Believers Can Be Reasonable

The “new atheist” attacks on religion agree on this much: Religion is toxic. Religion–all religion–is “dangerous,” assert Richard Dawkins in … Continued

The “new atheist” attacks on religion agree on this much: Religion is toxic. Religion–all religion–is “dangerous,” assert Richard Dawkins in “The God Delusion” and Sam Harris in “Letter to a Christian Nation.” In “God is Not Great,” Christopher Hitchens views religion as “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”

The vitriol aside, there is, methinks, much common ground between religion’s critics and apologists. Mindful of the example of Jesus, a radical critic of the religion of his day, we Christians can respond, first, by affirming many of the indictments of religion, which has often been associated with idiocy and evil. And skeptics are surely right to surmise some connection, as in the example of Governor Sarah Palin, between religious fundamentalism and opposition to stem-cell research and a woman’s right to choose, even after being raped.

Moreover, if I, as a behavioral scientist and writer, am to discern and communicate truth–also, God’s truth I presume–then I must be open to changing my mind even about cherished religious ideas. At the heart of my religious belief is the working assumption that there is a God . . . and it’s not me (or you). Knowing that I have dignity but not deity, my surest conviction is that in some ways I err, as do you.

As ecological findings drove biblical scholars to reread the biblical mandates concerning our stewardship of the earth and its creatures, so today’s psychological science has, together with recent biblical scholarship, challenged me to rethink my childhood understandings of the soul, of intercessory prayer, and of sexual orientation. To fellow believers, even to those of us rooted in a “Reformed and ever-reforming” religious tradition, such openness to science may sound scary.

As I explain in “A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists,” believers can share with skeptics a commitment to reason, evidence, and critical thinking, while also embracing a faith that supports happiness, health, and helpfulness.

Happiness. Freud described religion as an “obsessional neurosis” that breeds sexually repressed, guilt-laden misery. Hitchens concurs: Religious belief does “not make its adherents happy.”

Actually, the accumulating evidence is much kinder to C. S. Lewis’s presumption that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” National Opinion Research Center surveys of 43,000 Americans since 1972 confirm what many other researchers have found: Actively religious people report high levels of happiness, with 43 percent of those attending weekly or more saying they are “very happy” (as do 26 percent of those seldom or never attending religious services). Faith, and its accompanying social support, purpose, and hope, also correlates with effective coping with the loss of a spouse, marriage or job.

Health. Several large epidemiological studies (which follow lives through time to see what predicts ill-health and premature death) have identified a faith factor at work. Even after controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and education, religiously active people are, much like nonsmokers, less likely to die in any given year and they enjoy longer life expectancy. This faith-health correlation is partly attributable to the healthier lifestyles (including the lower smoking rate) of religious people, and partly to the communal support of faith communities and to the health benefits of positive emotions.

Helpfulness. Christianity has, over time, been associated with the founding of hospitals, orphanages, hospitals, universities, and civil rights movements–and with crusades, inquisitions, and the justification of war, bigotry, and genocide. Religion, as the biblical prophets join Jesus in reminding us, can indeed be toxic. But on balance is religion more humane or heartless?

This much is clear: Volunteerism runs high among religiously active people. In one Gallup survey, 46 percent of “highly spiritually committed” Americans were volunteering with the infirm, poor or elderly, as were 22 percent of those “highly uncommitted.” Ditto charitable giving, where national surveys for Independent Sector have revealed a strong faith-philanthropy correlation. In one survey, the 1 in 4 people who attended worship weekly gave nearly half of all charitable contributions.

To be sure, affirming the positive functions of faith says nothing about its truth claims. But among psychological scientists, whether believers or not, there is a growing discounting of the wholesale claim that all religion is toxic/dangerous/evil/violent. An intelligent, open, humble faith contributes to human flourishing, even as it makes sense of the universe, gives meaning to life, connects us in supportive communities, mandates altruism, and offers hope in the face of adversity and death.

David G. Myers is professor of psychology at Hope College and author of seventeen books, including the just-released “A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists”.

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  • Rob L.

    “An intelligent, open, humble faith contributes to human flourishing, even as it makes sense of the universe, gives meaning to life, connects us in supportive communities, mandates altruism, and offers hope in the face of adversity and death.”1. Faith is the opposite of intelligence. This man is a fraud.

  • Outlaw Torn

    Thank you for writing this article, I think I may have to pick up “A Friendly Letter” now and read it myself.I am an atheist and the big problem I have with the “New Atheism” is that they seek to replace the vitriol of some religious folks with the vitriol of some atheist folks.I hate to say it, but my view of religion originally stemmed from an episode of the Simpsons. Lisa has discovered that the local town historical hero was a fraud and a villain. When she attempts to interrupt the parade being held in his honor, however, she sees all the happy people in the streets, people who normal fight with one another have come together in joy and celebration together. She cannot bring herself to share the truth of the town hero with the crowd and she states, “The myth has value too.”This is how I feel about religion as an atheist. Religion is not truth. In my opinion there is no physical god anywhere ever. But God does exist. He exists as an idea in believers and if that idea is capable of giving joy to people or inspiring them to do good deeds then I welcome it. In that sense, religion is a valuable asset to humanity. That isn’t to say that everything about religion is good. It also has the power, like you stated, to inspire some to harm others or seek to control others. But then again, we are all human. We’ve landed men on the moon and also figured out how to make a bomb that can completely obliterate 100,000 people in an instant. The chart of human progress has never been a straight line but rather a wave equation with some steps forward and some backwards. But as with all human ideas and endeavors, including religion, in the long run we’ve always managed to take 2 steps forward for every step we take backwards.

