What’s So Bad About Religion?

February 17, 2008 at 10:07 pm 68 comments

baby jesus 1I’ve been debating with myself for several days about whether I should write this post. Since some other bloggers have dealt with this question quite effectively recently, I haven’t felt that I would have anything useful to add to the conversation. I changed my mind when I read Brian’s recent heart wrenching post. For the religious folks who wonder why nonbelievers care at all about religion and why we can’t we just respect believers’ beliefs and leave them alone, I offer the following thoughts.

The first problem that I have with religious beliefs is that, as Greta Christina pointed out recently, acting on the basis of false beliefs can lead to ill-conceived, even harmful, behavior and decisions. Take, for example, cases of snake handlers who die from snakebites, or Jehovah’s Witnesses who die for want of blood transfusions – both of which have occurred in the USA within the past several months. One may argue that such beliefs are misunderstandings of scriptural injunctions, but to so argue merely cedes my point. Yes, I agree, such beliefs are misunderstandings, but those misunderstandings are founded upon what believers have read in scriptures and they are founded upon traditions that have been passed down to successive generations for millennia. Quite simply, the misunderstood scriptures would not be taken so seriously, and the errant teachings that have been transmitted through the ages would not exist, were it not for the religious contexts that gave birth to them and continue to nourish them.

Consider the subject of Brian’s post that I alluded to in the opening paragraph of this post. In this case, a man who was suffering from mental illness heard the voice of god telling him to slaughter his family. He responded by killing his teen aged daughter. Fortunately, his wife was not home at the time of the murder so she was spared. Prior to that event, the man had told members of his church that he was haunted by demons, was hearing voices and so on. The church people believed that the man was extraordinarily blessed to have such experiences! The tragedies of this man’s delusional beliefs and his resultant behaviors are highlighted by the inconceivable (to me) failure of the man’s religious community to distinguish between mental illness and the leading of god’s holy spirit! Remove the shroud of religious superstition from the community’s thought processes and the man’s derangement would have been clearly evident.

I can already hear several of the faithful protesting that I’m painting all believers with the same broad, tainted brush. Most believers are not deranged, most believers do not handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship rituals, and only a few believers eschew modern medicine…. All of that is true, but it doesn’t change the underlying fact that theistic belief in any form is mistaken. Even if those mistaken beliefs don’t cause believers to make such egregious errors in judgment as those noted above, they can lead to other errors, such as susceptibility to swindling televangelists, or refusal to believe that one’s pastor is molesting Sunday school children, or the notion that abstinence-only sex education is sufficient, or the conviction that gays are evil…. Even though the vast majority of believers apply rational thought processes in most areas of their lives, there is a corner of their minds, especially for religious conservatives, in which they refuse to shine the light of reason. Every scrap of information they process is run through religious filters. If it does not threaten to undermine the religious scaffold around which they’ve built their lives, then normal reasoning processes can be applied safely. If a bit of information contradicts the scaffold, then it must be rejected. Religious liberals, on the other hand, frequently bend the scaffold so that it will accommodate new information. Whatever process one applies, the fact remains that there are points at which reason and religion conflict. How one handles those conflicts determines the extent to which religious belief is harmful. Sometimes the harm is confined to believers. Other times, however, that harm spills over and affects others, believers and nonbelievers alike. This brings me to my second problem with religious belief.

The second problem I have with religious belief is that believers do not live in vacuums. Their religious beliefs are not always private and those beliefs do affect others, including me, in numerous ways. Billy wrote a great post about this recently. To cite one example, when creationists and Intelligent Design proponents advocate for the inclusion of their non-scientific theories in school science curricula, in addition to hurting their own children, they threaten to undermine my children’s education, they threaten to undermine American progress in scientific and medical research and they threaten to dilute the American education system and thereby weaken our nation’s economy. In short, when they bring their religious beliefs into the public square and seek to impose those beliefs on others, they threaten our livelihoods and our well-being. Another example: when a fundamentalist presidential candidate advocates amending the Constitution so that it conforms to an ancient book of fables, he threatens my liberty of conscience. Cases like these and countless others lead me to conclude that the only way I can adopt a philosophy of “live and let live” is if religious believers will pledge to do the same. The moment they open their church doors and let their ideas drip all over the pavement is the moment they invite me, regardless of whether they intend to do so, to examine those ideas. This leads to my third problem with religious belief.

The third problem I have with religious beliefs is the persistent entreaty that I respect religious beliefs simply because they are religious. My response to this demand is that I’ll extend to religious beliefs the same degree of respect that I extend to astrology or phrenology or alchemy and not a speck more or less than that. Nevertheless, I will always strive to respect believers, regardless of what I think about their beliefs. If believers want their beliefs to be considered as plausible foundations of social, economic, international, educational, or any other public policies, then I will critique those beliefs just as scrupulously as I would critique the beliefs of a Marxist, a Maoist, or a monarchist. Religious beliefs are simply one class of ideas among many that have the potential to do real damage to individuals, societies and nations (though it seems self-evident to me that false beliefs will seldom pass muster as suitable foundations for good policy decisions). All ideas, religious and otherwise, should be scrutinized ruthlessly before one renders judgments regarding their soundness. Religious ideas are no more special than any others, they are simply more widespread and more deeply ingrained than most.

Setting aside, momentarily, the fact that religious beliefs are detrimental to believers and nonbelievers alike, it is true that all of us hold many values, interests and aspirations in common. These are bases upon which we can all agree to work together for our common good. If we can agree to do so, then maybe one day I’ll be able to revise my view of religion and concede that, perhaps, it is good for some people, though certainly not for all. Until that happens, however, I will continue to maintain that, given current conditions, religion’s bad effects far outweigh its good ones.

– the chaplain

[Originally published on An Apostate's Chapel]

Entry filed under: thechaplain. Tags: , , , , , .

Fundamentalism: A Disease of the Mind? Bart Ehrman, Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer (NPR)

68 Comments Add your own

  • 1. TheDeeZone  |  February 17, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Interesting. You have some very valid criticisms of religion.

  • 2. Matt  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Well said.
    A fine entry.

  • 3. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 17, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Excellent, excellent! You succinctly wrote what I tried to bring across in my previous post; that filtering all your thoughts through a bible, or through a preacher’s teachings, or through _______(insert religious means) is the wrong way to live. Monitoring every thought because we believe Jesus is watching encourages paranoia. Refusing to believe in scientific facts because the bible may mention something contrary encourages closing off our reasoning ability. I could go on, but you do it quite nicely. Your point about scrutinizing religion as you would any other social theory is well taken. Thank you!

