What Mr. Smartypants said….

I often play on the Topix atheist forum, and today, I am reblogging words by Mr. Smartypants from Andover, MN:

Jehovah is presumably omniscient, so he knew at the beginning of time that Adam and Eve would fall prey to temptation, yet he put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden anyways. Also, if he knew ahead of time that they would eat the apple of knowledge, then how could Adam and Eve even have free will in the first place?

(Side note: the apple is representative of knowledge, and ‘Lucifer’ is Latin for ‘bearer of light’. Why is knowledge such a horrible sin in Judeo-Christianity? Is it because smart people realize that the Mighty Oz is nothing more than an image conjured up by the clergyman hiding behind the curtain?)

So, Jehovah banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden forever. Fair enough. However, he basically poisons every human after Adam and Eve with Original sin so that they’re born with one foot in hell the moment they’re born. It wouldn’t be so bad if every human born had signed a consent form, but nobody ever does–they have existence forced upon them.(On top of that, isn’t sin something YOU do of YOUR OWN volition? The idea that Original Sin can be transferred like a disease to non-consenting people seems like a oxymoron.)

On top of that, anybody who’s born with just Original Sin is automatically doomed to eternal torment in Hell, in spite of not asking to be born. Even if your particular denomination of Christianity doesn’t support Original Sin, that doesn’t mitigate things much anyways. He supposedly gave humans free will–not enough free will to cheat death or even levitate, just enough free will to damn yourself to eternal torment.

Jehovah has no sense of proportionality; if the only sin you ever do is steal a piece of penny-candy as a child, you go to the same Hell as Hitler and Stalin and suffer the same torment. On top of that, Jehovah gives no credit for good behavior; if you make up for stealing that piece of penny-candy by spending the rest of your life building hospitals for lepers and doing other good deeds, Jehovah ignores that and focuses only on the one bad thing you did.

And how does he mitigate the Hell which he created in the first place? By some absurd legal fiction in which he sends his kid, who is also himself, to Earth to die horribly on a cross. Talk about the ultimate whipping boy. That, like Original Sin, is based on the absurd idea that sin can be transferred like a disease or a legal contract. To make things worse, he allows billions of people to live their lives totally ignorant of Jesus so that they’re doomed from the moment they’re born. Worst of all, Jehovah knew at the beginning of time which souls would ultimately be doomed to Hell, yet he allowed them to be born in the first place.

Finally, Jehovah never bothered to clarify which of the thousands of denominations of Christianity was the right one, dooming further billions to Hell. Not only that, he sat by and did nothing while Christians were torturing millions to death for heresy and witchcraft, launching bloody Crusades, and committing mass murder against indigenous people.

I really wonder how any decent, ethical person could worship such a cosmic monster. If anybody ever deserves to suffer eternal torment, it’s the cosmic bastard Jehovah himself. It’s a good thing I’m an atheist/Freethinker; if I really thought that such an evil monster existed, I’d probably become a Satanist.

Intelligent, well-thought-out responses are invited, even from True Believers. If your only reply is to threaten damnation, I hereby condemn you to being an idiot…

Life is meaningful because it’s finite

An immortal life would hold no urgency, no need to put effort into accomplishing anything and little need for engagement and participation – but rather only patience and gentle prodding or manipulations to accomplish anything. Immortality would lack purpose as any goal can be accomplished given endless time to complete or achieve.

Aside: It occurs to me that immortality could be a function of our perception of time rather than existing minute by minute of infinite time – that by mastering our awareness of time, we alter our relationship with it, if we can manipulate time, time loses meaning and power over us. In a way, being able to like how time is presented in movies through montages, flashbacks and even flash forwards, be able to move along the timeline but not be subjected to a single timeline but rather, one that you experience in conjunction with everyone else and another that you experience alone and are able to in that solitary time line, control or manipulate the shared timeline. The idea of being immortal and having to endure awareness of days, never mind hours and minutes, seems to me to be torturous.

