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Trip Around the Sun

 

40 of 52 – Organized Atheists

 

Someone asks the atheists this:

 

Isn't life pointless? Why should the atheist bother? It's all just going to end anyway, right? How does the atheist's life have meaning?


Comments:

 

This is based on an assumption that has never made any sense – that when something ends, it is then a failure.

 

When an olympic race ends, we cheer for the winner. It’s over, but there is no failure.

 

People say the dinosaurs failed, when they became extinct. They lasted a hundred times longer than humans have; it’s extremely unlikely that humans can carry on succesfully for such a long time. When it’s over, that will not be a failure.

 

The dinosaur era came to an end by external forces. Most likely humankind will come to a much earlier end by its own actions. The specie’s superior “intelligence” may be the cause of its short life.

 

Success is not rightly measured by whether there is an “end,” but by what goes on “during.”

 

There is always an end. This species, humans, may be the first on this planet to invent the idea that there is “no end.” It is easy to be wrong when wants are great – in this case, the want of eternal life.

 

-         Chuck

 

The Visit:

 

The group (Atheist’s Coalition) showed a video that took up the whole time. It was about Baptists going door to door to try to get people to say the “prayer of salvation,” to accept Jesus Christ as savior and Lord of all. These Baptists were quite bumbling and ridiculous. By the end, the story was about atheists being approached – and there were lots of four letter words, etc. It was a joke – and the atheists were beginning to laugh at the jokes – and jeer at the fumbling Baptists. They meet only once a month – I probably won’t attend again. I’m going to put the report together by responding to emails from various of these atheists – and then reporting on the communication.

 

This has been a difficult report to write. It’s far out of order, because it has taken so long. Sometimes there will be references to emails of days ago – most of the threads will make sense.

 

I am not satisfied with this report – but it has to be labeled “finished” sometime. Of hundreds of emails, I will include a few. Some will expose the fear and hate – others will show some of the logic involved – and still others will be my “honest” answers to questions they have about Mormons. It will not look like the book “Here are the Mormons.”

 

(Note: The following paragraph needs some clarifying. After the report was out, it received some legitimate criticism. After reading the paragraph – read the one after for that clarification.)

 

Many of these atheists have many needs very unfulfilled – it’s a group of unhappy campers. I have found some I like to try to give help to – others so hateful and fearful that I deem them beyond my ability to help. A couple beginning defensive have come to know I’m not there to hurt – nor to convert – but to join in conversation and learning - and maybe share something of value at the same time.

 

(There was resentment that I would mention that there might be any need for or want of “help.” Here I was – a first time visitor – and speaking of how I didn’t know how to help angry and unhappy atheists. I can see how I would feel critical of that if I were in the coalition. I think their anger was evident – but when I assumed from that that they were also “unhappy campers,” I went further than I should have based on my small amount of contact. I have learned from conversations since then a little about why they feel the anger they do. They feel disinfranchised by officialdom – with many people wanting official prayer back in the schools – thinking that America is “based” on belief in a god, with the addition of “Under God” in the Pledge under Eisenhauer, – “In God We Trust” on the money, etc. And under our current Presidential Administration (George Bush Jr.), atheists see such an emphasis on God as giver of all good things – prayer in official places and circumstances - as justification for war, etc., that they feel unheard on these matters. I think I misread some of this in that first visit – thinking all the anger I saw was just about those missionaries in the video they were showing – when that was most likely only a small example – and what was expressed was more general than that. I have also since found several angry atheists who were also happy, as we might reasonably define happiness. I had seen the anger as unfounded before – hating missionaries – when it was more founded than that – and based on some real political positions and feelings. I have been angry that way – and still regard myself as happy. This explanation is also an apology.)

 

Perhaps the main difficulty is to write honestly. It’s very stressful to expose among Mormons one’s true thoughts regarding beliefs when they differ from the mainstream. I find commonality in belief often with these unhappy people – but I’m not unhappy at all. Why? I think in great part because of the “application” I’ve been taught among Mormons. If understood, our doctrine is not salvation by “works,” but nonetheless, works is where it’s at among Mormons. No one – anywhere – does it better – for families.

 

I have had no desire to do any “converting” here among the atheists. Mine is only to try to help someone find a way of having a more comfortable life – not living within so much fear and hate.

 

(As above – this needs the clarification – or apology.)

 

And of course, I’m with them to learn – as with the other visits. I am not open-minded to hate and fear – but I am open-minded to anyone’s belief. I want to see the data for the beliefs, however.

 

This is nothing like my experience all my life with atheists among scientists. They are not activists – and probably would not appreciate any value in these discussions at all.

 

This was an email post after I had expressed some gratitude for what I have had among the Mormons

 

When you say,"...grateful for all the help I had in raising my family...",
be more specific before trying to put a label on you....what kind of
help...who helped you....how did they help you?

 

Response:

 

(I think at this point, they are trying to decide if I am an atheist or not.)

 

We raised five children. All are grown. None had trouble with dope, alcohol - not even
tobacco. Four have college degrees, much encouraged by the church. All are
happy, well adjusted - care about other people, animals - enjoy life. There
are seven grandchildren - all being raised by parents who adore them.

The culture of the church provided dozens (hundreds) of other adults who loved our
children - watched them growing up - with interest in their progress.

I appreciate all that - and would not think I would do so well by myself, my
wife and I
.

The church is a hundred or so years behind - regarding things like evolution,
for example. The beliefs other than social are largely superstitious - a
being who created the universe, etc. I don't believe those things - haven't
for about 30 years.

I don't think it's wise to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so I throw
out the bathwater - and keep the nice clean baby.

The bottom line is that many of the values that came to me through the church
are worth a great deal to me - while many of the dogmatic beliefs are not of value
to me at all.

I have watched the church be cruel to groups at times - recently their
support of prop 22 - During those times I fight to bring the other side to
them. I'm considered a trouble maker to some - downright unacceptable to some
- and many like it that I am doing what they would also like to do if they
were not afraid to do it. I often have someone come to me and say "Thanks
for saying what you did."

I don't think the church would ever excommunicate me. Joseph Smith said that no one should ever be excommunicated based on beliefs – only based on actions. Too much talk about beliefs, however, has gotten people excommunicated. Speech is considered action – and freedom of speech has no place in the Church. Criticizing leaders, for example, is a no no.

 

An email from Chuck:

 

I see this word "xian" over and over - but it's not in my dictionary.

Answer:

 

It's short for Christian.  The Greek x is a "chi" and is often used to
denote Christ.  For example Christmas is shortened to xmas.  Christian is
shortened to xian.

 

Question:

 

But “xmas” is in my dictionary. Is the term “xian” out of disrespect?

 

(There were several answers -)

 

Yes - several people have told me this now. I'm sure this shorthand is intended for writing, not speaking. When we ask a court recorder to read - he or she reads the actual words - does not sound out the shorthand.

It is disrespectful, and I'm sure intended to be, when "Xi-An" is pronounced when “Christian” is meant.

Christians, of course, do the same thing - they have names for atheists that are disrespectful. They consider atheists part of the "enemy." Most of the atheists I have known have not been the enemy of Christians - I've known hundreds of atheists - and never heard the term xian. They don't say "xmas," either - they write it - but they say "Merry Christmas," not "Merry Xmas."

Usually it is only very common terms that get shortened for writing this way. Probably won't see Xianity, for example - or Xlike.

Atheist Post:

 

Yeah, but the church is the bad, the community is the good.  Throw out the
church, keep the community.

Answer to post:

 

Yes - that's essentially it. The people of the church form a wonderful
community - with all the necessary organization - meetings, etc., to make the
community viable. There is no church, to me - other than the people that make
it up. In other words, if we keep the community, we keep the church, as there is no other.

 

(Inserted note for readers here: David O’ McKay said that there is no Church, separate and distinct from the members of it. We are the Church, and there is no other. We have heard people say that the people are not perfect, but the Church is perfect. That is a direct contradiction, as the people are the Church. The Church is far from perfect.)

 

Sometimes the members are not at all scientific. It’s a full bell-curve of different talents, etc. I didn't lack for plenty of scientific friends to fill that need for more open discussion – including the miracle of speciation by natural selection, for example. In the Church, discussion is not open to such subjects.

 

However - Among my scientist friends, there was never much of a community that would
"be there" for my kids – when my parent’s died, etc. I appreciate both worlds – they have completely different advantages.

Note: I do not think the Church is “bad,” as this atheist has suggested. I knew what this person was talking about – and am speaking his language. (Remember the unknown god?) When Paul said, “The letter killeth,” in a way, he was saying, “The church is bad, when it is misused.” When any church leadership tries to enforce letter-law, then that is bad – but it is not really the church – only a small part of it. (As the D&C tells us: Amen to the priesthood of that man.)

 

I do understand that it’s “bad,” if bad can be defined as “stupid,” - to reject evolution amidst all the data available. (How ungrateful to all the struggling and lost species that made us possible!)

