Questions From A Protestant
We received the following letter via e-mail:
Hi! My name is Jeffery Frieden. I have a few questions about atheism in general and then just some general questions:
Just so that you know where I am coming from, I am Protestant. I am just curious as to what you, as an atheist, believe. I don’t want another Protestant to tell me what you believe because what they will tell me will probably be wrong and biased. I do not wish to offend you, or any other atheist for that matter, and I am sorry if any of these questions did.
Please have a good day.
Cliff Walker addresses the questions and responds to a few other remarks.
I do not wish to offend you, or any other atheist for that matter, and I am sorry if any of these questions did.
We get many letters from people accusing us of believing this or that. The writers then grill us about why anyone would believe such nonsense. The truth is, that is not what we believe in the first place. We call this trick the “straw man” fallacy. With it, a person paints a false picture of what his adversary believes, then “knocks down” the “straw man” (the falsehood) he has created.
Your letter is not like that, and we find this refreshing. This is sad, because we’re sure people on both sides have legitimate things to say in these discussions. We try to be patient but sometimes it is not easy.
Please understand that what follows is the opinion of one atheist. Also note that the only thing atheists have in common is that they are not theists. That’s it. Most of us rarely if ever think about our atheism. Within this group almost every other perspective can be found.
Where do humans get their value?
This question is unclear because the notion of human value is hard to conceptualize. Of course you do not assume that humans have value in the same sense as a pound of cod. People speak of human value and a sense of self-worth, but I will argue that none of these aspects properly apply to humans. More specifically, I will try to show that what seems valid cannot be applied to everyday living. I will also contend that attempts to apply talk of human value can lead to destructive policy.
In a certain sense, I believe I can rightfully place a value (of sorts) upon my own life. I call this my sense of self-worth because it is how I see myself. I do not have the right to speak this way about another.
To find what human value may mean, we must eliminate what we are not talking about. We all know of occasions where one would have a value placed on his or her life. When I take out a life insurance policy, a monetary value is placed upon my life in case of my premature death. The person who collects the settlement would hardly consider it just compensation for the loss of a loved one. In a similar sense, if I go to work, a monetary value is placed upon my life, usually by the hour.
These examples do not address one’s intrinsic value as a human. By this I do not mean one’s rating among humans, but what it means to be human. This does not include what I think it means for others, but only what I think it means for me to be human. When we speak of one’s intrinsic value, we have gone way beyond any practical discussion. No one can apply the idea of intrinsic value to everyday life.
Some people mistakenly think human value is measured by one’s accomplishments or failures, or by what others think about them: “I am a worm because I lost my job.” “I hate myself because my boyfriend said I’m ugly.” While this may seem silly, such thinking can make life miserable.
A simple way to combat this debilitating error is to insist that only the individual has the right to declare his or her value as a human. Psychologists point to the fact that there is no objective scale with which to measure one’s self-worth. Such practitioners (usually from the Cognitive school of thought) recommend declaring one’s intrinsic value as infinite.
I can see how a depressed person might benefit from this perspective, using it as a tool to develop or improve one’s sense of self-worth. However, this seems contrived to me. I can imagine some people seeing it as a ruse, and wishing not to fall for it.
A better way to phrase this idea would be to speak about self-acceptance, rather than self-rating. I summarize this by saying, “I base my value as a human entirely on the fact that I have a skeleton and a pulse.” For me, the fact of my existence determines my sense of self-worth (my opinion of my intrinsic value as a human). No one else can describe my sense of self-worth for me; mine is the final word on this matter. In this way, I comment on the more destructive aspects of attempts to place a value on humanity.
Is one’s sense of self-worth necessarily infinite? No. We clearly see this with the example of a patriotic soldier who proudly puts his own life on the line for his country. Of course, some soldiers believe in an afterlife, and this can influence one’s willingness to die. However, many atheistic soldiers, promising young men, have ended it all thinking that the cause of their nation overrides their own ambition for living. This is, however, a private assessment, made exclusively by the individual in question.
