The Truth about Religion

Please send any reasoned disagreements to me. If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !       




People should believe facts and reality, not lies and delusions and scams.

The Big Picture section
Religion section
Debating section

My Anti-Science page




The Big Picture



Evidence and reality:
Something is real and true if it matches reality (facts, evidence) and you can test it against reality.

If something can't be tested against reality (facts) and has no effect on reality, it might as well not exist. In a real sense, it doesn't exist.

Every time you start your car, you prove that science and critical thinking work. You prove that physics, chemistry, mathematics, and a dozen engineering disciplines work. They match reality, and pass tests every day.

Our world would be better off if we got rid of false beliefs, and concentrate on real issues and facts.



There's no good evidence that these things are true, so they're probably false:
The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

There are common threads to many examples of these things:

sci-ence.org's "The Red Flags of Quackery"
Skeptoid's "How to Spot Pseudoscience"

These delusions are not just "fun" and harmless:
From Phil Plait on Bad Astronomy:
... astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn't), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role.

From someone on reddit:
> what has the church brought
> to America that is so awful ?

It makes people believe in things that aren't true. It also makes people stick the government's nose in people's private affairs. I'm referring to laws against miscegenation, gay marriage, blue laws, drug prohibition, teaching evolution, denying global warming, abortion, and supporting slavery, among others.

And to quote Bill Maher, "maybe a President who didn't believe our soldiers were going to heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed".

My take on it:
Believing things that have no evidence is bad. Often leads to bad behavior. Religion, racism, sexism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, climate change denial, anti-vaccine beliefs all operate in similar ways. It is a dangerous way of thinking, bad for our society.

Many of these belief systems or groups have the same characteristics. They encourage "we know the one truth, we don't have to listen to any fact or person who disagrees with us, you're either with us or against us, no doubts or compromises, the other side are scum or animals or malicious".

From Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die.

It therefore has no reality check.

And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self-correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality ... and extreme, grotesque immorality.

From Bill Maher in "Religulous":

The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge having in key decisions made by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn't learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting s**t dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die.
[Video can be found by searching YouTube for "Religulous ending".]

Religion and understanding
What's The Harm
William Saletan's "Rule of Lord"
The Tao of Reason's "The Problem with Magical Thinking"
Valerie Tarico's "6 Ways Religion Does More Bad Than Good"
Why Beer Is Better Than Jesus
Barry Goldwater




I'm not 100% sure of any of this:


The key is "100% sure"; I am willing to admit doubt and the possibility of error, something most religious or conspiracy people will never admit. And new evidence would change everything; I will change my mind the moment clear, simple, repeatable, testable evidence is produced in any one of these areas.
Ebon Musings: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists
Greta Christina's "What Would Convince This Atheist To Believe?"



What do Atheists think ?

Basic Atheist thinking: "There is no good evidence that any God exists".

Most Atheists probably think:
  1. So far, the evidence is that a Big Bang, some equations, and some cosmological constants are sufficient to explain the existence and functioning of everything in the universe; everything can be derived from those three things.

    There is no evidence of what may have come "before" the Big Bang, or why those constants have their values, or how or why those three things were created or exist.


  2. There is no good evidence that any of the many different religions are true, or that any of their many different Gods exist.

    All of the "evidence" consists of dubious or vague or contradictory claims by people who have a vested interest in trying to prove their religion to be true, or old books written by people back in old times who had the same vested interests. Not a single clear, indisputable, repeatable piece of evidence has ever been submitted. Not a single God has ever manifested Himself and submitted to any kind of clear, indisputable, repeatable testing.

    It may be impossible for a human to sit down and write a "proof" that God exists. But it would be easy for God to provide simple, clear, material evidence. For example, a place or relic identified as "from God" that quickly, clearly, repeatably, simply cures everyone who goes to it. Or a place or relic identified as "from God" that clearly, repeatably violates basic rules of physics. Easy.
    Ebon Musings: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists
    Greta Christina's "What Would Convince This Atheist To Believe?"


Of course lots of nuances and qualifiers could be added to this: not all atheists think the same things, scientific knowledge is incomplete and there are many things we don't know yet, there are many competing and speculative scientific theories about cosmology and many other things, etc.

Wikipedia's "Atheism"

Science and atheism are related in this way:

A lot of people seem to think it's a binary choice, either atheism or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other, so they attack atheism. No, there is atheism and then there are hundreds or thousands of religions. Atheism or any one of the religions could be true, or they all could be wrong and something else could be right. Atheism happens to be the one that matches the facts so far.

Similarly, a lot of people seem to think it's a binary choice, either Science (usually specified as the Big Bang and Evolution) or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other, so they attack Science or BB and Evolution. No, there is science and then there are hundreds or thousands of religions. Science or any one of the religions could be true, or they all could be wrong and something else could be right. Science happens to be the one that matches the facts so far.

Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"
The Brights
Greta Christina's "7 groups atheists can turn to in times of need"
Wikipedia's "Discrimination against atheists"

What do Agnostics think ?

Two flavors of agnostic: Apparently, some people try to define agnosticism as "I am skeptical about any claims; you have to prove that", but that's just a statement of critical thinking, a position everyone should have about every issue. Plenty of atheists, and religious people too, would subscribe to that "skeptical" statement.

Wikipedia's "Agnosticism"

Secularism:

"Secular" and "atheist" are not the same thing at all.

Secularism: people should be free to practice any religion or no religion; government should be neutral on matters of religion.

Both religious people and atheists can be secularists.

Some ways to achieve secularism:
Jacques Berlinerblau says the Right tries to blur the distinction between "secular" and "atheist" because the Right opposes them both, and "atheist" is a much more toxic term.

USA today is not really a secular state. Religious people have written their beliefs into laws, textbooks, public buildings, the Pledge of Allegiance, onto the money. All serious major political candidates these days must end their speeches with "God bless America" or risk suspicion. Witnesses in court are expected to swear on a Bible or risk suspicion. Congress opens each session with prayers from their paid chaplains (annual budget for chaplains and staffs: over $800K). The White House has a chaplain (a military chaplain assigned there). The Pentagon has a Chaplain's Office; the military services each have a chaplain corps; the military academies have chapels and chaplains. Why aren't these functions done by churches, not part of the govt, and paid for by donations ?
Peter Lawrence Kane's "The Insane Hate Mail Collected by an Organization Fighting for Separation of Church and State in the Military"
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Wikipedia's "Secularism"
Secular Coalition for America

Humanism:

From Steve Major's "What I Love About Religion":
"Atheism ... is the lack of belief in god(s). It speaks to what we are not, rather than what we are. Humanism builds on that foundation with a host of progressive ethical and moral beliefs, including a commitment to environmentalism, equality, and social responsibility."






Religion



Why do people believe in God or Gods ? Possibilities:

From Wikipedia's "Reductionism":
Religious reductionism generally attempts to explain religion by boiling it down to certain nonreligious causes. A few examples of reductionistic explanations for the presence of religion are: that religion can be reduced to humanity's conceptions of right and wrong, that religion is fundamentally a primitive attempt at controlling our environments, that religion is a way to explain the existence of a physical world, and that religion confers an enhanced survivability for members of a group and so is reinforced by natural selection.

WhyDoYouBelieveInGod.gif
Truths and lies


Scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion's "DNA"
Chris Mooney's "7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution"

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
-- Albert Einstein

Ned Flanders: I don't understand. Is God punishing me ?
Reverend Lovejoy: Short answer, "yes", with an "if"; long answer, "no", with a "but".


Why do people join religions, or stay in them ?



How do such elaborate, widely-believed religions get created ?

How exactly do religions get created, if not by witnessing amazing miracles ?

Interesting how, as accuracy of reporting has improved, miracles have decreased:


Camera invented

Interesting that the shrine at Lourdes or other modern "miracle sites" have never miraculously healed an amputee, or brought someone back to life after cremation. Those would be clear, undisputable results. Most "miraculous cures" are debatable things that might have been fake illnesses, mistaken diagnoses, natural remissions, temporary improvements, etc.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories ?

In addition to the industry promoting conspiracy theories for money or political purposes, there is this:

Heard on a podcast:
We modern humans are descended from ancestors who lived in a threatening world. If an ancestor heard a rustle in the savannah grass, there were these scenarios: So we modern humans are descendants of those who tended to react to threats, even false ones. Evolution has acted to bias us to see threats even when they're not there.

But I think today, much of belief in conspiracy theories stems from frustration, anger, boredom, desire to seem "in the know".

"Belief" in conspiracies or ESP or alien UFOs doesn't cost the believer anything. If you asked them to put time or money where their mouth is, donate to "Save the Unicorns" or spend nights out in fields looking for alien UFO's or directly pay their money for an investigation of 9/11, I think you'd find their belief isn't that strong.



[Summarized from Rob Brotherton's "The President is Dead: Why Conspiracy Theories About the Death of JFK Endure":]
We like to think that huge, important incidents are created by big and powerful causes. It's unsettling to think that JFK could have been killed by a lone loser with a rifle, that 9/11 could have been done by guys with knives using ordinary airplanes. Much more satisfying to think that JFK was killed by some massive conspiracy, or 9/11 was a huge operation involving explosives, missiles, planes and passengers made to disappear, etc.



There's a difference between "suspected conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory". I'd say "suspected conspiracy" is where you actually have a few facts (not just doubts or innuendo; real smoking guns) in support of your thinking, and "conspiracy theory" is where you first decide what the conclusion is (govt is evil, usually) and then go from there, maybe never getting to any actual facts. Once you prove it, it becomes "confirmed conspiracy".

My response to "politicians, media, everyone lies; why are conspiracy-theorists labeled as nuts ?":
Sure, everyone makes mistakes, politicians lie, etc.

But in my experience, Conspiracy Theorists are in a class by themselves, in these ways:

Qualities of a Conspiracy Theory:

From Mike Wood's "What does online discussion tell us about the psychology of conspiracy theories?":
... belief in conspiracy theories can be more accurately characterised as a disbelief in official or received explanations – that the content of the conspiracy theory doesn't matter as much as the fact that it opposes whatever the official explanation is. The focus is not on promoting an alternative explanation, but in debunking the official story.

From Mike Rothschild's "A Conspiracy Theory Primer - In Fun Alphabet Form!":
D is for Denialism. No matter what beliefs are held by the mainstream and supported by solid evidence, you can always find someone who thinks we're being lied to about them. Everything from the existence of AIDS to the moon landings to vaccine safety has an accompanying movement that says "everything we know is wrong" about these subjects, usually with nothing to prove it. Most of these movements are tied together, because if you're going to be contrarian, you might as well be really contrarian.

From 3 June 2013 "Point of Inquiry" podcast interview of Stephan Lewandowsky:
Some aspects of conspiracy theories:

My thinking:
Conspiracy theory = lies or guesses about some prominent issue or event, to serve some agenda. Usually to "get back" at some authority figure, or to make life seem more interesting by knowing some secret, or to make money.

I think the motive for creating most conspiracy theories is the same: the desire to lash out at authority. People are scared and angry, because the economy is tough, they feel their life is out of control, their kids or marriage or their life or job or the country didn't turn out the way they wanted, etc.

So, they take every opportunity to lash out at anyone in authority or power: science, government, police, mainstream media, rich people, corporations, etc. They make up lies to try to "get back at" those authority figures.

It also makes their dull lives more interesting. Same reason people claim to have ESP or have been abducted by aliens. It gives them something cool to boast about in a bar: I'm special because I know the REAL truth about X.

From discussion on reddit:
What about the Illuminati ?

