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On Atheists and Easter

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Posted on Apr 6, 2007

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

WASHINGTON—This weekend, many of the world’s estimated 2 billion Christians will remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    While some Christians harbor doubts about Christ’s actual physical resurrection, hundreds of millions believe devoutly that Jesus died and rose, thereby redeeming a fallen world from sin.

    Are these people a threat to reason and even freedom?

    It’s a question that arises from a new vogue for what you might call neo-atheism. The new atheists—the best known are writers Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins—insist, as Harris puts it, that “certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one.” That’s why they think a belief in salvation through faith in God, no matter the religious tradition, is dangerous to an open society.

    The neo-atheists, like their predecessors from a century ago, are given to a sometimes charming ferociousness in their polemics against those they see as too weak-minded to give up faith in God.

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    What makes them new is the moment in history in which they are rejoining the old arguments: an era of religiously motivated Islamic suicide bombers. They also protest against the apparent power of traditionalist and fundamentalist versions of Christianity.

    As a general proposition, I welcome the challenge of the neo-atheists. The most serious believers, understanding that they need to ask themselves searching questions, have always engaged in dialogue with atheists. The Catholic writer Michael Novak’s book “Belief and Unbelief” is a classic in self-interrogation. “How does one know that one’s belief is truly in God,” he asks at one point, “not merely in some habitual emotion or pattern of response?”

    The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn. They are especially frustrated with religious “moderates” who don’t fit their stereotypes.

    In his bracing polemic “The End of Faith,” Harris is candid in asserting that “religious moderates are themselves the bearers of a terrible dogma: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each one of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others.”

    Harris goes on: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss. We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man’s inhumanity to man.”

    Argument about faith should not hang on whether religion is socially “useful” or instead promotes “inhumanity.” But since the idea that religion is primarily destructive lies at the heart of the neo-atheist argument, its critics have rightly insisted on detailing the sublime acts of humanity and generosity that religion has promoted through the centuries.

    It’s true that religious Christians were among those who persecuted Jews. It is also true that religious Christians were among those who rescued Jews from these most un-Christian acts. And it is a sad fact that secular forms of dogmatism have been at least as murderous as the religious kind.

    But what’s really bothersome is the suggestion that believers rarely question themselves while atheists ask all the hard questions. As Novak argued in one of the best critiques of neo-atheism, in the March 19 issue of National Review, “Questions have been the heart and soul of Judaism and Christianity for millennia.” (These questions get a fair reading in another powerful commentary on neo-atheism, by James Wood, himself an atheist, in the Dec. 18 issue of The New Republic.)

    “Christianity is not about moral arrogance,” Novak insists. “It is about moral realism, and moral humility.” Of course Christians in practice often fail to live up to this elevated definition of their creed. But atheists are capable of their own forms of arrogance. Indeed, if arrogance were the only criterion, the contest could well come out a tie.

    As for me, Christianity is more a call to rebellion than an insistence on narrow conformity, more a challenge than a set of certainties.

    In “The Last Week,” their book about Christ’s final days on Earth, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, the distinguished liberal scriptural scholars, write: “He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the Kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’ passion got him killed.”

    That’s why I celebrate Easter and why, despite many questions of my own, I can’t join the neo-atheists.

    E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is postchat(at symbol)aol.com.

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group


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By Scheherazad, April 7, 2007 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment
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Myths are fun. They have much to teach us about how humans can and will treat each other.

But to claim one set of myths are more true than any other is an abandonment of reason. In the ‘factual’ world of Christian cosmology ( a particularly nasty set of myths imho, paradoxical and hierarchical and oh so righteously violent) the Easter of tomorrow is not even the correct one….I believe that is in two or three weeks according to ancient sources.

Happy Springtime! Zeus is God. Read the Iliad.

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By Ron Ranft, April 7, 2007 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment
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Religion may have resulted as a need to explain that which was unexplainable. It has diversified because of our need to find a reason for that which has no reason. As children we have our parents to help us but who do we have as adults other than ourselves? But at some point one would thing that we would have discovered that we are enough.

I keep seeing these statements about Atheist Dogma and about what Atheists believe and I am confused. After being raised in the Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran way I finally arrived to that place where none of it made sense or that it only made sense in a VooDoo mojo kind of way so I gave up all that baggage. As an Atheist I don’t base my behavior on any “beliefs.” I base it on knowledge and experience. I don’t “believe” that there is no God, I just “know” it. I know it based on a lifetime of experience.

At some point, Religion became what it really is, a money making organization that lives off of the money it takes from “believers.” Notice that in every religion that I know of at least, there is a group of people living off of the work of believers. Note that they also live a lot better than most of the believers.And also note that a lot of the time expended by the inner religion is spent trying to get new believers. It is called fleecing the flock.

Admittedly this is simplistic but I am pretty sure this is a simple matter. It is about money, wealth and power, oh yeah, and control. Every scam has to have detail, for Christians it is the Bible.

So for practical reasons I became an Atheist. Here are just a few benefits. I have been able to divert my money to me by not giving a percentage of it to a church. Since I don’t have to observe a lot of holidays I don’t have to give Christmas presents out of obligation, buy clothes to impress the people of the church, donate time to fix up buildings which I never use or spend hours listening to music I don’t like, listening to someone tell me what a book that I can read for myself really says, or wasting away cooped up inside when I could be outside doing something I really, really enjoy. Sure, there are lots of nice looking women there, but if they believe in that stuff, life is going to be hell on earth. I remember how my mother made my Dad’s life miserable because he wouldn’t go to Church! I also found that the women who didn’t go to church were a lot more fun!

I have all that time I would have spent in Church, or bible studies, or choir practice living life my way not someone else’s way. And when I laugh at a religiously blasphemous joke, I do so truly understanding why it is funny. So, when presented with the God-fearing, Bible thumping, Hellstone and Brimfire Life and that of an Atheist, jeez, it really wasn’t much of a choice. I’ve had fun. I’ve gotten my ass in some deep holes but I had the satisfaction of pulling myself out of them and taking all the credit of doing so. I know that when the going gets really tough, there is always someone I can count on to cover my ass, and it ain’t some imaginary being! As for Easter, I learned early on that rabbits don’t lay eggs and that people don’t come back from the dead, especially after rigomortis has set in!

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By William Lewis, April 7, 2007 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

Yes, this point in our history would be an appropriate time for more atheists to emerge, just as any perversity would, when given a favorable habitat to gestate and propagate, just as cancer cells would do in the tainted environment of a smoker’s body.
Our world now has become an open lab, since tradition and faith seem to be falling by the way side, and a pervasive futility seems to have become a veil that has descended on us in a seemingly very short time.

We are free to believe what we want; I really have no problem with people who choose atheism. How they think doesn’t concern me, until they start proselytizing. This obnoxious trait seems to accompany the ignorant and self-righteous, sort of like not being a smoker yet having to endure second hand smoke.

If there are any atheists or people who are feeling themselves being pulled into that abyss, reading this, I have a little analogy that might be of some help. Please forgive me if this resembles proselytizing, I really don’t think that it is.