  • 4. Marge  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Your thoughts are well-put and I particularly like your scaffolding analogy. I would disagree only in one point – that you represent as fact a strong opinion of yours.

    “….that theistic belief in any form is mistaken.”

    I have come to recognize a distinction between belief in God and religion. The two are not one and the same and it cannot be proven as fact that belief in a deity leads to the behaviors and poroblems with religion that you have listed. I might agree with your statement more were you to say “religious belief”.

  • 5. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Follow the second link in the post above (the one about Greta Christina’s article referenced in the first point of the above article) to see a response to your comment, Marge.

  • 6. Mike  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:40 am

    The Chaplain,

    This is certainly an interesting article, and one that I appreciate for its articulation and honesty. However, I have to beg the question, given your criteria for a negative view of religion, why doesnt irreligious belief fit these categories in your mind? Lets take a look at the break down of your main points and then line them up with the negatives of irreligious belief.

    The first problem “is that acting on the basis of false beliefs can lead to ill-conceived, even harmful, behavior and decisions.” I can think of a number of examples where this is the case outside of religious institutions. To relegate this problem to that of faith based systems is ludicrous. Some of the bloodiest events in the 20th century were perpetrated by those who led governments that were expressly atheist.

    The second problem “is that believers do not live in vacuums. Their religious beliefs are not always private and those beliefs do affect others, including me, in numerous ways.” Surely you recognize the irony of posting this problem on a website of this nature.

    The third problem is “the persistent entreaty that I respect religious beliefs simply because they are religious.” Again, this is a door that swings both ways. I personally find the refusal of a person to accept even the possibility for mystery to exist in the universe a very odd thing. However, I have an extreme respect for the people that I dialog with.

    While I am certain that you recognize I have made very simple forms of these arguments (for the sake of space), I guess my main point is that the reasons you have laid out for why religion is bad are not nearly as cut and dry as you have presented them.

  • 7. Matt  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Some of the bloodiest events in the 20th century were perpetrated by those who led governments that were expressly atheist.

    I do wish people would stop trying to bring out that tired point. It’s just as bad (and oddly similar) to trying to link the Theory of Evolution to Social Darwinism.
    No large scale dire event was committed, to the best of my knowledge, in the name of atheism which is all the difference. Plenty were carried out in the name of religion while the rest were clearly done just because someone wanted more power or was just plain insane.

    Surely you recognize the irony of posting this problem on a website of this nature.

    I think you’re missing the point. People have a choice to read this website or not. Whereas there are movements, in my areas, to enforce religious belief in various areas of society. From education, the criminal law system and so on – which affects everyone.

  • 8. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Mike,

    The arguments you listed are only valid if religious beliefs are true.

  • 9. Pat  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:08 am

    “the fact remains that there are points at which reason and religion conflict”

    Huh? how so? Sure beliefs, whether religious or not, can conflict with reason but that doesn’t mean that religion necessarily conflicts with reason.

    “The second problem I have with religious belief is that believers do not live in vacuums.”

    True and I’m for not have religion in the political sphere. Just to push back though, nobody lives in a vacuum. We live in a world where people differ in views about many things. When is it okay for someone to take anothers life? Or for the government to do so? Maybe I differ in opinion with the person next to me. Who’s position gets imposed on society. Somone’s does.

    “The third problem I have with religious beliefs is the persistent entreaty that I respect religious beliefs simply because they are religious.”

    I hear this alot, both from the perspective presented here and sometimes from people asking that beliefs of some sort be respected. Someone please tell me what the hell it means to respect a belief? Sounds like meaningless drivel to me.

  • 10. LeoPardus  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Re the following: Folks have posted similar things before, so this isn’t really directed just to Matt.

    Mike: Some of the bloodiest events in the 20th century were perpetrated by those who led governments that were expressly atheist.
    Matt: I do wish people would stop trying to bring out that tired point.

    Why? It’s valid. It reflects badly on the atheist position by pointing out that atheist regimes aren’t perfect bastions of humanity. Why would you want people to stop putting the ugly side of what you believe in front of you?

    No large scale dire event was committed, to the best of my knowledge, in the name of atheism

    Then expand you knowledge. The former Soviet Union was an avowedly atheistic state. It’s leadership carried out a series of efforts directed specifically against the churches in that land, with the purpose of destroying them and the faith they upheld.

    In similar manner, the Chinese government also sought to stamp out churches (and not just Christian ones), by imprisonments, tortures, and killings.

    These actions were indeed carried out by regimes that were atheistic and anti-religion.

    Don’t try to ignore this stuff. To do so, is to invite history to repeat itself. Acknowledge every incidence where atheists, alone or en masse, have been atrocious. Bring it into the fullest light of day, that all may see it, and call it evil, and resolve not to let it happen again.

    there are movements, in my areas, to enforce religious belief in various areas of society. From education, the criminal law system and so on – which affects everyone.

    And there are movements to forbid religion a voice or place in many areas of society, which also affects everyone. Why should any beliefs, or unbeliefs if you will, enjoy a monopoly?

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:30 am

    chaplain:

    As I was reading your post, I noticed that the sort of condemnations you leveled at believers were hardly the exclusive purview of believers. I’ve noticed that plenty of unbelievers fall for hoaxes, or resist any input that doesn’t mesh with their political/philosophical/etc scaffold, or seek to impose their unbelief on others.

    I don’t think religion is the problem. Human arrogance and ignorance and close-mindedness seem to be far more of a consistent problem than anything else I can find.

    And I couldn’t help but notice this statement:
    “All of that is true, but it doesn’t change the underlying fact that theistic belief in any form is mistaken.”

    Too broad and sweeping. And it’s not a ‘fact’. It’s just an opinion. How do we know but that some theists may actually have it right, or pretty close to right? I’m inclined to say, “There is NO god.” but I can’t. Much as I don’t think there is one, I’m stuck with having to say just that, “I think there’s no god…… but I could be wrong.”

  • 12. Matt  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:39 am

    LeoPardus – none of the acts you name were done in the name of atheism. If you actually research the parties in question, you’ll see quite clearly they were nothing more than consolidation of power and control over the populace than an idealogically motivated action.

  • 13. Thinking Ape  |  February 18, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Matt, I don’t think you completely recognize the penetrating reality of LeoPardus’ comment. The point is that what you believe, or sometimes what you do not believe, is going to determine your actions, whether those actions are done explicitly “in the name of” anything.

