Religion vs. Atheism
According to the 2016 World Almanac, there were a combined 5,060,258,000 adherents of the six major religions believing in supreme beings-- Baha'i, Christianity, Hindu, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrian. That accounts for roughly 68% of the current population of the planet.
Atheists came in at 136,483,000, which is roughly 1.83% of the current population of the world.
Agnostics came in at 692,111,000; roughly 9.26% of the current population of the world.
(I respect Agnostics because most are objective, viz: they neither deny nor affirm the existence of a supreme being due to the absence of acceptable empirical evidence to prove one way or the other.)
It's sometimes claimed that most of those five billion people who practice some form of theistic religion are undereducated, and many live in countries where the law of the land requires them to believe.
However; of the six deistic religions listed above, in North America there were 292.833 million adherents and a mere 2.269 million atheists. That's a whopping 129:1 ratio in an area of the world known for religious liberty and educational opportunity.
Burden Of Proof
Mark Twain once said "I have never seen what to me seemed an atom of truth that there is a future life . . and yet-- I am strongly inclined to expect one."
I once heard of an interesting conversation between an evangelist and an Atheist. The evangelist led off by asking the Atheist: Do you know everything there is to know? Mr. Atheist of course answered that he didn't know everything there is to know. The evangelist then asked him: Have you been everywhere in the cosmos? Well; no, the Atheist answered; nobody has. The evangelist then asked: Have you seen everything that there is to see? No; the Atheist replied. The evangelist then asked: Since you do not know everything there is to know, nor been everywhere in the cosmos, nor seen everything there is to see; then how can you be so confident there are absolutely no supreme beings?
I'm a fan of a very bright woman named Marilyn vos Savant. She pens a weekly column in the Sunday paper's Parade Magazine. Her tested IQ is somewhere in the 200 range. Marilyn received a question that goes like this:
Q: Our family has been arguing about this: If a person makes a statement, and another person challenges it; who has the burden of proof?
Marilyn's Answer: Usually the person who makes an affirmative statement (defined as a statement that asserts a fact, makes an allegation, or favors an action; etc) has the burden of proof. America's justice system is an example. The prosecution (or the plaintiff, as the case may be) rather than the defense, must prove its case to the jury. Failure to prove it's case, requires that the defense be exonerated.
What this boils down to is: people believing in the existence of supreme beings can produce very little acceptable empirical evidence to justify their beliefs; therefore objective thinkers have no good reason to buy into them.
However "burden of proof" is a double-edged sword. Supposing that an Atheist asserts that no supreme beings of any kind exist. Now the burden of proof is shifted to the Atheist because he has made an affirmative statement (defined as a statement that asserts a fact, makes an allegation, or favors an action; etc).
Were the Atheist to simply state he must relegate the existence of supreme beings to the category of fantasy in the absence of sufficient empirical evidence, that would be okay; but the minute he makes an affirmative statement that there are none, he's in trouble because rational jurisprudence demands that he prove his affirmation before it can be accepted by a jury as fact. If he fails to prove it, then his affirmation that there are no supreme beings has to be thrown out of court as a spurious remark.
I once heard of an interesting conversation between an evangelist and an Atheist that went sort of like this:
The evangelist led off by asking the Atheist: Do you know everything there is to know? Mr. Atheist of course answered that he didn't know everything there is to know because nobody does; it's impossible. The evangelist then asked him: Have you been everywhere there is to go in the cosmos? Well; no, the Atheist answered; I haven't and nobody else has either. The evangelist then asked: Have you seen everything that there is to see? No; the Atheist replied.
The evangelist then asked: Since you do not know everything there is to know, nor been everywhere there is to go in the cosmos, nor seen everything there is to see; then how can you be so confident there is no supreme being?
Every so often I get asked how I know that my belief in a supreme being is true. My answer is: I don't know if it's true. Then of course they follow up with: Then why do you believe there's a supreme being when you have no way of knowing for sure that there is one?
Most of the people who ask me those kinds of questions are genuine; they're not trying to trip me up and make a fool out of me. They really are curious about it. So I tell them that though I don't know if my belief in a supreme being is true, my instincts tell me it is; in other words: I cannot shake the gnawing conviction that, in spite of all the perfectly good logic to the contrary, there really is a big somebody out there.
Mark Twain once said: "Faith is believin' what you know ain't so."
He also said: "I have never seen what to me seemed an atom of truth that there is a future life . . and yet-- I am strongly inclined to expect one."
Twain logically, and sensibly, concluded that there is no afterlife, but his instincts did not agree with his thinking. Twain's experience makes me wonder if all Atheists undergo the very same inner conflict. Do they all argue against the existence of supreme beings while in the backs of their minds wondering if maybe they don't really know for sure?
A young college girl once asked me why she should believe in a supreme being. I countered by asking her why she shouldn't. The girl was stymied and couldn't think of even one good reason why she shouldn't believe in a supreme being; and in point of fact, nobody had ever given her cause to think about it that way until I came along.
Agnostics say they can't take a stand on the existence of a supreme being because they've never seen acceptable empirical evidence to either prove or disprove they're real. But that is about as rational a stance as a colorblind person refusing to believe the sky is blue simply because they're incapable of appreciating the hue for themselves.
Oftentimes during my birding activities, I'll offer parents the opportunity to let their small children look through my spotting scope at an interesting bird. The little ones never see the bird. You know why?
Well for one thing; they don't know how to use a scope. They want to hold it with their hands and press their little eye right up to it; which of course not only shakes the image, but also throws the scope out of alignment and aims it everywhere except at the bird. But even worse is that they neither know what they're looking at nor what to look for; and try as I might to describe the bird; they still won't see it because their young brains lack a point of reference.
Once in a while, for recreation, I used to walk along the surf line of an island in San Diego's Mission Bay at low tide looking for small clams called Cockles. Well; a man saw me walking one day and inquired what I was looking for. When I told him I was looking for clams he started looking for them too but couldn't find any. You see, his brain was looking for a whole clam lying right out in the open on top of the sand. What he didn't know was that at low tide, Cockles expose only a little teensy portion of themselves that looks nothing like a clam and if you don't know what to look for, you'll never see it. Ironically, there was a Cockle right by his shoe and he didn't know it. But after I once showed the man what to look for, he became an instant expert at finding Cockles.
It would have been his loss had that man ignored my instructions and kept on looking for Cockles in accord with his limited experience instead of like I told him; thus deliberately lock-stepping his mind into a sort of self-induced blindness.
Viz: evidence for the existence of a supreme being is everywhere. Anybody with an IQ above the level of a Forrest Gump can be trained to see it . . . that is; unless they're determined not to.
According to the Bible (which I'm only citing; not recommending) it's a fool who says to himself that there is no supreme being. In other words: a backward aboriginal whose supreme being is a figurine, or something in nature like a celestial object, lightening, or a bird or a reptile, has more sense than an Atheist.
According to Jas 2:19; even demons believe there's a supreme being. It's amazes me that there are actually intelligent people out there with less sense than a demon; but there they are. It goes to show that just because people are educated doesn't eo ipso make them smart. In my estimation (this is just me talking) atheism is an abnormality, and its adherents are freaks of nature in comparison to the huge percentage of people on Earth who take the existence of a supreme being quite seriously.
My all-time favorite Atheist was a man named Christopher Hitchens. He died of complications related to cancer in 2011; and I consider his passing a personal loss. Hitchens' book "god is not Great" is marvelous, and as far as I'm concerned should be a must-read in every school all around the world.
My first exposure to Hitchens' was via an article he wrote for Vanity Fair wherein he described himself as representing the Devil pro bono in relation to Mother Teresa's consideration for sainthood. He also wrote a book about the famous nun titled "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice". (Were I to recommend either that book or that article, no doubt someone, somewhere, would accuse me of hating Catholics)
I admire the thinking of men like Christopher Hitchens. But even he failed to answer a question very important to me.
Why does evolution produce in h.sapiens a propensity towards religion rather than a propensity away from religion? In all the years of human evolution leading up to now, why is religion, in all its various forms and ideologies, so prevalent? Shouldn't religion be phased out by now?
There is a thing called entropy; which is sort of described as the general trend of the universe toward death and disorder, i.e. a process of degradation, of running down, of a trend to disorder.
It seems to me that if belief in the existence of supreme beings is a bad thing, then evolution itself is a victim of entropy, and humanity as we know it today is worse off then when it started out. In other words: h.sapiens' current large-scale fascination with religion is a general trend towards death, disorder, and degradation; leading one to conclude that Atheists apparently are remnants of a fading superior strain.
There are several unexplained mysteries that philosophers and scientists have been unable to answer with certainty. For example:
What is the origin of the spark of life? If nature could produce life from accreted matter; then why can't humans who are far more resourceful and infinitely more intelligent than nature; do the same thing? Man can build anything; even escape Earth's gravitation and go up and walk on the moon; but he can't make anything come to life, and he can't figure out why living things live, nor even why they should get old and die.
Everything in the universe is deteriorating, including the universe. Why is that?
If the field produced by the Higgs boson gives mass to all the other particles in the cosmos; then what gives mass to the Higgs?
Why is there only one Phylogenetic Tree Of Life? Why didn't nature's processes produce dozens of such trees? And if there were such trees in the past; why did they leave behind not even the slightest trace of their existence?
How does the human brain, a 3-pound lump of flabby organic tissue, produce the phenomena of individuality, memory, consciousness, and self awareness?
Why do people want their lives to count for something?
Why does Man have a sense of justice, of fair play, and a desire for revenge?
Why do humans prefer to be right rather than wrong? Why be right and/or wrong at all? Why isn't Man amoral like the other creatures? Butterflies are free, why aren't we?
And why does anything exist at all? Why not nothing, instead of something?
