The Current State of My Atheism

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 5, 2009 in General Atheism

black hairI call myself a “flaming atheist” for two reasons. First, the phrase conjures the notion of a “flaming homosexual” who wears his attributes on his sleeve… and his chest and his shoes and his belt buckle. That’s how I often wear my atheism. Second, the phrase “flaming atheist” conjures the ridiculous images from Christian and Muslim mythology of an unbeliever roasting in the flames of hell.

So yeah, I’m really an atheist. I write a blog called Common Sense Atheism, for Ahriman’s sake! I’m not just an “agnostic,” because I’m pretty damn sure there are no gods. (I’m not “agnostic” about fairies, either.)

Of course, the more absurdities you pile on your god, the more I’m sure he doesn’t exist. I’m much more certain that Jesus and Allah and Vishnu don’t exist than I am that no supernatural gods of any kind exist.

But still, I’m pretty sure supernatural gods don’t exist. And if I was shown good evidence for supernatural gods, well, that would be pretty exciting but I’m not sure it would change much about morality or human flourishing.

I’m an atheist because I think there are some pretty good reasons to think that gods don’t exist, and especially because all the reasons I’ve been given to think gods do exist look pretty bad to me.

But I’m not so arrogant as to pretend that I’m an expert on the arguments for and against theism. As I study more, and become more proficient in the basic tools of critical thinking, I’m reassessing the reasons I originally left theism.

Do the arguments for theism really fail? Do some argument for atheism really succeed? I can’t be sure; I’m not an expert. That’s why I’m examining them along with you, one by one, and in great detail, without assuming what the end result is going to be. I don’t write post series on the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Problem of Evil as a philosopher with expertise to share. I write them as a fellow traveler toward truth.

- Luke

P.S. If you stare closely at my crotch, can you tell what’s on my belt buckle?

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

kevin December 5, 2009 at 11:10 am

FSM? First-time commenter here. Do I win something?

By the way, one fellow traveler to another: keep on truckin’!

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vjack December 5, 2009 at 11:38 am

Good for you! If you are going to be an atheist, you might as well flame, right? BTW, I think Common Sense Atheism is an excellent name for a blog.

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I appreciate the tiny speck of humility you demonstrated in this article. It’s a refreshing departure from your standard nauseating arrogance and narcissism. Very nice.

Ah what an amusing portrait you have painted of yourself. You have obviously been spending a great deal of time looking at your own reflection.

But let’s get real with each other. You are not a flaming atheist. You may WISH you were a flaming atheist, but in reality–at most–you are a budding and timid atheist who is “pretty sure” about nothing right now. Don’t get me wrong, that is perfectly cool and all, but let’s just keep it real.

For proof, we needn’t look further than the aesthetics and content of your virtual home here on the web. Compare it to other atheist websites. If atheist websites were music genres, your site would be easy listening all the way. There is nothing “flaming”, loud, obnoxious, or even explicit about it. It is actually the antithesis of flaming. In fact, with its disarming blue colors, and hopeful, fresh, inspiring, brilliantly warm and bright blue skies I would say it is more like “boyish and innocent” than flaming. In fact it more resembles a boy’s nursery than a cold, clinical scholarly think-tank. If atheist websites were musicians, you would be a flute player, not a metal guitarist. I suspect that is why you want us to look at your balls… because your site has none.

Oh chill out, I’m just ribbing you. ;) I kid the Lukester.

Anyway, if you were truly a “flaming atheist,” as say a snowboarder is a prominent shredder, would you really need to tell people? Shaun White certainly doesn’t need to. He is what he is and no self appointments are needed, and I think it is safe to say he would never make any.

Chris Hitchens is a flaming atheist. Luke is a gadfly on the wall observing him from a safe distance.

Your picture was helpful though. It helps me understand what has likely happened with you. Want my crazy theory? Who cares, you’re getting it anyway :) Here goes:

First, you’re obviously a strapping lad with rock star good looks.I put your facial symmetry, etc on par with Ashton Kutcher. A beautiful man. A truly BLESSED man, to be sure. Knowing someone else who is beautiful like you, who also struggled mightily with their faith, I have a hunch what has REALLY happened with you. I THINK you are either:

A) A homosexual and atheism is a NECESSITY in order to justify your lifestyle

B) A nympho and atheism is a NECESSITY in order to justify your lifestyle

C) A narcissist and atheism is a NECESSITY in order to justify your lifestyle

D) A nutty philosopher and atheism is a NECESSITY in order to justify your continuum (a la Nietzsche)

The only one I can safely rule out here is D. Yuo are neither nutty (yet) nor are you a philosopher. That leaves A, B, and C and I am leaning towards B.

Thanks for the article and chance to respond. You are a beautiful man physically and intellectually. You really seem to have it all.. yet at the same time without God you really have nothing. For–as GK Chesterton said–”..the madman is not the one who has lost his reason, he is the one who has lost everything BUT his reason..”

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Ryan December 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Actually Summa, Atheism isn’t necessary to justify homosexuality. Liberal Christians think homosexuality is OK. In fact, you could choose to believe in a lot of possible gods as a homosexual without fear of retribution.

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Ryan: Actually Summa, Atheism isn’t necessary to justify homosexuality. Liberal Christians think homosexuality is OK. In fact, you could choose to believe in a lot of possible gods as a homosexual without fear of retribution.

Ryan, I never said atheism is necessary to justify ALL homsexuality; I said it was necessary to justify LUKE’s. HUGE difference. I’ll explode it a bit for you:

For LUKE, IF he is in fact gay, given his conservative Christian upbringing (and Christian values that are hardwired into his psyche and conscience), I believe he would have no other choice but to decapitate Christ in order to free himself from Christ’s moralistic burden.

As for “Liberal Christians,” there are no such things. Quintessentially a Christian MUST be both traditional and conservative. Why? For political reasons? Au contraire! Christ is unchanging. Hence the TRUTH is unchanging. Hence the truth is not up for democratic vote, concession, or liberalization.

