It's Not God's Fault:
Man Interprets Bible Wrong
Nathan Vandewater

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Nathan Vandewater"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: November 25, 2001 2:24 AM

This is very true. God did not do any of this stuff. He cannot have, because He does not exist.

However, as a role model, the fictional character known as the Christian God has done great damage not only to humanity but to the individuals who have looked up to Him as a guide for living.
 

Okay, then, if the natural reading of the Bible is wrong (and thus almost all the people who read it come to this wrong interpretation you mention), then what are we to do? If reading the Bible comes to the notion that there's a despotic deity ruling the Universe who rewards humans for their good deeds, punishes them for their wickedness, and plays favorites with those within reach of his "Covenant," creating not one Humanity but two divisions, an "Us" and a "Them" (or a "Saved" and a "Lost"), then why should we promote the Bible? Why should we recommend the Bible as a guide for morals if reading it comes only to this wrong interpretation which you tell us is responsible for the behaviors unique to monotheistic religions?

Secondly, since it is the natural reading of the Bible that prompts individuals and groups to come to this wrong understanding which leads to the highly destructive behavior known as exclusivism, then what is the proper way to interpret the Bible? What is the key to reading the Bible so that we don't come to the awareness of a despotic, jealous, vindictive, petty deity who plays favorites and purrs and coos over the praises of "His people" (whom He bought with His own blood -- or whatever), all the while willing to cast into "Outer Darkness" those who are not "His people"? How on Earth could anyone read the Bible and not conclude that this is the deity that the Bible describes?
 

The terrorists are the obedient ones. They are the ones who have followed all the Scriptures. The "good" Muslims (as you call them), like the "good" Christians (as I call them), have, for the most part, ignored and even shunned the basic foundational tenets of their religion in favor of their own very humanistic outlook (what is humanism but an ethical system that is admittedly developed by humans, having no pretense of having come about through supernatural means and -- most importantly -- always having the best interests of humanity in mind). If the difference between the Muslim terrorists and the "good" Muslims -- if the difference between the Falwells and Robertsons and the "good" Christians -- is the tendency to ignore and shun the foundational tenets of the religion (in both cases, obedience to a despotic, petty, exclusivistic deity in the monotheistic tradition), then what on Earth could be wrong with taking this move one step further and abandoning the religion altogether? Why not step off the pretense of religion and simply become humanistic?

If the difference between the "bad" and the "good" is the element of humanism, the tendency of the believers to stop believing and to start thinking, then the case that I have been making for all these years still stands.
 

I have met very few who were even an improvement. Most of them weren't even happier, but rather tended to become very bitter, at most. At minimum, almost all Christians have that touch of arrogance which comes from thinking you are one of God's special people (and that the rest of us are not).

Only if the Christian religion is true is it even of any advantage to the believer.

However, the Christian religion makes the very clear claim that the Christian religion makes people more moral. It also claims to make people happy. If this is clearly not true, then why should we suspect that the other claims, those claims which we cannot verify or refute, are true?
 

Now, why would I want to do a thing like that?
 

Are you even paying attention to what you are saying, here? Can you see what you just said?
 

The only truly unpardonable crime against humanity is to teach them the exclusivism of monotheism and to urge them to join an exclusivistic, two-tier monotheistic religious cult which fosters an "Us"-versus-"Them" mentality by dividing humanity into the false categories of "Saved" and "Lost," or "God's" and "not God's," or "Forgiven" and "Damned," or any number of other sets of terminology used to distinguish the "Us" from the "Them." It is this false division of humanity into clans based upon loyalty to a nothing that causes the atrocities of which I write when I denounce the Christian religion.

The atrocity you commit is to pretend that yours is the one interpretation that is different -- when you are simply interpreting the atrocious interpretation by means of that very same atrocious thinking that I have so carefully exposed and denounced on this web site. By pretending not to be an exclusivist you make yourself twice as culpable as the Robertsons, the Falwells, the Attas, and the bin Ladens, because at least these four never made the pretense of being anything other than exclusivistic monotheists.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Nathan Vandewater"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: November 29, 2001 1:39 AM

But, as I pointed out (and as you so aptly stated), most people still get it wrong. Most people read the Bible and, taking it at its natural reading, conclude that it is describing a despotic deity ruling the Universe who rewards humans for their good deeds, punishes them for their wickedness, and plays favorites with those within reach of his "Covenant," creating not one Humanity but two divisions, an "Us" and a "Them" (or a "Saved" and a "Lost"). Again I must ask, if, despite diligent study, people are going to come to this conclusion while reading the Bible (even Martin Luther came to this conclusion), then why should we bother? Why not simply teach the truth as we know it, teaching, for example, that no, there is no despotic deity ruling the Unifies in the way described, and we are not to divide ourselves into "Us" and "Them" classes (the "Saved" and the "Lost")?
 

But then, once this has happened, are there, then, a "Saved" class and a "Lost" class?

And does the Bible not teach Christians to treat the "Saved" class differently than the "Lost" classes?

What is the Bible talking about when it teaches Christians not to "sup" with certain people (I assume the "Lost" classes)? What is the Bible saying about being "not unequally yoked, believer with nonbeliever"?

It is this very appearance of exclusivism that has prompted me to consider the New Testament as so much balderdash and brouhaha, that is, just a whole bunch of elephant talk.