 

Atheist Post:

 

I think that the community and social interaction could be achieved without the religion. Don't you?


Answer:


There are many things that "could" be that aren't. I've been in Toastmasters - a speakers club - they're a good group - but no way could they take the place of what the church has done.

Some get quite a lot out of service clubs, etc., but not the interaction with their children, etc.

I saw no children's program at the atheists group I visited. They possibly could do it - but it's not in the cards for them to be so motivated.

The Salvation Army, a kind of quasi religious group - helps lots of people - but on a very temporary basis - not the years long constant care afforded by a good church.

I'm not aware of any group other than good churches accomplishing this.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the "false" beliefs they have are the very thing that is the uniting force. That’s why it perhaps is unlikely to be done without religion.

Atheist Post:

 

Chuck,
By the same token, when a missionary goes to a local, anywhere in the world,
what makes them think or assume for a moment, that the people they're
supposedly trying to save either from their culture's deity (since to a
missionary, only his deity is the correct one) or from the culture that
allows them the freedom to choose whatever mental process they choose to
"live by," where in the experiences of human-kind does it specify that
self-righteous stubborn "missionaries" have a human right to coerce or
convert everybody they meet into following their
religious praxis/belief system?


Response:

The "need" people have to "convert" other people to their view is partly based on a lack of confidence in the belief. They feel the need to have others agree with them - and testify - and cry, etc.

People who cry when they tell you they "know" something are not really speaking of knowledge - but of hope. Hope is emotional - knowledge is not.

I know there is no tooth fairy - so what? I'm not emotional about that - and I don’t mind if the younger ones believe in it.

If I'm five - and I'm starting to have doubts - still believing there is a tooth fairy - and hoping there is when I put the tooth under the pillow - then I look for support - I want my older brother or sister to believe it too.

Then from this need - something else sometimes happens - people (who I think do not believe) find out there's money in it. Then they use all these emotions to get people to give money to them - for their own personal use. I've definitely seen some of this on The Trip Around the Sun. A minister serving mostly poor people - and having millions in church property in his own name. Often the congregation will be nearly all senior citizens – after all, the big donations commonly occur at death.

But I have also seen some honest people giving their lives for others - serving - and being no more rich than those they serve. There are some fine people out there who believe all kinds of untrue things. Many untrue things are useful - if used honestly. I'm speaking here of honesty coming from the word honor - not from the word truth.

Of course, I have also met missionaries who I think are truly believers – I find them much less emotional – and more matter of fact in personality. They have a kind of “confidence” that everything is going to turn our just fine – for everyone. They don’t live in fear of loved ones “burning in hell,” etc.

 

When someone is very emotional, I see that as doubt. Again – knowledge is not generally emotional, while hope is very emotional.


Atheist Post:

 

I'm not sure if it was here or on another board, but I once talked to a
person from
Mexico that really hated missionaries.  He said that his
once-peaceful little town was torn apart by missionaries.  Part of the town
abandoned the culture of their past and took the new religion.  Then each
half became convinced that the other half was evil and fighting ensued.
Lives were lost, and eventually much of the culture was lost as well.


Response:

 

This is the result of the dangerous belief: "We are right - and everyone else is wrong."

If both religions believed the other religion was just as valid as their own – there would have been no problem.

The atheist must also not think he is the only ones who "knows." That amount of confidence in one's knowledge is unjustified.

During the Trip Around the Sun, I have met with people at every level of this “we’re right” belief - from those who think everyone else will burn in Hell forever – to those who believe everyone else will die and not live again - to those who believe everyone must eventually join their church or lose eternal benefits - to those who believe everyone’s belief is fine so long as one learns to care about others - to those who believe everything is fine no matter what amount of evil a person does or becomes. I fall in the middle of that stuff somewhere.

 

Atheist Post:

 

Pagans:  I may have told you last year that I was dating a veterinarian and
our relationship has progressed to us living together.  For me, that is a
huge step toward more serious things like...engagement in about 10
years.  The reason I am bringing this up is because of the conversations
that my lady and I have had over religion.  She is an atheist, a scientist,
intelligent, a great cook and of course, loves animals as much as I
do.  She is puzzled as to why I read so many books on atheism and why I
spend my valuable time sending messages back and forth in this group.  She
questions my need for support (actually there is no need...just enjoyment)
with other atheists and does not completely understand the camaraderie with
people I don't really know.  In her opinion, being an atheist is
enough...the term is really the end of the line with nothing more to think
about past that point.  Truth will eventually win out over religion; keep
religion out of government and move on are her sentiments.  Her mind works
much differently than mine and that is one of the things that attract me to
her.  In a way, she is correct...there is no god...nothing more to talk
about.  If she professed agnosticism, then a relative debate would
ensue.  We spoke about Dan Barker and his journey toward the light (truth)
and that he has made more money by being an atheist than he could have
imagined being a xian.  Anyway, I suppose there is no real point to this
message and maybe I am just looking for ways to get her talking about
atheism.  Any thoughts or comments?
Peace...


Response:

 

Exactly. Your friend is confident in her position - why be a missionary for it? My own experience with scientists who are atheists (about a third of them are) - is that they are not activists - unless it is on other grounds - not actively trying to promote an ism - not even athe-ism. Now that doesn't mean she or he might not work toward a political end more practical than any ism. She or he could be dedicated to correcting a wrong - or in making a new law, etc.

Internally, the position is: “I'm an atheist - no need to have anyone follow me in that.”

I could take that position -

 

On the other hand - there is much going on in this universe that is amazing and beyond my understanding. I think it's reasonable to have an interest in continuing to learn a little more and a little more. I would like to know what's going on - how it's possible that matter exists - that we exist, etc. I don't think I ever will know these things - but it's reasonable and fun to keep trying.

Einstein was once asked by a reporter: "If you could have one yes or no question answered and be sure the answer was correct, what would you ask?"

Einstein without a pause said, "Is the universe friendly?"

Is there something about this very complex universe that "cares" about us? Are we an important part of what it all means? Or are we no more than a rock or any other little part of the whole thing?

I don't know the answers to these questions - I do know the answer is not the ones most religions have subscribed to - that it all began with this God that then made all the rest. That's nonsense. Nevertheless, many who believe this have gained truly great benefits and provided great service to others. Others who pretend to believe these things - are merely profiteers. These people are not believers - don't blame the beliefs themselves for these wrongs - they come from other more selfish beliefs.

These other beliefs have to do with one thinking he is what it is about - Give all your money to me, etc. The believers are the victims, not the criminals.

I have often said that the principle of giving cannot be taught if the teacher tells the giver to whom he “must” give. That teaches “taking,” not “giving.” True giving never has a receipt nor a record kept – nor a tax deduction. The government has made giving most difficult amidst these temptations.

 

Atheist Post:

 

I've been dreaming recently about a non-belief church where every week you’re
taught a different lesson, like "How to make and keep friends", "How to deal
with angry people", "How to communicate effectively".

Wouldn't it be great!


Response:

 

There are several like this. Try Unity. They function somewhat like religions - but with no fixed belief system.

Then there are some in the middle - having a belief system - but also having lessons on a myriad of topics - like the Mormons, who build universities and teach their people to be leaders in the world - teachers - doctors - radio - television - movies - etc. and who have talks on just about every practical subject you can think of. (Not counting subjects that contradict or appear to contradict their “beliefs.”)

 

We are not likely to have an inspiring professor speak to us at Church about the miracle of evolution – regardless of how good a Mormon he happens to be. He may teach it in a biology class among those majoring in biological sciences – even at the Brigham Young University owned by the Church, but not to the general congregations – and not even to students taking a biology class but who are not a biological majors. I tool two of them – general biology and microbiology, and the subject of evolution was completely ignored.

Then there are the (ridiculous) ones which only teach one thing - Be Saved - Accept Jesus. They are pretty trivial – and yet – even among these – I see people having happy lives. Go figure. It’s been an education.

And the worst of all - those who believe they are the "only" ones some "god" accepts - and they have a duty to either convert or destroy. These are not religions; they are political systems using religion for glue.

Atheist Post:

 

(I had made a comment about truth and good not being the same thing.)

 

I dunno if I agree.  Good and true go together.  Truth is always better than
a lie.  One must know how to judge reality, must know how to filter out true
things from untrue things.  Believing a lie goes against that.  Anything
that teaches something that is a lie is bad; it teaches people to not be
honest.  Sometimes that dishonesty is with themselves.  And that is the worst
kind.


Response:

 

This is always difficult for people. I'll give some examples:

Newton's laws of motion are not "true." They work well for almost all the calculations we do - and are therefore "useful." Useful is good but not necessarily true.

Einsteinian (or relativistic) equations now take the place of
Newton's laws - but even they are not known to be absolutely correct. They are closer to being consistent with observation than the older Newtonian laws - but still subject to correction later, as we have more data.

