Positive Atheism Dialogue
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God Loves You
[Abusively]
Greg Auman
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This fellow responds to our response to a letter that simply said, "God loves you." We asked that person to substantiate the claim that there is a god and that this god loves us (me). The present writer misinterprets our convenient use of the term "false prophets" and then proceeds to twist logic to make it seem that by our use of this linguistic convenience, we presuppose the existence of true prophets. No. The phrase "true prophet" is, to us, an oxymoron. Our use of convenient language to discuss concepts (i.e., "God"; "prophet"; "Santa Claus") does not indicate that we endorse those concepts as describing what does or even can exist.

 

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From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Greg Auman
Subject: Re: Letter:_God_loves_you.
Date: Monday, May 10, 1999 6:28 PM
 

You need to alert us to the falsehoods you accuse us of making here.

We make no untestable claims in our responses on this forum.

Observe and see:
 

This is stupid.

You assume there are only two choices here. Either the God of (your particular brand of) Christianity exists or he does not. We are not asked whether a god exists or not, we are asked to determine which god-claims are false. We are asked to discern which alleged prophets are false and which (if any) are true.

So, then, based on this bet, what if the Jehovah's Witnesses are right? You have still lost out. What if Mohammed (assuming he actually existed) was right? You are out big-time! What if it was Quetzalcoatl? Do you know anyone who still believes in Quetzalcoatl? What if Quetzalcoatl was The One True God, but nobody believed the obvious, "slapping them in the face"?

You see, of the 5,000 or so gods that mankind has endorsed, you disbelieve in 4,999 of them (or 4,997 if you are a Trinitarian). I disbelieve in one more god than you. You disbelieve 4,999 gods and I disbelieve 5,000 gods. Tell me, what's the big deal?

Besides, is a just and loving god going to roast me forever for making an honest mistake -- especially since I have spent a large fraction of my life investigating god-claims?
 

Let's see Jesus do these things!

All we have are words, with nothing to back them up. All we have are words that were not in circulation until at least 40 years after Jesus is alleged to have lived.

All we have are words that are known to have been edited and censored and rewritten over the centuries, creating tens of thousands of disputed texts. Look at the footnotes of any version of the Bible -- except the high-fallootin' King James Bible -- and you will see only the tip of the iceburg.

All we have are words about Jesus.

All we have are words.

Nothing more.
 

This is not necessarily true. If someone told me that the fountain of youth exists in eastern Oregon, and I took my beloved father there, and it turned out that it was not the fountain of youth, I could say that this is a false fountain of youth. The fountain of youth supposedly removes the effects of aging. This one did not, so it is not the fountain of youth. Though no such fountain exists, we do know the criteria for a fountain of youth.

The same could be said for a department store Santa. Phony beard? Pillow for a tummy? Can't fly? No. Definitely not the real Santa. The existence of a phony department store Santa does not presuppose a real Santa. All we need is a definition, and is someone does not fit the definition, he or she is a phony.

Supposedly, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. A false prophet, then, is someone who claims to speak for God, but does not speak for God. Since, in my opinion, God does not exist, then, according to my model, all calling themselves prophets are false prophets. They don't speak for God because God does not exist.

The reason I bring it up, is that many Christians makes a big deal about what they call false prophets. Millions have died under this accusation. I say that the Christian prophets are false prophets too, and that there is no such thing as a real prophet.

So, the question remains, How does a Christian (or a Mormon or a Muslim) know that he or she is not following a false prophet? How can you tell? Instead of berating us for asking this question (instead of changing the subject, if you will, and introducing confusion into the conversation), we would like to hear you address the question.
 

Now, why would anybody do that? Why would anybody hear a direct message from God (assuming he exists) and ignore it?

And if, as you imply, what we experience are, in fact, direct messages from God ("He is speaking very plainly to you"), then why is this not obvious to us? Why does God hide himself from us, and then hold us accountable for not believing that he exists? Is this a real god doing this, or the phantom of somebody's tortured imagination? Do you really believe in a god that would act like this? or are you just pulling our collective leg?