  • Jack

    When I think of the top minds in western civilization: Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, and Hegel – all four of them believed in God – all four of them were reasonable. In fact, people who believe in God can be far more reasonable than atheists. Why? The fear factor.A believer thinks that the story doesn’t end with death. Life isn’t meaningless. Getting old isn’t something one has to pretend isn’t happening. The process of death and rebirth makes sense. The world in which we live is an opportunity to appreciate the generosity of a loving creator and a testing ground for our character. What kind of person will I become? Will I be loving, open, trusting, generous or something else. The choice is ours. And the believer sees a happy ending. A rebirth into something so wonderful it can only be described metaphorically. One experiences the same joy that Christ experienced at the resurrection, a share in the exultation and the well being of total freedom and the fullness of a body that is no longer bound by time and space or the aging process. And then the joy of having God all to yourself as God reveals and creates within the glorified soul new truth and deeper and deeper love continously and forever. And also being in a community not only with God but everyone else experiencing having God all to themselves as well. Wonderous.The atheist may be brave, kind, and generous but as he or she approaches the end won’t there be a bitterness, a regret, and a deep seated fear that none of what was accomplished will mean anything in a thousand years? Won’t it all ultimately be meaningless? I think so – its the worm in being that Sarte talked about eating away at the mind and the soul. Every moment takes one closer to the end and the end is meaningless. Therefore, reflection leads to dread and dread to anger and anger finally to despair.

  • paulF

    I really don’t get the “either-or” battle lines drawn by the fundamentalists and the atheist/secularists.

  • Fate

    “Actively religious people report high levels of happiness…”Suicide bombers are very happy when they detonate. The happiness is just a delusion which terrorists exploit. It brings up the old questions of why treat a happy man who is also insane (Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey). Is there an issue when a sadist regularly beats a masochist? Delusion and insanity reaping beneficial behavior is still deluded or insane.”Several large epidemiological studies (which follow lives through time to see what predicts ill-health and premature death) have identified a faith factor at work…”Its called the placebo effect and has been studied. Would it be worth telling a sick man that he won the lottery and is now a millionaire just so the placebo effect will help him get well? Are you saying the benefits of delusion make delusion preferable to reality?”Christianity has, over time, been associated with the founding of hospitals, orphanages, hospitals, universities, and civil rights movements–and with crusades, inquisitions, and the justification of war, bigotry, and genocide.”Non-believers have done the same thing. You just don’t see “ATHEIST FOUNDED” plastered on a hospital, orphanage, etc. And thanks for pointing out the flip side of the good christianity takes credit for.”Volunteerism runs high among religiously active people.”Well yea! Religious institutions put together a lot of volunteer activities. And when in church and a new volunteer program is announced and the priest/rabbi/whatever asks for volunteers, you can hear the groans. Religious institutions not only provide pathways to volunteer within and outside the church, they promote it, sometimes using guilt to get someone to volunteer. So it only makes sense that people who belong to an institution that promotes volunteerism will volunteer more. But its not because the people themselves are more inclined to volunteer spontaniously than a non believer. Non believers just don’t have that social institution pushing them.But look at what happens in spontanious situations, like a car accident. Who stops to help the injured, believers more than non-believers? I doubt it. I, an atheist, had to beg people at the last accident I found myself witnessing, to come and help. Most stood their ground. Out of about 30 people there, 5 helped me. I doubt 5 out of 30 people were believers. But had their priest or rabbi been there, you could be sure they all would be in their helping.

  • Outlaw Torn

    Dear Jack,While I cannot say how I will actually feel as I approach my deathbed, I do doubt that my reflection will “lead to dread and dread to anger and anger finally to despair” because of the meaninglessness of it all. I am an atheist, not a nihilist. I do not feel that anything in my life is ever meaningless. A thousand years from now it may be much more difficult to pinpoint my influence, but nonetheless, it will still be there. Not that it will matter much to me as I don’t expect I’ll be able in a thousand years to appreciate it. My life and the way I live it influences those around me, especially my friends and, should I choose to have them someday, my children. “And then the joy of having God all to yourself as God reveals and creates within the glorified soul new truth and deeper and deeper love continously and forever.” This doesn’t appeal to me. It is too much of a ‘I want to be a celebrity too’ approach to life and death for me. I am much more comfortable with the thought of living and dying being all there is. Beautiful and splendorous wonders exist in the universe: the electrons zipping about with such speed at such small scales to the seemingly endless galaxies spinning over and over again across the eons… these things make up the universe, these are the things from which I came — then I achieved intelligence and consciousness long enough to realize what was out there and to appreciate it in all its glory. In the blink of an eye I will lose that consciousness and return to the state I was in before I was born, part of the building blocks that make up the universe. My body will decompose in the ground. The Earth will one day be swallowed up by the sun where I will help provide the energy to shine across the face of the night sky. And the sun will eventually die as well — in a burst that will see the same elements that at one point made up my body, my thoughts, scattered across the stars forever. I will be a part of that gargantuan galaxy, spinning across eons, helping create every wonder I’ve ever enjoyed knowing and countless others I never had time to discover. I have the feeling that on my deathbed I will have a deep appreciation for all things I’ve ever done and witnessed, even every single mistake I’ve made or embarrassment I’ve suffered because I will know that so few ever reach the state of self-awareness and intelligence to understand that the universe exists to the extent that a human being can. I will appreciate everything and hopefully die fulfilled and extraordinarily content. Never meaningless. Why do I need a God to create the meaning when so much of it already abounds?

