Why No Reason To Believe?

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: why no reason to believe
Date: October 10, 2001 8:05 AM

For me, any reason to believe any claim must be truthful. If I find out that somebody is lying to me, it is almost as wrong to believe a lie as it is to tell a lie.

So, you give me several reasons why I ought to believe the Christian religion. Let's look at them.

No, Buddhism predates Christianity by at least 500 years. Hinduism predates Christianity by at least 2,000 years. In other words, Hinduism is twice as old as Christianity. The Roman religions predated Christianity by at least 750 years, though they do not survive today, their followers having been wiped out by the Christians. One most important fact that you overlooked: Christianity is a spin-off from Judaism, and therefore must be younger from Judaism simply because it started out as a sect of Judaism. Throughout its history, the ancient Jews fought off many religions, slaughtering people who believed in religions other than Judaism. This all happened centuries before Christianity started.

Anyway, the fact that this reason you gave is pure falsehood is beside the point: Why would the age of a religion have anything to do with whether or not its claims are true? The Christian religion makes various claims, such as that it is able to make people moral, that its founder figure, Jesus, rose from the dead, and that its founder figure, Jesus, after having risen bodily up into the sky (Heaven) would soon return ("some standing here shall not taste death"), and that those who believe in the Christian religion shall be able to handle snakes and drink poison without being harmed. To find out whether a religion worthy of being believed, we must examine its claims and see if we find its claims to be believable. I don't find the claims of the Christian religion to be believable, and thus think the whole thing is a big fairy tale that got out of hand.

Many people who are Christians don't even respect the religion. They would become atheists in a heartbeat if it were possible for them to become atheists without losing their jobs, their families, their standing in the communities, and, until very recently (160 years or so), their very lives. Yes, until 167 years ago, people who did not believe the Christian religion were put to death, usually in the most cruel and painful ways imaginable. No wonder so many people are Christians, and no wonder many of them are still shaken by Christianity's history even 167 years after the Inquisition came to an end in 1834.

This still makes me cry just to think about it. Had my ancestors and philosophical predecessors not separated religion from government 212 years ago, this might still be happening on our soil. However, two of my ancestors signed the United States Constitution and one signed the Declaration of Independence, and one thing which resulted was the separation of religion from government (often erroneously called the separation of church and state -- the constitution says "religion" not "church").

Besides, why does it matter if many people respect the Christian religion? Even if they did, this says nothing as to whether or not the Christian religion is telling the truth when it makes its claim (such as that the Devil took Jesus to a mountain that was so high that they could see all the kingdoms of the Earth at once).

The bottom line is not whether other people respect it but whether or not I respect it! And I don't respect it because it makes false claims and terrorizes people into joining its ranks either through the Inquisition, by social ostracization (other Christians not having anything to do with you if you leave the Church), or, most gruesomely, through the teaching of the Christian Hell. The only crime that you can commit that will send you to the Christian Hell is not believing the Christian religion! Adolf Hitler, had he repented before he died, would have qualified for the Christian Heaven, so I'm told. Ditto for the suicide bombers who leveled the World Trade Center: had one repented at the last moment, after it was too late to turn the wheel, he would have made it too, or if one of his comrades had repented, for example, if a stewardess led him to the Lord during the final moments of their lives. Never mind good or evil, Christian Heaven is for Christians and Christian Hell is for non-Christians. That's what I've been told over and over and over by Christians, that all I gotta do to escape the Christian Hell is to believe in Jesus.

You know what? I don't respect that. That is not morality at all. That is just plain despicable! I'm glad that it's so easy to show the Christian religion to be false, because if Christianity were true, I'd have a tough time accepting the morality behind that religion.

This I gotta see. Lay it on me!

I've been examining the claims of the Christian religion since 1972, and have yet to see an argument that holds water. If you're the first to provide me with convincing reasons to believe that the claims of the Christian religion are true, you will have accomplished a monumental feat indeed -- something which some of the most skilled apologists have been unable to do.

First, I'd like to talk to the woman, as well as several who witnessed this event. I'm not going to take your word for it, simply because this is the middle of your first paragraph and you've already got several of your facts wrong. This is a stretch indeed, and I'm not going to take it at face value.

Secondly, even if it were true, what does it prove? that some people get lucky! Perhaps she landed on an awning. Is it a coincidence that she prayed? Most people who are stuck in a burning building will be praying! even many atheists will pray in a situation like that -- just in case!

But people go sky diving and their chute fails to open and a few survive. What does this prove in light of all the others who probably prayed too but died anyway? that the Lord wanted to take them home? No. Some people get lucky and some don't. Some of them prayed and some didn't. This proves nothing either way.

Most importantly, anecdotal, hearsay evidence counts for very little. Show me that the Christian god exists and I'll believe. Don't tell me what happened to somebody your preacher heard about or somebody you read about in a magazine you got from the check stand.

The two times I faced death, I didn't pray. I couldn't pray. Once, after taking a fall, I went into seizure. For some reason, I was still conscious, and all I could think of was which way do I move so that a little air will go into my lungs, and then which way do I move so that a little air will go out of my lungs. I could barely do this, and was rattling around so violently that I actually had to think about how to make my lungs fill with air! The second time I had a gun to my head and didn't have time to pray! I don't know if you've ever had that happen to you, but when a crazy man puts a gun to your head, you best not move at all. You do well not to act scared, either (in other words, don't look as if you're praying, begging God to spare you).

I didn't pray either time. Instead, both times I knew I needed to have my wits about me. It turns out I didn't need my wits in the second case (except to keep from moving and to keep my poker face on), but I can see how the course of events might have turned and I might have needed my wits! I'd have hated to have been caught off guard doing something as useless as praying!

I didn't hear about this one, either. The various Urban Legends web sites catalogue all the stories that sound like urban legends, whether or not they're actually urban legends. This one sounds like an urban legend. Therefore, if it were true, it would be catalogued on the Urban Legends web sites by now. Because it's not on the Urban Legends web sites (any of them that I know of), does not mean it's false, but this absence points strongly in that direction.

But I am certainly not going to believe the Christian religion just on this one. I have documented thousands of problems with the Christian religion. Even if it's true, the Christian religion has thousands of other problems which need to be resolved before I would believe it to be true. But especially since I cannot even find this on the Urban Legends sites, this story is definitely not making the rounds.

No, you need to give me reasons to believe that the claims of the Christian religion are true. I'm not going to join because it feels good and I'm not going to join for personal gain (getting into the Christian Heaven or dodging the Christian Hell). I will join only if somebody shows me that the claims are true.

The big problem is that I have documented thousands of reasons to think that the Christian religion is false! So you have your work cut out for you in trying to set me straight on those thousands of problems! Having done that, you're back to zero: you've eliminated the problems, but you still need to show me that it's true. As the superstitious people always say, "Good luck!"

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

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