You're Just a Believer
Like Everybody Else!
Christan C Raxter

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Christan C Raxter"
Subject: Re: From a nonbeliever to a self-proclaimed believer
Date: Tuesday, April 13, 1999 2:42 AM

Christan,

I apologize for the delay: I lost the functionality of my hands for a few days and needed to cut my workload to a minimum. I wrote much of this earlier, when I received the letter, and then finished the rest of it tonight.
 

If faith is something we all have, then why do the religions want us to have faith (i.e., to believe)?

If faith is something we all have, then how does one distinguish a believer from an atheist?

I don't buy it. This seems to be a misuse of the word "faith" which usually describes a property that some of us have and others of us do not. You seem to be changing the meaning around to suit your own purpose of denigrating atheists by saying that we have faith, when it is religious faith that we question. Religious faith is a specific thing that has nothing whatsoever to do with what you're talking about -- except that for some reason our culture uses the same letter sequence, F-A-I-T-H, to spell both words.
 

Religious faith is seldom blind. Even those with 20:20 vision get into accidents and exclaim, "I didn't see that guy!" Rather, religious faith is most often a case of mistaken information. What perhaps ought to have remained categorized in the "I'd better suspend judgment on this" pile is instead placed into one of the "Okay, I know what that is" piles. Most of what we observe, experience, and think is biased by both the fears and desires of the faithful individual as well as the upbringing that the faithful person experienced.

Finally, in order to avoid the errors described in the previous paragraph, one would need to engage in training of the mind and thinking processes that tends to get quite grueling. For most of us, it's much easier to continue the training that most of us received as children. And even among those who do go through with it, social conditions preclude their discussing it with others. You'd be surprised to discover just how many people you know are actually atheists, but are pretending to be religious just because they must in order to get along, in order to avoid the treatment we atheists endure, hurled against us by Christians, Muslims, and others. This ranges from simple pestering to outright persecution, but whatever it is, lying and dealing with one's conscience often becomes easier than telling the truth and then making a run for it.
 

This one's hazy. Needs work. I don't quite understand what you're getting at.

It sounds as if you may touching on solipsism.

If you are a solipsist, then I have nothing to say.

(That's a joke, son!)
 

There are better reasons for trusting that water will come out. I can explain it to you in numerous ways.

But you are talking about the same thing as religious faith, here, not the traditional, commonly understood sense of the word "faith."

When you take a word such as "faith" (a word that has several possible meanings or synonyms), and when you use different meanings for the same word in the same paragraph (without indicating to the reader that you have here changed the meaning from how you used it a few sentences ago), you only serve to inject confusion into the discussion. This may be fun (and some might even fall for it), but when this happens we are forced to stop and take a detour from the discussion at hand, in order to sort out the confusion.

In this case, you are confusing the word "faith" as used in a religious sense, with the way some people misuse word "faith": You don't "have faith" that the door will open, you simply open the door. There is no ambiguity about it, no question. (If the door did not open for you, then you would be right in becoming very concerned.)

I bet most Christian theologians (seminarians and alumni) would agree that this is a serious misuse of the word. I looked it up in three dictionaries (Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate; Microsoft Bookshelf; Oxford American -- the three I currently use when I write). The closest I came to your (mis)use of the word, here, was, indeed, a form of reliance in a person, idea, or thing. However, the term faith, in this context, strongly implies that said person, idea, or thing could very prove untrustworthy. If there were no doubt, then the word faith would be the wrong one to use.

My cat is my faithful companion (and I keep her under lock and key to make sure). I have faith that Bill Clinton will run the country properly (well -- er -- no comment!). I'm faithful that our old '66 Ford Mustang will take us to Black Rock and back later this summer (though maybe the van would be more appropriate for a trip like that).

This is the only nonreligious use of the word faith, and its meaning, in this context, differs greatly from its use in the religious sense.
 

So much for having faith in God, then, in light of the above discussion!!

But a malfunctioning God? This is definitely an original one for me. I have studied most of the classic arguments for the existence of a god, and I have never encountered the claim that "God never malfunctions."