I don’t think anyone can know another’s sense of self-worth. For example, a certain woman always eats a balanced diet, works out at the gym, and refuses to take silly risks that could endanger her life. We might conclude that she values her life in some sense. However, we cannot enter her mind and know for sure what motives lie behind her behavior. Nevertheless, her behavior is a strong indicator that she values living.
In another example, a young man does not exercise, eats junk food, smokes, drinks, gets into fights, has unprotected sex, and drives much faster than the speed limit. It may seem to us that he does not value his life. Again, this is only a strong indicator. We can never know what motivates him.
It is crucial that we refrain from drawing conclusions based on people’s behavior. Of course society punishes criminal behavior, but we can never establish a motive. We can only guess.
On 31 July 1966, Charles J. Whitman drove his wife home from work. He then drove to his mother’s house and killed her so violently that the stone in her engagement ring broke. Then he drove home and killed his wife in her sleep, stabbing her “once for every year” they’d been together.
The next morning, Whitman filled his military duffel with high-powered guns and supplies, including food and deodorant. He carted the duffel to the campus of the University of Texas, Austin, climbed up the UT Clock Tower to an observation deck, and opened fire on unsuspecting students. Receptionist Edna Townsley delayed the gunman, so he killed her — hitting her so hard with his gun butt that her eye came out. Were it not for this interruption, he would have reached the deck in time to see everyone getting out for lunch. By the time he sarted shooting, only stragglers were left.
During the autopsy, which he had requested in a note, pathologists found a tumor his brain the size of a golf ball. It is tempting to suspect that the tumor had something to do with this drastic change in his behavior shortly before he died, but we don’t know the whole story. Many have had brain tumors without endangering the lives of others, and many have snapped and killed without suffering from brain tumors.
The problem I see with your question is that thinking we can place a value on human life can be dangerous. When tragedy strikes, people want to know why. The best we can do, I think, is to caution ourselves against drawing conclusions about complex matters. Suspending judgement is, at times, simply the best policy.
Whenever tragedy strikes, we do well to be wary of people who quickly jump to the fore with pat answers. After the Littleton tragedy, I noticed many political and religious opportunists exploiting this situation to advance their own agendas. Tipper Gore is no less guilty of this than Gary Bauer. This abuse of tragedy serves only to cheapen one’s sense of humanity, and may be the result of an already diminished sense of compassion.
I realize many Americans still consider the Bible to be a source for learning values like compassion. However, I have found few books showing as much contempt for humankind. The Bible’s endorsements of human slavery should alone be sufficient to render it unfit for human consumption. Similarly, its treatment of women abrogates the Bible’s standing as a moral guide.
Page after page of the Old Testament depicts the Bible god ordering or committing wholesale massacre, showing utter disregard for humanity. “Slay everything that breathes,” he says, or, “you may keep the virgins for yourselves.” Jehovah uses very crude language to describe the males of our species: “I will ... cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall.”
The New Testament has no better regard for humanity than the Old. Says the Merciful One, “If a man abide not in me ... men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” For centuries, Christians used this passage to justify burning us nonbelievers at the stake. This was not anarchy, here; it was policy. They thought burning us slowly was an act of mercy, for it gave us more time to make peace with God.
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as a child, watched the Christians burn a man. His mother told him that the man deserved it because he had said there is no god. Young Percy never found consolation after watching the resolve on the condemned man’s face as he passed from life to lifelessness.
The Christian hell is not prepared for those who acted wickedly, but for those who belonged to the wrong religion: “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Imagine a young child trying to reconcile the following words attributed to Jesus: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
Historian W. E. H. Lecky aptly noted that “the doctrine of a material hell in its effect was to chill and deaden the sympathies, predispose men to inflict suffering, and to retard the march of civilisation.” If there is any teaching that serves to dull one’s compassion for others, it is that contained in the Bible.
Your question presupposes that value is something aptly applied to humans or humanity. At this point, I am not ready to go that far. I speak freely of one’s sense of human value; however, I cannot think of how to discuss or apply actual value. This is not to say I think humans are valueless: I merely think value is the wrong concept here.
