22nd November 2011

“I am an atheist because I have never seen any real evidence of any gods of any kind. Even as a child it bothered me that god did not act in obvious and public ways as depicted in the Bible. The liberal interpretation that the supernatural events in the Bible should be interpreted metaphorically only begged the question why the god entity shouldn't be interpreted metaphorically as well.”

Frederick Sparks

30 Responses to “22nd November 2011”

  1. Xhim Says:

    I am surprised at how many of these quotes express ideas that are shared by conservative Christians. We would of course say that we have seen some evidence of God, but we also find the liberal “metaphorical” interpretations as attempts to have their cake and eat it too. If I take heat for believing in an invisible supernatural, that’s to be expected. But to try to wiggle out of it by saying there is a supernatural but anything that appears supernatural is really natural if you can just explain the supernatural in a natural way, ’cause, hey, we all know how embarrassing the supernatural can be, so we really want a naturally explicable supernatural…. It’s just not being honest.

  2. RJ Says:

    xhim……………….

    i think today’s quote is both dorky, and simple-

    minded. i had no real reaction to it, other than

    to shrug it off.

    however, you took the time to compose a thoughtful

    answer, which i found much more interesting.

    so, two things…………..

    1) would you mind elaborating on your own experience

    with confronting evidence of god…………..that is, unless

    you consider it quite personal.

    and

    2) i think there is evidence to suggest the existence

    of phenomena that , witin the limits of present

    knowledge, may be supernatural ( NOT NOT

    NOT ANY GODS ).

    any thoughts on this ?

    respectfully………………………… R J

  3. Dan Says:

    “Even as a child it bothered me that god did not act in obvious and public ways as depicted in the Bible.”

    Nah, it didn’t bother me. As a young kid I just thought that it was a nice weekly ritual to go to church and that it was nice to have a quiet reflective time during prayer.

    What DID bother me was when I grew older and I realized that everyone else there actually believed that they were telepathically sending messages to an almighty benevolent being that just happens to inflict horrible suffering on the “chosen” people. The absurdity was too much for me to bear.

  4. electrabotanical Says:

    I went to one of those liberal churches that promotes a metaphorical interpretation of the babble. I could have written this quote. I think a lot of other people were there to see and be seen and have the social contacts.

  5. Xhim Says:

    RJ………
    2) I’m old enough that I went through the extreme rationalism of the 60’s and 70’s. This was an era in which people of different world views passionately argued their perception of truth. Then in the late 60’s this began to change with the development of New Age thinking. I was already a follower of Jesus then (the word “Christian” has been so devalued I’m not really comfortable withit any more), so it surprised me that people who had vehemently denied the supernatural where buying into a type of “spirituality” that made far less claim to objectivity than I did. Now that Western culture has moved into the relativism of post-modernism, that makes a little more sense, but is still surprising. However, that leads me to….

    1) Evidences for the existence of God are pretty subjective. This paradigm shift described above would be a small part of the subjective impression, i.e. does this indicate what Pascal called the “God-shaped vacuum” in human beings? My own experience of God started with my Grandfather, a drunk who was scooped out of the gutter by the Salvation Army, got “converted” and was a new man immediately. This made a huge impression on my Dad, who was only 4 at the time, but suddenly he had a father who was physically present and concerned about his family. So my Dad also became a follower of Jesus, which meant for me and my siblings that we lived in an idyllic childhood atmosphere. The presence of a loving father made it pretty easy for us kids to understand the concept of a loving Heavenly Father.
    Note to Dan: the problem of evil is, as you point out, huge. Probably the biggest problem “religious” people have to wrestle with. And while I don’t pretend to have any real answer to it, part of what has been convincing for me has been watching followers of Jesus deal with suffering. My Granddad died of liver cirrhosis (God didn’t heal the effects of his old life!)vwhen Dad was 9, but instead of putting Dad off, this confirmed his belief that God was there. It is very impressive to watch the way a true man of God faces death. This was repeated just this spring when my brother-in-law, Rand, died of cancer after an 18 month fight. Rand also came from an addict family where the addict was transformed when he became a follower of Jesus. When he died, his hospital room was packed with hospital personnel who were marveling at the way he could approach death.
    Obviously these couple of stories aren’t the totality of what is for me the convincing “evidence.” The impression I get from some of the comments to these quotes is that a lot of atheists harbor a lot of anger, I suppose because the “religious” people they have encountered have NOT been following Jesus. The old ’60s Jesus Freak song, “They will know we are Christians by our love” has a flip side. If there is no love, then it is pretty safe to say these people – regardless of what they call themselves – are not following Jesus.

