Worldviews: My Manifesto

I’ve mentioned it before, but many religious evangelists and apologists cite “the atheist worldview” as something to be scared of, worried about, and blotted out. It has never really bothered me, as my world view is in no way colored by religious leanings unless perhaps subconsciously; thing is, I hadn’t considered it from enough angles.

On Creation Today, they posted a story from a Christian who was “re-saved” after becoming “bored with atheism”. Those were his words, “I became bored with atheism.” That opened a whole new avenue of research for me, and I realized that reading books by exceptional atheists with whom I share a great deal of common thought really doesn’t capture the breadth of beliefs in the atheist culture. So I went digging down another rabbit hole, and came out knowing more–and that is the greatest compliment I can pay to any venture.

I had paid lip service, in the past, to the different kinds of atheism, but I can honestly say that I understand it now much more clearly than I did even a week ago. I watched the documentary “The Case for Christ,” which many people (for reasons unclear to me) have said is a convincing argument for becoming Christian. It also opened my eyes to the views of certain atheists, and I feel like I finally understand the vitriol one sees on the legendary reddit sub-site (subreddit, to those who reddit) /r/atheism.

The type of atheist that Lee Strobel (Case for Christ) and Mark Sebert (linked Creation today de-re-conversion story) are is that of what I am going to term (and perhaps there is a better term used by more learned people) a religious atheist. They believe atheism as a dogma, and while they don’t really strive to understand the underlying ideas, they believe (often with far more overt conviction) that there is no God. This is not a lack of belief in God, this is a group of people believing there is no God simply because very smart people told them so, much as a congregation believes in God because someone very smart wrote the Bible.

A primary reasoned cited by Lee Strobel for his conversion to Christianity, for example, is something I have written about sarcastically in the past; that of the mathematical chances of Jesus fulfilling prophecy (See my earlier post, The Mathematics of Prophecy). If you are an atheist and are able to take the idea of Jesus as a historical construct in the Gospels, you are not an atheist for what I will term the right reasons (though with trepidation, as I do not like to call anyone outright wrong) as it does not take a very thorough look into history to understand that while portions of the Gospels may be true their bulk is historically invalid. The culling of the innocents by Herod sounds like the kind of thing that would bear mention in at least one other history book, but it is invalid. The Census taken that was the excuse given for Jospeh’s presence in Bethlehem happened many years after Herod died (The census wasn’t taken until 6AD, and wasn’t even a census ordered by Caesar–it was merely a small, provincial census), therefore Herod would not even have been around to order the culling of the innocents anyway. What I just did, in only a few lines, was taken a huge chunk out of the historicity of the Gospels and simplified your calculation for Jesus’ “chances of fulfilling prophecy” greatly.

An atheist who can be convinced by this fallacious reasoning (taking the Bible as historically accurate) was never an intellectually honest atheist. Mark Sebert cited that he “became an atheist” (which I don’t believe is the way most atheists would describe themselves; for me, I would say “the long period over which I questioned my belief in God”) because he “wanted to be a free thinker.” That’s right, “I wanted to be a free thinker, so I thought how other people thought. I mean, I can’t see a problem with that.”

To me, and at least to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, one does not “believe in atheism”, one “does not believe in God.” To further expound that point, as Mark Sebert said “there was so much more going on than a dictionary definition, that is ‘the lack of belief in God or gods,” I have looked at data, at history, at science. I did not begin to believe in atheism, I lost my belief in God. I did not lose my belief in God because Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens told me to, I lost my belief in God because I read books about science and history, because I read the Bible and found the narrative lacking, because when speaking with a Pastor about my issues with faith, he was unable to answer my questions and replied instead “I can see that you are digging holes and then looking for holes, but you really just have to have faith.”

This was deeply unsatisfactory to me; I wasn’t digging holes, I was walking through a minefield and looking for dirt to fill the holes I kept falling into. This brings me to another class of atheist, and this next statement is going to sound highly egotistical, but I can think of no better way to word it. Lee Strobel and Mark Sebert were religious atheists; I would describe myself as a rational atheist. The rational atheist, which generally contains the vast majority of those in the upper echelons of scientific discourse share(and here is the ego, for I would like, if you would let me, to count myself as sharing beliefs with them, beliefs that I came to independently), is one who comes to atheism through an extended search through the evidence for both sides. Lee Strobel stresses repeatedly “I was a hard core atheist. I didn’t want to hear about Christianity, I didn’t want to talk about the Bible, I thought it was all just stupid superstition.”

