Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Be Good For Goodness Sake

Religious belief, I feel, is an inherently selfish thing. You are lead to believe that if you do good things you will go to heaven. Do what God wants you to and you will be rewarded, either in this life, the next life, or both.

The end result of all this is that the impetus to behave well, to do good things for others, is driven by the question, “what’s in it for me?”. Of course, most people don’t think of it this way. They think that if they help with a food drive, or work in a soup kitchen, God will reward them. They are racking up points in heaven. But really, when you get right down to it, the real reason they do these things is because they are expecting a reward.

This isn’t to say that they aren’t religious people who don’t do good things just because they feel it is the right thing to do, of course there are. I would bet, however, if you asked most believers why it is important to help the poor or tend to the sick, they will say something to the effect that it is because the Bible tells them to, or it is what God wants. I doubt you will hear many give the simple reason, “because”.

From a humanist point of view, we do good things “just because”. Just because it is the right thing to do. No one tells us to do good things. We aren’t expecting any reward except, perhaps. the reward of feeling good about doing good.

I find it interesting that of all the Christmas carols that I can think of, it is a secular one that gets at the heart of why we should do good and be good: for goodness sake.

As a humanist, I am motivated to help others because I feel empathy. I see someone in need and I feel their pain, as the saying goes.

Religious believers have empathy too, certainly. Because the motivation to help others, for them, is reward based however, I wonder if the emotional connection, the empathy, is somehow lessened. When I see people who can volunteer at a soup kitchen, but then call all welfare or Medicaid recipients moochers I have to wonder how they can justify that stance. I think it is because they feel that they have done their bit of good by volunteering, but there is no emotional connection, no real empathy, for the people who they are serving. They aren’t being good for goodness sake, they are being good because that’s what is expected or required. In their eyes they did their good deed and will get their reward, but poor who they fed don’t really exist at all for them, they are just part of the scenery.

Some people will say that it doesn’t matter why people do good, as long as they do something to help others. I disagree.

We have a huge issue in this country today where there are millions of people who are living at or below the poverty line and there is a large group of Americans who honestly believe that these people deserve it. They don’t connect these millions of people with the dozens or hundreds they see at their soup kitchens. I suspect that part of the reason is that they haven’t made an emotional connection with these people because instead of doing good just for the sake of goodness, they are doing good in expectation of a reward. They don’t make the emotional connection that they might otherwise make because doing good isn’t about the other guy, it’s about them.

When there is no idea of reward, we do good because it is the right thing to do.

January 6, 2014 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , | 2 Comments

An Atheist Monument Being Unveiled Next to The Ten Commandments is Nothing to Celebrate

An article in the Washington Post reports on the new monument that has been installed next to one of the Ten Commandments outside a Florida courthouse.

Atheists had sued to remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violates the the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.  An agreement was reached that, instead of removing the monument, atheists would be able to erect their own monument on public property next to it.

The monument that the atheists erected contain quotes by various founding fathers that are much more apt for a courthouse than the Ten Commandments, almost half of which apply to how God should be worshiped and have no bearing on U.S. Law.  

While I support displaying monuments to our founding fathers and quotes from them that support actual U.S. legal principles, I have serious reservations about how this particular case played out.

Allowing a secular monument on public land, of course, does not violate the Establishment clause, but doing so in this case inextricably links the secular monument with that of the Ten Commandments.  In essence, it gives validity to the idea that it is OK to allow a religious monument on public property.   By agreeing to erect a secular monument next to a religious one, these atheists have legitimized the display of religious symbols on public property.

We have secular monument aplenty across our land.  The Jefferson and Lincoln monuments come to mind.  This is how it should be.  Our legal system is founded upon the U.S. Constitution, a document that never once mentions God, and even explicitly forbids the government showing preference for any religion.  

We don’t need the condecending permission of religious minded judges or politicians to allow us to erect a monument to those who founded our country.   By accepting this settlement, atheists essentially allowed the religious crowd, who erected their monument in violation of the laws of this land, to give them something that was theirs by default.  

This is not a win for atheists.  By agreeing to allow an obviously illegal monument to stand, they have legitimized those who seek to push their religious agenda into our government at every level, and thereby made it a win for the enemies of secularism.

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , | 1 Comment

Everything You Wanted to Know About Why Christianity is Bullshit.

