Saturday, November 20, 2010

Responsibility for Sin

Sometimes when I am in a discussion with a Christian theist they decide to tell me why it is they think I'm an atheist. You see to some reason is meaningless, faith is everything, so no one could ever have a REASON to reject religion or disbelieve in their particular sky-man. Faith is meant to trump reason, in fact it says so in the Bible.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. " - 2nd Corinthians 10:5-6

So Christians are meant to take captive their thoughts, and demolish any attempt at argument or reasoning with, apparently, blind obedience. Anyway, back to the main point, I've had Christians tell me that I became an atheist to shirk my responsibility to God. The reason I've rejected theistic claims, they tell me, is because I don't want to be held accountable for my actions. Apparently I want to sin so badly that I pretend God doesn't exist so that I can sin behind his back but, according to them, I still believe in this God and indeed "know" he exists. This is a sort of defense mechanism for Christians because they don't want to believe that someone could actually leave the faith and stop believing in God. After all if someone is vulnerable to losing their faith than so are THEY and any amount of doubt in their beliefs is unacceptable. Remember that they have to take every thought captive, if a stray thought or doubt exists it must be "demolished".

I feel that there is massive hypocrisy in these sorts of claims because the entire Christian religion is actually based around losing responsibility for your sins. If I actually wanted to shirk responsibility for my actions I would REMAIN A CHRISTIAN AT ALL COSTS. After all Christians believe that all one needs to do to have ANY deed or sin forgiven (save blaspheming the Holy Spirit) is ask Jesus for forgiveness. The religion is based on Christ, an innocent man, DYING FOR YOUR SINS. Jesus takes your sin from you and many denominations teach that you leave your sins and burdens and pick up the "Cross". A Christian can commit a murder and all they need do for forgiveness is ask Jesus, they don't believe that any actual consequences or judgment from God are in order, once Jesus is accepted and forgiveness is asked for you get a clean slate.

As an atheist, I, on the other hand, understand that I am responsible for my actions in the here and now within society. I know that if I act like a douche chances are people won't like me and that if I do something seriously wrong (like theft, murder, etc) I will go to prison for it. I know that I will be punished here and now in this life for my misdeeds. Now it is important to note that not the entire Christian theology supports irresponsibility for sins, in fact Jesus himself TEACHES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONE'S OWN ACTIONS. This sort of contradiction should be enough to make your brain explode if you're a Christian and its one of the main reasons that, even when I was a Christian myself, I began to question the truthfulness of the Bible.

Jesus's Teachings:

The foremost example of Jesus teaching about responsibility for your sins is the principle of reaping and sowing. If you do bad things than bad things will happen to you, if you sow good into the world you will reap good back. This makes you responsible for your actions because if you do something bad you will face consequences here and now, not in some far off afterlife. This idea has been compared to Karma in Eastern Philosophy although the two are not entirely alike. Here's another verse where Jesus talks about paying attention to your own sins:

" 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

So Jesus says do not judge and pay attention to your own flaws, not the flaws in people you see around you. Does this sound like a guy who wants to remove the speck from your eye? Or does it sound like he wants YOU to be responsible for yourself? You see this teaching contradicts what Christianity later became and the ideas that became prevalent within it. How on Earth can I be responsible for my sin AND have it instantly forgiven and avoid punishment? My own hypothesis is that the entire idea of Jesus dying FOR YOUR SINS is a fabrication although it is difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction in the Jesus story.

The Requirement of Faith:

One of the more insulting aspects of Christianity is the requirement that we believe on Faith alone. Numerous times in the New Testament we are told that salvation is by faith (and through "Grace"). We must "believe" in Jesus. Rather than actually earning Salvation by being a good person Christianity establishes the idea that we're all worthless lousy sinners and that everyone, from Hitler to Gandhi, has to believe in Jesus on Faith alone to be forgiven. Which one do you have a better chance of seeing in Heaven in the Bible is true? If you answered this guy you'd be right:

The requirement of faith is another part of Christian theology that helps remove responsibility for ones own sin. As long as you show some remorse and ask for forgiveness and BELIEVE you will be cleansed of sin, no punishment required. Some Christians still do believe that God punishes you for sinning, perhaps he makes your wife leave you or lets your car break down, any bad circumstances that crop up are often chalked up to God. Even if you're living your life right and have all the faith in the world when bad stuff comes along it can often be claimed that God is "testing you". Remember Job? Apparently God can mess with you even if you've done nothing wrong... God has a habit of blaming those who are not to blame. Adam and Eve in the Garden, the First Born of Egypt killed for the sins of the Pharaoh and now Jesus tortured brutally despite being entirely innocent. That's right, that's how great of a Father God is, he had his own son brutally murdered rather than punishing those who were actually sinning.


