One I Never Enter.

Many commenters on this blog say what I write is too negative.  “Why not say something positive about Freethinkers or atheists instead of bashing Christianity all the time.”

It is true I mostly write about the things in religion there is not evidence to support.  I would argue, however, much of religious expression is similar.  It is about criticizing the other.

One of our regular commenters posted a nonbeliever’s joke the other day.  A man is found on a deserted island.  Those who rescued him found two small church-like buildings.

“Why the two churches when you have been living here all by yourself?” they asked.

“It’s simple,” the man answered. “I go into one to pray.  The other I refuse to enter.”

When I was young, Catholics were not “allowed” to attend a Protestant service nor clergy participate in a mixed religion wedding.  At least that is what Catholics lay people said.

Recently, a set of Lutherans and Presbyterians left their denominations in a huff over gay marriage.  The bitterness of the splits will mean, I would guess, most will never set foot in the others’ churches.

The hundreds of Protestant denominations and factions of the Catholic Church who disagree with one another are groups that focus on their disagreements.  Each believes all others are in error.

We who find ourselves unable to believe are in the same circumstances.  Like church members, we tend to focus on how we are different from believers.

Believers and nonbelievers are the same in this way.

86 Responses

  1. KP

    So perhaps sincerely examining the good things of religion rather than bashing it might begin the process of helping those who practice some form of religion to stop bashing atheism and see something positive in it? I have heard it said that no one is ever forced to believe in God, but even if you choose to not believe in God you still believe in something. You place God out of the equation, and something must take God’s place, but what? What if God does or does not exist? Why do Atheists try and prove God does not exist if they do not believe in God to begin with? Why are we obsessed with needing evidence for the existence of a being greater than ourselves? Why do freethinkers think that bashing religion will help unite people in their different understandings. What if one is correct rather than the other? Perhaps our pride gets in the way of discovering an objective truth, something that no matter how hard one subjectively tries denying, but simply cannot do? Do rants bashing God and religion really satisfy and bring happiness to a professed free thinker? Why waste time freely thinking about these things, are there not more important things to think about if religion and God are that distasteful? Perhaps spending time freely thinking about things that could contribute to the building up of a more just society would be worth the time? When will free thinkers stop obsessing with the negatives of religion and thinking that religion always bashes atheists? Will it be possible to ever eliminate the name of God from the face of the Earth? : ) Viva Cristo Rey! Can science supply questions for the deeper meanings of life? What is my purpose? What am I meant to do with my life? Why were we created? Why do we search for alien life forms? Why should I believe in them we have no proof of their existence….spend life questioning and thinking about things, does being skeptical and continuously questioning life really bring peace and happiness to one? Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to discover a universal truth that could satisfy a persons desire for happiness? Does constant questioning and skepticism annoy people?

    1. KP 2:03 Welcome back KP. Thank you for spelling out you views in these nice posts. You asked a series of questions and each would be fun to explore, but there are too many of them to deal with here. One series is quite similar so I’ll try those:

      “Can science supply questions for the deeper meaning of life? What is my purpose? What am I to do with my life? Why were we created?”

      So far as we know, we are here because of a series of science based events not planned or carried out by anyone or any particular single force. We were not “created” and have only one larger purpose for being here. It is to allow others to live on the planet by not using up more than our fair share.

      “Wouldn’t it be more satisfyng to discover a universal truth that could satisfy a person’s desire for happiness?”

      I have already discovered a universal truth, we don’t have evidence of a higher being. Knowing this truth makes me very happy.

      1. Eric

        Hi Jon,

        I am wondering about your statement regarding what you believe is our “only one larger purpose for being here”. A few questions:

        1) What is our “fair share”?
        2) Who determines what is “fair”?
        3) Why should we be concerned about others?
        4) As a science and fact driven individual, shouldn’t you conclude that your only loyalty is to your own survival, in line with Darwinian evolution?
        5) If our (humanity’s) main purpose is to “allow others to live on the planet”, what is the purpose of a tree or a mouse?
        6) Does a mountain lion concern itself mainly with preserving itself and its genetic line or does it concern itself with not consuming more than its fair share so that other mountain lions or any other animal may have an opportunity to live?
        7) Are humans different than the mountain lion, or the same? Why or why not?
        8) Why do humans innately care for one another (not exclusively, but broadly)?
        9) If my only larger purpose for existing is to allow others to live on the planet, why do I like art and beautiful sunsets?

        Thanks for your thoughtful reflection.


        1. Eric 3:24 Thanks for posting.

          Your questions are good ones. First, I don’t know what “fair” is. That’s always a problem in any collective, be it government or family, decision. I knew a fellow who taught his children whenever they said about their share of something, “That’s not fair” what they really meant was, “I want more”. I’m afraid all of us adults think the same way.

          On all of your questions about Darwinism, the environment and self interest, I would say that my own self interest is served by using as little of the earth’s resources as possible. I want my decendents to live on the earth. In addition, your reference to animals and their lack of concern about the future seems off to me. The entire animal (natural) system is based on sustainability. There are no natural landfills or carbon wasting piston engines.

          1. Eric

            Hi Jon,

            If my questions are good ones, would you be willing to take a crack at answering them? I mean specifically, not in broad and sweeping generalizations meant to dismiss a number of questions at once.

            You sort of answered my first question with an “I don’t know”, which leads me to wonder how you can ever expect to fulfill the single “larger purpose” that you posit as your (our) only larger purpose for existing, since it was conditioned on not using more than your fair share.

            Animals don’t have carbon using (how is carbon wasted, and who are you to judge what is a waste of carbon as opposed to a use of carbon?) internal combustion engines because they have neither the intellectual capability nor the physical ability that would enable them to achieve such an accomplishment. Animals (multiple) do often stockpile excrement, often polluting their immediate environment. Plants seek to suck up all the resources that they can so as to crowd out and kill out any competition. Actually, the entire natural system could be more accurately described as based on competition (isn’t that a shorthand for natural selection?), rather than sustainability. In fact, if it was based on sustainability, why has it changed so much according to Darwinian theory? According to Darwinian theory, the natural system hasn’t sustained, it has advanced. If it had merely sustained itself, there would still be simply a primordial soup that is our supposed point/state of beginning.

