A Christian that I have had a chance to cross swords with, Lyle Duell, has written one of the best essays on why a new atheist has made the right decision. This is, of course, rather inadvertently on his part, or at least I suspect so. Once upon a time, one could comment on Mr. Duell’s blog posts but that seems to have ended.
So, for your bemusement and amusement, I have written my reply to his blog post here. Please do read the original post. It is a fine example of the genre of angry older white Christian American male. It’s also pretty repetitive on my part too, since the facts don’t change. 🙂
Hello, Mr. Duell:
I’ll address your “letter to a new atheist”, as an old atheist who was a Christian. Are you writing to an actual new atheist? [no, he wasn’t, he has invented a strawman atheist to attack since he is unwilling to debate with a real one.] I will have to congratulate you. I couldn’t have done a better job in writing something that shows just how miserable Christians and Christianity can be. No wonder the number of people who consider themselves Christians is dropping, especially here in the US.
You offer the usual excuses for the bible. You wish to claim parts of it are divinely inspired and that parts of it are safely ignored since they are supposedly from humans (poison). You present no evidence to support your cherry picking, only your opinion. Your excuse that the bible can’t be perfect or humans would worship it is rather ridiculous since there’s no evidence that people worship the bible at all ( I’m guessing that you mean the biblical literalists who make Christianity look completely ridiculous, but who are supported with just as much evidence as you are). You also seem to be confused in what you want to claim, that this god intentionally screws it up so humans won’t worship it, or that this god has no power and humans screw it up whenever they want.
You offer your own interpretations, with no more evidence that yours are any more “right” than the next Christians. Incidentally, the version you quoted in Psalm 19 is also translated as “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure: making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicng the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Now, considering the law that this god gives is certainly not perfect (or complete or sufficient or mature), with all of it commands for murdering people for not believing in it, etc, there is little reason to think your god is perfect or good. Even if we substitute your other words, complete, sufficient or mature, one still runs into the same problem. It’s always curious that despite the many, many translations of the bible, and the claims of the translators that their god helped them and that they are experts in language, Christians still come up with their armchair translations to excuse their nonsense. This shows that there is no reason to assume any Christian has the “Correct” way to read his bible and shows easily how Christians don’t agree on their claims of the “truth”. There is also no reason to not think that JC wants people to be perfect. They can be so per JC’s own words. IF they can’t, then this does make the common Christian claim of free will suspect. JC is not just saying “treating everyone equally”, he says that directly when he says the golden rule and when he says that one should take care of those less fortunate in the goats/sheep verses, no need to invent a new “interpretation” of other verses at all.
It is no surprise that you would attack your fellow Christians, for every Christian is sure that they and they alone have the truth, and much of their self-worth is wrapped up in that. They disagree with you and that is a threat to your opinion that only you are correct. It is also likely threatening since you realize your claims are just as baseless as theirs: none of you have any evidence for your particular sect. The problem with your argument that everyone but you is wrong is that they can level the same arguments against you. Hmmm, I don’t recall anywhere in the bible it says that one must stand up when one reads the bible. For all of your claims of how other worship the bible, you seem to be assigning some ritual to it. Considering how much Christians disagree on what their god “Really means”, it seems that the bible is anything but able to accomplish anything, unless your god’s purpose is to have humans murdered over translates the words of their imaginary friend correctly.
The god that you have created in your own image, just like every theist, cannot be shown to exist, much less be in contact with humanity. You have used a common Christian excuse, that your god is somehow restricted by humanity, which is a fascinating claim about an omnipotent being. Why couldn’t your god have himself/his son and enter a cannibal’s village and make himself understood? Why was it evidently impossible for your god to make humans able to comprehend right off? And why do you ignore your very own bible’s claim that there were no cannibals or primitive humans? Per it, humans were living in cities right from the point Adam and Eve stepped out of the garden. Could it be that Mr. Duell believes in evolutionary theory? This also puts to lie the common Christian claim that everyone somehow has the law of god on their hearts from the moment they are conceived/draw breath. Jesus said that the OT was completely true and the law was to bring humans to a place of faith and living. It was only Paul who presented the new idea that only faith was required and the law was to be ignored (Galatians 3). Who should one believe, Jesus or Paul? This is another reason that atheists find the claims of Christianity questionable, since their own books contradict each other.