The cosmos is expanding; and it's rate of expansion isn't slowing down as might be expected; rather, the velocity of its expansion is increasing; which is a bit disappointing for Big Bangers who supposed that gravity would eventually shrink the universe down to a point where it would bang all over again.
That's a pretty interesting mystery; but in my opinion, pales in comparison to the importance of finding answers to the questions listed above
Look down at your writing hand for a moment-- revolve it a little this way and a little that way while examining its many features. It is very light weight, yet mechanically strong and nimble; able to perform a wide variety of tasks; from playing a piano, to sewing on a button, or fixing plumbing under the sink. With the application of a manicure, some lotion, jewelry, and a trendy nail polish, the human hand can be made quite lovely; yet at the same time it remains an efficient, complex machine of lubricated levers and joints and cables constructed of living, sensitive tissues rather than metals or plastics, and wires and batteries.
Your hand, as marvelous as it is in its own right, represents merely a speck of engineering wonder in the grand parade of complicated structures in the cosmos; and its existence by chance has about the odds of the unabridged Webster's dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop.
The genetic structure of living things is mind boggling in itself. The number of genes, or units of DNA, composing living organisms ranges from 6,000 units in yeast to 100,000 units in humans. Encoded within those 100,000 human genes are three billion bits of information. Each unit of DNA stores 30,000 bits equal to 3.75 kilobytes per unit for a grand total of 375 gigabytes of data crammed into a human's DNA molecules too small to be seen with the naked eye.
More than 200 years ago, Carolus Linnaeus began counting and classifying the world's species, and today biologists still cannot say how many there are. However, on two things they all agree: they are nowhere near a complete count, and the final tally will fall somewhere between 3 million and 100 million species. Taxonomists identify and categorize roughly 13,000 new species of life every year. At that rate, it could take centuries to complete the census. Remarkably, each and every specie on earth has its very own unique genetic code. That just can't be the chance result of a huge explosion that supposedly detonated from a speck.
The theological idea of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) is looking better all the time as inflation theories increasingly suggest the universe emerged from no tangible source. And although theorists energetically fantasize an endless parade of explanations for the origin of the universe, they have been doing so within the context of the known laws of physics; the meanwhile having no clue about the origin of those physical laws. In other words: they cannot explain where those laws came from in the first place— nor can they explain why the known laws control matter and energy the way they do rather than some other way.
Why is belief in supreme beings of one kind or another common rather than unusual; and why is it universal rather than local, and why it is that IQ and/or sophistication has little or nothing to do with it seeing as how the best and the brightest, the dumb and the dumber, the educated and the illiterate, the enlightened and the unenlightened, the civilized and the uncivilized, the gentleman and the churl, the aboriginal and the foreigner, are seated on both sides of the aisle?
When people reach what is commonly called the age of reasoning; some of their very first questions are: Why am I here? Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life, and is there a purpose for mine?
I think it's very normal (or at least very common) for people to seek a justification for their existence; and without it, they can only conclude that the human experience is futile; which can be roughly defined as serving no useful purpose; for example:
Nobel Prize winner, author of several best-selling books, and recipient of at least a dozen honorary degrees, physicist Steven Weinberg (who views religion as an enemy of science), in his book "The First Three Minutes" wrote: The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself . . . the effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of a farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
What a dismal appraisal. In Mr. Weinberg's opinion, the human experience scarce escapes the categories of farce and tragedy; its quest for knowledge seems the only thing that gives humanity any justification to exist at all. The universe? It's just a meaningless void decorated with fascinating objects --a carnival side show of cosmic curiosities, so to speak.
Wouldn't it be sad if we only lived and died like insects and fungi? I mean, what would be the point of it all? They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. What real advantage is it to have something so useful as a human mind if it's only going to die and stop working after many years of learning and experience? And what real advantage is it for the mind of the present to make the world a better place for the next generation of minds if the mind of the present doesn't live to see it? That's really no more significant an existence than that of the individuals in a bee hive or a termite colony.
I think people find comfort in perceiving themselves part of a grand scheme instead of walking across the stage of their all-too-brief life as an insignificant speck in a pointless cosmos. Belief that there's someone somewhere above and beyond themselves gives people's existence meaning and purpose which, in my opinion, is at least one of the reasons why supreme beings are so popular.
Galileo felt that science and religion are allies rather than enemies— two different languages telling the same story; a story of symmetry and balance: heaven and hell, positive and negative, weak and strong, right and left, up and down, night and day, hot and cold, God and Satan. Science and religion are not at odds; no, in reality, science is just simply too young to understand.
Dr. Robert Jastow, founder of the Goddard Institute for space studies at NASA, in his book "God And The Astronomers" says: Strange developments are going on in astronomy. One of these is the discovery that the universe had a beginning. And that means there has to be a Beginner. The scientist has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak, and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
But of course science has its uses. For example Genesis tells me that the cosmos had a supernatural beginning; viz: it tells me that God did it. However, Genesis does not tell me "how" God did it. Science fills in the blanks; especially with its discoveries in particle physics. (You gotta love the flavors of Quarks. You got your Ups and Downs, your Tops and Bottoms, and your Charms and Strange. What's not to like?)