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Ryan December 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm

“IF he is in fact gay, given his conservative Christian upbringing (and Christian values that are hardwired into his psyche and conscience), I believe he would have no other choice but to decapitate Christ in order to free himself from Christ’s moralistic burden.”

That’s a nonsequitur. You wouldn’t have to get rid of all belief in the supernatural to give up belief in Christianity. However, the human mind doesn’t always work logically, so let’s say that Luke has decided to attack not just one supernatural entity, but all supernatural entities. He could feel a little more on the safe side if he felt justified in denying not just Biblegod, but all gods. Maybe atheism would thus be psychologically appealing (If Luke is gay/nympho/etc. and not thinking rationally about this particular issue).

“Christ is unchanging. Hence the TRUTH is unchanging. Hence the truth is not up for democratic vote, concession, or liberalization.”

But liberals wouldn’t agree that their religion is not up for change. Also, some would argue that the bible doesn’t actually condemn Christianity in the first place, or that those parts weren’t inspired, etc.

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Ryan December 5, 2009 at 1:02 pm

By the way Luke, have you heard of the Anthropic Argument AGAINST the existence of God? You can read about it here:

http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/the-anthropic-argument-against-the-existence-of-god/

Pace.

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

For LUKE, IF he is in fact gay, given his conservative Christian upbringing (and Christian values that are hardwired into his psyche and conscience), I believe he would have no other choice but to decapitate Christ in order to free himself from Christ’s moralistic burden.

I will go rogue and comment on my own point. If Luke is gay, that means his homosexuality has been repressed all these years, and that would explain why he felt so incredibly liberated when he broke free from what he came to believe was his Christian captor.

Then again, all this comes back to the big IF. Luke says he’s not gay, so we have to take his word prima facie.

As for this whole flaming atheism thing, on second thought I should add it would bode well with OPTION “C” above: narcissism. After all, even Nietzsche agreed that was essentially all philosophy amounted to, including his own.

“Gradually it has become clear to me,” Nietzsche wrote in 1886, “what every philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary memoir.”

As written in the NY Times: In Nietzsche’s case, the confession and memoir ARE OUT IN THE **OPEN** [read: flaming], so much so that his philosophy has occasionally been dismissed, the way an intimate friend once put it, as “nothing other than a brilliant exercise in self-presentation and self-revelation.”

Of course, like all flaming narcissists, Nietzsche went mad–but hey, what’s a little madness between friends.

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Beelzebub December 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm


GK Chesterton said–”..the madman is not the one who has lost his reason, he is the one who has lost everything BUT his reason..”

As a person with a schizophrenic brother I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Chesterton was utterly full of shit. “Madmen” have lost the ability to reason, and nothing else unless they are surrounded by a cold, uncaring society (let’s all thank Reagan, a good Christian conservative, for that).

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Justfinethanks December 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm

As for this whole flaming atheism thing, on second thought I should add it would bode well with OPTION “C” above: narcissism

I see. So if you believe that you are a microscopic chunk of matter in an indifferent universe in which there are many times more galaxies than human beings and far more stars than grains of sand in all beaches in all the world, you are a narcissist.

And if you believe that you are the creative centerpiece of this mind-blowingly expansive universe and that a perfect being has a keen interest in your thoughts, your actions, and your beliefs, then that… makes you humble I suppose.

On the contrary, should I ever discover there exist convincing reasons for theism to be true, I suppose I will believe it on a dry epistemic level, but I will have a tough time summoning the ego to accept it on an emotional level.

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Josh December 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Summa’s condescention and pomposity annoy me greatly. Most atheists become atheists not because Christianity is incompatible with their lifestyle, but *SHOCKINGLY* because they thought about it and realized that it is nonsense. Your self-righteous accusation that Luke is an atheist only because it allows him to live a life free from God’s shackle’s is offensive.

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Beelzebub December 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm


“Gradually it has become clear to me,” Nietzsche wrote in 1886, “what every philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary memoir.”

Nietzsche was probably more narcissistic than most, but I doubt you can generalize that to all philosophers. Saying “even Nietzsche” in relation to narcissism is like starting a sentence with “even Bill Gates has some” regarding money. Great philosophy begins with keen observation about one’s relation to the world, one’s perceptions, one’s…etc. The keyword is “one’s.” It is an inherently narcissistic enterprise, and it is up to the practitioner whether he cares to sugar-coat his observations by generalizing them and de-personifying them. Nietzsche didn’t, probably to a more compelling effect.

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Michael Thackray December 5, 2009 at 2:46 pm

“Most atheists become atheists not because Christianity is incompatible with their lifestyle, but *SHOCKINGLY* because they thought about it and realized that it is nonsense”

^ This.

However, most, if not all Christians cannot accept such a fact. That’s why they believe a, b and c about us. A genuine apostate isn’t compatible with Christianity.

Summa,
your obviously quite intelligent and perceptive. Don’t make it hard for us to like you by assuming things about us.
Apostates get enough branding as it is. Just ask the people we love most…

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John D December 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Must be bizarre to have some anonymous commentator psychoanalyse your potential sexual proclivities and their connnection to your intellectual beliefs. I suppose it helps him/her/it deal with the threat you pose to him/her/it’s worldview.

I hear Catholicism is highly attractive for vampiric homosexual sado-masochists. It’s the only time they can justifiably get a kick out of flesh-eating and blood-guzzling.

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lukeprog December 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm

kevin,

You win! But I’m afraid I have no prize… :(

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lukeprog December 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Thanks, vorjack.

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John D December 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I should add I have no problem with homosexuality or, indeed, S & M.

Not so sure about vampires: my girlfriend made me sit through both Twilight movies.

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lukeprog December 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Summa,

You are wrong about damn near everything in your post, but some of it was apparently joking, so I’ll let it go… :)

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Beezle: As a person with a schizophrenic brother I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Chesterton was utterly full of shit. “Madmen” have lost the ability to reason, and nothing else unless they are surrounded by a cold, uncaring society (let’s all thank Reagan, a good Christian conservative, for that).

This is the kind of “reason” that leads to psychosis.

