Of course the controversy has already started and criticisms are being proffered by those who have not seen the film or the book. Even if this showed irrefutable proof that Jesus is just another dead guy, the religious apologists would be able to spin it. The resurrection story that I grew up with was 1) he died, 2) they put him in a tomb, 3) they sealed the tomb, 4) they came back and he was gone!!! There was no ambiguity in the story I heard untold times . . . he was gone . . . poof. I understand that not all sects of Christianity fully endorse the physical ascension, but rather a spiritual ascension. BORING!! That is not NEARLY as interesting a story as what I grew up with.
I really expect little or nothing to come out of this film. Even if convincing, what should be a fatal blow to a central tenet of the faith will simply get spun and reinterpreted for the followers. Give them about two years for the religious 'scholars' to create the least disruptive explanation and to build a framework of other supporting 'facts' that can be easily fed to the flock.
My PVR is already programmed.
Faith Lost . . . But I didn’t notice.
I have been an atheist for much longer than I actually realized. I grew up Roman Catholic near Chicago, Illinois, USA. It never really “stuck” though. I never thought the communion wafer or the wine were anything more than (something like) a rice cake and bad wine. I always felt that the body and blood of Christ was a poor metaphor. I now understand that some really really buy into the transubstantiation thing but, back in the day, I would have been incredulous if someone told me they really believed it. Anyway . . . I grew up a good kid, but only went to church because I was told to. Once I was into my teens, I basically stopped going and haven’t been back for the last 30 years (except for weddings and funerals). The Roman Catholic dogma very much stigmatized atheism and likened non-believers to have serpents crawling out of their mouths. I knew that I was just as moral as everyone around me, but church just didn’t work for me. I figured that I would live my life as though it was immaterial whether God existed or not. If I was a good person but didn’t go to church, I figured God wouldn’t get too ticked off when I met him.
This lasted about 20 years. Then I had a child. My mother, who had become more faithful over the years, was mortified that her grandson was not going to be baptized. She then started delivering bibles for me to read. I took the cue and decided to analyze my faith . . . after all; I wouldn’t want to deprive my son of valid spiritual background. It didn’t turn out like she had hoped. Understand that I am an engineer and very analytical. I couldn’t just read one biased document to make a judgment on faith. I had to look at all sides and weight all the facts. Religion didn’t stand a chance.
Still . . . it was a private matter. If faith helped some people, gives meaning to their lives, provides comfort then that is fine for them. Just because I wasn’t religious, doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t be religious if that worked for them. This started to change over the years as I saw dramatic Christian right influence shaping public policy. Another transformative period was 9/11. I soon realized that it wasn’t radical Islam, it wasn’t Islam, it was religion that changed our world that day. It was the perversions of the (purportedly) holy texts that created so much hatred and intolerance. We are fortunate to have a secular government so religious zeal is reigned in. If we became a Christian theocracy, I feel we would be indistinguishable from the Islamic theocracies. I got more and more uneasy with so many people making decisions based on mythology. But still, it was a private matter. I never challenged anyone . . . but I wanted to.
After reading a magazine article that referenced Richard Dawkins “The GOD Delusion”, I picked up a copy and it changed my life. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Dr. Dawkins says or the tactics he suggests, but his basic premises are dead-on. Those premises are 1) Religion should not be immune from criticism, 2) Religion, while there are positive aspects, is a source of intolerance, subjugation, and worse, 3) Religion does not hold up to even cursory intellectual analysis, and 4) the failings of religion needs to be communicated loudly and clearly and publicly and repeatedly. Upon completion, I formally self-identified myself as an atheist . . . and it was liberating. No serpents slithered out of my mouth. No demons erupted from beneath my flesh. I still loved my neighbors and was still the same caring person that I have always tried to be.
I have since consumed a good deal of scholarly research on the matters such as the origin of ethics, the origins of religion, and separation of church and state. In addition, I have read more personal, impassioned writings both in support and opposition of religion. At present, I am a struggling activist trying to find the best way to use my energies to serve humanity by trying to communicate the failings of religion. Do I want religion to disappear? Well . . . that would work for me, but probably not for a lot of people. I just want enough doubt about God so that, before someone chops the head off someone else in the name of religion, they might think twice.
It is not short, but you can read the debate here. It is worth it.
Who Shall Properly Defend Faith?
I have entered into a number of debates recently on a subject of crushing importance to world society. Few would argue that the role of religion in current and historical world conflicts is not significant. Indeed, many conflicts have faith as their central engine. I would argue that, were it not for the warring Sunni and Shiite Islamic sects, most of our troops would be home from Iraq. The Iraqi people might even have a fighting chance at creating a government based on human rights and the rule of law.