The view taken by atheists such as Strobel is not the view of almost any rational atheist. Extensively in their books, Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins cite chapter of verse of the Bible. Frequently in my blog I have done the same; I do not avoid Christianity, and I don’t even want to take Christianity from anyone. I don’t want to “make anyone become an atheist”. I became an atheist of a sort, there is no doubt about that, but the loss of religion is something that takes a serious toll of anyone who was brought up in the fold. What I ultimately want is for Christians to examine their own beliefs, and at the very least discard the hateful parts of it. What I write here is not prompts to leave your faith, but prompts to think. If you lose your faith, I do not want it to be because I told you so, but because you internally decided it was the correct course of action. I am sorry if I have harmed anyone through my blog, in any case.

I read and immerse myself in the Christian Bible, or with those teaching the Christian Bible, nearly as much as I immerse myself in the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. I also immerse myself in books by people who do not profess their stance either way; to read a book on history, one does not need to believe or not believe, that is irrelevant; history is a study of what happened and when, and your opinion about those things does not change what has already passed. I do not avoid the teachings of Christians, I merely seek to find what it is that they see as evidence that makes them believe as they do. Often, I will say that their science is bad, their assumptions erroneous, but I will never insult them for their assumptions (though for the purposes of theatrics, I will make fun of the assumptions themselves very frequently). I love Eric Hovind, because he is clearly sincere in his beliefs. He gives me an almost pristine case study of what it is that the hardline Christians believe, and that is valuable to me.

Another thing that you will often see in religious atheists is that they do want, actively, to take away your religion. They will insult “the stupid Christians,” something I would never say. They will say the world would be better if “everyone thought as we think.” I do not believe this is so, because the underlying world view they take is dangerously exclusive. They are as likely to go to war as they would accuse Christians as being, and that is never what I want.

Richard Dawkins opened his book “The God Delusion” with a preface containing a line I think speaks volumes. “I will never go out of my way to offend, but I will also not dawn [white gloves] and handle [religion] with undue care and reverence.”

I know what I say offends the beliefs of many, but what I say is never meant to offend, as so often Christian comments, and atheist comments do. Again, I will stress that any atheist that will offend or insult Christians is no friend of mine.

Sometimes, I reread what I wrote in stream of consciousness style, and see that I ran off on a tangent. This happened, but I am going to leave it. Let’s get back on track as I near my conclusion, though, and I apologize for wandering off; what I wanted to clarify is the view of a rational atheist.

Now we come to the core of the Christian criticism of “the danger of the atheist world view.” There are those who very likely would take it to the extreme you do, whoever you are that spreads this dogma. In fact, I believe if those I have termed “religious atheists” become the norm, we will eventually end up with at least a small outbreak of people whose conscience was eroded by the fact that they fear no hell; it is, admittedly, something I worry about. Any faction, any faction, any faction, (I have repeated this three times for clarity) will have its extremists. Religious atheists have a strong militant dogma against religion, much as religious people have a strong dogma against atheists. Men have killed in the name of religion, no one can deny this; you can say they were misguided, they were extremists, they were wrong in their beliefs, but no matter how you try to justify it, they killed because, in their mind, their religion commanded it. I am afraid this works more for my side than it does for yours; there will be those who kill in the name of stamping religion out (and, in fact, many have done so). These are not rational atheists, these are those who embrace a dogma of atheism.

An extremist rational atheist would be someone along the lines of Richard Dawkins. At his most vitriolic and vehement, he will aggressively try to talk you out of your religion, but any well educated, intelligent, rational person would never kill you for your belief, other than in self defense. They may punish you for things you do because of your belief, but I’d say that is fair game.

The point of this long rant is this; there are different kinds of atheists, and I will stand beside many Christians in their criticism of those I would term religious atheists. They sully the name of atheism, poison the pool, and darken the hearts of Christians against anyone who doesn’t believe in God. They hurt our cause as much as you believe they are hurting yours.