As for a god being undeserving of my trust, first, I have no reason to believe that the traditional monotheistic, transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, all-merciful (&c.) exists. This god is impossible. For example, while I can conceive of something that has all power (I consider the cosmos to be or contain all power), and while I can imagine something that has all knowledge (the sum of what we know plus what we do not yet know), the model falls apart when I try to think of a being that is simultaneously all-powerful and all-knowing. A god who knows the future would be powerless to intervene in it, etc.

Secondly, people who trust in gods die of humanly preventable starvation and humanly preventable diseases all day long: 24-seven. An all-powerful god, we would suppose, could accomplish at least what men and women could accomplish, and more. I would assume that an all-powerful god is not powerless over earthquakes, such as the one in Lisbon during the 19th century that happened the moment most people were in their stone churches for a religious celebration.

During the recent quake where I live, a boulder crashed into the side of a car, killing the driver. The newspaper reported her husband as thanking God that she was the one driving, and not he. I feel the same way about those who thank God because one or two people survived an airplane crash (as was the case in a crash in South America not that long ago).
 

The leader of the HeavensGate group, "Do," spoke with similar confidence about the spacecraft hovering behind the comet Hale-Bopp. Rev. Jim Jones is said to have performed miraculous faith-healings (or so his followers thought -- with great confidence). I don't mean to disparage your experience by relating it to those of people whom your peers probably denigrate as "cult" leaders, but these are commonly accepted facts.

Obviously, to place faith in these men -- or their gods -- was a mistake for their respective followers. However, both were adamant in their claims, and both."" garnered hoards of followers who also believe with as much certainty as you express here.

Meanwhile, I suffered one in a long series of health crises (with the resulting emotional breakdowns) in the winter of 1996. When I had nowhere to go, I decided to hang out at the Marxist commune at the University near where I had been living. The changes in me were instantaneous and profound. I recovered from a similar crisis through the love and care of a lovely young woman whom I will never forget. (We were both atheists.)

What I am saying is that profound changes occur in one's life is no proof that a god exists. Just because we do not know why something happens, we do not need to posit "God" as the explanation. In fact, we do better to suspend judgment on things we do not know, so that we can keep our eyes open for possible explanations and, perhaps, stumble across the answer.
 

I must have made a pretty convincing statement, considering that you got it completely backwards! In my letter to Durban I challenged him to prove that there is no Santa or Tooth Fairy. You cannot disprove an existential claim, so if you claim that a "God" exists, I cannot disprove your claim. Neither am I justified in going along simply because you make the claim: I have every reason to think you're lying unless and until you provide me with a compelling reason to go along with your claim.
 

You see, doc, it happened like this: I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when out of the blue, people kept telling me about this "God" fellow, like he was some kind of Santa Claus, only bigger, and just as invisible. So, right from the start I chalked it up as just another Santa Claus fable, except that this one's for older children.

It's not like anyone ever needed to convince me that the Sun exists. I only needed to be told what it is called, and later, what it is and how it works and how far away it is, etc.

Not so, with God, whose existence is not self-evident (or unambiguous). Allow me to try to make my case, here.

First. about a billion people (about 20 percent, worldwide) do not have a god-belief of any kind. If all the various types of nonbelievers (excluding atheistic Buddhists, atheistic Hindus, and atheistic Jews) were categorized together and this called a religion (though I disagree in calling it that), we would be the second largest "religion" in the world -- behind only all the different types of Christians lumped together (though slightly ahead of Roman Catholics as a group), and slightly further ahead of all the different types of Muslims lumped together.

So, there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, do not see evidence that supports belief in the existence of a god.

