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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

26 July 2008

Humanity

Atheists puzzle me. No, check that, they bother me. They deny the existence of God. They say that the lack of physical, scientific evidence of God’s existence proves He doesn’t exist. It’s not a logical conclusion or assumption. One could say, “I don’t believe that God exists because I choose to see no evidence,” and leave it at that. But that’s closer to agnosticism. Atheists, on the other hand take it a step further: They actively deny any possibility of God’s existence.

Here’s the deal: You could say, “I don’t believe man ever landed on the moon.” Nobody could refute or argue with such a statement other than someone who was actually there…you know, like Neil Armstrong. (But even then, why would you believe him?) But an atheist would say, “Man never landed on the moon!” Which is quite a different thing.

Atheists do not like having religion “forced down their throats,” as they put it. Atheists absolutely do not like being told that their lives are “empty,” or “unfulfilled,” because they certainly feel that they’re neither of those things.

Atheists retaliate by putting the onus on Christians to empirically prove that God exists, and that failure to conclusively do so necessarily means that He doesn’t. What they don’t seem to realize is that it’s not true; the lack of physical evidence does not prove the non-existence of God.

In my experience, atheists tend to take an extremely negative view of faith and religion. Perhaps they do this to justify their own extreme and opposite view. In other words, they say, ”I believe that God DOES NOT EXIST! Because you can’t prove it to me. Furthermore, I believe that merely having such faith, and all religions are harmful to society.” Uhh…yeah…right. Whatever.

Atheists seem to hold the opinion that we who do believe in a Creator are not using our brains (or are perhaps using them improperly). They believe we are deluded, and we use this “God” as an unnecessary crutch…for help, guidance and strength – things that are already inside of us. Or worse, that we abdicate control of our lives to “God’s will,” instead of taking full and complete responsibility for our own lives. They say we are “disabled,” or a “mindless robot.”

I was driving to work the other day, eastbound along Interstate 10 across Pensacola Bay, and I was struck by what a bright, sunny, clear, beautiful a day it was. I was on my way to my job, which is one in which someone pays me big money to fly a helicopter – to do something that I love to do and in fact do as a hobby. It was one of those days that just make you feel lucky and thankful to be alive.

Wait…hold on – thankful? I thought about that. In fact, I keep coming back to this point. Why do I feel appreciative? Did all of this just happen naturally, or was this earth put here for our specific enjoyment? Why are humans appreciative? Where does that come from? Why do we have feelings and emotions?


Why do we laugh…or cry…or love…or hate…or get angry...or get embarrassed when we fart in public? Why do we kill for sport? And why can we express our feelings and emotions artistically…in art, literature, painting, poetry, dance, and music for example?

Because those things are part of being human.

We may very well be the “most evolved” of all the species on the planet. But if so, we have qualities and capabilities far beyond even the next-closest species. It’s eerie; it’s almost as if someone or something had an intelligent hand in designing us.

I choose to see evidence of God’s handiwork everywhere I look, even inside of me. As I’ve said, it gives me great comfort to think that this was all put here intentionally for us. And for that I’m thankful. Believing in God gives me someone to direct my appreciation and thanks.

But is it mandatory to even be appreciative? I mean, can’t this all just…you know…“be” without me having to be thankful for it? Umm, no, that’s not possible. Every time I see a sunrise there is a palpable sense of gratitude deep inside of me that cannot be denied or inhibited. I am inspired by it way down in my, well, soul. I didn’t have to be taught that feeling; it just is. That’s the human in me.

Well then, can’t we just be thankful and appreciative without wanting to direct it somewhere? Sure, I guess. But that would be like being in love without actually having a partner. …Which, even if that were possible would be kind of empty and unfulfilling wouldn’t you agree? And so I thank God, my Creator for my life, and all of the wonderful things in it, all the things for which I am appreciative.

This is what I mean when I say that God fills my otherwise empty life. I realize that it is He (although it certainly could be a She) who is responsible for all this. And that is the very core of my faith: The knowledge that there is something bigger than me…something bigger than man…something bigger than all of us. And my life would be very empty without Him in it.

Richard Dawkins is a noted atheist who's written a book called "The God Delusion." During the question-and-answer period after a speech, he was asked a simple question.



Notice how Dawkins sidesteps the question, doesn't answer it and turns on the questioner, belittling her. "What if you're wrong?" he asks instead after a bunch of silly analogies. Well ultimately, if we Christians are wrong, there is no consequence.

But answer the question, Dawkins: What if you're wrong?

To doubt God’s existence is one thing. But to claim that He absolutely, positively does not exist is quite another. It is an affront to your very humanity.

14 comments:

Rodolfo said...