I agree with you that exclusivism is wrong. However, the most compelling arguments for exclusivism are contained in the Bible itself. Where do you think the Muslims learned exclusivism? They picked it up from the Christians who learned it from the Jews. Monotheism is the great source of exclusivism. Thus, I think we would all be much better off if we would stop teaching exclusivism to one another and to replace that idea with some healthier human-made morality that has been widely tested and found to bring about the greatest likelihood of cooperation and mutual dignity. Since all doctrines are human-made anyway, we might as well go ahead and admit that what we're teaching is human-made and then just find the best we can come up with and teach that.
 

Well, to that I can only respond that the greatest trick that Christ ever pulled was convincing people that he does exist! Actually, Christ himself did not do that, but powerful political opportunists did, hundreds of years after Christ existed (if, indeed, he ever existed). The Trinity and the currently popular Christology and the current notion of salvation by grace and the currently popular understandings of end times (all of these things) did not exist before C.E. 280 -- NONE OF THEM! None of these concepts as we currently understand them were developed at all until hundreds of years later, and some of these not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Nathan Vandewater"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: November 30, 2001 11:26 PM

But the main punishment mentioned in the Bible is death. All die, even infants and fetuses, though it is hard to imagine that all have disobeyed. Punishment, in the Bible, is retaliation. For example, since the Rich Man in Jesus's story about the Rich Man and Lazarus most assuredly "learned his lesson," you would think that Abraham would have let him out of the Christian Hell. However, this is not what happened, according to the story. Thus, his punishment cannot be seen as having been inflicted to prevent him from doing something again. It can only be seen as a brutal act of sadism wherein the Christian God appears to enjoy the thought of His creatures roasting in flames forever and forever, world without end.

It is for this reason (among many others) that I find the Christian religion very difficult to swallow. I overwhelmingly suspect the Christian religion to be a monumental fraud, one of the cruelest hoaxes ever to have been perpetrated upon humankind.
 

In the Hebrew Scripture, the "neighbor" is distinguished from the Israeli.

And Jesus does teach his followers to distinguish between those who are Christians and those who are not. This is the entire point of the sermon of the Last Supper in John, and is a recurring theme in the sermons in Matthew 5-7, 10, 12, and 23. It most certainly is the commandment of Paul, as I cited for you in a previous letter. The epistles alleged to have been written by John are most adamant in this regard. I will not look these passages up for you, as it is not my burden to do your Bible studies for you. All I will say is that I reject the Christian religion, in part, because it teaches Christians to treat themselves much differently than they treat others.
 

"Be ye not" is a commandment not to do something. I have never understood this to be optional (and neither have most Christians I have known) simply because the plain language of this passage does not provide for that option.
 

Your question presupposes only a single one-size-fits-all "meaning of life." I cannot answer questions which contain presuppositions such as this without making it appear that I go along with the implied presupposition that everybody's life means the same thing.

Besides, what if we all end up dead? What if the truth was that that's what happens? What if we suddenly discovered irrefutable evidence that that's what actually happens, and everybody agreed, just like we agree that the Sun and Moon exist, and even you could not and did not deny it? How would this change your views on "the meaning of life?" Would it change how you live your life?

I don't believe something because that's what I want to believe (that we all end up dead). I don't believe something because that's what would make my understanding of reality meaningful (that there is no ultimate meaning; that the moment is all we ever have; that even the moment we now have will soon vanish as if it never was to begin with). If I see that the human "Self" is established by the brain, and if I watch my loved ones die, and we place them into the ground, there is nothing in that picture which gives me hope for an afterlife. Much as I would like for there to be one, I just don't have any reasons to think that is what happens. As far as I can tell, this is all we get. Everything I know about physics and biology and time and space and everything else points to the likelihood that we are organisms who evolved, and that we humans just happen to have evolved enough of a neocortex-to-body mass ratio to develop the abilities to amass learning over the centuries. We have amassed enough learning to see our role and our fate in the Universe. It's cold and lonely out here. But, there's no sense in worrying about it because (1) we're here right now and (2) there's nothing we can do to stay here for very long. So, we might as well do the best we can with what we've got. Nobody can do more.

I have a sneaking suspicion that everybody of the "age of consent" knows this. We don't want to know this, but we do. We try to hide it for a while, but the feeling just won't go away. If it did, people wouldn't need to keep reassuring themselves by going back to church week after week or by going out and, as that doubter Martin Luther's mentor once advised him to do, when he (Luther) said he just couldn't believe the Gospel: "Go out and preach it until you do believe." And so, by committing himself, week after week and developing his entire social structure around it, he finally thought he believed! He committed himself and so he had to tell people he believed. (In those days, you had better have told the authorities you believed!) But how many people know, deep down, that death is final? Probably most of us! But many people would go insane if they consciously contemplated this fact. Many others have developed the skill of soothing the emotions of those who don't want to face this bleakest of realities, and the people pay them well for their services (though their employers generally make sure that the ones who do the dirty work, who tell the dirty lies and watch the faces of the ones to whom they lie, see very little of the money they get paid).

But pretending that your husband is not really dead doesn't change the fact that he's dead. This is what we get for living. This is a crucial component to life. I don't like it, but when the time has come, I won't even remember that I was here and won't even know. The part of my body which establishes all knowledge and awareness needs to be alive and functioning, ablaze with electrical impulses and colloidal tension changes, or "I" do not exist. That's what I see when I look into the situation. Where I differ from others is that I am more interested in knowing what's really going on than I am interested in being happy. Or, put it this way: I have tried to lie to myself and that is one hell of a miserable life for me to lead. I won't do it. So, I took a vow to myself that I would try to find out what's really happening, and if I discovered something -- no matter how I felt about what I learned, I would accept what I discovered as fact. We can do a lot less when it comes to discovering truth, but I think nobody can do more: follow truth wherever it may lead. That's all I do. That's all I can do.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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