From Wiskeyjac:
Ok, you're going to get a lot of flack over this one, and in part that's justified, but I'm going to go on the assumption that you're a bright young man/woman/cabbage and have just stumbled onto the concept of the Illuminati and Worldwide Conspiracy™.

Now, these are exciting things for a few reasons.
  1. First of all, it's a nice, complete, explanation of Why Things Are The Way They Are. It presents an exciting narrative (Ancient Secret Societies), presents a clear villain (The Illuminati Who Control Everything), and weaves in just enough real-world facts that it has a hint of truth to it. It tells a tale of how we got here, and presents a clear picture in an otherwise muddy world.

  2. On the subject of a clear picture, the Illuminati conspiracy story has another factor in its favor: It's a black and white picture. There are Bad Guys™ controlling everything. There are Good Guys™ desperately trying to get the word out to the unwitting populace, risking everything for the sake of The Truth™. The story explains a very complicated world in a very simple way. People cling to conspiracy stories for much the same reason they may cling to religion, or any other myth: it makes the world a less scary place because, as bad as things may be, at least there's order to the world.

  3. Finally, one of the most satisfying things about conspiracy stories is that they reassure the believer that the bad things are not their fault. "It's not your fault we treat black people/the poor/homosexuals/etc like s**t, the all-powerful Illuminati have made it that way." In these stories you can, and should, fight that organization but it's not your fault if you can't make a positive impact. In fact, your inability to affect the status quo or to make anyone else believe in the story just reinforces how powerful the Illuminati is (in the story).

So, in the end, look on stories like the Illuminati as you would any other myth: There are some truths to be found in there -- about how to act in a hostile world, for example -- but it is not literal truth. Heck, if you want a laugh at the whole thing I'd recommend Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus Trilogy. It's a bit dated, and stuck in '60s counterculture, but it's a nice teardown of the Illuminati story.

From crunkjuicer:
While your explanation of the power of conspiracy theories is a popular one, it misses the mark in several important ways. Yes, conspiracy theory does divide the world in very simple ethical terms between a Good and an Evil, but that's more a possible end result of conspiracy theory rather than the mechanism that makes it so appealing.

Rather, conspiracy theory is appealing precisely because of the way the theorist weaves together a dizzying convolution of seemingly disparate facts on the way to creating a total narrative that is never quite arrived at. It is precisely this conspiratorial tendency that Illuminatus! parodies so well.

Of course, what makes conspiracy theory such an enduring phenomenon (and here is where the more subtle parody of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum comes in) is that anyone can play the game. There are lots of theories out there that "explain why things are the way they are" in abstracted, simplified terms. Certainly, religion does so. So does Marxism. So does sociology. But all these systems of understanding have a kind of entry requirement that requires access to certain sorts of expert training, typically through an institution like the University or the Church. The conspiracy theorist rejects the offerings of such institutional knowledges - and he authorizes his own free-form truthmaking in an inverse proportion to his confidence in authorized understandings of the world.

Thus, in addition to constantly inventing his own truth, he must constantly reject the truth he is given. Nothing could be further from a simple, comforting view of life. First, there is always something of the victim in the conspiracy theorist, precisely because he places himself in opposition to the "powers that be". But this also entails a constant state of agitated overproduction of truth, in which the story must continue to grow bigger simply to continue to exist. The pleasure of conspiracy theorizing is in just this constant state of overcoming those phantoms of a hidden authority through a never-ending process of expanding narrative. Conspiracy theory is not myth in the doctrinal sense you use it here, but rather something more akin to fable or rumor - a practice whereby individuals take pleasure in their ability to re-present reality in ways that contradict accepted interpretations of events.

Of course, there are certain kinds of charismatic political actors that could cause such renegade truth-makers to collectively adhere towards the identification of the villain, hitherto a nebulous and always shadowy concept, with a particular group. This might be the Illuminati or the lizard people. But it has been more historically - and more tragically - a concrete and otherwise human Other: The Jews, The Bourgeois, The Papists, The Commies. Here is where the figure of the intrepid crusader for truth passes over into the inquisitorial mob, and s**t begins to hit the fan.

From Cryptomeria:
Also, conspiracy theorists get to stroke their egos: They know what's going on, while all the sheeple are hopelessly stupid and ignorant. It feels good to believe the conspiracies.


From Maggie Koerth-Baker's "Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories":
... believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.

Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty, a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action. ... the amygdala jump-starts the rest of the brain into analytical overdrive — prompting repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent and understandable narrative, to understand what just happened, what threats still exist and what should be done now. This may be a useful way to understand how, writ large, the brain's capacity for generating new narratives after shocking events can contribute to so much paranoia in this country.

"If you know the truth and others don't, that's one way you can reassert feelings of having agency," Swami says. It can be comforting to do your own research even if that research is flawed. It feels good to be the wise old goat in a flock of sheep.

From Skeptoid 364:
No conspiracy theory has ever been proven true. I stand by this statement as fact, given the distinction between a real conspiracy and a conspiracy theory. So let's define that distinction clearly.

Conspiracies, as we refer to them, are crimes or schemes carried out in secret by a group of conspirators. Sometimes they are discovered, like the three I just mentioned; and others have undoubtedly successfully remained undetected. These clearly exist. But they are quite distinct from what we colloquially call a conspiracy theory, which is claimed knowledge of a conspiracy that has not yet been discovered by law enforcement or Congress or the newspapers or the general public. They are, in fact, future predictions. They are the beliefs or conclusions of the theorist that they predict will eventually come true or be discovered. ... Unlike a Julius Caesar conspiracy discovered when or after it took place, a conspiracy theory is of a discovery that has yet to take place.

I maintain my claim that a real conspiracy is very distinct from a hypothesized conspiracy; and I maintain my claim that no hypothesized conspiracy, believed within the conspiracy theory community, has ever subsequently been discovered to be true.

From confluencer on reddit:
What I hate about conspiracy theorists ...