  6. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    The quote smacks of the obvious but is essentially how I feel about the matter.

    There are natural things and there aren’t supernatural things. As a kid Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin I came to understand were unreal because naturally there weren’t possible.

    As a teenager scary horror flicks like the Omen, Nightmare on Elm Street, et cetera weren’t really convincing me that devils, ghosts, and the like were running rampant in this world.

    As an adult and for having read a number of religous texts, viewed documentaries, and for having seen the effects of religiousity on the evening news I can’t help but to see as something to be dismissed. It is stupid, ignorant, and best discounted for that.

  7. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Xhim Says:
    “The impression I get from some of the comments to these quotes is that a lot of atheists harbor a lot of anger…”

    You are reading too much into it. We ought to be able to use the words “stupid” and “ignorant” without the presumption of hostility.

    When you find something to be a void of intelligence, when you see people engaged in self-destructive behavior or in behavior that misdirects their limited time and energies you should have a word for that.

  8. Jeff Says:

    Xhim,

    You may well detect a certain note of anger within my responses, as it is there. Since my “religious” conversion at age 15, I have had to do the following because of those of your religious bent:

    1. Turn down the education offered me by my country, because the oath that I was required to take ended in the words, “So Help Me God”. I would not and will not utter that lie to this day.

    2. Fear jail because I was draft eligible at that time and would not take that oath as required by law (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789 which did not include those words – McCarthyism at it’s finest, this is a religious test as prohibited in Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution).

    3. Be unable to earn a dollar in my own country without having my religious convictions insulted – WE don’t trust in God.

    4. Fear jail every time I receive a jury summons – It’s the damn oath again, and I will NOT take an alternative form because it violates the principle of “Separate but equal” being inherently unequal. I receive a summons about once a decade here in a county of less than 50,000 registered voters.

    5. Have the flag which I own in exactly the same way as Queen E the 2nd owns the standard which flies over Buckingham when she is in residence taken from my by act of Congress and the Supreme Court. I have not participated in the Pledge of Allegiance since I was 15, once again because I will not lie during an oath. And if you doubt that I own that flag, I would remind you that I am a Sovereign Citizen of the United States. QEII owns her standard as Sovereign – I own the US flag in EXACTLY the same way.

    6. By reason of the same oath laws, I am unable to assume any governmental office in the US, nor can I practice before the bar.

    So, when do I get my religious freedom under the first amendment?

  9. Xhim Says:

    Jeff, I am really sorry (for what it’s worth). The irony is, the New Testament, while not prohibiting oaths, treats them as irrelevant and superfluous. That religious people should cause you so much anguish over something so trivial to their religion is, as you point out, appalling.
    I have to admit, though, I admire your consistency!
    Somebody pointed out that “Christians” have allowed themselves in the US to be defined by their politics rather than by their love. Sad but true. While I think we should all be allowed to be politically active, our politics should not be defining. Our love should be, but too seldom is.
    I really wish we all – regardless of world view – would just simply be respectfully civil to each other. I am reminded of that artist a few years ago who displayed, what was it, a Madonna made out of elephant dung? I’m not Catholic, so I don’t have any particular adherence to Madonnas, but I just thought it was in really poor taste and didn’t deserve to be called art.
    Sorry, Jeff. But thanks for helping me understand the anger a little better.

  10. Xhim Says:

    BTW, I have a daughter who also has not done the Pledge of Allegiance since she was about 12. For different reasons, but she also found it objectionable and determined to abstain.

  11. Jeff Says:

    Hate to say this Xhim, but sorry doesn’t cut it – when will the religious come to understand that if the first amendment rights of the NON-religious can be violated at will, theirs are no less in danger? Let’s just take the national motto upon which the R’s in the House wasted my time and money. From my standpoint if it was “Jesus sucks dead donkey dicks”, it would be just as accurate, and would be a “pious mouthing” under the current interpretation of the first amendment. It would also be the same level of insult to your world view as the current one is to mine. Until the US can understand why “In God We Trust” is just as unacceptable as “Jesus sucks dead donkey dicks”, I do not have religious freedom under the exact wording of the first amendment, and until the religious find BOTH unacceptable that cannot happen.