As I recently contemplated the expense involved in launching and maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, I couldn't help but wonder why NASA is doing it. In what way has the world really benefited from the mountain of tax money spent on that scope? All they have really gained is entertainment. The images from Hubble are beautiful and awe-inspiring; and the scientific data gained from its on-board instrumentation delights the intellect; but from the point of view of practicality, the HST serves no purpose whatsoever except to reinforce Steven Weinberg's opinion that the universe (without a God to give it meaning), is indeed quite pointless.
Either the cosmos always existed, or it had a beginning. There really are no other viable selections. It's highly unlikely a well-ordered cosmos always existed because it is the natural tendency of unsupervised order to become unstable; viz: to gravitate towards disorder and chaos; a.k.a. entropy.
Agnostics and atheists claim there is no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a supreme being. But they are foolishly invalidating the testimony of the universe and of the world of nature around them when they say things like that. There exists more evidence to prove the reality of a supreme being than there does to prove otherwise.
Georges Lemaìtre proposed the universe came into existence with a big bang, and actually, the second verse of the Bible strongly suggests a cataclysmic beginning of just that type. But questions must be asked: Banged from what? From whence came the matter and the energy that banged? And what about the immense void housing the bang? Where did that come from? Is there something beyond it? Is the void infinite, or does it have dimensions?
Back in the decade of the 1990's, astronomer Dr. Robert Williams got an idea. He suggested that the Hubble Space Telescope be pointed at the darkest, blankest spot one could locate in the universe and expose the HST's cameras for as long as possible and see what might be there. The project revealed numerous objects in the cosmos since catalogued as the Hubble Deep Field that no one had ever seen before and that no one knew existed. But personally I think it's reasonable to assume that there are even more objects beyond those heretofore unseen objects that humanity has yet to discover.
Alexander Friedmann's theory of an expanding universe was lent some credibility by Edwin Hubble's discovery that galaxies, in all directions, appear to be moving away from each other. Further studies revealed that the movement isn't uniform. In other words; the galaxies furthest away from the Milky Way are moving outwards faster than galaxies closer in.
Some felt that the effects of universal gravity would limit the cosmos' expansion and make it slow down; eventually stop it from expanding, and make everything shrink back to its original state and bang all over again; perpetuating a never-ending cycle of banging and shrinking. But we now know from the supernova studies of Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Reiss that the universe is not only expanding, but contrary to sensible expectations, the velocity of its expansion is accelerating; viz: gravity isn't slowing the expansion down at all, it's actually speeding up.
To illustrate that; let's imagine for a moment that the cosmos was expanding at 500 meters per second at 06:00 am this morning. Well; by noon it might conceivably be expanding at 600 meters per second. There's something out there in the cosmos labeled, for convenience sake; dark energy. Nobody yet knows its source; but it is so strong that all the gravity of all the known mass cannot stop the dark energy from expanding the universe at an ever-increasing velocity. At that rate; the cosmos will never of its own accord stop expanding in order to shrink itself back into one solid glob of highly condensed nothing.
Which suggests that even at the Hubble Deep Field's great distances from earth, those objects are themselves expanding away from everything else in the universe. But I have to ask: expanding towards what? Where does the void end; if at all? My gosh; how much longer, and how much further can the cosmos' expansion possibly continue until it bumps into something or else goes completely off-reservation? And if there is something to bump into out there; then what is it, and what's on the other side? If the void is infinite; then why should it be thought unreasonable to believe its custodian is infinite?
Of interest to me is the limits of the cosmos' observable horizon. In other words; seeing as how the universe has always been expanding, then it's conceivable that there are portions of the universe that are now so far away that we will never, ever be able to see them and thus perhaps determine their age and/or their distance. The problem is: the further away a source of light is from an observer, the dimmer the light and the smaller its dimensions until it is so far away that the observer cannot detect even the faintest glimmer. To put that in perspective, the age of the observable universe is estimated to be approximately ±13.8 Billion years. Okay; but what is the age of the universe beyond the observable horizon? How long have those portions of the universe been in existence? Nobody knows.
The discovery of the cosmos' accelerating expansion was very discouraging for cosmologist Alan Sandage since he was once a proponent of the theory that the universe would some day shrink upon itself; and called the discovery of the ever-increasing velocity of the expanding universe a "terrible surprise." In a special 2002 collector's edition of U.S. News and World report, a paragraph says that at a 1998 cosmologists conference in Berkeley California, Mr. Sandage told the gathering that contemplating the majesty of the big bang helped make him a believer in God; and willing to accept that the creation of the cosmos could only be explained as a miracle.
Atheists and agnostics suffer inner conflicts with their own intuition. God made sure people would always be aware of a higher power by instilling within Man a sense of his own origin.
