Does God Smile
Only On Some?
Martha Nassauer (and Andrew Noce)

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Martha @ Intraspace Specialists, Inc."
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, May 03, 2001 11:17 PM

Many people survive the uncertain conditions of the ER and do not have this experience. What do you think makes you so special that you would get such a special visitation?

Also, what kind of god would reveal Himself to one person (you) and hide Himself from another person (me)? I have no reason to believe that any deity such as this exists. Furthermore, I find it almost impossible to respect people who vaunt about how The Creator has given them special dispensation but has withheld special dispensation from the person who must listen to these boasts.

Finally, while your mind and body were impaired to the brink of death, were your facilities in sound working order? In other words, have you eliminated all other possible explanations for this "vision" of yours, so as to be assured that what you thought was happening was, in fact, actually what happened? Wouldn't any religious conversion experience profoundly change one's life and outlook subsequent to the conversion? And wouldn't someone who thinks they have seen God (however impaired they may have been at the time) then spend the rest of their life looking for -- and finding -- "evidence" that God exists?

I don't understand what you mean when you accuse me of rationalizing my life away. To "anything one's life away" is a very serious charge, implying that one is patently irresponsible with one's life. Thus, I insist that you explain this accusation, and then justify your having said this to me.

If you mean rationalizing in the constructive sense of using reason to determine truth from falsehood, then explain to me how using human reason is a waste of one's life?

If you mean rationalizing in the destructive sense of using false logic in order to justify one's irresponsible behavior, then please describe to me what I am doing to earn this charge from you? Be sure to show your work: (1) provide examples of my use of false logic, showing the flaws in my logic; (2) give examples of my irresponsible behavior, showing how I could have acted more responsibly in the given situation; (3) show how I have used the false logic to justify the irresponsible behavior. If this is what you meant, and you cannot do the above, then I expect an apology from you.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Sales & Support - Intra-Space Specialists"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Friday, May 04, 2001 4:09 AM

What I hold to be true is pretty much what we all hold in common about physical reality (what I sometimes call "consensus reality").

The difference is that some people also hold, in addition to this common knowledge about the physical world, an additional belief: they believe that gods and goddesses (and their consorts) exist. They believe something that I don't have any reason to believe. You might say that I consider atheism to be the natural, default condition of humankind, and theism to be an added attraction. I consider theists to be the ones who are making the claims, the ones who hold beliefs.

If you have any specific questions about any subject (except sports and cars, please), I'd be glad to field them and see what comes up. Not having a code written in stone, I cannot simply give you a list of things or point to some book. And since I am fallible (currently submitting to liberal scientific method as the best way for a fallible agent with dim perception and cognition to determine truth from falsehood), my views on all subjects (including my atheism) are always subject to revision upon encountering new evidence.

But I have thought long and hard on many subjects, and can tell you not only what my current position is on many given subjects, but what some of my past positions have been and what steps brought me to my current views. This, to me, is what marks a philosopher.

I will say up front that I have trouble with vague, generalized language that could mean any number of different things to any number of different people. You will see this in our Forum where people have talked about "God" or "good and evil" or "love" and I've needed to find out specifically what they mean with this language.

But if you are truly curious, I'd be glad to tackle any issue. I cannot guarantee an answer, and will admit when I am perplexed or stumped (as I did during the recent discussion with Wayland Dong), but I will give it a shot.

I make this offer because much of our problems as a people group stem from the almost universal hatred of atheists, most of which is based upon a very unfair and inaccurate portrayal of atheism at the hands of the pulpit. As you will read in our FAQ, part of my mission here is to popularize an understanding of what atheism actually is versus what it is not. We don't care of you agree with out position, and we understand why you wouldn't, but we do like to see people disagree with our actual position, and not simply some straw-man misrepresentation of our position.

I wish more Christians thought this way. That would make life so much easier for the rest of us, and would open doors to cooperation which could solve the real problems we all face.

I encourage atheists to become to atheism as you describe yourself being to Christianity.

In this sense, it's not my job to de-convert theists, that's Nature's and Reason's job. Nature has seen fit to make religious faith the easiest path, and Reason is an extremely tough skill to learn -- and people are free to see things how they see them. If you check our FAQ, you will see that I don't fault anybody for being a theist. I will respond to specific questions and specific challenges, though.

My whole point with this project (that neither you nor Martha bothered to read) is that the question of whether or not gods exist is one of the stupidest questions over which to get into a fight. We all face serious dangers, and our organization advocates that we set aside the question of gods for long enough to work together toward solutions to these problems in hopes of a better world for us all.

Private expressions of religion are fine with me. It's only when those expressions go public that they become my business. This includes when people tell me that they're somehow superior to me or that I'm somehow inferior to them because they believe and I do not. This includes when people challenge me to a debate of some sort (including when they openly evangelize with me as part of their audience). This especially includes attempts to force me to behave as if I were a believer, including: legislated religious rites (tomorrow being National Day of Prayer in the United States, and I being a U.S. citizen); handing out endorsements for God every time I spend money ("In God We Trust"? Not Me! I'm not one of the "We" they're talking about! I'm old enough to remember when they placed this on our money and when they inserted "under God" into our Pledge of Allegiance!); paying for religious instruction (in the form of buying food for the Rescue Mission so they can withhold it from their captive audience until after they've listened to Christian propaganda); and flat our coercion (in the form of court-ordered Twelve Step instruction, considering that I was jailed once simply for refusing such an order -- and I didn't even have a drug or alcohol charge or conviction).

While I do entertain arguments from theists, we actively discourage this activity, as our website and magazine have atheists as their target audience. I will respond to most inquiries and when I do post them, I have a specific reason for doing so -- either we have encountered a dignified discussion and have both learned something, or we have shown that such attempts at discussion are futile, and have merely recounted both sides of the argument. Occasionally I will post something purely for entertainment value, because that's what seems to keep people coming back to the website more than anything. More often than not, there is a specific angle that I'd like to explore, and the rest of the discussion makes a convenient backdrop.

