10 Things Christians Do Better than Atheists - #1 Charity Work

Based on suggestions from Hemant Mehta.
For all of the faults in theology, Christians have a lock on charitywork.  When someone thinks of Christian kindness, I doubt that theyimagine brainwashing children to fear a non existent Hell and a deitywho watches every move and knows your thoughts.  Instead, images ofsoup kitchens, food shelves, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity,even sandbagging ahead of a flood are all things churches are knownfor.  Why aren't the same things associated with atheist kindness?
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The Five C's of Atheism

By August Berkshire

Like many of you reading this, I describe myself as a flaming liberal. Yet in one area I am a conservative. I am an atheist.

Yes, atheism is a conservative position. We accept statements only so far as there is reason and/or evidence to back them up. Anything else is speculation. We make no leaps of faith. If there should some day be a compelling reason or piece of evidence for a god, then we would acknowledge it and change our views. This is also known as intellectual honesty.

An atheist possesses clarity in his or her thinking processes. We are able to identify those things for which we have evidence and separate them from other things that are merely wishful thinking.

An atheist is also consistent. We apply our skepticism equally to all supernatural claims. We do not say, "All prophets, saviors, or gods are false - except ours." We make no exceptions or special pleadings.

Another benefit of atheism is that it is contradiction-free. We don't have to try to reconcile an all-loving, all-seeing, all-powerful god with the existence of evil. We don't have to define love exactly the opposite of how we normally define it in order to make it applicable to a god. We don't have to claim a poor supernatural designer is intelligent.

Finally, an atheist possesses courage. It is natural for people to have a healthy survival instinct. However, some people have such a fear of death that they feel compelled to believe in an afterlife to alleviate those fears. It takes intellectual and emotional courage to abandon belief in an afterlife because there is no evidence for it (and compelling evidence against it). It also takes intellectual and emotional courage to abandon one's belief in a cosmic, supernatural "protector" and realize that we are alone in our solar system and must therefore help each other as best we can.

One of the arguments of Pascal's Wager is that a person loses nothing by believing in a god. I beg to differ. Accepting Pascal's Wager means saying that we are willing to abandon reason and evidence as our standards of living, and instead make a leap of faith to... where?

It's true that by converting (or deconverting) from theism to atheism a person can lose his or her divine specialness, cosmic meaning in life, and any hope of an afterlife. But you can't lose what you never really had.

The reality of atheism far outweighs the dream of religion. There is an excitement and beauty to perceiving the world as it really is, and not as a wishful thought.

© 2008 August Berkshire



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The Character of God in the Bible

 It is alleged that the Bible is the word of an all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving, unchanging god.  The Bible supposedly records direct actions by this god and also actions this god commands others to take on his behalf.  As you read the following passages, decide for yourself: If this god really exists, does he deserve our admiration and worship?

"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

- Attributed to atheist Isaac Asimov, source unknown.
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The Problem of Evil: Top 12 Excuses for God's Horrible Behavior by August Berkshire

If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, then why is there evil in the world.

For the sake of argument, let’s concede the harm that humans do as a misuse of our free will, for which God cannot be blamed (although a good case can be made that a loving god would have stopped Hitler).

That still leaves us with genetic birth defects, genetic and acquired diseases, and natural disasters. 

Here are “The Top 12 Excuses” religious people give to attempt to explain away the horrible behavior of their god. 

(1)  Unknown greater good.

The first excuse is that God must commit or allow some evil to occur to accomplish an unknown greater good. 

But doesn’t that limit God’s knowledge and power?  Doesn’t that say that God couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish his goals other than torturing innocent people? 

(2)  Evil is really God’s love.

The second excuse is that what we perceive as “evil” is really an example of “God’s love.” 

However, this is a definition of love we cannot comprehend because it is exactly the opposite of what we define love to be.  Therefore we can’t know that “God’s love” is really love – we have to take someone’s unconvincing word for it.

If disease is an example of God’s love, shouldn’t we all try to get as sick as possible?  Are doctors violating “God’s will” when they try to cure disease? 

(3)  Evil is needed to appreciate the good.

The third excuse is that without evil we wouldn’t appreciate what’s good. 

But couldn’t a god just give us an appreciation of what’s good?  Why should we have to be tortured to appreciate the good?

Disease and natural disasters seem like wanton cruelty on the part of God.  Without disease and natural disasters we could still be left to struggle with good and evil in terms of moral dilemmas and human actions. 

