Wednesday, November 3, 2010

9-Page Reply #8

Alright, back to slowly replying to the long email Demosthenes sent me back in early September... ? Right? Don't remember. This post will conclude the 9 page email reply and I will do one more (part 9 of course) as kind of a tally, or overview, or finale, or whatever you want to call it. Not even sure what I'll write.

In the email the last three pages covered my No Use Credo which at once is a ridiculous document I made spur of the moment and also a very fun and slightly liberating document. I still stand by some of the things said in it, and I gave Demosthenes the gentle nod of disapproval to some of the other things said in the credo. This is the final post for the credo and the email.

I have no use for a god who gives me a sex drive but says not to touch myself and wait till I’m married, after a two-year mission, and most likely after college, making me 25+ and out of my most horny period of my life.

This was added after Demosthenes sent the email. Mainly a rant about how Mormonism corrupted the most youthful and sexual years of my life, lol. Not to be taken too seriously, and I’ve already stated that sleeping around can make it more difficult to settle down and get married, which is something I want to do.

I have no use for a god who tells me how to conduct my sex life with consenting adults.

Also related, Demosthenes asks if I would treat a sex therapist different? Yes, or course, the therapist has studied into this area of life and is trained in how to best approach different clientele. However, religions do have some good things to say about sex, and often people overlook that and only look at the bad. But, it’s easy to do cause religions have a way of doing the most bat-shit-crazy things with sex.

I have no use for a holy text wherein a character offers his daughters to be raped instead of angels.

Moving into holy texts. This is debatable because Lot was considered one of the good people from the twin cities, but he wasn’t that good of a character and the story teller shows us this through some of Lot’s actions. Either way, this story seems to say that God and his angels are far nobler and if sin must occur it would be better with women. Or to not be gay. People get all kinds of meaning out of this story and I think that’s a problem.

I have no use for a holy text wherein a woman who is raped is then cut up into several pieces and sent out to different tribes.
Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone else bring this up and I forget where it is. I think it’s after the Torah, but until I find it again I can’t debate it, cause it could be something God wanted done, or it could have been an abomination in front of Him. So no point talking about it really.

I have no use for a holy text that can make believers rise up and kill other people for disagreeing with them about who their god is or what that god wants them to do in their lives.

Demosthenes brings up Mao’s 'Little Red Book' and relates this to human nature. Now, he has converted to a more ‘human nature’ thinking, but I think religion again is to blame, at least halfly, in this case. Religion gets in the driver’s seat and helps give people more things to die or kill for. (It hijacks us in some fundamental and horrible ways, such as suicidal actions in Islam.) Not always, obviously, but it did seriously in the past and still does today, though today it is much better. So, I agree to a point. Human nature but again religion upsets the balance … if there even is a balance.

I have no use for a holy text that says the earth is flat, that the sun rotates around the earth, or that the sun is closer to the earth than the moon.
Demosthenes points out that of course a 2-3 thousand year old book wouldn’t sound like a modern geology textbook. That said, it’s not so much that I have issue with that, but that we are trying to gain so much from it, or that people think it’s infallible. Or, that people who have no critical thinking skills follow books like the Bible blindly. There are people today who think the sun is closer to the earth than the moon because of a religious text. It’s a religion in India I believe, and probably small in numbers. I also think this old Bronze Age thinking is reflected in the morals we no longer use from the book and as to why I keep saying that I recognize the worth of the old values but that we should take a higher ethical plane from now on. This could generate a discussion on its own and maybe someday I will write a post on it.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches that I cannot be a good and moral person without a deity in my life.
What this is saying is the common quip, “you cannot be good without God.” Most people don’t say this, they expect it. This is all over in the Bible and the Qur’an. This is reflected in how people wonder if I have morals anymore now that I don’t believe in a god. I’m sorry, but being an atheist, I see this one everywhere in the texts and with how some people treat me, so if any part of the No Use Credo is true then this one is it.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches its followers to hate me because I am different from them.
Perhaps this comes from my Mormon upbringing conditioning me into having a persecution complex, lol, but I don’t think so. Atheists sometimes like to bring up the poll on the American Presidency and who people would not like. Even below Muslims and gays and Jews are atheists. The Today Show had a nice clip on a girl in a high school who didn’t want to pray with her team at games and how the good Christian people reacted to that. I don’t even need to start on Muslims who hate infidels, they even find reasons to kill Christians such as Catholics. Complex or not this is a reality, and I hope it changes.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches its followers to hate me because I do not believe in god.
This is essentially a repeat to further clarify. But now that I finished ranting I should clarify that plenty of people still are my friends and know I have ‘lost the faith.’ And many people don’t really care what you believe as long as you act decent. I actually enjoy people who really appreciate me since I’m not motivated by a god to do the good things that I do, as rare as that is, ;P

And that's it for the email. I'll write a 'conclusion' post later. I hope any of my readers who are still with me by this point enjoyed me going through these things.