 

“Truth” is something we attempt to approximate – and perhaps we get better and better at it – but we will never have a trillionth of it absolutely correct.

Electrons do not go in little "orbits" around the nucleus of an atom. We've known this is not true for at least fifty years. This is still taught in all the high schools - because it works well to gain an understanding of how chemical reactions work. If the student continues in this or a related field in college, he or she will learn that the motion of electrons is not orbital - but very much more complex than that - and must be represented with a kind of egg-shaped solid probability plot. The old "model" is useful, but not really true.

"Good" religion is this way also. It is not true - but very useful to many people. It gets them beautiful weddings - beautiful funerals - a long-term support group that is much better than any non-believer's group has proven to be. It's not true - but it is good. The atheists may actually speak more literal truth, but they do not have a record of providing these benefits. It’s a case where too much emotional dependence on “truth” may be bad, while some attachment to things that are not literally true may be good. The proof is in the pudding.

There is also "bad" religion, and you don't want to get me going on that.

A simpler example is Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny - and to get away from Christian child-lore - also the tooth fairy. These things are not true - but contrary to what some extremists believe - these things are demonstrably good for little children. Mine knew as soon as practical that these things were not true - but I did not send them to kindergarten telling all the other children that “There is no Santa Claus.” That would be cruel to my own children - and cruel to the others as well.

When a child pretends to be a fireman - that is not true - he or she is not a fireman - but I hope we wouldn’t go to them and say - "Hey - quit being a hypocrite – quit pretending - this is a lie – you are not a fireman." The pretending, at this age, is very useful. It’s a kind of “planning.” As adults, we often use similar metaphors without so much as a blink. We look at a blueprint and declare, “This is the master bedroom.” In literal truth, it’s only a plan – on a piece of paper. “I’m a fireman,” is no different from this.

Even when adults "pretend," I think it's good - if - and this is a big if - if they are trying to become that thing. It's like practice. Playing the piano and pretending one is a great pianist - that's fun - and positive. Of course, we hope the adult is aware of reality in the process - we don't want a bunch of schizophrenic adults around if we can help it. When little kids do it, it is almost never a disease – same for adults.

Now - when adults believe there is a personal god - who loves them, etc. Can this be good for them? If it leads to caring about others - and leads them to be better and more responsible mothers and fathers, etc., then I see this as good. If it leads them to believe they are better than everyone else, etc., then I think it's bad. I've seen lots of the former - and some of the latter - truly a lot more of the former. In general, the belief appears good to me.

Atheist Post:

 

Is it true that the Mormons are racists against black men?


Response:

 

They had a doctrine that no person with any “Negro blood” could have the “Priesthood.” All the other boys would hold it beginning at twelve years old, so a little black boy would feel at a great disadvantage – and most likely wonder “Why?”

 

As a result, it was also highly discouraged that any missionary work was to be done to “convert” blacks. In the East Central States Mission, we were told, “If you knock on a door and a Colored person answers, ask if the Johnson family lives near here – that you are looking for them. You will not by lying, as we are looking for all families, including the Johnson’s.”

 

That doctrine was either changed or updated for our time, depending on whom you ask – about 20 years ago. I always viewed it as a Satanic doctrine – and would still dearly love to hear an apology for it.

 

Atheist Post:

 

"And we tease them also."...we?  Do you consider yourself a Mormon?  How
can you be a Mormon and an atheist at the same time?  Many Jews, rather
commonly, are out and out atheists like one of our charter
members...but they still refer to themselves as Jews.  I can
understand that...it is a nationality plus a religion.  I cannot see
Mormons as a nationality.  Please explain.


Response:

 

I don't believe there is a mammal that is a god - a person who created the universe. I do believe in much of what the Mormons teach - and the way they practice it. There are some Mormons who have the opinion that I am not one of them - but some others regard me as a Mormon doing some of my part. I'm taking a year "off," - a sabbatical - to visit 52 religions. It has been an experience. I write a report for each visit. Almost no one is mad at me for doing this – (At least I have not been approached) - on the contrary, some are interested in the reports - which are written critically - and more critical of the Mormons than of anyone, as nearly every report has a bit to criticize about Mormon belief, while all the other religions get only one critical report each.

Mormons have some rotten teachings - which I am finding most other religions have also. Which religions are the most accepting and inclusive of other religions has become pretty clear to me. The Mormons fall about in the middle of this classification. They fall at the very top in terms of practice.

The Methodists - The Nazarenes - The Seventh-Day Adventists (A much changed religion) - and perhaps most of all, the Swedenborgians - are the most inclusive and non-judgmental of all I've visited. The Swedenborgians are not very successful, because they don't have a way of making their members feel "special." This is a disadvantage of being entirely inclusive. People seem to want to hear that they are “the” ones God has selected as His own.

You can define "atheist" as you wish, of course. I define it as one who believes there is no “personal” god, like a mammal. I do believe something is going on that is beyond my comprehension. I have never classified myself as “atheist,” but rather as one who believes no one knows these things. (This is the old and better definition of an agnostic.) I don’t even trust my knowledge of physics - and this stuff is a thousand times more complex.

I also believe there is no Santa Claus - but I don't hate the idea – and I don’t live in fear of it.

Atheist Post:

 

I say that would be good if I believed that way.


Response:


If we really mean this, it is very positive - that we believe it is "good" for those who believe that way.

Feeling it a privilege to be able to believe as we find the data supports - and allowing all others the same - that's maturity. The desire to "convert," should be held down to a reasonable level - for them - and for us. Free agency is more important than conversion. Unhappy people should be given options for more happiness. Happy people should be left to their already well-working belief system. There is plenty of logical room for the conservative stance to preserve what is good for someone, and the liberal reaching out for something new when something is not working well enough.

Atheist Post:


Xian memes are indoctrinated/taught to obey &to (dare) question any man of
gawd is tantamount to questioning gawd himself! What a crock!


Response:

 

I like this - I'm going to edit it a little so that others I may send it to can interpret:

"Christians are often indoctrinated to obey and not dare to question a 'man of God,' as that is tantamount to questioning God himself."

Absolutely!

Besides, if there were a god - what would be wrong with questioning the god directly? Nothing! If he were so small that he could not survive questioning, he ought to quit the god job anyway and take on something easier.

If God had asked me to kill my son to prove I loved Him, I would answer, "If you are evil enough to kill my innocent son, I cannot stop the all-powerful, but I will not do this evil thing myself. Being all-knowing, you must know that I would never ask my son to kill my grandson to prove he loves his daddy. How can you ask for such as this? I may see you as all-powerful and all-knowing, but now you appear not all-good.” Or, more simply, I could say, “Stick it!” or, “Go sit on a tack!” I have never understood how Abraham could have been such a weenie – unless he knew what was going on – and that it was really a drama for learning – and that he knew he would not be killing his son at all - which has come to be my opinion.

 

That “Go Sit on a Tack,” came from a hymn in one of the visited churches. It was spoken to the devil. It’s so much better than some of the cursing lines I have heard and read in this group.

(These atheists have a way of bringing out some of the anger I have felt for many years – about such beliefs.)

 

Atheist Post:

 

What Nazarenes have you been talking to!  My Aunt is a Nazarene that
has her own TV show ("Musical Memories - Songs of the Faith"), my Uncle is a
Nazarene that run a college (Nazarene University of Tennessee) and my
Grandfather started over a dozen Nazarene churches in
Missouri.


Response:

 

How interesting! I've only had an interface with two different Nazarene congregations. Both were positive experiences. I know that my Trip Around the Sun is very cursory, at best. I know the Nazarenes believe one must be Christian - it's among the various denominations - that they are more tolerant than most. They might well be intolerant of Buddhists, Jews, and of course, atheists, but they are quite accepting of Mormons, and other denominations that many others reject.

Atheist Post:

 

Chuck – Your words: “There are other religions (or elements within them) which actually believe in the destruction of those who refuse to believe.”


Dear Chuck: what religions or elements are you referring to?


Response:

Extremist elements among the Islam, for example. Or just Protestants (Church of England) against Catholics in The Emerald Isle. They kill each other and think they are serving God by getting rid of the ones who "believe wrong."

 

Quite a few Christian religions were involved in killing Mormons during the early days in that church. They thought they were doing God’s work – just as Saul did (The eventual apostle Paul) in the New Testament - when he advocated the killing of Christians - and held the coats of the killers while they did so. His “dedication” to God, even though in error, was rewarded by a miraculous conversion experience – and a changed life. (He got struck blind, but it was temporary.) (This according to the New Testament.)

There are murderers and rapists, etc., in the
United States - but that doesn't make the country bad. The same is true of religions. The bad among them do not define the whole.

Atheist Post:

 

But you don’t explain how are you a Mormon if you don’t believe in gods!!!! What do you keep from what the Mormons teach?

Response:

 

I believe in love – but I don’t believe love is a person. Is it possible to believe in God and not believe He is a person?

