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The Three Great Dangers of Religion

I’m the type of person that can sit across the table from a person of any religious background, no matter how fundamentalist they may be, and find a common humanity to build a relationship from – that’s a personal trait I’ve worked hard to hone and that I’m actually quite proud of. Often in doing so I’m asked the question, “so what if it’s not true, what’s the harm in believing?” While the answer to this question can’t be summarily truncated into a single list, I thought it might be a good idea to present the 3 greatest dangers of religion in the more generic sense for the purpose of quick reference and in a way that can be applied to most situations and conversations – so that if you are asked this question in your conversations with the religious you’ll have something to refer back to.  These three examples of the dangers of religion aren’t examples of fundamentalism in and of themselves – but they are fundamental tenets of every major religion alive in the world today, and so they are a constant part of the way the world is viewed by the religious.

1. Religion teaches us to be satisfied with easy answers

How often have you been told that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” in your life?

Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 .

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 – Source

 

This principle is fairly common among most of the major religions in the world in that they all, generally, require us to have faith rather than to seek out evidence for that which we believe.  This is dangerous to humanity on a number of levels, in the largest part because it generates a complacency for our curiosity and our yearning to know more.  The religious often confuse their faith with knowledge and believe that their faith satisfies the human need for real understanding of the world and universe around us – but without curious minds, unhindered by this complacency, asking the questions of “what, when, where, and why” modern science wouldn’t exist as we know it today and we’d still be plagued by diseases that have long been cured, we’d still believe that Earth was the center of The Universe, and we’d have never made it to the Moon.

While some of the most brilliant scientific minds of the last 500 years may have indeed been people with faith, they didn’t allow their faith to keep them from asking uncomfortable questions – and letting the answers speak for themselves when the answers were contrary to their faith. They were, ultimately, not satisfied with easy answers.

2. Religion teaches us that we are evil

The fulcrum of nearly every religion that has survived to this day has been that humanity is irrevocably flawed (evil, fallen, or

Albrecht Durer's Fall of Man

Fall of Man by Albrecht Durer, Engraving 1504. Shared among a number of ancient mythologies, man fell after eating a forbidden fruit – the female is depicted giving the fruit to the male figure. This has long solidified the woman’s place in religion as the lesser.

sinful ) and that religion X, Y, or Z has the cure.

A modern equivalent to this is having a vacuum cleaner salesman come to your door, show you how dirty your carpet is, and then explain to you how their vacuum (and only their vacuum) can clean it properly with a demonstration of it’s amazing sucking power!  Had you never met this salesman you would have kept using your old vacuum cleaner, never knowing that it was inadequate or that your carpet was a breeding ground for dust mites – and so you would have been happy, but ignorant.  While this technique of identifying a problem you didn’t know you had and selling you the solution works great for vacuums and other demonstrable devices – it’s absolutely terrible for religion, wherein there are no adequate demonstrations as to the veracity of the claims being made.

The sales aspect aside, how terrible is it that we allow men from stages to tell us that we are vile creatures – destined for one form of punishment or another if we don’t abide by a given set of principles? What terror could this perform on our individual and collective psyche as we, generation after generation, continue to believe that we have something wrong with us that needs to be fixed by god?

“If all this isn’t true, what harm is there?” – well, you should be overjoyed if it isn’t true and you aren’t the scum of the Earth!

3. Religion promises us eternity

Scarcity increases value – we all remember that from our high school economics class right? If you don’t, it’s one of the driving factors behind capitalism and it’s the basic premise that the less of something you have the more valuable that something is. Markets  and commodity prices are driven on the premise of scarcity and demand.

The one thing we all know is that we have a limited number of is days to live, however, nearly every religion in the world promises some extension of life into eternity.  When life is no longer 70-100 years long and is instead infinity long days are no longer scarce – this translates into a lack of value for your own life, the lives of others, and the future of the planet.

Those convinced that they are going to live for eternity or that a great apocalypse is soon to come are far less likely to believe that it’s important to preserve the planet, seek out cures for disease, or spend their limited time on earth doing good for people that don’t believe like they do – instead, they’ll spend their time trying to convince others that they must believe like they do, or else.

 

The Dangers of Religion – Fundamentalism

When we take these three things and combine them into a single person – a person who believes he’s been given all the answers to life’s difficult questions , who believes that although he may be a sinner he’s been saved and sanctified – maybe even chosen by god, and who believes that he’s been promised eternity in exchange for a life devoted to his religion’s message – we get a person who is more than likely to be detached from reality.  The mere existence of religion and the fact that these fundamental elements are necessary in order for religion to exist and to spread make fundamentalism a trait that is frighteningly common in our modern world.

