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.

Certainty in the Uncertain

History is nothing if not documented change – change in cultures, societies, nations – each one having their own take on morals and ethics, religion.

So it is extremely curious to me that current day believers are convinced that there is one true religion that provides a morally absolute framework and that they happened to be born at a time in the world when that one true religion was in fashion and they happened to be born in a region where it was practiced and to parents who were teaching or amenable to it.

It’s like the ultimate version of my deity can beat up your deity.

I don’t see how you can be so certain of a thing like a religious belief and take from it an absolute unchanging morality – when there’s been 10’s of thousands of religions in human history.

How can a believer be certain to have the right and true religion from all the religions that we know about through history, when there’s the same amount of evidence for all of them being real. Which is none at all.
It boggles how a believer can cling with certainty to a belief system that has no basis in logic or evidence to support the claims? What makes them reject all other currently practiced religions in favour of any one?

Usually people remain in the religion that their parents exposed them to. Or at least, its a religion that is dominant in the area were they reside. Safety and more importantly, validation in numbers.

But why accept a currently practiced religion over older ones that are now out of fashion – if there really was a god or deities – wouldn’t they have wanted worship and tribute from the start of there being people?

Isn’t it better to pick none than pick a potentially wrong one?

If there’s an afterlife and some judgement  isn’t it better to say, hey, I couldn’t have known who, so I opted to be a good person, use the brains that I had and live my life.

Instead of well, I though the other guy was the true god, so I worshiped him – and now, you’re kinda…standing there in front of a totally other god – other variation on the one you picked and well…you’re screwed.

Because the one thing that all the deities seem to have in common is jealousy and vindictive pettiness to the point of genocide more often than not.

Which, when you think about it, should indicate that these would not be anything that had anything valid to say about morals or deserving of worship.

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footnote to add a link to Tim Cooley’s Atheist blog post

The words Christians Use That Sicken Me

And I include this here because these words and phrases stem from baseless certainty.

Open Minded

open minded does not mean accept any and all claims as possible.

that’s called gullible.

open minded means you listen to the evidence and come to a conclusion, but continue to consider new evidence if presented – and may or may not draw a new conclusion

hmm,  sounds like the scientific method!

but without the peer review check and balance.
atheistsare in fact open minded, we’re reserving judgment pending actual evidence to consider

believers are not – they’ve already made up their minds that a deity exists – although, it’s not clear how they came to settle on one over all the tens of thousands of others to chose from.

but not being open minded is a taunt that believers throw down – sort of like how the conservatives also use the word “liberal”, “feminist” or “lesbian”

I have often thought that if those names aren’t being applied to you that you’re not doing your job right!

but, it sure does show the lack on their side of the alleged debate when the believer argument boils down to “C’mon, if you believer and you die you go to heaven, but no harm and no fouls if there isn’t one” and “don’t be close minded”

well, the problem with that is two fold

first, there is great harm potential in believing in hopes of being rewarded as any suicide bomber, abortion doctor shooter or 9/11 or 7/7 suspect is proof of.

second, if there is a heaven and being an actual good person for it’s own sake and avoiding causing harm to others isn’t enough to get in – and being a repentant child molesting murderer is okay to get in – then that’s no heaven that I’d want any part of

nor is any deity who would send good people to eternal torment for mere lack of belief any deity worth giving any consideration to.

all the deities that humans have worshiped have really demonstrated the worst of human traits – jealous, insecure, violent, rapist and murdering bunch – and they are  no one you’d want over for dinner.