            If you say that your self interest is served by using as little of the earth’s resources as possible, can you fault (morally, ethically, or otherwise) the person who judges that it is in their best self interest to use as much of the earths resources as they can or as they see fit? Based on what standard would you judge them if you felt that it was appropriate to do so, given that after 50 to 60 years on this earth (judging from your picture and retired status 🙂 ) you haven’t figured out what is fair?

            If these questions are good questions (as you have said they are), I hope that on a site committed to rational discourse you will be able and willing to answer each and every question with a rational (not emotional) answer. Thanks for your thoughtful consideration.

          2. Eric 6:13 Have I used the “fair” somewhere and this is what you are objecting to? I don’t recall ever using the word because I don’t know what fair means. There are ideas about things in society which don’t work. Societies fail because the income distribution is so uneven a large segement loses the concept to ownership in the system and revolts. But, this does not mean I am defining “fair”. Perhaps you read “fair” into something I wrote when I didn’t actually use the word.

            Perhaps Darwin used the term “advance” to describe evolution, that doesn’t mean we all use it. Certainly evolution means change. As to sustainability, there would not be plants and animals competiting, changing and adapting without sustainability. My self interest in sustainability for my decendents has to be modified by the possibility humans do not survive the competition with other species even if sustainability remains.

          3. Eric

            Hi Jon,

            I’m back again with more questions. You must be stimulating my thought sensors.

            Someone in the world starved to death today. It is sad, but actually true of many more people than just that one person. It makes me wonder, since you had food to eat today and did not starve to death, does that mean that you’ve had more than your fair share? Why should you have had food and them not? Is that fair? Actually, it’s not fair for me to ask that question, since you’ve already conceded that you don’t know what is fair. Could it be that indeed after all these years you have yet to fulfill the only larger purpose you have for being here? If you haven’t figured out how to fulfill that single larger purpose in all the years you have been granted (or alternatively, have managed to survive on the backs of others who are starving), is there a compelling reason for you to continue to live? Should you be allowed more time in order to figure out how to fulfill your one meaningful purpose? If so, why? Is there anything that make you believe (scary word, I know 🙂 ) that you will be able to figure out in your later days, months and years what you haven’t been able to figure out in decades?

            Now, I mean for each of these questions to be answerable and hope that you will answer them. Given your assertion that we are not created and have only one purpose in life to fulfill, it seams reasonable that you would have put some thought into this and have answers at the ready.

            I also ask these questions with no intent to offend. When asking if there is compelling reason for you to continue to live, I mean for you to wrestle the some of your perspectives, but I in no way mean to insinuate that there is actually no reason for you to continue live. Quite the contrary, I wish for you to live long, and particularly long enough for your to realize what I believe to be your (and all humanity’s) ultimate purpose in life: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever (taken from question and answer 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

          4. Eric

            Yes, Jon , you did use the word “fair” as part of your premise of our only larger purpose for existing, so I would say it is quite important.

            To wit: “We were not “created” and have only one larger purpose for being here. It is to allow others to live on the planet by not using up more than our fair share.”

            Also, is there a reason that you refuse to engage with me and answer my individual questions with individual answers, especially give that you characterize them as good questions? Have not thought about questions such as these and have no answers? I would have thought that this site was predicated on asking and answering worthwhile questions. Since my line of questions gets to your statement of ultimate purpose on this earth, I would think them worth considering.

          5. Eric 7:16 “you did indeed use the word ‘fair'”.

            I did and that was a mistake–a poor word selection. What I meant was that each generation should not use up more resources than it produces.
            That is not a definition of “fair”, but perhaps a moral statement.

          6. Eric

            Hi Jon,

            You said: “My self interest in sustainability for my decendents…”.

            By definition your concern for your descendants is concern for others, not self interest – you are mixing categories. Your descendants are not you, so being concerned for them can not be said to be concern for self. We must remain rational.

          7. Eric 7:20 “By definition your concern for your descendants is concern for others, not self interest–you are mixing categories.”

            I beg to differ. Animals and plants have but one goal to thier lives, to cause their species to survive and compete against others. That’s how evolution works. My motives are no different than theirs.

            It seems to me you are trying to bend definitions so they fit your argument.

      2. David

        I think the best an atheist can answer to the question of “why?” is that it is not a good question. I am fairly certain that if there is no God that there is no purpose other than one that someone may prescribe to themselves. The notion that our purpose is to allow other people to live without using more than our fair share is utterly meaningless. So if someone lives to be 95 have they used more than their fair share of resources?

        Why does it make you happy that there is no proof of God? Knowing this does not make you happy but makes you feel superior. That was a bizarre post.

    2. Formerly Fargo Bob

      Theists have bashed atheists for centuries and have accused us of being evil, agents of Satan, miserable wretches or some other negative caricature. Now that religious belief is finally being questioned more openly in this country, theists suddenly bemoan a lack of respect. And any criticism of religion and religious belief is equated with “bashing.” To call this a double standard is an understatement.

      1. entech

        For a lot of that time the bashing was literal bashing with logs of wood, wood that was later used to start the fire or boil the oil that led to the ultimate climax. Bashed to death. You can interpret climax in any way you like but I have my suspicions, read The Malleus Maleficarum for details of checking on witches, especially young pretty ones.

    3. I have no antipathy toward people who believe in a god. However, more often then not, those who do believe in a god will assume their belief is correct, true and moral. Everybody else is mistaken and would be so much happier if they would just see the light. Well, I hate to break it to you, but many who do not believe in a god are not being reactionary or rebellious. Most have just not seen even a scintilla of evidence that a god exists. Does that mean morality doesn’t exist? No, atheists are, for the most part, moral decent people. No vacuum exists in my life, thank you very much. Do wonderful things happen for inexplicable reasons? Of course, as do bad things. Life rolls along as it has for eons in one form or another and that has nothing to do with god or a belief in god. When we die, we will die just like the bugs and worms and bacteria. Humans are complex life forms, but we are life forms nevertheless. We are born and then we die. If that sounds depressing, well, then you might need to make up a god for yourself so you don’t feel so bad about the inevitable, however, I find comfort that I am just like all the other forms of life on this earth and I am happy with that.