The film “Sophie’s Choice” pointed out the futility of trying to place a value on human life. In it, sadistic Nazi captors force a mother to choose which of her two children should live; if not, both children would die. To rate one child worth saving would mean that the other is of lesser worth. The doctrine of variable human worth was a central belief of the Third Reich. In a sense, any talk of human worth makes me nervous.
When confronted with a conceptual dilemma such as this, I often take the word and simply describe it, without using the word itself. I will substitute a definition for the word in a question or sentence and see if it makes more sense. What may or may not be human value means so much to me that I have developed an intricate ethic for myself that centers upon human dignity.
What kind of morals do atheists uphold?
To state or even summarize the values that various atheists hold is impossible. It is like asking what values women uphold. All that two particular women have in common is that they are both women. Theists have in common a belief that at least one god exists. Atheist lack a god belief, and the similarity ends there. I can explain how I develop my system of values, and I will discuss how my atheism influences my decisions.
As an atheist, I believe we all get our values from the same sources. When a theist points to a revelation, I say women and men wrote the words. A thought that appears, to a theist, to have come from God, appears, to me, to be pure human intuition. The main difference is that people blindly venerate what they think is revelation.
To me, all ideas are open to revision. Most Christians, when pressed, would agree that we should not take the entire Bible at face value. We constantly read news stories about Christian leaders who denounce homosexuality because of Biblical law. Have you met many Christians who refuse, on Biblical grounds, to wear mixed-fiber garments? Yet both taboos are usually on the same page of a Bible. Both taboos are based upon ritual purity, not practical living. A human idea is simply an idea. It is always open to criticism, always open for continued discussion.
What is good and what is evil? I do not think The Good, as Plato pondered it, is a valid concept. This implies that only one thing is ultimately good. It also suggests that we can isolate a thing from its surroundings and know if it is intrinsically good or evil.
Even if we could verify the idea of intrinsic goodness, we could never apply it to reality and living. Good and evil best describe human choices. Since all good choices result in some evil, and all evil choices bring some good, I prefer to speak of choices that reduce evil.
Reducing evil does not necessarily mean reducing my own suffering. A worthy ethic seeks the least amount of total suffering. If I had to choose between reducing my own suffering and greatly alleviating the suffering of many others, the choice is clear. I must suffer a little to reduce total suffering.
Hardly any event has a single cause. We must be very careful not to fix blame when something goes wrong. As I was working on this essay, I heard a terrible screech of tires outside. I ran outdoors, sensing that one of the cats probably got hit. By an instant process of elimination, I knew it was probably Spot, our mama cat.
Moments later, a man peeked through the fence and asked who owns the black cat. He agreed to drive me to the veterinarian, since I do not drive. When we got there, I told him that I cannot hold him responsible for the cat because our laws require all pets to be on a leash. (Although it is not practical to apply this law to cats, it does help settle liability issues.) Nevertheless, he pulled out his credit card and agreed to pay part of the veterinary bill.
Motorists have hit several cats on this stretch of road, but he was the first person to stop. Had he not stopped and pointed out where she ran, she would have bled to death. To me, this is normal behavior; this is what you do. Since we both hold this value, and since each could tell the other held this value, our transaction went as smoothly as we could ask for.
As tempting as it seems to want to retaliate against somebody who hit my cat, I accept responsibility for letting her run loose when traffic is busy. This attitude allowed me to remain calm enough to do what was needed. I only wish I could have formed the words to thank him for doing what we both knew was the only right thing to do.
Dignity is very important to me. I see dignity as respect for humanity that we bestow upon others. In a different sense, we reflect dignity in how we conduct ourselves.
These are just a few of the basics. My point is that we each come up with our own ethical system. A theist who does not agree with the ethical system of his church can change churches. The choice is always there. This is not unlike what I do when I discover that one of my values needs revision. We each choose which values to follow.
