I call myself an Antitheist. I don’t believe in a God person. I’ve never seen any credible evidence of an invisible master puppeteer in the sky, and cannot accept the notion that a person is watching over the nearly 7 billion people on the planet, and that he has opinions about how each of them lives his/her life, what they wear, who they fuck or what they eat. The two main components of Antitheism are non belief in God(s) and a belief that religion is harmful.
The late Christopher Hitchens wrote in Letters to a Young Contrarian (2001), “I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.”
To be fair, there are some religions that don’t seem so harmful to me. Buddhism and Taoism come to mind. They are both Atheistic religions. They don’t make threats with heaven and hell. They don’t demand strict observance of rules. They’re both interested in self-awareness and balance. There are also religions that believe in Christ but not God.
I believe that “man” created God in his own image. And I DO mean HIS image (not “Hers”). The God they created is angry, capricious, vengeful, sexist and judgmental. The capricious part is because of the thing called “grace.” I remember when I was first told by someone that doing all the right things, being kind, following the Ten Commandments still might not be enough to get into heaven. You still had to receive God’s Grace, which he may or may not be inclined to grant. Kind of like the drunk father. You don’t know if he’s going to be a happy drunk or a mean drunk. There is no way to predict his actions, no matter how good you are. If a human behaved in the ways their God supposedly does, we’d call that human being an asshole.
And the modern-day pastors who say God allowed the innocent little children in Sandy Hook to be massacred because he’s pissed about no prayer in schools, are describing a God that’s an evil sociopath. Same for those who say God sends destructive hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes because we tolerate gays in our society. Stupid thinking at best and insanity at worst.
The essence of the three religions from the Middle East can be summed up in these statements of a believer, “God is great. I worship God and give all glory to God. I love you, God. Please don’t hurt me.”
The different permutations of God are defined by the various cultures in which the religion sprang up. Hence the various rules about diet, clothing and hair.
I actually don’t care if someone follows a religion. I think they are deluded, but there is no harm in being deluded. I’m not writing this to convince people of faith to abandon their religions. In fact, I know that I cannot “convert” someone to Atheism any more than they can convert me to Christianity or Islam. People only respond to the arguments from the “other side” if they are already having doubts about their own beliefs. For most people, it is a fairly long process of thinking and examining their beliefs and what they are told.
What I object to is their trying to force their religion on our society. Even though our forefathers very specifically designed a government that could not promote or prevent any religion, lots of Christians want to throw out the Separtion-of-Church-and-State portion of our Constitution (which is sacred when it comes to the second amendment). They would prefer that the Christian Myth be taught rather than Science and Math. Creationism over Evolution. Some Christians in Congress have said the science of global warming is phony because “God promised Noah there would be no more floods.” They want our laws to be fashioned after their religious interpretation of what God wants.
There is No Proof of God
A couple of days ago, someone on Twitter sent me this direct message: “@tori_van can you give me your strongest piece of evidence that atheism or whatever you want to call it is a credible belief?”
That is on its face, a loaded question. It contains the assumption that atheism (or anti-theism, which is my belief) is not credible and asks me to prove that it is. Of course, credibility is always in the eye of the beholder. Deciding that something is credible is an option that is exercised by filtering information through one’s existing beliefs, prejudices, judgments and expectations. Those pre-existing filters determine whether or not something is credible.
Making it more interesting to me is the fact that it comes from a person who believes in God, for which there is NO PROOF. No one who believes in God has ever been able to prove his/her/its existence, yet because billions of people have been told from birth that there is an invisible person in the sky who has control of their fate in eternity, they believe it. They believe it for no other reason than the fact that they’ve been told it was true their whole lives. They’ve never seen their God. They’ve never met anyone who has seen God. There are no photos of God, no evidence, no DNA.
There is no evidence of God, no Satan, no Heaven and no Hell. They were all made up as part of the carrot-and-stick reward system to control people. And in the case of Satan, so people could blame someone else for their screw-ups.
