To Confront Your
Pride Of Unbelief
Rich Sahagian

 

Each of these letters came as a single paragraph. We have taken the liberty to divide them into smaller paragraphs for readability, and have silently corrected some grammar and spelling as well.

 

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Rich Sahagian"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Saturday, July 29, 2000 9:17 PM

You presuppose that the good things you list have something to do with the supernatural (the spiritual), but I don't have any reason to think that claims for the existence of the supernatural are truthful or even realistic. If you could make a strong case for me that there is such a thing as the supernatural, I might change my mind about those matters. But since none of the claims for the existence of gods and the spiritual world hold water with me, I remain an atheist (without theism; lacking a god belief).

Also, theists who insist that we atheists cannot have morals without believing the various claims for the existence of gods and the supernatural are not acting morally: they speak falsehood about us without regret. Most atheists have morals just like most theists have morals. For a theist to insist otherwise is to slander us, and this behavior is itself a very strong refutation of the argument that theism de facto produces good morals.

If theism actually did produce good morals, then we would see a lower per-capita of theists in jails than on the outside. However, the reverse is true: there is a higher percentage of theists in jail and prison than in the free world. This, like the slander mentioned above, is a strong refutation of the notion that theism makes people moral.

Finally, I can show that the Bible teaches many things as moral that modern humanity now agrees are reprehensible: human slavery, denigration of women, genocide, animal cruelty, plundering, and tribal exclusivism. Meanwhile, many things that modern humanity agrees are high morals, such as democracy, human political equality, human liberty, and critical inquiry (denounced by the very Proverbs passage you quoted), are absent from the Bible or must be extracted from the Bible through misreading passages and other contrivances.

So, then, if many things that we all agree are moral behavior are absent from the Bible, and if many things advocated in the Bible are what we all consider immoral or reprehensible, then how can you say that religious people have any advantage over atheists? We all come to the same conclusions on the important matters, because we are all putting our heads together and working together to make this a better place to live. Both theist and atheist alike will come to similar conclusions on the important matters: if a Bible passage contradicts the obvious conclusions of our collective human intellect, most theists will reinterpret or dismiss the contradicting scripture. (When was the last time you went to a Christian church and the preacher advocated human slavery, as it is demanded of you in I Timothy 6:1-5?)

This is why Positive Atheism suggests that the argument over whether or not a god exists is by far one of the stupidest things over which to fight and bicker. There are much more pressing matters for us to attend to, and none of these matters have anything whatsoever to do with whether gods or angels or Santa or the Easter Bunny exist. Thus, Positive Atheism advocates that we all work together to find ideologically neutral ways to do this crucial work of living. Ideological neutrality is important so that everyone can feel that they are being represented and so that those who are being helped can freely accept that help without sensing that they owe this or that group their allegiance once that help has done its job.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Rich Sahagian"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, July 30, 2000 11:27 AM

If I'm just an atheist, with no gods in my life and no concept of the supernatural, then why would I get so defensive? Looks as though I evolved that way. You have made no challenges that require that I even consider looking to the prospect of the supernatural in order to try to explain.

You haven't dealt with what it is about morality that is so complex and unattainable that humans need supernatural help from above in order to be moral. I mean, if I try to steal a bone from a dog, he gets real stern with me. Are you suggesting that a god is intervening with the dog, too?

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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I concur with the Athenians on this one.

And I have the advantage of having heard Paul's message -- the Athenians hadn't yet heard him and called him a babbler.
 

If spiritual means of or concerning the realm of the supernatural, then what does the supernatural have to do with these things? Why do you need to invoke the supernatural to explain these all-too-human traits, when they can be explained naturally?
 

This is very convenient.

Could it be that John and Ezekiel and Paul and the others were simply babbling?

Can you explain why the same inconsistencies show themselves in each language into which the Bible is translated?

And what is the correct way to "rightly divide the Scriptures"? Force it to be interpreted so that it has no inconsistencies?
 

This is vague. I don't know what you're trying to claim, here.

Almost everything that was once thought unique to humankind has been identified somewhere, to some extent, in the rest of the animal realm. They may not do it as efficiently as we do, but they do it. This includes the so-called missionary position for copulation. Check out the research of Jane Goodall and see. She even changed the mind of her mentor, Louis Leakey, on this one.
 

I rest my case: we need not invoke the supernatural or gods or angels or demons to explain the behavior of humans. This behavior can be explained without bringing the supernatural into the discussion.
 

What about all the mass extinctions that were caused by meteors throughout the history of earth? Did humankind do that? I don't think so. What about all the pollution caused by volcanoes? Does humankind do that? No. Nature does it.

Besides, humankind is not "above" nature in any way, but is as much a part of nature as puppies, butterflies, and the bubonic plague.

I am not convinced that humankind chose to stray from any god: the god tales are fiction, and we are now realizing this on a wide scale throughout the planet, but there were never any real gods from which to stray.
 

