Monday, July 23, 2007

Religion versus god and the danger of faith.

One of the few prominent religious figures in the United States who, I think, attempted to be a decent human being was Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. Sadly, and I mean that, she passed away after a horrible bout with cancer. After seeing her being interviewed only a couple of days ago I can say that death, in this case, was a blessing.

In researching her life for some other projects I came across comments by her son, Jay Bakker. Jay runs a church in New York that attempts to reach out to people rejected by most churches. Both he and his mother spoke frequently of the appalling treatment they received at the hands of their fellow believers. Tammy Faye said it was the gay community that reached out to her when she felt all alone in the world. And she reached back.

Jay Bakker recently preached to a church about how Christians treated him because he turned his church into a “gay affirming” church. He said that even while his mother was dying they ignored her illness and ostracized him. One Christian magazine, Charisma, was upset that Bakker said he doesn’t think it sinful to be gay so they wrote: “Consider this an official apostasy alert.”

The term "apostasy" means abandonment of one’s religious faith. I guess Charisma believes that denouncing gays is one of the main articles of the Christian faith. It’s right up there with other such nonsense as the trinity, the virgin (right!) birth, and the resurrection. I think the Apostle’s Creed has the hating gays part stuck in somewhere between Jesus dying for our sins and resurrecting from the dead.

Bakker says that even while it widely known his mother was dying these Christians didn’t want to offer compassion to him only condemnation. And he said something along the lines that he can sometimes understand why people become atheists. He attributed that atheism to the vicious treatment that people often receive at the hands of Christians.

Bakker seems to be implying, and rightly so, that such a form of atheism is irrational. At the same time he committed the same fallacy in calling on the church to thus reach out in love to the people it had previously rejected. He wants people to believe in a god due to the “nice Christian” but not to be atheists due to the “nasty Christian.”

The existence of a deity does not depend on the nature of those who profess a belief in it. Either a deity exists or it doesn’t. Being nice to people doesn’t prove the existence of a god anymore than being nasty proves the non-existence of one.

The unpleasant nature of so many religious people merely indicates that religion is no guarantee that it makes people nicer or more humane. It may indicate that religion is not particularly adept at turning people into saints but it doesn’t prove anything either way.

An atheist,who is an atheist because some Christian was unpleasant, is as irrational as anyone who believes in a deity because a believer was kind.

The reason for being an atheist is a relatively simple one: the evidence for a deity doesn’t stack up.

Separate from that is the debate concerning the nature of religion. Whether or not a deity is hiding somewhere in the universe does not change the evaluation that religion, on a whole, is a negative for human existence.

The way the Bakkers were treated by their fellow believers does indicate a problem with religion. The way the religious can commit terrorists acts in the name of Allah or throw out their gay children in the name of Jesus shows a problem with religion. God is simply false, not evil. Religion is both false and evil.

God cannot be evil since god does not exist. Religion does exist and it does bad things. Religion is an organized system created by people. So it has the same potentials that people have.

So whey then do I think religion is inherently negative?

The reason is that religion attempts to give people a code of morality that is inherently irrational. Faith is not a tool of understand this world or how one should act within it.

Worse yet, it gives people a divine mandate to indulge every bigotry and hatred they possess. People can justify the most inhumane acts in the name of the god they worship. If a god tells one to not steal the same god can later reveal that they must steal.

Certainly Jehovah, in one section of the Bible, says “thou shalt not steal” while in other sections he demands they steal the homes and livestock of other tribes. The god who tells them “thou shalt not kill” also turns and orders the execution of numerous sinners and the extermination of other tribes. God reveals one morality one day and a different morality another day. And the way this deity reveals himself is through the “small voice” people claim they hear. The burning bush trick hasn’t been used for centuries.

Christians usually don’t mean they literally hear Jehovah. They say, “God spoke to my heart”, or “God led me”. They really mean that their own sentiments led them in a specific direction and they attribute to a deity their own actions and decisions.

So, if they hate one group of people they can tell you how God has told them to hate. And when they hate, they are really being loving because they obey the deity. It was more loving to exterminate “heretics” than to allow them to live. It is more loving to deprive homosexuals of their rights than to allow them to live unmolested in freedom.