Immortality removes from concern or consideration the workaday world, relationships and morals and values. To an immortal subjected to the same time concepts as mortals – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries – what mortals value becomes of little consequence because mortals would be of little consequence given their short overlap of life span. Morals and values are all a matter of perspective and relationship/context determines the perspective.

For a mortal to be subjected to a wrong where the impact lasts a period of time, even if it’s their lifetime, this is a serious wrong – but for an immortal, that same wrong becomes an inconvenience that they will spend a small portion of their existence to resolve or outlive the effect/outcome. From an immortal perspective, any mortal wrong – no matter how grave to a mortal – becomes a matter of no special consequence or significance, given the enormity of time to recoup losses or recover.

The significance of this should not be lost on any supernaturalists who believe that there is a hell or similar punitive eternal afterlife, because any immoral or even evil action, when put in the context of the grand scheme of the universe, is limited in scope and significance – making eternal punishment utterly pointless – and on the flip side, making eternal reward equally pointless – for what can any mortal in their finite time really do to merit either end of the scale?

There are three post-death possibilities: oblivion, eternal reward/punishment or reincarnation.

Oblivion

You’re born, you live, you die and then cease to exist.

Elegant, simple and logical. Because our lives are finite, what we do with them is of utmost importance, because it’s the only life we can know that we have, so we have to make the best of what we have, no matter what it is that we have.  Whether we chose to make our lives about ourselves at the expense of others or live in a co-operative/harmonious way with other – and what we determine “others” means – is down to the individual.

We are all our own moral centre, whether we can make moral distinctions ourselves or select an external system to make them for us.

Eternal Reward/Punishment

You’re born, you live and depending on how, where, when you lived, you die and go to an eternal place of reward or punishment.

The problem inherent in this system is that this requires some gatekeeper to determine your eternal destination, and some means to operate/administer the gatekeeping and the separate places where the rewarded and punished continue to exist. But it raises several questions and a certain level of bureaucratic finesse – what if you earned eternal reward, but the person you love had earned eternal punishment – it would not be rewarding for you to be without your loved one, but they are being punished – so does the reward afterlife include copies of the people in the punishment afterlife in order for the rewarded ones to be sufficiently happy?

More than that, does anyone actually deserve to be eternally rewarded when they are happy being rewarded full well knowing that others are being eternally punished?  What if someone cannot be happy in the reward afterlife unless they know for certain that other individuals are being punished? And, if you cannot be happy with being rewarded knowing that others – even people known to you – are being eternally punished, how can you exist in a blissfully rewarded state? Especially when the mechanism for determining who goes where are rather murky, arbitrary, culturally/socially determined and decided based an exceptionally small data set, given our finite lifespan.

Reincarnation

You are born, live, die and are born again in a repetitious cycle of learning and experience all that there is to experience, with successive cycles being dependant on what you experienced in the previous cycles.

Some religions have the cycles eventually end in oblivion or nirvana, and others have layovers of indeterminate time and bliss/punishment states between life cycles.

Reincarnation has the appeal of not only energy recycling but consciousness recycling – in addition to death not being an end, but only a transformation, but also a sense of cosmic justice, that life is not merely short and arbitrary, but that it is a series of experiences, and good and bad not being meaningful terms, but rather mere description of a state in the current or other cycles, to be corrected or reaffirmed according to what you are experiencing next.

The stumbling block is that reincarnation is an awful lot of energy, effort and time if it only ends in oblivion/nirvana, because each is a state of being perhaps in but not of the universe.

Ultimately, reincarnation results in being in a solitary state of either oblivion or transcendent happiness without wanting – and life is ultimately about that wanting and the struggle to strive.

Which in the end, leaves the only sensible and natural option to be oblivion to immediately follow death, since this is essentially where reincarnation cycles complete.