The debates that I have entered into generally revolved around the discussion of whether religion is good or bad for society. After much deliberation on those discussions, I see two points that never seem to get addressed adequately; neither in my debates nor in those that I have read from others far more scholarly than myself.
Point 1: Distinguishing extremists from moderates. Every thinking person (as near as I can tell) recognizes the extremists of any faith as being the “problem child” of that faith. It is the extremists that fly planes into buildings. It is the extremists that relegate women, minorities, and other segments of society to second-class stature. It is the extremist that kills in the name of their deity. (I speak of ALL Judeo-Christian faiths) Every thinking person would like to stop those perversions of logic. As a result of my debates, though, it is becoming clearer to me that believers consider the extremists to be a separate entity which should be addressed separately while leaving their moderate faiths untouched and unchallenged. Many non-believers, on the other hand, see moderates and extremists merely as points on a continuum. Both moderates and extremists interpret the same holy texts to get the message and the justification that best suits their stance and actions in the world. Hence, the non-believer feels that only through challenging the ENTIRE faith, can extremism be addressed; this, at the cost of moderate faith also.
Point 2: The provenance of the holy books. All the Judeo-Christian faiths officially purport their holy books to be the inerrant word of God. During debates, this is invariably thrown down as a challenge to the believers. I have YET, to see anyone adequately defend this attack on scripture.
It is here where I throw down the gauntlet. Believers need to defend their holy books in an intellectually sound way. Hint: Do not ask non-believers to read your holy book and “see the truth”. I would ask you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. There is truth in that book too, but no one claims it to be of anything but of human origin. Non-believers (and believers) need to understand why you think your book comes from a divine pen while no others have such origin.
Believers need to demonstrate that extremists are clearly distinct from moderates . . . and identifiable as such. I have to say, that this will be a supremely difficult challenge. After all, moderates and extremists are working from the same owner’s manual. It takes very little effort to cite clearly unambiguous passages on genocide, treatment of women, slavery, homosexuality, and more. Moderates simply choose to exclude them from their discourse and, hence, become moderate. The extremists simply do less editing.
Belief is the target of every increasing scrutiny and belief is no longer immune from criticism. In my humble opinion, addressing the points above is crucial to the defense of faith. Take on the challenge for yourself. You may find a new truth yourself.
Welcome to my first blog site. I have created the FVThinker blog to support my growing interest and communications in the areas of :
- Separation of Church and State
- The role and place of religion in society
- Any ills related to religion
- Secular society
- Rational Thought
- and anything else that tickles my fancy.
I am a recently self-identified myself as an atheist. Raised as a roman catholic, it never 'took'. I always knew that the communion wafer was . . . well . . . just a piece of unleavened bread. Once I left home I, effectively, never went to church again. Still I held no contempt for the church (Catholicism specifically, nor church in general). As I grew older, I saw how religious dogma insinuated itself into public policy and became more and more uncomfortable with that aspect of religion.
Then two pivotal moment in my life came to pass.
1)I became a father and my faithful Catholic mother was terribly distraught that her grandchild was not going to be baptised. It was bad enough that I was not a church-goer, but now the salvation of her grandchild was in the balance. She delivered various bibles to the house on the hope that I would read them and suddenly see the truth of the Lord. Until then, I was happy to be a tacit agnostic but she forced my hand.
Indeed, I elected to analyze my faith to decide just where I stood. It didn't work out for my mother. I came to the conclusion there there was no way, short of willfully abandoning reason and suffocating my own intellect, that I could find any reason to believe in a supreme being the likes that the Judeo-Christian faiths sketch out. Most of life's big questions could be answered by very satisfactorily through our current, mortal understanding of the sciences. When it came to THE big question of the origin of the universe, I make no claims to know, but I find it intellectually irresponsible to credit a deity simply because we don't know. History is replete with fallen gods that were at one time credited with various aspects of our universe (i.e. the movement of the sun, thunder, storms).
2) 9/11. It wasn't long after 9/11 that I saw "the elephant in the room". It was religion that took down the World Trade Center, and took down two other airplanes and part of the Pentagon. It was absolute belief in a theology that created that horror. It was the absolute belief in a demonstrably flawed premise that shook the world that day. While Islam is the most visible right now (and, arguably, subscribing to the most violent holy book [and that is saying something]), I don't distinguish amongst the faiths. The absolute reliance on myth to form one's view of the world is what represents one of the greatest threats to our world.
I am an atheist and I am proud of my journey. I am invigorated and feel moved to action to dispel myths surrounding theism and atheism. I hope you will find this blog useful and enlightening.