Most God-Believers
Do More Attacking
Than Listening
Christopher Dillard

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Christopher Dillard"
Date: November 19, 2001 1:17 AM
 

I am not spelling a word, but a sound. If I were spelling the word "God," you could expect me to use the word in a comprehensible sentence and context. When I use the sound that many people use as an exclamation or an expletive, I choose to spell it "gaud" (as in "gaudy") rather than "God" (as in "I have no clue what that series of letters means or why people would spell the expletive sound like this rather than the way I spell it").

When people say, "God forbid!" I have no idea what that could possibly mean. However, I hear this sound all the time and have picked it up as part of my unconscious vocabulary. So, when I say it -- and particularly when I write this sound down on paper -- I spell it the way I think I might mean it if I were asked to explain what I just said. I could not tell you what "God forbid" means, so I say, "Gaud for bid." This means "Tacky wares selling to the person who shells out the highest amount of money." This makes a lot more sense to me than "God forbid," whose meaning is lost on me.

In fact, even when discussing religious matters, "gaud for bid" pretty much explains it all, at least from what I have seen.

As for books, I recommend Why Atheism? by George H. Smith and his classic "Atheism: The Case Against God." I have the first chapter of the latter posted.

Chapter 2 of Smith's Why Atheism? is highlighted (condensed? abridged?) in the response to "Reason And Faith: Apples And Oranges" with Todd Smith.

He is almost unique in showing that the "weak" definition for the word atheism is superior in every way to the "strong" position which the Church forced onto us through usage. As a social class, we are entitled to a self-identity, and that self-identity has been most thoroughly researched in Smith's (again!) essay, "Defining Atheism."

There are others, but they are either inferior or could take you on a wrong track.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Christopher Dillard"
Date: November 19, 2001 9:22 AM

I don't understand the concept of Nature having a will, like one would expect a human to have. Neither can I fathom something being "above" or "beyond" the natural order of thing, but only as a component of the natural order of things, which I call "Nature" with a capital "N." Nature (to me) is (by definition) The Whole Banana.

However, I do realize that many people like to anthropomorphize different "nonperson" events and objects, that is not what I do. I also recognize that people do this for the sake of expression and art, etc., but when a common mistake costs the lives of multiple millions over the course of millennia, I stop thinking in terms of expression and art. Therein lies my problem with the concept.

With this, I go ahead and make the sound mean what most readily comes to my mind when I hear the following sound sequence: "gaud for bid." Since the concept of an anthropomorphized Nature, being quite unscientific, must in this day and age be peddled like so much kitsch at the main thoroughfare of the County Fair, "gaud for bid" works not only to describe the sound of the expression, it works to describe (in an oblique way, resulting in social commentary of a different sort) the level of desperation to which these peddlers of religion must resort in order to take modern humans for a ride -- a carnival ride guaranteed to make even the toughest stomachs reaching for the scapolimine.

What is it about Christians that so many of those who write to our Forum are so eager to take anything even remotely resembling authority (such as the dictionary) and turn it into The Final Word when it comes to their arguments with me? What is it about the concept of authority that Christians who write to us seem so ready to submit to it without question or resistance?
 

"Let's go back to the class and we'll start doing the alphabet all over" (David Peel, "The Alphabet Song," 1968). The Shell Oil logo is much more widely recognized among the World's humans than is the Christian Cross. Only one out of four humans belongs to one or the other Christian sect (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodox, Mormonism, etc.). Meanwhile, one out of five humans is not religious at all (what we call "atheist" -- see "Defining Atheism" by George H. Smith).

Very few who call themselves Christian would recognize the deity worshipped by Muslims or Jews or the godhead worshipped by Hinduism of the creative processes of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and almost all other viewpoints, as being "the creator described in the Bible."
 

The vast majority of atheists don't give a rat about this alleged historical figure. Can you present the arguments in favor of Mohammed actually having been a historical figure versus him having been entirely contrived? How about the same arguments for Buddha, Moses, Amen (in whose name almost all Christians address their prayers -- to this day), Quetzalcoatl, and Krsna? Have you heard any speculation along the lines that David Koresh did not actually die? Elvis Presley? John F. Kennedy? Many people fail to realize that what they read is pure satire. Very few moderns realize that religious myth was once universally intended to convey moral messages, and that a few of them fell into the hands of leaders who were incapable of grasping this concept (myth is a much "higher," more complex form of thinking than a simple narrative, to be sure).

There may or may not be a real historical figure behind the myth that has inspired Christians to bring about such utter destruction upon European humanity during the past 2,000 years or so, but that is irrelevant when compared to addressing the destructive elements of the myth itself. And the most important thing to realize when addressing the destructive elements of the myth is that the Jesus figure is portrayed as having actually existed as a historical figure, and as having wrought supernatural magic tricks (to "prove" that he was "really real"), as having taught the single most vicious form of exclusivism to date, and as having instructed his followers to literally drop everything and "make disciples of all nations" and to "compel them to enter in."