The line between a Christian announcing something to an atheist "out of love" and a Christian announcing something to an atheist out of an innate sense of condescending superiority is very fine -- so fine that few Christians who act this way recognize it without looking real hard for it. Be aware that even though most Christians who do it do not see this, we atheists are only too aware of it. In turn, I will recognize that most Christians do see what I'm talking about, and therefore keep their faith to themselves.

You have a different understanding of the term "Positive Atheism" than I do. For me to go ahead and take her word for it without raising these questions is, to me, a very negative and destructive thing for me to do. Also, for me to simply roll over and take it with the remark about rationalizing my life away is about as negative as it gets. Way too many atheists do this, and look where this behavior has taken us!

To us, "Positive Atheism" is a proactive ethic based upon Gora's secularization of Gandhi's satyagraha, to which secularization Gandhi agreed before he died. What we have culled from Gora's comprehensive outlook is that we consider truthfulness and self-consistency to be the highest ethics -- the most important ethics for us, as a minority group amongst a theistic majority, to practice and to advocate. (Many who see the word atheism on our front page and who immediately write to our Forum with theistic claims are not prepared for the fact that this ethic is in the forefront of any discussion here.)

So my question to her remains: why do some people get to "enjoy" the advantage that she did (if it is, indeed, an advantage), while others do not (and a few would consider this the advantage). But I don't get even a hint that your god exists, but rather must face the fact that all evidence that has come my way has pointed in the opposite direction. If your god really does exist, He has not dealt equitably between you and she, and He certainly has dealt me a bad hand altogether -- if He exists.

And if He exists (and if He is just), He will understand why I do not believe. He will also understand why I am openly atheistic and why I rejoice at the de-conversion of any theist -- seeing this as one of the most honest if not the healthiest decisions one can make for oneself.

If He exists, and if He is just, He will understand why I spend as many hours in this chair as my feeble body will allow helping those who have recently made this jump, because if someone wants to adjust from atheism to Christianity, there are any number of service organizations available to any American -- usually within walking distance of one's home. But just try to put out your shingle advertising that you help people adjust from Christianity to atheism, and watch the opposition you'll encounter.

But if He does not exist, I don't blame you a bit for thinking that He does exist.

And I am joyed to encounter someone who can describe their faith without it sounding as if she or he is trying to tell convince me to go along and without it sounding as if I'm somehow inferior as an atheist and need to get with The Program or something. Such expressions of faith get no reaction from me.

I did this too, when I was in a vulnerable position during the late 1970s, when one Jimmy Carter had brought much dignity to the reputation of the Christian religion by openly and unashamedly practicing absolute separation of religion from government. (I still hope to meet with him one day, and have already met his wife, Rosalyn.)

What I lost was three years of my life as an autonomous human, plus five additional years deprogramming myself in an attempt to revert to my former self. I don't regret a minute of it, but sure lost a lot of time as well as social and economic advantage, and came close to losing my life -- more than once -- from having been rendered so utterly disoriented from those experiences.

What I gained was a very solid conviction, based upon first-hand experience, as to why I am not a Christian and would never return to that lifestyle. Before, I remained a non-Christian because that lifestyle did not really appeal to me. Today I am a non-Christian because I think it is flat-out wrong for me to be a Christian: I am too self-honest to pretend, and I am too much of a man of truthfulness to tell others that something is true when I cannot establish for myself that it is true.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292

"My conclusion is that there is no reason to
   believe any of the dogmas of traditional
   theology and, further, that there is no
   reason to wish that they were true. Man,
   in so far as he is not subject to natural
   forces, is free to work out his own destiny.
   The responsibility is his, and so is the
      -- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970),
            "Is There a God?" (1952)

"The legitimate powers of government extend
   to such acts only as are injurious to others."
      -- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
            "Statute for Religious Freedom"

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I was dying on the ER table when I heard a voice say, "It is me, God. Believe in me, and I will never leave you." I felt a surge of peace and love blanket my entire physical and mental being. Suddenly, the doctors looked bewildered. All the initial tests that had confirmed a broken neck and severe internal bleeding were dismissed by a second, more intense set of tests that confirmed I was okay. I was gonna live.

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Martha @ Intraspace Specialists, Inc."
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Saturday, May 12, 2001 8:14 AM

Many Christians distribute "quotes" that prominent atheists allegedly made "just before they died." Many of these turn out to be hoaxes: this behavior on the part of Christians is so common that one man wrote an entire book debunking the more popular "deathbed conversion" tales circulated by Christians. I think even you might find some of these embarrassing, such as the demons rattling their chains over a cowering and dying Thomas Paine, or the many varying "accounts" of George Washington's death -- none of which are even hinted at in the diary of his personal secretary, who attended his death.

If David Roland Waters ever publishes his version of Madalyn Murray O'Hair's final moments alive, and if they portray her as less than firm in her atheism during the traumatic experience of the impending brutal and unjust premature deaths of herself and her two children, I predict that many Christian evangelists will jump on the "testimony" of this cold-blooded murder and milk it for all it's worth, calling it the truth simply because they think it would somehow discredit the position of atheism. It would be a safe and profitable wager to predict that even if Waters says nothing, some evangelist will "discover" a "letter" "from" Waters to this effect once he is safe in the grave and can no longer dispute the evangelist's claims.

Christian evangelists have done this so often that it is now almost routine among atheistic activists to leave a final position statement when we have the "luxury" of knowing that the remaining time of our existence has winnowed down to a few precious moments. We do this solely for the purpose of preventing the Christian evangelists from exploiting our personal moment of death so that they can further their agenda.

Meanwhile, Russell used many words that are ambiguous when you take them out of context. For example, he said that something to the effect that we could only hope that people would be more "Christian." Several Christian activists have exploited this to try to say that Russell was advocating the Christian religion. No. Russell clearly meant "Christian" as a style of morality involving self-sacrifice and turning the other cheek that has very little to do with the Christian scheme of redemption and has absolutely zero to do with the Christian godhead.

In the same sense, I do not acknowledge any Christian notion of "good and evil" but have been known to use these words as shorthand when I can trust that the context of what I have said makes it clear that by using these words I am not endorsing the Christian understanding of these words.