    The problem is that people don’t recognize that atheism is not a system of belief in itself, but because it appears to be unified against something so powerful, the idea of theism, it is perceived, and perhaps rightly so, to have its own essence. That essence is determined everytime someone who does not believe in a god does anything, whether it is meant to be representative or not.

    Matt, you point out that these atheistic governments were focused on nothing more than a consolidation of power. There are two problems with this defence. Firstly, isn’t this the entire fear of theists? Personally, I would certainly be frightened if a so-called materialistic (or naturalistic) philosophy lead to mass murder because of the devaluation or relativism of human life. Of course, I do not believe that a “materialist” philosophy leads necessarily to that, but as the history of philosophy will show, that has been the case for some people. Secondly, it is hypocritical. Secularists have long lambasted religious atrocities such as the holy wars and the witchhunts, but the funny thing is, how much of it was actually religious? Sure, the propaganda was all for it and many, if not most, fell for it, but who started it? Popes and Kings my friend. It was those who gained from the consolation of power that pushed for such wars. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that all they really wanted was money and land – not “saving the infidels” that they were killing (and therefore sending to hell). Additionally, the witchhunts can be much better explained through psychological methods than religious.

    I am not here to defend religion, but lets keep it real. There have been amazing successes within even the most horrible of religious institutions. Whether the motives were pure or not, the church has fed people, clothed people, and healed people. Sure you could argue that this is because the humanists weren’t given a chance, but who cares? They did it. And believe it or not, many still do.

    The greatest problem with religion today is not the extremists – smoking kills many more people than religious terrorists do (even if you count George W. Bush one of them). The greatest problem with religions are simply that they are ontologically untrue. If you want to argue otherwise, you must refute every individual religion, not some ethereal idea of “Religion.”

  • 14. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 7:01 am

    The ‘atheist’ regimes were not based around athesim. They did not begin as revolutions to oppose god. Infact, these governments were more like cults. Notice that they had a central figure who had absolute power, their orders were never questioned. Even the slightest doubt would be dealt with severely. People had to pledge allegiance to these leaders, not to atheism. Everything centered around the leader. The leader was praised constantly, his portraits adorned buildings and even greetings and salutations invoked his name. They felt religon was a threat to their grasp on power, just like Jehovah felt threatened by Baal and had his followers killed. These movements wanted to wipe out religion to replace god with their leaders as objects of allegiance, to ensure they woud be the only authority. They did not do it because they felt atheism was good and religion bad. These were just cults, based around Mao, Stalin etc. Infact, they are pretty much identical to Christianity, which is a cult based around Jesus. Their atheistic stance was a matter of convenience, to justify their actions.

  • 15. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 7:13 am

    It should also be noted that Jesus replaced God (Jehovah) as the object of allegiance and worship.

  • 16. emceekate  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:09 am

    a stimulating and civil discussion on religion – how refreshing. on atheistic regimes, what about the republican era and the subsequent civil war in spain? churches and organized religion were absolutely a target and they were because the leaders and followers ‘felt atheism was good and religion bad’.

    in any case, i liked your original post, chaplain. succinct, as someone already noted, and thoughtful. not a rant. phew

  • 17. sharah  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Beautifully put.

  • 18. びっくり  |  February 18, 2008 at 10:49 am

    So, do you propose that we eliminate the first amendment and ban religious practice in the US? Really, we should probably set about enforcing that policy worldwide… in the interest of creating a healthy peaceful planet.

  • 19. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Emceekate,
    the Spanish civil war was a political power struggle. Fascists were not trying to wipe out religion. This is the first time I’ve come across anyone saying it had anything to do with imposing atheism.

    Weird named guy/gal,
    Are you being sarcastic?

  • 20. Thinking Ape  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Godamn,

    The ‘atheist’ regimes were not based around athesim. They did not begin as revolutions to oppose god…

    Was this a response to my comment or the original post?
    If it was, I never said the atheist regimes were based around atheism – except that Stalinism was loosely founded on an atheistic philosophy and was vehemently anti-religious. Lets not broaden the definition of religion so much as to make it everything – Stalin certainly had a cult of personality, but if you want to compare it to religion, you could through the Beatles, Britney Spears, the Super Bowl and Starbucks into the classification of the religious.

    Godamn, what do you think of my comments along these lines:

    The problem is that people don’t recognize that atheism is not a system of belief in itself, but because it appears to be unified against something so powerful, the idea of theism, it is perceived, and perhaps rightly so, to have its own essence… Personally, I would certainly be frightened if a so-called materialistic (or naturalistic) philosophy lead to mass murder because of the devaluation or relativism of human life.

    The great thing about atheism is the lack of adherence to any central philosophy. All it means is that the atheist doesn’t believe in God. It doesn’t decipher whether we celebrate life or destroy it. Some of us are humanists, others are nihilists. Stalin was an atheist, whether you like or not, who chose to destroy life for his own ends and he justified it with an materialistic philosophy (he also did take over other nations in order to “export” his Soviet ideals – what were these?).

    There is an even more troubling problem here. What would an “atheistic” government look like? How difference would it be from a “theistic” government? Is America’s gov’t currently theistic? Does Christianity take the blame for the war on Iraq? What if America had an atheist President who wanted to go to war against Iran? Does atheism take the blame? Does it matter why the war is started?

  • 21. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    TA,

    I’m almost afraid..or nervous to ask… but this is what causes my fear to rise when I read people believe I have a diseased mind because I faith in God and I believe His word is the Bible. I recognize this was not your post and don’t attribute it to you – I bring it up for my fear of where this thinking could lead. Isn’t this the same reasoning that ignites anit-semitism? Or am I oversimplfying?

    You said…The problem is that people don’t recognize that atheism is not a system of belief in itself, but because it appears to be unified against something so powerful, the idea of theism, it is perceived, and perhaps rightly so, to have its own essence… Personally, I would certainly be frightened if a so-called materialistic (or naturalistic) philosophy lead to mass murder because of the devaluation or relativism of human life.

    and I thought, “exactly.”

  • 22. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    *because I have faith in God*

  • 23. Thinking Ape  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Michelle,
    I’m heading off to work now, but I would like to respond to you when I get back. Before I do, could you please explain this a little more:

    Isn’t this the same reasoning that ignites anit-semitism?

    And before we discuss this, could you also read my “short blurb on theism vs. atheism – it might explain a lot.