Secondly, among theists, there is much disagreement about God. How many gods are there? What are God's characteristics? What is God's will for us (if any)? The list is endless. Michael Jordan's Encyclopedia of Gods lists and describes over 2,500 gods that mankind has endorsed at one time or another. Waka-Se-Na-Me-No-Kami is the Shinto goddess who is specifically concerned with the transplanting of rice. Her son, Waka-Toshi-No-Kami, takes care of the growing of young rice. I don't know who takes over when the rice gets older, or if there is a deity concerned with boiling the rice and another with eating it, but Kuku-Toshi-No-Kami (no relationship given) takes care of the harvest. My favorite is Quetzalcoatl. I don't know anything about this deity except that the name is a word that's as fun to write as it is to pronounce.

So, then, we have a vast divergence of opinion regarding the nature of God (gods) by people who do believe.

If a god existed, and if it was important for humans to know about his existence, it seems to me that there wouldn't be so much honest disagreement as to whether there is a god and if so, what characteristics we are dealing with, and which god or gods actually exist and which are false gods.

In contrast, only a couple of nuts in Los Angeles still think the Earth is flat and that the Sun and Moon scoot along the sky which is a giant lid, or firmament, formed above the Earth. We can expect this small amount of difference of opinion over self-evident things, especially given that the sphericity of the Earth is not immediately observable, and also given the incidence of maladies such as schizophrenia that plague a small percentage of our species.

This vast difference of opinion makes sense if God is fiction and superstition, and if there is no such thing as a god. But it does not make sense if there is a god who wants us to know of his (or her or their) existence. If knowledge of God's existence is only the very basis for the relationship with God that so many theists talk about, then it is easy to understand why some would wonder if this god is cruel in not making his (or her or their) existence clear to more than a relative handful of humans.

Meanwhile, to finish answering your question, I actually wanted there to be a god for many years. I asked and sought and knocked, as the saying goes. I have spend a large fraction of my life pursuing this quest. I think if there existed a god-claim that made sense, I would probably have encountered it by now. To use an analogy, there reaches a point when you must say, "We've looked and looked for your contact lens, with the brightest lights we have, and we think your contact lens is not on the elevator floor." There comes a time when we must restore the elevator to its proper use.
 

Have you absolutely eliminated the natural, more likely explanations? If you have done this (and only if you have done this), you may proceed with the less likely supernatural explanations.
 

Were they yours or someone else's? Were you there? If not, were the reporters of these experiences mistaken? Could they have been lying?

How do we know what "near-death experience" means?

And most importantly, how can we trust the brain of someone who is so impaired, so sick, that observers (including, probably, doctors) conclude that the person is dying?
 

This is a better argument in favor of the naturalistic explanation of life's existence on Earth than it is for the supernaturalistic explanation. The Earth has conditions conducive to life; therefore, life developed and thrived on this planet. Life is tuned to the very conditions you describe, not vice versa. For example, if the whole planet had weather conditions such as those found in Kenya, all humans would probably have dark or black skin; there would be no polar bears, whose fur is like a mat of fiber optic strands. Had those conditions been different, life would have tuned to those conditions or perhaps not be at all.

For you to use this as an argument for theism is to put the cart before the horse. Besides, I would think that a god could have made anything able to survive almost anywhere.
 

Again. This would also be a better argument in favor of the naturalistic explanation -- if it were even true. However, this statement is false. Many millions of people go without adequate food and shelter. Fewer still have anything that would rightly be called an abundance. Except for humans (and then only recently, after men and women of science -- not faith; not God -- made some startling changes in our survival rate), most life forms which come into existence do not survive long enough to procreate.
 

This won't last. We're all going to die. And we're the lucky ones, too. The rest of us are already dead or never will be born.

Besides, you can speak for yourself on this matter: I have a disorder that sometimes prevents me from waking up at all; I have been known to sleep though the entire day and wake up "tomorrow." Thank gaud for computers: I log on each "morning" (even if it happens to be evening) and find out what time it is and what day it is.
 

I've never heard this claim. Are you getting this from scientists or from a preacher or New Age huckster?

Look out for that term "scientific proof," though; the only ones who use it tend not to be scientists (because science presupposes that all claims to knowledge are subject to revision. In my experience, the ones quickest to use the term "scientific proof" are those who are about to pull a stunt on their audience!