The last thing I would want is for Christians to take my words out of context for the purpose of suggesting that I endorsed a position that I actually loathe. But if a Christian chooses to extract an eight-word snippet from one of my writings, she or he can easily portray me as advocating the most despicable of ideas. They could even "show" me to be advocating Evangelical Christianity for gaud sakes! While I am extremely careful with my words at all times, it is impossible to foresee what some twist-o Christian might do with a sequence of eight words extracted from the vast body of my writings.

Finally, while it may be lots of fun to try to discredit my position based upon snippets of Bertrand Russell's writings and alleged sayings, the most you could do (if Russell even meant what you here imply that he meant -- which is unlikely) would be to discredit Russell. Even if Russell converted to Orthodox Biblical Christianity "just before he died" (as a few unscrupulous Christian evangelists have suggested -- in the interest of furthering the Christian religion, of course, which I hear makes it okay), this would discredit Russell, not atheism.

So? This would not stop the values from having a pronounced impact on the thinking and behavior of humans. People hold pretty much the same values no matter which gods they do or do not believe exist.

The main difference is in the realm of tribal totem loyalism: monotheists tend to make a big thing of attributing a particular set of values to their specific deity -- regardless of how many other sources have pronounced the same or similar sets of values. For most biblical Christians, it is not enough for a Muslim to follow each and every tenet of Christ's alleged body of moral teaching save one: if that Muslim does not grant loyalty to the Christian godhead (and for many, the correct expression or description of that godhead), if that Muslim expresses loyalty to Allah and His prophet Mohammed (but is otherwise a model citizen according to Christian morality), it is no different for that Muslim had she or he committed all the atrocities of Innocent III, John Calvin, or Josef Stalin, or Adolf Hitler.

The bottom line in the Christian scheme of morality is loyalty to the Christian tribal totem. Everything else, to the biblical Christian, is not even relative or subjective -- it is altogether moot. In the Evangelical (biblical) Christian understanding, the Law's entire purpose was to show that humans could not follow it and thus need the redemptive act of Christ. If this were the case (and it is not), then why bother being moral at all? or at most, what advantage do Christians have when it comes to morality?

This is why I would prefer the innate sense of morality based upon "personal prejudice, subjective feelings" over Christian loyalism any day. I will trust anyone who bases their sense of "right and wrong" upon "personal prejudice, subjective feelings" over everyone who gives precedence to tribal totem loyalty of the Christian variety (or any morality based upon totem loyalty, for that matter).


To write to me is a deliberate decision on your part.

And to expose myself to the wiles of Christian hucksters, as an unwanted but inevitable part of my stated mission to help meet the needs of my fellow-atheists, is a deliberate decision on my part.

But I have no reason to think that "God" has "His" "hand" in any of this. If you think that "He" does, it is your responsibility to do more than merely suggest, rhetorically, that this might be the case. This habit on the part of Evangelical Christians of making oblique suggestions is one of many habits which make the task of defending my position against their misrepresentations so utterly tedious.

No urgency at all: People are free to believe whatever they want, and to advocate that others go along with those beliefs. I don't have to respect people for their beliefs, though.

Whenever someone expresses their beliefs in the public forum, they expose those views to the criticism of people who disagree. (The idea that anyone's religious views are somehow exempt from this criticism is pure arrogance.) And when their expressions of those beliefs serve to degrade me and others like me, I feel duty-bound to express my opinion -- particularly since doing so is part of my job here at Positive Atheism.

Ah, but you are special (at least in your mind)! You make this clear when you take it upon yourself to feign "honesty and sincerity" in trying to show me that you have something that I don't, and are something that I am not. You make this clear when you try to persuade me to abandon my heritage and the true thoughts within my own mind -- conclusions resulting from decades of deep thought on the matter -- in order to obtain what you have and become what you are. Am I that inferior that you would become "concerned" enough to want me to change? You care only to the extent that I come over to your point of view, that I convert to Evangelical Christianity. Most telling is that you seem oblivious to the fact that I find the Evangelical expressions of the Christian religion to be not only entirely unworthy of my assent, but utterly abhorrent as well.

If your empathy were true (and not a mockery -- deliberate or otherwise), you would at least have addressed the primary point of this website, which is, in large part, to deal with the condescending attitudes expressed toward atheists by theists who think we must somehow get straight on the "God" question. Positive Atheism is not here to discuss the "God" question at all (although we are often called upon to do just that by individuals who disregard our statements to this effect). We are here mainly to discover and discuss what we atheists can do about the attitudes and behavior, at the hands of the Christian majority, which often renders our lives much less fulfilling than they ordinarily would be. Why can't the Christian majority be satisfied to let us make our own decisions, and to respect that our conclusions are the result of diligent thinking and hard work on our part?

But I don't resent you for being oblivious to the bigotry that is so firmly institutionalized into our culture that even most atheists have stopped recognizing it for what it is and have acquiesced to accepting these injustices as part of doing business with the Christian majority. I do resent my fellow-atheists who have acquiesced in this manner. But I understand that your religion requires that you try to straighten me out on the "God" question, and that your religion does not provide anything even remotely resembling a way to recognize, much less address, the indignity problem.

In fact, it is my understanding that Evangelical Christianity actually requires that her adherents inflict indignity upon atheists, and I can point to numerous passages from Christian Scripture and countless historical precedents in this regard. So, I resent the Christian religion for institutionalizing bigotry against those who do not agree with her, and I resent my fellow atheists for bending over and taking it rather than trying to do something about it, but I do not resent the rank-and-file believer who likely has never considered the results of their obedience to this most brutal of organized religious institutions.

I don't have to guess in this respect: everybody's mind is always working under some level of impairment. When the body has been traumatized (such as by what doctors diagnose as possible paralysis), and when the subject is further traumatized by the prospects of such a diagnosis, the mind has been known to do some very strange things.

Again: Why should I abandon everything I have ever observed and all my thinking regarding my observations (after comparing my thinking with almost three millennia of thinking on these matters) just because you tell me you experienced something under the trauma that we all know as the Emergency Room table?

I grant that you sincerely believe that what you think happened to you really happened to you, and I respect you for acting in accordance with what you believe to be true. However, you'll have to do much better than this to make a believer out of me.

Except atheists, of course!