It's important to remember that Dawkins doesn't speak for all atheists the same way Al Sharpton doesn't speak for all Christians.

I admire Dawkins for his work in the field of biology but disagree with him in his promotion of atheism. Atheism is word that shouldn't even exist in my opinion.

But if I'm wrong about the existence of bible god then I'm wrong. The most important thing I can do in one lifetime is practice the Golden Rule. Should bible god feel the Golden Rule isn't enough and choose to punish me for questioning his/her existence then so be it. I accept responsibility for all my choices.

But what does that tell us about this Creator?

Seems kinda insecure to me don't you think? Sending non-religious folks to hell for exercising their right to think and ask questions. Not a deity that I would want to worship.

Thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

I played a clip from below the Dawkins clip on your site, a CNN interview. The Reverand in the clip questioned the atheist asking her where did she learn her morals/ethics. She wouldn't / couldn't answer his question. This is typical.


kman

Bob Barbanes said...

Rodolfo, Dawkins may not speak for all atheists, but atheists sure love quoting him!

But "what if you're wrong?" is not a trick or even complicated question. I obviously believe in God. He is in my life now; I want to be with Him in eternity when my soul departs my human body. That's all. If I'm right, I will be with Him. But I'd hate to think that it was I who rejected Him.

You are free to believe whatever you want. But let's not ascribe any human traits to God (like vindictiveness or pettiness) just yet. That's a little presumptuous and even I don't buy that.

kman, I chuckled when I saw that Ellen Johnson stammering in that CNN clip. For the question is valid: If not from God, where do atheists' morals come from?

Dawkins is dead wrong about one thing though. He asserts that Christians defer having a "good life" now in exchange for a better life in eternity. For me, I cannot see how my life could ever be any better if I were to reject God. What would I do differently? I can't think of a thing. But I'm open to suggestions.

Anyone?

Rodolfo said...

Atheists get their morals from the same places religious people do. They get it from their parents, uncles and aunts, society and the laws that govern them, religious books, literature, etc. Yes the Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start but the Golden Rule is not an exclusive (nor original) Christian concept. Confucious is oftentimes credited with it and he predates Christianity by several hundred years.

I don't think Dawkins ducked the question. That's a classic argument that everyone knows the answer to. Well of course if the skeptic is wrong then obviously he/she will go to hell. But let's just assume *you're* wrong Bob. What if it was the Muslims that were the chosen ones. So what if *you're* wrong about the particular deity you choose to worship?

I think that was the bigger point that Dawkins was trying to make. NOBODY KNOWS. But yes I agree Dawkins makes himself out to be a fool by claiming something neither he nor a committed Christian can possibly know.

But let's tackle Kman's comment for a minute. It's what Sam Harris calls the Myth of Moral Secular Chaos. This belief that without a deity or a bible humans would be out raping and killing one another. Well that's simply not true. I mean seriously where's the humanity in that? Here's an excerpt of Harris's argument:

1. If a book like the Bible were the only reliable blueprint for human decency that we had, it would be impossible (both practically and logically) to criticize it in moral terms. But it is extraordinarily easy to criticize the morality one finds in the Bible, as most of it is simply odious and incompatible with a civil society.

The notion that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is really quite amazing, given the contents of the book. Human sacrifice, genocide, slaveholding, and misogyny are consistently celebrated. Of course, God's counsel to parents is refreshingly straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13–14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Mark 7:9–13, and Matthew 15:4–7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshiping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

Most Christians imagine that Jesus did away with all this barbarism and delivered a doctrine of pure love and toleration. He didn't. (See Matthew 5:18–19, Luke 16:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 20–21, John 7:19.) Anyone who believes that Jesus only taught the Golden Rule and love of one's neighbor should go back and read the New Testament. And he or she should pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display if Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, 2:8; Hebrews 10:28–29; 2 Peter 3:7; and all of Revelation).

It is not an accident that St. Thomas Aquinas thought heretics should be killed and that St. Augustine thought they should be tortured. (Ask yourself, what are the chances that these good doctors of the Church hadn't read the New Testament closely enough to discover the error of their ways?) As a source of objective morality, the Bible is one of the worst books we have. It might be the very worst, in fact—if we didn't also happen to have the Qur'an.

It is important to point out that we decide what is good in the Good Book. We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses; we read that a woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death, and we (if we are civilized) decide that this is the most vile lunacy imaginable. Our own ethical intuitions are, therefore, primary. So the choice before us is simple: we can either have a twenty-first-century conversation about ethics—availing ourselves of all the arguments and scientific insights that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse—or we can confine ourselves to a first-century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.


