[FoRK] Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue

Tom Higgins <tomhiggins at gmail.com> on Thu May 10 07:43:37 PDT 2007

On 5/10/07, Bill Stoddard <bill at wstoddard.com> wrote:
> It seems to me,  that for many people,  god and faith is a place holder
> for what is unknown, not understood or explained.  That empty corner in
> the room 'just has to be' filled.  With something, anything.... in order
> to find peace and contentment. Plenty of people can ignore that place,
> but many cannot and I have no idea why that is.

Here is the problem though, its not just a "place holder for what is
unknown" to many. It has become the solid rock from which True
Believers can  say gays are damned so why treat them like humans,
blacks are inferior so the slave trade is totally withing biblical
bounds, the unbeliver is evil and must be taken care of by flying
planes into their heavily populated towers, that invading a country is
justified because jesus done said so, etc etc etc

They can say all that becuase their belief systems tell them that a
god of love not only demands love but vengeance, subjugation and
discipline to a "greater power".

And that my friends is where the rubber hits the road becuase sharing
a planet with people who want to kill, harm or convert/enslave/make
pure the "Nonbelievers" all while smiling and singing songs of love is
definitely NOT working out,

Before we go down the "But religious folks have done more good than
harm" route lets ponder this...the good things that are done could
have been done even if folks did not believe...you an help a fellow
human without believing in a god, you can love each other without a
divine proclamation, you can be  a good steward of the environs around
you without prodding or threat of damnation...but those truly hateful
and evil events like Jonestown or the Crusades or Jihads or
LoveBombing or witch burning or the ability to set up a mental place
call hell and then damn other to it...this seems to require that you
give up your free will into the hands of a greater power that you
allow to tell you what to do...be that idea of gods or gurus or
dictators or charismatic leaders or tribal superiority.

Thats a can of worms I am sure some folks here would like to twist
around ..."what about the atheists of China/Russia and the millions
who were killed in the name of the godless state?" again its was
subjugation of free will for the great power of the entity known as
State rather than God but for all purposes it was the dame thing..the
act of subjugation of self to "greater power"

So where does that leave us? If your "belief" system can compel you to
justify death, harm or damage to those who do not believe and follow
your belief rules...then Huston we have a problem. Look at the
geopolitical realities and say it aint so.

Which brings me to Jeff's post. Many of the people I know from the
church we go to are under the delusion they believe, in fact for some
going to church helps them maintain that illusion of acceptance even
while inside they are far far far from subjugating their lives to the
greater power of choice. Same for just everyday life, many of the
people I know who label themselves as religious are so far from what
the bibles they say they put their will into  its obvious to everyone
but them and those who are desperate to chalk another member up for
their team (and lets face it folks if you look at the struggles of
many churches these days it comes down to a numbers game, the more
people they can count in their flock the better as if their god is
going to judge them on market penetration). So why do they believe?

Habit, fear of change, that slight thread of fear that if you do not
believe you wind up in hell unable to see your loved ones who are up
with god in heaven foreber and eber amen.

Yea, I too am of the mind of "WHAT THE FUCK was all of that shit
about, anyway?" but I think that humans are basically good given the
chance, they just need that chance to break out of the toxic environs
that have surrounded them since birth. How to do this?

I do not think building a Church of Reason works becuase then your are
back at the problems of any church. I do think that some of what
churches have taken to draw more members are things that might well be
basic human need like fellowship, altruism, sense of purpose and a
good cup of coffee. I think those things need to be taken back from
the 'True Believers" and and shown to be part of being Human, not
being "saved"

Why do I do what I do? First becuase its important to my wife, second
becuase the community space the church is using is a good community
space regardless of all the religious side show such that i help how I
can and over time folks will be able to recognize that doing community
things is not the an act owned and operated by just the true
believers. Third, many of the people who attend the church are good
people, again maybe over time seeing a nonbeliever in their midst will
show them that the side show is a side show.

In short I do not think making ghettos will work any more than
pretending there can be a debate without both sides agreeing on a base
logic.  So what do we do? We walk in the world and live by example ,
we make sure our beings are not encroached upon and that if there is a
chance for real  dialog (not a watering down or compromise of being)
we take it, again showing more by example than by just words.


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