I'm still not entirely sure why some Christians won't accept the idea that I actually left their religion behind but it really grinds my gears when they claim I'm trying to avoid responsibility for my actions. I'm already responsible for my actions and so are you, we're responsible to each other and society at large, no magic man in the sky required.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


To My Fellow Atheists and Agnostics

Have you ever had a conversation with a theist that was so intellectually frustrating it made you feel terrible? So bad that you actually felt physically ill and mentally demoralized? Have you spent countless hours with Christian friends and family members trying to crack their unyielding beliefs with simple sound logic only to be blocked by a closed-mind? Sometimes it can feel futile and pointless to even speak to those people. It takes an emotional toll whether those discussions take place in purpose or on the internet and even if you're trying to remove emotion it can be near impossible because of the closed-mindedness of some theists. I've felt that way, I feel that way a lot. Tonight I almost gave up because of a discussion (one of many) with my Father in which I tried to convince him that the Bible was not the Word of God. We spent some three-four hours discussing it but he didn't listen to a word I said and kept retreating back to the Bible. It was demoralizing and it made me want to stop blogging about and discussing religion with anyone, especially fundamentalists but I remembered that I am not alone. I remembered that unlike the theists who believe God is with them there are actual people who have my back - my fellow atheists and agnostics. Even those I don't know and have never spoken to have helped me innumerable times giving me access to logical arguments and well reasoned positions with which to refute blind faith.

The thing is that I used to be a Fundamentalist, at least I was raised as one. Perhaps I never bought into it all as hardcore as some have but I certainly believed the Bible was the Word of God (at least until I read it in its entirety). I used to be a Creationist as well. So while we all may get frustrated and feel demoralized and alone I want you to remember that the message does get through to some. Healthy skepticism and reason can seep in to even the most religious of minds. There are many other atheists who were believers and we cannot allow ourselves to be demoralized and sent back to being an unheard minority plagued by Dark Age rumors about our morality. It is bad enough as it is now but we cannot allow it to get worse for us when we are so far from equal. Tell people you're an atheist and some will look at you funny and treat you differently. That's not the way it should be but that is the way it is and it can only get worse if we do not speak up and be heard.

We must also be careful about being dogmatic or closed-minded ourselves. We must agree that if someone were to prove God with solid evidence we would believe it. Even if we are open-minded Christians and other theists will still say we are blind to the truth, that is fine as long as we do not live up to the lies they tell about us.

So I won't stop blogging about religion and fundamentalist Christianity and Creationism. I won't stop discussing it. I won't be silenced merely because of closed-minded individuals and will continue to find those few who are open to being reasoned with. You can't win all your "battles". Hopefully those few will find my blog or my hubpages hubs or my other discussions online and begin to question what they've been taught the way I did. We cannot allow ignorance and belief without evidence to get a free pass. They surely can co-exist alongside atheism but there will always be our counter-arguments. Right now the voice of faith is far louder than our own but they cannot drown out reason forever, they can, however, silence us and demoralize us if we allow it. Take it from me, a walking example that those beliefs can be broken - Don't give up! Know that there are others like you out there.

Many atheists out there know frustration

Friday, November 5, 2010

Satan and the Origin of Evil

This week we're going to be talking about the arch-enemy of the God of the Bible, namely, Satan. Now I am aware that there are many different interpretations of Satan's role in Christian mythology. Some see him as the same as Lucifer and the Devil while others view them as separate entities. Some also claim that Satan has been given dominion over the Earth in order to test humanity. I'm going to be focusing primarily on the more mainstream view of Satan as God's antithesis and the source of all Evil.

The Origins of Evil

Back when I was a Christian I always asked this question every chance I got but I never received a satisfying answer. Many brought up the story of Lucifer as it appears in the Old Testament, however some historians believe the verses in Isaiah talking about Lucifer might refer to a Babylonian King. Regardless it is generally believed that Lucifer/Satan was an angel who was God's second in command. One day he becomes full of pride, Ezekiel 28:15 describes it this way:

15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

It is from these verses, along with those in Isaiah 14, that originate the idea that Satan was the serpent in the garden. Both Chapters say that Lucifer was there in the Garden of Eden however they do not make the claim that he was the snake. In fact in both accounts the Garden is mentioned BEFORE Lucifer's fall from grace and Genesis identifies the serpent DIRECTLY as a snake. It seems apparent that, in fact, Lucifer was there AS AN ANGEL in the Garden but people love a good scapegoat and blaming a talking snake makes Christianity out to be even more silly than it already is.