What has always struck me about such people is that they never seem to have any kind of competence in the underlying details of the system that is under scrutiny. I routinely excoriate them for being total idiots, and I do this simply by asking a series of basic questions of competence that you would expect to be correctly answered before believing anyone's theory about anything in any field.

9/11 truthers; What type of fuel did the flights contain? At what temperature does steel deform? What was the load on each foundation? At what speed did the jet fly into the building? How many steel support columns did the towers have? etc. etc.

Moon landings; How much fuel is used during a Saturn V burn? What is the required amount of energy needed to move the command module to the moon? How heavy is the module? etc. etc.

Fluoride: What is the concentration of fluoride in the public water system? How can you test for this? What are the chemical properties of fluoride? etc. etc.

The biggest thing that annoys me with conspiracy theorists, and by extension other pseudoscientists, is their total lack of competence. If you're going to go full retard with some insane theory, you better know your sh*t better than I do. Instead, all I get is vague paranoia about "they", and "them", and "the controllers" and "the group". I mean seriously, get your sh*t together.

...

Conspiracy-theorists NEVER talk about the fact that there is a conspiracy theory "industry", that people are making money or fame from pushing these theories, that some theories aid some corporations or political groups or rich guys in fighting competitors or legislation. Even nations; Russia has a long history of creating propaganda and having it swallowed by the people in the West.

Donna Ferentes's "10 characteristics of conspiracy theorists"
Adam Wears and Sam Jackson's "5 Reasons Conspiracy Theories Are Destroying the World"
Katy Waldman's "Creativity, Conspiracy Theories, and Delusions Have One Thing in Common: Apophenia"
Will Storr's "The 9/11 conspiracy theorist who changed his mind"
Skeptoid's "5 Conspiracy Theories that Turned Out to Be True ... Maybe?"
Debunkatron

See also: Conspiracy section of my Anti-Science page



"Stonecutter's Song" from "The Simpsons":
Who controls the British Crown ?
Who keeps the metric system down ?
We do, we do.

Who keeps Atlantis off the maps ?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps ?
We do, we do.

Who holds back the electric car ?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star ?
We do, we do.

Who robs cave fish of their sight ?
Who rigs every Oscar night ?
We do, we DO !




The Bible:

WhyDoYouBelieveInGod.gif

I wrote this in a discussion:
So how can anyone use the Bible as the base of their beliefs ? I think the answer is: we were taught to, by our parents. If we didn't have all of that emotional investment in it, if it was just some book we'd picked up by ourself later, we'd reject it as unbelieveable, unreliable, not matching reality, self-contradictory. It's only because it was burned into our brain at an early age, by our parents and our entire community, that we stick with it.

It helps that the Bible is so big and often vague; we can find anything we want in some part of it, read what we want into it. And some people seem to have extended it by adding new-age concepts such as "the universe needs balance" to it. Some people seem to subtract out the pieces they don't like by saying "well, we don't have to obey those parts".

From captainhaddock on reddit:
[It's a misconception that Christianity is based on the Bible.]

Earliest Christianity as we understand it consisted of local churches that followed the teachings of various apostles and, later, bishops and theologians. The religion was incredibly diverse, and local church leaders began compiling their teachings and traditions into epistles, Gospels, Apocalypses, and hagiographies ("The Acts of So-and-So") for use in teaching, although the majority of the population was illiterate and books were too expensive for all but the richest to own. There were literally hundreds of these works, many of which still survive today.

Eventually, various church councils established acceptable doctrinal positions of orthodox Christianity, and lists of popular documents that were acceptable for use in church were promulgated by leaders like St. Athanasius. However, the importance of the texts was seen primarily in the fact that they preserved some of the teachings of the early apostles, and they were seen as a supplement to existing traditions and the apostolic authority of bishops.

At no point was Christianity ever "based on the Bible". On the contrary, the canon was written and compiled on the basis of church teachings and tradition. How the canon is regarded by regional branches of the church has also varied, from antiquity to the present. In the Eastern church, many canon lists were proposed, but none universally accepted, so that today's Orthodox churches have the largest canon lists, with many differences between them. In the Western church, the Vulgate established a de facto canon due to its status as the official Latin translation, but this list was not formalized until the Council of Trent in 1546.

The Protestant Reformation introduced the sola scriptura principle due to its break with the Catholic church and apostolic succession, but Luther also used his influence to throw out or demote much of the canon, again showing how the Bible's usefulness to the church depended on how much it could be used to teach currently acceptable doctrines.

Thus, it is a common misconception that some Christians (particularly those from recent denominations founded in the 19th and 20th centuries) as well as some nonbelievers think Christianity is founded on the Bible. Basing a religion on a book is a fairly recent and unusual phenomenon, with Islam and Mormonism being the most prominent examples.

From Skrp on reddit:
> Heard: Best way to increase your belief against
> God is to read the Bible ? Please explain.

The bible is so full of contradictions, morally reprehensible stuff touted as being morally good, historical inaccuracy, and supernatural claims that if taken literally go against everything we know about science.

And through all this, it never once puts forth a good reason to believe a word it says. It's completely circular. "This book is true because it's written by God, and we know it's written by God because it says so in this book, which if you remember from before, is infallible, because it's written by God."

I mean, you have to be a believer, in order to read that thing and not have a distinct feeling that this is a really antiquated piece of fan-fiction.




Haven't religions caused lots of good things to happen ?
From Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
The thing that uniquely defines religion, the thing that sets it apart from every other ideology or hypothesis or social network, is the belief in unverifiable supernatural entities. Of course it has other elements -- community, charity, philosophy, inspiration for art, etc. But those things exist in the secular world, too. They're not specific to religion. The thing that uniquely defines religion is belief in supernatural entities. Without that belief, it's not religion.

Melanie Pinola's "Seven Important Lessons from World Religions Everyone Should Know"



Religion versus morality:

It's entirely possible to be a good person and do good things, without being religious. And certainly it's possible to be a very bad person while being religious.

