting in the effort. So instead of attacking me and making assumptions about my understanding, my knowledge, or my intentions, do you think that you could actual read what I’m saying, take my words at face value, think about them for a day, and then tell me why you disagree rather than simply telling me I’m wrong or accusing me of things? That would be much appreciated.


Atheism 101: Atheism and the Bible


Atheism 101

This post is a long one, which is why it has taken me so long to write it. Please bear with me.

Atheism and Christianity are often viewed as being at odds in the west. They are seen as at war with one another. A lot of this seems to be caused by the theists’ inability to imagine how anyone could not believe in their god, and a lot of it comes from the fact that atheists are actively fighting to create a place for themselves in Western society. However, some of it is caused by how atheists view the Bible.

It is not uncommon for atheists to hear comments like this:
“Recently, I have had a lot of conversations with atheists. Many express a strong hatred of God. I have been at a loss to explain this. How can you hate someone you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.”

This is a gross misunderstanding of how atheists view the Christian God. For one, criticizing God is not the same as hating God. It is merely saying that the things this God does are not good things. For another, it is possible to criticize someone who you do not believe to be real. For example, In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel’s favorite author turns out to be a very rude and cynical man. It is perfectly fine to criticize him for being a jerk to two teenagers who are dying. However, saying that he’s a jerk does not mean that you believe he exists. The same can be said of God. I can say that the things God does in the Bible are terrible without actually believing that he exists. There is also the misunderstanding of how much Christianity actually affects the atheists who are criticizing God. There seems to be this assumption that we are just looking for reasons to hate Christianity. This is not the case. Atheists don’t just “relax and seek a good time” because we do not live in a vacuum. Believe it or not, your actions affect us. And your actions are influenced by your beliefs. You think the Bible is against homosexuality? That affects your belief that homosexuality should be illegal. That means that you believe that your religious views should be imposed on everybody regardless of whether or not they are a member of your religion. Same with the view that abortion is wrong that is caused by your belief that all people are made in the image of God. If your actions come from your religious views, and your actions involve imposing your beliefs on others through the creation of laws, then you are affecting the lives of others. As a result, we must fight to hold on to the right to be free from your religion. And no, atheists do not believe that nothing matters. Atheism is not synonymous with nihilism (more on this later).

A lot of Christians are curious about how to convince an atheist that God exists. They will ask questions like “What if I can logically prove that God exists?” The biggest problem with these logical proofs is that you must come up with a clear definition of exactly what you mean by “God” before you can go anywhere. A lot of philosophical arguments that go out to prove that God exists assert that they show the Christian God exists, but, in reality, they can only show that a god exists. That is, provided you find them convincing. Some Christians may reply to this by saying “Everyone already knows that when I say ‘God’ I mean the Christian God!” But this is definitely not the case. There are many different religions that exist that have very different ideas of what a god is. And even how many gods there are. And even if everybody did know that you meant the Christian God, that doesn’t mean that they know what you mean when you say “God.” Christians often disagree about what God’s personality is. Is he wrathful or loving? Does he hate homosexuality or does he not care? Does he send people to hell for not believing in him or not? How is your God defined? An atheist might not know what you mean when you talk about God because they may have a very different conception of God than you do. At this point, it is necessary to define what “God” means. I find that a lot of people ask us what we mean when we say “God.” As atheists, this is a difficult thing to define. There are many different types of gods, and I don’t believe in any of them. So what do I mean? I mean a large number of things: creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient creature, intelligent cause of morality above humans, superhuman agent with magical powers, etc. Really, my definition changes depending on who I’m talking to. But atheists aren’t the only ones who need to define what they mean by “God.” Just because you say you’re a Christian, that does not mean that I know what your definition of “God” is. You too must define your terms before we can take the discussion any farther. Once we have our definitions known, then a person can attempt to logically prove that God exists. Many of the current logical arguments for God do not define what they mean by God, so, even if they could logically prove that a god existed, they wouldn’t be proving that their god existed. Take the Kalam Cosmological argument, for example. This argument does not define which god exists, so, even if you take the argument as true, we’re still left with the question “which god?” As far as I’m concerned, even after centuries of philosophical arguments, there are no convincing logical arguments for any god’s existence. This leads a number of theists to conclude that we could never be convinced that gods exist, and that we are just determined to not believe. This is not true. Our having not yet been convinced does not mean that we can never been convinced. However, being as we think we’re right, we don’t think we will ever be convinced. However, this is irrelevant to the Bible itself.

