Light a Candle for the Atheist – by Daniel Boone Savage
Savage has written a very good book. I highly recommend it. It can be bought and downloaded at Amazon.
Light a Candle for the Atheist – by Daniel Boone Savage
Savage has written a very good book. I highly recommend it. It can be bought and downloaded at Amazon.
Posted in Atheism, Christianity, Comedy, Cult, Die Fundie Afrikaners, Evangelicals, Evolution, Fred May, Intelligent Design, Jesus Christ, Lies for jesus, Quackery, Religion, South Africa, Stupidity at it's best on February 5, 2011| 27 Comments »
by Grant Callaway 2011-02-04 07:11
I can’t help but notice the huge increase in the number of people who poke fun at, and criticise harmless comments such as “we are praying for you”, and “thank the Lord that…” Most notably, they mock “unbelievably flawed logic” that believers have.
So to you lot, I want you to follow me on this (and consider your answers HONESTLY):
Imagine you were a member of a tribe – you know, one of those “lost rainforest” tribes, who have never before seen civilisation. Now one day you decide to take a REALLY long walk, and after a while, the trees start clearing, and you stumble across NEW YORK CITY! (I know it’s not geographically correct – just using it to emphasise my point).
Anyway, suddenly you are confronted with a massive city of buildings and skyscrapers. You investigate the area. What do you think you would believe?
a) This is an incredible incident of chance! The rocks in this area all happen to be formed into perfectly angular shapes, forming perfectly shaped caves inside. Somehow, some sort of crystal lines many openings of the caves (windows), which are perfectly transparent, but shield the cave from weather. Inside these caves, again the rocks have perfectly fallen to make it easy to climb to other levels in the caves (stairs). I can continue with the likes of roads, chimneys, lights etc.
b) Some other tribe, obviously much more advanced than my own, must have constructed these dwellings. Not sure how they did it, but they obviously know a lot more than we do.
Now, if you REALLY consider yourself logical, and you answer honestly, you would have chosen option b, right?
So, if you consider something as relatively simple as a building MUCH more likely to have been constructed by someone or something than to have simply “fallen like that” by chance, then how is it even conceivable to you that things as incredibly intricate and complex such as atomic structures, enzymes, chromosomes, gravity, electricity, photosynthesis, digestion, vocal cords and planetary arrangements in galaxies…could ALL have simply “fallen like that” after some big explosion?
I’m not saying that my argument proves the existence of Jesus, or that God is good, or even that He might hear us, but by your own logic, you should concede that things that incredible were much more likely MADE by someone of something way more advanced than us, than to have simply happened by chance.
Now unless you have something a bit more believable than some big explosion creating everything in existence by sheer chance, could you please stop mocking those who believe in a God or a Creator?
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FORT WORTH — Stand on a corner in this city and you might get a case of theological whiplash.
A public bus rolls by with an atheist message on its side: “Millions of people are good without God.” Seconds later, a van follows bearing a riposte: “I still love you. — God,” with another line that says, “2.1 billion Christians are good with God.”
A clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have a blessed day.”
“We want to tell people they are not alone,” said Terry McDonald, the chairman of Metroplex Atheists, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, which paid for the atheist ads. “People don’t realize there are other atheists. All you hear around here is, ‘Where do you go to church?’ ”
But the reaction from believers has been harsher than anyone in the nonbeliever’s club expected. Some ministers organized a boycott of the buses, with limited success. Other clergy members are pressing the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to ban all religious advertising on public buses. And a group of local businessmen paid for the van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town.
“We just wanted to reach out to them and let them know about God’s love,” said Heath Hill, president of the media company that owns the van and one of the businessmen who arranged for the Christian ads. “We have gotten some pretty nasty e-mails and phone calls from atheists. But it’s really just about the love of God.”
The face-off here follows efforts in other cities by several coalitions of atheists — American Atheists, the United Coalition of Reason and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to name a few — that have mounted ad campaigns to encourage nonbelievers to seek out others of like mind. Some have compared their efforts to the struggle of gay men and lesbians to “come out” and win acceptance from society.
In New York City, a large billboard promoting atheism at the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel, which a local affiliate of American Atheists paid for, has generated controversy. (The message: “You know it’s a myth. This season, celebrate reason!)
