Atheism vs. Theism email debate part 2

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In yesterday’s post, Atheism vs. Theism email debate part 1 I posted this email I got from someone commenting on my story, Middle Finger Justice and I’d like to respond to it now.

Question #1:

I’m basing my “theory” (more like my thoughts) on the fact that that lady (your childhood friend’s mom) absolutely does not have an accurate knowledge of “Christ-ian” teaching (both in theology and practice) and probably should be admitted to the psych ward. For her to say crap like “if someone is giving my kid the middle finger, they’re cursing them to hell”, she’s seriously deluded.

I agree with you, you certainly do know some “interesting people”.

All Christians are different and all take a different perspective on what they think Christianity should be about. Just because they don’t have the same perspective as you, doesn’t mean I can’t count them as Christians. Yes, you and many other Christians probably disagree with how they see things, but they still got their ideals from the same core beliefs that drive the whole Christian religion. In their hearts, they believe they are Christian. They read the bible as much as anyone. I remember riding in their car listening to bible stories instead of music. A friend told me a story about going to a birthday party at their house where they all dressed up as bible characters and learned about Christianity. They attempted to invite all the neighbors over for an anti-Halloween party on a couple occasions. I mean, as far as I could tell, they had every bit as much knowledge about Christianity and the bible as any other Christian I’ve ever met. I’ve heard from many sources that simply reading the bible and believing in and praying to God will “draw you toward goodness”. This is what they did, but it did not have that effect, and yet religious individuals continue to repeat that phrase, “God will draw you toward goodness.”

The other issue is that they have no real way to know that other Christians think they have taken things too far. You very rarely see religious folk calling out members of their own religion, so they assume that the entire Christian population is standing behind them and their beliefs. Yes, most Christians are good people who don’t want to do any harm, but they are all building the foundation of beliefs that leads to religious extremism.

I like how you said, “probably should be admitted to the psych ward”, since a psych ward is a science based entity. Unfortunately, this was much of the problem with Isaac Zamora, is that there was not nearly enough money for the state’s mental health system to deal with him. This is why we need more devotion toward science than religion.

Now I’d disagree that they should be admitted to a psych ward, as, I should clarify, that I knew these folks for a lot of years and this was the only real time I saw a hint of violence. They definitely needed some science-based psychological help, but I wouldn’t go that far. There was no way to know that Isaac would become a murderer. I mean, people threaten to break people’s legs all the time, and make jokes about killing. There’s no reliable way to discern which is real and which is just a joke.

Lastly with this paragraph is your idea that it’s crazy to think that flipping off  another person is adding to their potential of going to hell. I can’t be certain that she actually said this in the story (I was very young and working from memory) or if this was an explanation my mind added later, but it makes perfect sense to me. They’re called curse words for a reason. Some people actually believe they are cursed, and many others kind of have subconscious sense that swear words have supernatural powers. If God can magically change a catholic wafer into the literal body of Christ, right as the person takes it into their mouth, and if atheists will burn in hell for all eternity, even if they live their lives doing nothing but good deeds, simply because they don’t understand Jesus, then why is it so crazy to think that a few cursed words can put a supernatural mark on a person? There’s a reason why swear words are banned from television while we have no problem showing people getting safes dropped on their heads to our children. Some children’s cartoons are extremely violent, but the only thing people generally find offensive is a few specific syllables. What rational explanation is there for that if nobody believes they have supernatural powers?

Question #2:

Her motivation sounds like extremist, quasi-Christain militia BS. I would say she came from either an ultra abusive or ultra conservative (probably no less abusive mentally, emotionally or physically) background. SO, most of her motivation would come from the anger/abuse that she’s been “discipled in”. Her view of God/spirituality/life has all been misconstrued/twisted by the lack of love (or even sanity) that she’s experienced in her life. I’d guess that’d most likely be her (and his) motivation. And obviously!… they (or at least he) needed to go to the psych ward because of the “voices in his head” telling them to do evil things.

I don’t know about any abuse they suffered. You could be right. I never had any real reason to believe that Isaac was being abused or that his mom had been abused, though I didn’t know them well enough to be sure. However, the abuse explanation sounds like science to me, which I much prefer over the old “He’s just evil. The devil made him do it.” explanation. It shows that you’re a bit more of a scientific thinker than a lot of religious individuals, which I support, but you need to realize that many religious individuals reject even very basic psychological concepts like the idea that childhood abuse leads to adult violence.

Question #3:Have you read any historical books, the newspaper or watched tv? There’s tons of people motivated to do evil things that aren’t “religious”. Take Stalin for example (or any other atheistic/communistic dictator), he was motivated by his atheism (even Darwinism) to view people as mere animals (no intrinsic worth), and ensure systematic genocide of millions people. Atheism/nihilism asserts that there are no moral absolutes, no meaning to life, the universe is just one big mistake (and we’re extremely insignificant mistakes within it), and thus, we’re ultimately just clumps of cells/matter. No more, no less. What’s the difference between killing one million ants as I step on an ant hill or one million people – in the end they’re both just bunches of matter (that we subjectively value differently). And this universe is just going to fizzle out into nothingness, so what’s the big deal if people die a little early, in the end it won’t matter anyways. Stalin (and anyone who takes atheism/nihilism seriously) knew this and I think it can motivate people to do evil things.