Unsurprisingly, you again try to claim that the only real Christians are those who agree with you, and you have no evidence for this at all, as those who say that they are the true Christians don’t. I do love how you appear to imply that those who follow the Jewish faith are primitives “For the Christian, everything is moving toward téleios or completion, when you read the Old Testament Scriptures, you’re dealing with God’s interaction with primitive man. They were not ready for the teaching of Jesus and it would have been impossible for God to speed up the process of preparing them without violating his nature, the laws of natural development and their free will.” . Considering that Jesus repeats the laws of the OT and says that they are true and to be followed, it doesn’t appear at all that the people in the OT were unable to follow the teachings of Jesus. Your claim that something is “impossible” for your omnipotent being is very interesting, and a great example that many theists depower their god when convenient.
For all of your claims of the “laws of natural development” your god ignores them constantly by interfering with humans all through the OT and NT. Claims of free will fail as soon as your god interferes by its direct action (e.g. controlling the mind of the pharaoh and the Egyptians) and its “miracles”, for anything it does prevents the action of a human. We also have that the bible underlines that there is no free will because your god claims it creates some people to simply be destroyed (Romans 9) and JC himself says that he intentionally prevents some people from accepting him (Matthew 13 among others). So much for free will and free choice. I’d also say that sending a magic flood that murdered all humans (except 8) and all animals is certainly showing overwhelming force/evidence. Funny how we can’t find a scrap of evidence that occurred.
I find your claim that you don’t know for sure why your god commanded genocide (it’s rather interesting that you try to whitewash that by saying “God had the Israelites destroy some of the inhabitants of the land” ) be less than honest. The bible says exactly why this was commanded, so that the Israelites would have the land. Nothing more than a land grab. The only evidence that any other society in the area of Palestine was “wicked” is the bible stories, the stories of the supposed victors. Now, compare these stories to the claims of how wicked the Jews were, the Japanese Americans, the First Peoples of the Americas, as told by their killers. Not much difference at all. It’s great to accuse someone of “wickedness” when you want steal their stuff. Accusations of burning children as sacrifice have as much evidence as using childrens blood in matzoh: none. Mr. Duell, you are quite the propagandist. “I would suspect that their whole tribe was riddled with disease of every kind. Remember, they had no cure for these diseases during that period. If the Israelites were to intermingle with them rampant disease could have destroyed the Israelites.”
Why those people must be filthy and disease ridden! Let’s kill them and their children, it’s the “right” thing to do.
Then, Mr. Duell, after offering excuses on why genocide is okay, then you try to excuse genocide by saying that modern people can’t judge the actions of your god and its supposed people and offer that lovely excuse “We would have done it too”. No, Mr. Duell, “we” wouldn’t have. You might have and I certainly hope you wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have, not everyone at that time worshipped a vicious god that commanded genocide. Amazing to see you offer the situational ethic that that one sometimes must choose between two evils. Thanks for showing that there are no objective morals and your god is certainly no font of them. The story about the atom bombs is a great example of that. No need for a god to make decision, and no evidence a god does anything at all.
Wow, “Could it be that God sometimes has to do something that makes him unhappy?” well, not if this god is omnipotent. But hey, if you want to invent your god as something that is not all-powerful, that is beholden to humans etc be my guest. Christians make up the excuse that there could be no better outcome than what happens. This is a great excuse why so many Christians aren’t the bastions of actual charity that they claim to be. They do give to their churches but to actually help someone else, well, it must be God’s Will that they are poor, they must have done something “sinful” so they deserve what they get. It a great way to excuse the impotence of your god and your prayers.
You certainly do try to frame your position to be “good”, when you want to claim that genocide is good as long as your god commands it. I am quite happy to know that my morals are far better than your god or yours. You try to pretend that it is just and fair to murder children for the “sins” of their fathers, to murder others for following another religion, to murder a man for holding up a magic box so it wouldn’t break, etc, all as long as your supposedly approves of it. You create excuses as any sycophant would for their tyrant.