Belief that a mammalian god exists is not even an actionable belief. The important beliefs have to do with how one should act and feel toward his fellow man, his family, and himself.

Mormons are very positive, accomplished, and educated. They care about one another's children - aging moms and dads - many good things. I don't know a better place to raise a family.

So one person believes there is a god who made everything else - and another does not believe this - why can't those two be pretty much alike as to how they live? And why wouldn’t that make them pretty much alike, period?

And why can't they both think the other is ok just as the good person he or she is?

 

Any technical thing that is incorrect - if it is learned later (in another life or whatever) – can then be corrected if it makes sense to correct it.

 

I cannot for the life of me figure out why people are so attached to technical truths when we have so few of them correct. Rejecting all of evolutionary science, for example – but wanting to think their concept of God is exactly technically correct. Why?

 

On the other hand, I also cannot see why all these “atheists” are so attached to the idea that it’s important that they are technically correct. Why? What is actionable here?

It wouldn’t take any Mormon more than five minutes in one of your groups to discern that Mormons are happier and better adjusted. They are also happier by far than those “fundamentalists” you guys like to talk about. Of course there are idiots among religions - why make that your definition of them all?

 

Atheist Post:

 

Hi All,

I know there has been mention of raising children recently but...I wanted to post a question specifically about raising children when you (an atheist/agnostic/non-christian/rhubarb) are with a partner who is someone devoted to their xianity.

Anybody out there willing to share their experience?

- A Friend


Response:

This can certainly be a problem for people. There was one episode of Little House on the Prairie that got up my dander.

Remember the lady and the man that ran the store? The lady was a mean-spirited woman. They had a daughter and a son - she was interested only in the daughter. The daughter was becoming quite like her.

The daughter married a Jewish man - and was changing noticeably in her personality - happy - we were starting to like her. Then she got pregnant.

The mother couldn't wait until the grandchild would be born - and she could take it to church and make of it a good Christian.

But the father of the new husband - a dedicated Jew - also couldn't wait for the child to be raised Jewish. This mother and that father were at each other's throats arguing over the matter - while the little mother to be and the father to be were embarrassed watching all this argument between the two grandparents.

Then came our hero - what's his name - Laura's dad. He came to these two while they were arguing and suggested a "solution."

"Well," he said to the woman - "you are primarily interested in this if the baby is a girl - right?" The woman agreed - if it was a boy, she didn't care.

Then Landon turned to the Jewish Grandfather and said, "You're mostly interested if this baby is a boy - right?" The Jewish grandfather also agreed. If it was a girl, he didn't care if it became a Christian.

"So then," Landon said, "If the baby is a girl, she will be raised Christian - if a boy, he will be raised Jewish."

What made me mad was that this solution was acceptable to everyone, and the argument was over. Everyone was smiling and saying, "Of course!"

This baby's religion was being determined while it was still in the womb! They couldn't even wait to do the brainwashing later - had to get it all settled before birth!

This is just plain rotten. Rotten.

Our five kids were free to attend any church they wanted - or no church at all. There was still influence, I'm sure - but not the making of decisions for someone else.

Let your partner be devoted to Christianity - don't belittle it or rename it “xianity.” Let your child be exposed caringly to both of your sets of ideas - and choose all along his or her life - could choose one - and then choose the other - and maybe a whole third one. It's his or her life, for crying out loud. Even a young child can handle this fine - if both adults are showing that they care about each other - and recognize the freedom of thought that each should have.

Atheist Post:

 

But an organization is made of individuals, religion is the common thread
here, necessary for survival in more primitive times, but not as much now,
supposedly, that's what family &relatives are for, especially if they get
along, but with my experience, again the common thread in my own relatives
is their devout faith in
AOG religion, this is why even though I offered to
stay in touch, I told them that I don't really have much in common with them
because to me, they're like total strangers because I grew up far from them
&did not stay in communication with them because I grew up in foster/group
homes which are not related to them in any way, even the religion of the
group homes was different than my own upbringing, so trying to maintain any
sort of communication with them is pointless because every other word is
pray for this sick person, gawd's blessed us with another child, can you
donate some bone marrow or a kidney, etc.

I suppose if I grew up with them in constant contact growing up, I might
feel different about the situation minus all the religious nonsense, but
that's the problem here, every little thing has to revolve
around some religious ritual,(prayer vigil) donation of time or money for
some religious or family emergency or whatever, it just makes me sick to
think of all these altruisms that could easily facilitate good will without
all the religious syrup smothering all the otherwise "good intentions".


Response:


Some very good stuff here -

An organization is made up of people with various talents and motivations, etc. Like a car is made up of parts. The parts are not useful individually (not as useful) - the organization brings new functionality that individuals can't have.

We go to the moon on the knowledge of thousands. No individual could do it.

You are right about the dogma (religion) being the glue that holds these organizations together. In fraternities, it is rituals of hazing - poems about the inferiority of other fraternities, etc.

Among atheists who organize, it's words like xian, things that make them sound different and that define the "enemies." These things give a "personality" to the group and help them to feel superior.

I understand the value of these things - but I would like them to always be positive.

Sometimes - in religions - they are positive. Some religions believe God loves everyone - and that none will fail in the end. Others like to believe most of us will burn in Hell forever - it makes them feel superior - just as the fraternities want to feel – and as some atheists want to feel. These are great differences in "attitude."

If atheists would like to see anyone "hurting," that's a bad attitude. If they are for the happiness and betterment of all, that's a great attitude.

Atheist Post:

 

'It's a matter of concern when intelligent young people will say that
black is white.” Amazing what comes of consensus reality!

Response:

This has always amazed me too. Does it work on me, and I just don't know it?

For example - the Second Law of thermodynamics - I accepted that - and with 31 years of thinking it over - I don't think it holds.

That law's not holding implies a great deal of physics going down, so it's a hard position to maintain. I would have to dedicate my life to it to make any headway - or to find I was wrong. When you put ten years into something only to find you're wrong, that's a real bummer.

Atheist Post:

 

No one says these people are dummies.

 

(This is in reference to some questioning about calling Christians xians – or fungus, etc. The atheist’s posts are full of this kind of language.)


Response:

 

I thought when they were called "fungus" that meant "dummy," or at least something very negative.

I'll have to choose my words more carefully. Perhaps someone meant that Christians grow on people and use up their nourishment. That is, of course, sometimes true.

The trick is not to do this ourselves.

I happen to think that the great Negro race is one of the greatest "blessings" in human history - but if that great group of people do not want to be called by that name, I'll refer to them as blacks - or African Americans, etc. – whatever a group of people want to be called.

Christians don't like to be called xians. They don't like to be called theists either. They are theists, of course, blacks are also Negroes, just as another is a Caucasian, but why call them by these titles if they don't like the terms? It brings about a competitiveness that has nothing at all to do with real issues.

Atheists accept that title - so it's ok. If they liked another - I would use that.

I don't care myself what people call my groups - to me, words are just tools - and I can get information about attitudes, etc., from them. I like the information – so talk on.

Atheist Post:

 

Why do most scientists not believe in ESP and psi phenomena?  


Response:


I can chime in as just one scientist. It's very simple. If it is sensed, that is not extra-sensory.

 

We have hundreds - maybe thousands of senses. That old thing about "five" senses is thousands of years old - and terribly incorrect.

We sense blood-sugar level - and our pancreas reacts by releasing insulin.

We sense levels of what we have come to call depression - and mania - and our brain receives small doses of correct chemistry to bring that into balance.

We sense our oxygen need - and breathe faster - and our heart beats faster.

Some people can hear better than others - see better than others - and there is much variation in the amount of use people make of some less "conscious" senses.

The "magic tricks" certain ESP folks perform are totally junk. They do it for fun or to get money from idiots. Why worry about them any more than we do a magician who says he can cut off someone's head - and replace it without damage? And people used to ooh and ahh over it - and pay money to see it.

If someone actually has some data that we do not have - he may have some knowledge that seems amazing. Fine - that's not Extra Sensory - it's just Sensory, period. But it may not have all come from the popular five.

There is no such thing as a sense that is outside the senses. But there are many senses. NO ESP for this scientist. I do believe in SP – and great variation in talent for it.

Atheist Post:

 

(Quoting something read)

 

A common objection to atheism -- one stated by many scholars and laymen, theists and non-theists - is that it is impossible to prove the non-existence of God. Yet the atheist response to this objection has been virtually non-existent.


Response:

We know, of course, that they are wrong - scientifically oriented thinkers atheist or not - have given very fine objections to this ridiculous theory.

For example: No one can prove that a lizard did not create the universe. Would it be logical then to believe that a lizard did this?

I cannot prove that you will never rape anyone - shall I then believe that you will?

Not being able to prove something not true is no data at all. Period.

Atheist Post:

(The question of crosses on church tops was being discussed – I had let them know that the Mormons do not use the cross as a decoration – and have only one or two hymns that mention it at all.