  2. KP

    Technically, you have entered a response simply by posting a reply! : ) It says if you found something positive to say about religion, which it appears you might believe to be true, then you would be violating your own beliefs, although because of skepticism I cannot be certain of the validity of this statement?

    Atheism and free thinkers are unable to provide any logical arguments for their cases other than an emotive response, e.g. anger, hurt, disdain towards religion. Where as Christianity and Catholicism have numerous of logical arguments or proofs for the existence of and goodness of a greater being, a.k.a. God. Consider reading Thomas Aquinas five proofs for the existence of God which can be located in the Summa Contra Gentiles—Against the Gentiles book 1.

  3. entech

    I have heard it said that no one is ever forced to believe in God, but even if you choose to not believe in God you still believe in something. You place God out of the equation, and something must take God’s place, but what? What if God does or does not exist?

    Hi KP, I seem to remember that you can do and have done a lot better than this.

    What does it mean to choose?
    When did you choose to believe in God?
    The same could be asked of those who rabbit on about homosexuality being a choice: I would ask them – When did you choose to be a heterosexual? What? about 14, started to feel a stirring in your loins and looked around and found a. there are boys like me, I find them easiest to talk to and the body is familiar. b there are girls, I enjoy talking to some of them but some of them are very discouraging, their bodies are different and unfamiliar, even after the magazines. c. there are other possibilities, I could be a solo navigator on this journey or perhaps a non-human companion. OK I think I will choose to be exclusive with the girls, even though they frighten the out of me.
    Even after choosing (actually I prefer to say, more honestly, finding myself unable to believe in God) to not believe why do say that I must be believe in something, as if you really think that lack of belief is actually belief.
    The term “Believe In” I find a little confusing! I believe that physics and astrophysics is getting close to an accurate description of reality.
    I believe them when they say that their theories and hypotheses are incomplete. I believe them when they say the big bang should be described as the Big Band Model rather than theory, as a model it represents the best ideas of how it works, if you slot in different variables and expect a given result you get the result you expect or question the accuracy of the model. The same applies to particle physics and quantum mechanics – if the predictions don’t work there is something wrong, with your model or theory. There are other things I that I don’t need to believe, because I know them quite categorically, my brother for instance I know his name, his parents, (in general)his personality: I don’t believe in him I know him. So what do you mean by “believe in”?
    Taking God out of the equation; Again I am confused and would like a little more accuracy in the questioning – Everything (or at least the basic energy required) has always existed or God created it (presumably from nothing). So I would say that nothing takes God’s place, that is taking God as the creator – feel free to expand on what it is that need to be replaced.
    Sorry to be pedantic and supercilious, the last question in my quote neads rewriting. ” What if God does or does not exist?” then God does or does not exist – What if it is Night or Day, light or dark, and so on.

    I know of very few atheists who would have the courage to attempt a proof of the non-existence of God. Aquinas so called proofs are actually just arguments for why there must be a God, intellectual proofs are proof of nothing except that you think it is true, that you “believe in” God. Even if you accept the soundness of the arguments and grant the proposition and conclusion it goes nowhere towards proving the existence of your particular God.

    What do you mean by “bashing”, very rarely on this site does anyone say anything derogatory or deliberately insulting. You may be hypersensitive and read things that way, personally I only try to point out alternatives (probably get carried away sometimes) point out that the Bible is not infallible and without error. To point out that just because there is something that you believe to be true (or want to be true) and I don’t believe that it is true (or don’t want it to be true) has no bearing on reality. It is true or false, real or illusion all on its own without our thoughts having any affect.

      1. entech

        Glad you find that amusing, it is more usual for the deliberate aspects to be aimed at “the atheist” rather than from. Some people find that anything that contradicts their beliefs to be an insult.
        Even had one guy a while ago ask me to stop referring to Catholics as Christians.

        1. StanB

          Believers have been called dilusional, stupid, dangerous, insane and many other things in this blog by Jon and others including yourself Entech. To claim high ground is a move a little late in the game.

          In fact that is the purpose of this blog.

          1. entech

            delusional yes, I think that is fair comment. You could also say that the atheists belief that the god being is non-existent is a delusion.

            As for the other things that is exaggeration I don’t think either Jon or myself has used any of those expressions, not since the Bob of a couple of years ago has anyone one been consistently abusive in the way you imply. On the other hand no one has suggested Jon was the turd in the punchbowl for a long time.

            All in all this is a very civilised site compared to many I have seen (especially comments on Youtube) with in general with fundamentalism Christians by far the worst – “tell me your address and i will send you to hell early” with lots of expletives.

            To me the purpose of the blog is to make people think, to consider they could be wrong and that must include both sides.

          2. Henry

            entech: “tell me your address and i will send you to hell early”

            Posers. You put too much stock into them. I guess they have achieved their desired affect.

  4. Wanna B Sure

    Jon: ” …left their denominations in a huff”. How is it that they are portrayed as the bad guys. Just a couple days ago, I pointed out the oft repeated saying by the so called huffers: “I didn’t leave the church, it left me.” These are interesting days when those who refuse to compromise their personal integrity are suddenly the bad guys. Normally the thing to do for those who want a change is to move for the change, and take sympathizers with them. These days, it is to force the ones not willing out, usually by political (polity) means, and strategy. They are quite often called “trouble makers”. I have personally heard: “If we can get (name withheld) pissed off enough, he and his family (extended) will leave, and we will have our way”. “His family” were some of the ones who started the church in the first place, and sacrificed to build it. No, they didn’t leave the church. The church left them, and they had to start all over with nothing. These are the ones who know the difference between the visible and invisible church. They didn’t loose the invisible, but the visible and physical was taken from them. Now, they are considered in some circles to be the bad guys. Interestingly, I have been around long enough to have observed many of those progressives that initiate the takeovers (stealing by populist means) to have been church shoppers/jumpers from before they settled in the church they took over. I have, ( when opportunity presented itself) asked these “progressives” what their particular understanding was in their church teachings. Almost to the man/woman, they didn’t have a clue beyond the standard pietistic response. “I, me, we.” Semi sacred humanism.