Instead of focusing in on the bad points___ and admittedly there are many___ of the religions of the world, pull your selves back and look at their general goal. What is it? I don’t think many would argue if I were to say that it is the pursuit of good through the adoration of a God.

For the sake of clarification, lets picture Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Africa. There are many paths. Some tout a speedy ascent. Some make more time for acclimatization. Some say that their ascent is the most beautiful, yet their goals are the same___getting to the top of the fast melting glacier, and the vast and incomparable vista that you can only see from there.

The summit of course being analogous to God.

I think that no one really knows for sure if there is a God, and of course no one knows for sure if there isn’t either. So the people of this world who would prefer to hedge their bets on something that stands for truth and purity and beauty and all of the things that we of this tormented species, so very much need in our lives, have decided to give ourselves over to a simple phenomenon called faith.

I personally don’t have much need for a dogmatic regime, I prefer to take the best from the different world religions, such as the gentleness and compassion of the Buddhist path, and the Ten Commandments from Christianity, and simply bypass the rest, like the thinly disguised hatred perpetuated by the so called radical Christian right, which by the way has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ’s original teachings. 
They have never changed, just as none of the teachings of the great masters who have come and gone in our past have, only the capricious nature of men change with their selfish goals.

So in my thinking, you really can’t loose when you have faith in the existence of God. You tend to look up into the sunshine, try to see the good that also exists here on this world. Denial of the existence of God may pacify your negative ideology for a time. However, I believe by its very nature, this negativity will eventually give way to despair.
And the inevitable path, which will only lead farther and farther down into the abyss.

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By Mad As Hell, April 7, 2007 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“They assume that matter and energy are primary and the appropriate complexity of their structures the causal factors underlying awareness. They tacitly, blindly ignore the intelligence implicit in the natural laws that designed and drove their own evolution. “

I assume you mean no malice in this statement but it is patently false.  “Intelligent Design” is not science, it is faith.  This mystical “awareness” you speak of is nothing more than a person’s imagination filling in the gaps between what he knows through his senses and logic, and what he doesn’t know.

Yet this force of imagination has been powerful and destructive for eons.  But it is based on NOTHING!

This basis on nothing is CRITICAL to the behavior of the followers of one or another invention out of nothing.  Some take it to mean loving and caring for their neighbor despite great personal cost and risk—the Mother Theresas and those who shielded Jews from the Nazis, Martin Luther King and Gandhi as a few examples.

Yet, starting at the SAME beliefs based on the same imaginings of nothing come the nightmares of Torqemada, Vlad the Impaler, the Crusades, the destruction of the Golden Temple, and thousands and thousands of other atrocities.

If ANYTHING seems solid proof that there is no deity, or that he/she hasn’t reveiled him/herself to us it is that: That EVERY religion claims to be the Voice of God, yet has equally devout people some of whom are full of mercy and others of whom appear as sadistic psychopaths.

This despite that both believe PROFOUNDLY and deeply in the same thing.  Since we live in a rational universe, that fact alone is compelling evidence that their religion is based on nothing.  Add to it the refusal to change based on evidence and you have the equivalent of mass insanity.

Scientists MUST be fundamentally different in their reasoning.  It was Fred Hoyle, the leader of the Steady State Theory who derisively nick-named the Hubbelian expanding universe “The Big Bang Theory”.  Yet despite that, late in life, Hoyle, when confronted with a preponderance of evidence, was forced to conclude that the Big Bang fit facts better than the Steady State.

As people frantically claim their right to believe in their imaginary friends, I think back to ALL the restrictions and even DANGER I have been in simply for espousing an Agnostic viewpoint.

And I am NOT an Agnostic simply as “Atheist-Lite” nor because I cannot “decide” if I believe in God or not.  No, it is because I deny BELIEF as in any way, shape, or form as valid.  I try to extract “belief” from every aspect of my life.  I refuse to accept, on faith, that there is no God, because that leads to EXACTLY the same dichotomy that then makes it a religion—as the infamous history of Marxism shows.

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By David B, April 7, 2007 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dionne asserts that People of Faith and Atheists are equally “arrogant.”  But arrogance based on faith is quite different than arrogance based on solid evidence.  There is not a shred of evidence that God exists, or that man and the universe was created out of whole cloth 6,000 years ago.  On the other hand, the big bang and evolution are supported by an almost infinite amount of evidence.  It doesn’t seem particularly “arrogant” to me to withhold approval of theories that have no evidentiary support.  But when People of Faith expect others to take their beliefs seriously just because they have a strong feeling—that strikes me as the height of arrogance.

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By Anthony Martin Dambrosi, April 7, 2007 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If I’m not mistaken E.J.Dionne Jr., is a man though a few posting here have referred to him as she. I think Kurt Vonnegut’s idea of a religion based on harmless lies called Boku Maru has been the best humoring for the human need to see the inexplicable as divinely supernatural. Raised in both Catholic and Protestant faiths I’ve met many who have asked themselves hard questions. My problem lies with the “God’s Plan” answer that essentially stops further discourse because to venture beyond that point, to cross that line one risks being burned at the stake. It has’nt been that long since this was the prescribed method for dealing earthly justice to all heretics, witches, apostates and humanists let alone scientists on behalf of the divine.

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By Donovan, April 7, 2007 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This conversation is pointless.  One side has sound arguments, and the other doesn’t care.

The reason why Harris, Dawkins, and Dennet speak out so fervently is because religion is the root cause to many problems.  So since we can’t get past the root cause, let’s just deal with the symptoms.

Rather than writea book virtually disproving all of the religious talking points (“End of Faith”), or writing a stupid e-article on TruthDig.com (E.J. Dionne), how about diverting one of the billions being spent on Iraq towards building hospitals and houses in third-world countries?  That would be money well spent.

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By Max, April 7, 2007 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think it is a mistake to think that E. J. is directing his argument toward atheism as much as anti-thesism (neo-atheism?) which is more of a frontal attack led by folks like Dawkson and Harris.

Beneath this anti-theism is, in fact, a firm belief in the material and a disbelief in the spiritual. Culture is replete with rituals and purging them does not make us “better” unless they are somehow pathological. Science, as but one form of searching, is based on uncertainty not certainty. E. J.‘s point is the need to avert the dogma of certainty whether it’s theistically or atheistically based.

Consider: hardheaded logic and reason replacing feeling and emotion (as #62709 RAE does)would eradicate the unexplainable wonder of poetic verse and a musical piece by Motzart. Rejecting the spiritual world is just as dogmaticly driven as rejection of the material.

Consider: While religion has provided some with the pretext for war - science has provided us with the greatest instruments of destruction. There is but one common factor: Human judgment.