While many good, reasonable, intelligent, and loving Christians and Muslims may exist who are moderates in our society, and while they may even be in the majority of their respective faiths – their respect of these basic fundamentals gives credence to them, which paves the way for more dangerous and more viral forms.

A better society, a truly secular society, must be compelled by evidence to believe, must embrace it’s goodness, and must act today to save tomorrow.

The dangers of religion are many and I’ve only scratched the surface here – what would you say are the most poignant dangers of religion as you’ve experienced them?

The problem with certainty

I recall being certain that God existed, that he loved me, and that he was embodied in a set of books we call the Bible. I was so certain of this that I would have said, without any question whatsoever, that I even knew these things. Certainty, according to many Christian presuppositional apologists, is the cornerstone of the Christian worldview because it and only it provides any way in which to ascertain truth.

I remember the first time I became uncertain about my faith like it was yesterday. It started with the first in a series of questions about some doctrine that I’d now say is insignificant. It was the first time since I had given all of my life to my god that I considered the notion that perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I had been worshiping him incorrectly, perhaps something I believed about him was out of line with the Truth, perhaps the elders in my life were not as wise as I thought, perhaps even god’s very character was in question.

I know of no fear more all encompassing than that which came with my first experience with uncertainty.

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Truth over Comfort

If you had to choose between truth and comfort which would you choose?

My last post talked about the very clear deception that occurs in Charismatic Christian churches, it was the truth but when I began recognizing this truth it was anything but comfortable.

Comfort, in my own words, is when your understanding of the world is something you are OK with. It’s when your way of seeing the world doesn’t have to be changed by anything because it doesn’t conflict with the way you want the world to be. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that a life of faith doesn’t have it’s challenges – what with denying your carnal desires and working to please the man in the sky all of your life – it’s tough for many that care enough to pursue it fully – but the idea of an afterlife of niceties kind of outweighs those cons.

I’ve always valued Truth…so much that I’ve often capitalized it as if the word Truth were just as good as the word God (actually, it’s better), the way I determine what is true has changed dramatically though; as I used to believe that if the Bible said it that it must be Truth. I didn’t even have to question that conclusion, my faith allowed for that to be so…it was comfortable to me and I had no reason to question it.

I remember when I first started feeling my doubts, it was very uncomfortable – kinda like sleeping on a bed of nails uncomfortable, it won’t kill you but it’s not a Serta™. It was at that point that I had to make a decision:  I could hush my doubts and try to forget that they had ever began…I could be comfortable where I was before or I could embrace the standard of evidence that I had been fully aware existed but ignored most of my life – I could pursue Truth despite comfort.  I didn’t know where it would lead me, I never expected to become an atheist but without fully knowing what the consequences would be – I told myself that it was Truth that I wanted, even if it hurt.

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Proof and Evidence

I recently witnessed an assertion about proving god’s existence to atheists by a Christian that made the following claim:

Ask 1000 people what proof/demonstration by God it would take to belief in Him and you may get 1000 different responses. At the end of the day each person has different doubts and needs, and their proof of God’s existence will be different to meet their needs.  ~Anonymous

I think statements like these highlight the fundamental difference between a person that talks about evidence and proof, and a person that actually knows what evidence and proof actually are.

Proof and evidence aren’t words that can simply be exchanged for each persons perspective. Something either proves a hypothesis or it doesn’t so if the data analysis from two different people determines that the evidence either proves or doesn’t prove something one or both are incorrectly analyzing the data.

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Rules of Engagement

I don’t particularly like to use terms of war when I discuss what I call Positive Atheism – or activist atheism if you will. In this case I find it rather difficult to find a better term to use, but to be crystal clear, this post is in no way a call to arms or a declaration of war. This is a discussion about engagement in the form of intellectual and philosophical discussions and debates. (I don’t want there to be ANY confusion here – or any opportunity for the less scrupulous individual to make claims that might hinder reason or falsely indicate a “war mentality” here.)
In a previous post, from what seems like forever ago, I discussed what I felt was a moral obligation on my part to reduce faith and increase understanding. In this post I intend to talk about the Rules of Engagement that I have developed when engaging in these sorts of discussions. These are my personal rules, some may not find these necessary – but for me it draws a line in the sand as to what conversations are worthy of my time and attention, as I have a tendency toward extremes. If at least one of the following criteria are not met, I won’t bother engaging.

