Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Andrew the Atheist: The No. 1 Reason I am an atheist: It makes me a better person.

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:


  1. Andrew, I agree that many of Tim's points may at best provide a context for his choices without giving foundational reasons for establishing truth. That said, we still have a lot of straw men and rabbit trails in this discussion.

    Your statements seem to suggest that there are so many options to get the exact right response that no one could ever figure out the real right response. I don't know what limited fundamentalist view you grew up with, but that is simply not true. Though there are often multiple good responses to a given situation(even those prescribed from other religions).

    I love how you side stepped Stalin (not to mention every other variation of Communism). Hey, if we have to face the crap, so do you. It represents the few atheistic models of government you can model from.

    Finally, "superior ethical and moral platform!" Seriously? "Moral" implies an ought. You don't even have that. Atheism might be able to generate some ethical "best practices", but nothing I ought to do. With so many individual views and no center, you would be hard pressed to gain the upperhand for a "moral majority" on anything short of say Communism.

  2. Hello, Michael!! Welcome!

    "Your statements seem to suggest that there are so many options to get the exact right response that no one could ever figure out the real right response."

    I've no idea how you came to that conclusion. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I'll try again.

    I assume by the "right response" you mean "the moral choice". I think finding the moral choice ought to keep us up at night. I think that we need to ponder, evaluate and re-evaluate our moral positions on a constant basis. Moreover, I think we do this all the time. If you feel you have grown, matured, or become a better person than you used to be, how else did this occur without such inflections? I also think that basing our moral code on ancient superstitions is dangerous. We've learned so much since then. To base our morality on such follishness only leads to foolish morals.

    Which brings me to why I say the atheist position holds a superior moral and ethical platform. Our morals are uniquely human. Humans, therefore, are responsible for maintaining the moral and ethical codes. We do this indivudually, and collectively. We make progress when we learn we were wrong. When we acknowledge that slavery is bad, that women deserve equality, that freedom is a right, we make moral progress. I see religion standing in the way of that progress.

    Now it is fair to say that atheism itself does not grant this moral code. I also identify myself as a secular humanist. From the pages of humanism I draft my code. Though this is splitting hairs.

    Finally, I didn't dodge Stalin. I addressed the issue. Tim never mentioned Stalin. I did. I think he meant Stalin, but I'm not sure. In any case, I stand by the defense that Stalin didn't do what he did in the name of atheism. The inquisition, the holocaust, and the crusades, however, WERE all perpetuated in the name of religion. That's the difference. Good people do good things; bad people do bad things. But for good people to do bad things, this requires religion.

    For the record, I was raised catholic. I posted links to my apostasy story in an earlier post. Feel free to check them out.

  3. Andrew, thank you for your thoughtful response. Without getting into the weeds too much, being a secular humanist does not provide you with a moral code. Again, the best you can do is agree to some percieved ethical "best practices". (I have had this discussion with other secular humanists who agree.) And certainly, little ground for building common agreements in a pluralistic world unless you borrow from religion.

    You seem adverse to anything in this discussion that is ancient. After the recent tsunami in Japan, there was a story about finding ancient markers. For years, most people had passed these off as grave markers or some stones for ancient worship. What they said was basically, "don't build at a lower elevation!" Yes, they were all on higher ground than the devastation. Just because it's old, doesn't mean it's irrelevant.

    Further, you bring up ancient practices that we now consider immoral. The Bible demonstrates and prescribes huge moral progress. Compared with other ancient societies of the time, Biblical writers consistenly called people to a better way. The Bible continues to inspire people in modern times. As for those who still use it for evil, I don't understand why they do because their views are far afield. There is plenty there to discourage and condemn slavery, misogyny, and many of the practices we abhor today. Some people will read what they want to read, but studies have shown that most people who study seriously on their own come to very different conclusions about everything from evolution to the end times.

  4. I would like to point out another misconception that Atheists hold to.

    Atheists say that Atheism is just a lack of belief, but this is simply not true, Agnosticisms better describes this, meaning, there may be a God, we just don't believe in him.

    Atheism, goes further and claims that there is no God, by definition Atheism is:

    the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    Saying that you don't have to proof there is no God, or that there is no proof, does not automatically imply that God doesn't exist.

    For example, 3000 years ago, people did not know there were atoms, they could not prove it, but the it didn't change the fact that they existed.

    I believe in order to defend Atheism and claim there is no God, you would need to provide evidence as to why he doesn't exist.

    Saying I don't know to the question of where the universe came from IS also a statement from ignorance, Christians at least have an answer to that question. It may not be your answer, but you must provide something better than just I don't know.

  5. Hmm. Perhaps, Michael, you need to explain the difference between a personal moral code and a system of best practices. I think you're losing me here. I don't make alot of labels. I call myself an atheist, a secular humanist, freethinker, irreligious, anti-theist, and a whole bunch of stuff that has no relation to this blog. Are we splitting hairs over labels? I'm just lost here.