Besides, we do not pride ourselves on having all the atheist answers. We are here to raise questions, not provide answers. In fact, we insist that you retract this lie and that you apologize for having told this lie about us. When you do, we will post it.

Have a nice day.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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This fellow writes back, refusing to further elucidate his previous charges that we are lying.

He then proceeds to become very abusive. (Sound familiar?)

Interesting is his implication that we were wrong about his being a Christian. However, he has left several clues leading to the conclusion that he is, in fact, a Christian. So clear are these clues that for one to err on this matter would be almost excusable. 1. His assumption that Jesus raised the dead and healed the blind (above). No nonchristian believes this happened. 2. His use of Pascal's Wager (above), which is almost exclusive to Christianity. 3. His attempts to reduce atheists to the level of Christians by saying that we, too, have faith (below). This, too, is peculiar to Evangelical Christians of the Cable TV variety. Educated theologians know better than to switch the meaning of synonym like faith in mid-sentence. There are several others. (We nevertheless sympathize with Mr. Auman's apparent desire to protect his reputation by divorcing himself from Christ and his followers.)

 

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From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Greg Auman
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Thursday, May 13, 1999 6:47 PM

Again. Tell me what you think is untruthful in my responses, and demonstrate what is untruthful about it. Lies and ad hominem attacks do not work here.

Atheists are not making a god-claim, therefore we have no claims to prove. If you can demonstrate a lie that we have told, we will retract it.

Also, respond to my remark that we only have words about Jesus, who may or may not even have lived, and who may be entirely mythical. You made a big point in your first letter that we have only words to give, but I say that it is Jesus that is composed entirely of words.

The ruse of trying to reduce us to the level of theists by claiming that we have faith has been thoroughly addressed in our Letters section -- so much so that I have grown tired of repeating myself. I'm sure the readers find it tedious as well. Explaining this misuse of words gets very old after a while.

You have one more chance to come up with some hard, valid criticism of particulars in our letters section.

If you continue your abuse -- any of it -- I will set our Message Rules to automatically forward any e-mail from your account to the Deleted Files folder.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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Toning down his abusive tone a bit (but not nearly enough; this is, unfortunately, somewhat typical of Christians who write us -- we almost expect it at this point), the writer tries to entrap us with a reversal of the Burden of Proof method. This reversal requires the listener to disprove a claim for the existence of something, rather than the normal method of requiring the one making the claim to provide reasons to believe that what is being claimed actually exists. This popular perversion of logic is addressed several times in our Letters section, which this writer claims to have read.

 

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From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Greg Auman
Subject: Re: Lies. Yes, but from whom????
Date: Friday, May 14, 1999 6:41 PM

First, if I told you that "A Fundkiewer exists," and you replied "No it doesn't," you would be in error, because we have not discussed what a "Fundkiewer" is. I would first need to explain what a "Fundkiewer" is before we could hold an existential discussion.

In the same sense, you must define what you mean by "God" before we can have a discussion as to whether there is such a thing as what you call "God." You could be metaphorically describing Eric Clapton for all I know; I've seen pictures of that "Eric Clapton is God" graffiti in London and elsewhere.

Secondly, if I were to tell you that green leprechauns exist, you would be right in doubting my claim, and asking me to provide evidence for my claim. Why? Because, apart from special cases (such as square circles), it is impossible to prove nonexistence. Nobody can be everywhere at the same time to perceive that there are no green leprechauns somewhere. No one has demonstrated the nonexistence of green leprechauns or purple unicorns or multitalented mermaids. We have conceded this many times in the letters section and elsewhere.

For this reason, whenever one group claims that an unrestricted existential statement is true, and another group claims it is false, it is the group that claims it is true that has the burden of proof. Sorry. Theists claim the existence of a god, atheists (some but not all) claim the nonexistence of a god, therefore the theists have the burden of proof. If the theists fail to support their claim, then it is the opposing group, the atheists, who have the more reasonable position. This is why most people find it more reasonable to deny the existence of pink unicorns and fairy god-mothers.

