Questions About Religion
(Are There Answers?)
Jeff

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "jeff"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 9:29 AM

Most of us simply remain unconvinced by all the religious claims (having never heard most of them). This is a valid meaning for the word atheist, someone who simply lacks a god belief. The rest of us attack the very idea of God as either contradictory or meaningless. If it's contradictory, then it is, like a square circle, impossible. If it's meaningless (that is, unfathomable), then we cannot believe it even if we want to (neither can we disbelieve it -- but then, atheism is more often a passive lack of a belief than it is an active disbelief).
 

This is exactly what I was saying about meaninglessness. This position that you describe is called noncognitivism, and is a form of atheism (though a few see it as an alternative to atheism).

Thus, if you lack a god belief (even if it's because you don't understand the god claim), you remain an atheist.
 

If God is so unfathomable, then why are they telling me about Him? Why don't they just shut up and leave me alone?

The problem is that the preachers pick and choose which passages to teach to the flock, and very few devout Christians your grandmother's age have read as much of the Bible as you probably have in the past year.

At least now you know why you don't believe the Christian claims, and will soon realize that Islam is just a variation of the same idea. It is not until you get into the more monistic religions, such as modern paganism, pantheism, Hinduism, and the like, that you'll start finding some truly different ideas. Islam is not as dualistic because Satan, in Islam, is not evil but is, rather, a big dunce. When Ayatollah Khomeini called Jimmy Carter "The Great Satan" he was calling him "stupid," not "evil." In many forms of Judaism, Satan is God's prosecuting attorney and is actually on God's side (see Job). Christianity is about as dualistic as it gets, coming from the Persian religion. It is dualistic not only in its concept of good vs. evil, but also in its flesh vs. spirit dualism as well. To me, the conscious aware Self is established by the structures and processes within the mind, and I see no way for a "soul" to function or interact with what's already there. Descartes was the last to seriously consider this notion.
 

The Hebrew book of Genesis is, for the most part, myths of more ancient cultures, rewritten and adapted to the Hebrews. Many think that Ezra, after the Babylonian captivity, edited the version that we have today. I forget where it is, but at one point, someone finds the Book of the Law which the entire culture had forgotten. When I read this (as a Christian), I wondered if this was where the book was even written!

The New Testament is basically an endeavor to find Jesus within the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures. From this perspective, you will see a lot of places in the New Testament that are clear cases of NT authors contriving a situation to be a "fulfillment" of some Hebrew Scripture. The clearest example is where Jesus rides two asses (stolen asses, mind you) because the Scripture said, "Riding on an ass, and the foal of an ass"; the NT writer was oblivious to the way Hebrew poetry is composed, incorporating lots of repetition: "an ass, the foal of an ass" is, in the Hebrew text, referring to a single animal.

However, the New Testament misses some very clear messages contained in the old: the most striking is the commandment to kill anybody who advocates worshipping other gods (such as Jesus).

The book of Revelation, like the book of Ezekiel, was written on acid, and I cannot speak to what it says. Seriously, these "visions" were political tracts, deliberately obfuscated in an attempt to skirt censors. They also wanted to put on the same appearance of authority that books such as Daniel enjoyed, and used much of the same symbolism. In fact, I don't think there is a symbol or metaphor in Revelation, however contrived, that is not found in some context, somewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (including Apocrypha). That they cannot possibly be a communication from a deity is shown by the fact that no two commentators have ever agreed as to what they mean. Ditto for the Parables that Jesus never bothered to explain (and for a few that he did explain!).
 

There are about five times as many passages in the Bible that advocate predestination than describe human free-will unto salvation. And the free-will passages can more easily be explained within the context of a predestination model than can the predestination passages be explained within the context of a free-will model.

In other words, free-will advocates are more likely to squirm over a given predestination passage, and predestinarians can easily claim that God wills that we will. In Calvinism, God foreknows, then predestines, then calls. In calling, God reveals Himself to the predestined saint, making it impossible for the saint not to recognize his glory. Or so the story goes. Without this special personal direct revelation, we are all so totally depraved from Original Sin that it is impossible for us to see or love God.

However, post-Enlightenment humanism has rendered the free-will model much more popular from the late nineteenth century onward, to the point where predestination, though enjoying a more wide base of Scriptural justification, is now a fringe belief.
 

Me too. Being adopted, I abhor abortion. But to make it illegal would cause significantly more damage than keeping it legal. Because this is so controversial, perhaps we do well to form coalitions to fund abortions privately, as a trade-off for the fundamentalists backing off on trying to ban it. I think this will be a non-issue real soon, with the advent of the abortion pill: we have just pushed the window up to within a few days after conception. By making abortion more difficult to obtain, we push the window back toward the point of birth.

Fundamentalists, being famous for black-and-white thinking, will not stand for a few days any more than they'll stand for partial birth abortions. They can more easily lobby to ban partial birth, but to them, in their black-and-white little world, it's all the same. It may look like a steamed prawn, but by George, there's a fully-grown child in there!

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

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.