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Justfinethanks: I see. So if you believe that you are a microscopic chunk of matter in an indifferent universe in which there are many times more galaxies than human beings and far more stars than grains of sand in all beaches in all the world, you are a narcissist.

Nothing of the sort. That is far too simple of a framing of Luke’s position, and by golly if his framing is indeed THAT simplistic, then why the heck are you coming to his website and what the heck are you expecting to learn from him??????

And if you believe that you are the creative centerpiece of this mind-blowingly expansive universe and that a perfect being has a keen interest in your thoughts, your actions, and your beliefs, then that… makes you humble I suppose.

Yes I know the idea of divine love is hard for many to conceive. But one’s belief in such a spectacular love does not make one arrogant as you imply, instead it makes him merely a believer in divine love.

On the contrary, should I ever discover there exist convincing reasons for theism to be true, I suppose I will believe it on a dry epistemic level, but I will have a tough time summoning the ego to accept it on an emotional level.

Au contraire. Your ego is precisely what prevents you from accepting it in the first place.

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Summa’s condescention [SIC] and pomposity annoy me greatly.

Wonder why.

Most atheists become atheists not because Christianity is incompatible with their lifestyle, but *SHOCKINGLY* because they thought about it and realized that it is nonsense. Your self-righteous accusation that Luke is an atheist only because it allows him to live a life free from God’s shackle’s is offensive.

MOST? How do you know? Done a study? Please do share

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Michael Thackray December 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm

“Nothing of the sort. That is far too simple of a framing of Luke’s position, and by golly if his framing is indeed THAT simplistic, then why the heck are you coming to his website and what the heck are you expecting to learn from him?????? ”

The irony of this statement coming from you frustrates me.

But I appreciate your input. You are generating interesting discussion, and getting backs up. I like backs that are up.

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Justfinethanks December 5, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Nothing of the sort. That is far too simple of a framing of Luke’s position, and by golly if his framing is indeed THAT simplistic, then why the heck are you coming to his website and what the heck are you expecting to learn from him??????

I’m not “framing” anything. I’m simply making the observation that if atheism is true, then human beings are incidental to the universe, whereas if classical theism is true, then human beings are central to the universe (it being “fine tuned” for us and all). I think this is a fairly uncontroversial thing to say.

Which honestly requires more ego to accept: that your existence is necessary or unnecessary? That everything, from the vast oceans to the Andromeda galaxy were made with little ol you in mind, or that these things are just as incidental as we are?

On the one hand, theists always argue that atheism necessarily entails nihilism, and on the other hand, they argue that atheists are egotistical. These two ideas are mutually exclusive, because it is impossible to think highly of a meaningless life. So naturally, I disagree with both accusations.

Au contraire. Your ego is precisely what prevents you from accepting it in the first place.

No, like I said, I have a tough time buying the idea that I am so incredibly, unspeakably awesome that a being who created the universe is interested in anything I have to say or believe. My incredulity doesn’t mean its not true (I think its untrue for reasons unrelated to the heroic feat of self esteem it would require), but that’s just how it is. I mean, do you think any of the E. Coli that are wriggling in your body are incredible enough to lend your constant attention, judgement, and all the love you can muster?

Also, knock it off with the Romans 1 based psychology. It’s just as unscientific as Genesis 1 based cosmology.

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Beelzebub December 5, 2009 at 3:33 pm


This is the kind of “reason” that leads to psychosis.

Suffice it to say that unless you’ve had personal experience with the real source of “madness,” i.e. mental illness, it’s really not worth my time trying to explain it to you.

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tinyfrog December 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I had to laugh at Summa’s weak attempts to explain Luke’s atheism through psychoanalysis. I’m sure we can all play that game – and probably be just as bad at it. Here’s a try: Summa is gay. Summa feels guilt over his gayness. Summa turned to Christianity because Jesus forgives him for his homosexual desires. Thus, the only reason Summa is a Christian because it helps salve his homosexual guilt. Yeah, I’m sure that explanation is both offensive (for a variety of reasons) and completely wrong. But, it’s not any worse than the armchair psychoanalysis offered by Summa.

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Tipper Gore December 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm

This Summa fellow has a proclivity for psychoanalysis. Strangely he appears to be rather good at it. About time this site offered some colorful commentary. Luke you should extend him an invitation to write an article on your blog explaining what proof he has for God and why we should believe in his God over all the other millions of god chaps history affords. His woe and flutter might be a little low, but I guarantee his noise floor will be dazzlingly high and quite entertaining.

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Beelzebub December 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm


Yeah, I’m sure that explanation is both offensive (for a variety of reasons) and completely wrong.

Not so sure about that — unless Summa is a woman. I draw your attention to the multiple references to male beauty in “his” first comment.

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Alex December 5, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Summa:
MOST? How do you know? Done a study? Please do share  

Try “Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America’s Nonbelievers” by Hunsberger and Altemeyer.

But to keep things in perspective, please show me a study that shows that Christian converts didn’t come to Christianity because of homosexual guilt.

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Teleprompter December 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Summa,

Replace the word ‘atheist’ in your accusations and analysis with the words ‘Muslim’, ‘Jew’, ‘Hindu’, ‘Sikh’, and ‘Buddhist’. Would you say the same things to people who have those beliefs?

The real problem for you isn’t that there are people equally as sincere as you who don’t believe in gods – the real problem for you is that there are people who believe in different gods than you who are equally or more sincere than you are.

Try psychoanalyzing people who have different theistic beliefs than you do. Actually, don’t. But if you do try, maybe you’ll notice the blatant absurdity of your whole enterprise – do you see any reason why one billion Muslims would deliberately ignore Christianity or why two billion Christians would deliberately ignore Islam, just to satisfy their personal urges and desires?

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Summa December 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm

justfinethanks: No, like I said, I have a tough time buying the idea that I am so incredibly, unspeakably awesome that a being who created the universe is interested in anything I have to say or believe.