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Response to Calvary Nexus Dr. J.P. Moreland on “The Evidence for Christianity”

A pastor friend of mine recently tweeted/facebooked a link to the following video from Dr. J.P. Moreland – in this video Dr. Moreland attempts to prove that god exists using what he calls “creation”. I responded to the post on Facebook – but wanted to share my answers to three of the main points made by Moreland.

 

 

Firstly I’d like to take a moment to say the following:

 

Though I respect Dr. Moreland’s stance and fully understand it – I find it best, when I want to know how the Christian community or individual Christians feel about certain things, that I ask the sources directly. When Dr. Moreland here speaks as to the goals of the new atheists, although some of them are somewhat correct, I believe he does his audience a disservice – My challenge to you and anyone that bothers to read this is simply this:  Ask a New Atheist (which I am) what it is that you want to know about New Atheism (I hate to use capitals on those) – never take someone’s word over those of true sources. The same goes for any questions you have about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc…even though myself or Dr. Moreland may be well versed in a few different belief systems we are not nearly as valid a source than a reasonable selection of believers in those faith systems.

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VeritasDomain responds to my Ray Comfort post

Dizzy answers

Dizzy answers

Dizzy, at Veritasdomain.wordpress.com was kind enough to post answers to my last post criticizing Ray Comforts Huntington Beach video.

First of all, thank you dizzy for your response and very well thought out rebuttal, also thanks for making it point by point, certainly makes response easier.

I am gonna do this like we normally do around here,  post what Dizzy did, just copy and paste it from THIS LINK and then respond to it,  my responses will be in Bold whilst Dizzy’s text will be in Italics.

Dizzy: Thanks for your post. Since you were kind enough to make a passing reference to veritasdomain as another Christian blog, I thought I’d answer your critique of the debate point by point.

For 0:10 you mention that it’s sad to to start off a video with fear mongering. However, pointing out that Ray Comfort is trying to “peddle” fear doesn’t prove anything but your opinion. “You’re not crazy if they’re really out to get you.” Likewise, it’s not mongering, if hell exists.

Me: At this point in the video I am not really trying to prove any point at all, it is my opinion, as a former apologist of this very faith that the tactic of fear mongering results in a less than productive faith (through experience mind you) in some situations. You are right though, if hell DOES in fact exist i guess it wouldn’t be fear mongering as much as it would be just trying to save someone…the problem with that is that Mr. Comfort is propagating fear of something he can’t prove does indeed exist-if he or anyone can prove that it does then I welcome you to do so. You make a good point none the less, and I truly don’t question the MOTIVES of Mr. Comfort, but his method of delivery is lacking here—as well as his logic.

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Ray Comfort–an open invite and a rebuttal to a video

OK, Let me just say this, I know that the Ray Comfort post I made last was a tad on the easy side…but, I mean, you can’t blame me for taking on a guy like this….so much pride and assumption rolled into one little man…its just a temptation I can’t possibly refuse….and now, I have even more for this guy. This time I am gonna openly invite Mr. Comfort to this blog to engage me—I have a feeling he has already been here, so this should be pretty easy, but I’m gonna make sure he knows that I am waiting for him by responding to one of his blog posts.

Secondly, I was perusing the inter-web the other day and I found this video linked on another Christian blog…it simply amazes me how Christians are eating this crap up, they really think these are good arguments…all I see is a fast talking salesman with an inch of magnetic hypnosis at the end. Without further ado, here is the video:

im going to go through this with time stops…just follow along:

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Ray Comfort Vs The Evil Atheists

This man might be stupid!

This man might be stupid!

So the other day I was looking through blogs, dropping my Entrecard on different blogs. I tend to go for the religious/Christian blogs as much as I can, to get the whole Christian crowd to come here as much as possible…

So I stumble upon The Powerhouse Ministry Blog and This Entry in particular. Evidently some dude named Ray Comfort (from Way of The Master Ministries) has some irrefutable evidence for the atheist…it starts with 10 Suggestions for the Novice Atheist, and ends with…The Atheist Test…yes, you heard it here first kids…the Atheist test.

This is my attempt at dismantling this poor mans ridiculous arguments. My own text will be Bolded, his will be normal type: Enjoy

Ten Suggestions for the Novice Atheist

  1. Whenever you are presented with credible evidence for God’s existence, call it a “straw man argument,” or “circular reasoning.” If something is quoted from somewhere, label it “quote mining.”

No one has ever presented any credible evidence for god’s existence yet…at least to me…if you can I invite you to do so though! Straw man arguments wouldn’t really fit there, straw men are used to burn down a persons character-its really an audience/judge ploy against the opponent—not an actual real life argument. Circular reasoning will be called what it is…And who in the hell is unhappy about quotes?

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