Monday, November 21, 2011

All For A Reward

All For A Reward

I've been thinking about the reward of heaven and I'm really perplexed by the entire reward vs punishment setup that christianity and other derivative religions have created.

As a non-believer, any particular theist might suggest that I am going to burn in hell. Different people of exactly the same christian denomination interpret passages such as Revelation 21:8 in varying ways depending on a particular bent. For example, some might literally interpret the passage or some might interpret it as a metaphorical. One thing I know, is that christians, and theists from other derivative religions, want to avoid hell, literally or metaphorically, at all costs.

As a side note, I can't imagine what hell would be like.

Are there a bunch of brilliant scientists and atheists hanging off meat hooks, clotheslines and torture racks down in hell? Are non-believers being forced to do laps of a 50 meter pool of lava for eternity? Are they being subjected to the eternal gloating from kind hearted and pure christians sitting up in heaven? The absurdity of the scenario highlights that I can make up anything I like. Nobody can prove me wrong. Sounds a bit like religion to me.

I am also confused as to what form we take in hell, such that we can apparently experience the full gamut of pain sensations but not be there physically? I've seen first hand that if you do a spinal tap, you don't feel pain in your legs and lower body. So if my body is not there, what causes the pain? It is such an absurd notion. Maybe the all forgiving god inserts non-physical probes into your non-physical body and forgives you by inflicting endless non-physical pain on you?

Back to the original topic.

Is avoiding hell the only motivation for theists to behave and believe? Would they turn into uncontrollable criminals without the notion of eternal punishment? Not really, as there is the promised reward of heaven.

The draw card is huge. Follow the rules in this unverifiable book and you will avoid hell as well as receive the gift of eternal bliss in heaven. Given the option of going to heaven for eternal bliss versus hell and eternal torture, the choice is obvious. It's like asking, would you prefer a $1000 reward every day of your life or would you prefer to have your fingernails drilled into every day of your life.

So there seems to be two motivations :

1. Avoid punishment in Hell
2. Be rewarded with Heaven.

In the realm of reality, a typical justice system doesn't offer rewards for good behaviour. The general idea is that you get punished if you are proven guilty. This would be like the idea of no heaven but a certain hell. In this scenario you don't get a reward for doing the right thing, you are only avoiding punishment, much like reality. I do wonder how big a draw card religion would be if there was no heaven, and you only avoided punishment in hell if you followed the rules.

Take one step further and remove both motivations from the religious equation. No heaven and no hell.

As a non-believer, I don't think there is any heaven and I don't think there is any hell. I certainly won't be rewarded by heaven, as I'm clearly not worshipping an invisible spiritual thug. I don't need the reward of heaven to motivate me towards good. I don't need the threat of hell to motivate me to do good. Typically, a theist would suggest that this is the perfect framework for abominable behaviour. No reward and no punishment means a person drifts towards a cesspool of moral depravity.

What is actually far more surprising is that theists still act in horrific and abominable ways, even with the reward of heaven and punishment of hell in their minds. Now imagine how they would act given none of those constructs. It would be unimaginable.

Ultimately, there will be no reward of heaven for me. The universally undetectable bearded sky fairy only has eternal damnation and torture in mind for the non-believing kind, yet surprisingly, he will reward a priest child rapist with heaven. 

That is just absurd.

Purpose and Meaning To Life

Purpose and Meaning To Life

Atheists are often confronted with a line of questioning revolving around what provides purpose and meaning to their lives. What do atheists believe in? What gives their life purpose? What gives their life meaning? Typically it is asserted that because an atheist does not believe in a god, their life has no purpose and no meaning.

For starters, it is diabolical to assert that purpose and meaning can only come from believing in a god. Travelling down this road expects you to disregard all other pursuits in your life as lacking purpose and as essentially meaningless.

Atheists have two things in common, they don't believe in any gods and just like almost all of humanity, their lives have purpose and meaning. Where their purpose and meaning is derived from can be wild and can be varied. What their opinions and positions are on subjects are also similarly wild and varied.

Some may draw purpose and meaning rallying against the ridiculous notion of religion and the mega rich mega churches that benefit. Some may draw purpose and meaning in composition of music and art. To not draw only positive associations, some may draw purpose and meaning from violence and the less digestible aspects of human behaviour.

For me personally, purpose can be derived from many and varied places quite easily without enacting belief in a god. Family gives meaning, creativity gives meaning, work gives meaning and so it seems, life itself gives meaning.

A theist who believes in god, feels they derive purpose and meaning from a god. Congratulations, they assert possession of a gift that non-believers can not experience, or so they say. A positive assertion that the theist has purpose and meaning to life whereas those non-believers cannot and/or do not. Fairly typical of a theist to gravitate towards positivity in their position.