I favor one viewpoint, which itself incorporates two other possibilities:
 

1. Jesus Agnosticism, introduced in 2000 by Robert M. Price, is the idea that given the body of information that we now have to work with, we CANNOT know who or if Jesus was. Most who embark an a "search for the historical Jesus," end up creating a "Gospel" out of their work. By emphasizing certain select facts and marginalizing or ignoring others one can make a case for "the historical Jesus" to have been one of any number of things, ranging from Jewish political Messiah (my favorite) to religious reformer to social reformer to religious teacher to faith healer to rebel against the Jewish establishment to rebel against the Roman occupation.

The only "Jesus" which requires that the historian stretch the facts beyond recognition and introduce new information (that is not found through a natural search) is the traditional "God-man" redeemer of the Gospel accounts; however, this "Jesus" fits right in with the prevailing religious myth of the day, the ever-popular Roman-Persian Pagan myth of the dying and resurrected savior, the effects and benefits of whose death and resurrection is imparted upon the follower through identification via various rituals performed by the believer.

Thus, concludes Price, if a historian thinks that "Jesus" ought to have been a social reformer, she or he will find plenty of evidence to back up that notion -- so long as that historian is willing to ignore many other key facts!
 

1a. Jesus as wannabe regular Jewish Messiah figure

Since everybody who searches for a "historical Jesus" ends up "finding" the "Jesus" that they seek, I seek the "Jesus" of traditional the Jewish lore about Messiah that dominated the culture at the time in question. My concept of Jewish Messiah includes the fact that no such Messiah ever hit the scene. Now, how can Jesus have been the Jewish Messiah if there was no Jewish Messiah? Simple: Jesus was a FALSE Jewish Messiah, having failed in his mission and quest to free his people from the tyranny of the Roman Occupation. Rather than having the privilege (and joy) of watching God come down, spit the Mount of Olives in two, and send the Roman forces packing, Jesus was captured, languished in prison until spring, and eventually became the "beardless yokel" in the annual ceremony to release a prisoner, coronet him in mock ceremony, and then either drive him out of town or literally execute him (in memory of the times when the REAL king was executed for the benefit of the people in similar but not mock ceremony).

This model makes so much sense to me that for fifteen years I held it -- so unshakable was both its logic and its charm! Price's Jesus Agnosticism has since ushered the Traditional Jewish Messiah model out into the pasture of unverifiable speculation, but Price's Jesus Agnosticism allows me to carry on the Jesus model that I once cherished in the form of failed Jewish Messiah figure.

This view is most vividly and succinctly presented in the works of Hyam Maccoby.
 

1b. Did a historical Jesus even exist? One question that is so utterly compelling that it cannot be ignored is the question of whether we have enough evidence to establish the existence of a historical Jesus. No "Jesus myth" types assert that no Jesus existed; however, most Christian scholars will admit that the only contemporary evidence for a historical Jesus comes from the admittedly biased Gospels, plus a few oblique statements from the body of Paul's writings. Again, this is not to assert that no Jesus existed (it is impossible to make that case any more than it is possible to make the case that no historical Buddha existed). This is only to acknowledge that the case for the historicity of the historical Jesus figure is very slim, as historicity studies go.

This view is most vividly and succinctly presented in the works of G. A. Wells, as described in Gary Wells's "Did Jesus Exist ... And Does It Matter?" which we ran earlier this year in our print edition.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Christopher Dillard"
Date: November 28, 2001 1:37 PM

Perhaps I exaggerated by making it seem as if I were referring to a large number: I get it a lot, but then only a handful of Christians would even think of writing to a publication written for atheists.

By copying and pasting the top line of the Navigation Block from any of our Forum Letters files ("browse about new previous next") into the Google search on the front page and then adding the word dictionary, you will be able to read for yourself, from the mouths of those who do this, what I am talking about. Just track down the half-dozen or so Christians who choose to hold me to this or that dictionary's definition of the word atheist and you may gain some insight into the personality profile of certain fundamentalists who worship a certain book that is not the dictionary. Then, while you're at it, compare any of my statements you find regarding what the dictionary is and is not. That should prove much more useful to you than any elaboration I could muster.

This same study will hold true for a certain very obscure Supreme Court case known as "Holy Trinity" although this tendency marked by "Holy Trinity" falls flat once a very well-known case known as "Roe v. Wade" is introduced into the discussion (go figure). Hardly anybody who has written here, gloating that "Holy Trinity" appears to proclaim the United States as a Christian Nation wants to even think about "Roe"! Neither do they recognize the other, much more prominent case since "Holy Trinity" that have much more explicitly laid down the precise relationship between government and religion: "This one Supreme Court case said it, I believe it, that settles it!" is what I seem to be hearing from this admittedly fringe group of Christians.

Meanwhile, I just don't get it: Because something is written in a book or placed under glass or etched into stone, it is allowed to skirt the scrutiny of human reason? it suddenly becomes above all that? having acquired a sense or level of infallibility?

No. I'll agree with Thomas Paine on this one: a statement stands or falls on its own merit, regardless of who uttered it.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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