If we grant, for the discussion that it is true, does it necessarily follow that exactly one god exists? And if you prove something, then is it no more faith?
 

When? Where!? Can I go see it?

Is there any petrified elephant shit still in it? I want some!

(And I was beginning to think we may have a serious discussion on our hands.)

First, take my word for it: this is a lie.

(Sometimes I wish I could get my hands on some of these charlatans! Sometimes they piss me off so much that I just don't bother to control the violent feelings that tend to well inside me whenever I see good people being exploited like this.)

Secondly, if we were to grant, for the sake of this discussion, that a large craft was found in the mountains of Turkey, it would sdnot follow that the boat was built by anyone named Noah, or by any subject of the half-dozen or so other deluge myths that I've read (and I hear there are many more).

Thirdly, what would you do if they did find a boat but it was not made of hickory bark (or whatever the song -- rather, the myth says it was made out of)?
 

Gotcha!

Trillions of people have not existed.

Gotcha again!

Most Expressions of the Christian religion do not deal with the language "accepting Jesus as one's savior."

Gotcha a third time!

Jesus is alleged to have instructed his followers to "take up their cross" and supposedly informed them that "my burden is light."

Besides, how do such claims about Jesus differ from similar claims about other gods? And what about things that aren't even gods? I heard almost word-for-word the same testimony from newly "comrade-ized" Marxists as I have from newly converted Christians! the change inside, the change in lifestyle, the whole bit! What about my testimony? A whole world full oftruly gnarly burdens were lifted from me once I stopped believing in Jesus, once I was able to "let go" and face my humanity! Instead of having burdens with the weight of eternity upon me, I now have burdens that I can actually carry all by myself, burdens that are, in comparison, a joy to carry, burdens that I'm proud to walk next to when taking a stroll through the neighborhood (as it were).

For example: When someone I know ceases from life, I do not need to crawl into my shell and lapse into abject depression: that person is not going to spend even a moment in hell. I only cry because my friend is gone, because the death was premature, because I know this is our only opportunity to live and this person just finished her or his life forever, or simply because death is the price we pay to even live at all (in terms of natural selection).

When my Grandma died, I cried because I lost my closest friend. At the same time, I could be grateful that she no longer had to suffer like she did. But when her husband died ten years earlier, I could not face his widow. I knew ("for a fact" -- I thought) that he had just begun an eternity of cruel and brutal punishment for not having accepted Jesus as his personal savior!

I need no other reasons besides this one to curse the Christian religion for the rest of my life: because I believed its claims, I chose not to be there with her during the most painful moments of her life, during the only truly painful moments of this innocent and loving and vibrant and giving and care-free and happy woman's life (the rest of her family was on vacation and wouldn't return for her, either, so she held the funeral all by herself).

I know what it's like to be alone and to be in an emotional state where it's would be impossible to stop crying even if someone were there holding you in their arms.

Not flying up to be with her is among my top five regrets in life.

I didn't know. I just didn't know.

This is one of the main reasons why I don't begrudge Christians of their religion; rather, I presuppose that they think they have valid reasons for believing the way they do. I thought I did! But look what it cost me!

No. By comparison, my burdens are now light as a feather.

At least when I make a mistake, I have only myself to blame. But when I make a mistake, since I am doing all the thinking for the decision-making process, chances are that none of my mistakes will be as monumentally destructive as this one or several others that I made while a Christian -- that is, while the Christian religion was doing my thinking for me!
 

If I pray to Parjanya for rain and it starts raining, it doesn't follow that Parjanya made the rain.

If I sacrifice a virgin to Mixcoatl-Camaxtli and prevail in warfare, it doesn't follow that Mixcoatl-Camaxtli helped me win or allowed me to win.

If I get over this current illness, I promise you that Dharmakirtisagaraghosa will have had nothing to do with it.

Of course, I think you know all this.

Or do you?

What's the difference between Mithra and Jesus?