So why don’t atheists agree with the Bible. I find this to be the most important question to focus on, because this seems to be what confuses Christians the most where the Bible is concerned. The reasons why we don’t agree with the Bible is because we don’t think it’s accurate. In Genesis 1:16 it said that God made two great lights. The greater light is said to govern the day and the lesser light is said to govern the night. God is then said to have made the stars. God apparently set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. However, we know that the stars would have given light to the earth immediately, even though the closest star beyond our sun, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years away. The light we see from the nearest galaxy to our own, Andromeda Galaxy, takes 2.2 million years to reach earth. That fact alone debunks the argument that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old (assuming you’re a creationist). It doesn’t take much to realise that this bit of the Bible is not accurate. But the scientific inaccuracies aren’t the only reason why atheists do not agree with the Bible. In Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 the trees are said to have come before Adam, but Genesis 2:4-9 says that the trees came after Adam. If the Bible is simply a metaphor, then this bit can be explained away as holding some deeper meaning. But if it’s not, if this was actually meant to have happened, then these inconsistencies are a real problem. Did the trees come before or after Adam? Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 says that the birds were created before Adam, but Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 says they were created after him. Genesis 1:24-27 says that the animals were created before Adam (because apparently birds aren’t animals?), but Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 says that the animals were created after Adam. Genesis 1:26-27 says that Adam and Eve were created at the same time, but Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 says that Adam was created first and Eve came sometime later. As a kid, I never learned the “they came at the same time” story. We were only ever taught that Adam came first and Eve was created from his rib because Adam felt lonely. This is a problem to me. Ignoring the inconsistency seems more problematic than addressing it, because it comes across as dishonest. And why go with that narrative. The “created at the same time” narrative seems far less problematic. Than again, if you want to tell women that they aren’t the equals of men, it makes far more sense to go with the story where women were only created to support men. On top of inconsistencies, there are also bit within Genesis that simply don’t make sense. In Genesis 1:31 God is said to be pleased with his creation but at Genesis 6:5-6 God was not pleased with his creation. So which is it? And how can an all knowing, all powerful God create something that they aren’t pleased with? And at Genesis 2:3 God is said to have blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. But in the Christian religion, God is generally said to be omnipotent. What did an omnipotent being require rest for? Genesis 2:16-17 says that God said to Adam that he was free to eat from any tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why would God place temptation in front of two essentially naïve children? And why would he allow them to be tempted by the serpent? If God is all knowing, then he would have to know about the serpent and what it was planning or doing.
Genesis 3:1 says that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals, and he told Eve that she could eat from any tree in the garden, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A talking snake is bad enough. But why would God bother creating the snake to be clever enough to trick the humans? Was he intending for the snake to trick them?
The Noah’s Ark story has its own set of problems. To begin with, according to Genesis 7:6, Noah was six hundred years old when the flood waters came down. And Noah entered the Ark with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives to escape the waters of the flood. So…eight people who were hundred of years old in the Bronze-Age built a ship the size of a football stadium with only felled trees and pitch? And they fit two of all the worlds animals on it? How did that work? In Genesis 6:19 it says that Noah was to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Genesis 7:19-20 states that the waters covered all the high mountains under the entire heavens. The waters apparently rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. According to science, constant, planet-wide, rainfall at the rate of 6 inches per minute or 360 inches an hour for 40 days and 40 nights would be required to cover Mount Everest under 22 feet of water. How did Noah even measure this for the record? And where has all of the water gone since? Then, in Genesis 8:8, Noah is said to have sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. Why did Noah require a dove to find land if he were able to speak to God to find out the state of the planet? At Genesis 8:15-16 God ordered Noah to leave the ark with the animals so they could multiply on the earth. When the ark landed, what did the carnivores eat? Creationists often tell us that the animals were all herbivores in the garden, but, after the fall, the meat eaters began to eat meat. This suggests that they must have been carnivores before they got on the ark. So what did they eat? And vegetation would have been destroyed by the flood, so what did the herbivores eat when they landed? God then tells Noah and his family to “be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 9:1. So…eight people of middle-eastern descent had children through incest and produced over 5,000 of today’s ethnic groups in a few hundred generations? How did that work? Later, in Genesis 9:20, Noah is said to have planted a vineyard, then he drank some of the wine and became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. Why would the supposedly only guy worth saving spend his latter days drunk and naked? And why would this be worth cursing his son’s family over.