    1. Wanna 1:17 “Almost to the man/woman, they didn’t have a clue beyond pietistic response. ‘I, me, we.’ Semi sacred humanism.”

      I think you correctly describe the vast majority of people who are church members of all denominations. I used to refer to the wholesale and retail levels of church theology. By wholesale I meant what was in the doctrinal documents of a denomination and taught in its seminaries. Retail is what preachers talk about and what little those in the pews remember of that. Those in the pews, however, ultimately pay the bills way up at the seminary level. That is why a change in cultural attitudes, like we are seeing in gay marriage, will utimately find its way back up the food chain. It will either be accepted by the demonination or never again mentioned.

      I know from my own chruch experience that cultural change in not the only thing that causes splits–it’s also personalities, cranks and ego centered people like we all encounter outside the church as well. I agree with your post on that.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        And that’s why it is so important to have catechesis both for the young, and new adults interested in membership. Included in that is ongoing adult study. In the secular world, that is called CE, (continuing education), required for just about all professionals requiring licensing. I saw just last week, churches are starting to recognize that again. It has been my observation that all adult Christians should go to “confirmation class” every 10 or so years. As life experiences build, there is opportunity to relate to teachings. The first formal learning for many youth is in catechism classes. When you are 14-15 yr old, cars, girls/boys, fun things are the first priority, which is natural. As one matures, those priorities change, and life crisis can and do present the opportunity to apply these principles. Forgiveness, and humility are such examples, I look at these experiences as a coat rack. The older one becomes and experiences, the more hooks you have to hang those coats on, and not to just throw them on the floor, and forget them. Learn and grow. There are many adults that are children. Many church groups have been absent in this from the 60’s forward, and the result is evident. I know some may call it “indoctrination”, but the reality is simply knowing/learning just what you claim to know. It’s called growing in the faith.

        1. Wanna 2:11 I can sense the idealism you have for maintaining the correct doctrine of your denomination, or, any denomination. While I’m not involved with a church anymore, I just can’t envision people voluntarily giving up their busy lives to restudy church doctrine. People find other things in their lives more interesting and more pressing.

          According to statistics, people work more hours at their jobs than they did in the past. Both couples work. If a general doubt exists about the big picture, the god, the afterlife, the importance of the general institution of the church, I’d guess its members will not spend much time looking into the details of what its all about.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Some do, some don’t, in a given time frame. priorities change. When I was young, hunting and fishing were front and center, then I met my future wife. In nursing homes, an item of interest is a “good bowel movement”. In MN, there are “CE’s” available for senior safe driving. We went. Interesting. Forgot some thing over the years, and could relate to a few things due to near accidents/ mishaps. Coat hooks.

      2. Wolfy32

        Yeah, it is the people that turns me off from organized religion. The examples people demonstrate… I know what it’s like to feel the isolation and rejection of gay couples.. I’m not gay, but, my GF and I made the happy (and joyous) decision to move in together. (we’re both well into our 30s) and we both know the consequences of bad relationships and making decisions too quick. Why we waited almost a full year to make this decision.

        Some of our mutual friends have asked us “you guys haven’t moved in together yet.. Why not? ”

        Yet, when I tell my parents the response is: “oh. o.k. Well, I don’t know what to say about that… ”

        I responded with “well you could be happy for me that I’ve found someone that builds me up instead of being abusive to me and tearing me down….”

        “Well you know how we feel about living together.”

        I got an email late last night from my mom saying “I thought you were going to wait a full year to move in together. What happened to that.” O.k. we waited 10 months, and life circumstances made it easier for us to combine a little sooner.

        So, I’m thoroughly confused now.. Is it biblically wrong to live together before marriage? Or is it biblically wrong to live together in knowing each other less than a year’s time?

        And my parents marriage… heh. They haven’t slept in the same room for over 10-15 years. 5-6 years ago my mom made a comment to my sister and I that the fire’s been out of their marriage for a long time…. So, they’re obligated to be married to each other, because it’s evil to divorce. Which, it was evil for me to divorce when I was in an abusive marriage, yet, my parents response to it was “Why did you stay so long?” and “I’m not for divorce, but in this case, I think it was a good choice.”

        So divorce is evil or not evil? It’s evil for my parents to do but not evil for me to do? And living together is evil, if it’s living together for less than one year? Or it’s evil altogether?

        I guess it’s easier to judge others and put others down than to fix one’s own problems.

        My uncle is a minister and believes the same way. One of his son’s married a divorced woman… Whom they thought was “damaged” goods. So, no matter what age you are when you get married, it’s only ok to marry undivorced virgins?

        And somehow…. God set up all these convoluted rules that no one can make sense of except for the people the rules serve…

        1. Henry

          Wolf: “Is it biblically wrong to live together before marriage?”

          Your question does not make sense. If you live together, male and female in relationship, you already are married. However, based on the context of your narrative, you have one eye directed toward the door and your left leg hanging over the side of the bed ready to run in fear of bad relationship. Otherwise, you would have already given that girl a ring, a date, and a vow. Examine the heart if you want to ignore the “rules”.

          1. entech

            If you live together, male and female in relationship, you already are married.

            Uncommonly liberal attitude Henry, there is hope for you yet.
            Would you approve of the Iranian system of temporary marriage licenses that allow brothels to operate without the accusation of fornication, a capital offense in the Abrahamic tradition.