  • Fate

    Jack wrote: “A believer thinks that the story doesn’t end with death.”True.Jack wrote: “Life isn’t meaningless.”I don’t know any atheist who thinks life is meaningless. You leave behind a lot, children, progress through your work, etc. People leave legacies, and a legacy is not meaningless to most people, believers and non-believers.Jack wrote: “Getting old isn’t something one has to pretend isn’t happening.”I’m an aging atheist and I *know* its happening.Jack wrote: “The process of death and rebirth makes sense.”A statement with no support if I ever saw one. When was the last time you saw a rebirth?Jack wrote: “The world in which we live is an opportunity to appreciate the generosity of a loving creator and a testing ground for our character.”Many non-believers test their character. Atheists are judged by other people, just as believers are. They just don’t talk to spirits hoping for a justification or forgivness of a bad character. Atheists live with their flaws and thus work to fix them. Believers ask for forgivness.Jack wrote: “What kind of person will I become? Will I be loving, open, trusting, generous or something else. The choice is ours. And the believer sees a happy ending. A rebirth into something so wonderful it can only be described metaphorically.”So it is the believer who thinks life is meaningless and its the afterlife one should be working to attain. You do good not because doing good is good but because you are racking up points to get into heaven? If you save my life its not because you value saving lives but because you consider it an addition to your resume? You sound like a suicide bomber thinking about what to say to God as he pushes the detonator. Jack wrote: “One experiences the same joy that Christ experienced at the resurrection, a share in the exultation and the well being of total freedom and the fullness of a body that is no longer bound by time and space or the aging process.”What you said can be quoted almost exaxtly from the ancient Egyptian book of the dead. Delusion of an afterlife is in almost all religions. Fancy that!Jack wrote: “And then the joy of having God all to yourself as God reveals and creates within the glorified soul new truth and deeper and deeper love continously and forever.”Your own, personal, Jesus? Jack wrote: “And also being in a community not only with God but everyone else experiencing having God all to themselves as well. Wonderous.”And what will you do in this wonderous afterlife? Sit on a couch and watch Oprah? Just what do you see yourself doing in heaven?Jack wrote: “The atheist may be brave, kind, and generous but as he or she approaches the end won’t there be a bitterness, a regret, and a deep seated fear that none of what was accomplished will mean anything in a thousand years?”There are many people who shaped various societies 1000 ago that are fondly remembered today. But all you have to do is look at your children and know your life will continue, maybe not remembered, but continue into the future, your morals and traditions continued. Do you put up a christmas tree? Do you know why? Do you know how many generations that tradition goes back?Jack wrote: “Won’t it all ultimately be meaningless?”Not at all. But I must say, only doing things that will get me into heaven seems like a poor way to lead a life. Suicide bombers show us one way this delusion leads to bad results. The crusades were another. Witch burnings and even today there are people who believe a woman should die rather than perform a life saving abortion. Delusion is not a good thing and promoting delusion promotes things that are only good on the surface while also promoting things that are truly bad. Jack wrote: “I think so – its the worm in being that Sarte talked about eating away at the mind and the soul. Every moment takes one closer to the end and the end is meaningless. Therefore, reflection leads to dread and dread to anger and anger finally to despair.”Check out aging atheists and I doubt you will find that. You will see them enjoying what’s left in life, volunteering, working to make life better for all because their children and children’s children will continue to live long after they are gone.

  • Billuccio

    “Believers can be reasonable?” Please excuse my disdainful chuckling.On a site where “believers” is so frequently used as a synonym for people who believe certain things on the basis of unproven faith rather than through verified fact and valid logic, that phrase is more than a bit absurd.Or perhaps, in your defense, you’re using the term “reasonable” in some special, twisted way.But certainly “faithers” are not acting “rationally” when they believe that faith is a sound path to knowledge. There is not a single instance in the entire history of mankind where the use of faith has ever lead to real knowledge, except by chance. Not one instance, and I challenge you to prove otherwise.If it’s true that faith does in fact lead to the benefits you mention, then there must by definition be some explanation for the phenomenon other than “reasonableness.” Dumb luck, perhaps? Who knows?But we all should know one thing — that when people act on their beliefs rather than on fact and logic, they open themselves up to a life based on chance, and a life often plagued by self-made disasters.As John Wayne said, “Life is hard, and when you’re stupid it’s very hard.”

  • Enemy Of The State

    I don’t know whether there’s a sentient ‘god’ or not; my opinion on the matter is no more or less valuable or true than anyone else’s.I do know that, for whatever reason, there is a universal belief in deity of some sort, so I respect those who believe. But respect goes both ways. In exchange for a respectful exchange of differing views, I would expect not to be warned about going to Hell (I’m familiar with the concept); and not told that I ‘have no values’ because my values do not happen to be your values.If believer and skeptic are willing to leave their respective prejudices at the door, then both can have a fruitful discussion. Someone may even learn something.

  • Gibson Polk

    The problem with discussing religion is that we assume we have a common understanding of its vocabulary. All the words – religion, god, prayer, spiritual, soul, holy, sacred – can be defined in such a way as to appeal to raging fundamentalists and to calm universalists alike. Emerson has a beautiful definition of “prayer” that even a good atheist could get behind. Spinoza was excommunicated and branded an atheist (a label he rejected) and yet atheist said he believed in “Spinoza’s God” which was equivalent to a pantheist description of “nature”.As an atheist myself, my basic problem with religion is when it closes the mind. When religious people tout their “faith” as their guiding light, then the conversation essentially ends, at their choice. There is no reasoning with them. A civilized democracy cannot survive this kind of faith, but moderate religionists provide cover by using all the same vocabulary of religion and assuming we all agree as to its meaning. We atheists say that until you religionists can agree on your terminology, we will remain skeptical.