You can have them. You can have people like Lee Strobel and Mark Seber. They do not bring anything to the table, and I know how you do so love to swell your numbers. You will take anyone, and that is fine for you, but I do not want people like that on my side of the fence, frankly.

If I were the only atheist left in the world, I would still be happy. That is a huge difference between you and I, theoretical Christian. I believe what I believe not because it is cool, or because someone told me to, or because there are others I admire who share my belief, but because I have walked a journey of discovery and this is where I am right now. Do you know what, though? The difference between you, who have planted a pole with a sign that reads “God” and chained yourself to it for all time, and me is this: I am still journeying. If your God is out there, I may find him. I may find Brahma, I may find Allah, or I may continue in my nonbelief until the end of my journey; death. But rest assured, I will keep journeying until I die.

And people who are on this same journey, this journey of discovery and learning, this journey, where anyone walking the road in good faith (and I chose these words more carefully than many I choose) is welcome to share in my journey and share insights and ideas, those people are those I want on my side of the fence. We do not fight, we discuss. We do not insult, we learn. If there are Christians walking this same journey and finding God, I still want them on my side of the fence, so I can enjoy their company and their reason. We can all learn together. We can make the world a better place.

You can have the religious atheists, for they have planted a pole that says “No God,” and chained themselves to it. They are not welcome on the road I travel, and I don’t want them on my side of the fence.

This is my world view. This is my manifesto.

It is different form my simple mission statement, which is to bring more happiness into the world than I take out of it, but the two are compatible.

This is my “atheist worldview”, if you are dead set on pigeonholing me into it. But I would call it a “rational worldview” or a “personal worldview”. I do not believe I have to share my worldview with anyone else; I am happy holding it in any case.

Thanks for reading, thank you for being part of my journey. I look forward to walking this journey with all of you.

The Terrible Knowledge of Not Knowing

I am pompous in the things that I know, there is no way for me to deny it. I spend a lot of time reading, learning, trying to understand the world and my place in it. Astronomy fascinates me, as it shows me that the universe is not a lonely place. Even if there is no other life, there is so much to see, to understand, to learn about… We don’t know a tenth of the physics that make our universe go. There are nebula that contain so much information, that look so beautiful, I could never be bored looking into them. I stare at the Hubble UDF–I’ve probably spent 50 hours of my life looking at that picture, just looking at it, and it is one of the only pictures I keep on the bookmarks bar of every Internet browser I use, at home or at work. Actually, without context, the UDF might just be another picture of space to you, so I implore you to read up about what you are looking at, if you clicked that picture. You can find the information here.

I am comfortable saying I know, to the extent that a human can know, a lot. I am no Ken Jennings, who has made it his profession to know things. I am no Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whose business it is to bring The Cosmos to the masses. I am just a man who tries as hard as I am able to try, to know everything I can know.

Thanks to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, though, I know that there is so much I don’t know that I can barely be said to know anything at all. I will die before we understand what makes the universe tick, I will die before we make contact with extraterrestrial life (though our current understanding of physics makes it, at the least, incredibly unlikely we ever will), I will die before we escape the prison of our own Solar System. It doesn’t matter how long I live, either; if I die tomorrow, or if I die in 70 years, the above statements will still be true.

We are, admittedly, making more scientific progress daily than we have in the vast majority of the last 6000 years (that number was carefully chosen, as readers of my blog may note), so perhaps I am just a pessimist. But this lends itself to two things; my complete lack of fear in death, and my terrible sadness at how much I will never know. When I die does not matter, of course, especially in the grand scheme of things; even in the history of Earth (let alone the universe), my life is so short that the planet will never know i was here, like a human aware of the presence of one particular ant. The Earth, as much as it can be said to be conscious (that is a metaphor) knows there are humans, but the details of any particular one of us are likely lost in the wash of billions of us.

I find it odd that no matter how far I cast my net, and no matter how hard I try to learn all that I can, I will always “know” less than someone who is confident in their religious beliefs. To that end, it can be said that I am jealous of people confident in their religious beliefs, despite the fact that I feel the Dunning-Kruger Effect is in FULL force on both sides. I know, through knowing as much as I can, that I know nothing. They know, through ignoring any information that would damage their religion, that they know far more than I do.