  1. I think this is pretty awesome.

  2. The cutting up of the concubine is Judges 19, and there is no hint in the text that this was something God told someone to do. Bad example, which you acknowledge, but if it were me I'd make sure it said what I thought it did before putting it in a credo on the internet.

    I've said this so many times that I don't expect it to have any impact, but you continue to insist that religious fanaticism is the fault of religion. I suppose if I can't disabuse you of that I may as well contribute. You know what I hate about atheism? Nazi death camps, Soviet gulags, the Chinese cultural revolution, and the Khmer Rouge. Since atheism contributes to this sort of devaluing of human life, it is clearly evil. Fair? Of course not. But it's an exact parallel of your characterization of religion.

    I know very few people that would state that you cannot be a good person without a belief in God. In fact, I know a few atheists who assert that you cannot be a good person if you do believe in God as your good behavior is only motivated by your selfish desire to go to heaven. Both positions are equally moronic. I would mention, however, that you owe your notion of what goodness is to the Bible. I know that you think there are good justifications for modern humanist ethics in secular philosophy or evolutionary psychology, but you're wrong. The notion that human equality extends across race and gender lines was introduced in Genesis, and has been found nowhere else in Western history. It was Richard Dawkins that wrote "Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature."

  3. Hahaha, I take your remark at face value. Oh, thanks for Judges 19 btw. I have a hard time viewing Nazi death camps as atheistic when most of those people used Christian propaganda and messages to support themselves. Certainly, though, the Nazi's highlight something about human nature. Not the killing, I think that is beyond human nature, but the ideology and blind 'faith' in your leaders. Dogmatism. No questions allowed. Many other things of course, and I don't have to bring up how easy it is for people to follow the Nazi's in their footsteps, but people don't just do this on their own. Religion helped, from my research point of view, more than atheistic thought with that.

    The Gulages though ...? Let me reverse, having read up and studied the Crusades I know that religion was the tool to get it done, but for those who truly believed in the goal racism was needed to make it work. And most people were just greedy. I mean, they routinely sacked Constantinople en route to the Holy Land, their own fellow Christians. I don't think you can deny how necessary religion was for the Crusades, but the Crusades should NOT be the highlight of the evils of religion, just human greed.

    The Spanish Inquisition however, I need to study up on more, but I am hesitant again to blame religion for, though again necessary for the whole thing to have happened. So for the Gulags or Mao, it is equally unfair. All of the Mother Russia was atheist? All the Crusaders were true believing Christians? You've sure made it hard for me to figure anything out with these, they are much more complex to me now, but perhaps that's a good thing.

    Your last paragraph again may just be a difference between our lives, and I slightly doubt if you've asked many people. I had begun to think that maybe I heard atheists were inherently bad just because all the people here are Mormons and what I know about their 'doctrines' on atheists. But when I went home I received a lot of similar comments, even from non-religious family! This isn't delusional thinking, but being an atheist/agnostic I am probably more likely to notice it.

    Agree, I know good people on both sides, no denying that. And like I said, I tend to agree with you that I don't really care why people do good things as long as they do them. And yes, biology, Darwinism, evolution, these things don't give us good ethics to live by, no real answers there. Just because natural selection exists does not mean we should follow it.

    Also, a follow-up, after having done some questioning and looking around I know that Jews generally are different outside of the Holy Land. Secular Jews in fact, I would say, are almost amazing. The racism and prideful nature often associated with them doesn't seem to carry over to much of the group. In fact, I've only met 'nice/good' Jews or ex-Jews in my life, and I probably should have mentioned that before.

  4. The Crusades get a bad rap in modern society. The first crusade, and to a lesser extent the second, were noble attempts to liberate Christian captives taken in the Holy Land by invading Muslims. Certainly they massacred Jewish communities along the way, but that was maurading hordes doing what maurading hordes do, against the commands of the leadership. Read Rodney Stark's "God's Battalions" for a full treatment. I have no excuse for the Inquisition, nor for the Protestant/Catholic wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Religion certainly has motivated atrocity.

    Nazi leadership, however, was explicit in its rejection of Christianity. Hitler advocated the paganism of the Norse Gods due to the influence of Wagner's operas. Eichmann's dying words as he was hung by the Jews in Israel for crimes against humanity were a re-affirmation that he rejected his Christian upbringing. The rank and file may have been nominally Christian, but the movement would never have happened if not for the conscious rejection of Christianity by the leadership. Read "Eichmann in Jerulasem" by Hannah Arendt for the full version.