The Old Testament isn’t the only part of the Bible with problems. According to Matthew 1:20, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This sounds like Joseph and Mary got married and had sex, then Mary got pregnant. It’s not so much that Mary was a virgin as it is that God blessed their child. But in Luke 1:28 it says that in the sixth month, God sent Gabriel to Nazareth to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin was Mary. Gabriel went said to Mary “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” So, in this scenario, Mary is a virgin who is not yet married, and the angle speaks to her directly. So who did the angle speak to first? And was Mary an unmarried virgin or not? The virgin bit is further confused when Isaiah 7:14 says that God will give a sign in the form of a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a son named Immanuel. And Matthew 1:23 says the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son named Immanuel. This is interesting because the Greek Septuagint, which Matthew used, translates as “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” but the Hebrew word “almah” means “young woman of marriageable age,” not a virgin. So was Mary a virgin or just a young woman about to marry?

And what about the trip to Bethleham? Luke 2:1-3 says that Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. Why would the Emperor bother with a census? And why would they make everyone go back to their home towns if they didn’t still live in them? And why doesn’t Matthew mention the census Jesus’ birth is also questionable. In Matthew 2:11, it says that upon coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But Luke 2:7 says she gave birth to her first-born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Which is it? Was Jesus born in a house or a barn? In Matthew 2:1-2 it says that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” But Luke 2:15 says as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. So was it magi or shepherds who went to meet the baby Jesus?
What about righteousness? In Genesis 7:1 it says that God said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.” And Job 2:3 says that God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Likewise, Luke 1:6 says that both of them [Zachariah and Elizabeth] were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. James 5:16 says confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 1 John 3:7 says do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. But Romans 3:10 says “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So there are righteous people, but no one is righteous? What about Jesus’ crucifixion? Mark 15:25 says it was the third hour, and they crucified him. But John 19:14-16 says it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. So when was he killed?

These aren’t the only Biblical passages that lead people to question the Bible, but, as you can see, the accuracy of the Bible is questionable. You could argue that the inconsistencies are some kind of metaphor, but what is the metaphor? And why use a metaphor? But, if you think that the Bible is truly the inerrant word of God, how do you explain these inconsistencies? And why should I believe that the Bible was written as anything other than a fable created by people given the evidence that I have?