The Fort Worth group is affiliated with the United Coalition of Reason, whose local chapters have bought bus ads in Detroit, northwest Arkansas, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as billboards in more than a dozen cities, among them Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Seattle and St. Louis. Most show a blue sky with variations on this message: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
The ads have incited anger in some places. Vandals destroyed two bus ads in Detroit, ruined a billboard in Tampa, Fla., and defaced 10 billboards in Sacramento. One billboard in Cincinnati was taken down after the landlord received threats.
And the local rapid transit authority in Des Moines pulled atheist ads off its buses in August last year because of complaints from local religious leaders. Four days later, however, the authority reversed its position after the local group that had bought the ads threatened legal action on First Amendment grounds.
But nowhere has the reaction of believers been so forceful as in Fort Worth, to the delight of Fred Edwords, the national director of the United Coalition of Reason.
The coalition’s local chapter spent only $2,400 for four bus ads, which will run through the month in a city with about 200 buses.
“That’s more brouhaha for the buck than we have seen anywhere,” Mr. Edwords said.
Some of the fiercest criticism has come from black religious leaders. The Rev. Kyev Tatum Sr., president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has called for a boycott of the buses, saying the ads are a direct attack during a sacred time in the Christian calendar.
“It’s a season to share good will toward all men,” Mr. Tatum said. “To have this at this time come out with a blatant disrespect of our faith, we think is unconscionable.”
While Mr. Tatum and about 20 other pastors have urged their congregations to avoid the buses, a smaller group met recently with the transportation authority’s president to demand that the policy allowing religious advertising on buses be reversed Wednesday at a meeting of the authority’s board. The bus system in nearby Dallas bans all religious ads.
“I’m not against them getting their message out,” said the Rev. Julius L. Jackson, pastor at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. “I just don’t think it should be on public transportation.”
Dick Ruddell, the president of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, said churches were free to advertise. The only ads not accepted, Mr. Ruddell said, are those that have to do with a few vices, like cigarettes and alcohol. “There is nothing in the policy about religious content,” he said.
Not all religious leaders are offended by the bus ads.
“It doesn’t seem to me as an in-your-face, God-is-not-good message,” said Tim Bruster, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, where 3,500 families worship. “My very strong opinion is that, as people of faith, the very thing we should not do is lash out and condemn.”
Mr. McDonald, chairman of the local atheist group, said the ad was intended not to insult Christians, but to console atheists. The initial plan, he said, was to run the ad on the Fourth of July, which is why it features dozens of portraits of Texas atheists in an American flag motif.
But raising money and pulling together photos took longer than expected, he said, and the ad was not ready until last month.
“It can be pretty lonely for a nonbeliever at Christmastime around here. There is so much religion,” Mr. McDonald said. “We thought, ‘What the heck? Nobody owns December.’ ”
Scientists and atheists do something that many believers find repellent: we shatter their perception of their relationship to the universe. And understandably, they don’t like that.
Most religious people in the West have a very specific model of the way the world works that is based on our cultural history as the progeny of nomadic herdsman, and that still resonates strongly with all of us — the father-child relationship, the patriarchy. We have a wise leader who guides us all, punishes us when we stray, offers largesse to those in his favor, and unites the whole tribe in common cause. Those bronze age sheepherders lived this way, and it made sense. It was a strategy for survival that worked well, and that shaped the way we see the world even now. Ask any Christian on any Sunday morning about flocks and sheep and shepherds, and they will understand the metaphor even if it is highly unlikely that any of them have been in contact with any animal other than a household pet.
It’s also a powerful idea because it posits a set of very personal relationships. The father is remote because of his great responsibilities, but at the same time, we all want that pat on the shoulder, the encouraging word, the opportunity to serve and win distinction in Father’s eyes by virtue of our dutifulness. It’s a familialrelationship, tightly-knit and long-established, where we are respectful dependents and the leader of the tribe relies on our service.
Beyond just the family and tribe, though, this vision has been extended to the entire universe. There is a great Patriarch in the Sky, who is our leader and guide, responsible for making the grand strategic decisions about where our tribe will go, and is also watchfully making sure the unity of the tribe is not disrupted by wayward ideas from nonconformists. He has a central concern that we all share, that our people should thrive, and even if he is stern at times, it is because he cares so much that we succeed. And of course, he knows each one of us personally, just as the leader of tribe or clan in our pastoral days would have, and he can give us an approving stroke or a damning angry smiting, depending on whether we help or hinder the work of getting the flocks to the summer pasturage.