Conclusion

Occam’s Razor, not to mention the path of least resistance, leads towards one short life to experience, learn and cram in what you can and then oblivion, same as before birth so is after death.

__________

Tip o the nib to Bhaga for inspiring me to stretch

Authenticity

What does it mean to be authentic in a world lacking in meaning and purpose?

To feel wounded suggests that there’s still a remnant of meaning, otherwise, pain would have no meaning, serve no purpose and not be distinguishable from other feelings. If nothing else, pain is a reminder that one is still alive, still breathing, still bleeding blood or meaning.

Where to turn when meaning and purpose is undermined and even lost?

The religions of the world made little sense to me when the world was full of promise and meaning and purpose – religions seem more of a cosmic joke with an unfunny punch line. The worst part of religion is that you aren’t able to ask questions or ponder the consequences of what religion claims and what religion really means. Especially Abrahamic ones – for if there were a god, it is a god in hell – for what can be worse than seeing the universe play out, as you know it would and without the ability to impact or change anything – because you knew you’d tweak this or that with the same end result – because knowing all means you can never be surprised or have novel experiences, only watch the universe unfold day by day, moment by moment with full awareness of the past moments and future moments and every unrealized possibility that could have arisen but did not.

Free will for humans means no interference from deities and life has no meaning without at least the appearance of free will if not actual free will, making any deity bound to a non-interference policy and reliant on fickle faith for worship – and what need does an omnipotent being have of worship, unless all creatures crave unconditional love? In which case, are dogs to humans as humans are to deities? But a dog’s love is limited in scope and by lifespan – although there is no upper limit to the quality of doggie love.

In which case, is god like the Star Trek Borg, adding each of our individual distinctiveness back into the hive whole with Death being merely the collecting mechanism?

If the universe be hell for deities, then what hope can there be for mere humans? Unless our limited understanding of the universe ensures novel experiences and it is the path to understanding that is the meaning, with sweet oblivion the reward? After all, an eternity in any single state would, given enough time, become painful until the pain became sweet bliss and back to pain – is true pleasure just that moment when pain and pleasure are balanced and any imbalance in either direction the torturous motivator to return to the harmonic balance?

Inequality begins with hell and heaven

Aside

heaven and hell is the source of their love of inequality

what more dramatic inequality is there?

here can be no heaven without a hell – otherwise, they have no one to lord it over – so their job is to make sure people know about their god expecting and wanting them to not believe to ensure a steady stream of people to be in hell

if they really believed that their god would let people into heaven who simply hadn’t gotten the memo and they really wanted everyone to go to heaven

then they would never have become missionaries, since people would get heaven if they hadn’t known about it

and they don’t stop to consider that if their god was really omnipotent, then everyone would have heard about it and again, no need for missionaries

so they set about proclaiming the words as an apologist thing that god didn’t do the heavy lifting because missionary work is part of the believer’s job

but really, it’s to make sure people know just enough to go to hell and they keep heaven pure and to themselves

Winning and Losing

I am uncertain what believers are referring to when they refer to winning and losing in religion vs atheism – for lack of a better word – debates; recognizing that online forum discussions between non-professional debaters, are more accurately, pissing contests and name calling fests.

I wonder how much is really owing to the anonymity vs the animosity of the participants. Not that I want to assert that atheists are blameless in rudeness, name calling and even malicious behaviors – but the percentage of atheists who thusly engage is anecdotally lower than the percentage of religious believers who often start out the gate with threats of hell and eternal damnation.

I’ve tends towards a live and let live attitude, but that become difficult when dealing with people who are not content to let you live in kind. The idea that beliefs are private and should be respected falls apart on many fronts; not the least of which is many beliefs require the believers to spread them by the word or the sword:

An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”

“Then why,” asked the Inuit earnestly, “did you tell me?”