  • 24. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    TA,
    I’m seeing a parallel to the thinking of anti-semites who felt it appropriate to “quarantine” Jewish people because they felt the Jews were “sub-human.” When I read some believe I am diseased with a virus and need to be quarantined because I am a bible-believing God-respecting Christian, I hear traces of this thinking popping up once again.

    Yes, I’ll read it. Thanks ;)

  • 25. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    TA:
    I remember reading your post at the time it was published. I felt it was fair and balanced. This is why I am asking the question
    of you. However, your conclusion:

    An individual prone to do unethical deeds will do them regardless of their belief or unbelief in the supernatural.

    An individual prone to ignorance will be ignorant despite their belief or unbelief in the supernatural.

    An individual prone to depression and despair will be unhappy in spite of their religious adherence, or lack thereof.

    I do not completely agree with because I know without the Lord I would be committing terrible, unethical deeds and would be in a deep, perhaps comatose-like depression. Yes, medication has helped with the depression, but not to the extent that my worship of God has healed me. These are the miracles I attribute to Jesus in my life. I shared some of this on my most recent blog, “I’m Puny.”

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Michelle:

    I’m seeing a parallel to the thinking of anti-semites who felt it appropriate to “quarantine” Jewish people because they felt the Jews were “sub-human.”

    BINGO! You got it exactly. Now if only some of the vehement atheist crowd would stop and look real hard at that. And see themselves.

  • 27. iris  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    I suppose the terms ‘brights’ and ‘dims’ apply here. I don’t think many atheist think of theists as ‘subhuman’; as many people on this blog have said they have alot of initial anger at feeling duped, disillusioned or even abused by religious institutions and the ideaologies themselves.

    I really think people like Hitchens (delightfully anti-Muslim) have a vile and pompous attitude when it comes to dissecting religion in general. He and Dawkins both have this irritating Old Boys Club scholarly feel about them. i think the “New Atheist” movement would be given a militant, arrogant label nearly regardless of their actual behavior, however. Flaunting God!

  • 28. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    LeoPardus,

    Thanks for the affirmation. I thought I was hearing something more. Man’s inhumanity to man is a very real, and very frightening thing.

  • 29. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Michelle,

    Since my post is being discussed, I’ll jump in here.

    You are taking my post as “rhetorical argument” and not as opinion as I’ve clearly stated before. You are also committing the slippery slope error of taking my thoughts where I never intended them to go. I rationalize fundamentalism as a disease of the mind because of my own experience with it and I find that it helps me recover from it. When I use the term “disease” and “virus” I mean it entirely as a technique for cult-like behavior and not a mandate for anyone to follow.

    Nowhere do I advocate “quarantines” or “Antisemitism.” In fact Christians have been notorious anti-semites since Jesus lived and died, but that’s another post. I, more than anyone, know the dangers of grouping people into categories, since I used to do it myself. My posts are not proscriptions, but my experience. I also never lumped ALL fundamentalists together, only those who wish that the whole world fall under the “authority” of a set of scriptures or an infallible human being. This, to me, is just as fearful a scenario as anything else you can dream up.

  • 30. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Oh, and Michelle, no one is telling you what to believe. You can believe whatever you want to believe. No one’s forcing you either way.No one will lock you away if you don’t believe this or that. In fact, I’d be more afraid of Christians than unbelievers. Christians have a good track record of “quarantining” those who don’t believe correctly. In fact, if you are that fearful, why are you reading this blog? I think your own fears are getting the better of you. For your own sanity, you should probably stop.

  • 31. karen  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    n this case, a man who was suffering from mental illness heard the voice of god telling him to slaughter his family. He responded by killing his teen aged daughter. Fortunately, his wife was not home at the time of the murder so she was spared. Prior to that event, the man had told members of his church that he was haunted by demons, was hearing voices and so on. The church people believed that the man was extraordinarily blessed to have such experiences!

    Thanks for the post, chaplain. I agree that this “over-spiritualizing” tendency is very dangerous and I saw it often in the Christian communities I was a part of.

    I’ve probably told this one before, but for the newbies: Around the time my younger son was born another mom in my adult Sunday school class also had a son. She very quickly sank into a morose state, and over the next few weeks deteriorated well past the typical “exhausted and overwhelmed new mom” state. Within a couple of months, she was constantly tearful and talking about suicide.

    The response of our women’s prayer group was to pray for her, lay hands on her and admonish her to trust god more. Now, no one was harsh with her, but we all assumed hers was a spiritual attack and she was being tested by satan for her commitment to her husband and child.

    We were a group of well-educated, young women in Southern California! This was before Andrea Yates, but we’d all heard from our doctors and from women’s magazines about post-partum depression. Yet we ignored the possibility of mental imbalance because we were so used to seeing the world through a “spiritual warfare” paradigm.

    That sounds like exactly what happened in the murder tragedy that Brian describes so heart-wrenchingly. In my friend’s situation, she did finally talk to her doctor who very promptly had her consult with a psychiatrist who put her on medication and very likely averted a tragedy. The proper medicine alleviated the depression within a number of days – something our fervent prayers had totally failed at doing over six months or so. In Brian’s friend’s case, the proper diagnosis was apparently never made.

    The fact that religion blinds us to the natural causes and modern remedies to so many ailments is definitely a strike against it.

  • 32. karen  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    So, do you propose that we eliminate the first amendment and ban religious practice in the US? Really, we should probably set about enforcing that policy worldwide… in the interest of creating a healthy peaceful planet.

    Who in the world ever proposed that? I think you’re jumping hysterically far, far beyond anything I’ve seen any atheist here or elsewhere propose. The only remedy that applies here is education: Teaching people (not only religious but all people) about critical thinking and skepticism.

    The idea that Christians would be rounded up and persecuted in some apocalyptic near future is a persistent and ridiculous urban legend popular in some fundy circles, particularly with End Times believers. It is utter nonsense; please do not perpetuate it.

    I suppose the terms ‘brights’ and ‘dims’ apply here.

    The terms as proposed are/were “brights” and “supers.” I’m critical of the entire idea that one can dictate what labels people will use, and I think the Brights have quietly died a well-deserved death, but no one ever suggested that religious people should be called “dims.”

    I really think people like Hitchens (delightfully anti-Muslim) have a vile and pompous attitude when it comes to dissecting religion in general. He and Dawkins both have this irritating Old Boys Club scholarly feel about them.

