Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Year in the Bible - Super Secret Edition [Working Draft]

Wouldn't it be neat to publish a Bible devotional in a tabloid style?

The Bible is a powerful force for atheism

Year In The Bible

Super Secret Edition

Scandalous Bible Verses Your Preachers Hopes You Never Discover

Monthly Themes:

  1. Convincing believers not to question religious authority -- even when it's absurd
    1. A fool says in his heart
    2. The story of Thomas
    3. 1 Chorinthians I
    4. Kill apostates and non-believers (if you doubt, don't tell!)
  2. Mobster-Style Blind Loyalty
    1. Job
    2. Lot
    3. Abraham and Isaac

  3. Magical Creatures (March)
    1. Unicorns
    2. Fire-breathing Dragons
    3. Living in a fish
    4. Satyrs
    5. Revelation stuff
    6. Talking Snakes
    7. Talking Donkeys
    8. Burning Bushes
  4. Learning and Cooperation is bad
    1. Tree of Knowledge
    2. Tower of Babel
    3. John 4 - Jesus Learnin'
    4. ?
  5. Broken Morality
    1. Stoning Children
    2. Passover
    3. Stoning non-virgins
    4. Polyamory - King concubines
    5. Slavery
  6. Mistreatment of Women
    1. Stoning non-virgins
    2. Lot's wife
    3. Daughter sacrifice for battle victory
    4. Keep virgins for yourselves
    5. Lot's daughters
  7. God Makes Mistakes
    1. Adam and Eve
    2. Noah's Ark
    3. Satan
    4. Broken word

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Good News of Atheism

So often, the theist - atheist debate focuses on the basis or reason behind beliefs. Christians like to tout the "Good News" of the new testament as a reason to convert to Christianity.

What's the Good News of Christianity?

Note: When the Christians deliver this message, it focuses on the positive parts, and skips over the absurdities. I assume you've heard the whitewashed message so often that a deliberately jaded and cynical perspective is appropriate to help provide some "balance".

 In this story, their alleged god becomes human, then tortures and kills himself in order to generate a loophole in the morality he originally created. Christians say the "Good News", is that if you just BELIEVE in their claims and beg their invisible god for forgiveness, you can exploit this "moral" loophole and avoid eternal torture that/ awaits you after death.  Only this god doesn't really manifest anywhere you can point to, so this begging for forgiveness happens (conveniently) at their church and to a large ironic idol, like the ones forbidden in Exodus 20:4.

"What do I need forgiveness for?" you may rightly ask.  It turns out Christian doctrine teaches that humans are all wretched creatures deserving of eternal torture. They're not permitted to acknowledge how strange it is that a perfect being would create such a horrible failure of a species. "Free will" somehow plays a role in absolving god of his design failure. Chief among your "crimes" is not acknowledging and groveling before the theist's church (which stands in the place of the conspicuously absent god you're actually supposed to worship). Nevermind that this god failed to give you senses capable of detecting his presence. Nevermind that no scientific instrument has ever detected a god or its effects on the natural world. None of that matters. The blame for your failure to accept and worship the unseen god lands squarely on your shoulders. Refusing to accept the theist's claims that this god exists and deserves worship means you are arrogant and rebellious against their god.

So what is the good news of Atheism? 

I put this question to my followers on Twitter:

What emerged was an outpouring of positive messages about atheism and what it means to people.  It was a wonderfully uplifting day, and I'm delighted to be able to share it with you.  There were so many wonderfully positive messages of freedom, relief, and empowerment.  I captured many, but not all. I'd highly recommend reading the thread. I find it uplifting.

Corporal Punishment is as Immoral as it Feels

"Spare the rod, spoil the child" was an edict for many of my followers in their youth. This is a doctrine that feels good to dispose of. Physical punishment feels like poison.

