Q&A: for critics
NoBeliefs.com receives many questions, comments and suggestions. Unfortunately I cannot answer all of them directly. Of all the e-mail, approximately 75 percent appears very favorable, for which I appreciate very much); the other 25 percent appears unusually condescending, critical, or preachy. The following addresses the most common questions and concerns for those who criticize this site.
Note: If any of you received a bounced email, it probably occurred because of the robot spam filter. If you included an ad, a prayer, an obscenity, an overly long message, etc., the filter will automatically reject your email and send it back to you unread. If you want yourself heard, you will have to force yourself to use respectable, secular, and intelligent language (remember, this site exists for freethinkers, not for the religious, hate mongers, or trolls.)
1. Why does your site concentrate on criticizing Christianity but not the other religions?
1) As a former Christian, I understand this religion the best.
2) Christianity forms, by far, the largest and most powerful belief-system in the world.
3) Tackling the most powerful belief-system has more impact than concentrating on the least believed belief-systems.
4) The belief in the Bible influences three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and covers many denominations.
5) Most visitors to this web site who believe, claim themselves as Christian.
6) I only have so much web space available to me.
More importantly, Christianity itself does not produce the ill will, but rather the engine beneath it-- belief. Christianity simply occurs as an emerging property from belief and faith, just as do all religions. Although I put emphasis on Christianity, it gives only one example of a belief-system. However, all beliefs in my observance appear dangerous, including: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, Baha'is, Sikhs, Scientology, pseudo-science, political ideologies, etc. although not all to the same degree. Even science and atheism (when clothed in faith and belief) can act against itself.
Note, I show the dangers of many other belief-systems on my news briefs. There you will find examples of atrocious acts by Buddhist's Hindu's, Islamics, political activists, and terrorists, as well as by Christians. I also provide a section on The Problems with Islam. Hopefully in the future, I can devote writings to other dangerous belief-systems.
2. Why do you post censorship labels against religion? This doesn't sound like freethought to me.
At no point does NoBeliefs.com call for censorship of any idea or belief. The labels serve as danger warnings. People have the inalienable right to believe or not believe whatever they wish, regardless of how silly or unworkable their beliefs. Freethinkers (at least this freethinker) do not call for laws against religion, beliefs or any other addiction. However, as a nonbeliever, I also have a reason to protect myself from people who own dangerous beliefs. Just as cigarettes pose a health danger, smokers can inhale their nicotine in smokers areas; likewise, believers pose a mental health danger but they can act out their beliefs in their own homes and churches, away from those who do not hold to their beliefs.
Moreover, the circle with a slash through it does not represent censorship, but rather a relatively benign international symbol denoting a warning or a restricted area. For more information on this see warning-symbols.
3. You have taken the words of the Bible out of context and failed to understand the true meaning of Christianity.
- The overworked tactic of "out of context" usually comes from a desperate attempt to support the Bible without having to reason or supply evidence for the Bible's justification. This ploy simply no longer works, and I always find it amazing that believers seem to think that it does. I quote the Bible directly and its own context speaks for itself. Of course, anyone can claim any quote as "out of context" on the basis of not including the previous and following verses, chapters, or books. To counter this charge, I would have to present an impractical approach of quoting every chapter, if not the entire Bible! On this I recommend that people read the Bible themselves. I provide the source, chapter and verse for my quotations and the readers can check the source for themselves.
As for the "true" meaning of Christianity, there never has surfaced a single demonstrable "True" interpretation. From its early inception until today, there occurred Gnostic, heretic, Catholic, Protestant, and orthodox versions of Christianity (and dozens of denominations in between), all of them contradicting one another. This dispersion of interpretations and beliefs continues to this day.
4. You're using circular reasoning when you say you don't have beliefs. All of your writing points to your own beliefs.
It certainly would constitute circular reasoning if my writing represented my beliefs. However, I own no beliefs. I may make statements of either fact (supported by evidence), observation, speculation, imagination, or desire, but I do not state, nor do I claim any belief. Furthermore, all my statements lay open to revision and change depending on the reliability of further evidence; none of them attempt to establish absolute "truths."
Moreover, your statement consists of a common fallacy called the "straw man." By constructing a false picture of my position, you attempt to knock it down, when in fact, I have never admitted to your straw man design.
Consider this: people who believe do not deny their own beliefs. I, however, deny ownership of any belief. I suggest you reconsider your argument and stick with the premise rather than inventing your own construction.
To better understand why owning beliefs creates problems, please read, "The problems with beliefs."