You almost seem to be deliberately avoiding my point on this: when we already strongly think something to be true, our minds instinctively interpret whatever we experience as evidence to back up our presuppositions. We're usually not even aware that we're doing this. To overcome this instinctive behavior requires years of discipline.

Meanwhile, I submit to the game-rules of liberal scientific method. This method basically states that even though my entire experience as a human verifies the laws of gravitation, and nothing I have ever experienced contradicts the laws of gravitation (I have never, for example, watched a man float up into the clouds or seen an iron axe head float in water), I cannot rule out the possibility that new information may someday overturn the laws of gravitation as we currently describe them. This does not mean that I should go ahead and believe tales alleging that people have floated up into the sky or that axe heads have floated in water. I consider it highly improbable that the laws of gravitation, the laws of thermodynamics, the theory of relativity, the uncertainty principle, the inflationary big bang model, the theory of evolution, and other solidly established and widely verified pieces of knowledge will be overturned, but I cannot rule out this possibility.

To rule out this possibility would be to dogmatize the body of knowledge that science currently gives us, and to abandon science itself in favor of dogmatism. Science is this method, science is not a body of knowledge that can be dogmatized. Gurdjieff, Crowley, and others have developed various disciplines when it comes to metaphysical claims, and the scientific communities have developed quite a discipline when it comes to studying physical reality. Though the subject matters may differ, the methods of study are virtually identical.

For someone to overturn these bodies of knowledge would require more solidly verified evidence than even that which establishes these bodies of knowledge today; this is what protects me from being taken in by the various quacks who routinely write to our Forum, trying to convince me to abandon half-a-lifetime of diligent observation and embrace some novel idea that contradicts everything I have ever observed.

Thus, I look at all religious claims through a perspective similar to those used by Gurdjieff and Crowley, which are virtually the same ways in which research scientists view the physical world. I do not say that "God" does not exist; rather, I have yet to be shown a valid reason for believing that "He" does exist. And while I can understand your temptation to use "God" as the explanation for your experience, I have no reason to agree with you that "God" is a valid answer to the question that your experience raises. I only say this because you brought it up, implying that I ought to agree with you -- not because I care one way or the other what you believe.

So, are you telling me that when you say "God" you are talking about a concept such as team spirit, patriotism, love, and goodness?

Speak for yourself.

I have ethical values and goals, but this is not the same as the "God" I think you're talking about. To take a word such as faith and change its meaning in the middle of a discussion is the error of Equivocation.

If you want to talk about saving faith in Christ, please be clear that that's what you mean when you use the word faith. If you want to talk about faith in one's employee to get the job done right, or faith in the American way (whatever that is), then please be clear that this is what you're discussing. Please do not take a word that has several meanings and proceed to introduce confusion into the discussion by switching from one definition to the other without first warning the reader that you're doing this.

This is strange behavior indeed -- worthy of fiction coming from the Schaeffer camp. Worship is not natural behavior, but is learned. A kid would not worship a picture of Jesus unless taught to do so by someone else (an adult or another kid). If you wish to use fiction to make a point, at least make the premise realistic.

The 'angry atheist' caricature in Jack T. Chick's 'Big Daddy?' comic book.Sounds like the atheistic professor caricaturized in Jack T. Chick's "Big Daddy" comic. We "devout atheists" are often misrepresented as being intolerant of anything having to do with "The Truth" of Jesus, implying almost demonic influence.

The whole concept of a "devout atheist" is patently oxymoronic. It insults the very concept of atheism -- not to mention the millions of atheists who have made the effort to give their position much thought and scrutiny, who know why they are atheists and not Christians, who are glad they are not Christians and proud to have overcome this bigoted and very destructive outlook.

It is the slanderous portrayal of atheists such as this that I most openly and unashamedly attack in my Forum. I've only ever encountered two or three atheists who even care what others believe or worship -- and I run an atheist website! At most we will laugh at some of the more absurd religious practices going around. I have never heard of any atheist (outside of the slander coming from the Christian camp) who would do this to a child. But I have encountered several fictional accounts from Christian sources that boldly portray the atheist father character as acting abusively toward his believing children, as Schaeffer has done here.

If Chesterton said this, he slanders atheists: he shows his colors as a bigot of the malicious variety. An atheist is one who lacks a belief in gods, not one who would believe in anything.

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If evil's "job" is to promote "reason" -- even to the point of an "intellectual frenzy" of thinking, then I am pure evil.

Religion is truly a perverter of humankind, because it has so often degraded human reason the way you have degraded it here. To degrade that gift that truly distinguishes us from all other sentient beings, to degrade the only tool which we can know can distinguish truth from falsehood, is a great perversion indeed. To pretend to substitute our only source of knowledge with "faith," yea, to suggest that "faith" is somehow superior to human reason, our only verifiable source of knowledge, is a monumentally perverted.

But if urging us to take advantage of that feeble, flickering flame of reason is evil's job, then let me go on record as being an evil man: as transient and fleeting as reason tends to be, it's the only lamp we really have; "extinguish that, and naught remains" (as Ingersoll pointed out). Or, to misapply a statement of Paul, "Let me do evil, that good may come!"

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What I am saying is that most Christians do recognize intrusive evangelism for what it is and therefore refrain from engaging in such evangelism: they mind their own business and practice their religion to the best of their abilities without bothering others about it and without trying to convince others that their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) need to be challenged or changed.

I am calling what most Christians do "right" behavior -- not because it is the majority opinion but because I have been on the receiving end of the bigotry that is Evangelical Christianity.

So are you then suggesting that the condescending behavior of the few is "right" behavior? I don't get it.

And I won't apologize for doing something that I did not, in fact, do. I never accused you of being mean, but rather tried to point out that what you think is wholesome, constructive behavior does, in fact, cause much harm to an entire class of people.

Before the Clarence Thomas hearings, most people thought nothing about sexual harassment in the workplace. Since then, both men and women have a firm grasp of what sexual harassment is and is not. Men who tend toward this behavior have been put on notice that this behavior is unacceptable; women who endure this behavior need no longer fear that their complaints will fall on deaf ears. Everybody understands what's going on, and nobody can get away with playing dumb -- certainly nobody is ignorant about it any more.