  12. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    I like “… one nation, of the people…” or “In people we trust”.

    Something about adding “god” that removes any sense of love or humanity.

    The whole “Jesus is love” thing sounds like what maybe Jim Jones was telling his flock just before he fed the cyanide.

    Some misfit Jew that may or may not have even lived 2,000 years ago has as much to do with love as Ayran Supremacy does with evolution.

  13. Xhim Says:

    I see your point, and what is irritating to me is that such symbolism does next to nothing for my world view but is very offensive to yours. Which means I (at least I personally, obviously some others would violently disagree with me) could easily dispense with it for the sake of your conscience.
    Realistically though, every culture will always have a dominant world view, portions of which will be offensive to minority viewpoints. All of the nudity and flagrant sexuality of Western culture is intensely offensive to Moslems, but if they want to live here they have to cope with it. I could never own rental properties because the current legal situation would force me to rent to unmarried couples, something that violates my world view. OK, so I don’t own rental properties. Something that is still up for grabs is whether Catholic pharmacists will be forced to violate their consciences by selling birth control or abortifacients in their pharmacies. The dominant US culture is in flux. It is currently polarized between (at least) two world views, both of which routinely offend the other. One reason why I am personally not rabid about symbols which violate your conscience is because I am aware that it will not take much for another world view to place me before the choice of seriously violating my conscience or bearing the consequences, just as you described. It is not only consistent with the teachings of Jesus for me to treat you with respect and consideration, history tells me it is in my own self-interest. (Although history also tells me that “being nice to you so you’ll be nice to me” doesn’t work very often.)

  14. Xhim Says:

    Sinjin: Your history is a little shaky. There are a few survivors of Jim Jones out there. “Jesus is love” was not his line. “I have the power” was more like it.
    Also, that you don’t believe that Jesus is God is certainly your choice. The majority of the people in this world do not. But to imply that he did not exist is very naive. His existence at least as a guy who lived and died in 1st century Palastine is as secure as the existence of Julius Caesar. You can say he didn’t exist. But in doing so you will have to throw out great portions of history with him.

  15. Jeff Says:

    Once again, I beg to differ, but your stand on unmarried couples, if made into law, would directly violate THEIR rights, as does the failure to perform of a pharmacist or doctor who denies LEGAL care. In both cases, the landlord and the medical professional have knowingly assumed positions that require of them respect for EVERYONE’s rights, regardless of their personal opinions. None of my conscience based actions violate anyone else’s rights. And on that point the whole argument turns, as it is just as true now as when Mr. Franklin first uttered it: Your right to swing ends where my nose begins. If that causes you to refrain from swinging in the first place, that is a rational decision on your part, but the need for that decision does NOT negate my nose’s right to remain intact.

    BTW, something else that history teaches perfectly well is that being so nice to you that you are forced to break my skull often DOES work. (Ruefully LOL). The young people of UC Davis have done a perfect job of proving that once again, and it may cost the Chancellor her job, as well as those of a number of police officers.

  16. Jeff Says:

    Sorry once again, Xhim, but on this one I’ve got to agree with Sinjin. Julius Caesar’s existence is unquestionable, historically. There is no documentary proof of Jesus’, merely hints at what the Romans saw as a potential uprising in Judea at a point which potentially matches the time line of the Q document, the source of the four gospels.

  17. Jeff Says:

    BTW, on the motto thing, I much prefer the old one “E Pluribus Unum”, From Many, One”.

  18. Xhim Says:

    Again, Jeff, we are not so far apart as you might think. It’s the whole problem of legislating morality. We do it all the time – murder, for instance, is illegal – but in such cases we have a common understanding of morality. There is no way in a culture such as ours that we could find commonality on the morality of unmarried people living, as the Germans say, in a “relationship similar to marriage.” But I would be forced to violate my conscience when the couple could certainly find another apartment other than mine. Same with the pharmacy. The pharmacist would be forced to participate in what he sees as something very akin to murder, when the patient could probably go to the pharmacy across the street to get her pills. This is similar to the motto on coins or the Pledge of Allegiance. To allow me to live according to my conscience would not cost anyone very much. It would cost me greatly to be forced to violate my conscience, as you have already very eloquently expressed. So Franklin’s statement works both ways; we have a conflict of noses! I would consider it beneficial to both noses if I could own rental property in exchange for removing the motto from coins.