 

(I have wondered if the execution of Jesus had been done by guillotine, would churches put one of those up on top?)

 

So – someone asks:

Did you ever ask a church leader that question about the guillotine?

So, did you ever get a memorable "response"? If so, can you recall one?


Response:

 

I did ask that a couple times as a young missionary. I hope to ask better questions now. I found that attacking a "sacred" icon is like calling someone's mother something awful. The sensitivity is so impinged that thought is no longer possible. They tend to say, "I'll pray for you," and the discussion is over.

Here's an example of a question I asked the minister of a fundamentalist church last week:

(Understand – some of this appears out of order – as I’ve taken several weeks to get this particular report out – and to get and reply to emails.)

 

Their program had a beautiful picture of Jesus - standing with a staff. There is the sweetest little lamb nuzzled up to his leg. Jesus is looking off behind us in the picture at two wolves, as the wolves wait on a rocky hill.

I circled the wolves with my ball point pen - and put a line to some words I wrote on the program.

"Does He also love these? And what would He have them eat? Has he provided other lambs which He does not protect? Or does He want the wolves to starve? Why did He then make those wolves? Why does He not protect the lambs that are to be their food?"

This is not going to lead to an intelligent discussion of evolution, but it will bring thinking. The question was not challenging the man's whole religion - just asking him to think about what these wolves might be about in God's whole plan.

We talked for a while - he was a good man - willing to try. I'm not motivated to try to change someone’s belief, unless I find a person unhappy or destructive. This man was neither.


Atheist’s next question:

 

And what was the man's response?

 

next response:

He said that the wolves probably represented bad men - and that the analogy wasn't perfect. (I suspect that the wolves could be atheists - or evolutionists - lurking in wait to destroy a poor lamb's belief.)

I never have liked the sheep and wolf analogy - that's why I was ready with the question.

If we regard our leader as a good shepherd - then maybe to really be on his side, we ought to be sheep dogs - not his lambs as "subjects," to be fleeced or slaughtered, but his trusted dogs as helpers. And you see - the wolves are much more like dogs than sheep.

Atheist Post:

 

What about this ridiculous war on drugs?

 

Response:

 

Having been in defensive warfare for 31 years, I have a definition of war a little different.

Often the word "war" is used metaphorically to mean many things. (Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war -"  "War on drugs," etc.

My definition: War is a competition during which we get to kill as many innocent people as we like without a trial. No lawyers - no courts. We cannot kill anyone found guilty - that's called assassination.

By this definition the War on drugs is not a war. It's just a police action gone amuck. It employs lots of lawyers, judges, and jails - not like a war at all. If it were a war, we would simply shoot anyone "suspected" and anyone feeding anyone suspected, etc. Or perhaps anyone living in the country of the suspected drug seller or drug user. That's the way war works - it's absolutely careless .

If we did this at home - then if a governor of a state went berserk and started killing people, we would bomb that state - instead of taking that governor to trial. That would be pretty dumb.

This next part is not about you - you didn't say anything like this - but many who talk about how bad the "war on drugs" is - including someone close to me - also are "for" drug use in ways that most of us would judge abusive. This is also pretty dumb. The smart thing - don’t worry about the war on drugs - have your own private war against it.

Atheist Post:

 

(I had expressed some of my doubt regarding the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

 

Of course with your example it would seem logical to
me that your rejection the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
would require you to disprove it.  Maybe that's why
some atheists become actively 'anti-theist'?



I understand this logic. There is a difference, though. There is a great deal of science behind that second law - and my work would be "possible" if I could put the math and physics together - and if I was right.

To disprove religion is another thing entirely. No matter how much proof you came up with, it would not matter - because there is no scientific culture out there to accept your work. Well - there is - but that community is not a community of "believers." They don't need the proof. So all we have is folks who won't accept it - and folks who don't need it.

Scientists often set out to disprove another scientist's theory, but they have a chance for success. The scientists I've known who are also atheists recognize this difference - and do not try to "prove" there is no god.

When a scientist does succeed in disproving a prior theory, there is usually a sense of loss - even though this is really a gain. Einstein said, "Please forgive me,
Newton."

He often talked like this - but I wouldn't accuse him of trying to talk to
Newton in the "next" world. He was talking to the scientific community that lives right here.

If someone claimed with religious style conviction (warm feeling in his heart) that there was a time when nothing at all existed except for this one frog – and that then that frog made the universe and all of us, I would have no idea how to prove that person wrong. Nonetheless, he is wrong. I could be “anti-frog,” but what could be gained from this? I would rather be just a-frog rather than anti-frog. It’s much easier, and it also makes sense.

 

But when science purports a theory - and does all the work necessary to show the theory to be compatible with the other known things in the field, I am free to do work on disproving that theory. I may first suspect that it is wrong - and then go about finding and sharing my reasons for thinking it doesn’t fit with other known things.

 

Atheist Post:

 

I haven't followed this string, but if this person is happy about finding
god why is he telling a bunch of atheists unless he wants us to ask a bunch
of questions.

Response:


Forty years ago - I was a missionary. In the midst of considerable "success," I never was a witness to the conversion of a thoughtful atheist.

Most of it is about getting people to move from one church to another - or from being inactive to active - when already a believer. If that's from some fundamentalist religion to a more inclusive and caring one, that may be progress.

Conversion from theism to atheism is much more common than the reverse. This is what happened to
Darwin - as his church rejected him and decided he was an evil man.

 

This “conversion,” if we can call it that - does not happen by missionary work - atheists are not in the conversion business. Anti-theists may be, but probably with little effectiveness. Anti-stuff doesn’t have much power of conversion. Pro-stuff does.

A very large majority of atheists aren't activists. They smile a lot - and that's about it.

Atheist Post:

 

"The incidence of atheism is highest among physicists and
bioscientists."

Response:

 

I found about 1/3 of physicists purport atheism. Another about 1/3 are non-committal - probably includes quite a few atheists. I also knew quite a few who were dedicated in their various religions - perhaps the other third.

Among bio-scientists (especially if we include medical doctors), I have talked closely with many of these. If they admit atheism to me, they still do not want it published to others. Darwin himself was a believer - who was much hurt by the reaction of his religious fellows to his discoveries - and became in time an atheist. He had planned to be a minister.

Physicists I know who are atheists tend to smile, and say, "Well, sure." Their atheism is not nearly as challenged by others as is the atheism of biologists. (It's the evolution that is threatening. There's not a legitimate biologist on the planet who does not believe in evolution, and that includes many thousands of Christians, who have decided that God used evolution as a tool of creation. A doctor I talked with recently is in that very position. I can assure anyone that he is sincere in his belief.)

Hey - something comes to me here - Maybe the reason the atheists I have known are not activists is because they are physicists - and others don’t tend to challenge their atheism.

Another line from Atheist:

"With the exception of politics, we don't see much effort being placed on ideology in atheist lifestyles."

This line was a little bothersome to me. My experience is that physical scientists are quite moral on average. Those who are atheists are just as moral as the others. Less adultery, for example, than among writers and movie stars.

Atheist Post:

A person is born
not knowing anything about religion until they go
through the brain washing process of going to church.


Response:

Yet still - these people who were born with no religion - have developed them in nearly every culture of all history. The "brainwashing," which I also detest, comes later - and it varies greatly among different religions. To look at the worst of religions and blame them all for that level of insanity, is ludicrous.

If one believes there is no god who created the universe – must that person also say that religions have no value to people?

Many things that are not technically true - still can have great value in the lives of people. I have seen too many good things from religion - that are rare anywhere else. Dogma is just glue – the real religion is in the living of it.

Atheist Post:

 

(There are quite a few vegetarians among the atheists who organize)

 

So, we can kill mentally stupid people, or less intelligent people or people with communicative problems because they’re at the animal level, even when they (stupid people and animals) can feel?

Response:

 

We have developed "rights" for people. It's said these rights are from "God" - or that they are "natural" and came with us - but this just isn't so.

Society has made up and supported these rights - and they are primarily reserved only for humans.

Animal rights activists are trying to increase the rights that animals have. Some have more than others.

For example, if the species is endangered - more rights.

If the animal is large - more rights. Kill a rabbit - no problem - kill a whale - watch out - even if it's a plentiful species. We, with
Russia, spent millions to save three whales - that will never happen for three mice.

If the animal is intelligent - more rights. Kill a fish - no problem - kill a dog - big trouble.

If the animal is furry and cute - more rights. Kill a cow and make shoes - no problem. Kill a mink and make a fur coat - big problems.

If the animal is honored - more rights. Kill a cow and eat it - no problem. Kill a horse and eat it - big problem. (In some states.)

But all of these rights are defined and supported only by humans. No god had anything to do with them - and they are not inalienable.

 

I know Mormons who are vegetarians – based on their interpretation of some scripture. Most Mormons eat meat.

Atheist Post:

 

(The following is based on communication between a Christian man who was writing and being rather harshly attacked by the atheists. He was expressing pleasure with his marriage, etc. and giving credit to Christianity for his success.)