Now, we have this other problem, which is widespread only because so many people are ignorant of the indignity that takes place whenever an Evangelical Christian (or a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness or a Moonie) tries to

Jesus gave himself a bad name for encouraging this behavior, this "us-versus-them" thinking, combined with doing good because it brings credibility to the Christian religion and not because it is the good thing to do (if he existed, of course, but methinks he's a complete fabrication).

His followers give themselves a bad name by following these aspects of his teaching without first thinking about what they were doing.

The elements of his teaching that most impressed me were those that said, "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing." What the "left hand-right hand" teaching initially meant to me (before I studied the Bible and learned about its context) was to do good simply because it is the good thing to do, because this world will be a better place for all as a result of your good deeds (a concept entirely foreign to almost all expressions of Christian morality). Of course, the text has Jesus then talking about doing good as an investment, of sorts, so that the doer of good will be rewarded later. I despise Jesus's concept of "morality" -- which is not morality at all, but bribery.

Your "act of compassion" is to try to convince me to come over to your point of view: how on Earth does this make us equals in your eyes? If you and I are on equal footing, why am I the one who, according to you, needs to change?

If it was your own moral code, you could explain it just fine.

Ask me anything about why I act in certain ways and I will explain to you why I do what I do, why I prefer my current system of ethics over previous ones I've held, and and why I prefer mine over those I've seen others use. I don't have the luxury of invoking "mystery" in order to explain what I do or why I do it: if I cannot justify doing something, I will not do it. Period. If I cannot justify believing something or telling others that it's true, I will not say it. End of discussion.

Everything you've said either has a perfectly reasonable explanation in the real world or doesn't need to be explained at all. You choose to act the way you do and to give it the explanations you give it -- and to mystify whatever you cannot explain via the model by which you choose to live. I could never live like that, but I don't blame you for taking this easy way out and letting organized religion do your thinking for you.

I don't have this problem because everything I encounter is just one more clue to the mystery that is reality, one more piece in the puzzle. I don't have to explain my observations so that they fit my model, because I am constantly updating the model to fit my observations.

Many of us who have learned to think this way have had to choose between the life we currently lead and having families, good jobs, friends, etc. We could easily join a religion, fall in line, and get along just fine. But some of us, such as myself, are constitutionally incapable of such dishonesty, and we pursue truth wherever it may lead -- even if it leads to a life of loneliness and discomfort. For our predecessors and our forebears, this lifestyle meant certain death, so we traveled around or joined secret societies. We are a rare breed because the genetic tendency toward skepticism, the burning passion to find out what's really going on, has been systematically persecuted out of the human species by the state religion.

And you want me to go back!?

Saul of Tarsus was dating a Hebrew woman, and her father made him convert and study to be a Pharisee. Unfortunately for him, the Pharisaic system of logic was so far ahead of its time that few Greeks could even grasp it, much less appreciate it. Needless to say, Saul bombed out of Hebrew school and never became a Pharisee.

That he was only a wannabe Pharisee is evident whenever one examines a passage where he purports to explain the Hebrew Law (such as Romans 7:1-6). Every time he alleges to quote Scripture he either gets it wrong or, when he does get it right, it is "right" only according to the Greek Septuagint translation, and contains whatever deviations that translation contains. None of his understanding comes from the Talmud or Midrash traditions.

The Pharisee style of thinking is so distinctively brilliant in its precision that to say that Paul "forgot" or "reverted" back to the Greek style of the Sophists would be akin to thinking that my Mother would set the table for important guests and place the knives and forks on the wrong sides of the plates just because the dinner was a barbecue.

His failure to cut it as a Pharisee explains why an allegedly "former Pharisee" would dare to get caught working for the High Priest: he switched sides out of vengeance because he never really became a Pharisee to begin with. The Pharisees were nationalists and the Sadducees were quisling to the Roman occupation. If Paul was working for the High Priest, he was going after Pharisees and Zealots (militaristic Pharisees who taught that God would never intervene on behalf of the nation) and other rebellious sects (such as those who taught that this or that Messiah would usher in supernatural intervention from God on behalf of the nation). If he was working for the High Priest, he was most definitely not working on behalf of the Pharisees.

Raised in Tarsus, he was familiar with the dying-and-resurrecting gods of the Persian tradition, which had prevailed in Greek culture by then (but was never taken very seriously except as an excuse to party). He was also familiar with the Gnostic mysteries describing how this physical world was in spiritual darkness and how the one true entity would come down and enlighten certain elect individuals and they would become spiritual beings sojourning in this wicked world. He also surely heard the moral teachings of The Buddha, also well-known at that time and place; Buddha's moral teachings had even influenced Pharisaic morality, but is very much a part of New Testament morality. Everybody who was anybody back then was born of a virgin, performed miracles, and rose from the dead: Pythagoras, Appolonius, all the Caesars, anybody of note; certainly the Jesus character would do no less than these others.

Paul, seething from his failure to become a Pharisee (and win his love) became a thug for the High Priest in retaliation. Somewhere along the line, all these religious traditions melded together and Paul came up with the ultimate coup against the Jews: he usurped their very covenant with God and gave it to their enemies, the Gentile nations around them. This is why the entire New Testament is so utterly anti-Semitic that Christians ever since have hounded and persecuted Jews to the end of the Earth. Just read the Gospel of John (written long after Paul's death) and take note every time you see the phrase "the Jews." This anti-Semitism made the New Testament catch on like wildfire in the Roman world -- particularly since Titus had flattened Jerusalem in C.E. 70.

This popularity was enhanced by the fact that Paul's religion, being a home-grown variant of Mythraism, was very familiar to the subjects of what later became the Byzantine Empire -- the chief difference being that Paul's religion demanded that it be taken seriously -- be seen as literally true -- whereas Mythrasim was seldom if ever taken as anything but meaningful symbolism. The introduction of monotheism to the Mythraic tradition also made Paul's religion a powerful tool in fostering an us-versus-them loyalism, with the accompanying intolerance, replacing the congenial relativism of polytheism.

