The Way Of A Fool
Erisa Simon

graphic rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Beverly Lewis"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, December 21, 2000 11:33 AM

Aren't you exposing yourself to the wrath of Hell-fire by calling me a fool?

"whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."
-- the Jesus character in Matthew 5:22b
 

Maybe some of us gave it an honest shot but didn't experience God because in order to do so, God needs to be a participant in such transactions -- and God just wasn't there for us. In other words, maybe we didn't experience God because there is no God to experience!
 

Receive Jesus? Even when I was striving to be a Christian during the 1970s, I couldn't understand what they meant when they said this. I searched the entire Bible for a description of this process and found none. I never even found language such as "receive Jesus."
 

You're being a bigot, here. Please stop!
 

I have no desire to mock you, as you are as entitled to your opinions as I am to mine.

Besides, I have no need to mock you, as you are mocking yourself. More than this, you are mocking your very humanity by pretending to know so much about things which cannot be described, much less proved.
 

I have weighed the Christian religion and it has been found wanting. I have read the Bible over twelve times cover to cover, and many sections as many as 200 times. I've prayed and been prayed for. I've struggled with unintelligible concepts ranging from predestination to "receiving" Jesus. I even opposed Jerry Falwell's anti-choice movement from within on the grounds that the Bible does not equate abortion with murder (far from it: see Exodus 21:22-3). I lost most of my childhood friends over this, and got nowhere real fast.

My three-year fling with Christianity was certainly the most destructive experience I've ever endured -- and I've suffered several debilitating illnesses, and I've been rendered homeless from those conditions, and I've been imprisoned because of what I did to survive while disabled and unable to care for myself. I've been through all that and still consider Christianity to be the most destructive thing I've ever encountered: The Christian religion sought to take my very mind away from me. Christianity, Communism, and other forms of fundamentalism are the single most destructive forces working to abolish humankind.

But the bottom line is that I have determined that the Christian religion is pure falsehood -- from top to bottom. Being a man of truth, I cringe at the thought that I was ever involved in this wicked enterprise, and even wrote a public apology in the form of my November, 2000, editorial column.

No. You are welcome to try to make the case that the claims of the Christian religion are true (I don't think they are), but please do not suggest that I give it a try. I've done that and you'd be hard pressed to get me to repeat that experience or to recommend it to others -- for any reason.

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: "Beverly Lewis"
Subject: Re: Atheism_in_India
Date: Thursday, December 21, 2000 12:04 PM

Please stop being a bigot.

If you wish to engage in intelligent dialogue, we are conducive to learning something new. But by being a bigot, you serve only to discredit the very religion you seek to promote: Why would we want to have anything to do with a religion that is so ineffective at keeping a check on bigotry?

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

Graphic Rule

graphic rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Beverly Lewis"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, December 21, 2000 9:13 PM

You are a bigot because rather than being humbled by your own fallibility, you pretend to condemn me over matters that are, in fact, pure speculation. You have no legitimate reason to treat me in such a hateful manner, as I have done nothing evil to you (I have done nothing evil at all).

I am justified in saying that your claims are speculation because you have made absolutely no effort to present arguments designed to convince me that you are telling the truth. You simply make statements and then expect me to already know that you are being truthful. No: the tales of your vengeful god are very bizarre, and you'll need more than simple statements describing what you believe if you wish for me to take you seriously.

For you to expect me to believe that you are telling the truth simply because you had a dream is for you to expect me to believe hearsay. I need much more than someone on the Internet telling me that they had a dream.

I call you a bigot because rather than show me where I am wrong (or if I am, in fact, wrong), you hurl abuses at me in the form of empty and meaningless threats, and you condemn me for my philosophical outlook (my lack of a god belief) yet you know nothing else about me. And you are not teaching me anything by simply rattling off this or that dogma.

What I find so destructive about the Christian religion of exclusivism is that it tends to turn otherwise decent and responsible people into bigots, lashing out at people they don't even know, and condemning them for never having encountered a valid reason -- never having heard a convincing argument -- in favor of believing the claims of the Christian faith.