 

Love is an emotion, it's a fleeting thing, not something that can be easily quantified, measured or
compared to other scientific "data." You have said nothing here that tells anyone you love your wife.


Response:

 

Love has been defined a billion ways - because the emotional element has made it so interesting to people.

Many of these definitions, to me, miss the mark. Someone kills a mate who is leaving him - declaring, "I did it because I love her." Ridiculous! Jealousy is not love - love is unselfish. If he loved her, she would have been free to go. He would hurt, but wish for her happiness.

This is my own definition:

The Substantial, Unselfish, and Continuing desire, for someone else to be happy, is love.

”Substantial” indicates quantifiable. “Continuing” indicates not fleeting.

 

Regarding scientific evidence, having been functioning as a physicist for 31 years, and having taken that very seriously with regard to data and not superstition, it's unimaginable to me that this man's statements and 34 years of marriage is not taken for evidence of love.

Atheist Post:

 

I still can't see how any supreme being plays a part in physics.


Response:


If there is one, he, she, or it plays a role. Nothing that exists does not play a role.

 

Santa Claus plays no role in mathematics, but even that does not decrease the value of the belief in Santa Claus. The belief is false - the value is not false.

 

With regard to belief in God, These beliefs often result in very well-lived lives. A well-lived life is data, not for the existence of these things, but for the value.

 

Value is worth far more than existence. Galaxies exist – for sure – but we experience little value in them. If some of them ceased their existence tomorrow morning – it would be probable that we would not even notice.

Atheist Post:

 

I recently heard a discussion about Methodological Atheists.  The speaker
stated that while a majority of the people, in polls, may say that they
believe in god, most are Methodological Atheists.  What that means, is that
their belief in god does not affect anything they do, so for all intents and
purposes they are actually atheists.  Certainly children fall into this
category, at least children that do not yet speak.

The more "active" atheist is a Logical Atheist.  That is, a person that has
arrived at their self-proclaimed position of atheism through logical means.

Response:

 

I like this. I like it a lot.

40 years ago, as a missionary, we had a question we asked of Brother Brown. "Brother Brown" was just a dummy name to represent whomever we were talking to.

The questions was, "Brother Brown - how can we tell what someone truly believes - by what he says - or by what he does?"

We hoped "Brother Brown's" answer would be, "Well - by what he does." It always was. Brother “Brown” always knew the right answer.

This is because everyone knows this, yet religions by the dozens teach exactly the opposite all the time.

Mormons are often accused of being a "works" church, which is not quite correct. They do believe there are things we cannot do for ourselves - but by and large, it is our own actions which really count to Mormons.

I also have noted over a long period of time - that there are many more atheists than those who come forward. By being very open in my one-on-one communications, I have met quite a few. Believe me, every bonafide Mormon biologist believes in evolution, for example, and not just some variation in coat color - but the very speciation by natural selection that made us possible.

Atheist Post:

 

"Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be outraged by
silence."


Chuck:

 

Truth is not a living being. It cannot be "outraged." Truth is neither good nor bad - it simply "is." If we worship truth - that may be just as ridiculous a religion as all the others.

Atheist Post:

 

(Be advised – I’ve left the language alone in here – it’s not always nice -)

 

Chuck,

And just what is it about Jesus that is moral.  Here's a guy who gets
pissed at a fig tree for not having fruit out of season, so he kills
it. (Matthew 21:19)  He puts demons into a herd of pigs and has them
run off of a cliff, killing them instantly.(Matthew 8:30-32)  He
preaches in the Beatitudes that being meek, poor and hungry is a good
thing, to the delight of despots throughout history.  And, perhaps
most chilling, he says he comes not in peace, but to kill, to set
children against parents.

(Matthew 10:34) - "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the
earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set
a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will
be the members of his household."

(Luke 12:51) - "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I
tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in
one household will be divided, three against two, and two against
three..."

No, this Jesus guy was worse than his "Father."  This Jesus guy,
along with everything else, set up an everlasting torment for those
who didn't believe Him.  With this, he created a hell on earth that
has lasted for 2000 years.  What an asshole.

Chuck:

I appreciate this letter. I have some (not all) of those same questions - and have asked them. The church I grew up in does not teach that many of these metaphors are literal. No Hell, for example, in the burning forever sense. Everyone goes where they want to go - by their own judgment of themselves and their preparation.

But even in that church (The Mormons) - they do take the Old Testament literally and accept what I would consider a great deal of evil in their God.

They see Jesus as teaching forgiveness (Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,) understanding and acceptance. Taken as a whole, his teaching were kind.

But even taken as a whole, the "God" of the Old Testament looks pretty bad.

If Jesus was an ordinary man (as you believe) - then he had no way of knowing that his little "club" would grow and last for 2000 years - with all kinds of nuts making cruelty out of it.

I am not a cruel person, I don’t think, and I took lots of what I am from my read on his teachings.

Atheist Post:

 

Lots of anger expressed here – a strong show of anti-theism rather than atheism. I’m not including it, because it was too much to leave in.

 

Chuck:

 

Activists always believe in something. I've been trying to ferret out what it is in this group. I think I now know. You believe in "truth." And you define truth as that which can be proven and logically shared. As a scientist, I'm pretty close to agreement on that.

I think all the atheists I've known as a scientist also believe in "truth," and essentially in the same way - but without the emotional attachment to it. I haven't found them to hate anyone - not even Christians. They're not particularly in love with the world either - just a high level of logic and a lower level of emotion in day-to-day dealings.

If I thought for a moment that this group would be interested in any advice - it would simply be, "Lighten up."

I would give exactly the same advice to the "fundamentalists."

Atheist Response:

 

Chuck,

I think you may be missing an important point.  Most atheists
wouldn't see any need to organize and become activists if it was not
for the insistence of the majority in this country that religion be
rammed down our throats.  If government was truly neutral in matters
of religion, most of us would not even bother to belong to a single
group that espoused a free thought agendum.  Such a group would be
pointless.  The reality, however, is that most of us have confronted
religious bigotry directly and have decided that we had better not
just sit back and let it continue. That is why we are activists, not
because we are concerned with the "truth." 

I could care less if my neighbor believes in fairies, gods, or
whatever. That's their business. However, when they insist, through
enforced pledges and recitation of prayers in public venues that I
participate in their beliefs, that is where I say, "no."  The
only thing that separates "organized atheists," from "un-organized
atheists," is that the un-organized ones have either not faced direct
discrimination or bigotry, or if they have, they have deemed that it
is safer to keep quiet. 

As far as "lighten up" goes, I think you need to realize that what
you see on this list is not our every day persona.  We are
comfortable here letting our hair down and bitching about anything we
like, including xian idiocy.  In my offline life, I have to deal with
religious people everyday, and I am polite and understanding. I
don't raise a stink about every little slight, like prayers before my
son's wrestling meets, because it just gets too damned tiring.  I
can't speak for anyone else on the list, but I think I am "light"
most of the time. I only get "heavy" when a serious infraction of
church/state separation occurs, or when I or my family are the
recipients of religious bigotry.


Response:

 

What a good letter. I do see your point.

 

Many Mormons don’t know it, but the president of the Church in 1961 (or 62) – when the law against organized prayer in school was being debated, wrote a letter to all the various Stake Presidents and Mission Presidents in the Church – letting them know that the Leaders of the Church were in support of this new law – and asking that the letter be read to the members at conferences. Mormons know what it’s like to have officials “messing” with people’s religions. After school prayer, we had teachers in grade schools telling little kids that they would burn in Hell if they kept listening to the Mormon missionaries. - This was President David O. McKay

 

Even with this problem of too little separation of church and state - most atheists do not organize. I've visited 50 groups from different religions in our area - and could only find one small group of organized atheists - who meet only once a month - and even for that one group - had to leave town and go to a larger one.

 

I think this is partly because, along with some imperfection in the system, we do have a pretty good separation. It’s hard to find as good in most other countries.

(Note – most of these posts come from elsewhere – all over the country.)

 

Atheist Post:

Apology accepted. And thanks for the explanation.

 

(I had apologized for something I had said.)

 

It's funny really, because although I agree (for the most part) with
what John said....I also see where you're comin' from with
your "Lighten up" remark. In fact, I thought that YOU were another one
that needed to do JUST THAT. It seems that there are ALOT of folks (all
over the place) who live to pick the bones clean on virtually ANY &
EVERY word that is said by ANYONE. (Regardless as to whether or not
it's significant to any given conversation.) I mean, as I said
earlier...I'm all for discussion & debate. Regardless of how intense
things can get. But, I was just making a comment about the shitty
weather & along comes someone to try & find SOMETHING to pick at.

I only wish that you had stated (from the start) that you were writing
a couple of reports (one on atheists, etc.)...and that the quote
sparked some of what's in one of 'em. THEN, (instead of thinking that
you were just another vulture intensely looking for written meat scraps
to pick at) I would have been more than happy to explain (in depth)
just how I saw the quote.