Also note that of the undisputed writings of Paul, very little is said about Jesus as a historical figure. If all you had to go on was Paul's body of writing (and for some time, this is all they had to go on), Jesus is nothing more than some vague figure who lived at some unspecified time in the not-too-distant past, was a god, and (like all gods back then) was crucified and later raised from the dead. Remember, the chief difference between Paul's religion and the then-prevailing religions was that Paul's demanded that it be taken literally, as historical fact, and not simply as allegory or symbolism.

Only after the fall of Jerusalem in C.E. 70 (after any eyewitnesses who could dispute the stories were most certainly killed off), did the Gospels get written and begin to be circulated. Each Christian community had its own Gospel, and many accounts show clear signs of "correcting" or "improving" the earlier written accounts of rival sects. Only later, during the third century, did the State Church decide that some of these accounts were to be palmed off as the Word of God. Even this was not without controversy, and some epistles passed or failed by very narrow margins. The decision regarding the doctrine of the Trinity was not a discussion at all, but was a treacherously brutal usurpation which cost many their lives.

The rest is history -- very bloody history. Paul serves his God to this day through the bloody religion that he invented, because his God is the bloodthirsty invention of an innately and intensely violent man. Only once since that bloody Trinitarian dispute has the Christian religion been prevented by the people from using the sword in her evangelical "outreach" program. If I am lucky, I might live long enough to see the 200th anniversary of that reprieve (and I'm now only 44). I'd have to beat the odds and live longer than average to see this day, in 2038, which would mark the 200th anniversary of the end of the Roman Catholic Inquisition. We can only hope that this Pat Robertson/George Bush thing is just a phase, or we might not be celebrating 200 years of anything in 2038, that reprieve from the Sword of Christ not having lasted a full 200 years.

But you want me to go back to that?

Let me get this straight: He endangered my life -- just so you could have a choice?

Dick Gautier played Hymie the Robot on 'Get Smart': Hymie was not programmed to recognize common figures of speech as such, and would always take them literally.How can this be distinguished from the genetic and cultural conditioning to love one's mother, except to say that real life is much more sophisticated than, say, Hymie the Robot on "Get Smart"? (This shows how long it's been since I've watched television.) With Hymie (played by Dick Gautier), you would actually have to push the button (or whatever -- initiate an action of some kind) in order to get a response; in the real world, all you need to do is be his Mom: genetics, cultural conditioning, and half-a-lifetime together will have done the rest. And unless one or the other of you makes a monumentally serious mistake, his love for you will be as predictable as pushing the button on Hymie's back.

For me to even think of my love for my Mom as a choice that I've made would be to degrade the love that I have for her: She's my Mom and I love her from the core of my being. I have no "option" not to love her, nor would I even want such an "option" -- even if it were something that I could conceive as possible. And I dare not try to explain it any further, because it's not something that either warrants or calls for any explanation from me.

This is very strange. All I can say is that I'm glad I don't have to talk this way in order to stump for somebody else's ideology. I'm glad that I've taken the time and made the effort to develop my own ideology, so that I don't have to think or speak like this.

Possibly because He does not exist to be able to end the evil. This is historically known as the Argument from Evil, which is most powerful against claims that God is simultaneously all-powerful and good.

The Bible also claims that "narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it" (the Jesus character in Matthew 7:14). This is commonly known as the Argument from Nonbelief, which is most powerful against claims that God wants us all to know who He is, but is powerless to get that information to us in a form that we find convincing -- the ultimate Hide-N-Seek game where person who is "It" doesn't even exist! (I probably got that backwards -- shows how long it's been since I've played Hide-N-Seek! But you know what I'm trying to say!)

It's all a barbaric ruse to keep the masses in line. Don't you get it? The King is dead, and there is no need to keep the subjects loyal to the Kingdom because we all live in a Democratic Republic now. Democratic Republics work only because we humans have shown ourselves capable of ruling our own lives (for the most part), and don't need to be enticed with rewards or threatened with punishment.

If someone does get out of line, we lock them up and take them out of circulation so they won't hurt anybody. The whole concept of punishment is completely passé.

Besides, according to traditional Christian logic, the God character "punishes" people who have done no wrong: My little brother died an indescribably horrible death, and he never even learned how to talk! If there were any such thing as an all-powerful Christian God who "punished" my brother in this way, I'd proudly spend eternity burning in the Christian Hell just to spit in His eye for what He did to my brother -- who never did Him or anybody else any harm. If He loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, and if He has any sense of empathy and compassion at all -- if a tear can even come to His eye -- then let him watch me burn! I certainly would never settle for going to the Christian Heaven where (I'm told) we stand there and praise this monster! I just wouldn't have it!

But I can rest assured that what happened to my brother was entirely natural. Physical reality has no concept or understanding of the pain and suffering that my brother and our family endured; this was not the deliberate decision or thoughtless omission of any sentient being.

Genes mutate due to radiation and other causes. Occasionally (very occasionally), these mutations will result in an alteration which eventually gives an advantage to the gene pool, and that advantage spreads throughout the gene pool (or, in some cases, splits the gene pool in two). Usually, though, these mutations either do nothing or cause one or more of the offspring's biological systems not to develop like the parent organisms developed, and that individual dies before procreating and passing on any disadvantageous traits. My brother's fate was not a deliberate decision on anybody's part, but is part of the very reason we're even here: for us to have evolved to this point required billions of years of death and suffering. That's just the way it is; that's just how it happened. There is no "why" that I know of.

Death is the price we pay for having an opportunity to even exist -- not just our own inevitable deaths, but also the premature deaths of our less-fortunate brothers and sisters who mutated in such a way that they didn't even get to live at all (or died early or had an extremely tough time functioning if they were lucky enough to survive for very long). If these genetic fluctuations did not occur, the only organisms that would exist would be the very same organisms that formed in the so-called primordial soup; without this tendency to fluctuate, there would be no evolution. If self-replicating molecules even could form that were immune to this fluctuation, we'd all still be that self-replicating molecule. But the same tendency to fluctuate which eventually allowed us to evolve to what we are also caused the excruciatingly painful medical condition from which my brother died.

I cannot say that it's God's fault, because I have no reason to think that any God did it.