From interview of Marc Hauser in ??/2007 issue of Discover magazine:
I think that for many who come from a religious background, religion is synonymous with morality. Some people think that if you're an atheist, you simply have no morals. That is just wrong. There are an awful lot of people who are atheists who do very, very wonderful things. As an objective question, do people who have religious backgrounds show different patterns of moral judgements than people who are atheists ? So far, the answer is a resounding no.

From Greta Christina's comment after Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
Countries with high rates of religious non-belief tend to be countries with very high rates of social functioning, low crime rates, strong senses of mutualism and social responsibility, etc. Countries with high rates of religious belief tend to be countries with high rates of crime, inequality, corruption, etc. Now, it's unlikely that atheism causes this social health -- it's more likely the other way around. But the idea that religion promotes ethical behavior is simply not born out by the evidence. (Source: "Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment" (on Amazon))

Sweden
Bertrand Russell quote
Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"
"The Reagan Doctrine" by Isaac Asimov


How could basic morals have developed, before religions got created ?
Perhaps morals developed from basic physical facts of life: So those roughly translate to:



Some people say "how sad, don't you believe in anything ?"
Yes, I "believe in" reality. It's beautiful, ugly, exciting, boring, simple, complicated, pleasant, painful. People are sexy, disgusting, friendly, infuriating, stimulating, predictable. Music, books, movies, internet, nature, exercise, work, play, emotion, choice. What an amazing world we live in ! Why would we have to believe fake stuff ? Oh, it's fine to let go and immerse yourself in a made-up book or movie or TV show for a while, but to really believe something false for your whole life ? Why ?

You get to invent your own life, decide what meaning and purpose your life has, how it proceeds. Be creative !

Prayer and belief
Prayer





Elements of a religion:

Some religions seem to be mostly ethics or morality, and very little theology. Maybe Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, some forms of Unitarianism fall into this category ?

But Buddhism includes supernatural things such as realms and planes of existence, ghosts, Buddhas of celestial origin that are projections of an eternal omnipresent being (in Mahayana), some vague "connection of all beings", etc. Although many people seem to pick-and-choose which pieces will be part of their Buddhism, define pieces or words as they wish, decide which pieces are to be taken literally and which are not, and there are lots of variants and sects. Many arguments end up at "well, my variant is the real Buddhism".

From comment on Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God":
"... day to day Buddhism in Asia is effectively theistic; people pray to omnipotent beings to give them good luck, salvation, and so on, and build temples where a clergy does complex rituals involving these beings. Sophisticated 'atheist Buddhism' is a really, really Western thing for people who still have a religious impulse but find religion justifiably impossible to accept."


Foundations of various religions and systems:
System Old
Book
Visions
and
Miracles
Prophets God
came to
Earth
Testable
physical
evidence
Buddhism Y   Y    
Taoism Y ? Y ? Y ?    
Confucianism Y   Y    
Little green men   Y (UFO's)   Y (UFO's)  
Judaism Y (Torah) Y Y Y  
Christianity Y (Bible) Y Y Y  
Islam Y (Koran) Y Y    
Greek/Roman gods Y Y Y Y  
Science         Y
Animism   Y Y Y  
Hinduism Y Y Y ? Y  



Parts of Christianity:




If you are just absolutely sure your religion is the one true religion, it's just completely obvious, think of this:
Suppose you had happened to be born into a different religion, and brought up with your parents and family and friends and community all believing and instructing you in that other religion all your life. Wouldn't you be just as absolutely sure today that that other religion was the true one ?

From reggiedixon:
"If there are 100 religions, then at least 99 of them are certainly false."

Brandy Zadrozny's "Judging by the GOP, God Can't Pick a Campaign Winner"

From Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God" and Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God, Part 2" :
  1. The consistent replacement [over time] of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones.
  2. The inconsistency of world religions.
  3. The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics.
  4. The increasing diminishment [over time] of God.
  5. The fact that religion runs in families.
  6. The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul.
  7. The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.
  8. The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs.
  9. The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.
  10. The complete and utter lack of solid evidence for God's existence.



An Atheist Debate Reference
WhyDoYouBelieveInGod.gif
Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist
Pat Condell's "God bless atheism" video
C. Coville's "7 'Ancient' Forms of Mysticism That Are Recent Inventions"



Many religious people say the end of the world is near, mainly because "things are worse now than they've ever been". But are things really worse now than they were when the Goths were overrunning the entire civilized (Roman) world, when the Mongols owned all of Asia, when the Black Plague had killed 1/3 of the population of Europe, or when the Nazis had conquered all of Europe and the Japanese much of the Pacific ? I think the world is better off now, in terms of medicine and science-provided comforts and democracy, than it's ever been. One exception is our ability to damage the world with nuclear or biological weapons. And of course the world still has plenty of war and poverty and disease; it's far from perfect.

And there is a long history, over a couple of thousand years, of various religious people saying the end of the world is imminent. They've all been wrong.



"When it comes to bullsh*t, big-time, major league bullsh*t, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullsh*t story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you.

AND god needs money! He's all-powerful, but he can't handle money!"

-- George Carlin



The Oatmeal's "How to suck at your religion"
At the Pearly Gates












Debating



The only question worth debating is "Does any god actually exist ?". I don't care about free will, sin, the soul, the afterlife, or any other issues "inside" religion. Let's talk about the main issue: "Do you have any good evidence that any god exists ?"



I find it very frustrating to debate religion with some religious people, because they debate dishonestly. They'll try to defend a position, lose that argument, and retreat into something vaguer or switch subjects without admitting that they've retreated at all.

For example, they'll quote lots of sayings that come out of the Bible. But when you cite examples of the Bible contradicting itself, they'll say the Bible doesn't really matter anyway, it's the faith and the beliefs. Then when you show them that their beliefs don't match reality, they'll say "well, what is reality or truth anyway ?". If you can get past that, they'll claim to be talking about "Mythos", without defining it as anything other than "stuff I want to believe and you can't talk me out of it". Often they'll claim that the words "know", "understand" and "believe" are interchangeable. Then they'll cycle back to quoting the Bible.