Is theism a valid source of ethical teaching? I think not, for several reasons. First, a theist must find out whether God is the source of good or merely knows what is good. If God is the source of good, then something is good simply because God says so. This would mean that obedience to God is the only good. We could ask why God gives a human the ability to develop moral systems if she or he does not need to use this ability? Finally, theists would take it for granted that God is not an evil deceiver, having himself a whale of a belly-laugh.
If good is something independent of God, then God is not the source of good. This means that God is himself subject to independent standards of good and evil. It also means that we can discover what is good without God’s guidance, because it exists independently of God.
If obedience is the only good, the theist must find a reliable way of knowing God’s will. Does God implant a thought directly into a person’s mind? How would I know it is from God and not my own thinking? On the other hand, if God uses scripture or a prophet, then we are dealing with hearsay. God may have spoken to Prophet Thusiso, but he said nothing to me. I have no obligation to believe it, and have no way of verifying it is from God.
The words of a dead prophet would be even less trustworthy than those of a living one. If God spoke only long ago, then he entrusted his scriptures into very questionable hands. Political maneuvering, suppression, the gradual but constant evolution of language, and the need to translate and interpret all would render even a bona fide scripture completely untrustworthy.
So, then, we show theism to be an untrustworthy guide for morals. What appears to come from God always passes through the filters of language and reason. Theists use reason when accepting or rejecting this or that body of scripture. Reason tells a theist what a passage does and does not mean. If a theist depends on reason as the ultimate arbiter of a god’s moral instruction, why not simply make human reason the author of moral instruction? If a theist must depend on reason at all, why not depend on reason from the start?
How are you certain of God’s nonexistence?
This discussion depends entirely upon what you mean by God. For you to assume that I know what this word means is premature. If you said, “God exists,” and I replied, “No he doesn’t,” this would be an error on my part. How do we know we are talking about the same thing? We don’t. So, your first item of business is to describe to me what you mean by God. Having heard your description, I can respond to it.
If your god is unfathomable, incomprehensible, or logically impossible (if you are a mystic), then I am a noncognitivist. This means your talk of God does not express propositions and cannot be known. I ask you to describe your god in terms we can understand. This would be a story that we could, for example, work into a motion picture. People could watch the film and understand our point, even if they disagree with us. If you cannot make yourself clear, if your god defies description, then I can neither affirm nor deny your claim. Since I cannot deny the unknowable, I am not an atheist; I am a noncognitivist because I say that neither of us understand what you are talking about. Jay fuffa guer owie? Fnord!
Our discussion takes a different course if your god is such that we could portray him in a film, for example, the way De Mille did in “The Ten Commandments.” We can discuss whether your claim warrants belief only if you can describe your god, that is, only if your god is (even remotely) conceivable. I remain an atheist if your claim does not warrant my belief. The fact that I have never encountered a valid case for God’s existence strongly indicates he doesn’t exist.
Usually, the more sophisticated versions of theism tend toward an incomprehensible deity, whereas the unsophisticated versions lend more easily to discussion. We most readily see tales of the anthropomorphic deities as fiction. Anthropomorphism is an interpretation of something in terms of human or personal characteristics.
We’ve all heard examples of deities with physical bodies. Of course, we all remember Jehovah, who showed Moses only his back parts. The Hippocratic Oath, which British and American physicians swear by, begins: “I swear by Apollo the physician, by Æsculapius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses...” Æsculapius holds the winged scepter that we know today as the symbol of medicine. A marble statue at the Vatican depicts Aesculapius and Hygieia, along with a snake. Apollo epitomizes a youthful masculinity. (Panacea, here, is “All-Healing” personified.)
Human character traits found in gods include personality quirks that humans find undesirable in themselves. Jehovah is a jealous god, who grieved in his heart that he’d made man. A hungry god-man, Jesus, cursed a out-of-season fig tree for having no figs. He taught love of one’s enemies, yet threatened to cast his enemies into hell. Bloodthirsty Allah was constantly changing his mind about things. His carnal exploits show him to be (to use a line from Nietzsche) “Human, all too human.” Clearly, no deity can claim superiority over her or his mythmaker.