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By Dr. Richard Blackmoor, April 7, 2007 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Realists object to superstition used to make laws,determine public policy and used to understand the nature of the Universe.
  I have not heard of any realists who wish to make religion illegal or to imprison those who engage in superstitious belief.
  The religious community has often persecuted those who do not patake of their superstition. The persecution of Gays is a current example. The public burning of Copernicus is an historical one. It is interesting to note that Copernicus’statement that the Earth goes around the Sun was not accepted by the Catholic Church untill 1989 and it was officialy blasphemous to admit this fact untill 89.
  The recent outbreak of irrationalism in the USA will hurt us economically with the rise of China as our major competitor.
  Science and the technology it breeds are what make modern life possible and the USA has recently lost its position as the dominant force in science and technology.
  Dogma and belief are not at all present in those who use the scientific method to determine reality.
  True scientists are always ready to accept new facts,those who get their view of the world from old ,out of date books, have all the answers to everything in those books and do not accept any new data.
        Please don’t put these kinds of mushy headed stories on your web site. I can watch the$700 club if I want this kind of non-factual commentary.

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By felicity, April 7, 2007 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Arguments around religion are never productive, are always counter-productive in a society of individuals trying to live together and pull together for the good of the whole society.

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.  Remember that one?  Dr. Einstein suggests that a mass under acceleration increases in size, or to put it another way, the resistance it encounters increases. The more the merits of atheism are pushed, the more?  The more the merits of “religion” are pushed, the more?

If atheists, neo-atheists, fundamentalists, moderates…would keep their religions (atheism is a religion) to themselves, the world just might be the pleasant, beautiful and peaceful place we would all like to live in.

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By Benjamin, April 7, 2007 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The number of Germans who sympathized with the Nazis was large enough to put Hitler in power.  The widspread hatred of Jews among these Germans owes much to the Christian tradition.  (See the horrible things Luther said about Jews.)  On the other hand, the number of good Christian Germans who helped save Jews was how many?  A few thousand?  A few hundred?  A few dozen?  A few?

Now I’m in favor of leaving truly decent and harmless religious people in peace.  My point is that Dionne’s argument doesn’t hold water.  There was no parity between the number of Germans who were harmfully influenced by the Christian tradition, with respect to Jews, and those who were beneficially influenced.  As for just being a decent person—well, pagans and atheists can do that too.

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By RAE, April 7, 2007 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

Dionne opens with “This weekend, many of the world’s estimated 2 billion Christians will remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

There, in nutshell lies much of the problem. For those of us who think with our MINDS (reason and logic) rather than with our emotions (faith and belief), IMMEDIATELY understand that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY for “2 billion Christians” to remember any such thing.

It’s all HEARSAY… as hard as it is to believe, these 2 billion are simply parroting what’s been brainwashed into them… no evidence… no supporting documentation that can be relied on… just glib opinion and unsubstantiated assumptions. I haven’t a clue what possesses people to simply ACCEPT AS TRUTH what they’re told.

“A mind is terrible thing to waste” - especially when the owner deliberately chooses not to use it.

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By James Yell, April 7, 2007 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is quite a joke to pretend that Christians aren’t being given the respect they deserve, in fact I believe they get the respect or lack of that they deserve. I have enjoyed some of E.J. Dionne’s writings on political matters. I am glad that he finds comfort in his religion, but I am not obligated to give him validation.

We are currently under an administration that believes that it can disregard the opinion of not just non religious, but the religious too and all because George thinks Jesus told him to kill thousands of Iraq’s and Moslems. Of course George is a light weight and the Bible tells some really big woppers, so no wonder he is confused.

Mr. E.J. Dionne needs to remember that there are even Christians who proclaim themselves to be “old testement” Christians. Does that mean they disregard what Jesus says when it conflicts with the malignancy of the old Testament? Just keep your religion out of our civil codes and I promise not to make rude noises.

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By Not-a-neo atheist, April 7, 2007 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn.”

Most of us, even Christians, are atheists towards 99.99999% of all of the deities man has worshiped throughout history.  Some of us just take that several “gods” further.  What is “dogmatic” about that?

Personally, I feel that any modern belief in a supernatural “god” is on an intellectual par with those believers who used to dance around bonfires to appease their “gods” or climb large stone structures to cut out the hearts of virgins.

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By Hemi, April 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Regarding: 62620 by Greg Bacon on 4/07 at 2:59 am

Greg you’ve encapsulated something very important. That is free will isn’t free if there’s a punishment attached. Fundamentalists insist on exercising their free will while legislating ours.

The god of the bible never gave man free will. He demanded obedience at every turn. Another proof that it was written by men for men. As Edward G. Robinson said in The Ten Commandments: “Where’s your God now Moses?” Well, you see he went into hiding after the book was written. No kidding!!!

Best regards,

Hemi

PS You’re not the only recovering altar boy.

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By Hemi, April 7, 2007 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Regarding: 62620 by Greg Bacon on 4/07 at 2:59 am

Greg you’ve encapsulated something very important. That is free will isn’t free if there’s a punishment attached. Fundamentalists insist on exercising their free will while legislating ours.

The god of the bible never gave man free will. He demanded obedience at every turn. Another proof that it was written by men for men. As Edward G. Robinson said in The Ten Commandments: “Where’s your God now Moses?” Well, you see he went into hiding after the book was written. No shit!!!

Best regards,

Hemi

PS You’re not the only recovering altar boy.

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By Max, April 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, the dogma in the case of Harris and Dawkins is one of scientism - not to be confused with the professional practice of science, but the belief in the holiness of the material world over life, beautify, loving and all that is sprited and not material.

I would say our dogmas in America have been clearly identified by Cornel West in his Democracy Matters:
1) The Dogma of Free-Market Fundamentalism
2) The Dogma of Agressive Militarism
3) The Dogma of Authoritarism

These are at the root of what eats away at our being and has reigned upon us endless war and consumption. How we act is not driven by a religiousity but by the extent to which the above three dogmas embody our culture.

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By M Henri Day, April 7, 2007 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

It is challenging yet also encouraging to learn that Mr Dionne, aside from his no doubt arduous labours on behalf of that organ for the publication of the unvarnished truth that is the Washington Post, has, on this occasion of the anniversary of the resurrection of the Christ, been able to find the leisure not merely to address therein the greatest, albeit woefully unrecognised problem facing the United States ; i e, the intolerance exhibited by «neo-atheists» towards those hapless victims of oppression, the Christians, but also to send a copy of his illuminating article to TruthDig. The term «gratitude» does not begin to suffice to express the emotions this selfless action gives rise to in my breast….

Henri

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By Louise, April 7, 2007 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Regarding comment #62606 by RAE , Don’t bother, Louise.

Oh come on, I think if such a thing turned out to be possible, it might be fun to come back and scare the Hee-bee-jeebies out of a few believers!

Or non-believers for that matter!

Happy Easter!
Celebrate anyway you choose ... or not.
For any reason you choose ... or not.

In the meantime, I have to go bake some Hot Cross Buns.
The kids love ‘em!

(and dig out my fuzzy bunny costume)

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By Marmoset, April 7, 2007 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Props to “Straight Talk 11” 

As someone is reported to have once said: “none is so blind as he who will not see”.

Applies with equal force to all fundamentalists, whether they be “pro God” or “anti God.”

