Why People Invariably Attack
Only The Christian Belief
John Beck

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John Beck"
Subject: Re: Hello!
Date: Saturday, January 27, 2001 11:34 AM

I concur entirely on this. If we all could keep these sentiments in the forefront of our minds when discussing these matters, we could do well.

We are human and we are fallible. We cannot expect to have a comprehensive picture of reality. We can only do the best we can with what we've got.

Also, everyone who believes has (or thinks they have) valid reasons for believing the way they do. In the case of Western Christians, most believe because the complexity of living organisms compels them to think there must have been a Designer at work. (Natural selection is, to the atheist, a valid explanation, but that's beside the point.) In addition (and what may even tip the scales for many who might otherwise settle for purely natural selection) is the notion of fellowship with a benevolent father-god, mother-madonna, or brother-Christ or husband-Christ figure. Probably the greatest influence is the beliefs of the family or culture where one was raised -- although most do not admit to this as being the reason they believe a certain way, so we cannot but speculate about this one.

While I don't expect any theist to agree, I advocate the position that whether or not gods exist is one of the stupidest reasons to get into an argument. But, I can see why a theist would disagree with me on this. I absolutely don't care what anyone believes, to the point where I came very close to marrying a very devout Christian woman. The relationship disintegrated because of trustworthiness issues, not because of differences of opinion. And I would do it again, except that many thiests are uncomfortable with someone disagreeing with them even though it means naught to me. So, I can be as openminded as I want, but will get nowhere until I meet someone who either respects my unbelief or doesn't care about it. I'm not saying this is rare among thiests, but I definitely think it's not a two-way street: atheists are more likely to accept theists than theists are to accept atheists.

Finally, the person is not the position she or he holds any more than a map is the city it represents or the menu is the meal it describes. I will return to this thought later.
 

I will start by pointing out that concept of "thoroughly convinced" may appear to contradict (or even nullify) the notion of open-mindedness. This is not necessarily the case with you, but this is how your statement comes off at first reading. I might suggest some work on this statement so that it is easier for a reader to see your position precisely. Our role is not to judge Christians or their positions but to develop the most accurate picture of truth and reality that we can, acknowledging our fallibilities and limitations.

Here is my response to what I think you are trying to say: I am not "thoroughly convinced" even of my own position of atheism. That is, atheism seldom dogmatically asserts that no gods exits; atheism, for the most part, is simply the lack of a god belief. This ranges from the atheistic agnostic who doesn't know (or who cannot decide which side prevails in this argument) to the "strong" atheist who does dogmatically assert that no gods exit -- and everybody in between.

What is true among Christians is likewise true among atheists: a few Christians are more convinced of the existence of God than they are of the existence of the Earth and Sun (or so they've told me); others candidly pray, "help thou mine unbelief." The vast majority are somewhere between these two extremes. In this sense, the dogmatic or "thoroughly convinced" atheist is extremely rare, perhaps much more uncommon than the "thoroughly convinced" theist, but still uncommon even among atheists. Most of us simply fail to find the case for theism to be very compelling. I would believe if I had reason to believe these claims to be truthful, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Who would subject themselves to stigma and indignity and bigotry and discrimination and even persecution when it would be much easier simply to go with your heart and thereby instantly find acceptance within American culture? No. I cannot go with something I don't think is true, and truthfulness means so much to me that I am willing to endure the bigotry and wholesale rejection which has been a part of my life since before I turned six.

My position is this: It is the theists who are making claims; I, as an atheist, simply have yet to find any of these claims worthy of my belief. Since theism makes the claims and atheism does not, atheism is, to me, the default position: theism, then, is an added attraction. If theism could make a convincing case, I would go along with it; since theism has yet to do this, I remain an atheist.
 

This is not necessarily true. Where it is true, it does not tell the whole story.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that when I criticize an idea, people who hold that ideology sometimes act as if I have offended them directly, rather than simply criticize the idea. Ideas do not have feelings, and thus are open to critical assessment.

Also, religious freedom in no way protects one's views from the free criticism of those who do not hold those views. People may preach whatever they think the public will swallow, but people have no right to preach without challenge. As Mencken said, "They are free to shoot back. But they can't disarm their enemy."

"The pew cannot reply to the pulpit," as Ingersoll said -- but I'm not sitting in a pew! Had the church limited its pronouncements to within the church body, nobody would hear a thing from me. But when the Church's audience extends beyond its own congregation, when their forum is other than the pulpit, then whatever they say potetentially becomes my business.

With this in mind, allow me to address your question directly:

First, those of us who do lack a god belief do not think about the subject very often -- if at all. (I am an exception because of my work as an activist for atheist dignity.) When the subject does cross our minds, it is always the result of our having encountered the claims of a theist.

In America, which god-claims are we most likely to encounter? Those of the dominant religion, of course! Thus, it makes sense that we have thoroughly struggled with the Christ question, whereas I could not tell you much about Freyja or Quetzalcoatl. What few Muslims who have lived here have been kept under wraps until very recently. Also, most Muslims who do emigrate to America are somewhat liberal in their religion. So, we are not in a position to encounter claims for the existence of Allah.

But we cannot live a day of our lives without encountering some Christian intrusion into our personal existences. These ranging from television spots and newspaper editorials and door-to-door missionaries, to such McCarthy-era intrusions as "In God We Trust" on our money and the recent addition of the phrase "under God" to our Pledge of Allegiance (both of which were heavily lobbied by Christian groups during the 1950s), to outright discrimination and wholesale social rejection and (in my case, in Oregon, in 1988) being jailed for refusing a court order to undergo religious instruction. Only those who desperately wish for the rest of us to be like them would allow these things to remain in place.

Secondly, Christianity, more so than almost all other religions, places a very heavy emphasis on evangelism. Most religious people mind their own business, but most brands of Christianity do not, and many are even obsessive in their quest set the others straight. Their number one concern is to see to it that the rest of us agree with them on matters of religious faith.

Historically, when they have been unable to convince us through reason and truthfulness, the Christian Church has resorted to deception. Then, unable to deceive us, they have enacted legislation to force us either to be hypocrites or to be put to death (or at least live a compromised, second-class existence). Communism, though not a religion (and not even based on religion), shared with Christianity all these dangerous characteristics.

This leads to my final point: In America, it is the Christians who want to legislate those views that are unique to their religion. Buddhists and Muslims are not working to do this, and neither are the vast majority of Jews (although a few Jews, having gained favor with the dominant group, have joined the Christians in their efforts).

The purpose of government and law is to develop systems of laws that everybody can live with. If a Christian does not wish to work on Sunday, I see no reason why we all must close up shop on that day. This issue was settled early last century. Similarly, if it is wrong for a Roman Catholic to commit suicide, why do they work so hard to prevent all of us from being allowed to end our lives when fatal and painful illness has effectively ended what little life we have left? And if you don't believe in abortion, don't have one! But no, the Christians, more than any other group (more than all other American groups) seek to force the rest of us to obey the tenets of their religion -- even if we have studied the issue and have concluded that the Christian religion is based entirely on falsehood!

More importantly, though, Christians wish for us to financially support their regimes, and for us to endure Christian religious ritual. They want us to post the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments in public places. In 1957, the followers of Sen. Joseph McCarthy successfully managed to place the lie "In God We Trust" on all our money (I, for one, don't trust anyone who insists that we all believe that a gods exist). Organized religion does not pay taxes, giving their business ventures advantage over legitimate business ventures, and forcing the rest of us to pay higher taxes to compensate for their receiving police and fire and other services without having to pay for them. True, other religious groups benefit from these injustices, but it is the Christians who worked to implement them and it is the Christians who screech the loudest whenever somebody tries to correct these wrongs.
 