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Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
"Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!"
-- Rudyard Kipling, in an ode to Mithras, the ancient Persian god of light and wisdom who, in the first century, BCE, began to be adopted by the Romans as the sun god, bringing Mithraism rapidly to the forefront of the Empire's major religions -- until Christianity was legislated to replace it, that is; in Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill "A Song to Mithras" in "On the Great Wall" (1906), quoted from, Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

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Oh, my! Now NASA has become involved in this thing! They weren't part of the picture 34 years ago, when I first heard this canard.

Okay, which scientists?

Whenever you folks tell us that "scientists" said this or did that, our only appropriate response is to ask, "Which scientists? Tell us: which scientists said that? What is the name of the article so I may look it up, because I've never heard that one." (Maybe it's "I've heard that one only too often,") I have discovered a strong correlation between Evangelicals not knowing wich scientists said what they've just chimed out for all to believe and the chimed sentences being flat-out falsehood designed to trick us into believing in Jesus! In other words, when y'all cannot (or will not) tell us the names of the scientists, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition that said "scientists" do not exist.

(Boy! Am I now becoming an ascientistist? Should I go to the State University with my bull horn and picket signs and demand that they march a few of those folks out to me to prove the truthfulness of their claim that scientists really exist?)

Level with me: is this another old wives' fable? a trick to get us to believe in your gods?

Which scientists did this!?

The following is from ChristianAnswers.net:

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Although we believe that biblical account of Joshua's Long Day is true, the claim that NASA has proven it is an old urban myth....

No one who repeats this story has ever provided details of these calculations -- how exactly was this missing day discovered? This should automatically make people cautious. How could you detect a missing day unless you had a fixed reference point before this day?

In fact we would need to cross check between both astronomical and historical records to detect any missing day.... But the ancient records did not record time that precisely, so the required cross check is simply not possible....

There is so much good evidence for the truth of creation and the Bible that we don't need to resort to embellishments and urban myths.

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Copyright ©1997, Answers in Genesis
See our Notice at the bottom of this file.

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You mean to say, millions of reports of miracles, during times when it was considered moral to fabricate reports of miracles in order to bring credibility to God and to the church. You cannot verify that any of them actually were miracles.
 

Again: trillions of people have not existed.

Even if you're a Mormon.
 

What about the human body makes it any more or less awe-inspiring than any one of the approximately 12,000 known species of roundworms.

If the human body is the work of a designer, then why is it so frail? How could one human (myself) have five different diagnosable problems with my eyesight alone, and three separate problems with my hearing?

If the human body is not the result of billions of years of natural selection (meaning that each of your ancestors back to the "primordial goo" lived long enough to procreate), then why are so many aspects of it "imperfect"? ("Primordial goo" is this weird stuff that creationists accuse only atheists of believing in, even though most evolutionists are theists and most Christians are evolutionists. In fact, only American Evangelicals tend to be creationists; the faith of the rest is stable enough to not be threatened by what science has shown us.)
 

Yeah? Planets exist.
 

As unlikely as this seems, life does exist. There is nothing about its construct that makes it unlikely, in fact. Now, if the DNA molecule were made up of atoms of helium, argon, neon, and krypton, then even I might suspect supernatural hanky-panky!

Seriously, if one wishes to speak of design, it is necessary first to establish the existence of a designer. If I find a watch in the desert I know it was designed because I can travel to Switzerland and meet the designer.

I also can see evidence of formation, such as too marks in the gears, etc. But this is not so, because no life form now existing has evidence of having been formed. Quite the contrary: we can watch plants spring out of the ground every spring. We can go to the zoo and watch animals being hatched or born. These processes are seamlessly natural: they utilize no detectable tools or implements and, from all appearances, are occurring under their own power and design.

I can also (inconclusively) suspect that the watch had a designer because it is very unlike its surroundings. However, life is quite common in these parts. I heard on a science program recently of a recent discovery that life even exists in a hot spring at the bottom of Crater Lake -- where it is hot enough to kill virtually all other known most life forms.
 

Ahh! "We can't see him," he says! I see!

Does this mean that we cannot even detect Him?