5. You are an atheist, that makes you a believer in atheism.
A straw man. I do not believe in atheism nor do I call myself an atheist. Of course owning no beliefs incorporates one form of atheism as a subset, but no-beliefs, by its very meaning, describes... no beliefs. A very few atheists may very well rely on faith or belief in Atheism, but most do not. I do not wish to attach myself to a label that misleads, nor do I find it useful to title myself to only one particular form of disbelief. I have an infinite number of disbeliefs, including disbeliefs in fairies, goblins, and ghosts. No-beliefs covers all superstitions. However, if you wish to know my position relative to atheism, I stand about as far from atheism as an atheist to a theist. But if you persist in painting me in a way which makes it convenient for you to disagree with me, then you have only fostered your own ignorance. You can fool yourself if you wish, but you'll only prevent yourself from understanding other people's point of view.
By the way, if you believe in one god, that makes you an atheist too. Why? Because of the very fact that you do not believe in the thousands of other gods. Surely you agree with this, right? So you might want to point your proposition to yourself, and see if you agree with it.
6. You point out a few discrepancies and atrocities in the Bible, but not all Christianity is bad. True Christians don't behave that way. You're throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Although the Bible, indeed, does not entirely consist of atrocities and contradictions, neither does its "best" parts present anything original or especially profound. On the contrary, most of the homilies and popular maxims beloved by its believers appear in earlier ancient texts and rarely work when put into practice. For example, the Golden Rule, (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) simply does not work for people who do not wish to be treated as yourself (I have suggested changing The Golden rule to a more accurate title: "The Selfish Rule").
If we allow the "bad" with the "good" while others attempt to extract the atrocities from the Bible, in effect, this leaves the Bible stories open to limitless variations. And indeed, there occurs a plethora of interpretations and hundreds of Bible versions. No wonder why history gives us examples of Christians fighting Christians over how to play the part of a "True Christian."
If we apply your argument to other belief-systems, we could then find virtues in Mein Kampf or in the Communist Manifesto. Should we then believe and support Nazism and Communism on the basis of its perceived "good" virtues? Of course not, and neither should we believe a religion on the basis of Bible stories which explicitly condone wars, slavery and intolerance.
7. You're site is biased when you only present the bad parts of religion and the Bible without the good.
Do you make the same argument against the priests in their bias? But what you call bias, I call a point of view, and of course I have a point of view. A bias excludes the arguments from the other side, but I have examined the propositions and claims of religion and have found them wanting. For one moment, do you think that I come even remotely close to equalling the centuries full of biased priests and rabbis who preach only what they see as the "good" parts?
The internet, finally, provides a way to present a few of the problems and dangers of religious belief to the public, but I can't come close to equaling the centuries of religious propaganda. Consider this a mental health warning.
Think of it this way: look at an Federal Aviation Administration crash investigation on the cause of an airliner disaster. You could claim bias on the FAA too. But of course you would not want them to spend time reporting on the reliable parts that did not fail. You want them to concentrate on the flaws. The entire point of honest investigation goes to this point!
I hope you see the difference between the airliner analogy and the Bible. With aircraft, you can eventually fix the problems by understanding what went wrong and replacing the bad parts with working parts or redesigning them. You can't do that with an alleged infallible bible. You can't change its words without being dishonest to its ideas. The only way out amounts to avoiding its intransigence entirely. Besides, there occur much better ways, other wisdoms, and secular texts far superior to the Bible and without intractable flaws, and with the added ability to change it for the better as new situations arise.
A point of view works to help understand the situation and to find the flaws and dangers of any system. And the flaws appear plentiful in the system of religion, especially in the belief of Biblical scripture.
8. You criticize the Bible for its atrocities but it's unfair to judge ancient ways for our modern world.
In effect, what you've said amounts to the unfairness of using ancient Bible ways for our modern world. Of course, that makes the point! Even most Christians do not use Yahweh's, jealous, bullying, and bloodthirsty horrors for their morality. Instead, most people use situation ethics, the very form of morality that most Christians claim to disown. Yet we still see Christians who, when called to justify their wars, crimes, or extremist views, they'll cherry pick Bible verses to support their actions. It goes to this which I criticize. But since you seem to agree with me, I suggest that you tell your fellow Christians about the unfairness to use the ancient Bible for our modern world.
9. You can't prove that God doesn't exist.
The claim to proof does not rest with me. On the contrary, proof must come from those who make the claim.
