Is There A Point
To Life Or The Cosmos?
Mr. PC

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Mr. PC"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: August 15, 2001 7:11 AM

This question is unclear.

If you are asking if there is any intrinsic point to life, then no, because a "point" is an opinion. (If a "point" is not an opinion, then please recast your question to be less ambiguous.)

If you are asking if there is a point to my life, then yes. If you want to know any more about me, then I invite you to check out my various forms of self-expression.
 

I currently accept the most recent expressions of the Inflationary Big Bang Theory which strongly suggests that the Universe started as an "actuality" containing zero energy, and that "actuality" is escaping into a vacuum. How this works is not clear, but the idea that the whole thing required zero energy is becoming more and more certain. The notion of a steady state Universe is rapidly losing ground to the newer evidence favoring an expanding Universe.

Recent evidence showing the existence of dark matter strongly backs the notion that the Universe required zero energy to form and the evidence that actualities can form out of nothing has been around for about twenty years.

The notion that this Universe is but a brief and tiny bubble within a much larger and older super-universe or multi-verse makes sense to me and does not violate or contradict any known laws of physics, but there is no way for this proposition to be proved or disproved.

In other words, if the Big Bang required zero energy to get started, then we don't need to posit a Creator because the existence of the Universe can be explained without violating or compromising any known laws of physics.

In addition, if we cannot peer back to "before" or "beyond" the Big Bang, then it is unlike that any entities "back" or "before" that point would have anything to do with us even if they existed. In other words, since I cannot peek back there, I cannot be held responsible for not knowing what's going on back there. This would make as much sense as killing a tree because it would not bear fruit out of season. In season? Yes, I can see that. And if the existence of God were as obvious as that of the Sun, and if the will of God were as universal as the law of gravity and as precise as a multiplication table or the calculation of pi, then I could see holding individuals accountable for that knowledge. But the existence of God is not clear (as is evidenced by the many, many differences of opinion about His existence and His nature and His will). If God exists and wants us to know about Him, he'd better do a better job at revealing Himself to humankind.
 

To ask this question betrays a pronounced misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of scientific method.
 

Your presupposition about me is backwards. I do not have faith that there are no gods. I lack faith that there are gods. There is a big difference.

If you want to call my confidence in my education and my ability to reason "faith," then be my guest. However, I can think of a dozen words that would more accurately convey this concept, which only raises suspicion as to why you would want to use this particular word to convey that concept. I do not have faith that my understanding of the way things are is correct in the same sense that you have a saving faith in Christ. What you have done is use two meanings for the same word in the same paragraph without warning your reader of the change. This subterfuge is known as Equivocation.

Finally, I do not even think that my understanding of the way things are is correct; instead, I submit to Liberal Scientific Method. Thus, I submit my views to the scrutiny of others specifically for the purpose of seeing if they can poke holes in my theories. Nobody has the final say on any claim to knowledge -- including me. Also, everybody is equally qualified to try to overthrow any claim to knowledge -- including my claims.
 

What you appear to have done is take a Medieval Judaeo-Christian-Islamic understanding of reality, used that to develop a model what you think the concept of "atheism" might be, assumed that I believe according to that model, and tried to refute your fantasy of how I believe.

Since your presupposition is in error, I will ignore the remainder of your argument. If you wish to rephrase the argument after removing this presupposition, I will be glad to give it a listen.
 

It would be harder to prove that God does not exist if in fact He does not exist than it would be to prove that He did exist if in fact He did exist. This is because the Burden of Proof is on the person making the existential claim. In this argument, the theist is making the existential claim ("A god exists" or "Gods exit"); thus, it is the theist's responsibility to bring forth strong evidence and start proving. The atheist is not making any claims, and this is not required to prove anything. In fact, the atheist really can't prove anything because it is impossible to disprove an existential claim -- which is why it is the one making the claim who must do all the proving.

Remember, though, this web site is for the benefit of atheists, and we really have nothing to say to theists except in the context of cooperating with our fellow humans toward making this a better world in which we all can live. As such, we consider theists to be our potential allies -- particularly when it comes to solving the problem of bigotry against atheists. We also consider theists as our fellow humans. Since the "god question" tends to raise vicious emotions in some people, we consider the question of whether or not gods exist to be one of the stupidest issues over which to get into a fight. Thus, we not only discourage such discussions on this Forum (which is a legitimate place for such discussions), we recommend that atheists keep out of these arguments unless they have a pressing reason to get involved. Some atheists think it's fun -- that's okay with us; some even enjoy watching me duke it out with a theist on the Forum. However, we are not interested in deconverting theists, so our argument will never be presented with the intention of winning the argument.
 

It really comes down to a matter of faith only if you're a theist. If you're an atheist, then we're talking about the absence of faith.

When you capitalize the word faith does this indicate that you give it a different meaning than the rest of us use for this word?
 