Who is right? Does it matter? Will it matter?

As I said, I am comfortable in the prospect of my own death. Mark Twain, a man whose “old man syndrome” I aspire to one live up to (the man was codgier than Scrooge, and seemed to take the happiness of others as a challenge), famously quipped “I do not fear death. I was dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

That being said, to the outside observer, it looks like I am afraid–I scramble to know, to understand. I fight to find out the answers to the questions that drive the universe, and it has to look like I am scraping frantically towards something I will never reach.

The reason I want Heaven to exist is not to see my relatives, not to live forever. To me Heaven would be, in the last seconds of my life, knowledge. It would be knowing how the universe works, it would be knowing if there is other intelligent life out there. I mean, I have faith that there is other intelligent life out there, given the vastness of the universe, and the recent explosion of understanding regarding extrasolar planets, I find it mathematically unlikely that we are all there is… But I do not know.

Heaven to me, more than any other vision of it, more than the most romantic notion of the most imaginative religious adherent, would just be knowledge.

Hell is where I am right now, a permanent state not just of not knowing, but knowing that I will never know.

That, maybe, is why death is so easy for me to contemplate. Even if I never get to go to a Heaven (and, unfortunately, I believe I won’t), death is an escape from Hell.

This post is mostly just me organizing some thoughts in my own head. I won’t lie, the previous paragraph is a clearer understanding, for me, on my thoughts of death than I have ever had before. I get to leave hell when I die.

Isn’t that nice?

Something Something Communist!

You’ve seen this argument before, you’ve heard it, it is almost as far as being cliche, really.

“Hitler was Christian (or Catholic, your choice, really) and he killed Jews, therefore Christianity something something killing Jews is bad, m’kay?”

How about this one?

“Stalin was atheist and he killed lots of Russians, therefore atheist something something killing Russians is bad, m’kay?”

This isn’t a fair argument, for either side, but I understand where it comes from. While watching my favorite people in the whole world (Creation Today) they often speak about the “Atheist World View.” I know I’ve mentioned it before, but while watching some unrelated propaganda it occurred to me just how vehemently Christians will deny that Hitler was a Christian. It’s odd to me, because I am comfortable enough in my own belief system to be like “Yeah, Stalin was an atheist, not gonna deny it. But he was also an asshole.” (In my head, I use much stronger language to describe how despicable that man was.) In the same token, I would not find it in any way out of place if they said “Yeah, Hitler was Christian, but I don’t see why that matters. He was an evil man who was off his rocker.” (Again, language for the sake of keeping my PG-13 rating.)

It was only while thinking about the “Atheist World View” that it occurred to me why it is so important to so many people to deny that Hitler was a Christian, really. They form the foundation of their thought around the idea of Religion, and their interpretation of Religion, to the point where I am sure it actually does form the basis for every (or nearly every) decision they make. This is not to say all Christians do, but those that say “No, Hitler wasn’t Christian! HE WASN’T HE WASN’T HE WASN’T!!!!!! NYAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” Well, they probably do use religion as the baseline for all things.

But here’s the thing. Hitler did not use any mainstream interpretation of Christianity, so say it proudly, “Hitler called himself a Christian, but I think we can all agree he was batshit insane.” (Sorry about the language. I think I still qualify for PG-13).

Now we come to the “Stalin was atheist and that is why he was Communist,” or equal drivel. Look, again, we can all agree that Stalin was huge on anti-theism (certainly a word that needs its own category, outside of general atheism) and “Stalin Brand Communism: If you’ve got soup, you didn’t get it from us.”

To say “Atheist World View” to describe people who do not believe in God is, to take a page out of Hitchens, about as helpful as saying “I am an a-tennis-ist, because I don’t play tennis. And all of my decisions are guided by the fact that I don’t play tennis.”

No, I am afraid that is not how non-belief works. I am comfortable saying that some of what Stalin did was colored by his anti-theistic leanings, but non-belief does not color world views. Anti-belief, sure, whatever, you can have that one, but to take another quote, from Dawkins this time, “I am also an a-faerie-ist.” Being an a-faerie-ist has just as much sway and pull on my decisions as does my nontheism, in that it doesn’t. What colors my beliefs is empathy for others, my desire for happiness, and my desire that all people have an equal chance at happiness at some point in their lives.