We atheists tend to feel the same way about gods. Therefore, if you make a god-claim, it is your responsibility to support your claim. Even though we do not have this responsibility, we are ready to listen to any claim someone wants to make, and to any support for that claim. If we have any questions or objections, we will bring them forth as a given dialogue proceeds.

In other words, if you make a claim for the existence of something, you must cough up the goods. You must provide us with a good reason to believe in the existence of something. Our job is merely to listen, to question, and to doubt when good reasons are not provided.

Since you admit, in your letters, that you cannot prove the existence of a god, then we do best to disbelieve your claim.

Tell me, what did we not disclose in the Pastor Rob discussion? And explain to us how Pastor Rob's behavior does not constitute name-calling. The only thing I have to say about that is that, based on your previous letter, you agree with Pastor Rob -- that name-calling is a valid method for arguing for truth. We at Positive Atheism wholeheartedly disagree with this, even when it is atheists who do the name-calling.
 

What do you mean by "God"?
 

1. There is no independent evidence, external to the New Testament, that Jesus even existed during the time of Pontius Pilate.

2. The New Testament accounts are replete with contradiction and verifiable falsehood about such things as: geography; contemporary political situations; the teachings of the Pharisee Party; the sphericity of the earth.

3. The New Testament (except the Gospel of Luke) is the only place where we hear about Jesus in the sense that he died for anybody. (Luke is strangely silent on this subject.)

4. The New Testament is unreliable when it comes to falsifiable claims.

5. Why should we trust it concerning abstract claims such as "Jesus died for you"?
 

Does hell exist? Show me. Otherwise, as explained above, it is more reasonable to categorize it with such things as rose colored unicorns.
 

This is incomplete: you must provide an example of me calling someone a liar, and what I said was the lie. Also, you falsely assume that pointing out that someone lied constitutes name-calling.
 

What do you mean by "God" when you suggest that he may be found in the "outer parts of our universe"? (What universe are you talking about when you discuss its "outer parts"?) I need to know what you mean by "God" before I can discuss his or her existence.

Also, no. I don't need to go anywhere to know if a claim for the existence of anything is worthy of my belief. Most god-claims I have heard make no sense; this is usually admitted by the one making the claim. Other god-claims I have heard come from extremely flawed sources, such as the Bible and the Koran. Such sources are flawed when it comes to verifiable claims, and are thus not to be trusted with claims that are untestable.
 

What are "sins"? The above was part of my question to that effect. I cannot prove the nonexistence of something -- particularly if I do not understand what is being claimed. What are "sins"?
 

Are you here conceding that you are, in fact, a Christian? In your last letter, you said (in so many words) that you are not (necessarily) a Christian and that my assumption to that effect was, "Another lie from Cliff's assumptions. Naughty, naughty." (Did I just hear a cock crow?) Who is lying on this point: me, for calling you a Christian, or you for calling me a liar?

Though the majority of Christians do not believe this way about the Bible, only Christians would believe this way. (I have still not written off the remote possibility that you are a Discordian, pulling my leg just for laffs, but most Discordians I have encountered have shown a far superior grasp of logic and philosophy and language than you show here. Then again, you could be trying to cover this up by "dumbing down" your approach. But if I were to try to pursue this angle, I would need to come up with some reason to believe you are, in fact, a Discordian; otherwise, it is more reasonable to assume you are a Christian. A rose by any other name ... If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ... &c., &c.)

The Bible is full of errors and contradictions and false prophesies. I do not need to recount them all, because, according to the Bible itself, one false prophesy will suffice to discredit any prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22: "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him").

Nevertheless, I will give you a few:

In Matt. xvi. 28., Jesus is portrayed as having said, "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Mark ix. 1. has him saying, "Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Further, the Gospel of Mark, xiii. 30-31., has Jesus saying, "Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is." (I am not making this up.) If we go with the obvious interpretation of these verses, the Jesus character was clearly mistaken. Attempts by Rob Robinson's colleague, Calvary Chapel pastor Mike Macintosh (and others, including Hal Lindsay), to make "this generation" mean the last generation (40 years, said both) since the founding of the state of Israel in C. E. 1948 are awkward, because it has Jesus saying something that had clear meaning to his listeners but (according to Macintosh and Lindsay) actually meant something entirely different.