I recently discover a very nice site, Jesus Never Existed,  that provides a plethora of information showing that Christianity is a manufactured religion (but aren’t they all?). They provide sources for much of their material, which is a good thing.  Some of what I’ve read I’m familiar with, but a lot of it I haven’t encountered before. 

If you are interested in the history of Christianity, check them out.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Help For People Recovering From Religion

The organization Recovering From Religion has started a hotline for those who are recovering from religion.  This is in response to all of the “…countless emails and phone calls from people seeking help on their journey away from faith, at all hours of the day and night”.

If you are recovering or have recovered from religion, you know how terribly painful a process this can be.  Not only are you abandoning a life-long set of beliefs, but you face ostracization from friend, family, and co-workers.  You also live with the fear of the negative reactions you may receive when people find out you are an atheist.  

I have applied to answer the Hotline and to help out with their Facebook page.   If you are recovering from religion, or are an life-long atheists, and want to help, go and apply.  It is a great cause that will help the millions who are struggling with losing their religion.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism, Skepticism | , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are Not Broken

I read a lovely blog post.  It is about people with disabilities.  Please read it.

My comment on this:

I grew up with a learning disability.  I was teased, bullied.  But I’ve succeeded beyond what any of those people who made fun of me, or even most of the teachers and guidance counselors could.  My son has autism spectrum disorder.  Family, friends, strangers in the supermarket, all would try to tell me how to handle him, how to raise him, how to “fix” him.  He is not “broken”.  He never was.  He is his own person.  He is my son.  

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Something From Nothing – Why It Doesn’t Matter If God Exist Or Not

Where did the universe come from?  This is a question that has taunted humans probably since we first became sentient.  

Most of the attempts to answer this question over the millennium have come from religion, but in the past 20 years or so, real progress has been made in physics to answer this question.  Science seems to say that the universe could have been created from nothing.  

The renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawkin has postulated that the universe could have arisen from fluctuations in the quantum foam.  Others, such as physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, in his new book, “A Universe From Nothing”, suggest something along the same lines.

I’m not going to go into the science since it is far beyond my capabilities.  I’m also not going to get much into the religious and theological arguments.  What I do want to look at is a basic, simple premiss:  we, as humans, don’t understand time.

We experience time in a linear fashion.  This means that we have memories of a past, experience the present, and have expectations of the future.  Therefore time, to us, seems have a past, present, and future.  Physicists call this phenomenon The Arrow of Time, and due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as well as other factors that involve mind-numbing math, it always flows in one direction.

The most important thing about time, and the hardest one to wrap our heads around, is that time is not separate from space.  Time and space are inextricably linked and are collectively referred to as space-time.  Time can not exist without space.  One of the consequences of this is that time has only existed as long as space has.  

Space-time, and the universe it’s self, began, as closely as we can currently work out, 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang, from a singularity (a point of infinite mass), similar to the singularity in the center of a black hole (in fact, some scientists postulate that our universe exists inside of a black hole, but that’s a post for another time).  

Scientists have a pretty good idea of what happened as the universe expanded back to about 10^−11 (one hundred billionth) seconds after the beginning of the Big Bang.  What happened before that time is unclear.  Here, at the very beginning, as in the heart of a black hole, the laws of physics as we know them break down.  Nothing inside the singularity can be glimpsed from the outside, but we should be able to, theoretically, go back to the very instance of the beginning.  We are close, and the more we study sub-atomic particles with tools like the Large Hadron Collider, the more we are able to learn about these very earliest moments.

The important thing to understand here, for the purposes of this discussion, is that time did not exist before the Big Bang.  Since time did not exist until the moment the universe began, the question, “What existed before the universe?”, is non-sensical.  This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a “before”, it is just that our minds are incapable of conceiving that particular state of things.  It most likely was not a time, or a place, or an anything that we can define in terms that human language can express.  Only mathematics can express this situation and translating those mathematics into human language is likely impossible, simply due to our innate inability to grasp a concept that literally doesn’t exist in our universe.  We just don’t really, and can’t really, understand time.  We are trapped in the flow of time, just as a leaf is trapped in the flow of a river.  Traveling helplessly onward.

Therefor from my thinking, asking “What existed before the universe?”, is meaningless.  Wether it was created, or if it sprang into existence due to some fundamental laws of physics that we don’t completely understand really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that once it was in existence, everything in it has been subject to laws of physics that are, as far as we can see, so deeply woven into the fabric of space-time that they can not be broken.  

The upshot of this means that our universe is self-contained and is subject to those laws.  This precludes the existence of a personal God: one who can answer prayers and perform miracles.  If there is a god, then it is entirely outside of the universe, and as such, unable to influence, or even know of, anything within it. Hence, worship or prayer to it is useless, except as a way to give ourselves solace if we so choose.  

Call it god; call it a quantum fluctuation; call it George, it really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that we are here, if only for the very briefest of moments.  Let’s make the most of it.

 

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Be Good For Goodness’ Sake

Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality.  Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either.  What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.

This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others.  That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity.  It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind:  that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)

True morals should be based on this principle.  They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with.  By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.  

This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.  

The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight.  We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do.  To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of  callousness.  These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward.  When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.

Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality:  be good for goodness’ sake.

 

(1) The Declaration of Independence

are created equal, that they are endowed

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Newtown School Shootings – When There Are No Reasons

After the horrifying shootings at the Newtown, CT school, Bryan Fisher, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association proposed that God could have stopped the shootings, but didn’t because apparently it was God’s way of saying:

“Hey, I’d be glad to protect your children, but you have to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.”

A Gentleman?! Fisher’s “gentleman” god sounds more like a child throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get what he wants. A gentleman doesn’t sit by while 20 children are killed in cold blood just because he wasn’t picked for the team on the playground. I will tell you who does act like this: a coward; a sociopath; a sick and twisted, sadist.

Fisher’s god is an iniquitous and malefic thug. A god who can stand by and allow 20 innocent children be massacred is not a god worthy of praise or worth following. If such a god does exist and wishes me to believe, never mind support, that the innocent must die for the sins of the guilty, then I will proudly stand before him and tell him to kiss my ass and to send me to hell. I’d rather spend an eternity in hell than give the slightest support to such a evil creature. I thought that Jesus was the innocent one who was supposed to died for all of our sins, or did he just not get it right and now God feels that he must allow tiny children to die instead in order to pay for the supposed ills of our society? Where does God’s mercy and forgiveness come into all this? Apparently it doesn’t.

The fact is that 20 innocent children and 7 adults are dead. They aren’t dead because God is punishing us. They aren’t gone forever because of homosexuality, secularism, evolution being taught in our schools, or Obambacare. There is only one reason that they are dead: because a man walked into to the school and shot them. Period.

I’m not going to try to make this a sermon about gun control, or better access to mental health care, or any other political or social issue. That is something that we, as a society, must decide to do something about (or, as is often the case, do nothing).

We like to try to place blame when terrible things happen to us. We can’t stand the thought that something so horrific could happen for no reason as all. The reality is that nature doesn’t care and the universe doesn’t care. They just are. We, on the other hand, can and do care. Instead of seeking a reason beyond the the simple one stated above, we need to care for each other, help each other, and most importantly, cherish each other, every moment of every day. We must stop worrying about what comes after this life and focus on living each day as if it were our last, because, as we’ve been seeing far to often lately, life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tea Party – American Taliban

The Tea Party is the most dangerous threat to the American way of life and to American liberty its self than anything we’ve seen since the era of McCarthyism over 50 years ago.  I’d say that they are an even greater threat.  At least during McCarthyism we still held education, science, and technology in high esteem.  In fact, it was science and technology that was going to save us from the communist threat.  McCarthyism was a political motivated by a real fear of communist expansion (but that still didn’t justify the restriction of rights that occurred).

Fortunately, the majority of Americans do seem to believe in working together for a common goal and the common good.  Unfortunately, most of them believe that we can accommodate the Tea Party and their ilk.  The reason for this, I believe, is that most of these “other” American are Christian and this makes them reluctant to criticize other Christians.  They buy into the anti-islamic, anti-atheist, anti-secular rhetoric of the Tea Party because they either don’t see the real threat or they are afraid to speak out.  This is the same thing we saw in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks: the vast majority of Muslims abhorred there radicals who perpetrate acts to terror in the name of Islam, but they were afraid to speak out for fear of being branded an infidel or of breaking islamic unity.