You’ve got Christianity all wrong. Christianity doesn’t hold we humans are “incredibly unspeakably awesome.” Believe it or not, it believes the exact polar opposite. It holds **God** and God alone is incredibly unspeakably awesome (aka “HOLY”) and humans are incredibly unspeakably fortunate (aka “BLESSED”) to have a Creator who loves his creatures so much that he would be willing to hand them one of his most beautiful creations for their enjoyment, recreation, procreation and so forth.

To be sure, nowhere in the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church will you find words like “awesome” unless they are attributed to God. No one sits around singing “I am a Christian and I am awesome!” at my church.

Instead we sing, “God is an awesome God..” and “God of wonders beyond our galaxy.. you are HOLY..” and “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

We then literally pray for this awesome and magnificent God to look favorably on us, in full recognition that we are indeed tiny microscopic chunks in his vast universe. We do this in AWE of God, not in arrogance. And how do we have the AUDACITY to even think He would even care to listen to what we have to say? Because HE told us that he cares. HE asked us to talk to Him. HE promised us he would talk back to us. HE said “I am the Lord your God and I care for you.” And as His devout believers we BELIEVE what he said and we have FAITH he cares about us.

Do we think he created this whole universe for us? I don’t know about others Christians, but I don’t believe that for an instant. I haven’t a CLUE why he created the universe and why it is so rich with wondrous phenomena like black holes and planets that are light years away. Who could ever know his reasons? When I was 5 years old I didn’t know why my Dad had a big office with hundreds of books in it with titles like “War and Peace” and “Gone With the Wind” and “On the Origin of Species.” But I trusted my Dad because I knew he loved me and was a good man and cared for me and my family. And one day when I grew old enough I understood why my Dad had all those books. Perhaps one day I will know why God made the universe and what his purpose for a black hole is. But until then I will have FAITH that he finds me too youthful and immature to explain it to.

Again, GOD ALONE IS HOLY. Christians believe man only has the POTENTIAL to be Holy, and he must make a freewill CHOICE to be, because the essence of love is choice. One can not be forced to love, hence one can not be forced to love God, who IS the source of all the LOVE on the planet.

My incredulity doesn’t mean its not true (I think its untrue for reasons unrelated to the heroic feat of self esteem it would require), but that’s just how it is. I mean, do you think any of the E. Coli that are wriggling in your body are incredible enough to lend your constant attention, judgement, and all the love you can muster?

You wouldn’t need self esteem to worship God. You would need humility to start looking UP at him and having faith that his word is true. The only self esteem you would need is the self esteem that would be necessary to stand up to people who ridiculed him

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Kutuzov December 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Homosexuality, nymphomania, narcissism, critical thought… I don’t see why the cause of one’s disbelief should be brought to account. The fact is, Luke believes there is no god, just as Christians can quite happily make the assertion there is no Lakshmi, Ganesha, Thor, Zeus or Ahura Mazda.

To discuss what has “happened to you” to change your beliefs is arrogantly dismissive but also irrelevant. What “happened to you” to dispel your belief in Santa Claus?

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Haukur December 5, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Summa: To be sure, nowhere in the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church will you find words like “awesome” unless they are attributed to God.

Well, you’re mostly right but in the NIV there’s an awesome statue in Daniel 2:31 and the beloved is “as awesome as an army with banners” in SoS 6:4.

Kutuzov: The fact is, Luke believes there is no god, just as Christians can quite happily make the assertion there is no Lakshmi, Ganesha, Thor, Zeus or Ahura Mazda.

Really? Christians believe there is no Ganesha? This blog has had rotten luck getting them to say that. Last time around we had a Christian not only willing to concede that Ganesha exists but also that the Milk Miracle really was his doing. Only a very particular kind of Christian believes that the pagan gods don’t exist in the same way that atheists believe they don’t exist. The Christians we get over here usually believe that certain “principalities and powers” can come into play.

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Kutuzov December 5, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Really? Christians believe there is no Ganesha? This blog has had rotten luck getting them to say that. Last time around we had a Christian not only willing to concede that Ganesha exists but also that the Milk Miracle really was his doing. Only a very particular kind of Christian believes that the pagan gods don’t exist in the same way that atheists believe they don’t exist. The Christians we get over here usually believe that certain “principalities and powers” can come into play.  (Quote)

Really? I come from a Catholic upbringing; I dismissed the belief system as rather inconsequential whilst a teen, but only in the last 10 years did I fully reject theism in toto, not realising until then the extent to which youth indoctrination underpins one’s ethical and socio-political opinions.

The old priests, nuns and brothers of my school would die before they acknowledged any supernatural power beyond the Christian God. I must confess I really don’t know a lot about american evangelical churches and beliefs, but I’m fascinated to learn the differences in their interpretations and beliefs over something like Catholicism.

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tom December 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm

“I appreciate the tiny speck of humility you demonstrated in this article. It’s a refreshing departure from your standard nauseating arrogance and narcissism. Very nice.”

Summa, most of what follows your opening remarks in that post is rambling, self-indulgent nonsense.

Two threads ago you got schooled in an argument after saying: “Welcome to the world of atheist apologetics, folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies. ”
This invective was supposed to be justified by some very weak criticisms you gave of something Luke said; you thought you were getting the better of an argument when you were in fact several steps behind.

People will be less likely to take you seriously if you continue this kind of embarrassing behavior.

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 2:51 am

Kutuzov, in an earlier thread I suggested there are four basic attitudes Christians can have towards other gods – let’s continue using Ganesha as an example.

Christian 1: Ganesha exists but he isn’t who the Hindus think he is – he is a demon or a lesser god and not God-the-creator nor an aspect of God-the-creator. A Hindu praying to Ganesha is endangering his soul and possibly doing something demonic. This is a venerable Christian position.

Christian 2: The idea of Ganesha is an imperfect understanding of the true God. A Hindu praying to Ganesha is in error about the nature of God but it may still do him some good. “They know God, but not well.” This is also an old position and it is fairly popular today, especially among liberal Christians.

Christian 3: I don’t know exactly what to think about other religions – in fact I try to avoid thinking about them as much as possible. Instead I concentrate on being a good Christian and bringing people to Christ. Luke provided us with this one.