And how can I possibly be angry at the very processes that allow me to even exist?

I am not happy about what happened to my brother, and have grieved for the past 40 years. My Mother has never been the same: I could tell back then and can still see it today. I see a spark in other people's lives that is noticeably missing from mine -- they did not go to Kindergarten one day and come home and their brother was gone. I see others who have lost their brother or sister or mother at a very young age, and I can recognize the same sense of loss in them that I sense in myself. No wonder people join religions and the like! How could anybody handle something like that!? How do I even handle it? or do I?

And you think I want you to stop being religious? No! If religion can stop the flood of tears -- if religion can even slow them down a bit -- then go for it! Don't listen to me!

All I can tell you is that religion only made it worse for me, because in addition to the loss, I also had to deal with this sentient Being who had so much power that He needn't have even diverted His attention our way to prevent what happened to us.

If religion can make you feel better, please pursue religion with all your being.

But please believe me when I tell that religion -- particularly the Christian religion -- only worsened what has already been a more painful existence than I would inflict even on Adolf Hitler even though he probably deserves it.

When you were in the hospital, attended by highly competent medical professionals, you saw "God" come to your aid.

When I fell down and hit my head on September 25, 1983 and went into seizure and stopped breathing, alone, with nobody around and no friends to speak of, rattling on the floor with such violence that I still suffer from the injuries I incurred from those convulsions, I saw "no God" and realized that I was on my own and that I had only a few moments in which to enlist all of what little control I had over my body just to get air into my lungs -- just to stay alive. To pray, at that point, would have diverted my attention from what I needed to do to stay alive long enough for the convulsions to stop and for the control to return -- if it ever would return: I didn't know at the time whether it would, but this was clearly the only option I saw for myself. I had to breath just like I'd never known how to breathe before. I had to very deliberately try to move my tummy muscles so that a small amount of air might go into my lungs, because the part that does this automatically was just quivering. Then I had to deliberately try to move my tummy muscles again so that a little air might go out. This took all the concentration that I had, and I couldn't tell if it was even doing anything because just to remain conscious was a monumental struggle on my part -- the toughest work I have ever done in my life. Had I stopped and said even a little prayer, that might have easily been the very last act of my all-too-short life (and I was a Christian at the time).

No. You don't want to go through what I've gone thorough, and you don't want to live like I live today. But please don't think that I would even consider being anyone but me, in the fullest sense of who I am. And to be me required that I go through what I've gone through. I couldn't conceive of having lived any differently than I have lived. Please don't try to change me or think that I ought to change, because being me came at a very high price, and the payment book still has many unpaid coupons left. Only I can make those payments, and only I ought to enjoy the benefits of being me. And since only I am accountable for what I do and say, only I am qualified to make the decisions as to what I will do and say.

I could never degrade the dignity that is involved in being me by telling another person that there's an Oriental Despot out there, only bigger, and invisible, who wants to meddle with that person's autonomy as a human entity. If that's what being a Christian involves (telling people that), and if there is such thing as the Christian Hell, then toss in some kindling and throw on another log because that's the only place for me.

The Bible also says:

[6] That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
[7] I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
     -- Isaiah 45

Please go away. Please?

Even though they're still dead.

Perhaps quietly praying for me, in the privacy of your closet (Matthew 6:5-13), might have been an option for you, I don't know. If what you're saying is true, if your god is as powerful as they say, He doesn't even need your prayers, much less your help. And He doesn't need me. And if He did a thorough job in creating me, I don't need Him, either.

Are these our only options? one or the other?

Can you see why the Christian religion makes absolutely no sense to me? Can you see why I find the Christian religion's teachings so utterly abhorrent? Can you see why it saddens me to be reminded of the damage that the Christian religion inflicts upon its followers (and upon us innocent bystanders as well)?

If you want it, be my guest! But please leave me out of it!

Don't even think that this is something I would want for myself! Nothing -- absolutely nothing that you've said here describes something I find respectable or would want for myself.

Even if it were true, I'd have a tough time with it. But nothing you've said has done anything to bring me closer to thinking that the Christian claims are even true.

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

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Added: May 13, 2001

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Martha @ Intraspace Specialists, Inc."
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2001 3:40 AM

It is very convenient to hurl accusations such as "cruel" and "unkind" without even trying to show that I've done what you say I have done. It is a simple matter to sit there and make pronouncements but not nearly as easy to show those pronouncements to be true.

Many in the majority appear to act as if they think they can get away with such behavior without suffering the loss of credibility that the rest of us would suffer were we to engage in similarly irresponsible behavior toward members of the majority. I've seen this time and time again in my dealings with Christians, including my dealings with you: if you are unwilling show what it is about my letter that is "cruel" and "unkind," then don't make the accusations.

Meanwhile, I have made a concerted attempt to show the cruelty of Christianity's condescending attitude toward those who do not assent to the Christian religion's belief system. I then went to great lengths to show how your initial attempt to evangelize me displayed that very exclusivism which so many of us find reprehensible in the Christian religion. I never once suggested that you were being malicious, but rather danced completely around my opinion that you are doing this unwittingly, that you don't know any better and that you think you are doing good.

You make no attempt to explain or apologize; rather, you go on the offensive, calling me "cruel" and "unkind" but refusing to show what I have done to earn this condemnation.

This speaks volumes.

Can't handle it? I don't blame you if you can't. I couldn't handle it either, so I renounced my Christian faith and became an atheist.

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

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Added: May 13, 2001

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Martha @ Intraspace Specialists, Inc."
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Negative_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2001 6:24 PM

Of course I'm bitter! I am presently on the receiving end of an orchestrated campaign to convert me to the Christian religion! How would you feel if the Maoists did the same to you? I am bitter because I find the ideology you're trying to palm off to be abhorrent, and you refuse to acknowledge that I might have a point; thus, there's really no talking to you except to express my outrage at your behavior.