We can only hope that this outlook begins to catch on with other members of the dominating faith. I wish more Christians in America would learn the crucial lesson contained in the Sodom and Gomorrah story: that the Judaeo-Christian god does not punish the innocent with the guilty!

  Genesis 18:
[23] And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
[24] Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
[25] That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
[26] And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
[...]
[32] And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
 

But so many Christians act as if my alleged wickedness (read: "unbelief") will earn swift judgement upon themselves! This is likewise the point of the Jonah story, and many others. But we are called unreasonable and many other more vicious names for suggesting that religion remain personal if not private.
 

You have every right to do this, and, I would suggest, even the duty to do this -- if you believe the claims of the Christian faith to be truthful.

But, you have no moral right to legislate this or in any other way force the rest of us to conform to the Christian faith. And you have no right to expect us to simply accept what you have to say. A Christian (or anyone else, for that matter) has "no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge." (Quoted from H. L. Mencken, "Aftermath," The Baltimore Evening Sun, September 14, 1925.)
 

I couldn't have said it better myself. See my monthly column for May, 1997, "Christian Nation: An Oxymoron?"

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

Graphic Rule

From: "John Beck"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Hello! Date: Saturday, January 27, 2001 10:29 PM

I am sorry to hear you are ill. I will say a prayer for your speddy recovery!

A fine and well-written response indeed. Since this is still America, I may not agree with what you believe, but I will fight for your right to believe it.

Did you know that there is a new theory of the origins of the universe? Perhaps you've heard of it? It's called the "big bang." Did you know that at one time all the matter in the universe, ALL of it, was in one place? Outside of course, existed nothing, or a "void." Now since this was so, that grapefruit-sized ball of compressed matter weighed, well, the universe! And since black holes(collapsed stars)have such gravitational force that not even light can escape from them, I'd like you to explain to me how that ball of matter exploded outward when all gravitational force was inward? Even the scientists say there HAD to be some external force to CAUSE it to happen. Hmm.

But anyway, I sound like I am trying to convince you of the existence of God. In actuality, I am just asking you to think in a different direction.

Sorry to hear you had to attend a Twelve Step program. I have three DUIs under my belt, and that is enough for me! Thank God (oops!) I didn't kill anybody.

On what do you propose a society base itself? The Code of Hammurabi is a swell place to start. If or when athiests start their own country, then you all can go about things the way you think they should be done. Until then, you will have to put up with what the Christians have established, that being America.

Your comparison betwixt Christianity and communism is well-noted. I always thought communism is what you'd get if you took God out of Christianity and just relied upon man. I am more convinced now that I am correct.

Athiests actually do believe God doesn't exist, and they believe they have proof. Agnostics believe there's something "out there," but can't believe in a personal God. Theists believe God exists, and some believe they have proof. Me? I KNOW God exxists. This in itself does absolutel;y nothing for me however. Even satan beieves God exists! If I don't begin (and continue) to have a personal, intimate relationship with Him, then my "belief" in Him is worth naught.

You obviously don't get to NY often, because the muslims here proselytize everyone they meet. And just wait until they get into the majority here in the USA. Then you'll see some real shit if it's laws you are worried about! Ever read the koran? Don't even waste your time. It's a bunch of stories that predate mohammed by one thousand years. The book even tells you this! Ah, go ahead and read it, it won't kill you.

As for buddhists, go to hollywood and talk to what's his name. The guy from Officer and a Gentleman. I have also read their book, and it is pretty much the same gobbledegook as hinduism, except the buddists have multiple worlds with many levels of heaven and hell in an orderly fashion.

Hey they could all be right, for all I know! The fact is that none of them really do anything for me. As a matter of fact, besides letting obviously faulty people feel better about themselves by telling them that THEY are God, these religions are full of shit.

Now don'y get me wrong. They are full of shit for ME. The followers of them believe they are just wonderful. And that is their right.

But when I was down for the count, homeless, cold, and miserable, it certainly wasn't buddha or allah who came to my aid. No my friend, it was Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah) Himself who helped me out. And the funny thing is, He didn't say, "Hey! You!! THIS IS JESUS! I AM GOING TO HELP YOU OUT!" As a matter of fact, He never identified Himself to me. I found out who He is who helped me out and literally saved my life. I am a pretty grateful guy, and I do not forget my friends. And here I was, a miserable wretch of a man, and God Himself was comforting me and healing my wounds.

Suddenly things started to make sense to me in my life. And I slowly began to change. Whereby I used to rely on myself, I started to rely on Him. That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. It required I trust something I couldn't even see! I had what one might call "trust issues." Now I was supposed to trust something about which I had no clue and wasn't physically tangible! Tall order, for sure.

I can't change anybody's mind about God. But my own mind WAS changed, and I wasn't looking to change it! Today I know for a fact that God took care of me yesterday, and all the yesterdays before then; He is taking care of me now, today; and if I should see tomorrow, He will take care of me then. I am no longer fretful, worried, confused or lonely. Ever. I have a peace in my life that I cannot describe with mere words. All I can offer is this testimony, and my life as proof of His existence. I know others as well who have had life-shattering experiences, who were near death, and who have been pulled from that state and been given peace and life as a trade-off for their old, humanist selves. Would you like to hear the funniest part? I don't go to church! Hahaha!!!! Nope, haven't set foot in a church in about 1 1/2 years. Won't go any time soon, either.

I'm glad you asked. I didn't know God. This church told me He was this way; that church said He was that way. Whenever I heard one of these so-called "Christian" preachers belittle another church, I shook my head in sorrow. Maybe they are all right - maybe they are all wrong. I don't know. But the God of MY understanding lets me know in no uncertain terms that I am not to concern MYSELF with inter-church battles. So I stay out of them completely. If I am asked to go to a Protestant church, I go. Catholic mass? No problem. Temple? I'll be there. Only the muslims have never asked me to go to one of their "services," even though I worked for a Pakistani company for almost five years and they had a mosque in the warehouse! I guess the truth scares the shit out oif them. It must, because their koran tells them, and I quote, "Do not ask questions or you will lose your faith." How's that for bullshit? A god afraid of questions! Hahaha!!!!Give me a break.

Anyway, quite to the contrary of what some so-called believers feel, I welcome scientific inquiry into ALL things. The more the scientists discover, the better the bible looks to me.

I know you're just dying to hear about how I know its God giving me my direction and not just a good rationalization or even wishful thinking on my part. Its a little difficult to explain, but let's just say I do what the bible tells me to do and "test the spirits." When you were an infant you could not talk. The only thing coming out of your dribbly little pie-hole were guttural shrieks and squawks. Over time, your ears finally connected to your brain, and your rather loose vocal cords tightened enough so that "mama" or "dada" formed out of the abyss that was your vocabulary. With God , I was that baby. I learned to discern His still, small voice from the rest. Not that I hear voices! In any event, like all things, this discernment of God's direction took time. And while I was stumbling along during those early days, I found that if I TRIED to follow His direction, He made the way more readily apparent to me. That baby eats first pablum, then solid food. Before it can feed itself, it's parent has to do it FOR HIM.

That's the best I can do for now. Let me know what you think....

John (I Ain't No Saint)

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John Beck"
Subject: Re: Hello!
Date: Sunday, January 28, 2001 10:50 AM

Here we find out precisely why so many people attack the Christian religion specifically: it is because so many Christians, in making the Christian religion appear to be a position of truthfulness, will go to great lengths to make all manner of false statements. Similarly, many Christians will stop at nothing to discredit or degrade anybody who would dare to criticize the Christian religion. No wonder people are tired of the shenanigans of many adherents of the Christian faith! No wonder atheists and other non-Christians appear, to these Christians, to be bitter and unaccepting!