Pretty much every “miracle” story in the Bible can be explained as a retelling of other ancient religious myths, or through Newtonian and/or Quantum physics. Others, like the Book of Revelations seems to describe the hallucinations of someone on bad mushrooms. How a guy’s bad drug trip came to be revered as prophecy is totally beyond me.
Any rational person would agree that being an Atheist is a logical extension of the fact that there is not and never has been any evidence that God exists. There are stories about God in various scriptures. But they are just pieces of fiction that have been written down and repeated so much that people have accepted them as true.
I freely admit that I cannot prove that God doesn’t exist. And I know that no one can prove that God does exist.
It’s actually impossible to prove that something (anything) doesn’t exist. By definition, you can’t prove a negative. We cannot prove that dragons don’t exist. We can only say no one has ever seen or photographed a dragon. If you cannot prove to me that dragons exist, it is not incredible for me to decide dragons were made up by humans who wrote about them at length, but never proved their existence.
But you CAN prove that something does exist, by providing irrefutable evidence. The burden of proof lies with the people who assert that something DOES exist. And so far in our human history, there has NEVER been irrefutable evidence of a God.
The simplest answer to the question posed to me on Twitter is that because no one has ever proved that there is a God, it is reasonable to believe that there is no God. It is no more likely that God exists than dragons. They only exist in stories and myths.
Just because people have written a lot of fiction over the years about God and Jesus doesn’t make it true. They are old writings that have been collected into a book, edited, re-edited, changed, had whole parts thrown out, and is in no way a historical document they call their Holy Bible.
Jesus a Fictitious Character, Too
There is also no proof that the biblical Jesus existed. Many Academic Biblical scholars say Jesus is a composite character. There were three historical characters during the Roman period who people thought were Messiahs and who were crucified by the Romans, namely Yehuda of Galilee (6 C.E.), Theudas (44 C.E.), and Benjamin the Egyptian (60 C.E.) Some modern authors have suggested that they were the same person (a composite character). The stories of Jesus didn’t actually appear until about 60 to 100 years after he supposedly died, so there was plenty of time for the tales of his character to take on characteristics of other historical characters.
Long before Jesus supposedly lived, there were other “sons of God” who were born of virgins, crucified and resurrected. All of the things that supposedly made Jesus special were attributes, actions and events that had happened to or been done by many others before his time. It is likely that Jesus’ “holy” characteristics and experiences were a continuation of those stories that had existed for millennia. There are several more, but here are a few examples:
Dionysus was said to be born of a virgin on December 25 and, as the Holy Child, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. He was a traveling teacher who performed miracles. He “rode in a triumphal procession on an ass.” According to legend, Dionysus rose from the dead on March 25. He was the God of the Vine, and turned water into wine. He was called “King of Kings” and “God of Gods.” He was considered the “Only Begotten Son,” Savior,” “Redeemer,” “Sin Bearer,” Anointed One,” and the “Alpha and Omega.” He was identified with the Ram or Lamb. His sacrificial title of “Dendrites” or “Young Man of the Tree” intimates he was hung on a tree or crucified.
The Egyptian God Horus also had a story remarkably similar to that of Jesus on many counts. The Horus story pre-dates the Jesus story by thousands of years. He was born of a virgin, Isis. He was the only begotten son of the God Osiris. His birth was heralded by the star Sirius, the morning star. Ancient Egyptians paraded a manger and child representing Horus through the streets at the time of the winter solstice (about Dec 21).
Like the Jesus story, there was a death threat during infancy: Herut tried to have Horus murdered. The Horus story says God tells Horus’ mother “Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy child.” (An angel tells Jesus’ father to: “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt.”) as with Jesus, there is no data between ages of 12 & 30. Horus was 30 when he was baptized. His baptizer was later beheaded like John the Baptist. Horus walked on water, cast out demons, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind. Horus was crucifed, descended into Hell and resurrected after three days.
Zoroaster was born of a virgin and “immaculate conception by a ray of divine reason.” He was baptized in a river. In his youth he astounded wise men with his wisdom. He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. He began his ministry at age 30. Zoroaster baptized with water, fire and “holy wind.” He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man. He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse. He had a sacred cup or grail. He was slain. His religion had a eucharist. He was the “Word made flesh.” Zoroaster’s followers expected a “second coming” in the virgin-born Saoshynt or Savior, who is to come in 2341 AD and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age.