          2. Henry

            No. The intent of what you speak of is to divide the unity, however shortlived it may have been.

            What is marriage? The permissive unity of male and female. “Living together” is marriage. Consummating a marriage is making official what the male and female vowed. In the case of “living together”, the official unity has already happened without the ceremony. When one starts looking outside of that unity, that is sin. When the “living together” breaks up, and the parties move on to other unities, that is sin.

            Having said all that, without getting “married”, one’s eye is already looking for an exit strategy. This is why one should get a marriage license before the “living together” as the commitment in just “living together” is not usually there.

          3. entech

            Actually I thinker a simple one worder would describe the Iranian idea: hypocracy.

            I can see where you are coming from on the marriage idea, even though neither of us were believers my wife and I married in the Church of England, it was the accepted thing in 1965, and were still together until she died a few years ago.
            Of the people I know, married or living in s.. (as they used to call it) most are still together years later but divorce is as easy as walking out these days, after a time the legal obligations are the same. Making the right choice (mutually) is the main thing and then as people inevitably change over the years try and work it out and change in the same or similar ways.
            I think it is more a personal thing rather than religio/biblical thing that makes it meaningful.

          4. Wolfy32

            Marriage is a Pagan right that Christianity stole. Seeing it’s usefulness in society and as another revenue stream to the churches. By making it a sin to not be married, well who else is going to perform the “marriage right”. So, again organized religion got the monopoly on another part of humanity.

            We choose not to be married in a legal / religious sense because we do not believe in the marrital rights. Henry’s statement is that there can be no full commitment to someone without the marital right… I beg to differ. I do not believe in the concept of marriage. Yes, I must aquiesce to the laws of the land, I have little to no choice in that, the consequences will be mostly financial in terms of higher taxes, etc.

            to imply that without marriage there is no commitment is extremely black and white logic, something I’ve come to expect from “pietous” religious people. Everything has to fit nice and neat into an all “right” or all “wrong” jar. Anything else that deviates from the norm, disrupts one’s belief system.

          5. Henry

            Wolf: “Henry’s statement is that there can be no full commitment to someone without the marital [rite]”

            That is not true. Check out the qualifier used above in my 12:29, “usually”.

            This is a sad situation. I have given credence to Wolf’s situation of “living together” as being marriage, yet I am still snapped at. Why the edginess? Hmm….

            Have a happy, joyous marriage, Wolf, and let no man put asunder (including yourself).

          6. entech

            Wolfy, sorry to seem a bit picky here, but I think you meant “rites” rather than “rights”. Easy enough as most people like Henry confuse the two anyway, to the fundamentalist there can be no rights without rites. It must pass through the sieve of scripture.

            Henry, you get snapped because no one believes that you are not being sneaky and playing with words to get a reaction, and even here where you were being straight and reasonable you feel the need to point out the words you used were misinterpreted, there is nothing absolute except the word of god so you were obliged to say usually.

          7. Henry

            entech: “Easy enough as most people like Henry confuse the two anyway”

            That would be incorrect. Read my 2:28, correcting Wolf’s quote to the proper context. You need not take full credit for the correction heralding it for all to see.

            entech: “there is nothing absolute except the word of god so you were obliged to say usually.”

            I qualified the situation of “living together” as usually a noncommitment. Wolf represented my thoughts on “living together” as absolute noncommitment. Now that I think of it, somebody was muttering about “black and white” logic, yet represents in the same breath an absolute. Hmmm…….

          8. Wolfy32

            Sorry, henry, nothing personal taken or intended.. You just happen to have the attitude and the judgement I see and have heard most of my life from my parents. If I snapped, which, maybe an overreaction at most, but, You’d know if I snapped. It doesn’t happen very often, but, if it does, you’d know it… Just saying, it takes a lot to make me angry, that said, you share similar ideaologies to my parents. Which, are much more black and white than even you.. All Gambling, all alcohol, all dancing, and until the year 2002 all movies in movie theaters, are / were all evil / sinful. I married the first woman I dated because I had been taught it was sinful to be with a woman most of my life. I’m surprised actually that I didn’t turn out gay just out of how religiously wrong it was to have any sexuality whatsoever..

            What I find amusing is that my parents thought I was gay in late high school and college, because I refused to date. Well, who would want to date if it meant getting married right away… and / or living in sin.

            So, I made an unwise assumption, and assumed to know what you’re stance would be given my parents stances and your stance seem very similar. Repeat the religious dogma / rhetoric over and over. Not questioning anything that’s spoken or said just repeating it.

            I have to give you credit on this one Henry, you were way more liberal than I thought you would be! That’s refreshing from a religious sort. 🙂

          9. Wolfy32

            I’m sorry, I forgot to include a couple other evil things:

            Non-Christian Counselors/ therapists are evil brain washing people, Catholics are evil (I got told several times by my mom while I want to Catholic university – I don’t like you learning from that catholic place, they believe in things like Mary and the pope and are way wrong… I don’t like what they’re teaching you! ) ,
            I got spanked in day care for playing Go-fish, so all card playing is evil (any card playing with playing cards leads to gambling which is evil, except for Uno and skippo card playing, and phase 10 with phase 10 cards not playing cards, those are all o.k. They don’t lead to gambling addictions. I had found a set of playing cards in a drawer at my grandmothers, whom was a devout evangelical christian, and my mom told my dad that he needed to talk to his mom about those playing cards. She shouldn’t have those.)

            Working on Sunday was evil, but they begrudgingly let me while I was in college. My aunt and uncle only subscribed to Cable to get the TBN or Bible channel. All other channels contained garbage. Eating at a restaurant that serves alcohol is frowned upon… Borders on evil. Catholics are saved in confirmation and can do whatever they want, that’s why they’re all mostly drunks… (drinking is evil and catholics are evil, and combine the two and omg, we’re in the end times..)