Christian 4: I dismiss all other religions because science and history and reason and critical thinking shows that they are totally wrong and have a completely naturalistic basis, developing basically out of the propensity of the human mind for certain types of bad thinking. Ganesha is just a figment of people’s imagination. Someone praying to Ganesha is just engaging in fantasy and wishful thinking.

Now, this fourth position is of course the atheist position. Atheists often think that Christians have this attitude towards other religions and while I’m sure that some do I don’t think it’s a common attitude at all. The Christians that have been pressed on this question on this blog all seem to fall into category 1.

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Bebok December 6, 2009 at 4:10 am

Haukur,

That’s thoughtful. Is it your division or have you found it somewhere?

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 5:23 am

Bebok: That’s thoughtful. Is it your division or have you found it somewhere?

Thank you, that’s very kind. This is my formulation of the views of Christians I have encountered though I bet someone else has written something similar somewhere. Actually, I started out with three options – Luke added the “try not to think about it” option; that one’s probably quite common – though it may be difficult to study!

One more position we could add is the “all religions are true” idea – but maybe we could just regard that as a subform of category 2.

See also Luke’s post on religious diversity and my coda to that.

You may also be interested in this post on The Essence of Religion by a pagan blogger (and other posts in that series).

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 6:41 am

And a Christian can of course have different views towards different religions. Thus, I’m sure you could find a Christian who thinks a) Wiccans worship demons while b) Muslims worship the true God in a false way and c) Scientology has no supernatural basis. Oh, and d) he tries not to think about whether that nice Buddhist lady next door is going to Hell.

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Jeff H December 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

Haukur, nice distinction. I think that pretty much covers most of the options. For myself, I had sort of a mix; for some religions I was probably in category 4 – they’re just wrong, and inventing things to make themselves feel better. Other religions, like maybe animism or wicca, I would have placed into category 1 – they’re worshipping demons. And finally, for the other Abrahamic religions, I would have put them under category 2 – they’re just wrong about their understanding of God.

I think that most of the Christians I know (mostly evangelicals) would be roughly the same. However, I never heard anyone claim that there were other “lesser gods” (they would all be classified as demons), and those in category 2 would still believe that the people were going to hell, because they were still wrong about God. For evangelicals, it’s all about being “born again”, so if this was not part of the beliefs of Jews/Muslims, they were not saved. But anyway, that’s only a subset of Christianity, so I like the distinction you are making.

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 9:49 am

Jeff H: However, I never heard anyone claim that there were other “lesser gods” (they would all be classified as demons)

Yes, this has been a bit of a surprise to me too but we keep hearing it in discussions on this blog. See Nate’s first comment here for example:

Yes there are other gods… but only One creator.

Though perhaps “other gods” is just a polite way of saying ‘demons’.

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 10:20 am

Also worth reading on the subject is this Chick tract.

The power of Kali is stronger than any god in India, including Shiva, Ganesh and Hanuman.

Yeah, let’s hear it for the goddesses, Chick!

With the help of Kali’s demons, the thug slays his victim.

So, Kali is in charge of some demons.

Because of man’s sin and wickedness, God allowed Satan to control this world and all its religions. Satan created all the gods of India. They are demons who will rob your sould and take you into hell.

All right, so there are some demons who answer to Kali and Kali answers to Satan. Kali is a (false) god and a (major) demon, I guess.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 10:50 am

Kutuzov: “Homosexuality, nymphomania, narcissism, critical thought… I don’t see why the cause of one’s disbelief should be brought to account.

Are you Luke’s lawyer? For Luke’s sake, I hope not. If you are, I hope Luke never asks you to litigate for him if he gets in trouble with the law. Excuse me while I giggle reflexively at the thought of you imploring the jury to strike from the record every CRUMB of testimony about Luke’s credibility on the grounds that you simply don’t see why his credibility should be brought into account.

But don’t let my Sunday ribbing ruffle your whiskers, dear Kutu. You’re not the only Lukan defender who doesn’t give a booger about the plausibility/validity of his “deconversion” testimony. Rest assured you are in good company with his rank and file faithful whom blissfully dance to the beat of a dissonant blogger song rife with more clinkers, tempo drift, and pitch problems than all six seasons of American Idol combined.

It’s all good, comrade Kutuzov.

The fact is, Luke believes there is no god, just as Christians can quite happily make the assertion there is no Lakshmi, Ganesha, Thor, Zeus or Ahura Mazda.

The FACT? What fact? You haven’t any FACTS. You haven’t even a coherent picture of Luke’s ideology to defend. All you have is Luke’s jumbo-sized coloring book full of swirling scribbles and doodles–none of which are even within the lines of the figures on its pages.

You can accuse me of what you will, but at least I have enough respect for myself and towards Luke to make a valiant effort to attain the truth. If–for hypothetical purposes–Luke came out tomorrow and said, “I am gay. That was my reason for deconverting. I still believe in God, hence I never really “deconverted,” hence this web site has been by and large a lie,” who would be the fool, you or me?

I bet your reply to that hypothetical scenario will be: “But Luke WON’T do that!” Because you, in all of your omniscient FACTUAL knowledge of Luke, KNOW what Luke is and isn’t, what he will do and what he won’t. Right? Because you know the FACTS about Lukeprog, and I don’t.

Alas comrade Kutuzov, you have left me no other choice but to assume you are either Luke himself, or have–as I previously asserted–taken his word at face value and defended his honor for no other reason than to defend your own views, which are likely not even congruent with Luke’s, and were never called into question to begin with. For your sake, I hope you are indeed Luke.

And if you aren’t Luke, I should hope atheism’s rank and file are not as easily lemming’d down the road of conviction as effortlessly as you, comrade Kutuzov. If they are, we would do well to cease the practice of referring to them as “skeptics” any longer, and instead call them “suckers,” which would be a study in hypocrisy so vast it would repel even the most ambitious apologist.