The existence of hypocritical Christians does not prove or disprove the claim that gods exist. I do not reject the god-claims of the Christians because of the behavior of Christians; I reject the god-claims of the Christians because the claims themselves do not hold water.

The existence of hypocritical Christians shows only one thing: the claims that Christianity is effective at making people moral do not hold water. Christianity is not a superior moral system. If it were, we would see pronounced differences in behavior between Christians and people who practice other ethical systems.
 

This is precisely why I do not trust "faith" as a valid method for obtaining accurate information or for testing the truth or falsehood of various statements.
 

This adversity and destructiveness is at the very core of the Christian religion. It's not that people just aren't practicing the religion properly, it's the religion itself. Human reason, as fickle as it can be at times, is really all we have. Even religious people, when they think they're operating on "faith" are actually operating on reason (flawed reason, but reason nonetheless). Even the most surrendered of fundamentalists at first made the decision to follow this path. The difference between the theist and the atheist is that the atheist admits to using reason when deciding matters of religion. The theist suspends reason and submits to a dogma or a creed or a formula of prayer or a ritual or a superstition.
 

Unfortunately, way too many Christians insist that the rest of us join them in this trouble. Why can't Christianity be a private religion? Why the billion-dollar missionary budgets? Worse, why the move to legislate Christianity? Why post the tenets of the Protestant abridgement of the first tables of stone of the Hebrew Ten Commandments? Why make laws against things that only have religious objections?

Perhaps you might be talked into restoring Christianity to its rightful throne -- in the hearts of the true believers where it belongs! Join our struggle to separate religion from government. Separationism is not just an atheist issue: the majority of Separationists are theists. The only way to truly protect your religious Liberty is to keep the government's hands out of religious matters.

We at Positive Atheism are more interested in seeing to it that you continue to get to believe whatever you want about God than we are in discussing whether or not God exists.

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: "Mr. PC"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: August 15, 2001 9:59 AM

Okay, much like Franklin and Paine and myself capitalize the word Liberty.

My faith (trust) in the Scriptures crumbled when I could not find a reasonable case for the historicity of II Peter. It was here that Paul got his validity, his "second witness," so to speak. Apart from this testimony, Paul's claims were entirely either his own or those of his supporters. II Peter also calls Paul's words "Scriptures." When I couldn't find more than a superficial case for the historicity of II Peter, I realized what I had been doing: I had been presupposing the historicity of all the books and had been seeking out the best arguments to back up that position. Then I remembered that I had started this journey with a promise to myself: I would test the claims of Christianity and if they were found wanting I would abandon it.

After losing the key "witness" for Paul, the whole picture of his role in the Church fell into place for me. At the time I couldn't explain to you exactly what was wrong, but the problem was with Paul: he seemed too much like -- like me, when I was trying to make the "facts" fit my faith rather than letting my beliefs submit to the facts.

Now I can see very clearly that Paul was no Pharisee at all, but was an opportunist and a loser, who harbored a large amount of spite against the Jews (perhaps over a lost love? a Jewess? whose father wanted Paul to finish Pharisee school, but Paul just didn't have the smarts or the discipline?) So Paul, in his flash of light, usurped God's covenant with the Jews and gave it to the Gentiles. He was able to find plenty of dire warnings in the Hebrew Scriptures, and was able to make a good case for himself -- at least in the Gentile world.

In Jerusalem it was a different story. We have a clear picture in Galatians, the one New Testament book for which almost nobody disputes the historicity: Paul wrote that book and hardly anybody will say otherwise. Paul's enmity toward Cephas in Galatians is pure and undiluted. In Acts we see this same incident smoothed over so completely that many commentators think the two were separate incidents -- that Paul had two arguments with Peter!

Anywho, this is just a short step from seeing that the concept of Messiah in Hebrew Scripture is a far cry from the concept of Christ in the New Testament. Hints of this even show up in the Gospels, where Jesus asks, "Why callest thou me good?" The New Testament also shows Jesus being criticized by the Pharisees for doing things that the Pharisees did -- things that the Sadducees criticized the Pharisees for doing! This includes Sabbath healing, which the Pharisees, in their humanistic mercy, allowed. Many other questions that I had buried for years came out in a new light, such as my inability to see anything even remotely related to Passover in the Last Supper. This was the feast of Booths, not the Passover, but why were they holding the Feast of Booths in the springtime?

The passage that most clearly showed me the problems in New Testament exegesis and Christian morality is obviously the Cursing of the Fig Tree (about which I hinted in my last letter, in case you didn't notice). Here we have Jesus curing a fig tree for not bearing fruit -- and it's not even fig season! (It says so, right in Mark!) Well, if this was the time of the Feast of Booths, then I could see Jesus cursing a tree for not having fruit! Why did the New Testament writers place these two incidents in the springtime?

Why?