I admit that Jehovah liked his yard kept clean: “When thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee: For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp.” Jehovah may have been a dog owner before he became a god.
Today, tracing the origin and development of a religious myth is, for the most part, quite simple. The history of Mormonism is an open book, documented in every detail. Despite the censorship imposed by the Christian Church, we still can trace much of its development with relative certainty. What we know about how the doctrine of the Trinity came to prevail is enough to make anyone’s hair curl.
Some scholars seriously doubt that during the time Pontius Pilate governed, a man named Jesus thought he was the messiah. We can explain the existence of the Christian religion without there having ever been a Jesus, by tracing the well-known origins of the Jesus myth. Others make a good case for the nonexistence of Mohammad. Few scholars think Moses ever existed, and most historians think no Exodus ever occurred.
Each myth pertains to a particular claim for the existence of a deity. Such claims, based upon these myths, are the first steps to faith in a god. Without these claims, we know nothing of gods or goddesses. As the Bible says, “faith comes by hearing”; faith has little to do with reason or observation.
Nevertheless, I have yet to encounter a god-claim that warrants serious consideration: no theist has yet made a case with me. The mystical god-claims admittedly defy understanding. The unsophisticated god-claims are conceivable, but remain unbelievable. I remain without a belief that one or more gods exist.
So, then, I have nothing to prove or disprove. People have told me about various gods and goddess, and I have carefully considered them all. Not one of these tales holds water with me. I am right back where I started from: No theism. Atheism.
Your question implies that one can be certain of God’s nonexistence. Without discussing the nature of certainty, I will describe two arguments for the nonexistence of God that have made a powerful impact on me. Philosophers and theologians call the first the Argument from Evil and the second is the Argument from Nonbelief. Though each argument is complete in its own right, they are both similar to each another.
The Argument from Evil states that if God existed, we could assume he would be both willing and able to reduce the evil in our world. (Evil, in the strongest form of the argument, means suffering and premature death.) However, premature deaths and suffering prevail on this planet; therefore, no such god exists.
Christianity is especially vulnerable to the Argument from Evil because its God is said to be good. Theologians usually call this issue the Problem of Evil. Addressing the Problem of Evil has been a challenge to religion throughout history. I’ve studied this argument intensely from both sides, and none of the popular defenses against this argument satisfy me. The existence of evil, for me, points strongly to the nonexistence of God.
The Argument from Nonbelief is a newcomer to the philosophy of religion, though some Bible passages anticipate the problem this argument raises. This argument states that if God existed, he would be willing and able to make both his existence and identity known on a wide scale. However, controversy abounds over which god is The One True God. Also, almost a fifth of the world’s people are either atheists or nonreligious. Therefore, widespread nonbelief and sweeping controversy over the various gods point strongly to the nonexistence of God. Christianity is, once again, especially vulnerable to the Argument from Nonbelief because its God commands evangelism and because salvation requires proper faith.
To summarize my position I simply say that I lack a god belief. I have heard many claims that admittedly defy comprehension; I am a noncognitivist regarding those claims. Whenever I have encountered clear, conceivable claims, I have examined them and have, thus far, found none that hold water. I am an atheist when it comes to these claims.
What is the explanation for our finite existence?
This question is unclear. Are you asking me to explain why our existence is finite? Do you want me to explain our existence (which happens to be finite)? Either question is mind-boggling from an atheistic perspective, so I will address both.
Our existence is finite as a result of our makeup. Matter is always in motion and subject to erosion and decomposition. Energy is constantly transferring itself into other forms. Information, the basis of the DNA code, becomes noisy and distorted over time. Since nobody has detected the existence of a “soul,” this is all we know about our makeup: matter, energy, and information.
I once pondered what it would be like if I were to survive forever. How would my body continue in its present form so that I retain my identity, so that I remain “Me”? At some point, wouldn’t the changes ultimately alter the structures and processes that establish my conscious, aware “Self”?