So where does Evil come from exactly? If God is ALL POWERFUL, if he begins with ALL POWER and is good than where exactly does evil come in? Do they really expect us to believe that evil comes from the Free Will that God gave us? So God decides to give people free will AND that creates the ability for good and bad decisions but rather than pre-program us to know good from evil God leaves Adam and Eve without anyway of discerning the two. God is responsible for the creation of evil IF evil did indeed stem from free will and original sin. But then, that's just it, an All Powerful being inherits All Responsibility for everything.

The only way to reconcile this problem, when I was a Christian, was for me to believe that Evil always existed in some form. I borrowed this idea from Taoism, I believed that God was Yin and Evil was Yang and that Evil could attach itself to people like Satan or anyone else. Not only did this help me hold onto my beliefs but it also took away a defense that I HATED people using - THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. Even as a Christian I hated when people scape-goated the devil for their own behavior, or blamed him for essentially ANY viewpoint that didn't cram itself into their narrow-minded views. Rock and Roll - that's of the Devil. Liberals - that's of the Devil. Any religion other than Christianity - that's the Devil deceiving people. This of course leads me to my next point.

The Devil is Powerless?

Even if Satan existed he would be entirely powerless. This goes back to that All Power = All Responsibility point I made earlier. Surely Satan is not equal in power to God, two beings cannot both have infinite power can they? So if God IS All Powerful and Satan is not than how exactly does Satan plan on doing anything without God's express permission? The only way Satan can mess with anyone or do anything is if God has given him free will and power. It would seem to me that if an angel rebels against you and you damn them you would remove essentially ALL of their power, leave them with free will if you must but don't allow them supernatural powers and demonic cunning.

So did God make another mistake in letting Lucifer retain his powers? Well not if you ask some Christians because some believe Satan is here to test us. There is scriptural evidence to support this the most glaring of which is Job. In Job Satan asks for permission from God to take everything Job has away to TEST Job's loyalty to God. God regrets this in the third verse of the second chapter and admits that there was no good reason to do it (another Godly mistake).

Personally I think the first choice here is the only one that makes sense. Believing that God unleashes Satan to test people just makes God out to be a total dick. In truth it seems Satan is Lex Luthor to God's Superman, essentially harmless. (I am aware that Lex Luthor does pose a threat to Superman, the point here is that Lex Luthor in a fair fight, without Kryptonite, would get his ass kicked by Superman every time without fail).

Another thing to ponder: Read your Bible, how many people does Satan kill? How many people does God kill? How many does God throw into a lake of fire in agony? How many does Satan throw in there?

The Demons:

Not only do Christians believe in Satan but most also believe that Satan's got helpers. Demons are generally considered evil spirits, they are fallen angels that also rebelled against God. Hmm... One has to wonder, if God is so good why people who decide to rebel against him? Maybe he was letting angelic children die of cancer and AIDS, you know, the kind of stuff he still does today despite being All Powerful.

So these demons ALSO have supernatural powers and supposedly can even possess the bodies of the living. Aside from a few extreme cases these "possessions" usually only manifest themselves in symptoms of mental illness - meaning they aren't actual possessions. There are a handful of severe of unexplained cases of "demonic" possession however I think any explanation is better than invoking the boogeyman. Demons were, at one time, the explanation for a wide array of physical illnesses as well as mental illnesses. Luckily superstitious beliefs like this are on the decline and amazingly as the beliefs decline so do the reports of demonic possession, its almost as if people are getting the correct diagnosis and treatment from medical science.

Demons are meant to be able to tempt people as well, meaning those dirty thoughts you've been having about your daughter's high school age friend's upcoming slumber party might just be demons in your head. Demons are also a great scapegoat for superstitious believers, it is amazing how we humans will shirk responsibility for actions ANY WAY WE CAN.


While the Bible is unclear on the subject of Satan and the Origin of Evil people still have strong personal beliefs on the matter. Whatever you believe about Satan (I think he's fictional personally) it seems clear to me that Satan should not be blamed for your own personal actions. Please remember that this is the 21st Century and while your first instinct might be to be superstitious it would be wise to employ logic and reason before leaping to the conclusion that Satan was involved.

That's all for this week, thanks for reading.