            Hmm.. well that’s quite a list. I’m pretty sure I missed some things. oh, The cartoon thundercats and smurfs were both evil.. Forgot about those. My ability to watch those was to pretty much try to watch them when mom wasn’t around. Kissing, touching, or hugging around children is evil, (gives them ideas that sex is o.k.)
            Most all denominations that are not evangelical / Assemblies of God churches are evil.

            Well, I’m sure, I’ve missed quite a lot actually. I’ve been tempted to ask my parents for a list of things that’s “O.k. to do.” I think that list would be a LOT shorter!

          10. Henry

            Wolf: “All Gambling, all alcohol, all dancing, and until the year 2002 all movies in movie theaters, are / were all evil / sinful.”

            I suspect these freedoms were made into law that really had no basis in scripture. I like to drink a few beers and cast a few lots. These are my freedoms I elect to exercise. I currently have my eye on a gun raffle to help the WF VFW.

            Wolf: ” you were way more liberal than I thought you would be!”

            Actually conservative. The scriptures support marriage as the unity between male and female. I will conservatively stick with that. If you find that liberating, great. Have a happy, joyous unity, and remember in all things Christ died for our sins.

          11. entech

            Henry my correction was for the difference between rites and rights and how so many religious people get them confused.

            You are out of practise your desperation to score points is showing.

          12. entech

            You are right again. Explaining anything to you is futile, your mind is made up and closed.

            Thanks I will have a nice afternoon, just back from holidays and back with one of my groups today.

          13. entech

            Looking back on this topic I notice that I was mistaken and owe an apology to Henry.
            Rights vs rites, I was looking at your words as they were written and overlooked the quote in italics @ 2:28.

    2. “…refuse to compromise their integrity…”

      I guess you could include a lot of people into this category when they refused to give up on their beliefs when those beliefs are shown to be based on hatred and intolerance. For example, Jesse Helms was an unabashed racist to the day he died. Was he just refusing to compromise his integrity or was he a bull-headed bigot? How about the David Dukes of the world. Are they expressing their integrity by not going along with society on the mixing of the races? Integrity or prejudice? History has some clues about this. Those who do not take the lessons that history hands out free of charge can go the way of the Shakers. It’s all up to them; they are the masters of their own fate.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        So then any one who agrees with you are the only ones with integrity. I see now. Your ideology is on par with Helms and Duke.

        1. We’re not talking about my integrity; we’re talking about the integrity you say people have when they are committed to remaining homophobic. I have no idea if the people who agree with me have integrity or not.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Oh yes, “homophobic” is such a nice little dirty name to apply to someone who doesn’t agree with you. That being said, that isn’t my point. I am clearly talking about the methodologies and tactics of those who wish to take over a church due to changes in their understandings, and accusing those who haven’t changed their understandings as being troublemakers. “homophobia” may be part of your strategy, but it isn’t mine. If you don’t like “integrity” in context, (which I believe you missed,) try conscience. It isn’t generally considered advisable to go against conscience. Many people have paid a high price for going against their conscience. Whatever the subject. “The end justifies the means” reveals no conscience, or integrity. To that end, they are directly related.

          2. Wanna B Sure

            What is it? Fear of. No fear. Clever invention. Now you are getting close to my point. Accuse someone of something they are not a part of in an attempt to destroy or take over. No conscience, or dare I say integrity? Think so.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Just to intimate or imply slyly is/can be devastating and dishonest. Remember some of the tactics used by McCarthy. Effective and downright evil. He used “communism” in much the same manner you use “homophobia”. To do as he did, tells me he had no integrity or conscience. At least damn little. The means does not justify the end in my book. I don’t know about yours.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Just waiting for you to use “Known associates–sympathizers, or seen together”. Along with falsification of facts, (already vaguely apparent). All known tactics of Joe McCarthy.
            Evidently McCarthy was a “realist”.

            Re. … the dish it…can’t take it”. No substance. Cat fight. I don’t do cat fights.

  5. Doug

    One of the greatest evidences that God is real, is just how often and intensely Jon, and the so-called Freethinkers, argue against God. Notice that Jon doesn’t waist his or our time arguing against unicorns and or criticizing those who believe in them? I’m sure it is safe to believe that Jon does not believe in unicorns any more than he believes is God.

    So why the relentless vitriol against God? Because deep down inside Jon knows that God is there and that He is not silent. Jon and the so-called Freethinkers must actively suppress God’s self-witness to them not only in creation but within their own persons because, “that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

    1. Doug 1:18 “Jon doesn not waste his time arguing against unicorns….So why the relentless vitriol against God? Because deep down inside Jon knows that God is there and that he is not silent.”

      The reason I blog about the Christian religion and not unicorns is because there are no Ten Commandments on public property telling the public them must worship unicorns. Our Presidents do not end ever speech with the line, “Unicorns bless you and unicorns bless the United States of American.” There are not thousands of tax exempt properties used to worship unicorns. No one ever says, “Our founding fathers intended this to be a unicorn country”.

      As far as having some surpessed thoughts that God really exists, I can only say I’m waiting for even the smallest bit of evidence.

    2. A person really can’t argue against something they do not believe in. As I have said many times, hate is not the opposite of love; indifference is the opposite of love. I speak for myself when I say that I do not care one iota about what other people believe. I will, however, point out absence of logic when I see it.

    3. entech

      Fascinating take on a post about how different people practice their belief and some will go one way but not another. Where does all the talk about anti-God come from, the discussion is about believers and their attitudes.

    4. Formerly Fargo Bob

      Doug gives us a pretty common Christian reaction to anyone who stands up and says “I don’t accept your belief system as true.” Let’s turn Doug’s question around – why should it bother Doug or any Christian so much that there are people in the world who reject their belief system? The answer is actually easy — some people feel very threatened when their belief system is not affirmed and reinforced by everyone around them and also seem to feel that a lone atheist can somehow destroy their faith. Perhaps they also fear that their god isn’t quite as omnipotent as they’d like to believe once they see other people rejecting the whole concept of theism.