You may believe whatever you want in the privacy of your own imagination, but as soon as you expect others to agree with you, you are obligated to bring forth a strong case for your claims. If you cannot give us valid reasons for believing, we have no business believing that you are telling the truth.

Why, you haven't even made an effort to follow your own doctrine: "Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" -- you have done none of these things. You have simply jumped up and down and pounded your chest and made statements.

Thus, not only have I no reason to think that your frightful stories are true, I have no desire to wish that they were true! (What perfectly frightful nonsense!) I can only rejoice in the fact that I you have given me every reason to think you are lying to me, and no reason to think you are being truthful.

Meanwhile, I am humbled at the honor of being able to spend a few moments as a human.

Have a nice life: as far as we can tell, it's 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" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Beverly Lewis"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Friday, December 22, 2000 2:31 PM

At least now you're making an effort to explain why I should believe. At least now I can respect you for your belief, because you have now given me a reason why you believe. And I don't have to agree with you in order to respect you: I need merely know that you have a reason to believe, a reason that you think is truthful.

Now, let me explain why I cannot find these reasons compelling enough to warrant me believing with you.
 

This sounds backwards to me.

I interviewed particle physicist Victor Stenger, and the question was about how, in the beginning of the universe, we could get something from nothing. He explained experiments where they've been able to show that positron-electron pairs can and do manifest themselves from a complete vacuum. This does not violate any laws of physics because one electron (matter) plus one positron (anti-matter, an anti-electron) equals zero energy.

Stenger and most particle physicists think that this was the nature of the original singularity which became the Big Bang. When they try to measure the total amount of energy in the universe, the equation always comes to about zero energy in the universe: there are equal amounts of matter and anti-matter.

When this original singularity formed out of absolute nothing, it escaped into a vacuum: there was no energy within it to "explode" but the energy came out in its trying to fill a vacuum. very slight imbalances, due to what they call Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, explain why there is now an ever so slight imbalance between the amounts of matter and anti-matter: there is a small amount more matter than anti-matter, and it is this matter that we see in the form of stars and planets.

Thus, the universe required zero energy to form.

On top of that, the initial stages of the Big Bang consisted entirely of randomness: there was absolutely no order involved.

Here is my question: if the universe required zero energy to form, then what would a god need to even do as far as forming the universe is concerned? No energy was required to form it. And if the initial stages were complete randomness, what would a god need to do as far as setting things in order?

It is simpler for me to see these things as occurring naturally than it is for me to think that there was an even more complex god doing the work. (And what work was there to do, anyway?)
 

I don't understand what you mean when you use the word spirit. If you mean "nonmaterial," then what you might be saying is that God is nothing (no material), or, in other words, there is no god.

You need to explain to me what a "spirit" is.
 

You have defeated your own analogy, here, by demonstrating that although we cannot see wind with our eyes, we can detect wind through our senses of touch and hearing, and by observing its effects on our environment. We can also measure it with our instruments, as is shown on television every night of the year.

I have been unable to detect a god, though. Nobody has ever described to me a method whereby I may detect a god. They all want me to believe first and ask questions later. They want me to pray to a god that I don't have reason to believe even exists (which would be dishonest of me). They then want me to wait for results of that prayer, that after I (dishonestly) pray to a "God," they tell me, I will receive the evidence I seek -- not before.

No. If somebody can show me that a god exists, then I'll believe. Once I believe, I may pray -- not before. My mind and my sense of honesty will not allow me to believe without having a valid reason to believe.
 

I don't know what a spirit or a soul is. As far as I can tell, our body-mind continuum is self-contained: our mind, our consciousness, is established by the structures and processes of a working nervous system. For us to even exist, we need a functioning body, as that body is our only opportunity to exist at all.

That's all I know, and for me to speak of anything other than what I know (that is, to posit the existence of "souls" or "spirits" -- something I don't know anything about and have no reason to believe are even real) would be patently dishonest. I cannot act this way because I am a man of truth.