There is no Eternity to Worry About

Sure you'll hear from Christians that you ought to believe "just in case".  But Pascal's wager is a fool's errand. Belief isn't a choice, it's a realization. And pretending to believe "just in case" wouldn't fool an omniscient god anyways.
  1. Heaven and hell almost certainly don't exist
  2. No just god would force a decision before you die.
If he existed, a god wouldn't be a used car salesman, employing high-pressure sales to make you take a position you're not really comfortable with.  That's the domain of dishonest men -- like clergy.

Let Go of Irrational Fears

There's so much additional baggage associated with Christian doctrine.  The "mark of the beast" has been so played up that it hardly bears any resemblance to the passing mention it gets in the Bible. 
Similar things could be say about other recent additions to Christian doctrine.  Much of our shared vision of "hell" comes from Dante's Inferno.  Satan's portrayal in books and movies has had huge influence over our thinking.  The Bible makes no claim that Satan barters souls in exchange for granting wishes. These are all modern inventions of fiction, adopted into our shared cultural memes.
Sometimes, God is just as scary as that Satan thing!

God is not Judging You for Thoughts

You are your harshest critic. There's no supernatural deity judging you for your thoughts. You're alone with them. They're yours and nobody knows them without your permission.

You Don't Owe the Church 10% Of Your Money!

Charitable donations are supposed to be voluntary. But god needs your 10%! The Mormon church is especially brazen in this regard.  Members are basically coerced into "donating" their tithe to the church. Personal finances are actually reviewed to ensure you're paid up, and failure to do so excludes you from certain "privileges".

Nobody Hates You … 

Well no Super-powerful Gods Anyways! There's no god deliberately fucking with you when things go wrong. That's just life. You never know what you're going to get, so enjoy it. 

It's Easier to Understand Your Place in the World

When you first question your religion, it's often a central part of your identity. My parents indoctrinated me into Christianity from a young age, and I thought of myself as a  Presbyterian. Turning my back on those beliefs also meant turning my back on a central part of my identity from which I thought I derived my ability to love, behave ethically, and find peace.  What's worse, it was a central component of my social network! I was very active in the church youth group.
There's so much intellectual capital wasted trying to reconcile reality with the absurdities of theism. "Why would god do that?" is no longer a concern.
Live your life knowing the connection you have to nature.
Religion can hinder our ability to think clearly and act decisively. Accepting that we're on our own is motivation to do something to make things better!

Disease and Starvation are Natural

Yup. There's no need to reconcile a "loving" god who lets his people suffer needlessly.  Diseases, parasites, famine and drought are all simply events that are to be expected in a world where all species struggle to survive (including our own).

Freedom and Empowerment

No need to defer to "authorities" who ruled over you as a child. No need to reconcile the tremendous range of conclusions that people reach when using religious faith as their process.
We have both the freedom and the responsibility to make our world a better place.
You're not broken!
Freedom to think clearly and carefully.

You are Your Loved One's Immortality

When a loved one passes, they no longer exist. There's no magic place where we'll see them again. Your memories of them, including their beliefs, ethics, humor, and mannerisms all combine to form one of the best existing avatars for your lost loved one that exists anywhere.  You can honor that memory by acting in a way they would endorse or simply imagining a conversation with them.

The Suffering of Your Loved One who Committed Suicide is Over

This one really hit a nerve with me.  What a relief it must have been to let go of the fear that loved-ones might be tortured in hell!
After struggling with depression or medical problems, a loved one took their own life. The Good News of Atheism is that their suffering is over. There is no afterlife in which they're being tortured for a moment of weakness. 
The mythos which says they'll be tortured eternally in hell is pure fiction. Eternal torture for suicide was probably a response to the rational observation that if you believe in heaven, you're quite literally better off dead.


What  a wonderful collection of positive messages about letting go of the guilt, shame, superstition, and fear of religion. Perhaps these are the messages we should be carrying forward to believers. Maybe these positive affirmations will be more effective than pointing out their lack of evidence.

I have an idea. Let's get some focus groups and TEST it! That's how we get to an answer.