And hey… what’s up with the practive of writing God as G-d?  That seems so incredibly fu**ed up,

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By Mark Plus, April 7, 2007 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You know that the atheographers Dawkins, Harris et al. have struck a nerve when even liberal christians feel the need to defend their zombie holiday against rational criticisms.

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By GW=MCHammered, April 7, 2007 at 10:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah… so many feuding factions, so few satisfying specifics. Homo sapiens is a struggling primate whose triad-brain is so uneasy with reality that it contradicts and befools others, soon after itself.

—————————————————————

“The brain also lays claim to knowledge of what it cannot know. So omniscient does the pig-headed brain think itself that it even affects to be acquainted with knowledge that doesn’t exist.”

Cordelia Fine, ‘A Mind of Its Own, How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives’


“...the brain is a stubborn, unreliable piece of junk. The brain constantly feigns knowledge.”

All from the March-April ‘07 issue of Mother Jones’ ‘Brain Teasers’ article by Dennis Cass author of ‘Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain’

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By kikzz, April 7, 2007 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Are these people a threat to reason and even freedom?

Jefferson and Diderot seem to think so, and that’s good enough for me.

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
-Denis Diderot

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By Sylvia Barksdale Morovitz, April 7, 2007 at 10:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is my humble opinion that religions make up the ultimate BRAINWASH of the entire world.  When man ceased his crawling and creeping, stood tall and beheld the great sky, with primeval tongue he muttered, “oh my god!”  The most fatal three words ever uttered.  As grew the populations over the ages, so grew this fantasy in religions.  It was impossible for man to accept the fact that he was all alone in the vast universe.  He created a great, benevolent god up above the clouds who had nothing but love for his lambs down here on Earth.  The most unacceptable of all about this story is that god gave man “free will”, thereby absolving himself of any responsibility for his creations.
By the time we’re barely able to walk and talk, we’re given four entities; the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and god.  It isn’t long before we know the first three were nothing more than figments of our parents imagination, but for fear of ostrazation, being cast aside by our peers, we dared not question the fourth.  Thus, those of us who began to doubt were left to pretense.
Personally, I dropped all pretense upon leaving the South and entering the U. of Chicago for a BA in Philosophy.  There, I met many others who shared my outlook on religions and some who called me heretic.  I was not bothered for it was a simple matter for me.  I could not accept what my mind rejected.
It is past time that humans began digging a huge grave in which to bury this horribly dangerous superstition.  Now that the zealots are on the march in America to take over our minds, our assets and our sanity, the great awakening is in order.  As long as we can committ all “seven deadly sins”, go to our priests and ministers and be forgiven by that all omnipotent god, what is to convince us that to be good people is in our court only?

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By joe73072, April 7, 2007 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A note to ‘k’: EJ Dionne is not a she

Moving on:
Sam Harris says that religious people are delusional and intellectually dishonest. So, he writes careless books that attack religion. The books themselves are intellectually dishonest, because he builds his argument around claims that are illogical and ignorant of history.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of good in what he says and a lot wrong with institutional religion. i see nothing wrong with atheism, and think our country is awash in a wrong-headed religious atmosphere, but Harris’ work is sloppy and more an appeal to emotion than reason.

His writing lacks logic or reasonableness.
1.He claims religions are dangerous because they promote violence. He writes as if 911 could only have happened because of religion. He ignores the violence of non-religious ideologies, like Nazism or Stalinism. He also ignores the fact that the vast majority of the victims of 911 were religious, and their religious convictions did not engender violence on their part.
2.He assumes fundamentalism is the only way to understand religion, yet there is no proof that the majority of religious people are fundamentalist.  But rather than dealing with that FACT, Harris dismisses non-fundamentalists as irrelevant.
 
His writing is unhistorical. Just two examples (there are many):
1.He insists that fundamentalism is the key for understanding Christianity and Islam, yet fundamentalism is less than 200 years old, and hardly representative of mainstream religious thought. The prolific and influential 4th century Christian writer Augustine of Hippo believed the world took thousands of years to create, and wrote that only the uneducated believed that God created the world in a week.
2.He blames suicide bombing on religious thinking, when in fact, the Tamil Tigers, an atheist group in Sri Lanka began suicide bombing before the Palestinians ever thought of it.

Why does he write? He says in End of Faith that he writes in response to violence, but more than once in that book he says we can not allow religion to continue, and we cannot tolerate religious people. What is he suggesting? Camps? After all in follow-up writings he endorses torture, something the major religions do not do, and something the military says is useless.

As I said above, I am not defending all religion, or any particular religion. I could level my own criticism of religion rather easily. However, Harris’ approach actually is irresponsible and wreckless. But hey, he is selling books, and that’s what I suspect it is all about. He has found a choir and is preaching to it.

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By Kellina, April 7, 2007 at 9:27 am Link to this comment
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Hey straight_talk_11—

Evolution can occur by “design,” too, in the form of sexual selection. Most of all species on Earth have rudimentary nervous systems; a very few mammals have large brains (some whales, dolphins, elephants, and great apes, most notably humans). Our brains in particular appear to have evolved way out of proportion to our survival needs, and appear to have evolved to the point that we are endangering ourselves and our ecosystems (as well as other species). But just because you can’t understand it, doesn’t mean that “god” did it. There is an overlooked alternative that specifically attributes the evolution of human intelligence to sexual selection.

Species can evolve through only two processes. One, traits that favor survival are more likely to get passed on to future generations, because individuals with those traits are more likely to survive. A second, and more important mechanism for passing traits along is sexual selection - traits that attract sexual partners are more likely to be represented in the next generation’s gene pool, because individuals with those traits are more likely to reproduce. There’s no point in surviving, from a genetic standpoint, if you can’t get laid.

Now, traits that evolve via sexual selection can change quite rapidly (faster than selection due to survival), because the next generation is likely to inherit not just the traits themselves, but the preferences for those same traits. This is called “runaway sexual selection.” Usually runaway is seen with very lopsided, sex-differentiated traits, like peacock tails or deer antlers (males and females differ quite a bit). With human brains, which tend not to differ by much between the sexes, there is an equal co-evolution that is necessary because “it takes one to know one.” Also, even though there is a very lop-sided investment in offspring (females do much more than males), which usually predicts male competition for female choice, in humans males also choose.

These ideas are not mine; you can read about them in Geoffrey Miller’s book, The Mating Mind. His contention is that there was “intelligent design,” but it was our ancestors’ sexual choices that provided the design.

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By Kellina, April 7, 2007 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
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To k and kttl - You sound so dismayed that Truthdig would posts this kind of thing. Truthdig is only a step removed from ordinary mainstream media. When you read Truthdig, think “permitted left-wing discourse.” There is no actual reporting, just interviews and opinion pieces. They don’t have much money it seems to devote to real journalism. Let’s face, almost no websites do. Most compile articles from elsewhere. But you can see that, in compiling articles and contracting with certain writers, there is a particular slant to the content. Truthdig, just like the LA Times, NYTImes, Washington Post, etc., ignores certain stories (the role of Israel in 9/11) and focuses on the safe stories (federal judges being fired). This crap about Jesus is just fodder to make the easter-readers happy.