According to an article written by Chris Hallquist:
“One place where it’s worth saying a little more, though, is the issue of the historical reliability of the Bible. Or at least the New Testament. It seems that most people have gotten the word that the books of the Old Testament…may well have been written centuries after the events in them supposedly happened, so they’re not really historically trustworthy.
Many Christians, though, seem to just assume that the New Testament is historically reliable…It’s as if they expect atheists to agree, without any argument, that the Bible can be trusted.
“So let me say this very clearly: the vast majority of non-Christians…don’t regard the Bible as historically reliable…
“The Bible is divided into books. The majority of these books were actually inherited by Christianity from Judaism, and Christians call them the ‘Old Testament,’ though Jews don’t like that term. The books specific to Christianity are called the ‘New Testament.’
Different groups of Christians disagree about which Jewish books should be accepted into the Bible, but pretty much all Christians agree on the same twenty-seven books for the New Testament. The first four of these are the gospels, accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The next book is the book of Acts, an account of the early Christian church. After Acts are twenty-one letters, or epistles, attributed to leaders of the early church. And finally, there’s the famously weird book of Revelation.
“Nobody knows exactly when these books were written, but they’re generally dated to the first century A.D. on the Christian calendar. Since some people have misconceptions about the Christian calendar, here’s how it’s supposed to work: the year 1 B.C. was supposed to be the last year before Jesus’ birth, while the year 1 A.D. was supposed to be the first year after Jesus’ birth. There was no year 0…
“There are some problems with this. First, it’s generally thought that Dionysius Exiguus, the monk who came up with the B.C./A.D. system in the 6th century, he was a bit off in adding up the years. Second, outside of conservative Christian circles, it’s generally recognized that the gospels give inconsistent information about when Jesus was born. Still, it’s generally thought that Jesus was born within a few years of 1 B.C/1 A.D. So to say the books of the New Testament were written in the first century A.D. is to say they were written within 100 years or so of Jesus’ birth…
“It’s generally thought the books of the New Testament, in addition to having been written in the first century A.D., are the oldest surviving Christian writings. That is not to say Christians wrote nothing else in the first century, just that none of those other writings survived. Now that may not be quite right—there may be a little overlap between when the last books of the New Testament were written, and when the earliest surviving non-Biblical Christian writings were written—but it’s probably at least close to being right, close enough for our purposes.
“In addition to not knowing exactly when the books of the New Testament were written, we don’t know who wrote most of them. Certainly they were not all written by the same person. The gospels were traditionally attributed to apostles or companions of apostles, but this is widely doubted among mainstream scholars today. The authorship of most of the epistles is seriously doubted by mainstream scholars, but most scholars are confident that a number of the epistles attributed to the apostle Paul really were written by him.
“A final important point about basic New Testament scholarship is that the books of the New Testament were almost certainly not written in the order in which they appear in modern Bibles. In particular, even though the gospels appear first, they were very likely written after Paul’s (authentic) epistles: Paul’s maybe wrote in the 50′s, while there’s a good chance the gospels weren’t written until the 70′s or later (but again, we don’t really know).
“Now, in Christianity, usually when you hear someone called an “apostle” it means they were a follower of Jesus during his life. But Paul claimed the status of apostle based on his claim that Jesus had appeared to him after his death and supposed resurrection.
“So Paul’s (authentic) letters may be a good source of information about the early church as Paul knew it, if you take into account that Paul was taking a side in fights within the early church and that may have distorted his reporting. But Paul was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, and in fact says very little about the life of Jesus. That means that, in the eyes of almost all informed non-Christians, and may more liberal Christian Biblical scholars, the Bible contains no eyewitness reporting on Jesus’ life…
“The authors of the New Testament could easily have been just writing down legends about Jesus, and there’s good reason to think in many cases they were. The accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke, for example, are both outlandish and hard if not impossible to reconcile with each other.
If you want a good introduction to how informed non-Christians, as well as many Christians, view the Bible, I strongly recommend Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman’s book Jesus, Interrupted. (Ehrman has written many excellent popular books on the Bible, but I’d start there.) But here, my goal is just to get you to understand that when Christian apologist Josh McDowell calls it an “obvious observation” that the New Testament is historically reliable, he looks completely ridiculous to anyone with a basic knowledge of Biblical scholarship.”