● Rom 1:19-20 . . since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities— His eternal power and divine nature —have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been created, so that men are without excuse.
● Acts 17:26-27 . . From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Though Man senses the reality of a higher power, there yet exists no consensus view among the world's people about the exact nature of the supreme being. Man's concepts of deity are quite varied and have sometimes reached comical proportions.
● Acts 17:22-23 . . Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
The Greeks are well known for their variety of gods. Just in case they missed one, an anonymous monument was erected to honor any they may have overlooked so it wouldn't be offended.
Others have cartooned deity to resemble things in nature.
● Rom 1:23 . . and exchanged the glory of the imperishable God for images made to look like perishable men, and birds, and animals, and reptiles.
The average person instinctively knows there is something beyond themselves. Atheists and agnostics feel it too; but stifle those feelings and debate within themselves like schizophrenics in a futile attempt to suppress their own conscience and make the supernatural go away. Like a girl who hates boys, resolved never to respond to masculine charms; the atheist lives in an abnormal state of mind, enduring a perpetual fight against nature: thus numbering himself among the other totally self-absorbed people who resolutely look beyond themselves for nothing.
Atheists are neurotic, mixed up people. Their minds are tormented with inner conflicts caused from suppressing the voice of their own conscience. They instinctively know there is a supreme being out there somewhere, but think it unsophisticated to acknowledge it. It's sort of like prissy people acting as if sexual passion were below them— exhibited by only the very basest of carnal hominids —the meanwhile, underneath that façade of propriety, the prissy is literally dying inside with longing to do something naughty with somebody.
When the mind and the heart are going separate ways; it can only result in a sort of self induced schizophrenia. It must be tough to be at war with one's own self all the time. Atheists are not to be admired; no, they are to be pitied.
Objection: Many scientists are atheists.
Appealing to the scientific community is futile. It's like Muslims appealing to significant Arab feats and inventions to validate Islam. One's IQ and/or field of endeavor and expertise in no way either validates or invalidates their opinions about the existence of a supreme being. It should surprise no one that a number of scientists are atheists since atheism is a synthetic product of logic, investigation, and reason rather than the natural inclination of conscience and intuition.
Mark Twain once remarked that although he didn't believe in an afterlife, he was nevertheless inclined to expect one. You see, his sharp wit may have sufficed to silence his critics; but utterly failed to silence his suspicions.
●Ps 53:1 . .The fool has said in his heart; There is no God
That is an interesting comment. The fool "says" in his heart there is no supreme being rather than disbelieving in his heart there is no supreme being. So then, what the atheist does is stifle his conscience and his intuition; viz: he becomes rational and tells himself there is no supreme being. He actually talks himself out of what he knows in his own heart to be true.
It's like a girl the picture of womanhood— filled out in all the right places with perfect proportions, with smooth creamy skin, nice eyes and hair —who has somehow managed to convince herself that she's homely and unattractive. When a hunky guy shows some interest in her, she instantly goes on the defensive and interprets his attentions as a trick; viz: she's wracked with trust issues that inevitably ruin her chances for happiness. Girls in that predicament always sell themselves short because they've convinced their own selves they don't deserve any better.
They say seeing is believing. Well; not in the case of atheists. Seeing does not help them at all; no, they have denied reality for so long, and so desperately, that they've reached the point where denial defines their identity; and they can't change now without causing a serious imbalance in their own self awareness.
3 You should believe in a creator to give your own existence some meaning and purpose.
Wouldn't it be sad if we only lived and died like insects and fungi? I mean, what would be the point of it all? They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. What real advantage is it to have something so useful as a human mind if it's only going to die and stop working after many years of learning and experience? And what real advantage is it for the mind of the present to make the world a better place for the next generation of minds if the mind of the present doesn't live to see it? That's really no more significant an existence than that of the individuals in a termite colony.
Wouldn't it be far better to perceive yourself part of a grand scheme instead of walking across the stage of your all-too-brief life as an insignificant speck in a pointless cosmos? By believing in a creator, your life means something after all. It counts in some way when there's a supreme being— it gives your existence a sense of permanence; and it gives people a hope for the future after they're destroyed by old age and death. Tom Springfield wrote a very touching song for The Seekers in 1965 that goes like this:
There's a new world somewhere they call the promised land;
And I'll be there someday if you will hold my hand;
I still need you there beside me, no matter what I do;
For I know I'll never find another you.
Well, if there's no creator, then Mr. Springfield can just forget all about rejoining his companion in another life.
4 You should believe in a God to give your sense of right and wrong a solid foundation.
Without a supreme being's oversight, Man's conscience is vulnerable to a variety of cultural influences and he has no absolutes; he flounders around in the swamp of moral flexibility; his mind at constant war with himself, struggling to stifle a daily barrage of guilt feelings.