  • Kert

    I am truely a little dumbfounded by those who claim to be unbelievers. Even after an article showing the facts of what religion has done to create good and give meaning, there are still people claiming all religion is bad for us. Can’t you just look at the facts and agree religion has brought good. It at the very least gives meaning to life, promotes good, and gives us a reason for morality. This is shown in many studies. I understand that many won’t believe and that is there decision, but it is shown that we are doing good in part do to our religion.I know some hound on the issue of religions terrorism. I would point out this is a small group that often hijacks religion for their own purposes. If anywhere near a majority of religios people actual followed these ways, we would not be able to survive in this world. In truth this group doesn’t deserve mention with people who actually serve God.

  • Al

    Nice column. Like the message that faith and reason can be complementary, not mutually esclusive. Agree totally with that.Liked too that the author owned the churches long shadow side.Members of churches, independent spiritual thinkers & atheists can co-exist peacefully when we live and let live.It seems to me also that to get through the inevitable ups and downs and challenges of life, we all need a measure of faith, confidence and a good hope.Doesn’t really matter where that faith comes from in my view.Could be a religion, a philosophy of life or just from some kind of intuitive faith that no matter how scary things get, somehow life itself is worth trusting.Plus if faced with a major crisis in our lives (and this of course happens to most at some phase) what’s a person going to do. Descend inevitably into complete despair?Of course, we have to meet challenges through reason, will and action. But some kind of faith is probably crucial for most of us at some point, too.

  • BennyFactor

    Religion is all those things that the devout athiests describe – but faith is not. Faith is a one-to-one intimate covenant relationship with God. Religion is the accumulation of 2000 years of added on pomp and circumstance, that has grown to be evermore antithetical to Christ simple messages and the Pauling “constitution”. And, in America it’s even worse – a pyramid caste system built by the tithes (only jews are required to tithe) of pew-sitting slaves, to exalt, not God, but to exalt their chosen or board-appointed (and rarely Lord anointed)leaders.

  • Fate

    FH wrote: “So in your diatribe you have compared this very reasonable statement with a suicide bomber??? Fate, what is your “good”? There is no “real” metric for good in your world-view. The existentialist BS you babble on about is no metric…when the world of man is dead and gone…will it really matter whether he saved your life or not??? The entire concept of Christianity is to assail the point system you invoke. You can never earn enough points…so god built a bridge to you.”My point was that being a good person, according to the believer, is because God wants you to be good and if you are good you will get into heaven. A suicide bomber is following that logic. An atheist does good because it is a moral imperative, not because of a reward. Atheists do not harm people in the name of doing some concept of good. Morality does not require a God (e.g., the golden rule). If you look at all of humanity from the various religions we all pretty much live the same way, have the same ethics, raise our children and work hard, marry, and care for our relatives, form friendships and help one another, even strangers. These are not taught. They would exist, and do exist, in all cultures and religions and in the absence of religion. This idea that to be moral you *need* to believe in God is a myth perpetrated by religions, and by doing so demonize those who are not of that religion.As for “God’s” bridge, what happens if I don’t step on the bridge? Punishment? Hellfire? Now what did I do to deserve such punishment from a “loving” God when all I did was live a life that IMHO is exemplary and likely better than most good christians, but I just did not accept Him into my life?

  • FH

    Fate Wrote:Atheists do not harm people in the name of doing some concept of good. Morality does not require a God (e.g., the golden rule). If you look at all of humanity from the various religions we all pretty much live the same way, have the same ethics, raise our children and work hard, marry, and care for our relatives, form friendships and help one another, even strangers. These are not taught. They would exist, and do exist, in all cultures and religions and in the absence of religion.

  • Fate

    FH wrote: “This is an argument from arrogance…”I know better/more than God”.”I can only be arrogant if I believed in God. How can I be better or know more than something I consider not to exist? I think the words however offend you since you do believe in God. Don’t take this wrong, but telling a kid there is no Tooth Fairy will evoke the same response.FH wrote: “Does a baby understand the reason behind a shot…no…they only know the pain. If God exists, would the level of understanding not be at least as significant as between a doctor and an infant?”You are comparing adults to infants. I find this insulting. The baby can see hear and feel the doctor. The child knows the doctor exists though it may not understand the reason for the shot. Not only do I not understand the reason behind what are described as God’s invisible laws, I do not see God, hear God or feel God. If there were any shred of evidence for His existence I would be happy to look at it. But there is none, that’s why it is called faith. FH wrote: “As for innate morality…that is an argument for creation…not evolution.”I’m glad you agree that morality is innately human and not something the requires religious indoctrination. But religion can warp morality, as a suicide bomber reveals. It can take our innate morality and twist it so we do the opposite, because our morality is trumped by a belief in a God holding rewards and punishments.You might be interested in a study done recently showing how superstition is not just a human concept. It evolved in many animals, including humans, to protect us from predators. I have no clue how good the study is, just thought of it when you brought up creation/evolution:

  • Reasonable not hateful

    Sorry , fate, you don’t understand Christianity.You said in one of your toxic posts:”Many non-believers test their character. Atheists are judged by other people, just as believers are. They just don’t talk to spirits hoping for a justification or forgivness of a bad character. Atheists live with their flaws and thus work to fix them. Believers ask for forgivness.”No, believers are judged by both people and by God. And when they fail to live up to morals that God sets forth in his word, they ask forgiveness and then ask God to help them become better human beings and Christians. Christians know they are flawed (we are all sinners after all) but have the power of God to help them extract themselves out of the mess we are in this world. Atheists don’t have that, and can’t have it, as they have this variable, relative morality that shifts consistently. And this gem:”But look at what happens in spontanious situations, like a car accident. Who stops to help the injured, believers more than non-believers? I doubt it. I, an atheist, had to beg people at the last accident I found myself witnessing, to come and help.”Sure you are not showing your bias there, pal?I don’t think you know believers in any deep way. You have set up YOUR ideas of who believers are as a straw man and knock it over , over and over again. By the way, you don’t see atheists setting up many hospitals or volunteer for charities like you do believers. Believer’s do this because they actually have compassion for others no matter what they believe.

  • craig

    “As I explain in ‘A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists,’ believers can share with skeptics a commitment to reason, evidence, and critical thinking, while also embracing a faith that supports happiness, health, and helpfulness.”Mr. Myers,I agree with your inference that there are people who call themselves Christians, who are also committed to reason, evidence, and critical thinking. I know many such people.But reason, evidence, and critical thinking show the Bible to be full of contradictions, factually incorrect information, and rules and ‘wisdom’ that Christians in modern civilized society don’t follow. How do you decide which parts of the Bible you should follow and which parts you should not? On what basis do “reasonable believers” make such choices?Also, why is “faith” necessary to support and promote happiness, health, and helpfulness? Would you acknowledge that those wonderful goals are just as attainable without faith in somehing invisible and unprovable?

  • Stop Deleting Essays & then Plagiarizing WAPO, News Corp, et al

    a/o’s:^^

  • Stop Deleting Essays & then Plagiarizing WAPO, News Corp, et al

    a/o’s:^^

  • Stop Deleting Essays & then Plagiarizing WAPO, News Corp, et al

    a/o’s:^^

  • Stop Deleting and then Plagiarizing Me Essay WAPO, News Corp., et al

    a/o’s:^^

  • one thing

    One thing atheists, agnostics, skeptics and believers can agree on : JJ needs to be shot.

  • Chaotician

    Reasonable, how? The sheer gullibility of people to believe such nonsense is a testament to lifelong conditioning and the obsessive desire to belong to the group…any group!

  • sparrow

    At the risk of astounding Kert (hi Kert!) I most definitely agree. You said “Can’t you just look at the facts and agree religion has brought good. It at the very least gives meaning to life, promotes good, and gives us a reason for morality.” Indeed it has brought much good or it wouldn’t still exist, I think. The thing I can’t fully agree with is that only religion promotes good or gives meaning and morality. I know far too many agnostics and atheists who have led good, compassionate lives and I think for those who don’t believe in G-d or have a religion, their compassion and morality come from the exercise of the most basic and universal Golden rule of Do unto Others.Whether it’s a belief in G-d or the voice of conscience, good people come from every walk of life and from every kind of belief. It’s extremism that’s the problem- and sad to say, there’s plenty of extremism on all sides too.Very nice post, kert.

  • Att: Openly Flouting Jealous QUEER A R M i N U S, Got a Non-Straight Blog, Bar, Airport… not here.

    a/o’s:^^

  • paul c

    What I notice about a lot of the athiests posting here is that they don’t really take the time to understand why people believe in God. Many of the posters here assume that belief in God is mere blind faith, never realizing that reason can in fact, lead to faith and can also strengthen faith that exists. People analyze data in different ways and can come to competely different conclusions from the same experience. Name calling doesn’t do anyone any good and its disappointing that the author’s data is so easily dismissed without a shread of refuting data. If the athiests on this board want to demonstrate their moral superiority, I suggest that the most effective way would be to moderate the vitriole in their posts and show a little common kindness and understanding to fellow posters. Same goes for beleivers.

  • J Rhinehart

    Rob L..:Albert Einstein described belief in God as “childish superstition…. “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.)

  • moon,penn

    “I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.” Anne FrankWe seem to be getting closer to this. She was a great observer of human nature. On a small scale I am trying to begin all over again. The real difficulty is doing it alone. It’s difficult finding people or one person that will stop everything for you or for themselves to begin all over again, even if that is the best thing to do. She could easily be expressing the impact of modern terrorism, which is much the same as naziism was during her time. Not much has changed. We owe it to the children and next generation to find more paths that lead to peace. Religion can lead that effort. The world keeps getting more brutal and under attack. Nobody benefits from the destruction of society. It seems to be getting more intense. We have to work twice as hard to just preserve society because it is under attack.