So yes, Stalin was an atheist. But he was also batshit crazy (Do I get to say sh… I mean poo twice, and still get to be PG-13?). I think the fact that he was crazy had a lot more bearing on the Five Year Plan than did his atheism.

So to give a short recap, because I was rambling like a corpse come back from the dead (or was that shambling? Shit. Wait!!  Poo!!! I meant poo!!!).

Was Hitler Christian? In practice no, but given everything he wrote and said, history is very clear on the fact that Hitler himself thought he was Christian.

Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of religion.

Was Stalin atheist? Yup.

Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of atheism.

Is there a point to this article? I hope there is. I hope you realize you can be Christian, but also a bad person, just as easily as (I feel) I can be nontheist and also a good person. Two sides of the same coin, and all I ask is that we, on some level, understand each other.


Another Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things

Edit: Due to a faulty embed code, the video that was displayed when I originally posted this was incorrect. I have corrected the error.

I’ve recently come across Jaclyn Glenn, a moderately-highly popular atheist youtuber who is probably one of the most rational, level headed people in the atheist arena I have actively followed. Her primary focus is, to use my own personal definitions, nontheistic; she openly professes that she does not believe in a God (but does not believe there is no God; PARSE THAT!), though does have an anti-theistic leaning in many of her videos.

I occasionally delve into the comments, which are largely exactly what you’d expect them to be. There are Christians telling her to get saved or get killed or telling her she will burn for eternity, there are atheists telling those Christians to go perform autoerotic penetration (A kinder wording of “go f*** yourself”), or ceaseless autoerotic asphyxiation, as the case may be (that is my new euphemism for hanging oneself). This is nothing new on the internet.

But then I came across the video I have just linked, and she references some of the radical feminists that I have been reading from, and makes the absolutely spot-on observation that preaching for a reversal of the patriarchy (the matriarchy) is just changing the problem, and rather than radical feminism we should just be preaching equality. I loved the message, I loved her sarcasm and humor, and I love the idea of preaching universal equality (as she mentions, preaching universal equality is much easier than saying she is a feminist nontheist, pro-transgender, pro-gay rights, pro-red headed stepchild rights, etc,etc). Considering level headed equality is exactly what I have written about extensively in this blog, and since the reception of my posts that preach level-headedness has largely been positive, I thought “How bad could the comments be?”

This was naive of me, of course. I went into the comments and was struck dumb by the very first thread.

In the video, she makes reference to the under representation of women in politics. Regardless of the reason for it, you can’t deny that there are far fewer female government officials than there are male, and I would hardly consider the statement to be highly controversial.

It, apparently, is.

The first commenter notes that women have more voting power than men, therefore it’s women’s fault that they are under represented! My first thought was “When your choices are two male, conservative candidates, Caucasian in their 50s and 60s, you are obviously going to vote for a middle aged white male.”

Well, he attempts to refute that very thought by saying that fewer females seek careers in politics. In fact you, Jaclyn Glenn, aren’t in politics. The lack of female representation, therefore, is YOUR FAULT!

This wasn’t so bad, the writer at least had a good grasp of English, and the tone was not overly negative. I didn’t agree with it, I think that is a very negative light to look at it in, but then I went deeper. Never, ever go deeper. When you see the Balrog, turn around, friends! Turn around and run!

Two replies down, a commenter notes that “Have you ever tried to talk about politics with women?” The poster then proceeds to say that speaking with women about politics is a useless endeavor in almost all cases. My mind was boggled, as you are currently watching a video by a female political activist. I know many women very interested in politics. I didn’t want to throw around such a tired word, but I can’t see how that isn’t sexist. I just can’t find the right angle.

The conversation continues onward and eventually ends, as all arguments on the internet do, with both sides saying “That comment was worthless, go study.” The winner, in the eyes of each poster, is the one who says “Your comment was worthless” last, as, since no one called their comment worthless, it clearly wasn’t. There is another thread, though, that comes to the fore; pedantry.