I added this large section of Chris’s work because I hear quite regularly that the Bible is historically accurate, and that no historians question the accuracy of the Bible. I also hear that the Jesus story is historically accurate (which is funny given that history classes don’t teach about miracles). I don’t know where the apologists who make these claims get them, though I’d imagine that they get them from something not made for thinking. However, I can guarantee that it is a lie. There is no historical event from ancient history that all historians are in agreement on. To suggest that all historians agree on the accuracy of the Bible is the first clue that the claim is a lie. The second clue is that it isn’t one typically made by historians (I know of an “historian” who has made this claim, but he has also been discredited as a historian for plagiarism). This is the second clue that the claim is a lie. In fact, as a history student, I’ve heard more historians, including Christian ones, discuss the inaccuracies of the Bible then I have heard making claims about the accuracy of it. So, before you go claiming that all historians accept the Bible as historically accurate, please do some research. The book listed above is a good place to start. As are some of Bart’s other books. And you can also look into Richard Carrier, another historian who focuses on the historicity of Jesus. Thomas L. Thompson, Kathleen Kenyon, John Dominic Crossan, Ed Parish Sanders, all of whom are Christians and Biblical Scolars, and William G. Dever.

Before I finish this very long post, I have one more bit to add. While doing the research for this post, I came across an awesome plea from a young atheist to Christians. Here it is:
“I have read the bible from cover to cover. How many people can actually say that? I will admit that I have forgotten many of the small details and even some of the major events, but at one time my eyes did glaze over the entire thing.
“At school, I once had a girl in my class ask why I knew so much about Christianity. When I told her, she was astounded that an Atheist knew anything about her precious little religion, and could not bring herself to find any reason at all that I could be capable of not believing in her god, had I read all of his wondrous miracles in the bible.
“What is considered a wondrous miracle anyway? I’ll admit that the ability to turn water into wine is pretty cool, but it seems like that should be a magical spell in some Harry Potter type book with an alcoholic wizard.
“And then there is Kings 2: 23-24 ‘And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.’
“I guess if you are the bald man, the death of those who made fun of you for something you can’t help is a miracle, but it really isn’t fair to the kids. The reason we cannot even legally drink until we 21 is because children’s brains are not even totally developed until they are 21. God made us right? He is all knowing… so doesn’t he know they were just using their underdeveloped child brains to make the stupid decision of making fun of a chosen one of God? I mean, if anything, it is God’s fault that they made fun of the man. He made them to have underdeveloped brains!
“This is just one example of the many absolutely insane things that are written in the bible. I promise you that the language the bible is written in was made to bore, but if you want a violent story or just a little comedy, you can find it in your bible.
“But back to the original question of how I can read about the wondrous miracles of God and be an Atheist. It’s easy, all I had to do was actually read the miracles, and after reading them I don’t know how anyone could be Christian knowing what they say they think is true.
“So I encourage you to go out, whoever you are, whatever religion you are: read about your own religion, and read about someone else’s too. Maybe you will realize that you have wasted years listening to someone scam for your money, or maybe you become convinced that you have found the true answer. But at the very least, you will know a little more about the world. As the motto goes, knowledge is power.”

Atheists are often accused of not reading the Bible and of not understanding it. This gets very annoying very quickly. No, not all atheists read the Bible. In fact, most don’t. But most Christians don’t either. So accusing atheists of not doing something that most Christians don’t do is hypocritical. If I can’t know that I don’t believe in God until I’ve read the Bible, how can a Christian know that they do believe in God if they haven’t read the Bible? But it’s also a silly assumption to make. After all, a lot of atheists read the Bible despite the fact that they aren’t Christians and it makes no difference to their lives. This trend is why I added this last bit to my post. First, I want to point out that, yes, I can know I’m an atheist without reading the Bible. Second, it is hypocritical to charge atheists with not reading a book most Christians don’t read, especially when it is a book that has more relevance to Christians then to atheists. And third, the fact that I interpret the Bible differently than you do doesn’t mean my interpretation is less valid than yours. Please stop telling me that “I just don’t understand.” Maybe I understand better than you do. Or maybe we’re both wrong. Your assumption that you are right is not proof that you’re right, and the fact that you think it’s true and I disagree isn’t proof that I’m wrong.

http://creation.com/atheist-god-hate
http://infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/intro.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/07/why-atheists-dont-think-the-bibl-is-historically-reliable/#ixzz3RgU6uRxE
http://www.atheismresource.com/2011/hey-christian-read-bible-15-year-atheist-christian-school-speaks-out
http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_the_Bible


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