Could I keep up with cultural changes or would the world eventually become foreign to me? I can imagine becoming a celebrity. Eventually, people would probably consider me a freak. How would such changes affect my quality of life? As much as I would like to continue living, a poor quality of life has, at times, stifled my desire to live.
Eventually, the advance of the Sun’s life cycle will render this planet uninhabitable. Other factors may make Earth unfit for humans. I love this place, but I cannot live here forever. Even life extension would have limits and serious drawbacks.
One day, I will have no choice but to die. Maybe I will get lucky and grow so old and frail, or afflicted with pain and weakness, that I won’t want to continue living. Perhaps fortune will smile upon me and some situation will take me out prematurely, before I get that old. That’s a tough choice that I’m almost glad we don’t get to make.
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go! But to this end was I born. This is the lot of everything that lives. We are born (hatched; sprouted; divided; congealed; whatever), we live a few moments, then we close our eyes forever. Death is as intregal to life as birth.
Our existence is finite in a different sense: the location of our bodies limits us. People cannot transcend (travel beyond) their bodies. We cannot survive the death and decomposition of our bodies. In a similar sense, we cannot make something happen in physical reality without using our muscles. No one can detect information by ways other than the senses.
This, again, relates to the fact that a certain lobe of the brain establishes the “Self.” I am conscious and aware because interactions within the structures of my nervous system are the way they are. The notion that we have a “Soul” living within the body raises more problems than it solves. If existing without bodies was possible, then I could never explain to you why a creator would even bother with physical bodies.
Regarding my second interpretation of your question, I cannot discuss reasons or motives for our existence. I have heard no proposition as to the “whys” or “wherefores” that satisfies me. I do know this much: We exist. Period. We can all agree on this, but that is where the consensus ends. The question itself is probably an invalid question.
Some people point to the complexity of life as evidence that a god exists. (They call this the Argument from Design.) My reply is that complexity doesn’t necessarily show design. Creationists must establish the existence of a creator first; until they do this, we cannot discuss design. This is essential to the meaning of creation: the existence of a creator. To infer design simply from the existence of complexity is premature.
Part of the problem with the Argument from Design is that creationists apply it inconsistently. They say that the Universe is vastly complex; therefore, some intelligent being must have created it. Most creationists, however, fail to follow this argument through to its conclusion.
The existence of the Universe is unlikely due to its complexity, and thus requires a creator to explain its existence. However, the existence of a creator is even more unlikely due to its even greater complexity. A creator would be that much more complex and — that much more — would require an explanation. Creationists who ask me if the Universe “just happened by chance” don’t like it when I ask them if God happened “just by chance.” I explain to them, “If you want to use the complexity of life to point to a creator, you cannot kick and fuss if I apply the same logic to the even higher complexity of your creator.”
The Teleological Argument is enjoying a bit of a revival in some Christian circles. This argument, which died off during the Copernican revolution, says that things act in a way as to achieve certain ends or goals. These ends cannot be the result of blind chance. Therefore, an intelligence, God, must be directing these things toward their ends.
Aristotle spoke of an acorn, whose end is to become an oak tree (though he regarded these ends as inherent in nature). Pre-Copernican Christians carried this idea further, taking it as evidence of divine guidance in nature. My initial objection is that perhaps the acorn has definite characteristics that will result in it becoming an oak tree. To me, the Teleological Argument puts the cart before the horse; this is a matter of causality.
Lately, a few physicists have catalogued many seemingly inexplicable quirks in the laws of nature. Were any of these laws even slightly different from what they are (they say), the universe would never have reached a point where it could support life. A new Teleological variant called the Anthropic Principle takes this information and posits the existence of a God who, from the start, ultimately intended for man to exist. In other words, God created the Universe with properties that rendered inevitable the evolution of man. (With this thinking, it doesn’t surprise us when proponents of this argument jump to conclude that the Bible god is The One True God.)
My objections to the Anthropic Principle are manifold. First, this is just another variant of the Argument from Design: you must cough up a creator before you can talk about creation or design. Secondly, even if we were to demonstrate creation, we have not identified the creator as a particular deity — or as a god at all. What if that David Byrne album cover painting is right, and God is a giant cartoon puppy? “Uh-Oh!” Thirdly, if God is so powerful, why did he bother with all these minute details? Since God is supposed to be upholding all things in the universe, couldn’t he simply “jury-rig” things so that they work no matter what?
