Sunday, June 26, 2005

Okay, I'm gonna do it.

Does God exist?

Many of my friends say we should just agree to disagree about this and get on with all the good stuff we believe in together. I'm willing to do that, but I feel my cards should be on the table.

Before we can talk intelligently about the question, we need a definition of God. I just want to let you know, between friends, that realists often feel that theists keep moving the goalposts. We falsify some conception of God, and they come back with a different one. So we can move the goalposts later, if you like, but for now, I'm going to take on the God of the Bible -- granted that there are differences among various parts of the good book, but there are certain basic attributes that theists generally ascribe to God.

So here are some premises about God. If you want to say that God exists but lacks one or more of these properties, you are not a Christian, or a Moslem, or Jew. You can call yourself any of the above if you like, but your minister, priest, imam or rabbi will not agree with you.

  1. God is all powerful, omnipotent. God can do anything he wants. (Yes, he's generally considered male but I won't belabor that point.)
  2. God created the universe and everything in it.
  3. God is benevolent, God is good. Nothing God does can be evil.
  4. God is all knowing, omniscient. God knows all of the past, and the future.
  5. God wishes that we worship him, and obey him, and do his will. If we do anything contrary to the will of God, we are evil. We will presumably suffer in some way for it, but again I won't belabor the specifics.


It certainly is not original with me, but the above propositions are logically contradictory. For example, if God knows all of the future, then God cannot possibly be all powerful, because he does not have the power to change the future. If he did, he couldn't know it, because it might change. Also, obviously, God cannot commit evil.

But God created the universe, and everything in it, yet the universe contains evil. I mean, hell, if you worship God, you think I'm evil for not worshipping him. If you're a Christian, you either believe that Bishop Robinson is evil for divorcing his wife and having sex with a man, or you think that other Christians are evil for not granting him dignity and respect. Either way, it has to be God's fault, because God created Bishop Robinson and the people who despise him, God knew that a gay man would be consecrated as a Bishop, God knew that other Christians would condemn him, and God caused all of this to happen by creating the universe in the first place, which he knew would inevitably lead to these events. As a matter of fact, God created Satan, knowing full well that Satan would do evil. Everything Satan has ever done must have been the will of God, and part of his plan.

As a matter of fact, God cannot possibly have any free will. If he ordained the future at the moment of creation (and we'll leave aside the question of what he was doing before he created the universe), then he made sure that he could never make another decision for all of eternity. Neither can you. Or I. And if I don't believe in God, or worship God, that must be what God wants. Otherwise he would have made me differently in the first place.

Now, this is all completely obvious. "Theologians" have spent the past couple of thousand years spouting oceans of bullshit to try to cover up and obscure these completely obvious, inescapable logical contradictions. The only reason they get away with it is because faith, by definition, demands that we abandon reason.

Next: God vs. observable reality.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pharisee Nation

my thanks to c. corax for informing me of the delightfully named Father John Dear, S.J. and this stunning piece by him, called Pharisee Nation, available in its entirety at Common Dreams.

He begins:

Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. “Now let me get this straight,” I said. “Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ which means he does not say, ‘Blessed are the warmakers,’ which means, the warmakers are not blessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq.”

With that, the place exploded, and 500 students stormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, “Bush! Bush! Bush!”

So much for my speech. Not to mention the Beatitudes.

and i will add, with all the sarcasm i can muster, how very christian of this nominally christian audience.

more:

We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

[snip]

If we dare call ourselves Christian, we cannot support war or nuclear weapons or corporate greed or executions or systemic injustice of any kind. If we do, we may well be devout American citizens, but we no longer follow the nonviolent Jesus. We have joined the hypocrites and blasphemers of the land, beginning with their leaders in the White House, the Pentagon and Los Alamos.