2. If religion were necessary for morality, there should be some evidence that atheists are less moral than believers.

People of faith regularly allege that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the twentieth century. Are atheists really less moral than believers? While it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion—delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history, or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful.

While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, its roots were undoubtedly religious—and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued throughout the period. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.) Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; on the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

According to the United Nations' Human Development Report (2005), the most atheistic societies—countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom—are actually the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per-capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest by the UN in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious. Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality—belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction, societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God, each factor may enable the other, or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, these facts prove that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society's health.

3. If religion really provided the only conceivable objective basis for morality, it should be impossible to posit a nontheistic objective basis for morality. But it is not impossible; it is rather easy.

Clearly, we can think of objective sources of moral order that do not require the existence of a law-giving God. In The End of Faith, I argued that questions of morality are really questions about happiness and suffering. If there are objectively better and worse ways to live so as to maximize happiness in this world, these would be objective moral truths worth knowing. Whether we will ever be in a position to discover these truths and agree about them cannot be known in advance (and this is the case for all questions of scientific fact). But if there are psychophysical laws that underwrite human well-being—and why wouldn't there be?—then these laws are potentially discoverable. Knowledge of these laws would provide an enduring basis for an objective morality. In the meantime, everything about human experience suggests that love is better than hate for the purposes of living happily in this world. This is an objective claim about the human mind, the dynamics of social relations, and the moral order of our world. While we do not have anything like a final, scientific approach to maximizing human happiness, it seems safe to say that raping and killing children will not be one of its primary constituents.

Bob Barbanes said...

Rodolfo, it's rather annoying that you bring up religion and the Bible, given that I mentioned neither in my post (and have criticized the Bible in the past). It's doubly-annoying that you believe and claim that Christians get our morality from the Bible when we know that it comes from God, which was my point. There's a difference which is evidently lost on you.

All I've ever maintained is that this universe was deliberately created and that I call that Creator "God." I read the Bible; it is an interesting spiritual guidebook. It is not perfect.

If the Muslims are right and I'm wrong, then I'll meet Allah (and don't they get seven virgins or something like that?). Or maybe I'll meet the "flying spaghetti monster" as Dawkins so childishly puts it. I don't care. I don't live my life now in fear of what'll happen to me in eternity. I live it with the joy of knowing that a) I was created, b) that my Creator loves me very much, and c) some day I'll get to meet that Creator. It makes for a tremendously fun and rewarding now, which is all we've got. The fact that you spend so much time and energy fighting this philosophy is profoundly sad.

I will agree with you that the subject of morality is complicated. It gets complicated and argued by those who choose to deny where our very humanity comes from. But it's simple for those who know we were created: It comes from the Creator.

Your mileage may vary, man.

But I still wonder how a Dawkinsian life without God would be quantifiably "better?" What, I ask again, would I do differently? How "better" should I spend the time that I am so obviously wasting?

God is the answer to your questions and problems, my friend. And some day, if you listen to your heart as well as your brain, you'll realize it. At least I hope so.

Rodolfo said...

God is part of the answer. But questioning him/her is what makes me human.

I don't think as a Christian you can separate morality from the bible and religion. But I'm sorry you find it annoying that all these different facets of the debate get interjected but how can you have an honest and open discussion about it if you don't allow your readers to criticize those main points? Your beliefs have to come from somewhere right? And if you make the claim that it's from your Creator well then that begs the question "How does one go about figuring out what our Creator really wants?" Obviously *most* reasonable theists will turn to their books, right?

Morality is a question about human suffering vs human happiness. If I picked up a slab of rock and hurled it to a wall you would have no *moral* inclination towards it. If on the other hand I substituted that rock with a human baby then most regular people such as yourself would feel differently. Now why is that? Are you telling me that without a Creator you would have no inclination to save that baby?

I'm just asking.

And let me clarify why it is I'm vocal about these subjects. Spirituality has always been important to me. I was raised Catholic and was taught how to worship. Somewhere along the road I became a skeptic. Not so much because of the question does God exist or not but more when people make claims on their ability to read their Creator's mind.

When I start seeing our education system attacked by Creationists that annoys me. When I see Muslim extremists hijack airplanes that pisses me off. When I see decent law abiding gays/lesbians not being afforded the same civil liberties because of what the *bible* claims is immoral that irks me.

These are not the works of our Creator but of people who *think* they know what God wants. That's all I'm opposed to man.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo says - "God is part of the answer."

Let me get this straight...

God = Creator of Heaven and Earth, had no beginning, has no end.

Rodolfo = human being with average male life expectancy somewhere between 70 and 80 years.

Um, who's part of the answer?


kman

Rodolfo said...