      1. Eric

        Hi Bob,

        You ask a question of Doug and/or Christians, then hasten to assume to know the answer for them. You are correct that the answer to why Doug or any Christian would be concerned over those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is actually easy. You are, however, incorrect in your answer. The answer is simple: Love for neighbor. You may chose to not believe that, but then you have simply set yourself up as the judge of the hearts/motives of others, which of course is not very free-thinking of you.

        1. entech

          Eric, you come close to the faults that you accuse FFB of showing.

          Doug says that people like Jon and myself (and many others) are deliberately suppressing belief, that deep down we know it is true. This is verified by a few lines from an old book that says in effect, God has made himself clear and evident to everyone and punishment waits for those who continue to deny. Very roughly paraphrased.
          Doug’s words are as FFB (Formerly Fargo Bob) says “pretty common” – the Christians words and thoughts can hardly be other if they believe the words of Paul.
          You are taking what he said to be absolute and to refer to all Christians, perhaps a definition of Christian would include the belief that Romans is true in every detail in which case what FFB says must go beyond “pretty common” and be universal as you tried to imply that he said “all”.
          As for neighbourly love that may also be “pretty common” but so often is not universal and does not extend to the ones who condemn everyone who does not adhere to their very tight and restrictive idea of morality. With the threat of punishment openly stated.
          It would be difficult to “think freely” if the threat of punishment was there if you did not “think correctly”.

    5. Formerly Fargo Bob

      Doug states, “One of the greatest evidences that God is real, is just how often and intensely Jon, and the so-called Freethinkers, argue against God.” If Doug genuinely believes this to be the case, then he should be praising Jon and his fellow atheists instead of criticizing them.

  6. Doug


    First, I apologize for spelling your name “John” in my first post. No disrespect was intended.

    Second, your endless vitriol is the evidence that you are actively suppressing the knowledge of God. What is it to you if religious people believe in a God you believe isn’t there?

    You mention the 10 commandments. If having the ten commandments on a stone in a park bothers you so much that you must ceaselessly write diatribes against God then clearly youmdont have the depth of character we all assume you have.

    Undoubtedly, 6 of the ten you want our community to live by, correct? Certainly, you don’t want others to steal your life, your wife, your possessions, or lie about you. Don’t you agree that children typically should honor their parents?

    So what is it to you if others want to worship a God you believe is not there? Today, no one is forcing you to worship God, not to make images of Him, not to take His name in vain, or making you go to church. You have complete freedom to do or not do these things. Your blog is evidence of your freedom to openly reject God, creat verbal false images of who and what He is like, take His name in vain and regularly refuse to honor or worship him. So, what is your beef? You have made your position clear to everyone, so why do you keep harping on the subject when clearly today America is soundly pluralistic at least when it come to religion.

    Your beef is, in those briefest of moments when you are genuinely alone in the quietness of your own heart, you know God is there and His is not silent. So, in order to drowned the voice of God you are forced to keep on writing and keep on preaching against Him. There really is no other plausible explanation for your endless beating against something you don’t believe to even be there.

    I would love for you to come to the church I attend! I would count it a great joy to have you with us. I will gladly reserve a seat for you, but I will never force you to come.

    My God’s benevolent providence be with you today!

    1. Doug 3:55 You are correct when a specific kind or brand of religion is advertised on public property, that does not, by itself force me to adopt it. But, it does, my kind of people believe, make government-forced religion seem just a bit more acceptable. Even if the advertising is only a bit of government forced religion, why risk it? Why risk that some political group, be it Christian, Muslim or unicorn see an opportunity to advise citizens there is one correct religion and others are not correct?

      I am puzzeled by you insistance that I sense the presense of a god in silent moments and am resisting it. This sounds like people who often say, here, “You must have had a tramatic experience with religion, child abuse of something like it, to turn you against religion.” What these latter people are doing, I think, is taking their own minds and projecting them into mine. They are unable to perceive my reasoning process and feel it has to be like theirs. If mine is different it opens the door that their’s may be wrong.

      I’m hesitant to say this, but your insistance that I feel the presense of a god might mean that your are fearful I do not. If I do not, it might mean the god you expereience does not reside outside your mind, but exclusively in it. Now, I can’t conclude this since I’m not inside your mind. I only know my own, and there is no god there or anywhere else that I’ve experienced.

      1. Doug


        There is little to no risk that someone is going to force you to embrace a religion of any kind beyond your faith based atheism.

        There is by far a greater risk that the government and/or the courts will force limits upon the public expression of my Christian faith than any limitation upon your public expression of atheism.

        1. Formerly Fargo Bob

          Utter nonsense, Doug. I have attended governmental meetings where I was clearly expected to just go along while the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and then a prayer was offered. When are theists/Christians ever exposed to the opposite in a public setting? There’s no justification for any of your claims other than your fear that atheists will impose their attitudes about god beliefs on you, as theists have done with non-theists for hundreds of years.

          1. Doug

            Formerly Fargo Bob,

            I am often required to be in situations where religious traditions other than my own are being expressed, or I have to listen to prayers that are not an expression of my faith and I have no problem doing so. Typically, I fine it interesting.

            I have no problem with Jon expressing his belief that there is no God. I am thankful for the free expressions of ideas, even wrong ideas. If you and Jon want to put a stone memorial in a park to publicly express your faith in the proposition that there is no God, you won’t get a push back from me.

            My point is, atheist are very evangelistic concerning their belief about something they claim doesn’t exist and they endlessly argue that the rest of us about it.

            A true atheist would see all of this as much todo about nothing and would therefore would have little desire to say anything about the subject. However, quite the contrary is true. Some of the loudest and most obnoxious evangelist are atheist.

          2. Doug 5:51 “If you and Jon want to put a stone monument in a park to publically express your faith in the proposition there is no God, you won’t get push back from me.”

            Where were you when Red River Freethinkers needed you? We made a proposal to put up just such a monument to the Fargo City Commission. It was to be placed next to the Ten Commandments. We offered to pay the thousand plus dollar for producing and installing it. The monument would have carried the inscription the “the government of the United State should not be considered to be Christian” (not the exact words), signed by President John Adams, approved by Congress. We were denied. So, when you say there is little chance government will impose a religion, you are talking to someone who has had direct experience with government favoring one religious view over another.