Now address a simple question, where does a hypothetical god derive purpose and meaning from? A god is usually at the top of the spiritual food chain and answers to nobody. Using the same logic as applied to atheists, a god and it's existence has no purpose and no meaning.

  • Atheists do not believe in a god = No meaning or purpose to life.
  • A god cannot have belief in a higher being = No meaning or purpose to life.

These two statements arrive at the same result because atheists reject higher beings and a god has no higher being to worship. They both do not worship higher beings, therefore neither has purpose or meaning to their existence. However, in reality, a god, the idea of a god, or whatever it is, falls into the same category as an atheist. Purpose and meaning are derived from many and varied places, internally and externally.
Meaning Without God - Rabbits

As a side note, what exactly is the purpose and meaning of the existence of a god? If a god is everything outside of it's creation, the bits outside the universe we live in, what is the point of a god being there? A theist worships a god and finds purpose and meaning, but what is the purpose and meaning of a god?
Simplistically, could a theist derive the same kind of purpose and meaning from the worship of a dictator?

In conclusion, the assertion that an atheist, who does not derive purpose and meaning from god, has no purpose or meaning to their life, is absurd.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Miraculous Transformations

A Miraculous Transformation from Atheist to Christian

It is always interesting to read about a miraculous transformation from an atheist (a word that should not exist) to a christian, or any other religious denomination.

I read a letter to an editor of Daily Lobo by Michael Sandoval. Below is an excerpt.
I know I’ll get flak for this but I’m strong in my beliefs, and I honestly don’t care what you have to say. Becoming a Christian was the best thing that has ever happened to me, next to falling in love with my fiancĂ©e. I found a new life and all of a sudden everything seemed like it made sense. Keep in mind that I was an atheist before this happened 2 or 3 months ago. I felt that up until then I knew everything there was to know and since I felt strong in my knowledge, there was no need for religion. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Michael was an atheist who felt he knew everything there was to know. He then became a christian and all of a sudden everything made sense.

It is great that Michael has a new found confidence, but it is actually depressing that he arrogantly thought he knew everything when he was an atheist. Sure, I can understand having confidence in your world view and providing good reason and justification for your world view, but nobody knows everything and thinking that you do is dishonest and absurd. Nobody can know everything.

I think that accepting the fact that you don't know and can't know everything is similar to delegating the explanation to a god or a story in a book. It amounts to a mental offload, acceptance and maybe a relief that there are things and problems you don't need to know about or solve. The difference being that putting a god into the equation only complicates the situation and you are in exactly the same position as before. You still don't know everything but you've delegated to an imaginary god that still doesn't explain anything.

On a slightly similar note, I conducted a mental exercise, sat in a room and offloading my problems and issues to an imaginary entity, say, a flying spaghetti monster. I externalized my thoughts and put the burden on something else. Sure, it is kind of interesting, the flying spaghetti monster wasn't aware I did it, but I've mentally conned myself into not facing up to my problems and issues. I've effectively done nothing to address the issues. Back to reality, I admit to myself that I can't deal with or explain a situation and go and get some assistance. No need to invoke a imaginary entity.

I'm still surprised that people invoke a god and then everything suddenly makes sense to them. Basically conducting a mental con job on themselves and not actually providing any answers or explanations for anything. Basically it boils down to honesty. Either deal with and accept the fact that you don't know everything or dishonestly invoke an imaginary god that explains everything without explaining anything. Any position, other than that of honesty, is absurd.

When You Are Born

When You Are Born

I was having a discussion recently about the word "atheist". It is a label that many non-religious people take on.

I've heard it mentioned that the word "atheist" is interesting because it describes what you are not. For example, being an atheist means you are not a believer in any gods.

Strangely, the existence of the word "atheist" insinuates that being religious is the default position and an atheist somehow chooses to not believe. Of course this is absurd.

Imagine that when you are born, you are born religious. Many problems arise from this scenario. What religion are you? Are you religious in the Christian sense? Are you religious in the Muslim sense? Maybe it is a nondescript religion you are born into?

Typically your religion is defined by your parents or where you are born but moving on from this point, when presented with Christianity and Islam as options, if you don't choose Christianity but choose Islam instead, do you now identify as a non-Christian? No. You identify as a Muslim. This is a positive association. You chose, or were indoctrinated into, Islam. "I am a Muslim", you say proudly.

Of course, the idea of being born religious is really absurd. No-one is born religious. We are exposed to religion as we grow up. As mentioned before, typically this exposure is from our parents or the religious culture of the country or society we are born into. In reality, everyone is an atheist when they are born. The default position is no religious belief and no belief in any gods. So by extension, the word atheist does not need to be defined or even exist.

