Durango Skeptics and Atheists

A Community for Critical Thinkers in the Four Corners Region

Tag: religion

Free Raif Badawi- How You Can Help

raif-badawi While Saudi Arabia’s ruling family condemns the Charlie Hebdo attacks from one side of their mouth, the other side keeps silent on the imprisonment and barbaric flogging of  Saudi free speech  blogger, Raif Badawi. Raif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and exactly 1,000 lashes for the crime of insulting Islam via writings found on his website- a website he established to encourage free thought and the exchange of ideas.  Raif is scheduled to receive 50 lashes every Friday for the next 20 weeks. His second round of lashings  was postponed due to the fact that his wounds from the previous first round had not adequately healed. Meanwhile, Raif’s wife and three small children, now living in Quebec, hope for good news.

It’s difficult to believe that something as archaic and cruel as this is still happening in the 21st century. Human progress requires us all. Here is how you can help: http://livewire.amnesty.org/2015/01/15/five-ways-you-can-help-raif-badawi/ #freeraifbadawi

A World Without Gods

So much death in the news these days. My heart aches for those families who lost people they love in this latest round of Boko Haram killings in Baga. Boko Haram’s goal? To establish an Islamic State in Nigeria. I can’t help but wonder how people can believe in an all-powerful and influential God amidst the atrocities we see in the world around us.  If you  are a believer, isn’t everything that happens supposed to be part of God’s perfect plan?

I’m reminded of words from Voltaire’s Candide:

“If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?”

If this is what a God-created and supervised world looks like, then what would a world not managed by a supposedly all-loving and all-powerful God look like? What would you expect to observe in such a world? Clearly, if there’s a god looking out for us, he’s pretty inept at his job.

Some  may bring up the fact that according to Christian theology, this is a fallen world and therefore, evil exists. But what of diseases that target the weakest- children and the elderly? Why would this god create such a creature as a virus or a bacterium that inflicts suffering on the innocent? This is exactly what one would expect to see in a world that was not created and supervised by a benevolent god. It’s difficult to rationalize the existence of a god amid a sea of suffering. Suffering we hear about every day, if you are one that happens to check out the news.

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I read an article recently that I think states the problem and solution succinctly:

“But it has often been said, if we don’t play God, then who will? Such was the central takeaway of the European Enlightenment and the rise of secular humanism. Working under the assumption that God does not exist (or at the very least, does not intervene in our affairs), a popular opinion emerged stating that humanity has an obligation to take matters into its own hands if it is to truly understand the world and make it a better place. And by applying reason and the scientific method, humanity stands a much better chance of success than idly waiting for a supernatural force that doesn’t appear to exist or care one whit about us.”

Human progress will march on. And with it, hopefully, will come less and less need for religion. Sure, humans will always find justification for doing bad things. But we will always find justification for doing good things as well. We don’t need religion for that either. As former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Ryan Bell, who now considers himself an atheist put it: “Why do I need religion to love?”

You don’t.

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ON FAITH……..

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The topic of faith among those who are religious has always been an interesting subject to me- one that I would welcome further exploration and discussion of but for now, I just had to share the words of a good friend who so accurately identified the myriad of problems with faith.

Thanks to Tony D. for these thoughts on the matter:

It is not that I dislike faith (I do, but that is irrelevant), it is just that in years of discussions I have never heard even a half-serious defense of faith as a valid epistemological method; only emotional appeals, and stories of personal experience are offered when the question arises. 

There simply is no reason to believe anything uncritically, none, under any circumstances. This is obvious to a normal person; or to a faithful person in any normal realm of life, like buying a house, signing a contract etc; but when it comes to religion, the weirdest things are presented as “reasonable”, and your complete, uncritical and wholehearted belief is turned into a virtue. It is not; uncritical belief is gullibility, and it renders a reasonable discussion of human rights impossible because faith and dogmas are discussion dead ends; there is no appeal. This is so because, in these matters, the source of these “absolute rules” is always portrayed as a mysterious and invisible entity that can never be checked or expected to answer; only the priests are always ready to tell you the Truth. I find it ironic that absolutes, moral or otherwise, are so appealing to so many in one of the countries that most bravely fought absolutist kings and inflexible rulers.

Discrimination and violence against homosexuals is but one of the many terrible consequences of the faith virus. Some good comes from it too, there are generous charities, truth be told; but we can have the charities without the fear mongering, the child indoctrination, the lies, distortions, living for death, constant and absurd guilt, the delusion that the Universe was created for our use only, that nature is at our service and has no other purpose … and all the other negative consequences of inflexible world views that are sanctioned by god as unquestionable.

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A Letter to Oprah From an Atheist

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Dear Oprah,

I heard your interview with Diana Nyad, a self-proclaimed atheist, the other day. As someone who has respected and admired you for all the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your life, I was saddened and disappointed by your inaccurate characterization of atheists. After Ms. Nyad told you she was an “atheist with awe”, you said this:

“Well, I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is.” 

Of course, the implication here is that atheists are incapable of experiencing feelings of wonder and awe.

This could not be more false.

Do you really think atheists never watch sunsets or admire a desert sky at night? Do you honestly believe atheists are incapable of feeling the amazement of life as they witness, for example, the birth of their child? Or marvel at the ever-present contradictions between beauty and suffering in Nature?  All of these things and more elicit a sense of wonder and awe that is not the exclusive right of those who claim to be spiritual and/or religious.

It only takes being human.

Not all of us humans buy into the whole god thing. But so what? How a person treats themselves and others is far more important than whether they believe in supernatural beings. I get the feeling you think that a person who does not believe in a god is missing something from their life. Let me assure you that we are not. If one of us is indeed missing something out of life, it most likely has more to do with ourselves. Not whether we believe in a god. Seeking truth instead of relying on faith has its own beauty and rewards.  Astronomer and atheist Carl Sagan once said,

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Does this sound like the musings of a person who does not experience the wonderment of life? He puts it more eloquently than I ever could.

I think back to the early morning hours when my son was born. The feelings associated with seeing him for the first time, holding him during his first moments of life- those emotions were exploding with the awe and wonder! No belief in a god was necessary to experience that. Perhaps you would say, as you did to Ms. Nyad, “well, then I don’t consider you an atheist.” My response to this would be, “why do you get to create your own personal definition of what atheism is?” Atheism is defined as lacking a belief in a god or gods. It’s really that simple. Why must you mold Ms. Nyad’s atheism into something more palatable for you to digest? Perhaps you need to get to know more atheists. I think you would find that we are not all that different from you. We love, we cry, we feel deeply, we fear, we get angry, we admire, we stand out looking at the world and, yes, we do feel the wonder and awe of it all.

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