Criticism Of
October, 1998, Column
Brett Rice

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

In lieu of convincing demonstrations of God's existence, this is the popular objection to atheism -- your particular interpretation of a particular religion notwithstanding. It is the Christians who want the Ten Commandments posted in public schools, and their stated reason for doing this is to increase morality (that is, prevent violence).

How can any attempt at "equivalency with God" have anything whatsoever to do with keeping peace in society?

That some forms of Christian theism see "salvation" as having nothing to do with behavior is one of my many complaints about Christianity as a method towards morality. With this understanding, there is no personal accountability, neither here nor in any "hereafter."

However, this is not the only understanding within Christendom: The vast majority of Christians throughout history have seen behavior as crucial, either to salvation or as an indicator of prior salvation. This makes sense considering that other people cannot know what is going on in your own mind, and they need some way to discern the true from the false among them.

In either event, the good behavior is always defined by a revelation from a god, and the questions remain: Is it really real? Which god? How do we know?

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

This assessment is much more pessimistic than even most atheists are accused of being. This makes sense in that you have prejudiced your outlook on life with the Christian doctrine of "Original Sin," which takes fallibility and stretches it way beyond what we can know and can prove, and defines humanity as inherently evil. Having done this, it is easy to point to any number of atrocities that have been committed in a smug attempt to prove your case.

I also must ask how it is that you know what transpires within the "borders" of my own mind? Once you can show me precisely how it is that you can know what is happening in my mind, then I will give credence to your ideas about humanity being inherently wicked -- and not simply fallible. Otherwise, you do not speak for all of humanity, and all you have are examples of the behavior of some of humanity.

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

I think it's probably the other way around: Moses taking the codes of Hammurabi, etc, and calling them the word of a god; Jesus inverting the logic behind the "silver rule" of Hillel and others to make the "golden rule"; Mohammed observing his own experience as an orphan to make Alla's commandments to give alms to the poor.

Brett continues:

Cliff responds:

This is to admit that gods are, in fact, the creations of men. So, then, we have the codes created by men attributed to gods. Then we have men, acting on the false claim of being representatives of the god, meting out the judgements and the punishments for disobeying the imaginary god.

When the falsehood is found out, I promise you there will be unrest and revolution.

Should our system of government start out on honest footing, and be touted as what it is, the flawed creation of fallible humans, there will be one fewer opportunity for unrest.

Unrest within an admittedly human government happens, but almost always in response to corruption.

A theistic government inherently opens itself up to corruption because there can be no checks and balances against a god, and there is certainly no redress of grievances against a god.

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

Leave it to the adherent of a system such as Christianity -- a system that sees reality primarily in terms of black and white; good and evil; us vs. them -- to assume that I propose completely scrapping what we have.

Not everything we have needs scrapping. Only the likes of Abbie Hoffman, et al, ever said it does.

And leave it to someone who does not have an answer of his own (but depends on a god and a revelation for his answers) to jump up[ and down with the ol' straw-man ruse of comparing atheism to Communism. (Didn't that become passe during the 1960s?)

If you go back and read again, you will see that I merely describe a set of methods for developing and maintaining systems of human government, compare their merits with the theist systems, and defend the atheistic methods against the charge of "anything goes."

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

In America, we have a system that was developed primarily by humans that is much easier to live with than any system that I have seen that alleges to come from "above" or "beyond."

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

I beg your pardon!

(And just where did I imply that I was talking about the Bible in particular and not about the notion of theism in general? But, since you bring it up -- )

Brett continues:

Cliff responds:

Just where does the Bible discuss right and wrong as being the product of negotiation and up for discussion?

True, there are a few cases of men successfully negotiating with the Bible god. A classic example is Ezekiel balking at the Bible god's commandment to eat human dung: "Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth" (Ezekiel 4:14). So the Bible god allows Ezekiel to substitute "cow's dung for man's dung" (verse 15).

Another example of negotiation with a god occurs in the Book of Mormon, in the story of the barges that were "tight like unto a dish." The men kept finding problems with the barges (as designed by the god), and so the god allowed the men to make various improvements -- such as holes in the top for air (Ether 2).

However, this notion of negotiating with the deity is the exception, and the man doing the negotiating is inevitably seen as weak.

And nowhere is there seen a discussion or negotiation over what is right and what is wrong. Men are never included in this discussion.

And why did the Bible god (according to the story) free the poor, afflicted Hebrews? because slavery is wrong? because of the dignity of the human? because "all men are created equal"? No! It was always for the purpose of manifesting the "glory" of the Bible god. (Read the Exodus story again!) Nowhere does the Bible condemn the institution of human slavery.

In the Old Testament, adultery is only committed against another man by having relations with his wife -- his property. If she is unmarried, even if the sex is rape, this is not adultery. The laws of the Bible god are not applied equally between men and women. However, in the New Testament, adultery is committed within the regions of one's own mind. How on earth are we supposed to turn this commandment of Jesus into a useful and usable law that we can put into practice?

I could go on, but I spent several weeks typing and formatting and posting "The Ten Commandments" by Joseph Lewis. Anybody to whom the answer to this question is not obvious is advised to read just one chapter of this book, which is just one of many pieces that cover the subject quite thoroughly.

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

I must reiterate that the Bible is seen by many as being a direct commandment from the Bible god. However, as Thomas Paine aptly points out, such "revelation" is only hearsay:

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"It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication -- after this it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him. When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so."
(From The Age of Reason)

 

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And again:

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"It has often been said that anything may be proved from the Bible, but before anything can be admitted as proved by Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of anything."
(From The Age of Reason)

 

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My point, though, is that if a man (or woman) causes others to think that he has a word from a god, then he need neither explain nor justify his deeds. He is no longer accountable for what he does. "Who art thou that repliest against God?" God said to do it. End of discussion.

Though not explicitly stated as such, John 15:6 was, for centuries, claimed as a commandment from the Bible god to burn millions of us "heretics" at the stake:

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"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."

 

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For a more explicit example, Numbers 31:17-18 basically says it all:

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"Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
"But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

 

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I need no more than this. To list even a small portion of the other atrocities allegedly commanded by the Bible god would take up a lot more time than I have. I urge you to do as I have and read the Bible cover to cover, and than ask yourself why people such as myself would be so thoroughly offended by it.

As Thomas Paine so aptly puts it:

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  "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."
(From The Age of Reason)
 

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

We never even reached the point where we agree whether there exists a god to blame. My comments are about men claiming or alleging to have the word of a god and exploiting people thereby (and I think all such claims are falsehood).

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Cliff wrote in the column:

Brett comments:

Cliff responds:

You are welcome to make your case on this one. I'd like to discover that the concept of Liberty, as declared by the founders of the United States of America, as described by the architect of this nation, Thomas Paine, actually did have its roots in something that is popularly seen as a direct revelation from a supernatural deity.

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