If you could demonstrate to me that a soul exists, then I would assent to your claim that such a thing exists.

But what that means to me is another matter entirely.
 

Breath is touchable. I can blow on my hand and feel my breath with my sense of touch.

A spirit is not touchable, I think, because a spirit is nonexistent: at least I have never been given any reason to believe that such a thing as a spirit exists. As far as I can tell the notion of a spirit is an ancient fabrication of illiterate, flea-bitten goat-herders telling stories to each other around a campfire of camel dung.
 

This is what I've been saying all along.
 

You will have to do more than simply make statements if you wish for me to even consider your claim. And you will need to make a convincing case that you are telling the truth, here, if you want me to actually go along with your claims.
 

Oxygen is necessary for fauna to survive (and carbon dioxide is needed for flora to survive). Take away that oxygen supply and the organism dies. So, if the supply of oxygen is interrupted (because, for example, the ability to breathe automatically has become impaired due to an injury or poisoning), then it makes sense that the medical professionals (or a sharp high-school student, for that matter) to reintroduce that supply through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Without that oxygen, the organism will die; with it, the organism has a chance of surviving that it will not have without the oxygen.

There is nothing mystical or supernatural about this: it is pure physics and biology.

And there is nothing mystical or supernatural about the Big Bang, because we have already created temperatures higher than those involved in the Big Bang. We have already observed positron-electron pairs appering from nothing and assimilating back into nothing.
 

Whoever wrote the book of Ezekiel was an extremely sick individual, but not nearly as sick as the god that he worshiped:

Ezekiel 4:10-15:
[10] And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.
[11] Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink.
[12] And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
[13] And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.
[14] Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.
[15] Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.

In other words, Ezekiel's god wanted him to take a crap in front of everybody, make bread containing the human dung, and then eat the bread in front of everybody. Ezekiel objected to this, citing Hebrew dietary laws. So Ezekiel's god reconsidered his commandment to Ezekiel and made provision for Ezekiel to eat bread laced with cow's dung rather than human dung. Why Ezekiel did not further object to eating dung at all is not stated in the story. I think this is the only hint we have that dung is at all prohibited by Hebrew dietary laws. Don't get caught eating oysters or cheeseburgers, though.

Meanwhile, the Ezekiel character is no brighter than Jared, a hero of Mormonism, and Ezekiel's god isn't any less dim-witted than the Mormon deity: In Ether 2:16, the Lord instructs Jared to build barges in which they would cross the sea, being blown at about ten miles per hour by a "furious wind." The boats were described as "exceedingly tight ... tight like unto a dish" and Jared, in the spirit of Ezekiel, proceeds to second-guess the instructions given to him by his god:

Ether 2:18-19:
[18] And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
[19] And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.

And Jared's god slaps his forehead and goes, "Duh-eee!" and says:

[20] Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.

In other words, just as Ezekiel's god was shown by Ezekiel to be commanding him to disobey Moses' dietary laws, Jared's god was shown by Jared to have been an inadequate boat designer (they would have died had Jared not been sharp-witted enough to see the problem and if he had been so faithful that he took everything his god said at face value). The difference is that we are expected to believe that for Ezekiel and his god, eating cow's dung is not a violation of Hebrew dietary law, but eating human dung is. This difference I've never understood.

In any event, Ezekiel not to be considered a rational individual by any means. Thus, if Ezekiel said something, this alone is not sufficient reason for me to believe that it's true. First, Ezekiel (if he even existed) was a nut in every sense of the word: he'd be locked up in a heartbeat by today's standards; they'd let someone else out just to make room for him. Secondly, Ezekiel (if he even existed) lived a long time ago, and humankind has learned a lot since then.

This is not to say that anything Ezekiel is alleged to have said is de facto false, only that we cannot consider Ezekiel's word to be sufficient authority for anything: any statement he made must be backed up by independent corroboration before we can take it seriously -- before we can even consider it.

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

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.