The majority of Christian in this country are accomidationis.  They believe that radical Christians can be reasoned with; can be accommodated; that compromises can be reached.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Radical Christians, along with all religious radicals, can not be reasoned with or accommodated because for them this is a holy war, a fight against good and evil.  As long as they believe that they are doing God’s work, nothing can make them compromise in the slightest thing.

Today, however, science and technology are viewed with great suspicion, even outright hostility by the religious right.  This time, in contract to McCarthyism, the perceived enemy of the Tea Party crowd isn’t a foreign threat, it is other Americans.   And unlike most of those within the secular movements, they have no room for compromise.  You are either with them or against them.  You can’t debate or argue them into changing their positions.  Like most everyone who’s world view relies on blind faith and religious righteousness, they will never yield and never give up.

This is why I constantly speak out against religion being forced on us.  This is why I continue to highlight the dangers and evils of religious thought and religious dogma that are passed off as patriotism.  This is why I always try to highlight the delusion that is theism and supernaturalism, or magical thinking. 

People use religion to foster hate and division.  Those who are ardent believers can rationalize away any evil up to and including murder.  If they are allowed to have their way, which they are getting more and more often, they would have this country become a Christian theocracy.   Anything that goes against their religious laws will be punished, those of other religions will be discriminated against.  Don’t believe it?  Just google “christian theocracy in america”.  

It is sad that the Tea Partiers had to take the Tea Party as their name.  It is an insult to all those who took part in the actual, historical tea party.  Those patriots fought for freedom from tyranny, not for the tyranny of a theocracy.  They should have rightly called themselves the American Taliban, because they are no different in their aims of creating a Christian nation than the Taliban in Afghanistan are in creating an Islamic nation there.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Horrors Of Salvation – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the horror behind the story of Noah.   I had considered expanding on the concept horror embodied in the idea of sacrifice found in the Bible by also talking about the who Jesus story, but decided to just keep it simple and stick to Noah.  I saw a comment on the Noah post that made me wish I had talked about Jesus.

 

It’s sad to hear that this is what the message of Christianity is becoming about. Dead religion will tell you one of two things about God…(1) He’s schizophrenic (He loves you but He hates you) or (2) He’s mysterious (nobody can figure Him out). But here is Jesus, who arrives later on as the Messiah. It is in Christ where God’s nature is revealed, and He is a God of Love.

Things may still be unclear about the Bible and there seems to be a lot of contradictions on God’s nature. But, the Cross made a significance, a proof, to how much God loves us (John 3:16). Hope that helps! 

Comment by tacticianjenro | September 2, 2012 | Reply

 

His argument is one made by many Christians to negate the nastiness of the Old Testament: that God suddenly became a merciful and loving god once he sent Jesus (or became Jesus, the Bible is a bit confusing on that point) to save us all.

 

Even if you grant that this argument is valid, the whole idea of sacrificing someone, someone who is supposedly innocent, is just as horrible and depraved as anything in the Old Testament.  Sure, it’s just one guy, not every person on earth, but the number of those sacrificed isn’t the issue.  The issue is the need for a blood sacrifice at all.  

 

I was raised Catholic.  I could never understand why God required a sacrifice to free us from sin.  If he is all powerful, why not just forgive our sins and be done with it?  The priests explained to me about Original Sin.  That didn’t make any sense to me either.  Why would God punish every human who ever lived just because the first two people sinned?  Why not just forgive Adam and Eve their sins?  Or if He couldn’t find it in his all loving heart to do that, why not just strike them both dead and be done with it?  He’s God.  He could just make more.

 

The idea that Jesus, the only son of God, the innocent lamb, had to die just because the rest of us were sinning bastards is insane.  That isn’t love, it is sadistic and cruel.  Worse, it is pointless.  If God is all powerful, then either forgive each of us our sins or smote us, don’t go killing your only son, especially when he doesn’t deserve it.

The idea that the god of the New Testament is now a loving, merciful god as opposed to the angry, vengful god of the Old Testament; that he is somehow a new and improved god, is absurd.  The sacrifice of Jesus is no different than asking Abraham to kill his son, or the killing of all the first born of Egypt.  It is just as cruel, just as horrible and depraved.  

The fact is, God, both the old and new versions, is a dick, pure and simple.  

 

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , | Leave a comment

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