You’re close, Tim. Actually, what I was going for was why you think the claims of Christianity are convincing. Kind of like what you did before with the argument from design, but something that ACTUALLY convinces you. I know you said you don’t want this to be a comparative religion blog, and I would agree that I don’t see the need to dispute the claims of islam, Hinduism, or Judaism, but at the same time, I do wonder if there is something in those religions that you do NOT find convincing and why. It’s just that I’m reminded of how this blog started. We were disagreeing if the atheist position required faith or not. From your position, I imagined you perceived atheism as a form of religion. I find that claim silly, but we’re not there yet.
First, I want to point out that even IF religion DOES make you a better person, that in itself has no bearing on the truth of the claims of religion. If religion is harmful, that also has no bearing on the truth of its claims. The claims of a religion must be made to stand on their own. That said, I find atheism is superior in ethics and morality.
It really scares me when people say that they think they would be horrible people if not for the temperance they get from religion. I am inclined to take them at face value and accept their statement. But I find that if we look closer, it’s really not true.
I find that this view is formed backward. In other words, we look back on an event or decision, and then judge it to be in line with what we think god wants or not. We tend to retrospectively put actions in camps, so to speak. This was good because it had a good outcome. This was bad because the outcome was less than desirable. God must have wanted me to do that, because it eventually led to a good thing.
So I have a problem with this. Find two believers and you will get three opinions of what god wants. Trying to make decisions on this basis must indeed be frustrating. I find this is what most believers mean when they say it is hard to be Christian. The only sure fire way to know what god wants, it seems, is to do it and watch the fallout. What an infuriating life that must be.
Still, you make some good illustrations with Camping, the catholic pedophiles, AA, and Stalin (you said Lennon; I think you meant Stalin). I think it IS DEFINITELY both my place AND yours to condemn Camping. That asshat ruined people’s lives. He stole their money. He robbed them of their future. That guy is a douche and needs to be called a douche. This goes for the catholic pedophiles, too. I think it is IMPORTANT for believers to openly shun these jerks. If you think Camping, the Westboro nuts, Pat Robertson or anyone else is using the name of Christianity to spread and do evil, YOU should be shouting the LOUDEST, “Hey!! You asshats are ruining our religion!! You douchebags are why people call religious people nuts!! You are why people say religion is harmful! STOP IT!!” But instead, what I hear are the atheists shouting this the loudest. I find that disappointing, and would point to this as one way atheism holds higher standards.
I despise AA. This is mandated religion. GOVERNMENT mandated religion and a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Fortunately, there are secular alternatives. Did you know that AA’s success rate is no better than quitting on your own? It’s not only bullshit, it’s worthless bullshit that is as effective as nothing. AA is a terrific example of how nothing fails like prayer.
Stalin WAS an atheist. However, Stalin didn’t do what he did in the name of atheism. He did it to secure power for himself. He used propaganda and posturing in very similar ways that the religious do. The reason Stalin was able to do so much harm was not because he was an atheist. It was because he was able to control the information the masses heard. The problem with Stalin was NOT that there was too much critical thinking and rational thought. Stalin is a very good example that no matter what the dogma is, it can be harmful.
Finally, I want to get to why I think atheism grants a superior ethical and moral platform. It is the duty of every person to develop, investigate, construct, analyze and evaluate a personal code of ethics. We must be able to look at our code, and modify it if needed. We have to be able to say that we were wrong. Slavery was once the norm; now we are appalled at the notion. Inter-racial marriage was once outlawed. Now we see to outlaw this is immoral. We must allow our morality and ethics to evolve and change, or watch them stagnate and fail.
If we think our morality is dictated to us in some ancient holy book, why would we ever attempt to grow? If we think we can be forgiven of any wrong doing, why attempt to make amends? If we think salvation is not granted by works, why work?
I find that atheism has its own “good news”: it is the good news of personal responsibility. We are responsible to each other, for we are the ones who will make the world what it is and what it will be. Humans are not responsible to a god, but to each other. God isn’t here; we are. And while it has no bearing on the truth of that statement, it pleases me greatly. It inspires me to get off my knees and roll up my sleeves.
PS: I've blogged on this before. Check out: