Next meeting WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21
Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durang
Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM. Discussion starts at 6:30
The discussion topic for this month:
Well, how embarrassing! Members at the August meeting failed to suggest a topic for September’s meeting! So, I’ll step into the breach and suggest a few topics that I think would make for good general discussions. I’ve felt for a long time that we should focus more of our discussions on what could be called, for lack of a better term, the ‘world view’ of Atheists and how the theistic world perceives people like us. So I spent some time reviewing Christian and Atheist websites and have come up with several ideas for group discussions, to be used either this month or at a future date.
Suggested Topic #1
The first proposed topic is a set of questions, culled from the Christian web sites,that theists would like answered by Atheists like us.
I think it would be good if we had a ready answer for such ‘gotcha’ questions when they crop up:
- If you don’t believe in God, what do you think will happen when you die?
- If you don’t believe in God, how can you say that you are moral?
- Since you don’t have morals, do Atheists believe that they can do anything they wish?
- Since you don’t believe in God/Anything, what do you live for? What gives meaning to your (empty) lives?
- If God didn’t make the universe, where did the universe come from?
- What happens if you (Atheists) are wrong about God?
- Why do you Atheists hate God? Or: Why are you Atheists so angry?
- Have you (Atheists) even read the Bible?
- You aren’t really an Atheist, you are agnostic
- You Atheists say that you hate religion, but isn’t Atheism itself a religion?
Since I won’t be able to attend this month’s meeting, I will now present a brief cheat-sheet of my answers to the above questions:
- If your fear of hell is the only thing keeping you from a life of crime, then you may have a morality problem of your own.
- Belief in the worth and dignity of each individual human life and the hope that, since we recognize that our existence is fleeting and precious, we make the most of our brief lives and leave the world a better place than we found it.
- Don’t know. But saying that an invisible magician poofed it into existence is not an Answer.
- See #1.
- We don’t hate God since we do not believe in the existence of God. But, one reason we are frustrated, which is not the same as ‘angry’, is that Theists (particularly in the U.S.) are trying to hijack Science and are actively trying to supplant science curricula in schools with religious nonsense. Witness ‘Noah’s Ark’ in Kentucky which, benefiting from a state tax loophole, purports to be a ‘science-based’ display that tells gullible children that dinosaurs lived concurrently with human beings. If you have to ask why this is annoying and dangerous, you won’t understand any further explanation.
- In fact, several surveys, including this one by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life ( http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2010/09/28/130191248/atheists-and-agnostics-know-more-about-bible-than-religious ), conclude that Atheists score higher than Theists in tests of religious literacy. My guess is that this is due to the fact that Atheists have done more critical thinking and research into the topic than the Christian-in-the-street who was born into their ‘faith’ and who haven’t taken the time or energy to question it. Reversing the question, I would like to ask Christians (in particular) if they’ve ever read a book about Atheism or a book about the Science behind the theory of evolution by natural selection. For example, a book by Dawkins (The Greatest Show on Earth, which explains ‘evolution’ in exacting detail) or Hitchens (God is Not Great). Further, I would like to ask Christians if they have ever read the sacred texts of other religions, such as the Quran. If not, why not? Theists should explain why, since it’s easy for them to dismiss other religious sacred books, they invest their belief in their own ancient texts? Here is a link to John W. Loftus’ Outsider Test of Faith that encourages Believers to judge their own theological dogma using the same criteria with which they judge other religious traditions: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/05/the-outsider-test-for-faith-and-how-to-take-it/
- Shut up. Don’t tell me what I am.
- As one commentator on the web said: “Atheism isn’t a religion just as ‘Off” isn’t a TV channel”. Atheists do not believe in superstitions, gods, saints, sprites, imps, elves, angels, demons, devils or anything that is not subject to falsification.
Suggested Topic #2
The second suggested topic comes from Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist. He suggests that we Atheists should be careful about our language and he offers the following ‘things Atheists should not say”. What do you think?
Atheists should NOT SAY…
- “…I ‘lost’ my faith”. As if you misplaced your belief in God and your Atheism is some sort of accident. Better to say: “I grew out of my faith” or ”I discarded my faith” or “I no longer believe…”.
- “…Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. Mehta points out that there isn’t a shred of evidence for the existence of God, much less extraordinary proof. So ANY proof would do…
- “…I don’t believe in God”. This is misleading because there is the chance that this phrase indicates that you reject a God who nonetheless exists. Better to say: “I don’t believe in the EXISTENCE of …God”.
- “…Religion doesn’t make any sense”. Implies that you, the Atheist, are simply confused by religion and/or haven’t taken the time to study it. A Theist hears this phrase and concludes that you haven’t studied his religion sufficiently to understand it. Better to say, “Religious dogma is ILLOGICAL or CONTRADICTORY”. This indicates that you’ve studied the dogma in question and have come to a logical conclusion having fully researched the topic.
- “…Tax the churches”. While this is a valid sentiment, what we Atheists really want is for tax-exempt religious organizations to follow the laws that apply to all other ‘non-profit’ organizations with regard to reporting the disposition of the many millions of dollars they collect from the faithful. As it stands, religious organizations raise boggling amounts of money that disappears without any transparency, often to the financial benefit of the ‘pastors’ and other administrators of the religious organizations.
Suggested Topic #3
How should we name ourselves? What’s wrong with using the term ‘Atheist’ to describe our philosophy of Life? Is ‘Agnostic’ just a cop out? What will be the effect of using the term ‘Atheist’ on the public at large?
Suggested Topic #4
The final discussion topic I offer is a discussion of the following statement: “Christianity is a monotheistic religion”. My take is that Christianity is, in reality, a poly-theistic religion beginning with the incomprehensible notion that there are three, separate gods (Father, Son, Holy ‘Ghost’) combined into a single Godhead. (If you think quantum physics is illogical, try three ‘gods’ in one!) Aside from that logical train wreck, Christianity also believes in Satan who (apparently) is also immortal, ethereal, powerful and an active agent in our physical world. And don’t get me started on the ‘saints’ who have the power to intercede with God on our behalf if they are successfully propitiated with prayer or sacrifice. What are saints if not lesser gods who are part of the Christian pantheon, similar to the many gods of ancient Rome or Greece?
Please discuss amongst yourselves!