    Perhaps. But neither of them has been elected or appointed to lead any organized atheist group nor does he speak for atheists in general. They are pundits and authors and many, many atheists do not agree with their tone or approach. The nice thing about atheism, as opposed to religion, is that I don’t have to embrace either of them as a “brother” or try to justify all their thinking because they’re being guided by a magical force that comes from our shared theology.

    i think the “New Atheist” movement would be given a militant, arrogant label nearly regardless of their actual behavior, however. Flaunting God!

    Exactly.

  • 33. LeoPardus  |  February 18, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    The comment has been made that anti-religious activities in the former Soviet Union and in China were not done “in the name of atheism”. I knew this was incorrect but needed a little time to pinpoint some info.

    There are far too many sources to cite them all, but here are just a few, of different types, that should provide the wiling reader with the historical facts.

    You may begin with simply perusing the Wikipedia articles on the Soviet Union just to get some outlines on the matter. Then on to “real” sources.

    For a view from the Marxist side try: http://www.marxist.com/ especially – http://www.marxist.com/religion-soviet-union170406-6.htm

    The book, Religious Policy in the Soviet Union, edited by Sabrina Petra Ramet is probably the best job of pulling together the top scholars on the matter.

    If anyone has good encyclopedias, or access to encyclopedia sites (Cambridge, Encarta, Brittainica, etc.) you could look into those too.

    Like I said, just a few for those who want to look.

  • 34. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    TA,
    I should have been clearer. I gave too much weight to Stalin and ignored the communism that was central to Stalins actions. What I meant was that atheism was not the cause of Stalins actions. Yes, I agree, he was an atheist. But why do you assume that the rejection of god leads to the devaluement of life? Atheism does not reject morality, either in a relative or absolute sense and neither does it endorse or form the basis of the materialistic beliefs of Stalin. Stalin was a communist, his actions were to propagate communist ideology. Atheism was one of the beliefs communists chose to adopt. Communism is not a result of atheism. It was communist ideology combined with Stalins paranoia and intolerance for dissent as well as a black and white view of the world that led to all the death and destruction. Infact, his extreme dogmaticism may have been a result of his childhood spent in an orthodox seminary. Communism is what united Stalin and his followers, not atheism. Christianity is not to blame for Iraq just because Bush is Christian and atheism is not to blame for Stalins actions just because he was an atheist. It is communism as well as Stalin himself that are to blame.

  • 35. Godamn  |  February 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    The reason that we consider some wars religious is because they were justified by the religious dogma, which orders non believers to be killed, and were done expressly for the purpose of spreading the religion, doing gods work, getting rid of the competition. Whatever the motive had been, the justification was found in the religious beliefs of the people and the dogma preached by the religion. Religion explicitly made the wars moral and made it a duty to kill non believers. On the other hand, we dont blame Christians for Hitlers actions, but Hitler used religion to justify the holocaust to the German people. Atheism never justified any killing and I think that is the issue – whether it has played a role or not, not whether it was part of the belief system of the perpetrator or not.

  • 36. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    MOI,

    I wasn’t referring to your post, I was referring to these links:

    Here are some links to the “fundamentalism as disease” theory, so that you know, I’m not the only one saying it:

    http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/tik0709/frontpage/neuroscience
    http://www.prodigalsheep.com/archives/2005/12/a_viral_view_of_religious_fundamentalism_1.htm
    http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2002/12/deconversion.php

  • 37. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    MOI,

    I see in my first comment I mentioned your post. I only meant to say to Thinking Ape that I was not attributing that post to him. I became disturbed when I read the links you gave. Forgive me if I assumed you felt the same as those writers.

  • 38. Stephen P  |  February 18, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    May I suggest that the primary issue here is not religion per se but dogma: any form of belief where people are expected to unquestioningly accept the “party line”, in the absence of any evidence that will stand up to close inspection.

    The problem thus includes religious dogma, but also nationalist and communist dogma. And while the constant bringing up of the Soviet Union by theists is indeed a tired old argument – communism has more in common with theocracy than with modern secular democracy – atheists do sometimes bring it upon themselves by arguing poorly.

    Actually I would be inclined to call myself an adogmatist rather than an atheist, were it not for the fact that hardly anyone would know what I was talking about. Perhaps “humanist” is after all a better term than “atheist”.

    Having said that, there are good reasons for making religion the main focus of discussion.

    If we are talking about the USA (as in this group I think we usually are) communist dogma has never been a threat, in spite of McCarthy’s virulent claims to the contrary. The communist military machine was a threat, but not communist dogma. And nationalist dogma has been a threat only to a limited extent (though it is now becoming worse, with Bush and his friends throwing epithets like “unpatriotic” at anyone who criticises them). Religious dogma is the biggest issue, for the reasons that the Chaplain gives … and for one other.

    Nationalism and communism may offer a comfortable life to their supporters and a miserable – and short – life to their opponents. But only religion (or at least some religions) makes a claim to reach beyond the grave, with its promise of eternal life and threat of eternal hell. In this respect religion is more insidious than either nationalism or communism.

  • 39. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Michelle,
    Just because I provide the links merely to show that others write about a particular topic, it doesn’t mean I condone their conclusions. Forgiven and forgotten.

  • 40. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    ((Trying to be comprehensible without being overly repetitive.))

    I’d like to echo Karen’s comment that the appropriate response to the problem’s the chaplain listed in the original post we’re all commenting on is education in critical thinking, not quarantine, law-making or violent revolutions. Stephen P’s descriptions of the problems of dogma underscores well why education in critical reasoning is the best response.

  • 41. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Michelle,

    You said, I do not completely agree with because I know without the Lord I would be committing terrible, unethical deeds and would be in a deep, perhaps comatose-like depression.

    That’s really scary. I hope I’m misunderstanding you. I’ve read your I’m Puny post in your journal, and I’m still not sure I understand. How does God keep you from being either evil or comatose, and why would the thought that God is not there drive you to be either.

    I’m depressed and hurt by the thought that there is not, or may not be a God, but if there is no God, then the good I have done, I have done without God. Therefore, I can keep doing that good. I am still me. There is no need to commit terrible, unethical deeds. With or without God or God’s commands to love others, people still need love and compassion.

  • 42. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Yes, Quester, it is very scary.

    I was asked this on another blog – Confused Christian where did you go? He asked Christians to answer the question if God did not exist what would you do? I said I would be lost. I’ve seen too many horrific things, and have had too many horrific experiences to want to continue in this life without God. I am very weak, the only strength I have found is in the Lord.

    It is a testimony most do not want to hear, or will blow-off by calling it “silly,” any number of responses could be given to not deal with the Truth I have come to know. God has kept me alive and continues to do so through His Love and Word in my life.