If you, comrade Kutuzov, like your Lukeprog brethren, are unable to read between my rambling lines and discern the underlying point, I shall spell it out for you: Many of you criticize Christians for blindly following an invisible God, yet at the same time you come here and blindly follow and defend a twenty-something kid who proudly concedes his deconversion was triggered by a series of “jolting” discoveries–all of which orbit around the the most intellectually offensive idea in all of history…that SOMETHING was created from NOTHING. How utterly oxymoronic that he should condemn Christians for believing in miracles! LOL.

To discuss what has “happened to you” to change your beliefs is arrogantly dismissive but also irrelevant. What “happened to you” to dispel your belief in Santa Claus?

I like you comrade Kutuzov. In the spirit of friendship I say: At some point in your atheist journey you will do well to cease the practice of severing debates by blowing everyone out of the room with the stench of your Argumentum Ad Hominem flatulence.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 11:14 am

tom wrote: “Summa, most of what follows your opening remarks in that post is rambling, self-indulgent nonsense.

Easy for you to say.

Two threads ago you got schooled in an argument after saying: “Welcome to the world of atheist apologetics, folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies. ” This invective was supposed to be justified by some very weak criticisms you gave of something Luke said; you thought you were getting the better of an argument when you were in fact several steps behind.

Schooled? Por favor senor.

People will be less likely to take you seriously if you continue this kind of embarrassing behavior.

“Embarrassing” is quite subjective. I’ll take my chances, Major Tom.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 11:52 am

Haukur said: Kutuzov, in an earlier thread I suggested there are four basic attitudes Christians can have towards other gods…

Christian 1: Ganesha exists but he isn’t who the Hindus think he is…

Christian 2: The idea of Ganesha is an imperfect understanding of the true God…..

Christian 3: I don’t know exactly what to think about other religions – in fact I try to avoid thinking about them as much as possible…

Christian 4: I dismiss all other religions because science and history and reason and critical thinking shows that they are totally wrong and have a completely naturalistic basis, developing basically out of the propensity of the human mind for certain types of bad thinking. Ganesha is just a figment of people’s imagination. Someone praying to Ganesha is just engaging in fantasy and wishful thinking.

…The Christians that have been pressed on this question on this blog all seem to fall into category 1.

What I suspect you’re speciously doing here is singling out Christianity as too arrogant or ignorant to acknowledge a god that no one in the known world outside the house of Hinduism can even CONCEIVE: http://sandra.stahlman.com/ganesha.jpg

What an utterly LAZY way to portray Christians as arrogant jerks– when in fact you yourself, under all your layers of atheist fundamentalism, know full well if you were forced to rank the plausibility of each religion’s gods, you would rank Ganesha at the bottom of the list. Perhaps you should have a gander at ganesha: http://sandra.stahlman.com/ganesha.jpg

Forget aesthetics. Any huckleberry knows the gods of Christianity and Hinduism are unequivocally, irredeemably, and diametrically opposed. Hinduism is pantheistic, not theistic. The doctrine that God created the world out of nothing (aka EX NIHILO) is exclusive to Judaism and Christianity. From there the two (Hindu and Christian) fork at 90 degree angles down their respective paths.

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tom December 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

“Schooled? Por favor senor.”

You offered a reply to Luke that only proved that you didn’t understand the argument being made. You proceeded to declare victory and throw out some gratuitous insults, and then you failed to respond to those of us who explained how you had not grasped the point. Call that what you like.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Tom? Insults? How do you figure!?

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tom December 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm

“Welcome to the world of atheist apologetics, folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies.”

When your claim is that someone is not merely mistaken, but rather a liar who is not even replying to you in good faith, that is an insult. “Bad arguments” as a fairly unsubstantiated generalization is a swipe, but if we’re being cautious probably doesn’t count as an insult.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I must confess all this detached intellectualism is getting boring. I bet one day Luke shall find it quite boring himself. One can only spend so much of one’s time in bed with the great machine..caressing its gears.. waxing romantic about its machination. The human spirit is diametrically opposed to this sort of binary masturbation. Sooner or later the materialist’s morbid infatuation with himself will result in: boredom, exhaustion, or lunacy.

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Teleprompter December 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Summa,

I see that you have yet to respond to my challenge. Fine, I will interpret your silence as assent. You have had ample opportunity to reply, but you have yet to do so.

Therefore, let’s try again. You said this:

“Sooner or later the materialist’s morbid infatuation with himself will result in: boredom, exhaustion, or lunacy.”

But why not say this:

“Sooner or later the Muslim’s/Hindu’s/Jew’s/Mormon’s/Sikh’s/Buddhist’s morbid infatuation with himself will result in: boredom, exhaustion, or lunacy.”

You try and you try to pigeon-hole atheists into a certain mentality because of your belief that atheists refuse to acknowledge the truth of your religion. But would you say the same for other groups of people who have a different opinion about your religion? Could you honestly say that there are billions of Muslims who are deluding themselves about the truth of Christianity in bad faith? What are the odds, Summa?

Your analysis shows itself to be hollow.

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Haukur December 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Summa: What an utterly LAZY way to portray Christians as arrogant jerks– when in fact you yourself, under all your layers of atheist fundamentalism, know full well if you were forced to rank the plausibility of each religion’s gods, you would rank Ganesha at the bottom of the list. Perhaps you should have a gander at ganesha: http://sandra.stahlman.com/ganesha.jpg

I stand corrected. Clearly, Christians are not arrogant jerks.

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Michael Thackray December 6, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I think Summa should be ignored.

He intentionally drowns arguments in poor semantics and consciously misperceives and misinterprets any challenge or question put forward to him, and he’s obviously to arrogant to realize any of this.

Besides his hypocrisy is just blatant now.

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Bebok December 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Haukur,

Thanks for the links. I’d like to read something comprehensive on the psychology of religious belief. It seems to me that it’s quite poorly explored aspect of religion, compared with theology.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Tom said (quoting Summa) “Welcome to the world of atheist apologetics, folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies.”

When your claim is that someone is not merely mistaken, but rather a liar who is not even replying to you in good faith, that is an insult. “Bad arguments” as a fairly unsubstantiated generalization is a swipe, but if we’re being cautious probably doesn’t count as an insult.