    I'm not averse to ALL ancient things, just ancient morality. I find history intriguing. I like aged wine and cheese. But I think that living as though we have not progressed is backward morality that is dangerous.

    " There is plenty there [in the bible] to discourage and condemn slavery, misogyny, and many of the practices we abhor today."

    I guarantee that for every quote you could pull from the bible to support this position, I could pull one disputing it. I may be able to pull two. You know this is true because you acknolwedge that there are asshats out there that use the quotes from the bible to support their bigotry. This illustrates two things:

    1. The bible is NOT clear on ANYTHING. If two opposing, mutually exclusive claims are made, and both are supported by the bible, the bible is severly flawed. At least as a moral guide. It could still serve entertainment purposes.

    2. At least half the bible supports horrific, disgusting, and just plain immoral actions and philosophy. The only way we can use the bible for good is to cherry pick the good parts. To do that, we must compare what we read to some other outside code or system of best practices. If we already have that code or system, what need have we of the bible?

  6. At least half the bible supports horrific, disgusting, and just plain immoral actions and philosophy. The only way we can use the bible for good is to cherry pick the good parts. To do that, we must compare what we read to some other outside code or system of best practices. If we already have that code or system, what need have we of the bible?

    This is a flawed statement. You look at the code or system as it is today, then you should do the same with the Bible and stop referring to the old testament. We are under a new covenant under the New Testament in Jesus Christ.

    Also the Bible serves as a standard, what if some catastrophic event took place that sent us back to medieval times, is it each man for themselves? what system would people follow then? Things would change, but the Bible stands alone as an unchangeable standard.

  7. @ above anonymous

    1. we as a society change as we gain knowledge but your god is supposed to have ultimate knowledge so there is no good excuse that can be made for its prescriptions or its behavior in the old testament

    you can say "but that was old testament blah blah blah" but ultimately what you are doing is just making excuses for deplorable nonsense

    2. you think that the new testament is really that different from the old testament
    i am sorry but even if that really mattered the argument is just plan bullshit
    the new testament has its own deplorable nonsense

  8. WOW. The New Testament has its own deplorable nonsense. You mean like "love your neighbor as yourself" or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? The mark of a Christian is love. We do not always love well and effectively, but that is our goal. And the "list" on the website that you site-- many of those things are metaphorical, otherwise they are talking about hell. God does not want to send anyone to hell; people go to hell by their own choice.

  9. Do you Atheists not believe in God, or do you believe in him, you just don't like him. It is amazing to hear people quote verses from the bible, having no understanding of the bible whatsoever.

    God does not send you to hell, you are choosing hell. If you don't like hell, then you need to trust in Christ. Why would you want to go to heaven if you don't even like God or Christ. It makes no sense. God respects your wished and sends you to hell.

    You seriously need to understand that there are bad things in the bible that are just descriptions of historical events, not that the Bible is the source.

    Hell is a result of sin, that is the payment for sin, just as people who break the law go to prison, people who do not trust in Christ (don't have their sins forgiven) go to hell. Its pretty easy to understand.

    You make it sound as it society always had this great morals. Seriously look back in history and see all monstrosities people used to do. Why is that not mentioned at all.

  10. lolz clearly you didn't copy and paste the url i posted in the above comment
    which would have taken you to a page which cites numerous examples of deplorable nonsense in the new testament

    and you didn't even address the argument about how making excuses for the old testament doesn't make up for it

    the bad parts are metaphorical? and the good parts those are the truth ?

    you are cherry picking and making really lame excuses

  11. "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Luke 19:27

  12. @above Anonymous

    Do you even know what a parable is? Seriously?

    All of the items listed on that page are a bunch of speculations and completely taken out of context. If you read one liners without context you will never get to the truth. People that do this are just looking for excuses to not believe, if you are really interested to see what good or bad the bible has, read it and study it, don't just read one liners from some site.

    You don't like that Jesus said most people are going to hell, uhmm. I guess the truth hurts.

  13. a parable ? which parts are parables the parts in the old testament where god orders people to dash children against rocks and rip pregnant women open and floods the earth and kills everybody
    or the parts in the new testament where jesus does things like telling his followers to bring his enemies before him and kill them ?

    in what context is genocide or the prescription of genocide okay? in what context is rape slavery or subjugation of women okay? in what context is it okay to stone a child to death?
    i am sorry but there isn't one
    all of these things are fucking sick

    you are making excuses not me
    excuses for the sick shit in the bible
    and excuses for believing in something without evidence

    i have read the bible cover to cover i have used the website as a short cut primarily because this page is not worth me getting the bible out and picking through it for every single instance of sick shit trust me that page is way short selling just how fucked up the bible is
    that is just a few examples
    if you had actually read it objectively you would know that

    lolz and if you can't see the problem with a "loving" god sending people to hell for a not believing in him (which is not a matter of choice) or not flattering him properly then there is something seriously wrong with your whole concept of right and wrong