My whole point (that went straight over your head) is that to be evangelized by Christians (or any ideological group that uses high-pressure sales tactics) is a very awkward position to be in -- to say the least. The difference between myself and other atheists you may have met is that I've stopped bending over and taking it because my social position is already severely compromised due to disability and other factors, and I have nothing to lose by telling the honest thoughts in my mind. The others may need to keep their jobs or their reputations and will pretend and be polite. But rest assured that to be evangelized by a Christian is a degrading experience, because the Christian is urging us to better ourselves (the superiority complex) and usually feigns "love" or "concern" or some equally respectable-sounding but entirely undefinable motive for this behavior.

If you want to immediately grab my enrapt attention, to see me drop everything and become excitedly fascinated and completely engrossed in the topic, then discuss ways in which we atheists can deflect Christian attempts at evangelism without getting the response that I've gotten from you -- without having to go as far as I did to get my point across. Discuss with me how we can live our lives in peace and not feel as if we are being looked down upon for not going along with the dominant religion, Christianity, and you will not only have my full respect but also might open the doors to friendship. But to keep acting as you have serves only to remind myself (and many readers) why we don't want to be Christians -- and would think long and hard about becoming Christians even were we to determine Christianity to be true. In fact, I did become a Christian once, but I could never bring myself to evangelize because even as a Christian I saw the dignity problems involved.

Show me how to act when targeted by a senior strategist from the Marketing Division of the Christian Church. Show me how to deflect the "eloquently told ... Gospel truth" and still be "True to Myself" (apologies to Eric Benet) -- without the Christian turning around and accusing me of being "bitter" and "angry" and all the other insults that routinely come my way when the Christian's "love" and "concern" shows its true colors after it becomes clear that I refuse to buy the product. Show me this and you will be my hero for life. I will shut down this Forum because I will have found the answer I sought by erecting this Forum in the first place. I will go back to the "cheapie" Internet account, and just post The Answer on a single HTML file. I will no longer have to keep looking.

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

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Added: May 13, 2001

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Sales & Support - Intra-Space Specialists"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Negative_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2001 7:39 PM

Thanks for reminding me to throw on some Frank Zappa records! I'd call Mom but she's out fishing somewhere in the Great South West.

This is a low blow, and entirely uncalled for in a discussion feigning dignity or "love" or any of the other things that have been discussed here.

I think "Christ" is a fiction. If there was a historical Jesus and if he was crucified, he was executed for sedition against the Roman occupation of Judaea, as crucifixion was reserved for rebels. Nobody in Judaea was crucified for any other reason during the times Jesus is alleged to have lived, and no Jewish nationalist endorsed the crucifixion of any fellow-Jew.

But the orthodox fiction of "Christ" (as described in the New Testament) did have the same effect during the first and second centuries and beyond (until opposing "Christ" became a capital offense), as is evidenced by contemporary works such as Porphyry's Against The Christians and the dialogues and anti-heresy tirades recorded by the early Christians.

It is the exclusivist message of "Christ" that offends anybody who has not sacrificed their innately human sense of dignity upon the altar of an exclusivist ideology. You cannot advocate an exclusivist message without offending -- any more than a White Supremacist can propagate racism without offending. With Emma Goldman, I lay the blame squarely upon the "Christ" of the Gospels.

Modern Christians share in the blame, to be sure, because they refuse to recognize that exclusivism is the root of bigotry. Today's Christians are particularly culpable in light of the current moves to eradicate racism, sexism, homophobia (and hopefully, some day soon, atheophobia). But since the slave cannot be greater than the master, I place the bulk of the blame squarely upon the idealized "Christ" figure of the New Testament, who taught that one class of people (his followers) were superior to all other people.

I would agree that the human element is at fault, because it is the human element who created "God" and it is the human element who keeps the "God" idea alive in spite of what humanity has learned during the past two-and-a-half centuries. We humans invented the brutal "God" of exclusivism and we humans have the ability put away this childish toy if we want (and we have every reason to do so). But many of us (for reasons unbeknownst to me) choose to keep this despotic "God" alive through that outmoded and thoroughly discredited thinking style known as "faith," which believes what one is told despite all evidence to the contrary, and which advocates all manner of evil just to give credibility to the ideals of its own tribal totem.

It's not that the Christians are practicing their religion "improperly," it's that they're practicing it only too "properly."

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

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Added: May 13, 2001

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Martha @ Intraspace Specialists, Inc."
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Negative_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2001 9:21 PM

Did the kiss of the Judas character make him a hero of the Jesus character? I've been hugged by many people who had much less than my best interests in mind, so a hug is little more than an initiating gesture to me. For the hug to mean anything to me takes much more than the hug itself. The sentiments implied in the hug can be counterfeited with that very hug, but getting one's hands dirty and maybe eating some crow for the possible betterment of one's fellows is difficult if not impossible to forge.

I am willing to risk my reputation, make some mistakes, and possibly be seen as "cruel" and "angry" if that's what it takes to address the awkward and degrading experience of being evangelized by many of today's Christians. I even openly advocate changing the face of modern atheistic activism if that's what it takes to address this one problem. And if we all had to be portrayed as "cruel" and "angry" -- if that's what it would take -- then I would openly advocate a "cruel" and "angry" appearing atheism. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, but I am so tired of the feeling I get whenever someone approaches me with "The Good News" that I am willing to go to great lengths to discover and develop some effective responses. I don't want to shut them up or change them in any way, I just want to know how to respond without giving the false impression that I find this behavior acceptable.

Remaining quietly locked in the closet of hypocrisy certainly has not worked.

But the truth is that I do not know the answers; I can only grasp at straws at this point, and hope that I eventually stumble upon what it takes to solve this problem. I truly do not know how to respond to an individual Christian's persistent attempts to market the Christian world view to me. Christianity has had almost 2,000 years to hone and perfect her very persuasive salesmanship techniques; the death penalty for discussing atheistic counter-strategies was lifted in the West a little over 150 years ago, and is still firmly in place in many parts of the world. But here they can no longer burn us or shut us up, so what's left is to resort to sophistry, such as making us appear "cruel" and "angry" simply for resisting the press to conform to the Christian God's "Wonderful Plan For Our Lives."

Now, are you willing to put your reputation on the line, possibly altering or even compromising what it means to be an Evangelical, in order to address this problem? (In other words, is Evangelical Christianity, to you, above reproach?) Or is a "hug" all you have to give?

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

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