It would almost be comical, except that these people get an equal vote on what the government should do and the laws it passes and how it spends my tax dollars !

Another example: they retreat to vaguer and vaguer things. Start out as Christian and Bible-quoting, then retreat to "I have a faith instead of a religion" and a "personal Jesus" that can't be pinned down to anything specific. This represents a general retreat of religion in the face of science, a retreat down various "levels" of God:
  1. Intentional, interventionist God: runs everything in the universe, can be prayed to for help.
  2. Creator: God created the universe, then left it to run on its own.
  3. God is the universe or "connectedness": redefines the term "God" beyond common usage, making it mushy and irrelevant.
  4. I have a "personal God" who only I can talk to.
  5. God is just some vague thing I want to believe, outside of language or the real world.
[When philosophers and academics (Aquinas, Descartes, Mackey, etc) debate about whether God exists, they seem to be talking exclusively about the "Creator" type of God. It all revolves around how the universe started: was there an "uncaused cause", or a mind that created the universe, or an infinite series of causes, etc.]

Another tactic: quantity over quality. A simple question from me is answered with 5 pages of quotes from Scripture.

Of course, many times you can't even get a debate started:


A typical thing that happens to me:
  1. Religious Person: "God is great !"
  2. Me: "Most likely there is no God, see my web page for why I think that, I'd like to get your feedback."
  3. Religious Person: deletes my response, or un-Friends me, or blocks my email.
A very similar thing that happens to me quite a bit:
  1. Person: "Obama is an incompetent idiot, a Socialist trying to ruin America."
  2. Me: "Please give some specifics, instead of just labels and insults."
  3. Person: un-Friends me.
I've never un-Friended someone because they disagreed with me. It's a cowardly thing to do.



"How to convert an atheist: A simple step-by-step guide", from TheDerkus on reddit:
Hello! Are you a theist? Ever wonder why or how atheists don't see things your way? Want to change that? Then you've come to the right place!

Step 1: Define God.

It seems everyone and their mother has their own view of God. The plethora of different gods under the same name is confusing. Make sure you have established a coherent God. Only then can you proceed to discuss it.

Step 2: Evidence, not arguments

Philosophy is an interesting and fascinating subject, but it does not on its own tell us anything about the nature of the world around us. No matter what an argument's conclusion, it's meaningless if it can't be demonstrated.

Step 3: Put it to the test!

Alright, you've got a coherent God, and you wish to convince atheists of its existence. First, you must ask yourself a few questions. "If my God does exist, what would we expect as a result?" "How would it be different without my God?" "How can I falsify my God?"

That last one is very important! It's unfair to expect an atheist to be open if you will under no circumstances change your view. Prepare a reasonable set of criteria for falsifying your particular God.

REVIEW:

Define God; Use evidence, not arguments; Put your God to the test.



Some religious people say "Why do you care what I believe ? Live and let live !"

I care because what they believe and vote for affects me. See the "these delusions are not just 'fun' and harmless" section of this page. And religious people are busy trying to force their beliefs on my country, writing "under God" into the government wherever they can, putting the Ten Commandments into government buildings wherever they can, saying that the USA was founded as a Christian nation (it wasn't). They're electing religious people who spend my money in religiously-motivated ways (Israel, wars to force democracy on the Mideast, etc) and write laws to force their religiously-grounded beliefs on others (laws against gays, against contraception and abortion, against teaching evolution, against using stem-cells, etc). They're writing their beliefs into textbooks used to educate everyone's children.

From Alyeska2112 quoted in reddit's "Atheism FAQ":
From an angry outsider's perspective, we [atheists] are just a bunch of know-it-all jerks who want to stick our noses in other peoples' business and piss on their beliefs. We're the ultimate trolls, raining on everyone else's parade for no reason other than we're huge meanies.

But what these folks are missing is that we're not merely pointing out their convictions out of spite. And we're certainly not upset just because we disagree with their point of view. The problem is that religion - and in the Western world (the U.S. especially), that would be squarely on the shoulders of Christianity - has been so much more than simply another way of looking at the world. It has been a tool of ignorance, hate, rape, slavery, murder and genocide. And in current times, it bombards us (again, especially in the U.S.) with an unceasing shower of judgement, scorn and bullying. Religion creeps into our schools, our science classes even. It makes itself home in our politics, our social views, our very laws. Those who adhere to religion FORCE their beliefs on the rest of us, from the Pledge of Allegiance, to testifying in court, to our currency, to the Cub Scouts. Religion has wormed its tentacles into every facet of our daily lives, often to cruel degrees.

Thanks to religion, our social norms dictate what entertainment we can and can't consume. Thanks to religion, our political leaders feel obligated to thank GOD as our savior. Thanks to religion, my son can't openly admit at Cub Scouts that he thinks the idea of worshipping a god ("Poseidon", to use his example) is just silly. Thanks to religion, countless people die every day in third world conflicts, and in developed countries, folks still have to worry about coming out, or dating outside their race, or questioning moral authorities. Most U.S. states still ban gay marriage, and most fail to specifically make gay adoption legal. Hell, we only let gays serve in the military openly this year. Thanks to religion.

So when someone rolls their eyes and tells you to get over it, remind them how full of nonsense they are. Our waking lives are policed, lawyered, governed and judged nonstop by the effects of two thousand heavyhanded years of Christianity, and those who don't think that still holds true in our modern day haven't got a clue. You can't even buy a beer on certain days in certain places thanks to religion. It infests us and our society like a cancer. But because most people like this particular cancer, they don't see the problem. And when we get pissy about it all, they call us jerks and whine about their beliefs.