Here we go:
 

That you would pray for me is perfectly understandable. But to announce to a known atheist that you are praying for her or him is impolite at best, and comes off as bigoted (though I think it would be just as impolite of me to point to Matthew 6:5-8, so I won't).

Also, do what you feel you have to, but my ailments are chronic, most of them are life-long, and I would be fully and permanently disabled from any but one of them. Having tried prayer, I have been forced to learn to endure these ailments and to try to work around them, because there is no recovery from them. This is my life, and I do the best I can with what little I've got. To snivel or grovel about it would, I think, be monumentally undignified.
 

We have covered the Inflationary Big Bang extensively on our website.

Are you trying to be sarcastic, here? Sure sounds like it.
 

No, I did not know that, because this is not the current understanding of the Inflationary Big Bang Theory, which has remained essentially unchanged for at least twenty years. What you present here is not currently held in any branch of science that I know of. I only ever hear this model from preachers who misrepresent the Big Bang Theory for the purpose of trying to convince the public that the religious views they preach are truthful, and that some of the current conclusions of science are falsehood. This dishonest rhetorical technique has long been known as the Straw Man.

The Inflationary Big Bang Theory says that the universe began as a singularity, not "all the matter in the universe" being a "grapefruit-sized ball of compressed matter." Rather, a singularity would have started off as smaller than Planck Space, would have equaled zero energy, would have manifested itself out of nothing (much like a positron-electron pair does) and would have then escaped into a true vacuum (not "exploded" due to any forces from within). No energy would have been required for all this, and the latest measurements of the Universe show it to equal about zero energy today -- no violation of any laws (zero from zero equals zero) and no need for any "external force" to cause it to happen. The appearance of the very tiny fraction of matter that we can see with our senses (as opposed to what we can only measure and calculate) is explained in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which accounts for tiny fluctuations which eventually, shortly after Planck Time, would have caused imbalances, resulting in the tiny amount of matter we see as stars and galaxies. Were it not for these irregularities, we could have expected the Universe to have continued to be the entirely random (chaotic) state in which it began within Planck Time and Planck Space. Thus, there is no need to posit any external force because the initial stages were completely random -- as far as particle physics is able to determine at this point in the game (and that's the branch which deals with the questions of Planck Time and the Big Bang).
 

You are trying to convince me of the existence of a god. But by misrepresenting the opposition, by lying about my position in order to make your position appear to be truthful, you are not presenting a very convincing case for yourself. And acting smug about it only serves to further impair your credibility with me.

Since you are a theist, it is easy to understand why you would want to describe the Big Bang Theory this way, to make it appear that some "outside force" is needed to explain your scenario -- but please don't represent this as the latest in science because that's not what leading particle physicist Victor J. Stenger told me is the current thinking in his field. If you're going to quote "the scientists," I suggest you come up with some names, and that you re-word your attribution to clearly admit that many (in fact most who deal in this field) disagree with those scientists you have quoted (if you find any to quote). Even though you would have completely vaporized the force of your argument, you would still have retained a strong semblance of credibility with me, making it much easier for me to take seriously the untestable portions of your personal testimony.
 

Christians settled the New World as citizens of England, a Christian nation to this day, but Christians were not the primary architects of the United States Government, which formed in 1789. The Deists of the Age of Enlightenment did this, and they left their Deistic fingerprints everywhere in the United States Constitution. In fact, much of what went into the forming of the United States Constitution was opposed by the Christian clergy.

Had it been Christians who developed the Constitution, we would expect some dishonest and extremely unfair moves to have taken place. To begin with, the Christians would have made this a Christian nation, a nation of and for Christians (like many Christian representatives sought to do), and not the secular nation that it is, one nation of many people ("E PLURIBUS UNUM" -- the original National Motto that was replaced with the extremely divisive "IN GOD WE TRUST" during the hysterically antiatheistic McCarthy Era of the 1950s). The Christians would have acknowledged the Christian god as the ultimate authority in Government matters, not "We The People." They would certainly not have completely omitted mention of Christ from the Constitution (except for the customary formality of placing a date upon it).

But fortunately, the Inquisition was still in place and was still raging in a few parts of the Old World. And the fruits of Christian theocracy were still being felt in Virginia and other American Colonies. So, the force of the Deistic Rationalistic arguments of separating state from church (an idea popularized by the Baptist Roger Williams and his associate, Anne Hutchinson) prevailed even upon those Christians who made the case that Christian theocracy had merely been improperly administered, that it is not a fundamentally flawed institution.

Please stop making statements of falsehood for the purpose of making your position appear to be one of truthfulness and ours to be one of dishonesty.
 

This is as accurate of a comparison as I have seen, except that the Christians have taken God out of the picture as well, and are just relying upon man. All Christian work and organization is done entirely by humans; no Christian organization happens apart from the efforts of humans. The difference is that Communists acknowledge this fact, whereas a few Christians still lie about it. Unfortunately, Communism lends itself easily to fundamentalism, as does Christianity.

Of all the systems I've seen, I still like the one that came from Locke via the Deist and Freethinker Paine, the Deist and Freethinker Franklin, the Deist and Freethinker Washington, the Johnny-come-lately Deist and sometimes-Freethinker Adams, the Deist and Freethinker Jefferson, and the probably Deist and definitely Freethinker Madison. These men erected a government about which John Adams shortly thereafter said,

  "It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
-- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88)
 

But please stop saying that Christians constructed this government, because the sternest opposition came from the Christians:

  "The clergy [wishing to establish their particular form of Christianity] ... believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Rush (Sep. 23, 1800) (capitalization of the word god is retained per original; see photo of manuscript in PAM's post of this letter)
 
 

This is a common slander against atheists, and I wish people would stop doing this. It makes life so hard on us, because it is, I think, one of the main causes of the bigotry which we constantly endure. To paint atheism this way is to make it appear monumentally foolish -- at least as foolish as theism, if not more so -- and thus make it seem legitimate to call us fools, or evil, or worse. Your caricature of atheists makes us appear foolish because it is logically impossible to prove a negative existential claim.

Some atheists think this way, but they are the minority. Most of us simply lack a god belief when the subject even comes up at all, having yet to encounter an argument worthy of our assent. The atheists who do think this way generally use the noncognitive approach, saying that the god idea makes no sense, is self-contradictory, and thus is impossible. But as philosopher A. J. Ayer points out:

  "If the assertion that there is a god is nonsensical, then the atheist's assertion that there is no god is equally nonsensical, since it is only a significant proposition that can be significantly contradicted."
-- Language, Truth, and Logic (1936)
 

However, noncognitivism is, either way, a form of atheism: it is a powerful justification for believing that the statement "A god exists" is not a true statement, and it also fits squarely into the realm of "the lack of a god belief" (Ayer's argument notwithstanding).