Because Jesus thought he was the Messiah! the Jewish Messiah! who was to save his country from the Roman occupation standing atop the Mount of Olives, as God causes it to cleave in two just as Zechariah predicted! The Last Supper was the Feast of Booths as they grabbed a few things, ate a light meal, and got ready to bring the Kingdom (the harvest; the literal, political) in to reality. He brought a few swords so that it would look like there was going to be some kind of battle, but that's all they'd need because God would do most of the work. They went up to the Mount as Jesus sent his emissary to alert the Romans that he'd be there. Boy would they be surprised! His emissary would lead them to the pre-appointed spot and the signal would be a kiss. Then, zappo! God would destroy them and Jesus would be the new King of the New World!

Unfortunately, Jesus was mistaken about this. God did not save him. He was arrested, languished in prison for a few months, and then was picked as the "Beardless Yokel" in the annual springtime ceremony popular in many rural Roman areas, where a criminal or a retarded person was given a mock robe and a mock scepter and treated to debauchery for a day -- and then driven out of town in the more refined areas or executed in the more barbaric regions.

Ah, but rumors began to spread that he didn't really die -- or that God would bring him back -- or that he did come back from the dead. This developed into a small following among the Pharisee party, among a group of reformed Zealots (who, ironically, were completely materialistic in that they rejected any notion of supernatural aid from God and were convinced that they'd have to do all the work themselves). Meanwhile, Paul is working for the quisling High Priest, rounding up anybody who even mutters a word against Rome. He bumps into this sect and has a flash of light. The Mythraism that he'd learned as a Gentile child in Tarsus has a redeemer figure who dies and comes back from the dead. To cleanse oneself, one needs to be baptized into this godhead, into the death and resurrection of the Mythraistic redeemer figure. The Gnosticism that was also popular spoke of how dark and lost this world was, but also spoke of an enlightener from on High who would come down and enlighten the elect with Gnosis. All this melded into one flash of light and a new religion was born.

I had many questions that remained unanswered for as long as I insisted that the New Testament is telling the truth. It isn't. It's a very biased book, having very little good to say about Jews and very little bad to say about Romans. Do a study of the Roman characters in the Gospels. They all are praised for their faith. Then read Matthew 23 and John 8 and 10 and tell me what you think about the pure anti-Semitism in these passages. This new religion took God's grace away from the Jews and gave it to the Gentiles! the Dogs!

You can study the main trends of bias in the book and get a very good picture of the Gospels' anti-Jewish and pro-Roman bias. Then, look for those key passages that seem to go against this bias. Look for the places where the Pharisees are praised. Look for where the Pharisees are the good guys. Look for that one place where the New Testament admits to the current political situation: Judaea was being occupied by the Romans much like France was occupied by the Nazis. How come so little is said about that situation? If a soldier compels you to carry his pack a mile, carry it two! Why would a solder do that? Because of the occupation! Jesus died trying to rescue his countrymen from this brutal occupation. These passages that seem to go against the gist of the rest of the book may hold the key to what went on in the editing room while the Gospels were being prepared for publication. Could these passages are those that the editors forgot to change? Or could the editors have realized that some stories had such wide circulation that the could not be suppressed?

Anyways, I think I've given you enough to chew on for a few years. I wish the best for you and hope you understand why I don't go along with the Gospel story. However, we are fellow humans with much more in common than we have differences, and that's what I like to focus on any more.

I see in you more of a reflection of myself -- back then -- than anyone else who has ever written to me on this Forum. I only hope that if you do find out what's really going on that Fate is much easier on you than she was on me when I found out. This is not something that you want to go through alone, without even a clue as to what's going on. I did this all by myself and had absolutely no guidance. I floundered around for four of five years before I bumped into some Freethought books (Andrew Dickson White, actually). After that I read Maccoby and Russell.

What I do today is be here for those who are now going through what I went through back then. I literally almost died -- several times -- and ended up doing quite a bit of damage to both my body and my personality. So, this is the main reason I do this -- so that perhaps someone doesn't have to go through what I went through. Of course there's more to it than that, and I wouldn't attract any attention for people to know I'm here if I simply said "I'm here." So I've built this whole thing that is useful for atheists of every stripe.

But I could be doing this for singing or rock music or poetry or any number of other subjects. The reason I pick atheism is because my atheism has most severely impacted my life due to the bigotry. And coming down from Christianity was the most harrowing experience I have ever endured except maybe the Christian experience itself. (and I've been through a lot). I also am very good with the English language and can hold my own in a philosophical discussion -- particularly the ethical end.

So part of this is to go ahead and indulge a few rounds of the god question here and there. This is all part of the learning experience, watching a real-live discussion of the god question. But I only do this for the audience -- I am never doing this for the purpose of trying to change the theist's mind. As long as you can accept the fact that I am not trying to change you, and don't care about "winning" the argument, you're welcome to write to me and see what comes out of it. Just remember that atheism is the default position, and theism is added to it. In other words, if you come up with a compelling reason for me to convert to theism, I'll convert. In lieu of that compelling reason, I remain an atheist.

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

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