(4)  Blame the ancestors and blame the victim.

The fourth excuse is that all evil that happens to us is our fault, either directly because of something we did, or indirectly because of our “ancestors” Adam and Eve.

This is known as “blaming the victim.”  Typically, a victim of abuse believes that the more he or she is punished, the more he or she is loved.

But what did an innocent baby ever do to deserve a birth defect? 

And what kind of justice is it that blames children for the sins of their long-dead ancestors? 

(5)  Evil is necessary for free will.

The fifth excuse is that without evil we would have no free will and would be “robots.”

But what do birth defects, disease, and natural disasters have to do with free will?  Do sick people have more free will than healthy people?

God has supposedly created a heaven where there is no disease.  Are the people in heaven robots? 

(6)  The devil did it.

The sixth excuse is that God isn’t really responsible for evil in the world, a devil is.

But who created this devil?  And isn’t God supposed to be all-powerful?  Can’t he stop this devil? 

(7)  Evil doesn’t last very long.

The seventh excuse is that any misery that occurs to us on Earth is brief compared to an eternity in a wonderful heaven.

So what?  Is that any excuse to torture people? 

(8)  Evil is necessary for compassion.

The eighth excuse is that evil is necessary for us to learn compassion.

But if God wanted us to be compassionate, why didn’t he just make us that way?  Why this sadistic scheme of torturing innocent babies to instill compassion in their parents? 

(9)  Suffering builds character.

The ninth excuse is that suffering builds character.

While building character may sometimes require effort – such as helping others, studying, and sportsmanship – none of these threatens our lives.

And what kind of character is a baby supposed to be developing, who is born with a birth defect so severe that she will only live a few days? 

(10)  God is testing our faith.

The tenth excuse is that evil is God’s way of testing our faith, like Job was tested in the Old Testament.

If this is true, what sense does it make to impose a “loyalty test” on an infant who dies from disease or natural disaster? 

(11)  The Creator is always justified.

The eleventh excuse is that God is morally justified in tormenting people because he created them.

But this confuses the power to torture someone with the right to torture someone. 

Do the parents who create a child have a right to torture that child?  Does might make right? 

(12)  Evil is necessary to prove God’s existence.

The twelfth excuse is that the existence of evil proves the existence of God, that without a God-given sense of good and bad, we would not be able to identify some things as evil in the first place.

But can’t an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god come up with a better way to prove his existence than by torturing us?  Why not just reveal himself? 
Conclusion:  God has run out of excuses.  He is either incompetent, indifferent, or cruel.  Another way to reconcile the facts is to conclude that gods don’t exist at all. 

Additional comments 

If you had the knowledge and power of a god, would you have created birth defects, disease, and natural disasters?  If not, then you are nicer than the god you believe in.  This god should be praying to you for moral advice, rather than the other way around. 

Would you take a syringe full of malaria and inject it into someone you love?  And yet that’s exactly what God does to people he claims to love, using a mosquito as the syringe. 

We humans spend a lot of time mopping up after God’s mistakes.   Some say that God works through us.  But the reason we have to do “the Lord’s work” is because “the Lord” isn’t doing it himself.  And if we’re doing the work, shouldn’t we take the credit? 

There is much unnecessary cruelty in nature.  For example, when one male lion replaces another in a pride of lions, he kills the cubs of the previous male lion.  Yet this type of behavior does not occur in other species.  Thus, if a god designed this system, he is not above a little wanton cruelty from time to time. 

Yes, many religious people do kind acts of charity.  But why?  Too often the answer seems to fall into one of three categories, which turn out not to be altruistic at all:

1) To use the recipient of aid as a pawn to bribe the helper’s way into heaven or avoid hell (or to achieve a higher reincarnation).

2) To use kindness to convert more people to the helper’s religion, because religions cannot be sustained by evidence and thus need as many like-minded people as possible to prop them up and quash self-doubt.

3) To attempt to maintain credibility in their religion by covering up the embarrassingly poor job done by their god, by claiming they are agents of God.

For those religious people who are kind for the sake of kindness, without reference to a god, that’s exactly what secular humanism is. 

Bible Quotes 

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”   (Isaiah 45:7) 

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?”   (Lamentations 3:38) 

“When disaster comes to a city, has the Lord not caused it?”    (Amos 3:6) 

© 2005-2007 August Berkshire

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