As I noticed above, an invisible god does not look very good for the notion of a god who wants humans to know that He exists. Besides, just because we cannot see "Him" doesn't mean that "He" is there, either!
 

I'm sorry I can't help you.

I'm not sorry that I don't really want to help you in this respect.

If you ever find yourself doubting your Christian faith -- doubting that Marketing as your interests in mind at all (to say nothing of your best interests!) -- if you ever discover that you either no longer have a god-belief or never really had a god-belief to begin with, then feel free to look me up. Until then, you are not the focus of my work: you are not "fair game"; I have no desire to see any theists deconvert, but will set aside all but the most crucial of personal plans if you think you need my assistance as an atheist being pestered by a Church bent on seeing you "repent" or reconvert. Although I think all atheists do best by effecting their own deconversion and deprogramming, I realize just how wily the Church can be and just how precarious her sales floor, the World, gets at times. It is to this extent and to this extent alone that I become serious when it comes to seeing people remain (but not become) atheists.

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Frankly, I don't give a rat what you believe. I am not here to change your mind and, as you may have noticed, when my resources are slim, I give precedence to answering mail from atheists. I apologize for the delay, but that's the way it is. This magazine (website) has atheists as its target audience. When my body functions the way one would expect a 42-year-old body to function, I can get more done than I normally can. When it doesn't put out what is expected of a body its type, size, innate ability, and age, then I've got to set priorities.

I don't know much about you, personally, but I do know that I have been where you are now, as far as religion goes, and I was very miserable the entire time. To add to the cruelty, I was not allowed to show my pain to anybody because this would impede my testimony, adversely reflecting upon the reputation of my god. So I lied. I thought I was the only one who was miserable because of his faith, because he believed, so I simply "grew in wisdom," as they say.

Then, one by one, a few others began to trust me with their darkest secrets. One by one, these few told me that they want to believe but don't "feel" anything. They had no experiential religion -- no experience to verify what they believed. Others did not trust that the scriptures were the work of God and suspected that they were the work of man, that they contained errors, and that we cannot really know if anything in them is true.

I have now honestly and sincerely concluded that we cannot really know whether Jesus even existed: the existence of the Jesus myth and the existence of the Christian church can be explained without there ever having been a historical Jesus, without there ever having lived a man who even approximately answered to the description of the so-called historical Jesus.

I have studied this issue intensely, for a long time. Part of me wants to make sure; part of me is still spooked by Pascal's Wager and the visions of Hell that were taught to me as a child (not by my parents, but by other kid's parents and by teachers at school). If Pascal's Wager has any merit, I most certainly don't want to be wrong.

(Pascal's Wager, however, is, in my opinion, patently immoral. I don't see how any just deity could respect anybody who came to believe through this so-called argument, who came to believe solely for personal gain [that is, to avoid the Christian Hell]. I don't see how any moral deity could honor the faith of such a person.)

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My life has been hampered in no small way because I spent a few youthful years in what anybody familiar with the subject would call a cultic religious state. Subsequently, I stumbled along through life as best I could (which wasn't all that good, actually). I made modest amounts of money, living a rather humble means, and managed to do a lot of good during those times when I could afford to pursue my first love: social activism.

Then I was shocked into focusing my career as a social activist on this subject (after being held in jail for just under a month simply because I refused a court order to undergo religious instruction in a faith-based rehabilitation program that I didn't really need). This is when I started paying attention to what was happening to me at the time, what I thought and felt, and even the fact that I am an atheist. Indeed, I had never called myself "an atheist" until that day in court! I was exactly the kind of atheist that my father is: neither of us paid the least bit of attention to our atheism, because neither of us gave a damn about the religion of other people.

It was only when a religious organization coaxed my government into taking from me my Religious Liberty and then proceeded to intimidate and harass me for my lack of religion that I woke up and realized that I really have no choice but to act, no choice but to spend the bulk of the remainder of my life struggling not for the rights and dignity of people in far off lands but for my own rights, my own freedom, and my own dignity (and those of my family, friends, and fellow Americans -- in that order).