  • J Rhinehart

    Mr. Myers, My grandmother was very religious, but not too spiritual. She insisted she was a good person, but she often tried to force her beliefs on others. In her mind, she was a good person, she had good intentions. But in my mind, she did a great deal of harm. So I do not believe she was an admirable person. I do not believe good intentions make a good person. In Sunday School once, a teacher said goodness was impossible without intelligence. I believe he was right. We often think of children as ‘good’, but they are not, they are amoral. My mother is retarded, she was taught to be ‘good’, she has a very simplistic view of what is good. Her lack of cognitive intelligence makes it impossible most of the time for her to know what to do to help anyone. She does not want to hurt people, but neither does she do much to help. I don’t think she is a bad person, but she is not a good person either. I think a person has to DO good things in order to be a good person. She thinks she can just sit & do nothing & be good. In my mind that’s neither good nor bad. It’s neutral, amoral, neither moral nor immoral. My mother is very religious. She goes to church every week. She believes that alone makes her a good person. But she doesn’t volunteer or help the sick or work on projects, she just goes to the Sunday School & the pews & sits there listening to the preacher, sings, goes home. Is that good? Not in my mind. But it is religious. My father did not go to church. He laughed at my grandmother when she told him he was going to hell because he didn’t believe the way she did. He understood how the world worked much more clearly than she did. But he felt deeply. When someone was hurting, he hurt too, a lot. He did not want to hurt anyone. He was deeply spiritual. Which is best? To not hurt others because you believe in hellfire & damnation & fear of being relegated to a future eternity in hell, or to care so deeply now that to hurt others is to hurt yourself? To me, that’s the difference between religion & spirituality. Religion is taught. Spirituality is felt.

  • Roy

    By their very nature, Christians nor Muslims can not be tolerant. Look at their scriptures. It’s “my way or the highway” The dogmatic “religious” hate tolerance like evil hates the light.

  • moon,penn

    “The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters is that to us it is primarily a performance, to them it was a real experience. To these men it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ living in them.” James Madhlope Phillips (December 11, 1919- October 22, 1987) was a South African artistIt’s a long road and there is always the light within one that does not go out even as we sleep. Our dreams are of the light and we continue to think even as we sleep. There is light even in the darkness and that night light is reflected in the goodness we can do. We must do, for faith without works is dead. Intolerance for evil unites us and evil has no true light of love. We must hate in order to love. Nature brings both creation and destruction. We hate Ike, we love the source of Ike. Life is a love hate relationship and a complex series of events. All things happen for a reason and ruin happens even to the tolerant. Some things can’t be tolerated and others can’t be prevented. It’s too late for prevention, it’s never too late for the cure. The work of the artist continues on, like the work of Christ it never ends. The seasons change, the work remains the same so see the light. Justice is blind like love, it can see in the dark though.

  • moon,penn

    Fate is a mysterious guidance that only time can make us understand. The future is mysterious too, but we have faith in the future because we must trust in goodness to guide our actions even if our thoughts are bad. We can’t know everything and we don’t need to know everything, so the unknowns and known unknowns are one in the same. We only know what we know and know who we love and who loves us and that is enough. Love is mysterious and we look forward in the same direction and know not why. It’s the destination that matters. Some things are predestined to happen and there’s nothing that can be done to stop them and shouldn’t be done. Sometimes doing nothing is all the better. Love can wait for it is always patient and never jealous.

  • Fate

    Reasonable not hateful wrote: “Sorry , fate, you don’t understand Christianity.”I was a christian most of my life. I understand it more than you think.Reasonable not hateful wrote: “No, believers are judged by both people and by God. And when they fail to live up to morals that God sets forth in his word, they ask forgiveness and then ask God to help them become better human beings and Christians.”Exactly, their forgiven (no reason to feel bad anymore) ask for help from God to be better, not deciding to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and actually change. And when they do not become better, its not their fault, God simply did not answer their prayers. I see it all the time. Its what happens when you place your convictions into someone elses hands instead of considering them your own to care for and nurture.Reasonable not hateful wrote: “Christians know they are flawed (we are all sinners after all) but have the power of God to help them extract themselves out of the mess we are in this world. Atheists don’t have that, and can’t have it, as they have this variable, relative morality that shifts consistently.”What makes you think atheists have a relative morality? Atheists have ethics too you know and actually understand them instead of just feeling guilty because the big guy might be watching. Many ethics atheists hold are based on religious tenents, where much morality has been developed. Since I grew up christian I have much of that morality and I consider “forgivness of others” to be one of christianities greatest morals. But I once knew a buddist who would not kill even an ant or fly. He simply told me that all life to him was sacred and by believing that not harming even the smallest thing, he believed, made him a better, more non-violent, and peaceful person. I was a little taken aback. What a simple phylosophy to live by. But by following that does not make me a buddist just as following many christian ethics does not make me a christian. But what is different is I KNOW why I hold these beliefs, these ethics. And when I do wrong, as we all sometimes do, I must analyze myself, figure out how I will not do it again. But I don’t see that in believers, they just ask God for forgiveness then pray they will change, somehow.Reasonable not hateful wrote: “I don’t think you know believers in any deep way. You have set up YOUR ideas of who believers are as a straw man and knock it over , over and over again. By the way, you don’t see atheists setting up many hospitals or volunteer for charities like you do believers. Believer’s do this because they actually have compassion for others no matter what they believe.”Wow, first you say I’m setting up strawmen then you set one up yourself. If you don’t see atheists doing good in this world it is because you are blind or live among people of your own religion, as many religious people tend to do. Please read the following link, showing how your argument is hollow:And, btw, I volunteer all the time. Its a family tradition, not because I fear a God. I think you do not understand atheists at all and are what I typically see in believers, someone who because they have faith think their goodness is completely derived from their faith, and thus without faith goodness is not possible. That is wrong and the complete opposite is true. The tenents of your faith are completely derived from the innate goodness in you and everyone. Religion did not invent goodness, they simply took responsibility for it. If all goodness was derived from faith alone, then prisons would be filled with atheists and not christians, but the opposite is true.

  • Anthony

    Where’s Satan in all of this? We seem to be far more comfortable contemplating God, but taking Satan for granted. I am not simply looking for someone to blame, but if we except God and all that means then there is someone else we need to keep in consideration. Especially given Satan’s role in the world and the fact that Satan is here actively participating not off in some heavenly retreat. Men and women, not religion, are responsible for their actions, but were those actions inspired or solely their own?