Oh Tom try to stay focused. I made no such claim. LUKE is the one who said “Welcome to the world of apologists folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies.” I was only playfully parroting his inane–and you have now agreed “insulting”–remark.

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John D December 6, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but I’m beginning to think Summa is a hoax. His posts are infantile diatribes, dressed-up in ostentatious rhetorical flourishes. He engages in endless ad hominen attacks. And he has all the subtlety of an elephant with Tourettes.

His fascination with Christopher Hitchens is interesting because he is like a bad theistic parody of the Hitch. At least Hitch has a genuine intellect buried underneath his choice-phrases and comic-timing (that’s an argument I’m willing to support, btw).

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tom December 6, 2009 at 3:33 pm

“Oh Tom try to stay focused. I made no such claim. LUKE is the one who said “Welcome to the world of apologists folks! Lies, damned lies, bad arguments, and more lies.” I was only playfully parroting his inane–and you have now agreed “insulting”–remark…”

I concede, I missed that; apologies. I stand by the rest.

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drj December 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Not granting for any ounce of a second that anything Summa has said about Luke is true… but..

Its interesting… theres hardly a theist alive who would excuse any moment of frenzy or bout of emotional upheaval that actually resulted in a person turning towards religion, as a trick of the mind, or some irrational deception to be feared and berated. In fact, every effort would be made to reinforce the experience. A loved one dies? Turn to God for help!

Yet, if the opposite happens, and such a moment of upheaval actually jolts a person powerfully enough to view their once cherished religious beliefs from a not-so-flattering perspective.. hold the presses! Thats not valid!

So, perhaps many Christian homosexuals do struggle all their lives with the teachings of Christianity, and these struggles do cause them to rebel against the beliefs of the church. So what? In fact, what better reasons are there to rebel against the often arbitrary and bigoted “moral dictates” of Christianity? More power to them, if that is the case. Emotional upheaval can be a perfectly valid and reasonable catalyst for rethinking one’s beliefs and damn near every single theist alive agrees… unless of course, it causes one to come to a conclusion that they don’t like. Then its bad.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Haukur said: “Summa, I see that you have yet to respond to my challenge. Fine, I will interpret your silence as assent. You have had ample opportunity to reply, but you have yet to do so. Therefore, let’s try again. You said this: “Sooner or later the materialist’s morbid infatuation with himself will result in: boredom, exhaustion, or lunacy.”

But why not say this:

“Sooner or later the Muslim’s/Hindu’s/Jew’s/Mormon’s/Sikh’s/Buddhist’s morbid infatuation with himself will result in: boredom, exhaustion, or lunacy.”

Um, because all the groups you named above are not materialists? Duh?

You try and you try to pigeon-hole atheists into a certain mentality because of your belief that atheists refuse to acknowledge the truth of your religion. But would you say the same for other groups of people who have a different opinion about your religion?

No. That they are sensible and humble enough to conclude there is an intelligent being greater than themselves, and that being exists in a realm that they cannot not perceive with their five senses, excludes them from my pigeonhole. There is only room in it for those who have been brainwashed into believing there is no other reality beyond what the five senses can perceive. Now I should add I am very reluctant to plop these chaps into a hole with pigeons, for whom I have a very deep admiration and affection. So be nice to them.

Could you honestly say that there are billions of Muslims who are deluding themselves about the truth of Christianity in bad faith?

You may as well have added determinists too as they are as far away from Catholicism as Islam. That said, I believe the Lord God, in all his infinite wisdom, allows for theistic variance. I also subscribe to Pope John Paul II’s ideology that holds people who believe and have faith in God, and follow His commandments, will not be excluded from salvation simply because they were not Catholic. More importantly, and most importantly to me, I believe God is JUST. I believe all followers of God will get a “fair shake”–with the exception of those who consciously rejected him.

What are the odds, Summa [that billons of Muslims could be wrong]?

Since when did an atheist care about odds??? That is funny. I’ve got some odds for you if you’re interested. Let’s start at the evolution of the human eye. Shall we? No, I am pressed for time. In short, I’m not interested in discussing theology with theists. I haven’t anything to say to the non extremist Muslim than “As-Salamu Alaykum.”

Your analysis shows itself to be hollow.

Not as hollow as yours, friend

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tom December 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm

“I’m beginning to think Summa is a hoax.”

This bit:
“First, you’re obviously a strapping lad with rock star good looks.I put your facial symmetry, etc on par with Ashton Kutcher. A beautiful man. A truly BLESSED man, to be sure. Knowing someone else who is beautiful like you, who also struggled mightily with their faith, I have a hunch what has REALLY happened with you.”

…followed by the suggestion that Luke is a closet homosexual, had me ready to call “Poe”. His later posts in this thread had me convinced he means what he says, though.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Johnny D wrote: I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but I’m beginning to think Summa is a hoax.

A hoax. What an utterly original idea from the mind of an atheist. Come on, skeptic. You can do better than that.

His posts are infantile diatribes, dressed-up in ostentatious rhetorical flourishes.

I accept the “rhetorical flourishes” part, and I might even go for “diatribe,” but ostentatious? Mmm, I don’t think so. And infantile? No. And you know better, Johnny boy.

He engages in endless ad hominen attacks. And he has all the subtlety of an elephant with Tourettes.

LOL! What!? Ad hominem?? Yeah right. You WISH it were that easy to refute me. Keep dreaming dude.

His fascination with Christopher Hitchens is interesting because he is like a bad theistic parody of the Hitch. At least Hitch has a genuine intellect buried underneath his choice-phrases and comic-timing (that’s an argument I’m willing to support, btw).

“Bad” parody? What a superfluous modifier. To even APPROACH the likes of “Hitch” (who you cutely name drop as though he were your fraternal brother), I’d first need to be drunk, steeped in profane vernacular, boundlessly vulgar, AND have a cigarette dangling out my mouth to even get onstage….. and even then I wouldn’t be guaranteed a laugh unless I had at least one Mother Teresa joke lined up. Then again, should we be shocked the one who denies the human of dignity should have none himself?