When Nazi war criminals were tried in Nuremburg after World War 2 ended, they were accused of all manner of crimes including the wholesale slaughter of many millions of innocent prisoners in death camps. But they had a bullet-proof defense. The Supreme Court of Germany had declared certain classes to be non persons; thus, they could be killed at will with no more risk of criminal prosecution than swatting a fly. Legally, the war criminals had done nothing wrong. They were told by Germany's highest court that certain classes could be exterminated. They acted lawfully within the jurisprudence of Germany's culture. Who were their accusers to come from another culture, from another society, from another country and impose foreign morals upon the Germans?
The allied attorneys were at a complete loss. If there are no absolutes, if everything is relative, if everything is cultural, and if we have no right to impose our own culture upon other peoples; then how dare the allies impose their values upon Germans? How dare they say the Nazis were wrong for exterminating millions of people as long as it was done legally and in full accord with German law?
Suddenly cast adrift in the abyss of relative morality, the prosecutors switched their tactics and appealed not to allied law, nor to international law, nor to the law of God, but to so-called natural law; the sense of right and wrong supposedly held common, and supposedly inherent within the consciences of all human beings regardless of race or ethnicity.
That is a ridiculous basis and would normally be laughed out of court, but nevertheless, having the sympathies of the free world on their side, the allied attorneys won with it. Prosecution would have progressed a lot smoother and efficiently if they had access to a system of absolutes.
NOTE: The U.N. has since standardized the treatment of people in a document called the Declaration Of Human Rights
The adoption of absolutes is an anchor for the mind. Without them, people are unstable, insecure; blown about like a piece of tissue paper in a breeze. Everything they know as truths, or think that they know as truths, are merely tentative expedients till other truths comes along to replace the ones people have now. A mind filled with tentative expedients is a mind wandering in a mist of uncertainty, doubt, and educated ignorance.
Webster's defines "existentialism" as a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.
Existentialism is just a fancy word for being adrift on the high seas with neither chart nor compass in a leaking boat that lacks any means of propulsion and steering; viz: existentialism is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there.
Excuses (a.k.a. Chicken exits)
The Bible's God is cruel and
insensitive. He is a God of fear and death. And this will attract people to your
religion exactly how? By fear?I cannot respect a God like that.
I'm a big chicken so fear works on me, but of course it doesn't work on everybody because maybe there's something wrong with their amygdala, or maybe they're one of those rebellious types who'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, or maybe just tend to ignore things like storm warnings and the hazards of tobacco.
But you know; fear, though it be a negative emotion, isn't always a bad thing.
Fear of rattlesnakes will save you from dying by snake bite. Fear of electrocution will keep you from fiddling with live wires. Fear of liver failure will prevent you from eating wild toad stools. Fear of drowning will make you wear a flotation device when out boating. Fear of poverty will motivate you to learn a marketable skill. Fear of death and injury will make you look both ways when crossing a street. Fear of burns will make you keep your hands off a hot stove. Fear of prison will make you obey the law and select your companions with care so you don't go down with them when they commit crimes. Fear of losing your best friend will make you treat them with respect and courtesy. Fear of old age will make your think about a retirement plan.
There's a lesson to take from Aesop's ant and the grasshopper. The ant got ready for the future and the grasshopper didn't so that when lean times came, the ant fared very well; the grasshopper not so good.
The burning of cities does not indicate love; common sense tells us
So-called common sense is not always rational and objective but on the contrary, is often emotional and reactive. When America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that was an act of love. Are you aghast at that statement? Well, you feel aghast because you don't understand the ramifications of those bombs. They saved many thousands of American and allied lives. Yes, many Japanese mothers and children died in the resultant firestorm. But better they died than the children of America and the children of our allies. By killing all those Japanese, we demonstrated love for our own families and the families of our allies. We stopped Japanese imperialism and made the world a better place for Americans to live in; and ultimately, a better place for the Japanese too.
If America and its allies had launched a ground assault on
Japan, every able-bodied Japanese citizen, including the young, the old, and all the women
and children, would have joined in the fight to defend their homeland in the
streets, in the countryside, in the cities, in every town and hamlet, resulting in a blood
bath far exceeding the localized deaths caused by the bombs.
Those weapons, as horrible as
they are, actually saved just as many Japanese lives as American and allied lives.
Hasn't it ever occurred to you that the cities and populations and cultures that God destroyed in the Bible were for the betterment of the world and of the planet? People are all too often influenced by their emotions, and rule against God without knowing all the facts. There was a time when Man believed the universe was geocentric. He believed that way because his knowledge was incomplete— he lacked the big picture; just as many sophisticates today lacks the big picture in their perception of the Bible's God.
By extension, what happened Sept 11, 2001 was a loving act. That is the logical conclusion to your type of reasoning.
I am confident that in the minds of the Muslim men who perpetrated 911, they perceived themselves attempting to make the world a better place for their fellow Arabs. It is difficult for the western mind to comprehend how murder could possibly serve any useful purpose. But those men were true martyrs to their religion, and faithful to Muhammad, their religious leader, and patriotic to a people whom they truly feel are jeopardized by American political agendas.