  • Joy vs Happiness

    There is a big and important difference between joy and happiness. They really are not synonymous. Happiness is temporal and usually dependent on current circumstances. Those that experience true spiritual joy can continue to do so even in the midst of very ‘unhappy’ and trying times. Joy isn’t dependent on current circumstances but is rooted to something much deeper and spiritual.

  • Fate

    Anthony wrote: ” Men and women, not religion, are responsible for their actions, but were those actions inspired or solely their own?”Yes.Joy vs Happiness: I enjoyed your post and I agree completely with it. Just to clarify since your post seemed to equate joy with faith, atheists can also have joy since they know reality and their own abilities. Some would call it confidence. Anyway, thanks to a great education, taking nothing for granted, and always viewing what I have in life as though I could lose it all tomorrow (especially with the economy acting up ;-), I find much joy in what I am and what I have made of myself. I feel I can face any challenge. Happiness is on the other hand, as you say, short term and consequential. For example, I’ve very happy its Friday!

  • Brambleton

    Fate,”Exactly, their forgiven (no reason to feel bad anymore) ask for help from God to be better, not deciding to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and actually change. And when they do not become better, its not their fault, God simply did not answer their prayers.”—> This is complete nonsense. Look around you in your neighborhood and at work and you’ll find plenty of “Christians” who aren’t sitting on their behinds waiting for God to solve all their problems. Are you telling me that there doesn’t exist a single professional, Christian athlete that hasn’t gone through grueling physical therapy to recover from a severe injury?You’re right that Christ forgives us for our sins, but that doesn’t give anyone a free pass to consistently make the same mistake over and over again. You can’t watch pornography everyday and then rely on God’s forgiveness. As a “former Christian”, I’m quite surprised you don’t get that.

  • moon,penn

    There is always some problem that needs solved and somebody trying to solve it. If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t need solutions. Love always works toward the future. If we know nothing else about the future we know this. There will be love. Where there’s great love there are great miracles. Miracles aren’t very efficient, but you count on them. Computers are very efficient and you can’t always count on them. Look at Wall Street for proof. Lots of computers and more people out on the street. The computers are sitting there looking at each other and the empty chairs in front of them. Surely God must be laughing at us. We invented our own problem trying to reinvent creation and succeeded in creating a big mess of things in the process. Now we need more computers to calculate our losses. I know where you find them and so do you. We can have airplanes without pilots, but instead we have airplanes without passengers. They have bombs though, so some missions are more important than others. Some things can’t be helped and others help themselves and help us all. Go Air Force

  • J Rhinehart

    “…science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” (Albert Einstein, 1941)

  • paul c

    Fate:Roy, How can you say that Christians are by their nature intolerant? The defining word for Christians is Love. Jesus said that the summary of scripture is to Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. In the words of St. Paul, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Does this sound like a creed of intolerance?

  • Fate

    Brambleton wrote: “You’re right that Christ forgives us for our sins, but that doesn’t give anyone a free pass to consistently make the same mistake over and over again. You can’t watch pornography everyday and then rely on God’s forgiveness. As a “former Christian”, I’m quite surprised you don’t get that.”I’m afraid it seems to. I see enough christians in the news who after years of hookers, closeted gay sex and cheating on spouses ask for forgivness, as though that makes it all better. I’ll never forget Swaggart crying and pleading for God’s forgivness. These people are suppose to be christians and day after day made the same mistake (though they probably did not consider it a mistake until caught) over and over again and DID rely on God’s forgivness to make it all better. Pedophile priests were forgiven by bishops (and presumably God) and hidden but allowed to continue to work with children who they continued to abuse. This whole attitude that God will forgive you should you *decide* to make a mistake reminds me of the kids you see acting out and doing whatever they want. They must have parents that let them get away with anything, forgiving anything they do. Well, some (not all) christians do what they want because they have a father who forgives anything, if you really believe it was wrong anyway. Atheists are not children looking to a father for forgivness. They are adults and know they are responsible for their own actions.

  • J Rhinehart

    PAUL C wrote:Does this sound like a creed of intolerance?September 19, 2008 2:28 PM

  • J Rhinehart

    I don’t know why so many “Christians” I’ve known are so adamantly determined to convert the world to their way of belief, but “Belief”, by it’s very nature, leads or is indicative of a state of mind in which the believer WANTS something to be true. Anytime someone wants something, they tend to try to act in a way to make it come true, or to at least remove all reminders around them that it is not true. I read a recent report on political lies in which groups of people were tested to determine whether they were liberal or conservative, then given scenarios in which they were told political lies about the opposite party. Some were then told the lies were lies, some were told nothing more. When their political views were tested again, they found a very different reaction between the liberals & the conservatives in how they reacted to being told the lies were not true. In the liberal’s case, many changed their opinions, showing they believed the lies were lies. But the conservatives not only did not believe them, many went in the opposite direction, they believed the lies even more strongly. In other words, the conservatives not only were more willing to believe the lies, they were less willing to change their minds in the face of new facts that contradicted the lies & they clung to the lies. So, the study showed that there is a definite difference between the “liberal” mind and the “conservative” mind. The liberal mind is one willing to change with the times, the conservative mind is not. The liberal mind is more flexible. I don’t know that some believers CAN be reasonable. Doesn’t absolute belief in something you have no way of knowing or proving automatically mean your mind is not centered in reality (at least in some aspect)? I knew a guy once who believed in ‘angels’. When I asked him why, he said he had heard “voices” of good & bad angels. He was schizophrenic. He actually heard the voices – but no one else heard them. Native Americans used to revere insane people, they would guard them & protect them. I think it’s because seeing someone acting in a way that’s totally outside our realm of reality makes us realize what OUR boundaries are, mentally. It teaches us, just like watching children grow makes us realize how the mind works, or watching retarded people interact.