Kman-what I meant by that was simply that having a belief whether its of God or oneself is a requirement in living a fulfilled life. But you can't just have *all* faith and expect to find the cure for polio and neither can you find a cure for polio without a *belief* that it could be done.

Whether a single Creator is real or not is debatable. A *belief* in God is not.

But again I pose the question how does one go about knowing the mind of God? Would you have any conception of heaven and earth without it being explained in the Bible? Maybe. But that leads me to conclude that concepts like heaven and earth are man-made.

Now the jury is still out on the existence of a supreme being and I'm comfortable with that. I lean on the side that there is a greater force out there that my feeble mind can't comprehend BUT I have no idea what that force has planned for us(or if there's even a plan at all). Are we destined for an afterlife that is either fire and brimstone or pearly gates? I don't know. But I'm confident that if you examine the evidence for these extraordinary claims critically you just might conclude the same thing.

Hal Johnson said...

From a purely rational point of view, disregarding any faith-based perspective, atheism is still intellectually indefensible. Were there no planets before the invention of the telescope?

I often wonder if people choose atheism over agnosticism because of a need to believe in something. Agnosticism offers no answers, so they choose to believe in something, even if that something is nothing.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo - "Fire, brimstone... pearly gates??? Do you really think that is what Bob's post is all about? Do you think that's what any of us, who commented, believes?

I wish you would go to youtube and search -

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross - On Children and Death.

Listen to the first clip and think about it. Of course, feel free to listen to more.

Yeah, it's difficult. I discovered her because a friend loaned me a tape when my friend was experiencing exactly what she is describing in this clip. And I can confirm her findings. This isn't the first believe/not believe in God post I've commented on... But it's the first time I've decided go down this road RE: Dr Kubler-Ross.

I'll share more, if you listen to her words.


kman

Rodolfo said...

Well I re-read Bob's post and it's mostly a critique about atheism. What I find difficult to wrap my head around is the idea that you can separate the bible and religion away from the basis of one's belief in a divine Creator. That belief has to come from somewhere right? People aren't born and programmed to worship. They must be *taught* how to. The basis for these beliefs (assuming you're a Christian) is the bible. If a person identifies themselves as a Christian and they ascribe their belief in a deity to the God of Abraham then a skeptic ought to have the ability to closely examine scripture. That's what's great about America's public square.

I'm not an atheist but they do make some valid points. I agree with Bob fully that an atheist has no basis to declare THERE IS NO GOD simply because of insufficient evidence.

*Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence*

The most honest and intellectual position one can take in my opinion is agnosticism. But don't take me for a fence sitter. I'm absolutely *atheist* with respect to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Mormon concept of the Creator(s).

I'm open to the idea of a Creator(s) but for a group or individual to claim that they have some sort of monopoly on this belief is quite presumptuous.

Re: youtube clip

Watched it but I'm not sure where you're going with it. Studies have *proven* that a belief in a personal god(s) or the bible shows tremendous health benefits. This does not, however, prove the actual existence of a deity. We go back to square one.

re: humanity

I agree with Bob fully that qualities like appreciation, respect, love, dedication, etc. are all human traits. This does not, however, support either atheism or theistic ideas.

Our rapid social evolutions can be explained away by our human ability to create culture. This along with technology (from hand tools to WMDs) separate us from the animal kingdom. These are all documented through fossil records and artifacts our ancients left behind.

Anonymous said...

Rodolfo, you either didn't watch the Kubler-Ross clip or you just didn't get it since you pulled , "that a belief in a personal god(s) or the bible shows tremendous health benefits" from it. She has been referred to by many in the medical profession as DR DEATH! Not sure what anything she would say would have to do with great HEALTH benefits?!

You are or would make a good lawyer, like OJ's Dream Team!

God bless you.

kman

Bob Barbanes said...

Hey, all's I'm saying is that this place was DELIBERATELY created. That's what my head and my heart tell me. That means that there was/is a CREATOR. I call Him "God." And I don't need Him to come down to earth and show me His ID just to prove He exists.

You don't like religion? Fine! Set religion aside. Forget everything you "know" or were taught. Forget the Bible. Just start from the fact (if you will) that there is a Creator...God...Supreme Being...whatever you want to call it. Go from there, and see where it takes you.

What does God want from or for us? What do I look like, a prophet? I have no frickin' idea. But if you had to pin me down, I'd say that God wants me to be the best "me" possible.

I'm working on it.

Rodolfo said...

Kman- Ya I did watch the clip but it's clear to me now it had NOTHING to do with Bob's post. Thanks for sharing though.

re: lawyer

My ex-girlfriend was studying to be a lawyer. She said the same thing about me. LOL!

Peace!