To be a noncognitivist requires that one has encountered at least one god claim. Atheism includes those who have never heard a god claim or who lack the mental skills to comprehend god claims:

  "If one believes in a god, then one is a Theist. If one does not believe in a god, then one is an A-theist -- he is without that belief. The distinction between atheism and theism is entirely, exclusively, that of whether one has or has not a belief in God."
-- Chapman Cohen, President, National Secular Society, Primitive Survivals in Modern Thought (1935)
 

My hope in pointing this out to whoever seems willing to listen is that if enough people realize that the atheist (at minimum) simply lacks a god belief -- that the onus of proof is upon the person making the god claim -- then perhaps the bigotry which we endure will decrease somewhat. I realize that there's nothing we can (or should) do about Christian, Islamic, and Jewish fundamentalism. We cannot (and should not) obliterate from the human memory passages such as

  "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good."
-- Psalm 14:1
 

and other widely quoted biblical slanders, such as

  "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
-- Paul, in Romans 1:18-22
 

But the good news is that most Christians in America are not fundamentalists, and are guided more by post-Enlightenment liberal thought than by biblical dogma. We could do a lot worse than having, as our largest denomination, the Baptists, which teach that the individual is responsible for coming up with her or his own interpretation of the Bible, just as she or he is responsible for effecting a personal relationship with the Baptist deity. Now, if only more Baptists would shed this Reagan-era political intrusion and return to the inspiration of John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, Anne Hutchinson, and Roger Williams. But alas! It is perfectly legitimate within the Baptist tradition to see things as Rev. Jerry Falwell sees them -- if that's how you see them -- and that is what I find so respectable about Baptist tradition (though this is not, by any means, an endorsement of the Southern Baptist Convention of the past 20 years).
 

Some agnostics think there is a god, but insist that none of us can know more than the fact of this god's existence. Many atheistic philosophers and writers who deal in such questions call these people theistic agnostics. Theistic agnostics say you cannot know whether their deity is personal or is an impersonal force, but theistic agnostics tend to agree that one can know that a god exists.

Other agnostics don't know whether or not a god exists, and say that none of us can know the answer to this question. Thus, they lack a god belief and are technically atheists -- but most atheists who think about such things readily give them the benefit of the doubt and go ahead and call them atheistic agnostics.

A Deist or a Unitarian can likewise believe in an impersonal god (but don't necessarily or by definition believe this way), and some (but not all) Pantheists believe that the Universe is impersonal.
 

I never understood this: why is Satan going to Hell for believing, and I am going to Hell for not believing? This is one of numerous reasons why I reject the Christian system of god claims.
 

I was raised in a family which had Islam as a small part of our varied system of cultural roots.

I promise you that the majority of American Muslims do not proselytize at all. And I promise you that the majority of the World's Muslims are not like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or the Taliban regime. However, it takes only a Taliban or an Ayatollah to come in during an emergency and take over and implement their laws. Can you say, "Adolph Hitler"? Do you think the rank-and-file German populace had any clue? Their economic system had collapsed and upon the scene came some semblance of order -- any semblance of order -- which seemed better than the chaos that was Germany at the time. And Hitler made as glowing of a "God and Country" speech as McCarthy of yore and Bush, Gore, Robertson, and Buchanan today. Ditto for Iran in 1978 and ditto for Afghanistan more recently: their systems had collapsed and they were ripe for (in both cases) a military takeover. The McCarthy hysteria was due to the threat of collapse, not due to any actual collapse.

If the "Christian Nation" revisionists have their way, you can expect lots of unrest and you can expect our prisons to be filled with political prisoners (unless they go back to the good old days of Christian theocracy and simply put us to death like their Bible commands them to do).

But our society is too pluralistic for anything like this to happen (I hope).

  "Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a censor morum over each other."
-- Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia" (1781-82)
 
 

Very few Buddhists even care what others believe -- this is one of the main points of Buddhism! Institutionalized Buddhism, such as we find in some Asian countries, and Westernized Evangelical Buddhism are different. This is not to say that they aren't a force to be reckoned with -- it's just that no significant forces are trying to turn America into a "Buddhist Nation" like the "Christian Nation" revisionists are so busy trying to do.

And no Buddhist has ever come up to me and slandered me for being an atheist. Why is it that only Christians do this? and one or two Muslims?
 

How is this any more or less "full of shit" than telling people that a god has forgiven them and will continue to forgive them no matter what crimes they commit? Each of the systems tend to make people "feel better about themselves" -- and that's all they're good for, as far as I'm concerned.

  "The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."
-- George Bernard Shaw, "Preface" to Androcles and the Lion
 

Is not, rather, exploring the possible and likely consequences of one's actions (the emotional, political, and material consequences) more likely to lead to what we consider moral behavior? What is unique about Christianity when it comes to making people into moral people? What is it that Christianity has that no other system has? In fact, what is it that Christianity has that was not already extant by the time Paul started putting the Christian religion together into a system? Is it anything more than a brilliantly assembled system of techniques for making people passive and thus easy for the State to govern?

  "Christianity is most admirably adapted to the training of slaves, to the perpetuation of a slave society; in short, to the very conditions confronting us to-day.... The rulers of the earth have realized long ago what potent poison inheres in the Christian religion. That is the reason they foster it; that is why they leave nothing undone to instill it into the blood of the people. They know only too well that the subtleness of the Christian teachings is a more powerful protection against rebellion and discontent than the club or the gun."
-- Emma Goldman, "The Failure of Christianity" (1913)
 

And is the "cheap and dangerous quality" of letting people "feel better about themselves" a good trade-off for the tendency toward Tribal Totem Loyalism that each of these systems fosters in its adherents?

  "Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of Government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it."
-- Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
 
 

I agree -- with one small difference: You feel that (X)-number of religious systems is not for you, and I feel that (X+1)-number of religious systems is not for me.
 

No. Buddhists and Muslims do not have a corner on exploitative system of Rescue Missions in the United States. Had you been this way in Turkey, you would likely be thanking Allah for the benevolence he has commanded of all Muslims.

Meanwhile, I was cold and homeless due to extended and acute illness, and I thank the United States Government and the State of Oregon for helping me get back on my feet. But nothing of the sort would have happened had I not done all the work myself -- the State merely provided me with the means.
 

This is odd: how do you know, then, that this is what happened? Have you eliminated all other possibilities? all other possible explanations for what happened?

Could you merely filtering your experience through Christ-colored glasses and giving credit to Christ because you know that your religion expects you to give credit to Christ?
 

Bring focus into one's life -- any focus -- and such changes are inevitable. I gained focus when, with my back against the wall, I started living and working in a Marxist community. The Marxist dogma, combined with working toward specific goals, brought change to me -- change that I still enjoy today, even though I have long since rejected the Marxist dogma. The same happened when I became a Christian, and the same happened when I lived at the Hare Krsna temple, and the same happened while I was playing chess all day long in jail.

And the same happened when I began to study the Freethought writings, in an attempt to shake the effects of a three-year stint as a fundamentalist Christian.
 

Abandoning one's sense of humanity is a lot of work. I've seen it do grave damage to people. It is this, more than anything else, that I hate about the Evangelical Christian religion: it slowly and subtly trains its followers to abandon their very humanity and to replace these emotions with a "love" that is actually obedience and a "faith" that is actually blind credulity.
 

Only if you eliminate all other possible explanations does your testimony even approach the level of proof.
 

I know others as well who have had life-shattering experiences, who were near death, and who have been pulled from that state and been given peace and life as a trade-off for their old, humanist selves.

I hear a lot of talk like this. People will do strange things when they become desperate. I wonder how many people simply up and decided one day that Christianity is telling the truth and that it is a realistic model for living. I have yet to hear someone describe a cool and rational decision to believe the Christian religion. Either their backs were against the wall and their world was in a state of collapse wherein any semblance of order would be an improvement, or they were enticed by a slick-talking evangelist with honey-coated misrepresentations of the Big Bang and the Theory of Evolution and Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism and Humanism and atheism and academia and homosexuality and sex and drugs and Rock and Roll.