  • paul c

    Fate, > the truly faithful, the people who study their bibles and believe God is everywhere on a 7/24 basis. Though I consider their belief blind in a different way, by selectively ignoring reality,> those who say they believe but are just your Sunday church goers, who do it because that’s what they were taught, because they would feel bad sitting at home on Sunday because of the guilt. And if you ask them whether God exists, they say yes and tell you what they have learned in church, but have no deep belief. You understand of course that 95% of the people in the US are believers (Pew report) and would be in one of those two categories. So if what you say is true, 95% of the people are unable to digest the data properly about God while you (and presumably your fellow athiests) are. Don’t you think its reasonable to believe that at least a subset of the 95% are equal to you in the ability to analyze data and just came up with a different conclusion? Maybe, unlike you, some of them just can’t reconcile how the universe came to follow a set of physical laws if there wasn’t an intelligent entity creating those laws. Maybe , unlike you, some of them don’t believe that life could just spontaneously generate without a God to be teh architect. Maybe some of them observe that order requires intellingence and that no where in our universe has order spontaneously come out of chaos. Don’t be so quick to dismiss something that 95% of humanity believes, albiet in different ways. There is a reason for their belief and it has more to do with reason than it does superstition.

  • paul c

    Fate, > the truly faithful, the people who study their bibles and believe God is everywhere on a 7/24 basis. Though I consider their belief blind in a different way, by selectively ignoring reality,> those who say they believe but are just your Sunday church goers, who do it because that’s what they were taught, because they would feel bad sitting at home on Sunday because of the guilt. And if you ask them whether God exists, they say yes and tell you what they have learned in church, but have no deep belief. You understand of course that 95% of the people in the US are believers (Pew report) and would be in one of those two categories. So if what you say is true, 95% of the people are unable to digest the data properly about God while you (and presumably your fellow athiests) are. Don’t you think its reasonable to believe that at least a subset of the 95% are equal to you in the ability to analyze data and just came up with a different conclusion? Maybe, unlike you, some of them just can’t reconcile how the universe came to follow a set of physical laws if there wasn’t an intelligent entity creating those laws. Maybe , unlike you, some of them don’t believe that life could just spontaneously generate without a God to be teh architect. Maybe some of them observe that order requires intellingence and that no where in our universe has order spontaneously come out of chaos. Don’t be so quick to dismiss something that 95% of humanity believes, albiet in different ways. There is a reason for their belief and it has more to do with reason than it does superstition.

  • paul c

    J. Rinehart:You ask, “So how come so many self-named “Christians” are in reality so intolerant? Because people are imperfect creatures. Everyone knows that they should be tolerant. Not everyone can actually pull it off.

  • J Rhinehart

    PAUL C wrote:PAUL C wrote:Do you think it is right for people to call themselves “Christians”, if they cannot act like their Christ ideal? In other words, how christ-like does a person have to be before they earn the right to call themselves actual “Christ-ians”? Does being like my retarded mother, and simply saying that they are a Christian, enough to make them one?

  • paul c

    J. Rhinehard:Now as for your question of what does it take for someone to call themselves a Christian. A Christian is someone who believes in Christ’s divinity and attempts to follow his example of Loving God and Loving his neighbor. No one does this perfectly and its dangerous to judge others because you will never know the whole story – what is in their heads and hearts and what their options truly are. Many times in my life I have made the mistake of judging others, only later to find out that my assumptions were completely off base. I’ve lately been trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. You might try that with your mother. You are being pretty harsh with her and do you really know the whole story?

  • Paganplace

    Still one thing I think is indicative of the atheists v monotheists contest,on stuff like this:”Happiness. Freud described religion as an “obsessional neurosis” that breeds sexually repressed, guilt-laden misery. Hitchens concurs: Religious belief does “not make its adherents happy.””Both conflate, really, ‘Abrahamic monotheism’ with ‘religion.’ It may sound more even-handed, even, to lump them all together, but not all religions, or views of any religion, must necessarily be based on guilt and sexual repression. Maybe that’s a start in solving the real social issues within and without certain religions.

  • Anonymous

    Gasoline is expensive. I was in advance auto today and a guy came in reeking of the smell of gasoline. Three people in the store comment on it including the store manager. I was so bad that the manager was ready to ask the gut to leave.Ironically, one of the people in the store was someone that I know, haven’t seen him for a long time but it was nice to see him again. Jim said to me that gut smells like he has been rolling in gasoline, that’s when the manager said he was going to ask the guy to leave because he smelled so bad. The guy in the parking lot said his engine caught fire from a gas leak and that he poured water on it and it didn’t stop the fire, he was in a black truck, and I could recognize both of them. The guy in the truck was talking about burning his wife to death with gasoline. I told him that he would go to jail for murder and that I would be a witness to what he said. He also told me that he has hidden cameras in his house to spy on his wife with microphones and that he put a GPS system on her car so he could track her whereabouts. I told him that he will go to jail for doing these things and he laughed and said I won’t get caught. I said the very ones that think that they are above reproach are the ones that get caught. He said he didn’t care that he had people to do it for him and that they would lie for him.