    I know the depth of my depravity and the evil that is in the world.

  • 43. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Not silly, scary. It’s like Dumbo’s magic feather, but instead of giving you the confidence to fly, it either gives you the hope you need to live or the strength not to give into depraved urgings. Whether or not I believe that the feather is magical, I think I’d still be scared by that confession. Testimony is too positive a word.

    Do you believe God has created you with a purpose? Has God gifted you with anything to fulfill that purpose?

  • 44. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Most definitely God has created me with a purpose and has gifted me to fulfill it. Coming to that realization is what kept me from hurting myself or others. It is a testimony because I’m nothing like I was – I am truly changed. That “bullfrogs and butterflies” kind of change.

    I began to study the scriptures – when I did a study on the Names of God, I saw the purpose of my life.

  • 45. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Quester, I lived my life in fear, until the change. God took the fear of others and myself away. I do have hope and am known to be quite joyful, despite my circumstances.

  • 46. societyvs  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    You know what is really quite interesting all the comments – the comparison of community vs individualism. I am reading all the comments and as I keep going through them there seems to be some reticent belief that Christians function as a whole community while atheists are individualistic. This is my assumption from reading about 30+ comments…and in fact, that doesn’t play out in reality.

    However, ideally I think we are all part of communities within the places we reside (whether rural or city) and we need to develop ways of living with one another – irregardless if you think individualistically or not (and people on both side of these ideologies are very individual orientated – since this is the norm in the West). However, I think we are all in communities whether we know or not and we need to be respective towards one another. We can place blame all day long about historical events – but what are we doing now to deal with such issues? How’s about dropping the blame game for the simple idea of respecting/enhancing our communities. (The blame seems to be coming from both sides).

    Now religion in and of itself does not make one a part of a community – God knows I don’t even attend a church but I do live in a large community that encompasses about 100-200 people or more (in daily living). People from every walk of life and persuasion are in that group – including atheists, tradional faiths, variety of diverse cultures, and various sexual orientations. The key is not what we have as a label in this dynamic but how we treat one another and this effect in the larger community (how it effects us and our relations one with another).

    I am not an exclusivist about my faith (even as a self professing Christian) but I am a realist about it – and I know what is laid out in front of me – my individualism does impact my community and I know full well I am in a community of peoples. I have as my mandate from my faith system to ‘treat people like I want to be treated (and better even)’ – how is this even remotely detrimental as an idea?

    I think we need to start realizing the obvious here – atheist and deist – you live in the same communities and you both have the same responsibility put upon you to upkeep it. This is going to take some work but I would ask both sides to consider how their exclusions (or ways) are dividing the humanity around you?

  • 47. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Michelle, I’m glad you have been relieved of your fears. Please tell me, what purpose do you feel you have been created with, as far as you can see through the dark glass? And what gifts do you have that allow you to fulfill that purpose?

    For myself, I believe I have strong communication skills and a sense of humour that aid me in teaching, mediating and spreading joy.

  • 48. trancefixed  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Problem One – “Acting on the basis of religious beliefs can lead to harmful decisions”

    Acting on the basis of religious beliefs can lead to harmful decisions in the same way acting on the basis of science, personal experience and peer pressure can lead to harmful decisions. There will always be the 1% who are irrational and dangerous and use their beliefs as their reasoning.

    However, they are in the minority, so to dismiss religion because some nut-jobs use it as justification is as logical as dismissing marriage because a serial killer blames his parents. It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Problem Two – “Religious beliefs affect those around them”

    Yes they do, this is unavoidable. So do your beliefs that religion is bad. There are those of an impressionable nature who will always be swayed by whoever shouts loudest.

    The problem is not when someone has a belief and shares it with you. The problem is when someone has a belief, screams it in your face that they are right, and refuses to consider that they are wrong. No room for debate, my way or the highway.

    This is wrong whether it is preached from the pulpit, or temple, the Internet, Congress or your front garden. You are entitled to your beliefs and I am to mine. As for who is right, that should not be decided by who shouts the loudest.

    Problem Three – “Have to respect a belief simply because it is religious”

    No, you have to respect a belief simply because it’s a belief. If a belief is treated as fact, and no other beliefs are tolerated then that is unacceptable.

    You must respect other people’s beliefs, whatever and however extreme they may sound. Where we must draw the line is where one belief affects the rights of one person or group of people.

    Based on your three above arguments, I have to disagree. The problem isn’t religion. The problem is a highly vocal minority who follow them.

  • 49. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I knew I was meant to be a teacher at an early age and couldn’t wait to be a mom. Fortunately I was able to be a teacher at 22 and had my first child at 27. I thought I was “good to go,” until I became ill. I had to resign being a teacher of elementary children but God graciously opened the door for me to begin teaching bible studies, at church and in my neighborhood. My first child is extremely gifted – not just prejudiced here – at the top of the IQ spread. He couldn’t be in a public school setting due to his hyperactivity and we were too poor to put him in a school to meet his academic needs. I had to homeschool but I wasn’t scared to do it, since I was a certified teacher.

    Anyway, long story short…fast forward two more children and my disease becoming more debilitating…I now spend most of my days in bed. Not what I like to do – but it is what it is…

    So I blog. I know God created me to be a mom and a teacher, and I know He allowed me to get the training I needed to do those things, and then He added the joy of being a Bible Study leader for many years. He brought me through my sufferings (which are way too personal to share) and has allowed my illness, yet I know He has a purpose for it all.

  • 50. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Sorry, everyone. That story was a response to Quester.

  • 51. Quester  |  February 18, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Thank-you, Michelle.

    Sorry, everyone. That story was a response to Quester.

    Indeed! If any rules have been broken by taking this thread off topic, I am the one at fault, here. I am not being sarcastic. Michelle’s comment worried me and I responded here and asked her to as well. Perhaps I should have taken this discussion elsewhere. If there is a problem, or if I caused a problem, please let me know!

    That said, Michelle, I am saddened to hear about your suffering and am glad you’ve found forums to teach and learn. I do not want to add to your suffering at all. But I would like to ask, if you were to decide at one point that there is no God and never had been, would that take away the teaching and mothering you have done, your ability to learn and to teach, your ability to express yourself through the written word or your love for people and knowledge? You have worth as an individual outside of what worth might be externally granted you. Your worth is intrinsic.

    I hope that wherever your life or faith journey takes you that you will be able to value yourself and choose to act in the context of that value.

  • 52. Michelle  |  February 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Quester,
    The gifts I have are God-given. I did not create myself. He gifted me and showed me the purpose of my life.