~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 The simple answer is that the priest aka believer is unwilling to share heaven with those whom they deem have not earned it by believing and the idea that people who hadn’t heard the word would be forgiven by the omnipotent god who was unable to effectively market and promote the word on his own is just illogical apologetics to make the religion seem less harsh than it actually is and to make their alleged omnipotent god forgiving, when it categorically is not at all forgiving given that the punishment for minor offences and major offences is the same being cast into eternal damnation without parole or time off for good behaviour.

Worse, that the believer cannot even imagine enjoying heaven unless there’s people who are cast into hell. Which also explains the insistence that only their god is preventing people from being serial murderer and rapists, rather than that these are self evidently anti-social behaviours that no person able to make moral distinctions could justify engaging in, without need to resort to punishment disincentives. The act of murder or rape, in and of themselves, are not enticing to a person capable of moral conduct. So punishment as a disincentive is only a deterrent to those people who are not moral to begin with and who need these matters clearly spelled out for them, in which case, by refraining, they are merely avoiding punishment in their own self interest rather than acting morally and for any social good.

Religious Belief is then a guideline for behaviour that the believer is not capable of working out on their own or spelling out that which should be self-evident. Except that the number of religious leaders and hierarchy members who have engaged in a variety of criminal, anti-social and immoral behaviors and conduct – from actually immoral or illegal actions such as molesting children, adultery, embezzlement, fraud, bigamy and bigotry to actions that are violations of the rules of the given religion such as non-marital sex, gay sex, sex generally, lying, stealing, coveting – it is clear that religious belief is not a sufficient system of behavioral codes and punishments to force believers to act within the apparent rules of the religion or within secular law or social moral norms.

But when you consider that religion isn’t that keen on humans being good are actually predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy and crapulent to start with and must repent, worship and sacrifice in order to redeem themselves to their chosen god’s good graces and esteem –  you have to kind of wonder, why, when we have an understanding about battered wives standing by their abusive partners, can we not recognize this same malfunctioning relationship pattern exists between humans and their deities?

Humans abase and genuflect, but the deities never call, never respond positivity or clearly to prayers or need for assistance. This absence of impact is excused by apologists with “Sometimes the answer is no”, “god’s will or purpose is unknowable, but we have to believe that there’s a plan or grand design.”

If god’s answer to prayers is no and no is indistinguishable with no god to hear the prayers, then what good is the god or the effort of worship?

Worse, some unknowable grand design is cold comfort to those who are suffering without apparent purpose – and if this grand design is so unknowable, then why do so many people claim to know what their god thinks about anything, while cherry picking their sacred texts to support their pet bigotry and causing much suffering in the world?

The plethora of religions in terms of both unique versions and the high number of sects within each version shows that religion isn’t winning by any meaningful measure- as it only splinters and not unites people; driving so much intolerance and violence, that religions are a death march towards our extinction in which everyone actually loses; but which religionists can claim victory by calling it the rapture – self fulfilling prophesy as it will be. In terms of the destruction of humans with few if anyone left to say or hear the inevitable “I told you so.”

There is something in the religious conservative mindset that makes self-destruction preferable to compromise or social change. Or maybe it’s something that makes them wanting so badly to be right, that they are willing to self-destruct in order to achieve it – which, I think we can put down to the belief in the afterlife. Maybe it’s just delusional self-righteousness and outright denial of consequences – after all, the rapture is supposed to restore the earth to the factory garden of Eden original settings. So, what need do we have of environmental protection laws with a god-backed warrantee?

For non-Abrahamic religions, what need is there for the same environmental protections or human rights when we are clearly working out our own bad karma and are deserving of all the badness and suffering – so should not interfere with this suffering so we can move onto to the next experience or cycle of learning.

If a person considers this life a dress rehearsal for the eternal or repeated cycles of experience, then it becomes easy to understand the willingness to die for ideas. There’s a certain romance of dying in a cause, strong enough to override our individual and even collective survival instincts. It’s not really dying if you expect an eternal afterlife, it’s just…. exit, stage right.