[snip]

Just because the culture and the cultural church have joined with the empire and its wars does not mean that we all have to go along with such heresy, or fall into despair as if nothing can be done. It is never too late to try to follow the troublemaking Jesus, to join his practice of revolutionary nonviolence and become authentic Christians. We may find ourselves in trouble, even at the hands of so-called Christians, just as Jesus was in trouble at the hands of the so-called religious leaders of his day. But this very trouble may lead us back to those Beatitude blessings.

to which this atheist can only say: amen.

the places above labeled [snip] contain powerful and relevant and challenging language. please go read the whole piece.

while i'm here, thanks to feministe for a link to this great piece on abortion.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On Civility, A Modest Proposal

intentionally mixing allusions in the title of this post, i want to comment on recent intramural spats on the left. several bloggers, thersites in metacomments, a while back, and pz myers at pharyngula, recently, (i am sorry i can't find the relevant posts at either place, but check them out if you haven't already. i recommend both) have suggested that we lefties are losers when we respond civilly to political jerks on the right and ID idiots. i am all for it. i am not for incivility to our own however.

Howard Dean, chairman of the democratic party, recently made some strong statements about republicans. Senator Biden undertook to clarify those statements and was a bit less than supportive of the chairman, in stark contrast to statements by raging asshole cryptotheofascist dobson's comments about republican senators caving in to democrats on judicial appointments. see now, i used Senator Biden's title of office and spoke moderately about his statements and took the opportunity to insult a jerk on the right. (there, i did it again!)

here on the internets Mr Markos recently ran an ad i consider to be in dubious taste. my comment to him would be/is "Mr Markos. you are running an ad that many men and women will find demeaning to women. i realize that not all your readers will find it so or even notice it, but i do think that the left, roughly speaking, should be supportive of equal rights and dignity for all and i urge your consideration on this matter. your blog is a source of information and inspirition for many and a place of vigorous debate. the righty blogs are full of hate-filled venom and lockstep agreement with sexist, racist, anti-immigrant, corporate toadying crap, some of which emanates from that drug addled lying sack of shit rush limbaugh. truly a big fat idiot, thank you al franken." there i go again, respectfully asking markos to consider the big picture, plugging al franken, and insulting both freepers and limbaugh. a twofer. this is fun. give it a try.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What Dialogue?

human existence looks more and more to me to be dividing onto two camps between which there can be no dialogue. everyone who comments here, atheist, theist, deist, buddhist, christian, platonist, freethinker, freemason---well, i haven't really seen anyone identify themself as a free mason---seems to put their beliefs or non-beliefs at the service of compassion and inclusion. we are united in our acceptance of each other as humans, quibble as we may about divine presence. we're in the camp that is willing to have a conversation with the other camp, the other camp made up of people whose worldview is magical. i think it is easier for fundie christians to have a conversation with fundie muslims than with us. they recognize in each other an absolutist position and agree to hate each other. they agree that domination is the game. i think it is easier for us to have a conversation with the communist chinese, unburdened as they are by religion.

what sort of conversation can i have with someone in whose view i am "evil" and the only resolution for whom is to convert me? i only want to find a way for us to agree civilly to disagree about theology and find a way to coexist peacefully. i seek not to convert anyone. threats of a dreadful afterlife or being "left behind" don't faze me, but the threat of sharia, islamic or christian, is scary. call me sinful and smile when you say that, stranger, but don't force me to recant by torturing me.

when i read "the chalice and the blade" by riane eisler, an interesting view of the differences and the inevitable clashes between pastoral/agricultural/passive and nomadic/hunting/aggressive cultures, i did not foresee that some christians would become blade people. my admittedly inadequate education about jesus, the putative savior of christians, led me to believe that he advocated peace and forgiveness. some christians, not the ones who come here, seem to have forsaken the teachings of jesus in favor of the heaviest and most vindictive parts of the old testament, parts long since let go of by reform and conservative jews. i know even less about islam, but it was born in a blade culture, and has historically been a conquering political force at least as much as christianity.

the orthodox, fundamental jews are only trying to conquer all of palestine, though they do have a very strange alliance with "zionist protestants." google "red heifer" for a weird story. go here if you're lazy. the rabid elements of both christianity and islam aim to conquer and convert the planet. good luck to them with india and china.