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

In fact, what better reasons are there to rebel against the often arbitrary and bigoted “moral dictates” of Christianity?

I suppose you meant “moral dictates of GOD.” Then again, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you, like so many other before you, cannot discern between religion and God. That is a very tragic byproduct of fanaticism that has turned many a so-called “Christian” to atheism. So many people get harangued into religion before they ever get a chance to develop a relationship with God. Very, VERY sad.Perhaps this is what happened to Luke. There is a such thing as overdosing on religion.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm

tommy boy said: ”

“I’m beginning to think Summa is a hoax.”

This bit:
“First, you’re obviously a strapping lad with rock star good looks.I put your facial symmetry, etc on par with Ashton Kutcher. A beautiful man. A truly BLESSED man, to be sure. Knowing someone else who is beautiful like you, who also struggled mightily with their faith, I have a hunch what has REALLY happened with you.”

…followed by the suggestion that Luke is a closet homosexual, had me ready to call “Poe”. His later posts in this thread had me convinced he means what he says, though. ”

To all those literalists who read this blog, the “strapping lad” part was me playfully adopting the tone of a pompous englishman. It was–as one reader was able to figure out–parody. The “beautiful man, rock star good looks” part was sincere. I appreciate the beauty of ALL God’s creatures. I don’t believe for a second words like “beautiful” should be reserved for women and sunsets. Men are every bit as beautiful as women. It is my hope that one day they will be permitted by our culture to express the same emotional range.

I stand by my words. Luke is a great looking guy. He could be heading a band. In fact if he loves himself as much as I think he does, he might do well to join a band. That might satisfy his need for people to look at his crotch and admire him–without throwing out his religion in the process. I don’t say this to put Luke down. I say this in full acceptance of our human fallibility. I am not superior to Luke. I have just discovered a way to leverage my gifts for God’s providence…. and Luke hasn’t… YET. But I’m keeping hope alive!

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drj December 6, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Summa:
I suppose you meant “moral dictates of GOD.” Then again, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you, like so many other before you, cannot discern between religion and God.

I would have thought it obvious, even to one so oblivious, that atheists don’t actually believe in any gods. Any “moral dictates” that exist, are inventions of human beings.

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Jeff H December 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Summa, you have written much but said little. Your arrogance and condescension are simply not welcome here. If you can actually have a civilized, reasonable discussion, that’s great! I love to hear other points of view. But you come here assuming you already know everything about what atheists think and believe – your arrogance demonstrates this amply. I have no time to deal with people who dismiss other viewpoints before they even hear them. Here’s an exercise for you: Try not assuming you know everything about someone before you even meet them. And then after that, try not making assumptions about something as irrelevant as the sexual orientation of a random stranger on the Internet. It really damages your own credibility.

I suggest to everyone else we that try our best to avoid Summa’s many non-sequiturs and red herrings (such as the comment about believing “something comes from nothing”) and try to only respond to his primary points. Perhaps we can raise the level of the discussion here and limit it to reasoned arguments rather than baseless assertions.

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Teleprompter December 6, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Summa,

The difference between materialism and non-materialism is a valid distinction, but the issue of a multiplicity of beliefs remains.

Why do you think there is so much theistic variance?

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Kutuzov December 6, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I like you comrade Kutuzov

Haha, I like you too Summa, your acidic humour and rapier wit are superb.

Alas comrade Kutuzov, you have left me no other choice but to assume you are either Luke himself

Funny you should say that. I was entertaining the idea that YOU were Luke, practicing his debating skills and exploring his own beliefs at the same time. Even your early homo-erotic references (pardon if I’m incorrectly guessed your sex) seemed delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

But no, I’m obviously not his lawyer, nor am I he himself.

I stand by my earlier comment re: the irrelevance of the reasons for one’s belief, but even if this is false, many Christians (and I use myself and my personal experience here, I can’t speak for all others but am assuming many others share similar experiences) believe in god – and follow Christian practices – simply because they are indoctrinated into the church at a young age. Catholic “Confirmation” – the act that supposedly confirms the choice made on one’s behalf at baptism – is performed at the grand old adult age of around 12. Hardly an age at which one is entertaining any semblance of critical thought, exploring alternatives or even asking the question “why”?

I also believe your list was hardly exhaustive. My circumstances appear slightly different, but I moved from fully blown catholicism, to lapsed catholic/agnostic, to atheist within a few years. I’m not homosexual, nympho or particularly narcissistic, so I took particular offense to your list.

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CRL December 7, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Summa: You may as well have added determinists too as they are as far away from Catholicism as Islam.

What would you say of liberal Catholics?

Summa: I also subscribe to Pope John Paul II’s ideology that holds people who believe and have faith in God, and follow His commandments, will not be excluded from salvation simply because they were not Catholic.

Obviously, you accept this, since, if you are as “severely” :) Catholic as you appear to be, you also believe the Pope to be infallible. I am interested, when you say that people who have faith in God & follow his commandments will be saved, do you limit this to the Christian God? What of those who were raised Catholic and, for whatever reason, converted to Protestantism or a non-Christian, theistic, religion?

Summa: More importantly, and most importantly to me, I believe God is JUST. I believe all followers of God will get a “fair shake”–with the exception of those who consciously rejected him.

What do you mean by “those who consciously rejected Him”? (1)All atheists? (2) Only those atheists who were raised as Christians? (3) Those who have intellectually rejected *the idea* God? (4) Or only those atheists who, although seeing no effective argument against God’s existence (perhaps while still believing), actively choose to reject the *being* of God, out of narcissism, fear of hell, or some other emotional reason?

While I cannot speak for all atheists, I know that, while 1, 2, and 3 certainly describe me, I certainly do not fall under 4. I hope that atheism is wrong and there is a God out there, but without evidence, I cannot believe. In the event that there is a God, will my faulty reasoning make me deserving of eternal damnation?

p.s. While your first post was certainly hoax-ish, I have now accepted you as the real thing and rather enjoy your “ostentatious rhetorical flourishes.”

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