I have never heard of someone who was minding their own business who sat down and read the Bible, examined the alternatives, and said something along the lines of:

  "Wow! This stuff is great! It's just as if Donovan himself had appeared on my very own TV with words of peace, love, and eternal cosmic wisdom! -- leading me, guiding me on paths of everlasting pseudo-karmic negligence, in the very midst of my drug-induced nocturnal emission!"
-- Frank Zappa: Jeff the Bass Player, in 200 Motels
 

Nobody I know has told me that they examined a number of different systems and concluded that the Christian system is truthful and that the other systems are all false. Everyone I've talked to came to this conclusion after initially exercising faith in the Christian religion -- never before. In fact, most tell me that I must believe first and ask questions later! This idea dates back to Augustine!

Meanwhile, it is perfectly natural to heal from these states and experiences -- and worse. And, it is perfectly natural to want to give credit to a respected religious figure such as Christ, especially when it is so popular in our culture to give such credit to Christ (Bush and Gore each did this as part of their campaigns, each expecting this to increase the chance that people would vote for them; crediting Christ for a life-changing experience is extremely popular in America these days).
 

How so, when the Bible pictures the Earth as being flat and as having a lid (firmament), with water above that lid, and windows in the lid wherein cometh rain, but Science shows the Earth to be an imperfect globe floating in space? How so, when the Bible describes the sun standing still in the sky, whereas science shows this to be only an appearance based on the rotation of the Earth on her axis? How so, when Christ blames so many diseases (blindness; deafness; various forms of insanity; even bleeding) on the work of malevolent demons, but science shows natural, material causes? How so, when the Bible posits the creation of the universe about 6,000 years ago, whereas science shows the Universe to be between 10 and 20 billion years old, and reveals cultures that predate even the most liberal calculations of the Bible's date for the creation of the Universe? How so, when the Bible describes the male human as having been "formed ... of the dust of the ground" and the female human as having been formed of the rib of the male, whereas science shows the Homo Sapiens, the Neanderthal, the Bonobo Chimpanzee and the Troglodyte Pan Chimpanzee to have a common ancestor? How so, when the Bible describes three basic races of human, Ham, Japheth, and Shem, whereas science thoroughly disputes this setup? How so, when the Bible describes various meteorological activities as being of supernatural origin, whereas science shows all meteorological to have natural explanations? Should I go on?

Where are you learning your science?

You can think what you have to, I don't care. But when you come on our Forum and insist that the Bible and science agree, you need to be ready to answer a lot of questions, because I have spent years comparing notes and I have concluded that very few things could be further from the truth.

And when you use this falsehood to try to enact legislation to grant special rights to members of the Christian religion and special powers to organized religion in general and organized Christianity in particular, you will receive the brunt of my wrath. Many of us non-Christians (and many non-fundamentalist Christians, as well) are tired of this and have, since the Bush inauguration, decided to put our collective foot down. We've had enough of Christians lying about what science says for the purpose of convincing people that the Christian religion is a religion of truthfulness, to the end that the Government will grant special rights to Christians.

And I've had enough of you misrepresenting the truth in an apparent attempt either to entice me to go along with the Christian religion or to portray my outlook as false or stupid. You have lost your credibility with me.

Have a nice life. As far as we can tell, this is the only one we get.

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

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John Beck"
Subject: Re: Hello!
Date: Sunday, January 28, 2001 9:31 PM

"I" publish a magazine, so "we" are a formality of the English language and a convention of the magazine publishing world. When speaking, editorially, for the magazine, I use the pronoun we. Don't ask me why, that's just how it's done; to do it differently might tarnish my credibility as a magazine publisher.
 

No. You misrepresent what I have said once again. What I said was,

 

Most of us simply fail to find the case for theism to be very compelling. I would believe if I had reason to believe these claims to be truthful, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

 

This means only that since it is the Christian who is making the claim, therefore it is the Christian who must make a compelling case for the Christian religion. In lieu of any compelling reason to believe that the Christian's claims are truthful, it is entirely reasonable for me to reject the claims of the Christian religion. The same holds for anybody making any claim for something that is not self-evident (such as the existence of an invisible entity of cosmic heft known as "God").

I have gone further than is required here, and have diligently investigated many of the testable claims of the Christian religion. Where the Christians' claims can be tested, I have found most of those claims to be wanting. I'm not talking about a few mistakes here and there, but am saying that the very core of the Christian belief system is pathetically flawed, showing shockingly clear signs of having started out as a malicious hoax, devised and disseminated by opportunistic charlatans.
 

Well, then, by this standard, I should stop wasting my time. If anybody has worked harder and spent a larger chunk of her or his life desperately trying to get to the bottom of this mess, I'd like to meet that person.

But, if what you say is true, then by seeking so diligently I have surely found the answer: Christianity is a religion of falsehood, full of lies and attractive to people who display a blatant disregard for truthfulness.

Nevertheless, since I do not consider the concept of perfection to be a valid one, I continue my quest for truth, and refuse to assume that I know the answers. I am, however, willing to show you what steps I took to come to this or that conclusion. I am also willing to test my current understanding against any amount of criticism. Unfortunately for this particular dialogue, you choose to rest on the Fallacy of Bald Assertion rather than to display the fortitude of doing the work it takes to bring forth criticism of my position. In other words, I cannot call your criticism of me valid or invalid, because you have not bothered to back your claims with anything even remotely resembling argument. We only know that you say I am dishonest, we don't know how you came to this conclusion -- or even what I said that you think is dishonest.

Incidentally, why do only Christians with an agenda, Christians with something to sell me -- lying Christians -- ever address me as "my friend"? And why do all Christians who address me this way then proceed to treat me as anything but a friend?
 

Wrong: I accused you directly of lying.

And my accusation stands: You have lied about me and you have lied about my position. And I have, in each case, shown what it is about your claims that leads me to conclude that you have been untruthful with me. This is more than you did for me when you said that I "don't seek the truth."
 

Wrong again: For me, it's a special rage that I reserve only for those who would lie for the purpose of trying to convince others that theirs is a truthful position -- such as what you have done here.

This rage has spewed forth against atheists as well as theists; in fact, my anger toward lying theists is child's play compared to my stern rebuke of someone who would lie in an attempt to persuade people that the atheistic position is something that it is not. This is because to me, a respect for truthfulness ought to be inherent in the atheistic position: Because to be an active atheist is to boldly call theism a lie, one would naturally assume that the active atheist holds truthfulness in high regard. This is not always the case, and some active atheists have not considered their position but are merely fundamentalists, loyal to some Tribal Totem of Atheism. My abhorrence for that style of atheism drove me out of the group scene and prompted me to serve those atheistic activists who choose to work as individuals. My repulsion for fundamentalism is why I try to popularize the traditional definition for the word atheism, being the simple lack of a god belief.
 

If that were true, I'd be glad to admit this publicly. However, I don't spend hours on end trying to suit my own needs. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I work on this project sacrificially, and that I enjoy very few of the comforts that my fellows take for granted. If I spent this energy toward suiting my own needs, I wouldn't be sitting here at this terminal right now.

No. I do this to avenge myself (and, of course, my fellow-atheists) of the bigotry that we've endured at the hands of theists (mostly Christians, but a few others) who have taken unfair advantage of us too many times and for way too long.

Meanwhile, you need to make a case for yourself that I "don't seek the truth." If you don't make this case for yourself, then I am entirely reasonable in assuming that this is a bluff on your part.

For starters, why don't you prove me wrong about the Inflationary Big Bang Theory! That should be easy! Find some particle physicists who are willing to publicly defend the model of the initial stages of the Universe as you so tauntingly described it to me! You cited "the scientists," as if this information is readily available to anybody who seeks it, so it should be a simple matter to grab the words of "the scientists" that you have cited. Then find some particle physicists who are willing to state publicly that what I described to you is not even close -- not even for a layperson's attempt at summarizing the current understanding.

