Do Not Lead Others
To Believe There's No God
Ben

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To:
Subject: Re: positiveatheism.org
Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2001 12:12 AM
 

If no gods can be shown to exist, if religion is little more than charlatans taking advantage of the gullible, then why would it be a good thing to further this deception by remaining silent? If atheism is about facing the truth, then why would we want to lie to our fellow-humans?

Meanwhile, this website is for those who already realize that religion is, for the most part, a hoax and a fraud. We don't care what people believe and are not out to de-convert any theists. Theists believe the way they do for what they think are valid reasons, and who are we to tell people what to do with their lives?

We only ask three things: (1) do not enforce your superstitions on us or expect us to support them through government endorsement, funding, or tax exemption; (2) do not think for one minute that any religious view -- or religion in general -- is above criticism: if you choose to express your views in the public forum (which is your right), you can expect our response; (3) do not degrade us or discriminate against us for not going along with the utter madness that is religion.

Finally, we don't necessarily assert that no gods exist, but simply have not encountered any argument for the existence of gods that holds water. This is atheism, not the assertion that no gods exist. Some do assert that no gods exist, but most of us don't even care, having decided long ago that it's not worth worrying about. If it became clear that gods exist -- as clear as the Sun, as precisely as a times table, as universally experienced as gravitation -- then you can be sure we'd all believe in an instant. But that is not the case: if there is a god, He has hidden Himself from view and thus cannot possibly care if we know about Him or not. So, most of us would sooner be left alone about it.
 

You are welcome to make the case that what you say here is the truth. Since you are the one claiming that a "Jesus" exists, it is your responsibility to bring forth a strong argument. If you cannot do this, I have no business believing you. Contrawise, it is not my responsibility to disprove your claim, because it is impossible to disprove a negative existential claim (a claim that a thing does not exist). Since I have the disadvantage in this discussion, it is your job to come forth with evidence and strong arguments, and mine simply to listen and either show why I find your arguments are worthy of my assent (wherein I convert to theism) or to show why your arguments are insufficient to warrant my believing they are true. If you cannot give me sufficient reason to believe that you're telling the truth, I remain an atheist -- I remain a man who lacks a belief that gods exist.
 

Do I get you right?

Is gambling on a proposition a valid way to determine if someone is telling the truth?

And should I believe that someone is telling the truth simply because if it turns out that they are right, I would enjoy pleasure and avoid pain?

I don't think so.

I have much more respect for truth than you suggest here. You cannot guilt-trip me into believing something is true or false: you must show something to be true or I have every reason to believe that you're lying to me -- especially when it comes to matters of religion, whose history is fraught with opportunists, hucksters, political power plays, frauds, deceit, trickery, slight of hand, and many other things which cast doubt on the entire enterprise of religion and superstition.
 

I do not respect the beliefs of the Ku Klux Klan, but I understand why some people would come to believe how the Bible teaches them to think that Noah placed a curse on Ham's son, subjecting all his offspring to human slavery and subjugation forever.

I don't respect the beliefs that prompt men to harass or dominate or subjugate women -- just because they are women -- but I can understand how some men would come to believe that the Bible teaches that the woman is subject to the man.

I don't respect the beliefs that lead people to trash Planet Earth, but I can understand why some people think that the Bible teaches that Jesus will return any time now, so we don't really have to be careful with our environment because Jesus will take care of everything when He comes back.

I don't respect the beliefs behind Communism or enforced communal living, but I understand why some people believe that the Bible teaches that the early church members gave all their possessions to the Apostles and lived as one big family with nobody owning anything of themselves -- and two people were even supposedly struck dead by the Holy Ghost for holding back a small amount of money from that first Christian commune.

I do not respect these beliefs. There are many beliefs that I think are ludicrous -- laughable, even -- and there are other beliefs that I think are downright dangerous. People who believe that it is okay to kill or rob or otherwise menace certain types of people sometimes act according to those beliefs.

I cannot and will not stop somebody from believing a certain way. I will not try to talk a Christian into becoming an atheist. I would just as soon that person remain a Christian, though I know what it's like to be a Christian and I would never do that to myself again.

However, if someone's beliefs about what is right and what is wrong prompts them to do something illegal, I think it is only right to hold that person accountable for breaking the law.

Also, and most importantly, if somebody holds a belief (such as a belief that Jesus is God) and keeps that belief private, the belief is none of my business. Were it not for the fact that so many people have told me that Jesus is God and tried to convince me that they're telling the truth, I would never have paid attention to the Christian religion and would not have anything to say about it.

However, thousands of people have come up to me and told me that I must believe the Christian religion. They have given me various reasons ranging from threats that I'll burn in Hell if I don't believe, to enticements that I'll enjoy bliss in Heaven if I do believe, to pointing out the marvelous workings of the human body as evidence that an intelligent designer has been at work.

These people have entered into the public forum with their god-claims.

Once somebody takes their private religion and turns that religion into a set of public claims, those claims then become subject to scrutiny and criticism. Scrutiny is the only way we can tell if somebody has told us the truth. Criticism is the main way to publicize the fact that we find fault with certain claims, that those claims are not necessarily true, and that people had better watch out and do their own research before jumping headlong into a decision.

It is wrong to treat religious views as sacred and pretending that we ought not criticize those views. If you have the right to tell me why you think a god exists -- especially if you tell me that I ought to believe this way too -- then I have every right to tell you why I think your claim is not something that I am willing to go along with.

And, I have every duty to tell you why I don't go along with your claim.

This is particularly true because this is a magazine for atheists, and our role here is to provide the skeptical viewpoint. There are hundreds if not thousands of churches where I live but only one atheist group and one Humanist group. There are thousands of hours of Christian television and radio programming but only a half-hour per week for the atheists and another half-hour a week for the humanists -- and only on cable. There are thousands of Christian magazines and newsletters and websites, but only a few dozen major atheistic websites.

Our magazine is not here to try to talk people out of their faith. However, many people grow up and realize that the faith of their fathers is a lie. There are no programs to help these people, and they make a lot of mistakes. We endure bigotry from every side, and Positive Atheism Magazine cannot be faulted for wanting to change these situations. That's why we exist and that's what we do. If you thought we did differently, you are mistaken. That's all we're about is helping atheists to cope in this Christian-dominated world that makes being an atheist and expressing one's honest opinions very tough indeed.

I will never try to talk you out of your faith, but you must understand that in exchange for this dignity, you cannot expect me to remain silent when someone tries to tell me that gods exist. If you care enough to tell me about something that you see is good, you ought to respect the fact that if I see something wrong with what you said, I feel that it is my moral duty to point this out to you.

And you certainly have no right to expect me to remain silent simply because your views are religious views. I will respect the fact that you believe them, and I will try to understand why you would believe that way, but I do not have to respect the beliefs themselves if I think those beliefs are foolish, dangerous, or wrong.

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.