    As for Judaism, there are a whole lot of branches and each of them are different. Chasidism, Charedi Jewry, and Orthodox Judaism are the isolationists, and they represent a very small percentage. Conservative and Reform are by far the largest movements, and one can be a Reform rabbi and be an avowed gay atheist. For them it is far more about culture than about faith. Chaim Potok's books are fantastic windows into a culture that will seem very familiar even if the details are a bit alien. I'd start with "The Chosen".

  5. In fact I heard a podcast about Daniel Dennett's top secret study into non-believing religious leaders and Judaism came up with the same things, though I've been judging most 'secular' or 'moderate' Jews as non-religious.

  6. That's an important definition where we differ. "Religious" means "participates in a religious community", and non-believers whose butts are in the pew are religious. Count me largely in that category. Religious/secular is about behavior, while theistic/agnostic/atheistic are about beliefs. I've said all along that I don't care about beliefs, it's behavior that defines a person.

  7. Yes, we do differ. And I don't find anything wrong with your way of life, in fact I remember telling you that I'm more open to the idea of going to a moderate church to help raise kids in an ethically reinforcing environment. More open because of you. The study does show that many of these priests, however, are quite miserable where they are cause they can't get out, they wouldn't know what to do in the world if they quit preaching. Unfortunate.

  8. Nazi leadership, however, was explicit in its rejection of Christianity.

    Wrong. Hitler remained a Catholic to the end of his life, and commented that he felt he was doing god's work.

    And you know those SS belt buckles that say "Gott Mit Uns"? If your German's rusty, here's a hint: It doesn't mean "We have gloves on".

  9. Yes, getting back to the Nazis it is my understanding that their journals were regularly filled with Christian views and ideas, whereas at Nuremburg they only had mentioned Darwin less than three times in all the journals. Generally it is Christians who hates Jews and gays and those were two of the most hated groups from the Nazis.

  10. Hitler was a Catholic in exactly the same way j-dog is a Mormon: listed on the books, and that's about it. Hitler considered Christianity to be a bastard child of Judaism, which to him was the source of the world's evils. Given the heavily Christian nature of the German populace he did not start publicly denouncing Christianity until he had already consolidated power. Did he use Christian symbols to advocate his cause? Yes, because it was an effective tool with which to manipulate his followers. Was Hitler himself a Christian, did he respect Christianity, or was he guided by Christian principles? No. Here are a few quotes to prove the point.

    "The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity!"

    "But Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery".

    "Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity. It will last another hundred years, two hundred years perhaps."

    "The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity."

    "Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure".

    Hitler was a firm proponent of social Darwinism, and he saw Aryans as the rightful winners in the battle of survival of the fittest. Christianity advocates protecting the weakest in society, which runs directly counter to social Darwinism. This comes straight from Marx, who got it from Hegel, who got it from Kant. Take away the Biblical principle of universal human equality, insert philosophical justification from pretty much every Enlightenment philosopher except Rousseau, and slavery and genocide are the result. Examples from early American slavery, Soviet genocide against the Ukranians, every Communist country against their capitalist and peasant classes, Kim Jong Il against non-Koreans, Conquistadors against the American natives, Nazis against the Jews, etc.

    Certainly the majority of Christians did not live up to the ideals of their religion, nobody is denying that. However, racism and genocide are universal in human history, so we should not be surprised to see such sentiments among the religious. The important question is not why they are there, since they are everywhere. The question that matters is why such sentiments are not prevalent in modern Western society. And the answer to that question is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

  11. Perhaps a few more historical examples. Who fought against the genocide of the Indians in Central America under the Spanish? Dominican priests, who refused communion to slaveholders. Bartoleme de Las Casas went back to Spain and debated with Sepulveda at the Council of Valladolid, resulting in Spain officially outlawing the slave trade based on Biblical arguments of universal human brotherhood.

    Who fought against slavery in Britain and America? Evangelicals of the Second Great Awakening, led in Britain by William Wilberforce and in America by William Lloyd Garrison and others. All evangelicals, funded by evangelicals, and leading a grassroots movement of evangelicals acting on the principle of human equality as outlined in the Bible.

    It was the Pope and local Bishops of the Catholic church who tried to reign in the mobs that broke off of the first Crusade to ransack Jewish communities. Five consecutive Popes (including the one who originally appointed Torquemada) issued edicts condemning the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition, although they lacked the political power to stop what was going on.

    The Civil Rights movement was essentially an evangelical movement, led by King (a pastor) and largely popularized by evangelical ministers in the midwest. Even Ghandi was inspired by Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You", written by Tolstoy after his conversion to Christianity and inspired in turn by American evangelical William Lloyd Garrison. Other policies such as unionization for workers, a minimum wage law, and child labor statutes were the brainchild and political handiwork of William Jennings Bryan, a devoted evangelical working to bring his religious convictions into the political arena.