They eventually have a war of picking only the slightest knits, saying “women and men can never be equal according to the definition because” genetics, or because they are naturally different, or because of any one of a thousand other reasons. You are, of course, technically correct while also completely missing the point. Implying it isn’t a goal worth shooting for because it is unattainable doesn’t in any way address the issues, and the core issue is NOT that men and women should be exact equals; the current world record for bench pressing is some 700 pounds. I do not believe a woman will break that record, even once genetic engineering and steroids have pushed men to bench press 800 pounds. This isn’t sexist, or at least I hope it isn’t, there is simply a limit to human endurance, and statistically that limit is different for males and females.

The point of the argument is that women, even in the United States, make 77 cents for every 100 cents men make for the same work. You are going to ignore the last part of the previous sentence if you are one of a significant portion of the population, so I will write it again; when men and women hold a position of equal rank with equal duties, in the United States (I do not have the Canadian numbers immediately handy) the female will make 77 cents for every 100 cents the male makes.

Why is that? There are, as always, hundreds of correlating factors, but a lack of gender equality and equal standards is very high up (and is a factor I would comfortably move from correlating to causal).

Let’s stop fighting over the simplest, silliest parts of an entire idea. It is like saying “I agree with 99% of what you say, but while 1% of what you say isn’t wrong, it makes me vaguely uncomfortable. Therefore, I will stand against you!” I can see where you might say that in regards to something more extreme, like “I believe in equality for all, except Jews. Gas the Jews!” But when the message is “I want equality and happiness for all!” and your first thought is “Well, I don’t know about her definition of equality, therefore I will go into the comments section and join in the other voices telling her that she is wrong!”, perhaps you need to step back and re-evaluate your priorities. If you still think your priorities are so strong, if you still feel you need to be a divisive voice even after a period of thorough introspection, perhaps a perfect Earth just isn’t for you. Perhaps the war and poverty and starvation and fear and hate are what you want! (It was subtle so I will point it out. See what I did there? I took a very slightly out of context thing you said about one simple topic, and applied it to everything about you!)

I don’t know why it is in this world, throughout all of history, that there are so many civil wars. Some are cold civil wars, wars of ideas and disagreement, but we all want the same thing in the end, I think. We really do. So why do we have to fight about it?

The Hold of Tradition

So in my perusal of the Internet, I came across a reference. It wasn’t primarily sourced, but I became interested. This claim was so outlandish, I couldn’t believe it–no one seriously thinks that way. It must be a smear campaign, or something that will show up in a quick search of Snopes as “False”.


In 2011, both Pew and Gallup did a poll in the United States. I don’t know the primary methods or p values, but I did look into the conclusion, and the fact is this: The polls were actually done, and the conclusion sounds like some kind of scare tactic, but it really is exactly as bad as the headlines led me to believe.

To add to that, the University of Oregon and University of British Columbia published independent studies showing the same conclusion.

Atheists are, among those identifying as Christian, nearly as distrusted as rapists. Some sensationalists posted “As distrusted as rapists” rather than “almost”, but that just shows that stretching the truth for headlines transcends time itself (3 years ago? Had they even invented paper yet?).

“What are you complaining about? ‘Almost as distrusted’ means atheists are more trustworthy than rapists!” Right. You know what, I’ll just throw that as a sticker next to the “And I also have never eaten a baby!” bumper sticker. It’ll make me look fantastic.

Here are three different takes on the study:

My personal favorite is the one by the Chicago Sun-Times, “Are Atheists worse than rapists??!?!?!?!!?!?!??!?!?!!”

I may have added some punctuation, but given psychological studies showing that even if the answer to a headline is “No, no they are not,” a majority of respondents will reply only 60 days later that they remember it being true… So whether the article tactfully defends atheists or not is irrelevant; the take away for most will be negative. I feel like the article was written by someone who is either an atheist, or is tolerant of atheism… But their editor is not. That is pure conjecture, mind you, a personal guess given the tone of the article versus the inflammatory style of the headline.

Or maybe it is just someone who is tactless, but I am more optimistic than that.

My only question is this: why does my opinion on the presence of God have any effect or bearing on the conversation? You may say “Well, where do your morals come from, if not from a deity?” It’s OK, I don’t mind you asking, and I don’t mind if you believe your better nature comes from a book, insofar as it is just that.. Better nature.