Attis of Phrygia was born on December 25 of the Virgin Nana. He was considered the savior who was slain for the salvation of mankind. His body as bread was eaten by his worshippers. He was both the Divine Son and the Father. On “Black Friday,” he was crucified on a tree, from which his holy blood ran down to redeem the earth. He descended into the underworld. After three days, Attis was resurrected.
God Has Different Rules for Different People
Most religions believe in a magical God who has a strict set of rules that he disperses to religious leaders so they can keep followers on the straight and narrow. Interestingly, the invisible man in the sky gives a different set of rules to different groups of people.
“According to God,” Jews and Muslims are not allowed to eat pork.
For a very long time Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays, but evidently, God changed his mind.
Seventh Day Adventists and Hindus are not allowed to eat any animals.
Mormons must avoid caffeine and alcohol and wear magic underwear.
Muslims and Jehovah’s witnesses are forbidden from having graven images.
The Amish are not allowed to use modern technology.
Some Mormon sects and Muslims take multiple wives for one man, while others forbid it. The Christian Bible is, of course replete with tales of polygamy and rape.
Which of these rules are right? And what about forbidding shellfish, which God supposedly did in Leviticus?
The Harm Religion Does
I regularly speak out against religion. I believe religions have done far more harm than good. At least 80% of all wars in recorded history were started over religion or religious differences. I especially believe the religions that came out of the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) are particularly harmful. They are very big on vengeance and revenge, which perpetuates their feuds, like the Hatfields and McCoys, but with WMDs.
Of the three, I am most familiar with Christian teachings. I was raised by a Christian mother. The only book in our house when I was growing up was a Bible. My brother is a fundamentalist Protestant minister. His daughter proselytizes at every chance and leads Christian youth groups.
Even now, long after the Crusades to convert Muslims to Christianity (or destroy them), there is a war of sorts going on with Muslims on one side and Jews & Christians on the other. All parties are judging, hating and killing each other because their religion says the others re bad. Three religions based on false premises, deeply rooted in Vengeance are causing massive political turmoil, death, misery and destruction. All in the names of Gods that do not exist.
I’ve seen several families in which a young gay man killed himself because his deeply religious family made it clear that they believed their God hated him for being gay. And many more grow up really fucked up because they were so worried about going to hell.
Global Warming or Climate Change is the single biggest threat to humanity today. Even the Pentagon published a report saying Climate Change is the single biggest threat to national security. It is probable that Man Made Climate Change will eventually cause the starvation of millions (perhaps a billion or more) people. It will cause the destruction of habitat for many species. Our carefully balanced eco-system will tumble like so many dominos if the warming continues. But many Christians (usually the same ones who deny evolution) deny the science of Climate Change. They have managed to get enough of themselves elected to political office so as to stop the U.S. from participating in treaties to control emissions or otherwise try to slow or reverse Global Warming. This alone, could cause species destruction on a catastrophic scale.
Purpose of Religion
Many people ask the same three questions:
1. Where did I come from?
2. Why am I here?
3. What happens after I die?
These questions are why people look to religion in the first place. They want to know their source, their purpose and their destiny. This makes those people vulnerable to the manipulations of Theists.
Religions came to be a mechanism for controlling people, getting them to behave the way you want. The ultimate coercion is making people fear what happens to them after they die, especially if they will endure it for eternity. Promise them an eternal life and tell them it will be wonderful or excruciating, depending on whether they follow your rules.
From the point of view of religious leaders, there are two purposes for religion’s existence:
1. To control the behavior of people. If almighty God doesn’t approve of your activities, he’ll fuck you over big time. Better follow “his rules” or you are doomed for eternity. This has been the biggest scam perpetrated on humanity ever.