Scientists' writings are widely available, and Liberal Scientific Method is about making one's views available for public scrutiny. I hereby offer my criticism of your smugly worded statement up to public scrutiny! You are welcome to make a case for yourself. This is a public forum, and it won't be the first time someone has come here and shown me to have been in error. And since I submit to the Liberal Scientific Method, am more than happy to be shown wrong, and will rejoice over the prospect of having learned something.

But, you are a liar! You know how I can tell? It's easy: You sit there and demand for me to "admit you don't seek the truth" -- yet you offer absolutely no critique of what I have said! Zero! You do the philosophical equivalent of puffing up, pounding your chest, and letting out a bellow.

What's most interesting (what I do not want to believe to be the case, because I am naturally repulsed by bigotry of any kind, and always have been) -- what's most interesting is just how often a Christian will come on here and call me every kind of liar, but never once even take a stab at refuting my claims! I get this business from Christians all the time. It would make many people conclude that this is an exclusively Christian phenomenon or that it is, at minimum, very common among Christians. But I do not paint people into categories if I can help it. So, I still entertain hope that each new Christian who writes to me is open to a frank discussion of the facts and is more about finding out what is true than about stumping for the Christian faith. I admit that I initially thought you might be such a Christian. I have since abandoned those suspicions.

Most people would have at least appeared to have become a bigot: most would have at least pointed out that this chest-pounding behavior must be common among Christians, since it happens so often on our Forum. But I refuse to do this: each new Christian who writes to us is treated as if she or he is actually seeking truth rather than as if she or he has an agenda. Only after the Christian (or whoever) makes it clear that we're dealing with an agenda do we go ahead and point out the ways we think that person is being dishonest with us. Often they do this in the very first sentence -- or even in the Subject line!

And I hereby maintain that this is your position with us: You seek only to discredit me and thereby to discredit the atheistic position. You will go to great lengths to say that I "don't seek truth" but when it comes to actually making a case for yourself -- when it comes to even describing what it is that I've said that say is false -- you come up empty-handed.

If this is how you treat other non-Christians, no wonder you walk away thinking that non-Christians have a special rage reserved only for Christians!
 

I do not proselytize my beliefs: this magazine and website is for the benefit of people who already reject the false claims of Christianity and other religions. My work clearly and repeatedly states not only that I don't care what other people believe, but that I am glad that certain people are stumping for Christianity and not atheism.

For example: I'd hate to have to apologize for your behavior were you acting this way on behalf of atheism.

Here you are, seeking to discredit me, but in so doing you are using falsehood in your attempt to make your position appear to be one of truthfulness and mine to be one of deception!

No wonder you conclude that non-Christians hate Christians more than anybody! You go out representing the Christian religion, and engage in this vicious form of deception in the name of Christ, and expect people to think highly of Christ!?
 

Anybody who acts in the despicable manner in which you have acted toward me is sure to see my bitter side. As I have stated before, a few atheists would consider your being a fundamentalist Christian to be a fitting punishment for acting the way you have acted toward me -- but I don't go that far.

You will also notice (well, maybe you won't notice) that my vitriol is leveled directly toward you and is aimed squarely at your behavior, in that you choose to lie -- both to me and about me -- in order to try to convince me (or worse, to try to convince our readers) that you are being truthful and that I am spreading falsehood (and, in your case, asserting that I am lying simply to suit my needs).
 

Since when has the democratic process been applied to discovering truth?

With this logic, then, we can be assured that the Earth was a globe during the Greek and Roman times, became flat during the Dark Ages while Christianity prevailed, and then became a globe again shortly after the Copernican revolution, when the spherical Earth model once again was able to manage more than a toe-hold in Europe.

With this logic, I can reject the Christian religion altogether because it cannot manage even a toe-hold in the Arab world.

And where does the vicious discrimination against atheists -- at the hands of the Christian majority -- fit in to this equation? Since when has being an atheist even been allowed in polite company? Were it not for the widespread incidence of antiatheist bigotry within Christendom, the Christian churches would not have so many hypocrites, because we atheists would feel safe to come out of the closet and admit that we're not really Christians, but were merely pretending in order to get along!

Meanwhile, if my beliefs are wrong, why don't you put your money where your mouth is like I have? Why don't you show me what it is that I've said that is wrong, rather than just sitting their and asserting that I'm wrong?
 

I did this during the early 1970s, and again in the late 1970s. My experiences are documented throughout this website where my writings are featured.
 

I came away knowing why I naturally (almost instinctively) tend toward atheism. Before, it was the "faith of my fathers," so to speak. Today, I can sit here and show you how I came to conclude that the Christian religion is one of the most brutal frauds ever foisted upon humankind. I can give you hundreds of reasons why I came to this conclusion. And I can express to you the fear and loneliness I endure because the atheistic position is what I see when I open my eyes and look at my environment -- when I diligently examine the claims of theism desperately wanting them to be true, but discovering them to be falsehood.

In fact, I do just that on this website. The reason I do this is because I think it is monumentally unfair for Christians to write me off and relegate me to second-class status (or worse) simply because I don't buy the Christian sales pitch.
 

Whatever that means!
 

I did, but I did not find what I was looking for: I found something else entirely.

And in the face of ruthless discrimination at the hands of Christians, I boldly put my livelihood, my social standing, and my very life on the line to proudly proclaim that I sought the "truth" claimed by the Christian religion but I found it to be only a collection of falsehoods -- and some very shallow falsehoods at that. I also found the Christian religion to be very damaging to the human mind-set.

But, I don't go around approaching Christians and trying to set them straight. And I don't say anything about the Christian religion that I am not willing to back up; I am willing to describe precisely how I came to any of my conclusions, I am willing to fortify any statement I've made with a barrage of facts, and I am willing to test my current understanding against any form of criticism.

You, on the other hand, not only approached me and made some vicious taunts, but you are now unwilling to even respond to my challenges to your claims! You have not offered me any criticism, but have responded simply by asserting that I do not seek truth. Robert Webster, a Positive Atheism reader, calls this fallacy "Proof By Blatant Assertion." I would add to this fallacy its cousin, "Proof By Incessant Repetition," an approach that is very common among apologists for the Christian religion -- because it has shown itself to be effective at bringing the unthinking masses over to a certain position and because it requires very little work and absolutely no fortitude.
 

I merely ask that you speak only truth when attempting to show the atheistic position to be false, and that you be willing to back up your claims with sound argument. To sit there and assert that I am not seeking truth, while at the same time refusing to show how and why this is so, is an express ticket to my concluding that since you are just like the hundreds of other Christians who have written to me, Christianity itself must therefore be worthy of my criticism. I have enough problems with Christian dogma without being tempted to think that Christianity itself encourages dishonest behavior in its followers.

Again: Have a nice life!

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

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John Beck"
Subject: Re: Hello!
Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 11:00 AM

This is very convenient: You are free to launch vicious slanders against me without suffering the consequence. When I insist that you back up your statements, you become "bored."

This is one of the advantages which those in the majority enjoy which we in the minority don't (if they choose to act this way -- most don't).

Perhaps this gives us a clue as to why so many people hide behind the impenetrable wall of "faith" rather than get their hands dirty and do some real thinking.

Unfortunately, some religions (such as Christianity) teach their followers to lash out at those who disagree with the Christian system of religions. However, with one's reasoning skills sucked dry by dogma, all that is left is to lash out and, when challenged to provide substance to back up one's malicious statements, no skills remain to even see what one has done, much less do something about it!

I certainly hope this is not what has happened to you, but my desire to give you the benefit of the doubt has become very strained at this point. This is indeed no ordinary discussion.
 