If you like, you can go to other sites that are more informative. I love Lewrockwell.com, but dislike their jesus slant. “Prisonplanet.com” is okay, but a little heavy on both jesus and the “oligarchy” stuff. For 9/11 in particular, “911blogger.com” is fabulous, and has a lively crew of commenters on nearly every article; unfortunately, as mentioned, it covers solely 9/11-related articles. My favorite so far is “whatreadllyhappened.com”—extremely informative, but has no commenting capabilities.

Have a nice day,
Kellina

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By DAG, April 7, 2007 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
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Christians have a habit of “cherry picking” certain scripture passages to support their belief system. Are they alone?  Hell no!  Most people do this unless they are intellectually honest.  The writer of this article is cherry picking.  If you read, say, Sam Harris’ books through and actually pay attention to all that is being said, you can’t come away with Dionne’s opinions.  What I read is a person who is afraid of actually taking the time to understand Harris for fear that they might have their constructed walls of belief shaken and then what would happen to them.  Just out of curiosity, how many people have read the book, “People Skills”?  If you have studied this book, you would know that the vast bulk of humanity has one basic problem—that is truly knowing how to listen effectively.  On the otherhand, we are excellent on judging.  Sam Harris makes a statement and before the guy has even finished, others are forming ideas of what they want to say and just waiting for Sam to shut up!  We are most judgemental people.

“I have become increasingly aware of the inadequacy of most communication.  In our society it is rare for persons to share what really matters—the tender, shy, reluctant feelings, the sensitive, fragile, intense disclosures.  It is equally rare for persons to listen intently enough to really understand what another is saing.  Sometimes people fix their gaze on a friend who is talking and allow their minds to wander off to other matters.  Sometimes, while the friend speaks, they pretend to listen but are merely marking time, formulating what they will say as soon as they discover a way to begin talking.  Nathan Miller caustically remarked that “conversation in the United States is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener.”“

Wouldn’t it be unique if instead of the type of forums we usually have, we let one person speak, say Sam Harris and then instead of “waiting for him to draw a breath,” we attend to his thoughts.  Instead of becoming defensive for what we believe, we say to Sam, “you say that religion is not compatible with society, please tell me more…and more.”  We would give him the floor until we could come to the place where we can say, “I’ve heard and I know him.”  Or, I understand.  Understanding someone else doesn’t mean we have to change OUR viewpoint(s), but it is a better method of human exchange and who knows, we might learn something.

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By Kol Klink, April 7, 2007 at 8:40 am Link to this comment
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Hey Carl Baydala, you overlooked one of the most important items in launching your ‘new atheist church’. Competitive pricing! A better price will level the playing field in a hurry! I suggest you charge only half the tithe that christian churches strive for. Say, 5% of members earnings. Keep the charitable work at approximately the same level that the christians require for its one of the better things that they do and can add to membership in your church, but do it without strings attached. If you run a soup kitchen dont require the homeless to swear that they are athiests prior to serving them dinner. Psychologically it will work better than forcing hungry folks to wait while some dolt mumbles something they are not listening to anyway. I think you have the kernal of a successful business plan. BTW, athiests groups have already received the same tax exempt status as christian groups from the IRS.

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By Hemi, April 7, 2007 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
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by The Barefoot Bum on 4/06 at 9:51 pm
(Truthdig Member since 04/6/2007, 2 comments)

“The only difference is that today’s atheists are no longer interested in pussyfooting around the delusional believers’ fragile sensibilities. More of us are willing to abandon polite euphemisms such as “agnostic” or “Unitarian” and label ourselves without equivocation as atheists.” - The Barefoot Bum on 4/06 at 9:51 pm

Hip Hip Hoo-F’n-ray!
Nailed it BB! (To the cross I might add!)
Read a little Robert Green Ingersoll folks.
But only if you want your “savior” undressed.
Try it, test your “faith”. It’s good for the soul.
Your “book” says you will be tested. Afraid you’ll lose?
Weak in faith?

Oh and Happy Eostre everybody! Gotta love those Pagans!

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By ripstop, April 7, 2007 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
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Isnt’ the point of your essay to illustrate how these so-called neo-atheists are as dogmatic and ideologically driven as Christianists?  Funny, you do this to de-legitimatize atheism and at the same time think that this somehow legitimizes Christianism?

Well, I welcome the day when atheism and Christianism are both looked upon as equally dogmatic and ideological.  I think that would suit both Harris and Dawkins just fine (and is a major point of the their discourse).

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By Hemi, April 7, 2007 at 8:19 am Link to this comment
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Regarding: “In short, they negate out of hand as absurd any possibility of intelligence or awareness operating in the grand system of which they are ironically such tiny subcomponents.” - straight_talk_11 on 4/06 at 9:16 pm

You’re delusional. They negate nothing out of hand. What they do is to require evidence prior to setting the belief system. You call it a “grand system” but even that is a stretch. Truth is that whatever we’re a part of, the term “system” is likely innapropriate or inadequate to explain it. Maybe it’s chaos and infinate chance. Is that a system? Nobody knows. What do you say we find out first and then writethe story?

Oh and Happy Eostre to you and yours straight_talk_11! Gotta love those Pagans!

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By anonymous, April 7, 2007 at 7:50 am Link to this comment
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I knew a guy who got wasted on cocaine, talked to God and became one of those watch tower pamphlet guys.

He was a great guy before and after.

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By K, April 7, 2007 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

She’s quoting from the National Review and the New Republic. Enough said.

What’s next quoting and referencing Limbaugh, O’reilly, Robertson, and Dobson?

E.J. Dionne. Please take her away from Truthdig.

Give us more Amy Goodman and Gore Vidal.

Man, I miss Molly Ivins.

This is a sad, sad day for Truthdig.

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By DSmith, April 7, 2007 at 7:16 am Link to this comment
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As I read the preceding post, I found references such as “He” when referring to God.  Using the personal pronoun “He” would mean that to those believers, God is male.

Historically, Christians, Jews and Islamics have always referred to their god as Father or Lord, which is a masculine reference. What masculine trait seperates males from females? Genitals. Then it follows to say if god is a male, he would have to pocess male genitals.

I understand that this is the only context they understood at the time, but it does show us the simplistic view these ignorant people had of their gods, which millions blindly follow today.
Think about it.

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By straight_talk_11, April 7, 2007 at 6:30 am Link to this comment
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Barefoot Bum, you didn’t get anything I said, did you, if you even bothered to read it? So much for your ability to reason, delusional or not.

straight_talk_11

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By Greg Bacon, April 7, 2007 at 3:59 am Link to this comment
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Being that we had such a “good” Friday, let’s explore some possibilities.

Say there was a man—who allegedly lived 2,000 years ago—that shunned the company of woman because he preferred hanging with his male buddies and getting drunk with the same.

They were a cozy little bunch, living together and on the edge of society, shunned by the “good and decent” people of that time. These religious people that shunned this crowd didn’t like their long hair and alternative lifestyle.