Love can be a very powerful force for good and for bad. It can motivate a father to put a 12ga. load of 00 buck shot into a child molester's face attempting to break into a home and steal the children, and it can motivate men to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. It can also motivate a God to exterminate every air breathing creature on earth except for those protected in the ark; and it can motivate environmentalists to camp up in a tree top for three years to protect it from loggers. When it comes to the directions that love drives people, only a Supreme Being is capable of sorting out the good love from the bad love.
The Bible's God doesn't have a clue as to what love is.
Would you like to see an example of the Bible God's love?
● John 3:16-17 . . For God so loved the world that He donated His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Would you be willing to throw one of your own children to the woles for the betterment of the world? Suppose you had only one child. Would you be willing to sacrifice your one and only child? God did. And He did it not for a world that loves Him, but for a bitter, resentful world that hates Him.
● Rom 5:7-8 . .Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
● 1John 4:10 . .This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
It seems that Christ's message of love has been lost on you.
It would seem that the New Testament Christ's other message, his message of retribution, has been lost on you. You can't have the one message without the other. Both messages come from the very same Christ.
● Luke 12:4-5 . . I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.
I am not afraid of Hell.
I'm not afraid of Hell either, but for a different reason than yours. You don't fear Hell because you managed to convince yourself it doesn't exist. I don't fear hell because I believe Jesus took my place in Divine justice to rescue me from going there.
● John 3:16 . . For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Within the same Sermon On The Mount where people like you so often point to Jesus' teachings about love is also contained some of his most fearsome teachings about Hell. Were you under the impression that the Bible's Jesus was sent into the world to preach social reforms? I assure you that was not the primary reason he came. The New Testament's Jesus was sent here to warn people about Divine justice, and to rescue some from eternal suffering by dying for them in crucifixion.
12:27-36 . . Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this
hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Love and Hell can't possibly co-exist.
That's like saying love and criminal justice can't possibly co-exist; but the fact of the matter is: criminal justice protects the people we love. The Bible's God would be very inconsiderate to let wicked people into the next world to mess it up. The world of the future will be a place of peace and safety. Only decent people will be allowed to come there. Hell is not just a prison to warehouse undesirables, but a place to keep them in quarantine.
In a system of moral absolutes, eternal punishment is right. I don't know why that is any more than you do. But if it's any consolation, God is stuck with eternal punishment too. He can't get out of it any more than you can. If He could, then it wouldn't have been necessary to crucify His own kin. God would just vaporize sinners and be done with it; but He can't do that because it wouldn't be right. Every criminal justice system, whether man-made or heaven-made, centers upon crime and punishment. It's just the way things are.
The awfulness of Hell is not so much its suffering, but its permanence. Time stands still. People in Hell are not doing time in stir like inmates in San Quentin expecting to finish paying their debt to society and get out some day; nor is Hell temporary duty like a soldier's tour in Viet Nam and/or Afghanistan. No, the people in Hell are citizens of Hell just like the people of God are citizens of His kingdom. Hellians exist in their natural habitat that's where they live, and move, and have their being; and they are fit for nowhere else.
If it's any consolation, the judgment of the ignorant will be very mild compared to those who know full well what the Bible says about right and wrong. The ignorant won't be judged by the laws and rules in the Bible. They'll actually be judged according to their conscience, which is relatively much better.
● Rom 2:12-16 . . All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
You ought not to think of the judgment of God as an across-the-board punishment that indiscriminately dishes out the very same amount of suffering to everyone regardless of their degree of wickedness. No, the judgment of God is fair. People will be given only what they deserve, and nothing more. For those who knew God's will, but deliberately ignored it; punishment will be very severe. Their punishment will be much worse than that reserved for uninformed peoples who never knew a single thing about Bible stuff.
● Matt 10:14-15 . . And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
● Luke 12:47-48 . .That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Although an ignorant person won't suffer in Hell nearly as much as a Hitler, or a Pope or a Rabbi, they will still miss out on an immeasurably better life and that is cause enough to try our best to inform them of what's coming ahead; and how to escape it.
No individual in the Bible spoke more about
Hell than the
New Testament's Jesus. Of the twelve times the word for Hell
(geena) is found in the New Testament, Jesus threatened people with it
eleven— the very Jesus that so many seem to think sought to undermine the
Old Testament's God and usher in a new era of love and forgiveness. Jesus would never do
that. He and the Old Testament's God are in perfect agreement on everything.
● John 8:26-29 . . I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world. They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."
● John 10:30 . . I and the Father are unified.
When God inundated the world with a Flood; Jesus agreed to
that because he and the Father are one. When God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom
and Gomorrah, Jesus did not object because he and the Father are one. When God turned
Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, Jesus approved. When God drowned Pharaoh's army in the
Red Sea, Jesus agreed to that because he and the Father are one. When God killed all the
firstborn of man and beast in Egypt that first passover night, Jesus approved
because he and the Father are one. When people are judged and cast into a
reservoir of liquid flame
20:11-15), Jesus will applaud because "I always do what pleases him." (John 8:29)
Fear has a lot of power. Hitler used it and now you want to tell me that God uses it. NO WAY!