By blending religion with government, the priests, bishops, etc., had ultimate control over people. Not only could they threaten you with “hell,” they could burn you at the stake, crucify you, hang you or cut your head off for any act of heresy. Jews, Muslims, Pagans and Atheists were all branded as heretics. As such, they were all imprisoned, tortured, put to death and made examples as warning to others to follow the Church teachings or die.
2. So that certain “pious” people can feel morally superior to others. The book of Matthew says “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” It goes on to say in different ways that judging others is bad and will get you no favors with God. Yet, Christians everywhere are constantly judging others and finding them wanting, certainly doomed to hell.
These “pious” people remind me of the popular kids in high school who judged and ridiculed the “loser” kids. Their egos are so fragile that they have to judge ours and find them wanting in order to feel superior.
Faulty Reasoning for Christianity’s Purpose
I find fault with Christianity on many counts. Here are a few:
1. The basic premise is that all people are born sinners. They believe their essential nature is sin. And their job as Christians is to struggle against their real nature for their entire lives so they can win God’s approval and go to heaven. Almost any psychologist or behavioral scientist will tell you that telling people they must fight their essential nature is setting them up for failure.
Telling a child that his basic nature is evil is setting the kid up for bad dreams and serious neurosis. It is tantamount to child abuse. The kid will question whether or not (s)he can successfully overcome it and make it to heaven. It can create deep worry in the child. I remember when I was ten years old, I used my babysitting money to buy some brownies. I was told by an old lady that I was going to go to hell if I didn’t share my brownies with my brothers. That affected me for weeks.
We should be telling our kids that they were born perfect and full of amazing potential for good. We should be encouraging them to live up to that potential, rather than telling them they are by nature bad. Telling a child he is wonderful and encouraging him to live accordingly sets him up for success.
2. The notion that the only path to “salvation” is through Jesus, who died on the cross “for our sins.” This is absurd at best. The notion that God is so powerless that he had to commit human sacrifice to save the world directly conflicts with the teaching that God is omnipotent (all-powerful). If a God is omnipotent, he can just remove the sins of people. He does not need to kill his “only child” as a sacrifice to save people.
Who is God making the sacrifice to, anyway? Certainly not to himself — unless he is really determined to kill someone in order to grant opportunities to other “sinners.” Is God sacrificing “his son” Jesus to another God that is higher up than him?
The book of Leviticus is littered with “God’s rules” for how and when to do proper animal sacrifices. One presumes that the belief in making sacrifices to appease God, when one has “sinned” just got carried on to the Jesus story.
And what about the millions of people who lived before Jesus’ time? Are they up shit creek because they had the unfortunate timing of being born before Jesus or in a part of the world where they don’t hear about Jesus? I know the Mormons “solved” that problem by baptizing people long after death, but what about everybody else?
3. Without religion or fear of God, people will be immoral. What hogwash! Mother Teresa did not believe in God. (That was discovered after her death by people reading her journals.) Mother Teresa is an icon of moral, selfless behavior. She took care of the sick, needy outcasts of society without asking for anything in return.
The Dalai Lama does not believe in God, yet he is a universal symbol of kindness and compassion. He does not covet, steal, or harm. He has reverence for all life.
I would argue that people who are being moral out of fear of God are not really that moral. They are only victims of coercion, the threat being eternal damnation to hell if one does not comply with “God’s rules of morality.”
4. Because the Bible says so. This is the stupidest reason of all. That doesn’t make it any more real than Hogwarts school. Hogwarts was written about in a series of widely read Harry Potter books, but it doesn’t exist, either.
Even Ministers Don’t Believe
It’s interesting to me that a significant number of Christian ministers end up becoming Atheists. After receiving the “call” from God to preach, they attend school, study and train and become pastors of churches. And they subsequently become Atheists.
From what I can tell, a few hundred pastors per year admit they have come to believe there is no God. They don’t all come out publicly. There may be many more who do not admit heir loss of faith to anyone. Many who have become Atheists continue to preach to their flocks, which I find astounding.
I believe these ministers reach those conclusions because they have looked deeply into the tenants of their religion and realized that it is flimsy at best. Don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. They have several websites you can peruse. Here are but a few: