So-Called Atheist
Accused of Sarcasm
Janice March

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "March, Janice"
Subject: Re: FORUM: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'? 9450
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000 10:40 AM

What do you mean by "so-called atheists"? Are you here implying that we are not really atheists but are only falsely so-called?

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Why?

And what might that be that is more than we can detect? If we cannot detect it, then how do we know that it's there?

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This is not an argument for the existence of gods. If no gods exist, then we are surviving these things without a "God" to help us. Our comfort is only imaginary, along the lines of the placebo effect.

If an Ultimate Power does exist, then that Power is the Author of these tragedies and disappointments of which you speak. That would be one warped and twisted entity who would place adversities in our paths for the purpose of our seeking help from Above (as in the Volcano God of the Exodus story).

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And who, might I ask, is implying that we are? Human reason is but a feeble light, but methinks it's all we've got -- it's the entire toolbox, not just one tool in it.

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And what if no such "something" exists? Then what? Would you then reword your statement to say, "I need to believe that there is something more than myself"?

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Where was that "God" while you were having your problems? How can you talk about a "God" who is taking care of you and then recount all these horrible things you've been through? And where was that "God" for the poor young mother who just starved to death in Ethiopia? whose children didn't live past age 4 and who just starved to death? Where was this comforting "God" that you insist has kept you alive?

I've had it at least that bad, been homeless and suicidal and lost everything more than once. On top of that, I suffer from several debilitating medical conditions. And I don't think any gods exist. What's the difference between you and I? None of these seemingly compelling arguments hold water with me; they do not pass even the simplest of scrutiny. I am not willing to sacrifice truth for comfort, having realized that no true comfort can be obtained through falsehood. Only those who would meet together week after week for the purpose of reinforcing the God myth could convince themselves of this argument after having given it even the slightest discernment. Only those who already want for there to be a "God" out there would fall for this level of dishonest reasoning.

So, when I was lost, I placed myself into the care of the State. When no State programs would accept me, I went in through the back door by making sure that I was convicted of a crime (shoplifting from a large supermarket chain). As a result, I found some wonderfully caring people, particularly a nurse named Meg and a lawyer named Marva, both of whom spent much of their time -- both on-duty and off -- helping me take those baby-steps toward self-sufficiency. Neither of these women told me anything about gods, but rather showed me the actions I could take to get back on my feet (to even see my feet!) and spent real time with me listening to me with real ears and talking to me with real lips.

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Please do not place words in my mouth. I do not deny any gods. For me to deny something, it must first exist (and I must know that it exists), and I am not yet willing to grant the existence of any of the gods that people have tried to describe to me. (Is this part of the reason you call me a "so-called atheist"? are you suggesting that I actually believe but am denying that I believe?)

Now, you have described to me a comforting, rescuing god who (as per your own admission) left you out in the cold to die more than once (while caring for small children!) and who also is not there for starving Ethiopians (as per any news account of the situation there).

I say no such god exists, because either a god is comforting and rescuing or that god is not comforting and rescuing. Either we cannot "survive the tragedies, disappointments and adversities in life if we don't have a God who can help us deal with life situations that we can't handle" or we survive (or don't survive) these things without supernatural assistance. It's one or the other, not both.

As for hell on earth, I don't like that metaphor. The god Burgess was describing (Jesus) allegedly created hell for the sole purpose torturing people. I don't think the affliction we endure here on Earth was "placed" here just to "get us back" for this or that reason.

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What if the truth is that you did what it took to walk out of the mess you found yourself in? What if the truth is that you surrounded yourself with lots of humans who together could help you accomplish what you could never do alone?

That's what I did. I didn't start moving until I started working at it (once my medical conditions subsided to the point where I could both hear and walk again -- at one point I could do neither, and today I cannot do either very well). Even when it took me over an hour to walk six blocks, staying alive was a monumental effort (more of an effort than staying alive is today). Had I let up for even a day, I would have died. And surrounding myself with humans who (like I now do today) give back to humanity what other humans gave to them when they were in need, I was able to work what some people would call a miracle. I did this on my own, but not without help.

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Again, I cannot deny something unless it first exists and I know that it exists.

I wasn't there, so I cannot speak as to whether you had human help that can explain your success (or whether your situation was as bad as you describe it). But, your description of a rescuing "God" is self-contradictory because this "God" you describe allowed you to suffer in the first place, and this same "God" also allows other mothers to die, leaving their small children to starve to death and never live life at all.

I promise you that no entity that we know of (that verifiably exists) answers to that description.

And I promise you that if you would sit down and seek the truth while trying to explain what happened to you, you will come up with a vastly different answer than if you try to explain it wishing and hoping that some sort of comforting and rescuing deity exists.

But the comforting and rescuing deity that you describe here, as I have shown and as you have seen, is none too comforting and does a very poor job at rescuing. To me, any deity worthy of being called comforting and rescuing would be vigilant to prevent his children from suffering in the first place. And certainly none of his children would die from preventable causes. None of them. A rescuing deity would not pick and choose who gets to be special, but would protect all his children alike.

In other words, I think the god you describe cannot possibly exist, and I think that even the smallest amount of honesty on your part will show you that you did, in fact, help yourself out of a jam.

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

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "March, Janice"
Subject: Re: FORUM: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'? 9450
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000 12:40 PM

I grant you every right to your views by leaving you alone. I would never try to set a Christian straight on anything (or a Twelve Stepper or anyone). Remember, I did not write to you, you wrote to me. My response to you was just that: a response.

However, you make it clear that I don't have a right to my views. You said as much in your act of writing to me to try to set me straight -- even going so far as to criticize me for views I don't even hold!

Nevertheless, I will use this forum to point out the lies that people try to perpetrate on this forum, pretending that they can set us straight on these matters. And I will use this forum to point out the lies being foisted upon the public. To go any further than this, that is, to encroach upon your Liberty and seek you out and try to straighten you out, would be for me to be guilty of not granting you the dignity of your own opinion. And this I will not do -- not even to you. My response will be entirely and exclusively a response: I will never initiate the discussion. I refran from doing this because I respect your right to your opinion. In this case, mine is a response to your refusal to grant me that very dignity of a right to my own opinion.

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Sarcasm? Sarcasm!? You'll need to back this one up! This is certainly a low blow!

I examined your stated reasons for believing and found them to be vacant of the careful reason with which I have examined these same questions and from a similar perspective of having brought myself out of a seemingly impossible life situation. Then I cautiously and carefully (and with all the dignity I could muster) explained why I reject these reasons for believing. I went no further than what you stated in your god claim.

In fact, I think my response to you is arguably a textbook example of how to avoid sarcasm when responding to god-claims that are as vacant of reason as this one was.

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Your reply, calling my response sarcastic when it is not, suggests that you might think your theistic views ought to be immune to all forms of criticism -- be they sarcastic or dignified. This is not the case.

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"True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge."
-- H. L. Mencken, in his coverage of the Scopes trial of 1925: "Aftermath," The Baltimore Evening Sun, September 14, 1925

 

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Now I have, in the past, indulged in some bitter sarcasm, and you can see my finest example of this in my June, 1997, column titled, "You Intellectually Dishonest 'Thinkers'!" and based upon a lengthy exchange with a theist who lacked even the frankness and sincerity of giving us his (or her) name. This is truly sarcasm, with all the viciousness (though not necessarily the gracefulness) of Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Marian Evans (a.k.a. George Eliot), Matilda Joslyn Gage, Robert G. Ingersoll, Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, Margaret Knight, Anne Nicol Gaylor, Albert Ellis, Gore Vidal, John Lennon, Ruth Hurmence Green, Jello Biafra, Wendy Kaminer, and many others before and since.

But what I wrote to you was not sarcasm in any sense of the word. My response to your god claim was as gentle as it gets without taking the dishonest position of allowing your god claim to go unchallenged, thereby implying that I think there might be some weight to your argument.

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

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