Yes; way. Your anger and hostility towards the Bible's God is understandable because you are judging Him without all the facts and doing it from the perspective of human sensibilities and a humanistic sense of right and wrong. You have grossly erred assuming that the Bible's God is somehow of a lower intelligence than yourself. People who hate the Bible's God are typically rash, reactive, and self willed— driven by their feelings and their passions rather than by knowledge.
● 2Pet 2:12 . . But these [people] blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
● Jude 1:10 . .Yet these [people] speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals— these are the very things that destroy them.
I had hoped to help you escape the prison of your mind; but it appears futile to even try.
Why would you want to strip me of my religion, especially since it helps me cope with living on this earth, explains my origin, helps me make sense out of the universe, and gives me a hope for the future? If I am wrong, I lose nothing; nor will I live to regret it. But if you are wrong, then you are in a world of trouble. My religion offers me answers to life's most perplexing questions, and it gives me hope. Is that really so bad? So what if it's a false hope? Will I really live to regret it? You say people don't exist after death. So then, according to you, I will not live to regret my belief in a here-after. No, you want me to abandon my hope not because it's best for me, but only because you think my hope is stupid. Like the fox who lost its tail in Aesop's fable, you want me to lose my tail too so yourself won't stand out so much as the anomaly in a world where belief in a deity is the norm rather than the exception.
Before you leave our web site in a frustrated huff, I think you should know of an extremely priceless benefit you're foolishly throwing away just so you can be known as an "intellectual".
The next life is sometimes referred to as "paradise regained." But that is short sighted. The next life for Christians is much better. During his tenure in the garden of Eden, Adam was never immortal. He needed to breathe air to stay alive. If you smothered Adam, he would suffocate and die. If you cut his head off, he would die. If you disemboweled him with a katana, he would die. If you sliced open his veins with a razor blade, he could bleed to death. Adam was an organic mortal. The only real advantage he had over modern Man was the tree of life. As long as Adam supplemented his diet with fruit from that tree, he wouldn't grow old, nor wither, nor die of natural causes.
1Cor 15:12-57 teaches about resurrection of the Christian's human body. Everyone comes into the world with an Adamic body; viz: an organic body of flesh and blood. Those kinds of bodies are perishable. If Jesus' body hadn't been crucified, it would have eventually died of old age anyway, because the Adamic body isn't immortal.
A brand new kind of human body is in the works. The new body isn't an organic body of flesh and blood; but rather, a body said to be heavenly; viz: supernatural, and constructed of materials not found in nature. All the new bodies will be made to be living; viz: they will be imperishable constructed with eternal youth in contrast to Man's current organic body that begins to debilitate not long after a mere thirty to thirty-five years of age.
What's so good about Heaven that I should want to go there?
May I ask you what is so good about Hell that you should want to go there?
To my knowledge Christians are not going to live in heaven. They're going to live in the
kingdom of God; which is not an ethereal site, but a down-to-earth place; because a whole
new universe, and a brand new earth, are in the works for the people of God.
Weren't you aware that the Bible's God has another Genesis in the works? Yes. A whole new earth and a whole new universe minus all the pain and suffering of the current one.
● Isa 65:17-25 . . For behold! I am creating a new heaven and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered, they shall never come to mind. Be glad, then, and rejoice forever in what I am creating. For I shall create Jerusalem as a joy, and her people as a delight; and I will rejoice in Jerusalem and delight in her people. Never again shall be heard there the sounds of weeping and wailing. No more shall there be an infant or graybeard who does not live out his days. He who dies at a hundred years shall be reckoned a youth, And he who fails to reach a hundred shall be reckoned accursed.
. . .They shall build houses and dwell in them, they shall plant vineyards and enjoy their fruit. They shall not build for others to dwell in, or plant for others to enjoy. For the days of My people shall be as long as the days of a tree, My chosen ones shall outlive the work of their hands. They shall not toil to no purpose; they shall not bear children for terror, but they shall be a people blessed by the Lord, and their offspring shall remain with them. Before they pray, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will respond. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the serpents food shall be earth. In all My sacred mount nothing evil or vile shall be donesaid the Lord.
● 2Pet 3:10-11 . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
● 2Pet 3:13 . . But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
● Rev 21:1-6a Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw also the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished."
The first stage of the kingdom will be relatively brief, only a mere millennium, and its jurisdiction will be right here on the current earth before moving on to the new one. Some of its conditions will be characterized by swift justice against criminals, a complete lack of violence in nature, beasts of prey will become vegetarians, poisonous snakes will no longer bite anyone. It will also be characterized by an abundance of health, longevity, peace, and prosperity.
At the close of the millennium, people dissatisfied with the Bible God's way of running things, will attempt yet one more rebellion; and be crushed. Then this current universe will be completely destroyed and a new one created.
Why I Believe
by D. James Kennedy