I hate living in a zealous world, and I hate having to constantly play by their nonsensical, fairytale rules. If I need to vent once in a while about yet another right-wing religious leader banging some guy in a motel room, or yet another church cover-up of child rape, or yet another religious special interest interfering with my political system while simultaneously receiving tax-exempt status, it's not because I'm being mean where their "beliefs" are concerned. It's because I choose to use my brain, and when I open my eyes, the world I see pisses me off. If they could form a critical, independent thought, they'd feel the same way.

From "To atheists: Why do you spend energy and attention on religion?" on reddit 2/2014:
From Skololo:
When an acquaintance believes obvious bullsh*t, it's silly.

When a friend or a family member believes obvious bullsh*t, it's distressing.

When a politician believes obvious bullsh*t, it's a farce.

When 47% of a nation that controls enough nuclear weapons to detonate the solar system believes that the earth is 6000 years old, it's a f**king crisis.

Anti-rational thinking causes, and has the potential to cause, enormous problems for the human race, and for individual human beings. Religion is both a symptom and a cause of this phenomenon. I'd prefer if people believed true things, or at least were more hesitant to believe false ones.

From DrewNumberTwo:
Religious people spend energy and attention to create laws and situations that influence my life in negative ways.

From thingandstuff:
And to be specific, they don't just use their energy, they waste the resources of society at large.

How many resources of our legislature have been wasted on irrational attempts to outright ban all forms of abortion?


From heidavey:
Because I believe religion is detrimental to society.

Because Christianity is my state religion.

Because I believe in the value of evidence.

Because I believe that belief in an afterlife of some sort leads us to not care enough about this life.

Because I believe that belief in a caretaker deity leads us to not care about the planet.

Because the religious claim moral authority over me.

Because of the anti-intellectualism.

Basically because the religious cannot, do not, and have no inclination of letting their religion influence only them.

From stringerbell:
The only thing that has ever improved the lives of humans is education.

Religion is the antithesis of education. And, today, the vast majority of the world's children spend a large portion of their time being forced to learn (divisive) bullsh*t masquerading as truth. It's disgusting, and has set the world back centuries. And, not only is religion responsible for holding back education, but it's directly responsible for absolutely massive amounts of human and animal misery.


Beliefs
Atheists as bad as fundamentalists
Intolerance
Why do you care ?

Sometimes I get hate: Accept The Love Of Christ





The general shape of the debate I seem to have again and again:
  1. Religious Person: "God is great !".
  2. Me: "Most likely there is no God."
  3. RP: "YES, THERE IS !!!!!!! BIBLE SAYS SO !!!!!!".
  4. Me: "Bible is wrong."
  5. RP: "Every word of the Bible is literally true".
  6. Me: "Old Testament was written centuries or millenia after the events; New Testament was written decades or centuries after the events. Bible has been translated through several languages; the words have changed, often drastically, sometimes for political reasons. Books were thrown out by that council of bishops in 400 AD. Bible says kill your bride if she's not a virgin."
  7. RP: "Well, every word isn't literally true, but Bible has been proven correct scientifically, historically, etc".
  8. Me: "Bible has some true facts sprinkled through it, but that doesn't prove the whole thing to be true. And it contains lots of errors and contradictions."
  9. RP: "Well, the Bible is allegory or parable or 'mythos', so you can't dissect it".
  10. Me: "So it's not true, then ?"
  11. RP: "I'm right, you're wrong, I don't want to talk to you any more."



Burden of proof:
[From someone on reddit:]
A common gambit: "Prove that God doesn't exist !". Well, first you prove that Zeus and Apollo don't exist, and then I'll use the same method [to prove that Jesus doesn't exist].

A common gambit: "Prove that God doesn't exist !". Suppose I said I'd invented a car that went a million miles an hour, but wouldn't show it to you; would the burden be on you to prove that I didn't invent it ?

From Myron's comment on Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists":
"It is impossible to disprove the existence of something. I'll make up an animal: the "flurb". There is no such animal. It does not exist. Now ... PROVE to me it does not exist. You can't. You can't because proving something does not exist is impossible."

Most convincing fact that suggests there is no god: After 2000 years (or more) of EXTREMELY motivated searching, believers have not found ANY good evidence that any god exists. They don't have any.

Religious logic



Another tactic: "You should respect my beliefs !" Who said all beliefs are worth of respect ? Various extremists believe all Americans should be killed; do you "respect" that belief ?
Pat Condell on respecting faith (video)
Rev. Emily C. Heath's "How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions"
Respect beliefs based on books
Insensitivity toward beliefs
Bertrand Russell
Force beliefs
Aggressive atheists
Greta Christina's "Atheists and Anger"




A similar statement:


Jon Stewart: war on Christianity


A common basis for debate by religious people:
  1. Belief in God is a matter of pure faith.

    In fact, it's noble to believe something without requiring evidence !


  2. and:

  3. We have evidence: the Bible.

    Bible is literally true, is the Word of God, proves existence of God.


First, these two positions conflict somewhat.

Second, religious people often debate by ping-ponging between the two positions. When you make a convincing statement to defeat one position, they avoid answering and switch to the other argument. When you push on that one, they avoid again and switch back to the other position, without ever acknowledging that you already discussed that one.



Addressing these two arguments:
  1. Faith:

    If you're going to believe in things without evidence, why don't you believe in a thousand other things that you also could believe without evidence ? Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, animism, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, little green men running the universe, 2 + 2 = 5. How do you choose what is true, without evidence ?

    Maybe you believe Christianity because you happen to have been raised as a Christian, or always associate with Christians. If you had been born into a Hindu family and community, today you would feel just as firmly that Hinduism was the one true religion. You wouldn't be able to imagine why anyone would think differently.

    There's nothing noble about faith. It's just a form of intellectual laziness: it's easier to be told what to think, than to think for yourself, to evaluate the evidence and investigate many different possibilities.