It’s quite moral to question the morality of others, in the past or now. The questioning allows us to stand up against those who would have slavery, genocide, and ignorance. It allows is to point out those who are trying to force their baseless claims on everyone by knowing that those claims are false. I would like to see you show how “deliberate” you are in your atttepts to make genocide “correct and reasonable”. IF the claims of Christians that their god is a font of objective morality is to be believed, then it is no problem at all to place our standard of morality now on the ancients who were supposedly told directly by this god that genocide, slavery, treating women like property, etc were perfectly okay. It is correct and it is wise *especially* if morality is supposedly objective.
Atheists are more critical than many theists and for good reason. Theists make claims like their god is the objective font of morality, that everyone must follow their version of their god in order not to be damned to eternal torture,etc. They have no evidence for these claims and thus the atheist (and disagreeing theists) point out that their claims are not true. Theists don’t like that at all, and then whine about how “judgemental” atheists and non-agreeing Christians are, when their failures are pointed out. Again, your claims fail when you claim that atheists are putting some emphasis on “negative morality”. It seems that you don’t like anyone point out how you and your god fail at morality, and you want to claim that everyone should follow yours, without indicating why this should be the case. Should everyone advocate for genocide, slavery, etc if they can pretend their god said it was okay? I do many moral things that I think I ought to be doing: standing against slavery, standing against genocide, standing for the equality of all, giving aid to those who have less than I, etc. It seems your attempts to cast all atheists in a negative light fail again. I don’t need a stick or a carrot to do such things. Just something to think about.
There is indeed misinformation on how the bible came together and that misinformation is spread by people like you. There is no evidence that Clement of Rome knew an apostle named John. I’m not sure who you think said that the gospel of attributed to John didn’t exist. We also have Revelation, another book by a “john”. The writings of the early Christians certainly are a collection of old books and writings from the first, second, third, fourth, etc centuries and these were not “filled with quotes from the gospels and other New testament documents”. They did contain some and they contained much that completely contradicted the claims of those books that made it into the “official” bible. Now, why do you not mention this, Mr. Duell? The website http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ is an excellent source to show how your claims aren’t quite as true as you might hope someone would think. You also appear to be confusing Clement of Rome with Clement of Alexandria, when you claim CofR knew John the Apostle. CofA did write about John the apostle but was born around 150 CE and is rather unlikely to have known John the Apostle. This lack of evidence to support your claims makes it hard to figure out what baseless claim you are making.
“Who do you think spreads all of the disinformation about Christianity, the bible and the US?” That’s quite a list of disparate things. Christians disagree on what their god wants and means, so it seems that Christians themselves are responsible for casting doubt on their claims.
It’s wonderful to see you blame those Commies. It’s no wonder that Christianity is losing the interest of the younger generation with such ridiculous claims. The book “Zealot” was written by Reza Azlan, a Muslim. He’s not a Communist, but nice try. The book was about the figure of Jesus and how this figure was seen in different religions (Jesus is a prophet in Islam), and how this figure’s supposed actions reflected the political realities of 1 century Palestine. Azlan portrayed Jesus Christ as a Jew, which is very much what he is in the bible. Azlan is a theist, just like you, Mr. Duell. And has as much evidence that his religion is as true as yours. The Levantine Cultural Center (aka The Markaz) is an organization that brings together religions and cultures. I’m sorry that this seems to terrify you. Code Pink is an anti-war group. Again, that seems to terrify you that people are doing things and ignoring your god that has no problem with genocide and war. It has called out the US government for the wars that it has caused, the people that it imprisons, etc. I’m sure you think a lot of people who disagree with you are evil and “socialists”, including George Soros ( a fellow who helped capitalism spread and who had funded higher education and equal education, just take a look at his wiki entry, which also includes his failings). It’s terribly unimpressive. Anyone who shows that Mr. Duell is wrong is evillllll. No surprise there. Funny how Jesus Christ is quite the socialist in the bible, one could even say he’s a communist in the classic sense with demanding his followers share everything. Indeed, what would Jesus do? Seems that liberals have much more in common with JC than your average TrueChristian who insists that criminals are murdered, women are to be controlled and that the poor should suffer.
I agree, one must be very careful of what one believes. The best way to do this is to question everything, including people like you who make baseless claims and who have no evidence for their nonsense. It is in this age where people can read the bible anytime they want, can see ancient writings anytime they want, can see that Christians vehemently disagree with each other, and see that no miracles happen at all, etc that damages the silly claims of religion. We have much less reason to be cowed by fear and controlled by ignorance.