You pretty much nail it here though. (As far as I'M concerned anyway.)
And I'm QUOTING you!

>>>>"You believe in "truth." And you define truth as that which can be
proven and logically shared. As a scientist, I'm pretty close to
agreement on that. I think all the atheists I've known as a scientist
also believe in "truth," and essentially in the same way - but without
the emotional attachment to it. I haven't found them to hate anyone -
not even Christians. They're not particularly in love with the world either -
just a high level of logic and a lower level of emotion in day-to-day
dealings."<<<<

Now, I would never try to speak for anyone else here....But, you
basically have a handle on MY general outlook.

Anyway, it's good to see that we understand each other now. (WITHOUT
any negative feelings.)

Ha, I certainly didn't think that I'd be saying this in any SINCERE
way, but ... It's nice to meet you, Chuck.

And again, thanks for the explanation.

(So I made an atheist friend – and among the most caustic of them all.)

Response:


What a delightful letter !

Well, I'll be. Nice to meet you too.

My not talking about the report was on purpose - so I could get a feel for what goes on without appearing the "spy." I suppose I am a spy – but spies never want to appear so.

Both for clarity and fairness - Now I'm going to listen while people know.

 

Atheist Post:

"I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got
religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate.
The priest said ´imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like Him.´ The man
studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with
prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.  He tricked his wife
into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for
life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of
his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms,
another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one
daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and
blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed
his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported
to the priest, who said that THAT was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven!
The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject
and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way."

              [Mark Twain]

Response:

(this is from “Letters From the Earth,” a collection of writings by Mark Twain.)

 

There are things up there many would argue are “allowed” by God, because of free agency – but not “done” by God. All the pain comes from our own choices, and the experience is for our growth. After all the pain is gone, we will be larger by it. (I, along with you, do not care for this argument sometimes.)

 

So I would add for today's world to make the message clearer:

In order to follow God's example - to fight against Saddam - let's go and do the necessary research to find all the firstborn of Iraq - and kill them. Some will be 90 year old grandmothers. Some will be nursing their second-born babies - and the baby will fall to the floor when we kill the mother. Some will be firstborn babies killed in their mother's arms. Some will be little boys playing marbles. Some will be little girls playing hopscotch – or some Iraqi game – falling dead in front of their friends who are not of the firstborn.

And to find the love of our own son - we will command our son to slit our grandson's throat to prove that our son loves us.

Just as he proves willing to do it, we will let him slit a lamb's throat instead. And we will expect him to be thankful for our "grace."

 

These are not things that the scriptures teach God “allowed,” but things the scriptures teach God “did,” or asked others to do. These are not the result of our free agency, but of God’s will.

(Now both you, the atheists, and others, the believers, can see clearly a point upon which we may agree. The God of the Old Testament is horrible – and not to be loved by any thinking person. I happen to believe much of the Old Testament is fairy tales. Unfortunate ones indeed.)

 

Atheist Post:

 

I remembered the xian new testament version of HeyZeus
(or Jesus before Chuck gets upset) saying something about bring the
children to me (sorry my knowledge of the bible is not very good).

It got me thinking - it is said that children are "born into sin". 
Could somebody please explain to me what that means (this group seems
to have a lot of knowledge about the xian religion)?  I assume it is
connected with baptism (small for the cathies and proties, big for
the charismatic xians).


Response:

 

That's called the "original sin" doctrine. It blames us all for Adam's "sin" in the Garden of Eden. Most so-called "fundamentalists" accept this doctrine.

Mormons reject this teaching. One of their 13 Articles of Faith is:

"We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression." Children are born entirely innocent, by the Mormon view.

Atheist Post:


[The] Defense of Marriage Act ... an attack on same-sex marriages, is sponsored in the house by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), whose interest in conventional marriage is so strong he is now on his third one. ...


Response:

 

That's great!

I always said I don't want a marriage counselor who is "experienced" with several divorces. I want my advice from an expert who knows how to do it well - and who loves marriage. If he’s had one divorce and a long marriage after – ok – that gets me off the hook.

I have this same belief with regard to all my teachers. They must both know and love their subject.

I tell people, If you want to learn about Communism - select a teacher who loves and knows Communism. If you want to learn about the Mormons - don't go to a Jehovah's Witness. If you want to learn about the lives of homosexuals - or about homosexuality in general - select a teacher who loves being homosexual and knows his or her subject - knows the problems they face, etc.

If you want to learn about atheism, get a good happy well adjusted atheist to be your teacher - one who has little fear and little hate. I think it might be hard to find an “activist” atheist who would meet these criteria.

If you want to learn about Christianity - go to a happy well adjusted Christian who has little fear and little hate. Again, an “activist” probably will not be a good choice.

We tend to decide what we believe and then get a teacher to agree with us. Dumb way to get educated.

 

If one of these qualified teachers says something we question, then it’s fine to go to the “enemy,” and present the information – get objections – and take them back to the teacher for response or clarification. But it’s not reasonable to use the “hater” for the main teacher – on any subject.

Atheist Post:

 

Now I wonder, are atheism and mental illness related?  (Yes, I know anybody can get mental illness).  Statistically are more people with mental illness inclined towards atheism?  Anybody have some trivia to share?


Response:

 

The atheists I've known as a scientist have in general been more well adjusted than average. They don't have the strong feelings against belief systems I find in this group of atheists gathering or communicating as an organization.

I can't see how this organization could in any way "cause" problems, but it is possible that the need for the support here, etc., attracts some who already have problems. I see lots of comforting with a kind of understanding that might be hard to find in "normal" places. Some have probably found the "churches" unwilling to be helpful to people who may show too much at times - and here they find some solace, support and understanding. It appears that people can say anything here – and still be supported. I've found that lacking for some I've known in my own church. Homosexuals, for example - are not really made welcome - unless they remain very silent about their "condition." People with various mental problems have nearly the same trouble. If they can not show it too much, then they can get by. Here in this group - showing it is fine.

I say amen to that function. (Sorry for the sort of semi-religious word.)

(One person wrote in here: “I don’t mind heterosexuals – so long as they act like homosexuals in public.”) Ha, that’s a good one.

 

Atheist Post:

 

Chuck,
What do you mean by "organized"? Do you mean atheists who belong to an
organization or just 2 atheists who are married have a high divorce rate, as
opposed to 1 atheist being married to a spouse with some or a lot of
religion?


Response:

Oh no - My bet is that two comfortable atheists who are married have a low chance of divorce.

By organized - I mean an atheist who has the need to gather together with other non-believers to fight for a "cause." It doesn't make the organizing a bad thing - but would doubtless be personalities more prone to anger and divorce on average. Lawyers and politicians also have higher divorce rates than plumbers and mailmen. They're more "thought" active - on average.

I'm really comparing two "groups" of atheists I've been interfacing with. One is not really a "group," but simply scientists I know who don't believe a god exists as an entity or person - the other is this "group" talking on line. There is a huge difference regarding the needs and emotions of the two "groups."

Of all the people I know, the scientists who are atheists are the least needy. Less so than the religious people I know - and far less so than the "organized" atheists. The group I visited to start this was called the "Atheist Coalition," in San Diego – some of you will be familiar.

"Coalition" and "organization" have similar meanings.

Having needs is also fine. I'm glad some of them are being filled here.

Atheist Post:

 

Chuck: When you have two people with strong opinions who like to voice them, trouble can arise. 
However, my experience is that for the most part these relationships are also very long lasting. (Referring to a relationship of two atheists.) I know that in my case (together with spouse 23 years) we have had our hard times, but we always seem to work past them. Part of this is that we know only we can make things better. 

 

We expect no miracles or divine intervention.

 

Chuck:

 

Absolutely. I have certainly observed even among religious couples that those who see a need for "divine intervention" tend to fail. Also those who cry a lot when they express their love for God, etc. - bad news. Those who accept the value of the social system - but make their own way - and wouldn't have it any other way - have the best chance. I don't think throwing all the system away is necessarily a good choice. In my own case, I kept much of the system - and threw away the superstition.

The atheists I think of are not loners or anything like that. One was in Toastmasters international with me. We would go to lunch with several guys and sometimes a gal or two. I've never even heard a single one of them refer to himself or herself as "atheist." When that topic comes up it's usually because I have brought up the subject one-on-one - and the result is that they tell me they don't think there is any such thing as a personal god. Some will accept the universe as "god," but that's just another metaphor. My own experience is also primarily another metaphor. I've "known" that for many years (30 or more) - but mine from my youth has been the metaphor of a father figure - not like the whole universe. I know that person does not exist - but when someone speaks of "God," that's the picture that comes into my mind. I don't think of a horse - not of a mother - but of a father. Mormons actually teach that we also have a mother in heaven - but most seldom actually visualize it - except when they sing the one song that mentions her.