  19. Jeff Says:

    One last thing – the only historically verifiable personages of the Bible are Adam and Eve. According to the findings in human mitochondrial DNA, Eve was an individual (not so named, because language had yet to arise) from which we are all descended, which would make Adam her father. The biblical timeline as embodied in the “begat”s takes a bit of a beating, for she lived about 140,000 years ago.

  20. Jeff Says:

    Sorry, you can’t argue that they can certainly find another apartment, because you cannot guarantee that yours is not the only one that meets their needs, nor can you argue the medical professionals responsibility will be met by someone else. THERE ARE ENTIRE STATES IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE THE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED MEDICAL PROCEDURE OF ABORTION IS NOT AVAILABLE BECAUSE THERE ARE NO PROVIDERS. To allow you to live by your conscience, once you have assumed the role of landlord may well deny such a couple a home, as all it takes is enough folks who agree with you. Either they have rights or nobody does, and there’s no in between.

  21. Xhim Says:

    Jeff, I could be very happy with the E Pluribus Unim quote. Isn’t that more or less what this whole discussion is about?

    RE: Julius Caesar, tho. A historian has to make his evaluation on the basis of the archeology of the times along with the manuscripts. What we know about Julius Caesar is based on his “Gallic Wars”, written about 100-44 BCE. The oldest existing manuscripts (about 10 of them) date from about 900 CE, a 1000 year gap. The manuscripts describing the life of Jesus by contrast number in the thousands dating before about 325 CE, quite a few of the fragments from even the 1st century.
    The problem is more ideological. Jesus is so, well, unbelievable, unless you buy into his whole package. Julius on the other hand is easy to get a grip on, so we can accept him with no problem. Now, I’ve bought in, so Jesus is no problem for me. You haven’t, and in the context of your world view it would be a huge jump for you to do so. I can live with that. You can also argue the accuracy of what was written about Jesus. But what is not intellectually honest is to declare his existence doubtful.

  22. Jeff Says:

    Fascinating argument, but I’m going to have to break it off, as I’m about to abandon my computer for the comforts of home.

    One last point – many manuscripts not written by Julius Caesar survive which mention him as the First Emperor in the Cesarean line of Rome. There’s a bunch of independent evidence.

  23. Xhim Says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I was able to take this morning off, but I have to get to work, too. I have found your perspectives stimulating, and especially for someone with reason to be angry, I appreciated being able to discuss with someone who does simply indulge in mudslinging.

  24. Xhim Says:

    Ooops. Meant “does NOT indulge…”

  25. Rj Says:

    Xhim…………….

    thank you

  26. Atheist MC Says:

    Xhim
    Interesting perspectives, well put. However I’m curious about your thousands of manuscripts describing Jesus. I’m sure there are plenty of documents describing christianity and the accepted narrative, no-one is denying the existance of early christians. But as far as I am aware there are no non scriptural contemporary references to Jesus other than the dispted Josephus passages. Can you cite a reference?

  27. Xhim Says:

    There are a few non-Christian references. Tacitus writes about Nero putting the blame on Christians for burning Rome, referring to “Christus” and Pontius Pilate by name. Suetonius reporting on the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 CE refers to “the Jews… making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus”, generally thought to be a misspelling of Christus. And Josephus, of course.
    In addition there are a ton of contemporary Christian but non-Biblical references. Some were people claiming to have know the eye-witnesses personally, like Polycarp who was a friend of the apostle John. These, being believers, made no attempt at objectivity, and no one is obligated to believe their particulars. But to suggest in the face of all these witnesses that Jesus never existed is something of a stretch.

  28. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Xhim Says: “Sinjin: Your history is a little shaky…His existence at least as a guy who lived and died in 1st century Palastine is as secure as the existence of Julius Caesar”

    I’m afraid you’d get a significant disagreement within the worlds of biblical archaeology and among theologians like Robert Price http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/

    I’m hardly alone in calling into question the ever existence of Jesus: see http://www.thegodmovie.com/ for example.

    I’m afraid the shaky ground is under your argument http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/exist.html

  29. Dan Says:

    I’m afraid that I have to join in and also disagree with Xhim. Finding that someone with a name similar to Jesus (or even Christ) existed is a far cry from finding that someone who resembled Jesus of the Bible existed. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that Jesus wasn’t an uncommon name for that time and place at all.

    More important than the name is corroboration that any of the stories in any of the Gospels even slightly resemble the truth.

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