No. You have not argued at all: you simply make assertions and leave it at that. Many people are unthinking enough to buy that line of reasoning, what one reader has called "Proof By Blatant Assertion," believing the truthfulness of a speaker's pronouncements to be directly proportional to the vehemence with which they're proffered, but I'm not one of those people. I need to know why I ought to accept someone's claims as true.

There are a lot of liars out there, such as Pat Robertson, who was on CNN the other night, saying that Barry Lynn says that a publicly owned fire engine should not put out the fire at a church building. I know Barry Lynn's position, and know that Pat Robertson lied on national television for the purpose of trying to convince the public that his is a truthful position.

Unfortunately, way too many people will believe something simply because Pat Robertson said it.
 

Here is a keen opportunity to show my premise to be invalid. You don't have to simply say it's invalid, all you have to do is map out the steps using statements that I have made.

Or are you too "bored"?

Meanwhile, I'll take on your premise:

1. For me to reach a state of having "stopped searching" would be akin to me saying that I'm infallible.
2. Nobody (including me) is the final arbiter of any claim to truth.
3. Anybody (including you) is qualified to challenge any claim to truth (including any claim that I have made).
4. Since I am a fallible human, I must continue to test my position, lest new data comes to my awareness that shows me to have been in error.
5. Since I have every reason to think that others are likewise fallible, I do well not to take people's claims at face value, especially those claims that contradict something that I have strong reason to think is true.

That is the basis of the Liberal Scientific Method, and I submit to that method as being the most consistently effective way to discern truth that humankind has yet devised.
 

What you have written to me lacks the style of thinking one would expect from a research scientist. Instead, you display the style of thinking we very often hear from the pulpit -- that of a "Sunday-afternoon scientist," mimicking what he has heard in Church on Sunday morning. You sound like someone who preaches the anti-intellectual drivel that is so popular in the United States these days: just make bald assertions, and to hell with anyone who has the audacity to question what you tell them!
 

I don't even know that much: all I have to go on is what you tell me. All I can do is examine what you say and then decide what to do with it. You don't have any Web presence that I can see, so I don't have anything else of yours with which to compare your current claims, assertions, and taunts.

You might be lying to me about your faith as well. I don't know. You've lied to me already! And there are such things as Discordians, a few of whom like to log on to Skeptical websites and pretend to be the stupidest of Christians, or log on to Christians and pretend to be the most arrogant of skeptics -- just to bait people into letting their prejudices flow forth. I've seen sicker people than the Discordians, but at least they know how to think, and at least they're usually quite funny, so I doubt very seriously you're a Discordian.

You might be lying to yourself about this, your fundamentalist Christian faith having sucked from you all confidence in your own human powers of reason. Perhaps you fear that one slip will send you floating back down the gutter. Been there. Done that. Never again!

I certainly hope that is not what has happened to you!

Nevertheless, almost all scientists I've dealt with know better than to use or even imply a false dichotomy. Just because I don't know that you aren't a scientist, doesn't obligate me to assume that you are one. So, I will call your bluff and suggest that you're just playing games with me and that you aren't a research scientist in any sophisticated sense. My gut feeling wonders whether you were even paying attention during high school chemistry or biology. But even if you were a scientist, that doesn't absolve you from being a dishonest man.
 

I've heard lots of preachers talk like this, but I've never met a research scientist who would speak in this manner: I have never heard a scientist use an anti-science analogy such as distinguishing between seeing and believing in an electron, when it is possible to detect their existence. This is a ruse that one would expect from a member of the clergy, but I would be astonished to hear this coming from a scientist, because it denies one of the fundamental elements of science! For a scientist to forget scientific method and forget the style of thinking with which all scientists are intimately familiar, would be like my Mother forgetting which side of the plate to put the fork when she's setting the table for important guests. It would be like me, a writer, failing to capitalize the names of several cities in a row, or using the percent sign ("%") in prose rather than writing out the word percent. Therefore, I do not think you are "dumbing down" at all: I think you're just lying.

That was a cute dance, though. You waltzed completely around whether you claim to be a scientist, but never made a solid statement either way. You imply that you're a scientist with your talk about "dumbing down" and you badger me for making the presupposition that you're not a scientist. Ah, but you refuse to flat-out assert that you're a scientist. Why? I don't know. I suspect, though, that you are not a research scientist at all. I bet we'd find zero articles by John Beck in any refereed scientific journals.
 

What have I tried to explain that is, beyond a doubt, unexplainable? Here's your chance to prove yourself right: simply recite something that I've said that is an attempt at explaining something, and then demonstrate to us that what I tried to explain can never, ever be explained by anybody!
 

Perhaps you mean Rene Descartes?
 

What root!? You're going in circles talking at one point about explaining the unexplainable then go around to circular thinking and this "Descarte" person -- but you haven't even here made your point, much less a case for yourself. As that old Firesign Theater record goes, "Spreak Engrish, Troop!"
 

This is a very serious charge -- ah, but you're too bored to back it up, so we are fully justified to write you off as a crank in this respect as well.
 

Whether or not you used to be an intellectual is the only thing subject to controversy: your anti-intellectual stance here is clear as a bell -- by word and by deed. As dishonest as I've shown you to be in some other areas, your claim here corresponds very closely to what I've witnessed in your writings. That old Screamin' Jay Hawkins song, "Ignit an' Shit" comes to mind.
 

Talk to particle physicist Victor J. Stenger. What I said about the Inflationary Big Bang was straight out of the interview I did with him.

Hey Victor! This guy says that your research is full of holes!

But Victor! He won't tell us in which ways he thinks your research is full of holes, he's simply baldly asserting that your research is full of holes!
 

I showed how you were using dishonest rhetorical techniques to try to discredit me. If you would bother to simply show where I am worthy of being discredited, rather than simply asserting that I am all these things, your credibility with me would not suffer like it does. That's all. Just whip out an example. I don't care if it's only three inches long, any example will get the job done.
 

Aha! Show me an example of me having used a straw man! Show me an example of me misrepresenting my opponents position and then refuting my misrepresentation rather than addressing the opponent's actual statements.

This ought to be fun!

Here you are, accusing me us using the "straw man" ruse -- a low-down and trifling form of dishonesty if I've ever seen one -- and now you have a wonderful opportunity to show our readers exactly what it is that I did that constitutes the "straw man."
 

Obtuse? As in "stupid"? "Lacking quickness of perception or intellect"? (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996.)

Okay, explain to me this: How can someone "lacking quickness of perception or intellect" possibly "spring a trap" upon anybody? How can an oaf pull the wool over anyone's eyes?

This I've got to see!
 

This slander of me is so pitiful as not to warrant comment except to note that you are here pretending to know the private thoughts within my brain -- and calling your pretense "the truth."

Meanwhile, I have not needed to try to discredit you, because with remarks such as this you have discredited yourself.
 

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that you're accurately describing one or more people, I wonder if they'd remain this way if some clown were to up and start lying both to them and about them. How long would their patience last? and would this somehow magically stop them from being truth seekers? and would they be true to themselves to just sit there and "humbly" go along with it?

To me, humility follows truth wherever it may lead, and humility is willing to at least try to back up her statements when asked.

But I don't believe you -- because you have shown yourself to be a dishonest man. What I suspect you're doing is manufacturing a tale with a moral to it, and using that lip-service to morality as a weapon to launch another slander against me. Do you know me? No. Have you observed me except in your cross-hairs? No. You have not dealt with me under normal circumstances, but only in the context of me defending myself against slander and being called on to believe groundless claims!