Read your bible. It’s saturated with this primitive herdsman mentality: God the Father, sheep and goats, lost lambs and the Lamb of God, flocks and herds. It’s anthropologically fascinating, and it’s also not necessarily an evil metaphor (unless, of course, you’re a woman — the patriarchy is also deeply misogynistic). One of it’s most appealing aspects is that it makes the relationship with the universe a close and personal one, of a very simple kind of relatedness, that of father and child. It’s one metaphorical generation, direct and immediate, and it colors everything about how we view our place in the world: dominant and submissive, leader and follower, wisdom and naiveté, master and servant, command and obedience. It also tangles up our relationship with the world in those paternal virtues of love and concern and discipline, and often with those less savory issues of the complicated relationships many people have with their fathers, because, face it, sometimes men are jerks. Which also fits with the portrait of the omnipotent god painted by the Bible.
I can sympathize. I loved and respected my father, and any attempt by an outsider to defame or complicate or diminish that relationship would trigger a resentful response from me. Christians and Muslims and Jews have been told from their earliest years that God is their father, with all the attendant associations of that argument, and what are we atheists doing? Telling them that no, he is not, and not only that, you don’t even have a heavenly father at all, the imaginary guy you are worshipping is actually a hateful monster and an example of a bad and tyrannical father, and you aren’t even a very special child — you’re a mediocre product of a wasteful and entirely impersonal process.
It makes that whole business of breaking the news about Santa Claus look like small potatoes. Reality is harsh, man.
But it is reality. We’ve done the paternity tests, we’ve traced back the genealogy, we’re doing all kinds of in-depth testing of the human species. We are apes and the descendants of apes, who were the descendants of rat-like primates, who were children of reptiles, who were the spawn of amphibians, who were the terrestrial progeny of fish, who came from worms, who were assembled from single-celled microorganisms, who were the products of chemistry. Your daddy was a film of chemical slime on a Hadean rock, and he didn’t care about you — he was only obeying the laws of thermodynamics.
You aren’t you because of some grand design, but because of chance, contingency, and selection. Your genome is a mess of detritus with a tiny fraction of well-honed functionality, and your body is cobbled together from the framework of a tetrapod — you bear the scars of chance throughout, and you are mostly unaware of them because selection, that is the death of millions, has patched them over…but they’re there to the eye that will look. You aren’t even the best at much of anything: you’re weaker, slower, more fragile, clumsier than the other species we compete with, and although you’ve got a bigger brain, the majority of Americans, at least, consider it a virtue to keep it ignorant and unused — and universally, we have difficulty thinking in the long term while we are very good at exploiting our environment in the short term, which is leading to some interesting and possibly fatal consequences.
The legacy of good husbandry, we are not. Our cosmic father did not and does not exist, which is a good thing, because if he did, he’s the kind of lazy, destructive deadbeat we’d be ashamed of.
This is our new heresy. We have killed our heavenly father, demolished that cozy personal (but imaginary!) relationship with a great and caring being. We are alone, orphans in an indifferent universe. We atheists must be a cold and broken people, without hope, without love.
But of course, we’re not, and I think this change in our vision of our relationship to the universe is humankind’s great good hope. Primitive monotheistic religions have shackled us to a limited metaphor and model, the father and child, and erected an entire invisible heavenly mouthpiece to help us maintain that comfortable delusion — but it’s like relying on the Great and Powerful Oz to help us out of our problems, when Oz is only a sham and a show. We have to escape out of this narrow perspective.
Reality doesn’t just destroy the patriarchal model, it gives us new and better ways to visualize our relationship with the universe. Father and child is inadequate; we have to think in terms of populations and species interacting (not dominating), of being part of an environment. There is more to life than the father and child bond. I am the outcome of a trillion coalescing possibilities, with a vast population of brothers and sisters acting out our brief lives on a background of gas and stone, water and light, grasses and fishes, and my responsibilities are far greater than obedience to a father figure. Breaking that illusion of a personal tie to one grand elder lord can briefly leave us feeling abandoned and alone and lost, and I can understand how some people find severing that imaginary relationship a horrible prospect.
But here’s the wonderful revelation. If you’re a well-adjusted person, once you’ve discarded the unhealthy fictitious relationship with a phantasm, you can look around and notice all those other people who are likewise alone, and you’ll realize that we’re all alone together. And that means you aren’t alone at all — you’re among friends. That’s the next step in human progress, is getting away from the notion of minions living under a trail boss, and onwards to working as a cooperative community, with no gods and no masters, only autonomous agents free to think and act.