    If I may be so bold, you did not gift yourself either. God gave you the ability to communicate, and the sense of humour that helps you to teach, mediate and spread joy. You may have chosen to hone those skills but your Creator made you the way you are for His purposes.

    I do pray God’s blessings to be upon you, especially at this time of mourning.

  • 53. Thinking Ape  |  February 19, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Oh my, I go to work for the day and the topic takes off. Sorry Michelle that I couldn’t get back to you sooner. Now to go all the way back to comment 21…

    …this is what causes my fear to rise when I read people believe I have a diseased mind because I faith in God and I believe His word is the Bible. I recognize this was not your post and don’t attribute it to you – I bring it up for my fear of where this thinking could lead.

    It is my fear as well whenever someone accuses another of being intellectually, mentally, or physically decrepit. However, I believe this is normal human behaviour, whether justifiable or not, to challenge our opponents, in any circumstance, in various ways – even name calling. I for one, have been called far worst by people of both Christian and non-Christian persuasions (I particular get someone offended when someone who “Experiences Jesus” says I’m going to hell for not being able to “Experience Jesus”). I chalk this one up to human nature – with or without a belief in God.

    Isn’t this the same reasoning that ignites anit-semitism?

    As someone pointed out later, Christianity that has been the perpetrator party of anti-Semitism for the last two thousand years. Again, I chalk this up to human nature, whether with a belief in God or without. The problem is, Christianity can bring this up whenever the society sways against the Jewish people – much of the New Testament is thoroughly anti-Semitic, and don’t even get me started on the “church fathers.” Furthermore, there has been nothing to suggest that atheists believe anyone is “sub-human” – quite the opposite, their world-view necessitates that they believe everyone is equally human. The problem that many Christians have, in fact, with atheism is that they elevate humanity’s status (hence secular “humanism”). Some Christians even accuse humanists as “worshiping man.” While I don’t go that far, I believe having a healthy self-conscience is better for our minds and bodies than persistently referring to our selves as worthless, sinful, decrepit entities.

    You then explained your agreement with my reservations:

    Personally, I would certainly be frightened if a so-called materialistic (or naturalistic) philosophy lead to mass murder because of the devaluation or relativism of human life.

    I am addressing here my contemplation on the famous “Noble Lie” – do the common folk need a “god,” which represents some sort of universal police officer, to be civilized? This has been a problem in philosophy longer than Christianity has been around. The Greek philosophers who doubted or even ridiculed their gods still wondered whether could persist without their fraudulent Olympic gods.
    Notice that I put “I would be frightened…” Not “I am frightened.” This is purely based on my experience. Not only have I yet to witness an overall immorality of atheists, but I have found their company and lack of constantly referring to God (in the way evangelicals do, not other Christians) somewhat refreshing.

    In your reply to me you said,

    I do not completely agree with because I know without the Lord I would be committing terrible, unethical deeds and would be in a deep, perhaps comatose-like depression.

    I doubt very much that you would be committing terrible, unethical deeds. Perhaps you mean deeds that your current world-view considers as immoral. However, What you might now consider immoral, I may simply consider to be unhealthy. But again, this doesn’t say much about the existence of God or the issues of morality. Personally, I find my actions and ideas regarding homosexuality, when I was a Christian, were disgustingly unethical. This leads us back, somewhat, to the idea of an imaginary universal police officer and the Noble Lie. And about maturity.
    Reading the Greek Stoics and Cynics were a huge eye opener for me when I was an evangelical. I would suggest some of their works.

    Yes, medication has helped with the depression, but not to the extent that my worship of God has healed me. These are the miracles I attribute to Jesus in my life. I shared some of this on my most recent blog, “I’m Puny.”

    I suppose there is no way to really validate your first sentence. I can’t say what your life is like, and you don’t know where your self-ability ends and “God’s influence” starts.
    I must admit one thing kind of bugs me about your last sentence there: your blog’s title. Christians, as I mention, often refer to their self-worthlessness (i.e. I’m Puny). I have even heard Christians refer to themselves as being “diseased” without God’s grace. Now here you are worrying about others agreeing, albeit for different reasons. I am not justifying or agreeing with either. But you can’t have it both ways – this is a purely Americans Christians: you want to call yourself worthless in front of God, but are morally or spiritually superior to others.

  • 54. Thinking Ape  |  February 19, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Godamn said in comment 34,

    Yes, I agree, [Stalin] was an atheist. But why do you assume that the rejection of god leads to the devaluement of life?

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear – you are preaching to the choir. My language was probably a little too subtle. I don’t believe atheism, that is the rejection of god, leads to the devaluation of life. I will blockquote what I said earlier to take a closer look:

    Personally, I would certainly be frightened if a so-called materialistic (or naturalistic) philosophy lead to mass murder because of the devaluation or relativism of human life.

    As I stated to Michelle above, I said “I would,” not “I am.” Before I on, maybe check out what I wrote to her. I believe that atheism CAN lead to the devaluation of human life, likewise, Christianity can, and more often than not, does as well. Think about, you and I might be civilized rational people who do not believe in a theistic police officer, but there are many people out there completely apathetic or even passionate in their disbelief that do live that ultimate “materialistic” fantasy. And I am sure they are just as miserable as those theists who live the same worthless nihilistic lifestyle.

  • 55. Thinking Ape  |  February 19, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Michelle,
    I am sure everyone here would definitely agree that our gifts are God-given, so long as you could provide evidence for it that is not subjective and purely anecdotal. I myself have searched for the evidence ever since losing my faith.

    The problem with anecdotal evidence is that it is completely subjective and offers very little truth, only opinions. I could come to you and give you my life story about how I had quite a lonely childhood, despite a loving family, and how my quest into Christian apologetics led me down a road of depression, but no where would I ever accuse my Christian education of depression or existential angst. I tell you this only because it does not matter how great your family is or how ardently you believe in your faith.

    What matters is the desire to be a better human being – sometimes this requires a change of any sort. For you, you needed someone or something you cannot really comprehend nor give any evidence for. For me, I needed to stop blaming my life issues on spiritual problems and stop relying on something other than myself for strength. I fully admit, however, that I could be completely delusional, but until someone can show me that I do not fight on my own strength but with the help of a divine being, I will continue to doubt. The way I see it, and I could be wrong, is that if something good happens in your life (healthy decisions, strength, etc.) then God gets the credit; if something bad happens in your life (poor decisions, weakness, etc.) it is your fault. Why so? Couldn’t you just as easily say your strength is actually yours while your weaknesses are Gods? After all, he created you.
    Sorry if that was callous, but it is a logical conclusion.