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Having studied my own experience, now, for several years, I discovered that I have a special ability to help atheists feel at home with their atheistic position. Most Americans who are atheists do not have the unique experience that I do, having been raised by atheists, who themselves were raised by atheists, who themselves had a total of one believer among my great-grandparent (a Unitarian, which cannot easily be distinguished from an atheist anyway). Top this off with the fact that I spent three or four years in the grip of a fundamentalist Christian sect, and several more years in the grip of the Twelve Step Program, easily the most malevolent religious cult in existence. I think this uniquely qualifies me to do what I have repeatedly stated is my goal with this magazine and web site (a project, really).

If your friend Durban thinks that I am about "discussing the existence or nonexistence of 'God'" (that is, discussing the merits of the Christian god-claim -- or lack thereof), he is mistaken. He probably caught me during a time of plenty, when I had the luxury of spending several hours engaged in a "sparring match" (as I see such discussions: I have yet to take one of them seriously; to me, it's all just a sport).

I hope that you don't take it personally that I don't share your interest in "discovering" or "being openminded" about a question that I got to the bottom of perhaps before you were even born. In the past five years, I've heard only one new argument. Even if I hadn't come to a resolution regarding that one, the other objections remain unanswered.

I get these letters every day: day in, and day out. Apart from the attitudes, they differ in but two respects.

First, the arguments (all of which I've already heard), which are, for the most part, not arguments but simply statements, vary considerably. Sometimes I get a neatly copied run-down of Lewis's book, obviously cribbed from a Sunday school hand-out. Other times I get a haphazardly understood (that is, original) outline of a McDowell speech. About three-quarters of them at least contain the patently immoral Pascal's Wager bit, if the "Wager" doesn't comprise the entirety of that particular e-mail. Almost always, the letter consists entirely of statements:

"Thus is so!"

"Oh, really?"

"Yup! Thus is so!"

"Well, can you give me any reasons for going along with that?"

"Of course! Thus is so!"

And so forth.

Secondly, the signatures vary, of course. I know this sounds cocky, but selling a savior on a stick is far from the pinnacle of human creativity.

Nevertheless, I find dignity even in the most indignant of e-mails.

Each letter was written by an individual who at least THINKS that she or he cares. This is often hard to see, judging by the attitudes of a great many of them, but as our FAQ states, it is my policy to presuppose that all theists have or think they have valid reasons for believing the way they do. In the same sense, I can (if I want) presuppose that they all care (and I often do just that).

When I was a teenager, a preacher gave me a most useful turn of adjectival phrase: "well-meaning but misguided." It takes the heat off the messenger without need of our giving credibility to the message.

Apart from that, apart from realizing that people think they care, I still must deal with the effects of this misguided sense of caring. The result, as viewed from my side of the exchange, is, in many if not most cases, indistinguishable from bigotry. This is where I'm at in the antibigotry fight, apart from what I described above about trying to popularize a more accurate definition for atheism.

That's all.

Thanks for writing!

And again, I'm sorry that I'm not all that interested in a sparring match. It's not you, I just don't want to spar with anybody, really. If your god-claim is true, the question becomes, why does He need you to evangelize me? Why doesn't He simply reveal Himself to me?

I'd rather see what I can do to learn how to get along, and I'm not convinced that accentuating our differences does much in this respect. Maybe it does. Maybe showing the Christians I meet that their efforts are -- misguided? -- is the first step toward putting those differences behind! I don't know. Maybe I'll eventually come back to that, but for now, I'm needing to spend my resources wisely, which means doing other things.

Again, thanks!

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292
http://www.aracnet.con/~atheism/
atheism@aracnet.con

"Is there an intelligent man or woman now
    in the world who believes in the Garden
    of Eden story? If you find any man who
    believes it, strike his forehead and you
    will hear an echo. Something is for rent."
             -- Robert Green Ingersoll

"A stupid man's report of what
    a clever man says is never accurate
    because he unconsciously translates
    what he hears into something
    that he can understand."
             -- Bertrand Russell

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