Now, that’s one (probably poorly argued) example of how a dogmatic atheism can bring about tremendous evil. I think there’s tons of irreligious people that do evil things everyday as well.

So, my answer is: yes. Charles Manson. Joseph Stalin. (people either “irreligious” or outright atheist) ect…

Well, reading newspapers, seeing things on the news, looking over prison statistics and about ten years ago, searching for death-row pen pals is one reason why I believe that religion greatly increases a person’s chances of committing a crime. If you look at the history of just about any major violent criminal you can see they were either raised religious or had a deep belief in God. Charles Manson was a Scientologist who believed he was Jesus, so he’s not a good example.

Stalin, of course, is a very good example of an atheist doing horrible things, and he is definitely a black mark on atheism, something I fear we try to avoid talking about. I could say that he’s not a true atheist (he was ignorant of science and rejected Darwinism according to this page and that he disagreed with freedom of speech and freedom of religion which is kind of fundamental to most modern atheists. I also read that he was raised to be a catholic priest–or protestant-there seems to be some confusion there) but that would be unfair to the argument, because I’m arguing for atheism as a whole, not just my particular brand of atheism. As an anarchist it should be obvious that I disagree with his policies on a fundamental level, but that as well is a separate issue. All I can say is that he’s an exception to the generalization I’ve made. Atheism does not guarantee goodness. All it does is leave a person’s mind open to reason, logic, and other concepts of right and wrong that are usually better than a religiously dictated, highly outdated, sense of right and wrong. It does not guarantee that someone will accept a purely rational view on things.

Now, you mention people are motivated by atheism or Darwinism to see humans as mere animals without any intrinsic worth. But this is not how we feel. Statistically atheists are more likely to oppose war and the death penalty because we do see humans as having intrinsic worth. I don’t know the views of other atheists, but it seems to me that this intrinsic worth is built-in to our psyche. We need each other to survive and progress as a species and evolution has built in a system of caring for each other. I believe it’s religion (and government – lets not forget I’m also an anarchist) that gives people excuses to see others as less than human.

Though I obviously don’t agree with everything (or a lot of stuff) on this site, here’s a graph to sort of get perspective on “religiously” motivated violence vs. “non-religiously” motivated violence:

Yes, I’m under no delusions about the fact that most people think my opinions are crazy, and I’ll be lucky if even a small percentage agree with my logic, but that’s exactly why I need to keep this site going. If I had the same opinions as everyone else I could just spend my time going to the bars and watching football instead of worrying about trying to change the world.


So your link was rather interesting. I must admit it has lead me to some different ways of thinking about atheism. However, much of it was misleading. It attributes the slavery of Africans to atheism, and claims the Mongols were atheist when they were actually very religious, and the numbers seem bloated as compared to other statistics I’ve looked at. Unfortunately I’m no historian, so I can’t get too in-depth into these issues. However, I must admit there does seem to be more cruel atheist dictators in history than I was aware of. I still was not able to find any that were raised atheist, which I believe is the most important aspect to a person’s development. Pol Pot was raised Buddhist. Stalin was raised to be a Christian/Catholic priest for crying out loud. I couldn’t find much about Mao, but his mother was a devout Buddhist. However, they were still atheists later in life, which I must admit kind of throws a wrench into my argument. As far as I can tell, these dictators did what they did for money and power, and their lack of belief in God supposedly had little influence, as opposed to something like the Iraq war which clearly had religious motivations (albeit not as strong as the oil motivation). This is all half-assed Google research on my part, so I must take it all with a grain of salt.

So in light of these new facts (I’d never even heard of Pol Pot before), I think I need to re-evaluate the way I view atheism. Now, all of these brutal atheist dictators disagreed with my personal viewpoints on a fundamental level, because they did not do things based on pure logic and reason, and did not believe the public should be thinking for themselves. They replaced God with a state-based worship where they were the supreme leaders. I obviously disagree with this idea on a fundamental level but the problem is that I haven’t been specifically clarifying that when I give my atheist arguments. I had this belief that atheism would naturally lead people toward positive behavior, because good behavior just makes rational sense. I realize now that was stupid of me and it was actually rather hypocritical to my other philosophies. Being a good person is most definitely rational and logical, especially if you agree with my belief that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but there are other things in this world like money, power and sometimes sex, that can motivate people toward evil more efficiently than God. Atheists are not immune to these corruptions any more than religious individuals. The only difference is that everyone recognizes money, power and sex as being dangerous, while most ignore the dangers of the concept of God.

So I am going to try to do a better job of clarifying that atheism to me means more than just not believing in God. It also means thinking for yourself, embracing reason, logic, real-world facts and science (like using the scientific process for decision making but not blindly trusting scientists or statistics), and it means that the human race, our community and making the world a better place should be our primary focus in life as opposed to a God or supernatural based life.

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