Most importantly, we have nothing with which to compare the event of the universe’s existence; this is why some question whether we rightly call cosmology a science. Perhaps if these laws of physics weren’t just so (down to the minutest detail), we wouldn’t exist — but we exist nonetheless. This only shows that the Universe exhibits characteristics that result in hydrogen, stars, planets, and the likelihood of life. To go further is to jump to unwarranted conclusions.
Finally, modern theists may Wnd the Anthropic Principle enticing for the same reasons their predecessors were enthralled with anthropomorphism (the tendency to apply human traits and features to God). Humans can never fully understand reality. (Although we may not be entirely certain, this does not mean that we are absolutely clueless.) Energy excites our sense organs, which transmit signals through our nerves. Our brains organize this information into perceptions, which lead to inferences. However, this understanding is an interpretation, made by the very nervous system that develops the ideas.
Knowledge cannot but reflect, in some ways, the mind that establishes the knowledge. How much of science is merely a reflection of the human nervous systems that are making the observations? If science is subject to this type of distortion, theology is even more subject to being an autobiography of the human mind.
Most forms of theism have described the divine with reference to the human. The primitive theists saw God as an Oriental despot, only bigger, and invisible. Modern theists, arguing the Anthropic Principle, see what they call “the human factor” in physics and chemistry. Yesterday’s anthropomorphism may have evolved into today’s Anthropic Principle.
We exist and we are finite. While I can ponder some events that led up to our existence, I cannot tell you why we exist. I can only tell about some possible causes; I cannot discuss a purpose. Before I could wonder about motives, I would need first to detect an entity who created this mess. As far as I can tell, no creator has ever revealed himself to humankind.
Do you think that what happened in Colorado was awful? Why or why not?
Putting into words how I feel about this tragedy is impossible for me. Several young people will never grow to experience what life has to offer. None will meet the challenges or make improvements that we all will feel. None will have the honor of putting their lives on the line to defend Liberty or any other cause. These young people have closed their eyes forever. Nothing can bring them back to life. I have nothing to say.
Hundreds of their friends and families will never fully recover from what happened. Some, I am sure, will have problems for the rest of their lives. The rest of us have lost just that much more of our innocence. Nothing can change or redeem these situations. There is no justice, cosmic or divine, and there is no comforting those who weep.
This is all I have to say about the tragedy. It is all I can say: the rest I must simply feel.
I will mention that the shooting is not an indication of where we are headed as a nation. The response to the shooting and the outpouring of sympathy and concern indicate to me that our nation is right where it belongs. The vast majority of us are right on track when it comes to feeling and expressing human compassion.
One thing that is worthy of concern is the tendency of these opportunistic politicians and clergymen to exploit this and other tragedies. They want only to garner support to further their agendas; they have no sense of compassion for the victims of this tragedy.
I fear people like Gary Bauer and Tipper Gore, and their ilk, who like to whip the unthinking segments of our public into a witch-hunting frenzy. Too many Americans cannot see through Bauer’s chicanery, and support his hateful rhetoric with their hard-earned dollars. Thomas Jefferson described similar parasites at work in his day.
Bauer and the Nazi schoolyard assassins are cut from very similar cloth. Both are exclusivist, both have expressed hatred toward people who are not like them, and neither ever thought for themselves. They are followers, seeking for others to follow them.
They never used their own minds to try to find out what is right and what is wrong. Instead, they unquestioningly believed what others taught them. People who stop believing and start thinking, who commit to truth wherever it may lead, tend never to return to the faith-based methods of discovering right from wrong.
Bauer and Gore both vowed to make sweeping changes because of this tragedy. It is clearly their goal that we sacrifice some of our precious Liberty to the memory of these victims. I will not stand silent if this is the monument they build to the sacred memory of the young people who will live no more.
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