    It was Orthodox bishops (called Metropolitans) in Bulgaria that stopped the authorities from complying with the Nazi command to deport Jews to concentration camps. All of Bulgaria's seventy thousand Jews survived the Holocaust thanks entirely to Bulgarian Christians. Pretty much every Righteous Gentile credits devout Christian beliefs for their motivation to hide Jews from the Nazis.

    The move to help African nations, be it through AIDS treatment or debt relief, has been spearheaded in America by Bono, a devout Christian acting out of explicitly Christian motivation and talking largely to Christian churches as he couldn't get support elsewhere. Doctors Without Borders was started by two French secular survivors of the Holocaust, but they publicly state (with some confusion) that the overwhelming majority of their volunteers are devout Christians.

    I could go on, but I think that makes the case. I could happily provide quotes from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Voltaire, Locke, Hobbes, Jefferson, and others justifying the oppression of non-white races. The point is not to condemn these great thinkers, but to point out that philosophy has nothing in it to suggest that all humans are of equal value. This is an exclusively Judeo-Christian idea in the western world, and only the devoutly religious have been willing to sacrifice their livelihoods and often their lives in any significant numbers defending the rights of oppressed minorities.

    The point is not that religious people are universally great. Obviously there are idiots as well as wonderful people on both sides. The point is that these movements would have failed if not for the involvement and leadership of the devout. I'm all for pointing out the failings of religion in the hopes of improving things in the future, but it seems a little arrogant, not to mention intellectually dishonest, to suggest that you can condemn Judeo-Christian morality when your own notions of right and wrong come from that tradition. You have been born on top of an ethical mountain, and now want credit for having climbed it. Recent history is full of examples of people trying to construct utopia, and without the Biblical notion of human equality, it is very difficult to refute Stalin's notion that you've got to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

  12. I honestly don't have the time to answer all of this today, but I have to say something! So ....

    For me I think Hitler was Christian, but I've said for a while now that at least in his case I see him losing his faith around the late 30s and using it as propaganda. However, religious views helped to unify the Nazi party. I haven't done much research on Darwin in journals, but from a couple sources the Nazi elite used Christianity far more. And I think you, Demosthenes, already pointed out that social Darwinism does not even trace back to Darwinism. This is a common argument from Creationists and anti-atheists so many atheists get a little heated. I mean, I've had this one thrown at me more than once.

    Pointing out how religious people fought against religious people doesn't do much for me. Not always, and human nature is a part too, but for some of these examples people were using their religious faiths and texts to support the horrors they committed. Pointing out how their brothers and sisters tried to clean up the mess doesn't hold much weight. Same can be said for anything though, this isn't purely an argument against religions.

    For me the mountain is probably never ending. Judeo-Christianity hasn't put us on a peak, it's full of disgusting things, but it has helped us along. Again I go back to my common statement; I think it's time to move on to a higher ethical plane, move up the mountainside some more. And releasing the Bible may be a part of that.

  13. Of course social Darwinism doesn't trace back to Darwin. I don't understand what that has to do with anything. Nobody is accusing Darwin of kick-starting the Holocaust, but the system Hitler espoused is called Social Darwinism, for better or for worse. I'm not sure what your point is in pointing out that Darwin had nothing to do with it.

    My point about religious people fighting evil isn't that there were no bad religious people. That would be a stupid argument to try and make. My point is that the only reason the evil was ever fought is because of religion. The argument for religion is not that it cannot be twisted for destructive purposes. It is that without religion there would be no check on human nature in committing atrocity. The take home point is not that religious people fought evil, it is that without the religious, evil would not have been fought against.

  14. I'll disagree with your closing statement, but I'll refuse to argue. I think this is the point where I have reached my limit and where your excessive reading and knowledge is pretty far beyond me. I won't argue that religion inspires some bad people to do good, that would be silly, but I don't think religion has a monopoloy on that.

    The social Darwinism thing is one of the things that you did NOT bring up but where others do. I have had that argument brought up against me, and if I hadn't listened to podcasts on the topic I would've been caught off guard. Some people try to use that bit of fabricated history against atheism. Natural selection should not be introduced as a philosophy humans should live by, but some people think Darwin tried to do that, which is ridiculous and some fellow non-believers like me get real annoyed when we hear things like that. Again, I didn't think you were saying that, just some readers who actually go through the comments could almost think you were and I wanted to preemptively defend you from that ;)

  15. I really think that at this point some history reading would do you good. You know that I would not for a moment suggest that one cannot be a decent person without religion, but I do think that the case is pretty easy to make that society would not be decent without religion, and that without a decent society it is difficult to produce decent indivuduals. I have a hard time seeing a counterargument to the statement that without Christianity, for example, there would still be slavery in America.