Every atheist must rely on human reason and he must know that human reason is not infallible. He can never be fully sure that everything he believes is correct. He must allow others a latitude of freedom because he may be wrong and they may be right. But the certainty of faith is inherently authoritarian. If you know the truth then there is nothing to debate.

Every authoritarian beliefs system, including religion, says it has the “truth” and knows how people must act. No rational atheist can say that. Irrational atheists, who have a substitute religion that has the “full truth” might, but not rational atheists who recognize the fallibility of human thinking. This is why Marxism is more like fundamentalist Christianity than it is different. It is a religion and it suffers the drawbacks of all religions.

Religion relies on faith not facts. As such it is prone to manipulation. It is a god-sanctioned means by which the dark side of human nature is released to inflict pain and suffering on others.

10 Comments:

Blogger Ethereal said...

Good Article NGZ.

Robert

July 26, 2007

 
Blogger NWH said...

I would agree that religion is a system set up by people to control people, yet even Jesus despised the religious elite of his day. Isn’t it people then, and not Jesus that you have a problem with? Do you not have to have “faith in the facts” to even believe in the facts? Isn’t everything boiled down to faith?

October 14, 2007

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Belief and faith are not the same thing, check your dictionary.

And I have no idea if I have a problem with someone named Jesus because I’m not sure what a man by that name actually said. All we have are unreliable accounts dirtied up by supernatural nonses and absurd miracles. If you mean the ethics of Jesus as taught in the N.T., I do have a problem. They are silly and not to taken seriously.

Consider the ridiculous sermon on the mount -- take no care about tomorrow? Don’t worrty about production? Just rely on God to care for you since he feeds the damn birds he’ll feed you. What sort of nonsense is that. It is a recipe for starvation. No one eats unless somebody produces. It is the sort of crap you get from socialists who argue the State can take care of people. But the state still relies on people to produce. It must first conficsate from the productive before it can give to the non-productive. In the end the net result is that unless people work they starve.

Or take his ethics about how one must hate their family in order to follow him. That they must surrender all their wealth to follow him. That they mustn’t question just have faith. No questioning, no labor, no effort. Just have faith. Try it. No one who takes him seriously does that.

It that is what he really believed he was a rather silly man.

October 14, 2007

 
Blogger NWH said...

In your mind, what are the differences between faith and belief? The dictionary seems to define the two as synonyms. I suppose you set an alarm before you go to bed, with the “faith” that it will sound on, in order to wake you up. I also assume, that you have faith in the facts that you claim to believe. For instance, you do not believe in any god based on the facts that you have seen, heard, and researched, but that too is faith. You speak of the Bakkers in your aticle, you have never known them yet you speak of the ways in which they were treated. You have faith in the articles that you read, in order to support your research. I’m assuming that you also believe in many historical accounts that you have never seen, but the facts seem to point in that direction, so on the basis of fact and logic you have faith that those accounts are true. I could be wrong, and that is exactly why I am writing you. You are far more intelligenat than any athiest I have ever known or come into contact with, this is why I’m corresponding. I want to understand your perspective and your logic.

As for the scripture, initially I left it out because you believe it is silly nonsense, so I respect that, but since you asked I will give you my take. The point of “take no care about tomorrow?” is not against production, in James, the Bible says that faith without deeds is dead. Where there is a lack of production there ceases to be genuine faith. Faith will always produce, and if it does not the Bible would not claim it as such, faith that is. The point is that in comparision those things should be of little concern.

Honest humble question are always welcomed in the Bible, even if they are untrue.

As for effort, the greatest of apostles pleas with use using adjetives such as: toil, strive, fight, labor, and follow. All of these are motivated by the Goodness of God in the Gospel, but if there is no produce coming forth from their faith, once again, it ceases to be a faith that the Bible would claim. Sorry to make this so lengthy, I tried to make it as concise as possible, in order to respect your time.

October 15, 2007

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

NWH,

I know your comment was intended for the author of this blog, but since he has so far remained silent, please allow me to reply.