For the sake of clarity, let’s give this person the initials J.C. He so “loved” his fellow dudes that he would even wash and kiss their feet.

He stayed single his entire life, never got married or even engaged—or so the myth goes—because he’d rather spend most of his free time with other males like him.

Flash forward to 2007: Do you think that person, J.C., would be called a “queer” or Jesus Christ?

greg bacon
recovering altar boy

P.S.  The whole Christian religion is based on a falsehood:  Supposedly, we were given free will by some being.  With the free will comes a choice:  Get down on your knees and worship that being or use your free will and lead your own life.  But, if you actually exercise your free will to live on your own terms, then when you die, you are forever cast into some kind of hell for punishment.
So how in the hell does that translate into “free will?”

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By kttl, April 7, 2007 at 2:28 am Link to this comment
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Why is Truthdig e-publishing this junk.

I get enough of this from mainstream media.

Either you’re delusional or not. There’s no in between.

Reminds me of Colbert’s Easter under Attack or whatever it was called with Jesus packin’ heat. Funny as hell.

Also funny Penny Arcade’s “Jesus is F*(&*( Metal”
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/08/04

I use to really like Sam Harris until his article slamming liberals for being muslim terrorist sympathizers. Puhlease.

Scott Ritter: Hell yes.

E.J. Dionne: e-publish elsewhere, not here on Truthdig

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By Carl Baydala, April 6, 2007 at 11:43 pm Link to this comment
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Let us say that I decided to start the new religion of Atheism and constructed a building to boot. I would of course have to construct a philosophy, a set of principles and some teachings.  I would also have to influence at least one person to get the whole thing going.  But, once I found some followers and some money to construct a building or to buy some media time I would definitely be in business.  I would be competing with the other religions scattered throughout the land, one of which just happens to be my main competitor, namely Christianity.  Now, this business has quite a head start on me I think you would agree.  They have lots money and followers and many fancy building to support their cause. Now, since we are both selling products, myself and my competitors that is, I would want to try and produce a better product for the market place. I suppose it would be like starting up a new car business to compete with the more established ones. And, I know that my competitors have faithful customers and repeat buyers. I could target these people or I could try and attact some new business. Maybe I would try to get both. My main business task would be to try and tell people that what they believe is simply not true.  Someone is selling you something that may or may not be true. It is a pretty daunting task, though, I think you would agree, that I have to tell these people that they just might not live forever as my competition tells them. But, they have paid many dollars in tithes and other charitable endeavors because they believe it to be true, that is how committed they are. But, here is what I would tell the believers: when it comes time for them to die and meet their maker ask them if their preacher is willing to come with them if his belief is so strong. If he believes in God and everlasting life, then why wouldn’t he?  He could just simply pray and talk to God like he normally does and God would listen to him because he is a believer. The reason the person who is going to die wants the preacher to come with him is so that he can give him his money back if the story about God is untrue. If the preacher really has talked to God, as reported, then why would he refuse the dying man’s request?  That is how I would get my religion started.  And, my first follower would most likely be a preacher who would be impressed my marketing strategies and common sense. I could act as the prophet, the one who got the whole thing going, and the rest would just be history. My church could be called the ABC Church ( Atheism By Carl. That is of course, simple as ABC.

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By John Lowell, April 6, 2007 at 11:43 pm Link to this comment
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There is probably nothing more comical to experience today than commentary offered by atheists on theology and Church history. Its like listening to professor Irwin Cory offering analysis on the natural sciences.

Happy to learn of Dione’s belief in the passion. For atheists that suspect they can manage it - if any are truly cultured sufficiently - I’d recommend Hans urs von Balthasar’s Mysterium Paschale.

John Lowell

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By Eso, April 6, 2007 at 11:26 pm Link to this comment
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Jesus had the right idea. He gave up his ego to get something good done. Today we would call him a suicide. So, that is where the problem with believers lies: they all fear committing suicide and imitating Jesus. I venture to guess that Jesus will come to life first among the unbelievers than believers.

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By The Barefoot Bum, April 6, 2007 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment

Also, “neo-atheist” is an ugly term, and unwarranted. There is nothing at all new about contemporary atheism: Harris’s atheism, Dawkins atheism, my own atheism, is the same atheism as Ingersoll’s, Lovecraft’s, Huxley’s and even perhaps Socrates’. We’re just atheists, same as always.

The only difference is that today’s atheists are no longer interested in pussyfooting around the delusional believers’ fragile sensibilities. More of us are willing to abandon polite euphemisms such as “agnostic” or “Unitarian” and label ourselves without equivocation as atheists.

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By RAE, April 6, 2007 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment
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Louise in #62595 wrote: “...I personally won’t know the answer until I die. But, if I can and I can figure out how ... I’ll come back and let you-all know.”

Don’t bother, Louise. I doubt that anyone, especially the supposedly devout Christian hierarchy, would believe you. You’d have to come back with Christ in tow… and even then you’d both would likely be killed again. There’s no way you’d be allowed to upset the fiction that’s been carefully and deliberately morphed into fact over the past 2,000 years.

Organized religion is first and foremost BIG BUSINESS. And we all know that ANYTHING that threatens to negatively affect the bottom line MUST BE ELIMINATED.

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By The Barefoot Bum, April 6, 2007 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment

“The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn.”

The problem with moderate Christians is that they seem as obtuse as their fundamentalist brethren. Dionne, like just most moderate Christian, conflates having a definite position with “dogmatism”. However, to be dogmatic, you have hold a definite position without rational justification.

Would Dionne assert that evolutionary biologists seem just as dogmatic as creationists?

Dionne misreads Harris’s argument. Religious moderates do not themselves perpetuate atrocities. Rather, by arguing for tolerance of religious belief, moderates undermine atheists’ philosophical arguments against fundamentalism.

It’s not enough to merely object to the fundamentalist ethics. Fundamentalists, by definition (and unlike (in a sense) religious and secular humanists) do not evaluate their ethics according to popularity; they hold their ethics because they believe them to be objectively true—a delusion. As long as religious moderates shield their own beliefs from critical examination as to their truth, they are aiding and abetting the fundamentalists.

Although many believers do not ever question their faith, some believers do. It is not the lack of questions for which atheists criticize such believers, but rather the poor quality of their “answers”.

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By straight_talk_11, April 6, 2007 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment
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So-called neo-atheists wish to deny us a fundamental right, freedom of religion, because they are fundamentalists who worship energy and matter as ultimate reality. They think that God doesn’t exist because they never caught him hiding behind a tree. Such superficial thinking!

They are at bottom no different from the fundamentalists of the Inquisition who demanded that everyone believe as they did. The most fundamental and universal experience, that is, common to all of us not in a coma, is our own awareness. Awareness is abstract in the extreme as an intellectual concept, yet as a personal experience it is absolutely universal and quite concrete, even if we have a bit of trouble putting it into words. It is awareness and only awareness that is common to all our experiences. Without it we don’t experience anything.