If, for example, you tell me you hate gays (or, moving slightly towards the liberal ends, hate the sin of homosexuality rather than the gays) because of your reading of the Bible (or your Reverend or Pastor’s reading of the Bible, as the case may be), I will no longer be OK with that. Where our morals agree, where we are both trying to reduce pain in the world, and practice charity, and help the needy, and supporting our friends and family, I do my best to not ask why. And I suppose the reason why this is my opinion bears some explanation.

During a trip to California to meet my wife’s extended family, I ended up in a Baptist church, and the sermon (I swear, I am not making this up, and I am not exaggerating it, and I have many witnesses) rounded out to morality based on the Bible. The pastor informed the congregated people, red faced, that he knows of people he WOULD MURDER if not for the fact that he would burn in hell for the act.

That short anecdote is why I prefer not to ask about the roots of your morality, and why I am OK with agreeing that murder is bad, and rape is bad. As long as we both agree on this, I am happy to say the question is settled. But the funny thing is that, statistically, you (my theoretical Christian reader) are statistically likely to say “I don’t care that we both agree in giving to charity, that rape is wrong, that murder is wrong. That isn’t important. The important thing is the underpinnings of your feelings. If societal pressures changed, your morality would change, and before long we’d all be married to (and, one presumes, having sex with) animals!” I will point out one immediate flaw in that line of argument, one present and relevant today; among the religious, intolerance of homosexuality is the majority opinion, and I remind you that the religious vastly and drastically outnumber the nonreligious. Conversely, among those identifying as nonreligious (not just unaffiliated with a religion, but those professing to have no religion), the majority sentiment is of tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality.

What is the point of this story? The point is that, despite majority opinion and societal pressures (primarily in the United States, and doubly so in the southern States), we buck against the trend and support the rights of our fellow humans. Perhaps if you had no God to rely on, no Bible, you would give in to your (much) baser natures and marry (and, as before, presumably have sex with) a horse, but I do not believe that of you, I really don’t. Maybe you do believe that of yourself, I don’t know, but please don’t — there is a statistically significant chance that you would not, in fact, become a cannibal horse-rapist if science (somehow) proved that god(s) didn’t or don’t exist. Honestly, though, the thought that a preacher would get up in front of over 100 people and say “I would totally kill people if not for God, and I am comfortable saying that,” terrifies me. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. That being said, you and I, Mr Preacherman, agree that murder is wrong. So let’s not ask why, let’s just be happy that we agree. I won’t care that you are Baptist if you don’t care that I am nontheist.

One thing I preach, and I will keep preaching this until I die, is to remember that everyone, everywhere, online, face-to-face, over the phone, over a text message, all of those people you know and don’t know, everyone you talk to and think about, is a human being with human emotions, so treat them as such, please? Some are broken, they rape, or steal, or kill, but the correlation between nontheism, theism, and crime is very limited. As I’ve pointed out before, though, crime rate has come down SIGNIFICANTLY since the 1970s, and there are several correlating factors–but the number of people identifying as nontheist is growing rapidly, and the crime rate is not growing as a result. I think that should give anyone pause. Let’s find out what broke them, not just assume that we know the answer without looking. Please?

And to follow up, let’s just not fight about God, or gods, please? I am happy that it gives you solace to know He/they are out there. I am happy that you have taken some moral cues from your Holy book of choice, I really am. I take my moral cues from a different place, and that is OK too. I do not want to take your religion from you, but I want to help you extract the hate from your religion and throw it by the wayside. Whatever you believe about the Christian God, I think we can all agree that Jesus, from stem to stern, preached peace and tolerance. He dined with sinners, and healed the sick, and preached loving thy neighbor, and I agree with all of that. So let’s stick to that, and throw away our prejudices and intolerance, let’s seek a mutual understanding of what is Good and what is Evil. Let’s just talk, instead of being dicks.

I know I am preaching to the choir, no one on the other side of this debate reads my blog. I get that. But honestly, I’d feel awful if I didn’t say it, because if even one person, in all of the time this blog is alive until the day it disappears into the infinite ether(net) reads this and gets even 0.01% more tolerant going forward… I will have felt like it was all worth it.