          3. Simple, Doug. Just stop reading this blog if it upsets you so much which it clearly does. Jon is right about your not being able to abide those of us who do not believe as you do.

          4. entech

            Doug, what precisely is a “true atheist”, is it the opposite of a “true Christian”, in that case what is a true Christian, any relation to “the true Scotsman”?
            But wait, in answer to FFBs statement about atheists acting and thinking like Christians, with faith and attempts at evangelizing and forcing our ideas on others. Frankly I think the non-religious and even anti-religious book market expanding, more and more public speakers and debaters follows from the attempts of Christians to impose on everything (if you take every little sect and its pet hate you would cover everything) is simply a matter of self defence. When Christianity has been influential enough to dominate it does not have a good record.

            Eric leap in here and point out to Doug the errors of his argument!

        2. Formerly Fargo Bob

          It fascinates me, Doug, that your criticism of atheists can essentially be reduced to your belief that we act and think just like Christians — we have faith, but no evidence, we evangelize and attempt to force our point of view onto others. Elsewhere in this thread Jon did an excellent job of explaining why atheists speak out about religious belief.

          1. Doug, all I said about you was that you seemed be upset about others not believing as you do. I stand by that. Live and let live; it’s a lot easier on the system.

          2. Eric


            In all reality, what you really said was that Doug is clearly upset by reading the blog. You did not say that he seemed to be upset. Words mean things, really.

    2. Jinx

      Using the Scientific Method, there is NO PROOF of the existence of god, nor is there proof of the non-existence of god. Until verifiable evidence either proves or disproves the existence of god, us agnostics will not change our mind.

  7. entech

    One of our regular commenters posted a nonbeliever’s joke the other day. A man is found on a deserted island. Those who rescued him found two small church-like buildings.

    Hi, that was me. I don’t often contradict Jon but it was not a non-believers joke – told to me by a relative who is a Church of England parson.
    Until 1920 the Church in Wales (Anglican) was the established church, since then there has been no established church. There have been very strong strains of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian Church of Wales and more nonconformist chapels than the rest of Britain put together, the joke arises from this huge array in such a small country with a small population, and each firmly convinced that theirs is the way of Lord.

    Interesting that the point of the topic has hardly been touched on but the main comments seem to be on the evils of atheism and freethinkers and defenders against these mindless attack. I have often said that instead of the vitriolic attacks (thanks for that Doug) on atheists and atheism the Christians should be offering a prayer of thanks, without a common enemy they would would self destruct in interdenominational squabbling.

      1. entech

        OK, no royalty required.
        At least it got some interest up. It is a great pity that more could not appreciate the foibles of other denominations, it would make for a lot less animosity – also be a lot less for you write about: perhaps you could begin some vitriolic attacks on the animists – how dare they claim that those trees are alive and “rocks”?

        1. Doug

          entech and all,

          I find it interesting that entech describes my comments as “vitriol attacks” on atheism and/or on Jon. (I’m not sure is he meant one or both). In what I believed to be a fair exchange of ideas, I was commenting on what I see as the contradictions in which atheist engage in both in substance and in personal action.

          I have positively affirmed the value of public discourse, the right of atheist to have monuments, and expressed my willing interest in listening to the comments and prayers of other religious traditions when performed in public settings. How is this vitriolic, unless to be critical of atheism is such in and of itself? Jon and I have had a pleasant lunch together and I hope we can again soon!

          Certainly, atheist such as Dawkins, Dennette, Harris, and the late Hitchens (who I deeply enjoyed and respected on many levels) have written extensively of the “evil” of religion, especially Christianity. Beyond the contradictions that I perceive in trying to defend atheism, I hear in many of the responses in this thread a new kind of antipathy toward all religion and any critic of atheism, that would have never been expressed by a Bertrand Russell.

          Just saying.

          1. entech

            I have often said that instead of the vitriolic attacks (thanks for that Doug) on atheists and

            Come now I was giving you credit for introducing the concept 🙂 and you never actually said anything vitriolic against any person any more than I did, you said the “endless vitriol against God” and I said that the Christians should be grateful for the diversion from their internal sectarian differences I put your name in brackets to isolate it from the comment, it was not intended to say that you personally were making an attack, if it came out that way put it down my my idiosyncratic use of the English language ( as Bernard Shaw once said two countries separated by the same language).

            My main point is that I do not see the type of anti-theist as opposed to atheist talk on this site that you get from the four horsemen that you mentioned or even more so from PZ Myer. They and their counterparts WL Craig all have books to sell and lecture halls to fill and the apologists are just as bad at spitting out vitriol and venom.

            Most of Jon’s topics are commentary on articles of interest from papers and magazines, as often as not Christian sources. Pointing out the differences and some of the more obviously foolish ideas and writings. You will not have read anything Jon has written that could be described in your words “vitriol against God” unless you are one that thinks anything but whole hearted belief and worship is an attack, an affront to God, which you may do going by your quote from Romans.

            I don’t know that I can speak for Jon but I don’t think he will be too offended if I say that both he and I give the possibility of your God being an actual existent entity as being so low as to be virtually non-existent and that we do not place much if any credence on the words and reliability of scripture and gospel. If failing to believe is an attack then I am afraid the problem is yours not mine if you construe that as “endless vitriol against God”.

  8. pqbd

    New visitor here. Very interesting discussion. I guess I could be labeled an agnostic, i.e. a member of the church of the confused. But feeling like a born sinner with an obligation to worship some one is just not in my quiver. I sometimes think there are at least as many gods as believers. Something like a thoroughgoing poly-monotheism. Maybe the question is not ‘does God exist’ but ‘which one is God’.

    1. pqbd 3:07 Welcome–glad to have you here. There are many good folks here who wonder just as you do. There are also good folks who are very certain. I makes for a lively time.

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