Religion is not a position you must accept and it is not something that you reject either. If the Christian religion is presented to you, you are not rejecting it if you don't become a Christian.

Typically this is described in terms of a hobby. Not collecting stamps, being a non-stamp collector, is not considered a hobby. I collected stamps when I was a kid, but I chose to collect stamps. Given the myriad of options, I could have collected coins but I wouldn't define myself as a non-stamp collector, or a non-pen collector.

A positive association with a religion or a belief in a god or gods should come with a label. You have chosen to become religious or believe in a god or gods. You can therefore say, "I am a theist" or "I am a Christian" or "I am a Muslim" etc.

Defining a person by what they do not positively associate with, is absurd. Furthermore, any idea that you are born religious is also absurd.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Atheists : Compelling and Intellectually Challenging

Atheists : Compelling and Intellectually Challenging

I have written previously about becoming bored with the same arguments and word games employed by theists.

In stark contrast, I am continually surprised by the compelling and intellectually challenging positions and analysis of the bible and religion by atheists. Today I read a blog post highlighting a comment made by Stephen Fry in regards to "What Knowledge Did The Apple Bring".

Stephen Fry has only recently appeared in my readings regarding religion and I am learning that I need to read more about him and read more of his writings. The Four Horsemen often come to mind in regards to atheism, but in my mind, a fifth has now entered. Stephen Fry, I welcome your insights and brilliance.

With this in mind, I have observed that atheists are continually asking the difficult questions and critically evaluating the bible and religion. Atheists give respect only where it is earned and deserved. Stephen, as an atheist, asks some compelling questions and draws some reasonable conclusions about the bible and the absurdity of the genesis story.

I often to wonder why theists aren't applying the same critical analysis to the bible. An intelligent, and intellectually honest adult should be able to see straight through the bible. I think it all comes back to a the scary reality of a breakdown in their world view. The inability to let go of an unfortunate lie they've been told all of their lives. Everything they've believed about god and the world hinges on these illogical and inconsistent stories, fables and parables. They just can't let go. Defending the only position you know.

As an atheist and a skeptic, I want to be challenged. I want my worldview to be elastic, to be convinced of a compelling argument, to accept that an idea or opinion I have is wrong and to move on and learn about the next big thing. Clinging stubbornly to old ways and old ideas, like a mental Luddite, is absurd.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apologetic Word Games

Apologetic Word Play and Other Games

I freely admit that I am starting to get bored of the same arguments and word games employed by religious apologists. In defense of the creator of the universe, the apparently all knowing and almighty, apologists present us with broken arguments, flawed definitions and unknowable assertions.

An apologist might apply the concept of cause to the universe. Apparently god caused the universe to exist. In a typical example of a broken argument, turn to the next page and be told that god is eternal and just existed. An entity so complex, and able to create the universe, just exists. Apologists assert this as fact.

I ask what is on the outside of the universe, the container for all life and matter? In theory, nothing. In reality, who knows? Where exactly did god happen to exist before the universe existed? The apologist  will always make a special "look the other way" case for their own absurd arguments.

Word games are also employed by apologists. Plug a word like "atheist" into Google or any online dictionary and choose the definition that suits your argument. An apologist will assert that an atheist knows there is no god. Sure, some atheist assert there is no god, but atheism is about a lack of belief in gods, not knowledge. Truly, no-one can know if there is or isn't a god. A theist can believe all they want. An atheist can disbelieve all they want. No-one has proven that god does or doesn't exist. It is far more intellectually honest to choose atheism.

Typically a theist would play the "you can't prove god doesn't exist" card. Effectively this argument is worth walking away from at this point. No-one can disprove the existence  of a unicorn, Santa or the tooth fairy and no-one would be dishonest enough to assert that they do exist. Even if we could explain every physical aspect of the entire universe, a theist would move god into an unverifiable and unknowable plane in defense of this absurd argument.

In a typically circular fashion, the idea of god, that was constructed by men, an idea formed in the mind, meets it's final death throes in the mind. Essentially in the form of tired and often repeated arguments from apologists.

Apologists remind me of someone who cannot admit they are wrong. Based on reality and the evidence it is dishonest to say "I read this book. I have the answers. I am right". Instead, the apologist continues to argue and grapple with obscurities and absurdities which are unnecessary if they just said they didn't know.

Of course, I don't know if I'm right, but reality and the evidence are all pointing in the same direction. The arguments presented by apologists are boring, circular, flawed, unknowable and absurd.