This is the nature of anything that unifies. It is always the most global or non-localizable, least specific component of our understanding, yet it is the most concrete, simple, and obvious of our experiences when appreciated directly. We may not have an explicit awareness of, or know why we recognize the general complex of posture and movement in a friend at a distance. Yet these things clearly reflect for us that particular personality, and we know. It is concretely our experience that it is that person and no other.

So literal-minded, “common sense” negations of the more global, universal aspects of our experience ignore this fundamentally important aspect of our perception and experience. Such negations are common to both modern “scientific” materialism and religious fundamentalism. I regard them both as false religions. Neither is ultimately any different from the “God Creates Frog Today” newspaper copy concept of the nature of religious truth that dominates explicitly religious fundamentalism.

The nature of the cosmos is fundamentally unified and holographic. The Intelligence implicit in the whole of natural law recursively modifies the cosmos by modulating energy flow within it in ways that restructure it to evolve local systems everywhere that increasingly reflect the nature of the whole. This process continues until local organisms evolve that can look back on their origins and wonder how they came to be. They can also intuit that they are reflections of the wholeness that evolved them, unless their lack of internal systemic integration results in a local organism noisy enough that it cannot make this connection. These clearly have no right to attack the reason of other creatures.

The “scientific” materialists arrogantly assume we are, as relatively miniscule subcomponents of the universe that fostered our evolution, nevertheless a uniquely intelligent, aware epiphenomenon of matter and energy structured in just the right way by mere accident. They assume that matter and energy are primary and the appropriate complexity of their structures the causal factors underlying awareness. They tacitly, blindly ignore the intelligence implicit in the natural laws that designed and drove their own evolution. Such ignorance denies the most fundamental tenets upon which communications and information theory are based.

In short, they negate out of hand as absurd any possibility of intelligence or awareness operating in the grand system of which they are ironically such tiny subcomponents. We would think their own intelligence and awareness should serve in principle to give the lie to this sadly, ridiculously arrogant negation. Instead this awareness and intelligence remains abysmally short-circuited in the appreciation of what should be their own obvious implications concerning the awareness and intelligence implicit in larger, more complex systems and ultimately the Whole of which they are but a tiny end product. They are like precocious but arrogant babies absurdly, impudently denying their dependence on their parents.

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By Kellina, April 6, 2007 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment
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Where is the evidence that anyone called Jesus Christ ever existed? Despite supposedly conducting miracles that would make 9/11 pale in historical significance in comparison, no historians who lived during Christ’s purported lifetime left a record of such miraculous occurrences or of Christ himself. The 40 or so writers, historians, philosophers and politicians all writing at the time made no mention of Jesus’ existence, deeds, or words. Christian scholars cling to one passage by Flavius Josephus in “The Antiquities of the Jews” (c. 95CE). The exciting news of the alleged Jesus made its way into one tiny passage of Josephus’s voluminous work. The passage has been shown to be a forgery, contains anachronistic terminology, and didn’t show up until centuries after Josephus’s death. Church “historian” Eusebius is widely credited with writing it. Dismissal of the passage is based on intensive scientific scrutiny, confirmed repeatedly by numerous (mostly Christian) scholars. Clutching at more straws, apologists cite Pliny the Younger (writing in 112CE) or Tacitus (writing no earlier than 117CE), none of whom lived when Jesus “lived” and also discredited by scholars.

The Gospels were written long after the purported death of Jesus (in 33CE). Scholars agree Mark came first, followed by Matthew, Luke and John; Mark mentioned the destruction of the Jewish temple (in 70CE), then there’s a gap of at least four decades where we hear nothing of Jesus apart from Apostle Paul. The supposed most important contemporary of Jesus doesn’t seem to know anything about the Jesus story: In his letters, Paul never mentioned Joseph, Mary, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist, any alleged miracles – he never mentioned Jesus having a ministry. He doesn’t mention entry into Jerusalem, Pontius Pilot, the Jewish mob, the trials. He mentioned the resurrection and the ascension but does not place these alleged events on Earth. Just like the dozens of savior Gods that co-existed and predated the Jesus myth, Paul’s Jesus died, rose and ascended in a mythical realm. Jesus supposedly existed until 33CE. Then everyone forgot about him for decades. Jesus finally re-appeared with an uncanny resemblance to the traditional Hero/Savior-God pattern. There are folklore similarities with the likes of Oedipus, Theseus, Romulus, Hercules, Perseus, Zeus and Robin Hood. Justin Martyr seems to agree—he compared Jesus to the sons of Jupiter. Mythology, folklore, forgery and no contemporary evidence.

Jesus was just another in a long line of deities that existed only in the imagination. At least 25 other deities (eg Attis, Buddha, Dionysus /Baccus, Hercules, Horus/Osiris of Egypt, Krishna of India, Mithra of Persia, Prometheus of Greece, Quetzalcoatl of Mexico, Zoroaster) share many characteristics with Jesus: (1) born of a virgin on Dec 25th; (2) visited by three kings bearing gifts at his birth, guided by an eastern star; (3) taught in a temple at age 12; (4) reemerged at age 30 after an 18-year hiatus; (5) raised “eL-azuras” from the dead; (6) crucified between two thieves; (7) father a carpenter; (8) transfigured before his disciples; (9) fed multitudes from a small amount of food; (10) walked on water. Also, we see the sermon on the mount, 12 disciples, John the Baptist, etc. Horus was even called KRST (‘Anointed One’ ), The Lamb of God, The Messiah. How do apologists respond? “The Devil Got There First” – a logical fallacy. The Vatican was built on the papacy of Mithra – the Vatican cave belonged to Mithra until 367CE. Most elements of Catholic ritual were taken from Pagan religions. Christians don’t discuss these things. “Ignore the evidence, keep the faith,” your priest will say. Anything but face the reality that the Gospels are religious propaganda—contradictory, exaggerated, and mythical.

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By Louise, April 6, 2007 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
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If there is one thing I find annoying about Easter, it’s that The Council of Nicaea couldn’t come up with one specific date on which to celebrate the resurrection. Would have made life so much easier for those of us who have to hide Easter Baskets.

Remember Easter like Christmas is a fun holiday for the kids. Let them enjoy their hard-boiled eggs and chocolate bunnies!

Tombstones are not put up by the dead.

Tombstones are put up for the living.

A tribute paid by a grieving family.

A marker so they can remember where they put the body.

A zone requirement, depending on where the body’s buried.

One more cost tacked onto an already outrageous cost.

If there is a God, he/she doesn’t need a marker to find you. And if there is an after life, the soul will long be gone by the time the marker goes up. Actually the soul will long be gone irregardless ...

No matter what we may or may not believe, there is one indisputable fact. No person, organization or group can really determine what you and I and ours face beyond this place called Earth. Period.

Even so, when I go I want my Tombstone to say:

“Here lies that rarest of creatures.
A woman who never in her entire life had a credit card.”

In the meanwhile, I encourage Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins to pursue their search for whatever they are searching for. After all how else can we expand our minds than to search for answers?