Most problematic, though, is Macintosh's 1979 suggestion that the Christian "Rapture" would occur in 1981 obviously did not occur. The earth is still plagued by people who insist that Jesus will return sometime soon, and that the Bible foretells current events. Using the Book of Revelation to do this is not unlike what the followers of Nostradamus do with his material. It would be hilarious were it not for the fact that sincere people are being hoodwinked into actually believing this rubbish.

I was robbed at gun-point on November 22, 1985, in Tualitin, Oregon, and no longer have the original copy of Macintosh's sermon. His assistants later edited out his prediction for the copies that were sold to followers. It was overt deception such as this that prompted me to flee Christianity. I am too much a man of truth to endorse this religion. I found no other religions that had any higher regard for truth. What is left for me is atheism. I was raised an atheist, I tried Christianity for about three years, and have returned to what my parents taught me because I think it is much more truthful than is any religion I have encountered.

Positive Atheism's target audience consists of people who either suspect or outright realize that religion has nothing good to offer humankind. While we welcome those theists who have their own, different opinion, it is not our purpose here to do the atheist equivalent of evangelizing theists over to our point of view. Since we think the truth is self-evident, we are baffled as to why, in C.E. 1999, people would still believe in a book that represents the earth as flat and having a lid. We are ready to give an answer to any valid question (one that does not make false presuppositions), but it is not our purpose to convince anybody of anything.

Frankly, I would prefer engaging in a hard-hitting discussion of some of the tough problems that the philosophy of religion presents, rather than rehashing the same-old same-old for people who follow Josh McDowell and Hal Lindsay and Chuck Missler and the others.

And, just to show you one thing that I did not lie about at least one thing, I have set our e-mail program to reject further correspondence from your e-mail address. I am not "chickening out"; I merely refuse to hold a discussion with someone who is as dishonest and as rude as you have shown yourself to be. Your case is just one more of a long list of reasons why so many of us reject theism as being untruthful and arrogant.

If God really wants us to hear the Gospel message, why does he "call," as his servants, people who are so rude and dishonest? Such a scenario is incompatible with the existence of God. Thus, we are atheists.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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PostScript not included in original letter:

Perhaps I should have said, "The ruse of trying to bring us to same the level as theists"? I don't understand your (and others') motives for wanting to call us theists, or to redifine atheism as a form of theism. Are you trying to "reduce" us, somehow, when you do this? From the tone of your e-mail (and that of the e-mail that makes similar claims about atheism being theism and atheists being Christians), it does not seem that you are trying to honor or dignify us in any way.

Nevertheless, we still maintain that atheism is a superior philosophy to theism in almost every respect, and we are offended that you would call us Christians or theists or say that we have faith.

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We set our e-mail software to reject e-mail from <Grabow@wctc.net>. We point to phrases like,
"
Now, if you haven't chickened out yet,..."
     and especially,
"
I have sooooo many more questions for you. Remember, I am your guest on this web page, so I expect to be treated as a guest"
     -- this after having said things like,
"
Come on Cliff, tell me what your "faith" describes me as. What race am I??? Do you often communicate with someone you cannot see, hear or describe?? Hmmmmmmm. Let's see Cliff O' boy, I guess..."
     and absurd personal stabs like
"
You have been lying to yourself for years"
     (he has not been inside my head: mine is the final word on what goes on in there).

Such abuses of decorum continue, and are not conducive to a discussion of this nature.

Nevertheless, we have not heard the last from Mr. Auman. He logged on to a different e-mail address, <gauman@hotmail.com>, altered the spelling of his name from "Greg Auman" to "Gregory Auman" (to fool our filter) and sent us The Jesus-Chalk Hoax. Later he claimed about the <gauman@hotmail.com> address: "The other e-mail address I used to send you the true story about the God being in the college classroom came from my friend."

 

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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.