You seem to be confusing the uses of the word faith. I like to differentiate trust base on evidence with religious faith, which is characterized as the virtue of belief often despite contrary evidence. Faith would be the appropriate word if someone put a brick on their night stand and expected it to wake them up in the morning. The difference between trusting your alarm and having faith in God is that your alarm allows itself to be tested. If you put your trust in your alarm and it failed, you would instantly lose faith. Yet if you watch the people who believe in a personal god, when their prayers fail, they make excuses and blame their own lack of faith for the inefficacy of their prayers.

When something is capable of being inspected and routinely tested, then faith is the wrong word. Most of our understanding is built on the foundations of science: Observation, hypothesis, prediction, and test. This is true for determining the reliability of an alarm clock and it is true also true for information sources. Yet religions commonly hold themselves exempt from the boundaries of science.

Your assertion that a lack of faith requires faith is confusing. Credible claims require evidence. Until such evidence is presented, our default position should be skepticism.

October 17, 2007

 
Blogger NWH said...

Databasedave,

I appreciate your response. I know that you cannot hear my tone through written words, but I do hope you take this as spoken respectfully. I feel as though I’m a logical man, and here I try to divorce my raw emotion from my reasoning, at least the best that I can. I speak not of a “religious faith,” rather I speak of reality. Screw secular and religious, screw spiritual and unspiritual, screw the enlightened and the unenlightened, I want reality. So, when I speak of faith I do not construct a dichotomy between types. Faith is Faith. What you are doing is attaching your connotation to a word. Faith and logic are not at odds! You changed the example from an alarm to a “brick.” You act as though I am speaking of an ignorant blind faith, but I would just consider that mindless, not faith, just plain stupid. You make those who believe in a personal god out to be some type of complete morons, because they thoughtlessly believe. I think you would find quite the contrary if you did a little investigation. I’m fine with you thinking it’s a bunch of bull, but don’t act like great thinkers have never believed in a personal deity.

“Yet if you watch the people who believe in a personal god, when their prayers fail, they make excuses and blame their own lack of faith for the inefficacy of their prayers.” I don’t have room to expand upon all my thoughts here, but that is simply idolatry. They, the believers, for a time prayed prayers to make the world about them and once again they learned the hard truth that it isn’t.

I’m all for science. I think it would be stupid to oppose such things. There are those things that have been routinely tested and have continuously proven themselves and I don’t fear that at all. I think science is wonderful and contributes many things to our way of living and surviving. This life is our testing grounds and soon, when death comes, we will all know who was right;this too will be tested and answered. Let’s be serious though, science cannot be the end all be all. I would suppose that you believe in love, but science could never explain such a thing. Science could and will never answer the deeper realities of life. I wouldn’t say that those who believe in a personal deity dismiss science, but where science stops, faith proceeds onward. That goes for those who don’t believe as well. Faith is the starter and the finisher of all things. You must have faith in the facts, and where that fact/information stops there proceeding onward is faith. Faith and logic are friends.

October 17, 2007

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

The author of the blog did not remain silent but the software for the blog may have. A response was made and posted and it showed up on my screen as having gone through. I then paid no further attention to things until I got the email with the remarks that I had no responded. I can not tell you where the response is but it is clearly not there. I shall try to get to it again later today and rewrite it. And then post it.

October 17, 2007

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

Sorry nwh, you mentioned the Bible and faith so I assumed you were referring to the "faith like a child" as described in the Bible.

Faith:

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief, trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Faith and logic are not friends.

October 18, 2007

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

I blame you guys for lack of sleep. Before I went to bed I thought I'd type some notes in order to reply since my original reply was lost. When I was finished drafting some thoughts it was 6 am. One result is material too long for the comments here so I will post my reply as a regular posting on the blog later today. I still have to read what I wrote in the wee hours of the morning. In addition after I finished my draft and turned off the laptop, just as I was falling to sleep, I realized that there were some points that I think are wrong and need to be corrected -- that is how reason works -- it corrects itself. So I still have to proof this, make some changes and see if I'm satisfied with it.

October 18, 2007

 
Blogger NWH said...

I am posting my response on under your new article, "Is every belief a form of faith?"

October 20, 2007

 

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