  • 56. TheNorEaster  |  February 19, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Karen:

    As you had requested, I am just stopping by to let you know that I did write that Essay about my friend’s suicide. It’s called “A Dark & Stormy Night” and you can find it at “thenoreaster.wordpress.com”

  • 57. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 19, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Naming religion as the culprit in bad behavior and calling fundamentalism a disease is far different than calling individual people names. I thought that people could still distinguish between attacks on societal entities and cult-like movements and personal attacks, but I can see that I was wrong.

  • 58. Michelle  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:59 am

    TA:
    Thanks for your thoughtful and extensive answer to my questions. I appreciate the time you took and the thoroughness of your response.

    ~Michelle.

  • 59. karen  |  February 19, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    No, you have to respect a belief simply because it’s a belief. If a belief is treated as fact, and no other beliefs are tolerated then that is unacceptable.

    You must respect other people’s beliefs, whatever and however extreme they may sound.

    Sorry, but – no. I don’t have to “respect” the belief that black-skinned people are inferior and sub-human. I don’t have to “respect” the belief that disabled people committed bad acts in a previous life and are being punished in this world by god so they shouldn’t be helped to find cures.

    Not only do I disrespect those beliefs, I abhor them and I hope that all decent, thinking people would do the same.

    I think what you’re doing here is leaving out an important distinction between “tolerance” and “respect.” Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This becomes a freedom of expression issue. Do we hate it when neo-Nazis want to march with their message of anti-Semitism and racism on Martin Luther King day? Of course, we do. We don’t respect their beliefs.

    But if we are supporters of the First Amendment, we can’t censor their right to express their beliefs, no matter how abhorrent they are. Of course, we may feel a responsibility to counter their arguments and educate people about how wrong they are, but if we believe in free speech we support their right to march.

  • 60. karen  |  February 19, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you, NorEaster! I’ll go read it now. :-)

  • 61. trancefixed  |  February 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Nice bit of editing there Karen! You missed the following sentence:

    “Where we must draw the line is where one belief affects the rights of one person or group of people”

    I agree you shouldn’t respect racist’s views because, as I said, these views affect the rights of one person or group of people.

    I don’t respect neo-Nazi’s views, nor did I state that I do.

    Apart from taking a few sentences in isolation and running with them, did you agree or disagree with the rest of my comment?

  • 62. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Karen’s right. Everyone has a right to voice their beliefs, but not all beliefs are equally beneficial. It’s up to us to speak up about harmful beliefs, especially ones that try to usurp an individual’s right to make their own decisions or tries to corrupt the political process for their own ends.

  • 63. karen  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Trance, I did not mean to do any deceptive editing of your post.

    I saw your statement and I simply disagree. You said:

    “Where we must draw the line is where one belief affects the rights of one person or group of people”

    Okay, so what about the person who believes that invisible unicorns live in the forests of Borneo? What about the person who believes that crystals contain special energy and healing power? Or that vortexes exist in “sacred” parts of the earth where the mystical world intersects with the physical world?

    Technically, these beliefs don’t seem to deprive any individual or group of any particular rights. Are you saying that I have to respect these beliefs, despite their obvious silliness and completely arbitrary nature?

    I think you’re saying that if it doesn’t hurt someone, we need to respect it. No thanks, not for me. As I said above, I will defend the free speech right to express even a belief that is objectionable to me, but I don’t feel any obligation whatsoever to respect a belief that is blatantly ridiculous just because someone holds that belief dearly.

  • 64. karen  |  February 19, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    NorEaster, I can’t seem to log on at your site to comment, but I wanted to tell you that I read your story and I’m very sorry for all the trouble and sorrow you have gone through recently.

    My particular sympathies over the loss of your friend. :-((((

    One thing I noticed is that at one point in your essay you try to persuade some others not to blame themselves for the terrible things that have happened but that are out of their control. But then you turn around and seemingly blame yourself in some part for the suicide of your friend.

    I think you should take your own advice. You provided a safe space where she could talk about her past, and it sounds like that was something rare in her life. You were also there for her whenever you could be. None of us can expect to do more than is possible for us, and it sounds from your story that you did your best.

    Please do not blame yourself or beat yourself up, NorEaster. What has happened, has happened, and letting your own life be consumed by grief and blame simply won’t undo the past. Your description of your own situation is worrisome. It sounds to me like you are in a serious depression. Please seek out some professional help.

  • 65. TheNorEaster  |  February 20, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Karen:

    I don’t know why you can’t log on to my site to comment. First time I’ve heard of that problem. So for the rest of you, let me apologize for commenting about my work on this site, but it seems this is the only way I can respond to Karen’s comment.

    You are correct in what you say, Karen, in that I shouldn’t blame myself for what happened. My mind knows that, but my emotions tell a different story. Grief does that, especially with suicide. The anniversary has just passed so all sorts of emotions came back. That’s why I got caught up in the depression. But the sun always comes up tomorrow so, like David said in Psalms, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Good advice there. And that Essay was a great purging of my grief so I know I’m already on my way out of the “anniversary” depression, taking better care of myself, laughing a whole lot more, hanging out with friends, &c.

    I debated for quite some time if I wanted to publish that Essay, but eventually I realized that…Well, I’m hoping that maybe it will help others see what suicide does to those left behind.

    Thanks for your concern, Karen. It is greatly appreciated.

  • 66. karen  |  February 20, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    You’re very welcome, NorEaster. I’m glad that writing it helped you begin to move beyond the depression. :-)

  • 67. Ha Tikvah  |  May 16, 2008 at 11:11 am

    My personal perspective on it is that I’m NOT religious – I’m a born again, sold out for Jesus, bible believing, redeemed sinner who has found the Truth and tries to abide by it, and not the rules of men no matter how well intentioned they may be. The Law was ultimately given to reveal how sinful man actually is in comparison to a Holy and Just God before Whom one day we will all stand, but Jesus came to show not only how “religion” had stepped in to prevent man from truly putting God first and following Him alone, but to also provide the ONLY way back to having a full and forgiven relationship with God as He desires. Man needs to recognise that he can never please God in his own right no matter how many rules he thinks he can hold to that seem good – “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Proverbs14:12. Blessings, TKR :)

  • 68. LeoPardus  |  May 16, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Ha Tikvah:

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!

    One of the funniest posts around here in some time.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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