My dad used to say that "nature" was his god. He loved the world as it is - with all the complexity, etc. He was up at five every single morning - not wanting to miss the sunrise. He thought a weed just as beautiful as a flower. In fact, for him, a dented car was just as good as a freshly new one. I always suspected he dented a couple cars on purpose just to get it over with.

I think your 23 years of marriage is worthy of congratulations. Success is real data. Nice to get to know you a little.

Atheist Post:

 

If God's commandments were the basis of morality, then what makes an action "moral" would be determined arbitrarily. If God said genocide was moral, that would make genocide moral; if God said it was immoral, genocide would be immoral. Thus, there must be some objective moral standard God must refer to that exists independently of God's commandment for moral values to be determined non-arbitrarily. This standard would exist independently of God, and thus the existence of morality would not depend upon the existence of God.


Response:

Yep. He tells Abraham to kill his boy - and that's "moral." He kills the firstborn of Pharaoh (without killing Pharaoh), and that's a wonderful miracle of the "Passover."

I couldn't agree more - a god's word is a bad way to determine morality.

But "data" is a good way to determine good morals. If we look at thousands of couples - and find the ones who are true to each other have a better chance for success and happiness than do those who "cheat" - then, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" starts making sense. It doesn't matter who gives the command - test it with real data.

Atheist Post:

 

I haven't written much or vented much lately because of a few things in my
life that are not exactly great, but I have found in the past 2 ½ months ... seems much longer... that I have been unemployed that I can pay more attention to what my family (mostly my dad) is going through.

My dad, who is a 70 year old Archie Bunker, was involved in a car accident
2+ years ago, and it took its toll on his back which was never really good to
begin with.  But my dad acted physically more like a late 50 years old man than
someone nearing his 70's - he had a beautiful urban garden which was so lush
I thought there may be a cure for cancer somewhere back there.  Ok - that's
enough background.

After the accident we've seen him purchase a lift chair because he has
difficulty getting out of a chair. He sleeps more often for less time
because he cannot lay down for more than an hour or so at a time. He cannot
do his favorite things like drive to giant flea markets or travel the east
coast to see things he couldn't when he was raising us (5 kids) by himself. 
next is a scooter... the old people devise that goes everywhere and please
don't get me wrong - this is not what I am getting at - not the "he needs
help" thing at all but the defeatist attitude he has taken and.......

He now has a ... I cannot remember what it is called but it is a bust of
Jesus with his heart in his hands that is wrapped with thorns on his mantle.
He has also started to bitch (remember he is Archie - so he can bitch) about
when he sneezes no-one says "god bless you" or in the accent from here
"g'bleshooo".  also, he now preaches in a way at my little brother (27 years
old) - that even though he knows my brother doesn't go in for the prayer - it couldn't hurt.

Ok so here is the thing - this xianity thing grows like mold on decaying
bodies like so much wet grout. This seems to me to be my main problem with
it - but I have never been able to put my finger exactly on why I hated the
whole thing with such a venomous tongue as to wish it to be eradicated. It
is that it preys - 'it' the belief, the hierarchy, the believers - IT seeks
out the weak, the lonely, sad, victims, WHAT THE F*** EVER LOWLY PERSON, and children who have no way to make up their own minds.... it preys and sits in
wait for a stray looking for what should be help and gets sucked into the
whole F***ing thing again.

I’m and very angry and purging my un-soul.  Love you
guys....


kisses and PEACE --- PLEASE

Response:

 

No answer to this post – included to give a flavor of some of the feelings here. There are real problems that come from this “late conversion” process. Sometimes inheritances disappear into churches, for example, that have not been the long-term support of the person.

 

Atheist Post:

 

Questions are being asked of the evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins.

 
---

In the name of rationality, would you like to see Father Christmas and the
Tooth Fairy stamped out?

No. Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are part of the charm of
childhood. So is God. Some of us grow out of all three.

---

Did you have a Pauline conversion to atheism? Or did your beliefs evolve
more slowly over time? What changed your mind?

I had a normal, decent Anglican upbringing, which is to say that I was
never brainwashed as I might have been had I been brought up in another
faith.

---

What is beyond scientific explanation?

There are things that science wasn't meant to explain and doesn't try to,
such as what is right or wrong. There are things that science can't yet
explain but is working on. And there may be things that science would like
to explain but never can. It is a simple (but distressingly common)
fallacy to presume that if something is beyond science, it may still not be

not beyond religion.

---

Do you have a particular affinity with chimpanzees?

No more than you do. You and I are exactly equally close cousins of
chimps, which means very close indeed.

---

Is a scientist who believes in God a true scientist?

Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived ­ including Newton,
who may have been the greatest of all,­ believed in God. But it was hard
to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so
overwhelming. My guess is that if Newton were born today, he would be an
atheist.

---

One day, will it be possible to predict a child's future at birth by
testing its genes, foretelling what diseases it will suffer from, what
crimes it will commit and how long it will live? If so, do you welcome
this?

This prophecy is often made, but it is exaggerated. If the effects of
genes were all that deterministic, identical twins would die
simultaneously and commit the same crimes even if apart.

 

---

Doesn't the fact that so many societies throughout history have invented
some sort of god or gods suggest that humans really have a need to believe
in gods ­ that in some way our brains have a god-shaped hole, which we try
to fill as conveniently as possible?

You could be right, but the evidence is not strong. Plenty of us lead
happy and fulfilled lives without plugging that hole. Or maybe the hole is
not god-shaped but understanding-shaped. We have a need to understand
where we came from; understand our place in the universe. If that's the
real shape of the hole in our brains, science will plug it more
satisfyingly than religion. Finally, if it turned out to be true that we
have a psychological need for gods, that emphatically wouldn't prove that
gods exist.

---

If, when you die, you find yourself unexpectedly at the Pearly Gates, what
would you say to St Peter?
Mark Richards, by e-mail

I would say, “OK, I was wrong. But I was wrong for the right reasons. Those guys in
there were right. But just look at their reasons.”

 

Response:

 

What a great interview !!

Regarding this answer:

No. Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are part of the charm of
childhood. So is God. Some of us grow out of all three.

And some - as further described of Sir Isaac Newton, grow out of only the first two, and that's alright too.

The line stating that Newton, if he lived today, would "probably" be an atheist is not unreasonable, but maybe I would change that statement a little.

Based on my experience with physicists, about a third are atheists - about a third "believers," and about a third uncommitted. These are different numbers from his – but my data base is canted toward people compatible with me, and the base is also small. Based on what I know of Newton and his personality, I think there's a good possibility he would be a believer even today. He talked and evidently "felt" more like that third of the ones I know. It has been my observation that belief in a god’s existence does not have a strong correlation with intelligence or the lack of it. I have known many highly intelligent people who are believers.

Einstein was a little more like Sagan - always interested - used many sorts of religious metaphors - but probably ended up not believing in anything we could reasonably call a god. So far as I know, he never called himself “atheist,” but his descriptions of God are not of a person. It’s more like “All that is,” like the universe.

 

This is a quote of his:

 

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion

the idea of a personal God is a childlike one.

You may call me an agnostic, but I do not

share the crusading spirit of the professional

atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful

act of liberation from the fetters of religious

indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an

attitude of humility corresponding to the

weakness of our intellectual understanding

of nature and of our own being.

 

        - Albert Einstein

Carl Sagan’s wife, after his death, was asked, “But Carl appeared so interested in religious things – didn’t he ever want to believe?”

 

“No – No – No – Carl never wanted to believe – He wanted to know.”

 

I think the thing these great scientists tend to have in common - is that they don't like believing at all. They know it is often necessary to believe things that are not yet proven - but what they really want is to "know." Belief is a tool – but the goal is to become ever more sure of positions – without emotion.

"Believing," to many scientists, is a kind of necessary evil - a way to get motivated to pry more and find out if the belief is justified. We must start with a rough piece of wood to make a fine piece of furniture. Belief is rough – knowledge is smoother. Hope can get in the way of good research, as it involves not only believing – but wanting.

Since these things (ultimate truths) cannot be known - and the pretense of knowing is on the side of atheism, many scientists are atheists. Anyone who “knows” what is going on is either pretending or delusional.

Atheist Post:

 

(A woman had written in that her dad had died unexpectedly. She was devastated – and depressed. Someone suggested that she get the book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”)

 

She wrote:

 

But I don't want to buy it because it has a lot of god propaganda in it.


Response:

 

Why read in fear? It's unlikely you'll be "taken in." That little book has been a great comfort to many people without any religion involved at all. It helps us to accept unfairness and not feel alone.

If there were a million dollars in a pile of (you know what), my bet is you would dig right in.

And that’s the only real message here for you new friends – recognize the good – and maybe even get a little of it – right in the midst of the “stinky” or incorrect. And when others get some of the goods – don’t focus on the pile – but what they brought out of it.

 

 

40 of 52 – Organized Atheists

 

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