I personally wont know the answer until I die. But, if I can and I can figure out how ... I’ll come back and let you-all know.

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By Kol Klink, April 6, 2007 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment
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god doesnt frighten me but organized religious institutions with special relationships to governments terrifies me.

Read Egyptian, Catholic and Mayan histories for insight into how most money, and therefore power, can be shifted into organized religions in relatively short time spans.

But, on the other hand, leaving large amounts of money in the hands of governments is not such a hot idea either.

The neo cons and right wing republicans are in favor of ‘starving big government’. I am in favor of ‘starving big religion’ and following our founding fathers recipe for dealing with government. They were for separation of church and state and were against standing armies. Both make sense.

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By Hemi, April 6, 2007 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment
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E.J. when you quoted “God and the Kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice.”, I said let’s go God. Open up that gated community and let everybody in now or get your followers to shut up. “God’s passion for justice”? If he’s in charge and allows injustice to reign he is either sadistic or not there. I vote for not there. It looks better for HIS sake.

Of course I can’t comprehend HIS mysterious ways. HE is not there. No, I can’t prove the improvable. Like you can’t prove I’m not the “Second Coming” either. Maybe I am the “Second Coming”. Yep, maybe I am. (Go ahead prove I’m not!) Considering I AM, DAD says to move on, nothing to see here! Bless you all! And E.J., DAD says to tell you he “knows what you did last summer”! You didn’t think HE was watching. DAD has scads of time for that kind of stuff you know. HE’s creator of the universe, supreme being, Almighty God and Father, Yahweh, call HIM what you will but don’t call HIM late for supper.

“Jesus’ passion got him killed.” Yep, that’s right. Great philosophy! The same as had been taught by wise men for thousands of years. We refer to it as “The Golden Rule”. He brought it up to a bunch of pricks and they told him: “No, the golden rule is this, he who has the gold, rules!” Game over.

IF Christ actually lived, and he wasn’t a compilation story of ancient crucified savior myths blended with a few Jewish messianic candidates (for local flavor), he died on the cross. He likely expected a last second pardon and it never came. His followers crapped their garments and came up with “plan B”.

The throngs of people that benefited from and witnessed his miracles didn’t come to rescue him from Pilate. Why? Because there would have had to be throngs of people that benefited from and witnessed the miracles in the first place. It never happened, the story was written later. (We’re not even sure there was a Pilate.) He was not the messiah, he was a compilation story of all the failed Jewish messianic candidates that had come before. IF he had performed the miracles he would have been the Son of God in his own time. He was and is wishful thinking.

One can aspire to a passionate caring life none-the-less. You can be “Christian” without there ever having been a living Christ. Nobody’s stopping you; just don’t insist on our accommodating your fantasy. It’s one of the many choices available. To insist that he lived is as fanciful as believing in any deity. If Thor had a better set of writers we would be discussing why the “Thorians” and neo-atheists were at loggerheads. If Christ had lived, we wouldn’t be having a discussion at all.

Happy Eostre everybody! (Gotta love those Pagans!)

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By The Free Lance, April 6, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

Harris, Dennett and the rest make a solid point about religion, but that point gets lost in political discussion. 

Following blindly *any* creed, belief, or person is dangerously foolish.  Uncritical acceptance of ideas on faith is a cause of the worst of human history:  the Inquisition and the Crusades, certainly, but also Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Hitler’s Germany.

People blow themselves up in Iraq because of blind faith in an idea.  Some people in the US believe these are the “end times,” and that the destruction of nations in the Middle East is a necessary prelude to the Rapture.  These ideas can’t be simply set aside as “unreasonable,” because all beliefs based upon faith are equally unreasonable.  A bit of critical thought melts away the idea that God is on anyone’s side—as well as the idea that there is any God at all.

There is no battle between “believer” vs “atheist.” There is only the importance of applying critical thought before accepting an idea.  Ideas matter, and we were shown on 9/11 where blind faith in an idea can lead. We should fight blind ignorance instead of each other.

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By Jason, April 6, 2007 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In this article E.J. Dionne seems to be making several mistakes about what she calls “neo-atheism”.

1. “The most serious believers, understanding that they need to ask themselves searching questions, have always engaged in dialogue with atheists.”

False.  Citing one writer that questions his belief in God does not count as grounds for making a universal generalization.

2. “The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn.”

False, especially if Harris and Dawkins are Dionne’s archetypical neo-atheists.  A symptom of dogmatism is unbending adherence to a belief when one knows of good reason to reject it.  Present the irrational belief that Harris and Dawkins cling to despite good reason to reject it, and show how this applies to all neo-atheists.

3. “...the idea that religion is primarily destructive lies at the heart of the neo-atheist argument….”

False.  The heart of neo-atheism is that religious belief simply is not justified, neither for philosophical nor practical reasons.  The frequent comments about the potentially destructive power of any dogmatic position (like religion) are a response to claims that certain dogmatic positions are worthy of being held for truth-independent reasons.

4. “...what’s really bothersome is the suggestion that believers rarely question themselves while atheists ask all the hard questions.”

Dionne’s implying that this isn’t the state of affairs.  It is.  Believers rarely address the hard questions, such as those pertaining to the problem of evil, evolution, and the authorship and composition of their holy texts.  I challenge Dionne to walk into a fundamentalist Baptist church and ask the preacher to invite an evolutionary biologist to give a talk.  Watch him (and it’s always a him if it’s a fundamentalist church) squirm.  “Questions have been the heart and soul of Judaism and Christianity for millenia,” sure, but not the questions that pertain to the truth-value of the religion.

5. “Christians in practice often fail to live up to this elevated definition of their creed.”

This is beside the point.  What the real problem is that Christians that actually do live up to the definition of their creed are moral monsters.  Authentic Christian ethics is about sexual repression, hatred, and irrationality.  Hate the fags, keep the women quiet, and accept what you’re told as if you were a child.

6. “He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the Kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’ passion got him killed.”

It doesn’t matter how distinguished the scholar is that says this, she/he can’t know it to be true, and that’s the point.

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By Brian Whelan, April 6, 2007 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whether or not you have read Harris’ or Dawkin’s books I don’t know, but it seems you don’t understand either’s arguments.  I agree that there are many good things we can learn from Jesus; however, I don’t see how believing that the bible is, in any way, literally true will help us solve real world problems.  Hopefully, Sam will writea response.

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By Skruff, April 6, 2007 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The reward in the “afterlife” is a engaging idea, put forth by those who would profit from underpaid workers in THIS LIFE.

get a grip… this is all we have so use it and enjoy….

What do you want on your tombstone?

He lived a good life took a lot of time off, his children and family came first, died happy, surronuded by them?

OR

He made it to work on-time everyday and never complained about the pay. Taught the work-ethic to his children who moved far away for better pay

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By Quy Tran, April 6, 2007 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A real God will never show up as an actor ! Everyones of us has god in his/her heart and will never do miracle as selling stuffs in market place. Anything happened in plain air will be considered phantom or ghost images and never go after them because they’ll lead you to HELL ! Let’s be yourself, always !

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