Moreover, the concept of god depends on what you mean by the word. If you define god as nature or the universe it only substitutes a religious word for a scientific one. The universe appears to us in various forms of matter and energy and science describes its properties. Religion based on superstition can never hope to understand nature. However, if by god, you mean a Spirit or Supreme Creator, as the way the Bible describes it, of course one cannot prove it without evidence. How can one prove something that does not exist? Proof only applies to things which exist in either matter-energy or from logical constructs (such as mathematics). If you believe in a god, then I demand the proof from you. So far, not a shred of evidence throughout the history of mankind has shown the existence of any god, spirit, or ghost. Neither have we evidence for goblins, Loch Ness monsters, or alien spacecraft. If, on the other hand, we receive valid evidence of these claims, then we can begin to determine the validity of their existence.
With the vast religious industry which garners billions of dollars from believers to support the idea of an invisible but all powerful being which cares for you, but only as long as you believe and flatter him, and who has the power to create universes and can determine the future, I find it amazing that the result of trying to find this omnipotent god appears indistinguishable from nothing. I can just as well define god by proposing a meaning that agrees with its lack of evidence: that god equals nothing. So in effect, the religious and the atheist seem to have equality here. But since I have no need to define unmeasurable concepts, I do not fall into either category.
10. Without religion, your life cannot have value.
On the contrary, I submit that a religion which promotes eternal life tends to create a valueless life. Value relates to limits of time and amount. Just as if diamonds became abundant, their value would decrease, eternal lives would also lose their value. A valued life must have limits. Observe people who come close to death or experience a tragedy. Their lives become more precious as a result of learning of their own fragility and mortality. A life believed to go on forever loses its meaning in a sea of infinity. Note that religions have (and still do) promote wars and killings based on beliefs of an eternal judgement of God. The Bible teaches to dismiss the life of earth for the rewards in heaven. I cannot imagine a more bankrupt form of morality. But as a disbeliever I have appreciated the value from the uncertainties of life. What fantastic and contingent luck to live even a short life as a conscious animal in this universe!
11. It's obvious that you hate God and hate Christians.
How can someone possibly hate something for which they have no belief in? I have no reason to hate an alleged god any more than I do Zeus or Captain Hook. Nor do I hate Christians, and although I feel sorry for them; most of my friends describe themselves as Christian.
So what appears to you as obvious, I happen to know that you have it wrong because only I can experience my feelings.
12. If you don't have faith in God, you can never know the truth.
Faith relies on the absence of evidence. How can it possibly determine truth? The philosopher Daniel Dennett gave an excellent reply for which I've paraphrased:
If you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned defense of faith, I'm eager to play. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; I want to see a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of establishing useful facts. But don't expect me to go along with your defence of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you supposedly try to justify (circular reasoning). Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason sits on your side.
13. I'm a peace loving Christian and do not believe in war. Anyone who kills in the name of Jesus is not a Christian. Your criticism of Christianity does not reflect upon true Christianity.
Good for you. However, you do not speak for other Christians, nor do they speak for you. There simply occurs no such thing as an objective single idea of "True Christianity." It varies dramatically, depending on the subjective beliefs of individuals.
In fact, not only does the Bible support war and killing, the God you profess to believe in kills men, women (including pregnant women), infants, and animals. He also orders others to kill for him. It comes from violent ideas out of the Bible that provides justification for many believers to act out their atrocities. If you do not realize this then you appear as the one who does not understand your own religion.
Furthermore, supporting a belief-system from a peaceful standpoint only gives credence and support to its violent producing side. There once lived peace loving Nazis and we have peace loving Neo-Nazis today; should we support Nazism because some Neo-Nazis think they practice True Nazism according to the tenant of "positive Christianity"? Of course not, and neither should the same kind of reasoning hold for other forms of Christianity.
14. I will pray for you. Only God can show Himself to you and save your soul.
Considering that God supposedly provides evidence for himself by interacting with people through the answering of prayers, this should provide testable evidence for his existence. Yet the very claim of answered prayers betrays his alleged existence. For if any test continually provides evidence for the absence of a god (at least in the form of an answering god), it comes in the form of people praying and not receiving answers. Believers have been praying and blessing me all my life (I used to pray too), and not once has a god, angel or gaseous spirit appeared or performed the deed asked for in their or my prayers.
Please realize that prayer with its emphasis on supernatural entities has about as much influence on my life as the tooth fairy or horoscopes.
Moreover, do you realize that your prayers and blessing, especially in light of it aimed at a disbeliever, can result in a perceived rudeness? How would you like it if someone, say, blew cigarette smoke in your face (assuming you didn't like smoke), or if someone praised you for your disbelief when if fact you believe, or if someone treated you as an atheist? Golden Rule thinking (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) can produce the very tensions that so many religionists claim to avoid.