I can see how you would come to the conclusion that I am haughty and proud. I am proud because I have worked very hard for what little education I have, and I set aside some time each day to put that education to constructive use and set more time aside each day to further my education -- because as hard as I've worked and for as long as I've been at it, I still don't know very much. So, I think I have every reason to be proud.

But haughty? Methinks you're seeing in your perception of me a reflection of yourself.

I'm not the one who has hidden behind the "I'm bored" canard, but have patiently explained the nature of my objections -- only to be accused of being haughty and of using "obtuse phrasing" in order to "spring a trap on" other people, of using the viciously dishonest "straw man" ruse, and of knowingly putting forth a "discussion of science" that "is full of holes." Not so much as an attempt to demonstrate these serious charges against me (Oh, dear! I'm so dreadfully bored!). Oh, but I'm the one who's haughty!

I'm not the one who pretends to know science, but rather I repeat what I have heard the well-respected experts say that the leading researchers in their field are suggesting. And when I do this, I do not hide behind some anonymous bar-coded group known collectively and authoritatively as "the scientists," I have named names because I have either interviewed them or read their books.

I'm not even the one who pretends to know (or even care about) the private fears within the mind of another person, and who then turns around and calls those slanderous speculations "the truth." Ah, but I'm the haughty one, not you!
 

What, roll over and simply take it? "admit" you're right when I am not justified in thinking that you're right? Sorry! I'm not that kind of "gentleman."
 

No. Only ones that I am willing to attempt to back up.

Besides, you have presented no arguments, here, only bald statements and railing accusations.
 

What you appear to be well versed in are matters I choose about which I choose to remain ignorant: untruthfulness, blind accusation, and an unwillingness to present even a feeble attempt to back up one's claims. I prefer not to be renowned for being well-versed in such matters.
 

Nice try! I have never tried to disprove the existence of gods, goddesses, and their consorts. I don't have to, because I'm not the one making claims either way about the existence of gods. Of the two of us, you are the only one making a claim either way. Granted, you have fallen woefully short of providing a compelling reason for thinking that gods exist, and you have gone far in strengthening my hope that no god exists who would inspire His followers to act toward his fellow-humans the way you have acted toward me. But I have not once tried to disprove the existence of any god. All I have to go on are your statements; thus, all I have done is challenge your claims and show many of them to be extremely flawed.
 

I suspected as much: I've got to take it on blind faith before I can hope to have enough reason for believing in the first place.

No. I'm not capable of being that dishonest with myself.
 

If "good stuff" includes feeling compelled to treat people the way you have treated me, I assure you I'm not missing very much. No amount of reward could entice me to treat my fellow-humans with such disrespect and with such patent dishonesty. To have to live knowing that I was a person who was capable of acting that way is not something I think I could bear -- even if I thought there were 72 virgins waiting for me on the other side.
 

Thank you very much!

Frankly, I've gotten a lot out of what I do, and hope to continue for as long as I can. Perhaps we might figure out a way to reduce or even eliminate the bigotry which we atheists endure at every turn of existence. One experiment I've been trying is to post the most blatantly bigoted letters from the lyingest Christians for the purpose of exposing those Christians as the lying bigots that they are. If we got lyingly bigoted letters from members of other faiths, we'd post those, too; however, almost all such letters come from Christians and Twelve Steppers. True, we do get many reasonable letters from Christians, but almost all the bigots who write to us are members of the Christian religion.

In any event, if we can show this bigotry for what it is, by displaying it in action, perhaps a few of us will get some ideas as to how to counter it. Perhaps a few people who might have let bigotry rule their actions had they been in the bigot's shoes will think about this possibility before they act, should they eventually find themselves face-to-face with a real atheist who is unwilling to roll over and accept Christianity's bold claims without challenge, an atheist who is unwilling to be polite to superstition but chooses, rather, to "tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous" -- as H. L. Mencken so aptly put it when speaking about the views of that pathetic ass of a Christian William Jennings Bryan.

Fortunately for the rest of us, as Mencken pointed out, most "off-duty Evangelicals" are honest and highly responsible people.

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

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "John Beck"
Subject: Re: Hello!
Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 8:38 PM

and

So why do you appear to assume that I don't know what works for me (as if that's even a valid way to determine truth)?

Why do you go so far as to slander me to my face in your attempt to discredit my position within my own mind?

Why is it that important that I change over to your point of view?

Could it be possible that I know who I am and what I can and cannot handle? Could it be possible that I've spent years of my life examining claims of Christians -- many of whom insist that they are "a minority of one" and therefore deserve special consideration from me -- and have found their claims all unworthy of my assent? Could it be possible that since I see the Christian system of belief to be little more than coercive political propaganda, that I know in my heart that I could never live with myself were I to go against my own taboo against willfully speaking falsehood?

Also, could it be possible that I am telling the truth when say that I welcome from you another perspective, that I am open to the possibility (however unlikely it may seem in my own mind) that you might have the god claim which I find compelling?

Actually, I don't think you are being sincere with me and you have given me every reason to suspect that your motive in writing to this forum is merely to lash out and hurl abuses. Your silence when asked to back up your statements or justify what I have called slanders (that is, clear your name) speaks volumes.

You started this conversation by suggesting that there's a reason that atheists criticize only Christianity. While this is not true, when we criticize religion at all we're equal-opportunity critics, I entertained your question and gave what I think is a reasonable answer. Though I have thought long and hard on this question, and though I have entertained this very question in the past, you ended up by calling my responses
 

We have something in common: My TV is not mine and is connected only to the karaoke player. However, I have to eat and do so at the local bar, where they usually have a TV running. I saw Robertson's mug as I was about to start tugging on a different mug, so I bent over and put my ear to the speaker (I cannot hear very well) so I could hear what he was saying.
 

So, then, I can assume that you do not consider the Bible to be authoritative within Christendom? The New Testament describes three general classes of people: brethren, regular people who are not brethren (the mission field), and traitors (including ex-brethren and those who willfully reject or willfully contradict the Gospel message -- Paul, in his endorsement of human slavery in I Timothy 6:1-5, asserts unambiguously how the brethren are to deal with those who disagree with him on this matter and who "teach otherwise"). You have followed this pattern with precision when at first you were friendly with this potential convert. Later you began to lash out in the very spirit of Paul, Jesus, and the others, when it became clear that I was not going to swallow what you had to say, but would need a compelling reason before I would assent to what you told me (thus contradicting the biblical notion that I somehow already "know" that what you say is true -- Psalm 19; Romans 1:18-32).
 

Dogma is any idea that is set in stone; that is, that cannot be submitted to the test of reason (or any test, for that matter) including those assertions which cannot be proven because they lie within the realm of faith and are not subject to reason. Dogma includes, but is not limited to, pronouncements that are considered true simply because the person or body making the pronouncement holds a particular position.

What I like about science is that anybody is qualified to dispute any alleged fact. A patent clerk is just as qualified to overturn the entire branch of physics as was Albert Einstein. A graduate student was just as qualified to open up a whole world in astronomy as way Joycelyn Bell. Wait a minute -- Einstein was a patent clerk when he published his paper on special relativity! Bell was a graduate student when she was the first to identify the pulsar!

This is all I have to say. I am too busy and my health allows too little time in a day for me to spend it defending myself against unsubstantiated slander and responding to knee-jerk reactions to what I have said. Since I have no interest in convincing you of anything, and since you admit that I must be privy to the realm of "faith" before I can become privy to the realm of faith, we really don't have anything to discuss.

I will say that my opinions of you do not reflect my opinions of Christianity, as most of the Christians I know have not treated me the way you have. My opinions of you are just that: opinions of you, based exclusively on the way you have treated me.

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

Graphic Rule

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