So he orders the wholesale slaughter of entire nations? (Exodus through Joshua.) And then he commits the vast majority to Hell (where a single individual would experience more pain and suffering than all of life put together would for the entire history of the planet) just for disagreeing with Jesus? just for not being able to believe lame attempts to prove that an invisible god exists? just because the only message he gave us lies in an archaic, confused, barbaric book known as the Bible?

No. I refuse to think that a god would put us through this. If I believed in a god, my concept of that god would be much higher than this volcano god that is described in the Bible.

Certainly the Bible does not describe a god of love! Not even the Jesus of John 15:6 is a loving entity. Had he been god, he would have known that this saying would eventually be used by his loyal followers to burn millions of innocent people at the stake.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Rich Sahagian"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 12:44 AM

Thank you for this.

Only professions of faith such as this earn my respect.

I only oppose stuff like legislating someone's idea of Bible morality (such as the mistaken notion that the Bible give full human status to a human fetus, when Exodus 21 clearly shows otherwise) for the purpose of either destroying our hard-earned Liberties (Jerry Falwell) or simply for political and monetary gain and to hell with our Liberties or lack thereof (Pat Robertson).

I would hope you'd agree with the likes of Roger Williams who taught that nobody can have religious Liberty unless we grant it to all -- no matter how abhorrent their beliefs and rituals may be to the majority of us.

I also hope you agree with Jefferson when he said that if it is illegal for the rest of us to do it, it is not protected by the First Amendment even though done under the guise of religion. Some powerful people are changing this, granting special rights to religious people in general and to Christians in particular.

If you can see the dangers ahead, please help us preserve religious Liberty for all. If for no other reason, do it for the sake of your own Liberty. They could very likely go after Dispensationalism after they get into power. The Christian Reconstructionists, the ones who are the busiest at enacting their narrow version of Christianity as the law of the land, consider Dispensationalism to be a heresy, it being diametrically opposed to the notion that Christ will only return after they (the Christian Reconstructionists) have established His Kingdom on earth. And if they are the ones who eventually write our laws, you and I will be in the same boat, even though you are a Christian. I'd gladly join with you to work for Liberty and equality for all. I'd do this without even thinking about whether or not you believe in a god. Whether or not a god exists is probably the stupidest argument that people get into fights over.

What happened is this: you approached me with the intent of converting me. As a private citizen, my best option is to politely say, "no thank you." But this is a discussion forum, so it is my responsibility to do what is normally unwise for most private citizens to do: I examined your claims and then gave you my objections to them. You can be certain that I don't act this way when plying a lovely woman at the bar, who asks me what my astrological sign is. I simply pretend that I don't know anything about it, politely listen while she explains, and then change the subject as soon as I can get away with it.

The only difference here is that this is a forum. You will never see me arguing with a theist apart from this forum. In my private life and as a citizen of this community, I strive to make this a better place for us all. This includes bringing dignity to atheists in the public's eye, so I must come out of my closet and publicly state that I am an atheist, but that's as far as I go. I do not sit there and denigrate religion unless someone has cornered me and is presenting The Truth to me. Then and only then will I speak my mind, and only what I think about their particular religion. This is my current position. It has been different in the past and may differ in the future, but for now, this is my current position.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Rich Sahagian"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Monday, August 07, 2000 2:51 PM

Again, you jump to conclusions based upon a single valid observation: Yes, morality appears to have been built into us, but it is a leap to say that this was done by God (it is also a leap to say that the physical laws of the Universe had much to do with this).

An easier explanation for how morality was built into us is evolution. You see, if you need to bring God into the picture to explain morality, then you have complicated your explanation, not made it simpler. What you have done is require that we explain God's existence, and the origins of His morality. Natural Selection of Random Mutations is a much simpler explanation. Many of these mutations affected the personalities of the various organisms, and those that need cooperation from fellow members of the species were rejected or killed by the clan if they showed hostile tendencies.

Also, a solid case can be made that the Adam and Eve story is a corruption or adaptation of an ancient Babylonian myth. No case can be made that Adam and Eve were historical figures, much less that the story about them is historically true.

Depression is a biochemical disorder. A few of my pastors understood this, but the flocks they led with their talk about demons and spirituality and God's punishment for disobedience rejected me on a wide scale. My depressive disorder is one of many reasons why the Church was no better than the real world when it comes to my finding fellowship or companionship of any kind. I do best with intellectuals who understand that some people seem unhappy because a particular chemical disorder affects their moods and thus the expressions on their faces and how they interact with others. Were it not for this generation's wealth and our ability to support all (if we were still a small clan who had to take special care of our precious resources), I would have died in infancy or early childhood.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Rich Sahagian"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000 2:56 PM

This is a bold claim: what is convoluted about natural selection? Please explain in detail and back up your statement. If you cannot explain to me what it is about natural selection of random mutations that warrants you calling it convoluted, I will have to write your statement off as empty rhetoric.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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