  2. The Bible.

    The Bible contradicts itself, in simple ways such as the Gospels disagreeing about the order of events in Jesus' life (Paul Carlson's "New Testament Contradictions (1995)"), or Genesis contradicting itself (Skeptic's Annotated Bible: The two contradictory creation accounts). So at least some parts of it have to be wrong; it isn't all true. If some of it is false, how do you know which parts are true and which are false ?
    Jim Meritt's "A List of Biblical Contradictions"
    1001 Contradictions & Discrepancies in the Christian Bibles
    Skeptic's Annotated Bible: Contradictions in the Bible

    The Bible (and Christianity) is a narrative that was politically and culturally popular and necessary. "Whitey (the Egyptians, then the Romans) is oppressing us good guys (the Jews). But we're chosen by God, so keep the faith, brothers, and we shall overcome !" This narrative was developed in oral traditions, with bits pasted in from previous stories, applied to Jesus as well as others before him, then written down by many unknown authors and massaged over several centuries, with parts being censored or voted in or out in a political process.

    [Some people doubt that Jesus ever existed (pic). I'd guess Jesus did exist, but was just one in a long line of preachers.]

    Nothing in the Bible is testable, repeatable evidence that God exists. It's a pastiche of actual historical events, miracles and visions that could have had natural causes, testimony by people who believed and had very obvious motives, and vague statements that can be interpreted any way you like. And it was written (long after the events) by people who believed and had very obvious motives. They stood to gain from having a Bible and a religion that told people to believe and obey them. The Bible is propaganda. Bible is the claim

    There are lots of old books. And anyone can write a book.
    from Buddha

You Can't Argue With Christians
Robert Durdle's "40 Questions To Ask A Christian"
Victor Stenger's "How to Debate a Christian Apologist"
Things Christians Do
Bible Facts label



Common "put-down"s religious people use against atheists:
Sweden
Atheists as bad as fundamentalists
Atheists are hated
Atheists are know-it-alls
Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"



Other common things religious people say:

Interesting interviews about being atheist in the Arab world: Interview with an Arab atheist, Interview with an Arab atheist, Part II.



Why it's hard for religious people to "convert" to reality:

From Church of Reality's "Evangelizing Reality":
[Religious people believe in] a narrative taught to them from early childhood that they have come to rely upon and accept as their world view.

Belief in fictional deities is one of the root axioms that they have built their awareness around and for which a lot of their personal world view relies upon. If they were, for example, to realize that God is fiction then it would change their entire world. Many of their friends will reject them. They might not have a place in their church community anymore. They would have to endure the stigma that other religions have put on Atheism as something that is evil, or a disease, a form of mental illness, something that must be cured. This is a very big step for most people who rely upon the comfort of their place in society and are not willing to put their social position at risk.

...

What we are up against in fiction-based religions is that using the name of God they can promise you anything. They have everlasting bliss in Heaven, 70 virgins, omnipotent intervention, an inflated sense of self worth, a loving community, ego treats, a sense of some grand purpose, and of course, burning in Hell forever for those who fail to believe. One thing that religions understand is that they start brainwashing their children early because they understand that the earlier they establish mental patterns the harder it is to change them.

... All you have to do is believe and an omnipotent protector is going to intervene on your behalf and take care of you forever. What a deal! People want the quick fix. Reality often isn't a pretty picture. ...

There are high costs for leaving your religion: you may alienate your family, friends and community, and lose their support. Your business or career may suffer. If much of your social life is based around your church, you may lose that. You may even destroy your marriage: godlessindixie's "Advice for the Unequally Yoked".
godlessindixie's "The High Cost of Leaving Your Faith"

But then there's this: godlessindixie's "What Has Atheism Done For Me?".



From John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky's "The Debunking Handbook" (PDF):
Effective debunking requires:



Some people, in the middle of an argument, say "well, what is reality anyway ?" My response:
Usually people bring up "well, what is reality anyway ?" just as a tactic to stop a debate. I understand it's a serious question in serious philosophy, but in common-sense debate among real people, I don't see the use of it. We talk about real things, real religions and real churches and real acts and real guns and real people and real laws and real policies, and then sometimes when someone is losing the argument, they fall back to "well, what is a fact anyway ?" or something.

If you doubt that reality exists, then you should never base anything you say or believe on the Bible, because how can you be sure the Bible exists ? How can there be an afterlife, because how do you know this life exists ? Maybe you shouldn't vote, or use a computer, because how do you know reality exists ?

So I think it's wrong to shift gears and bring up that deep philosophical concept as if it was a useful point in a discussion.

Same thing when, halfway through a debate, someone says "well, define 'god' !". That's just an attempt to distract. In common discussion, 99% of people accept that "god" means "an intentional, supernatural being", maybe adding "that has absolute control of the natural universe". No need to debate the details.



"Is there any good evidence that any god actually exists ?"

Attempts to argue away the lack of evidence amount to "God is hiding from us" or "God is tricking us".

Attempts to argue from subtle philosophical principles amount to "we want something to be true, so we're going to make guesses and twist words until we can claim it's true".



Some of my non-religious friends say "Why do you bother debating those religious nuts ? They'll never listen to reason":
godlessindixie's "Why I Keep Talking to People Who Won't Listen"


See the "these delusions are not just 'fun' and harmless" and "why do you care ?" sections of this page.





US Constitution, and USA as a "Christian nation":

Many of the Founders were Deists, not Christians.
From reddit's "Atheism FAQ":
"Deists believe that a higher power created the universe long ago but is not or no longer actively present in the world and does not intervene in its affairs. ... Most deists do not engage in the usual religious practices of praying, worshiping, rituals, restrictions in diet and/or lifestyle or regarding a central holy doctrine."

The words "God", "Jesus", "Christ" and "Christian" don't appear anywhere in the Constitution (or in the Bill of Rights, or in the first constitution: the Articles of Confederation). An odd omission, if they were trying to establish a Christian nation.
Things That Are Not In the U.S. Constitution
beliefnet's "Articles of Confederation"

The Declaration of Independence does contain the word "God", in the phrase "Nature's God", and some similar words such as "Creator". But not "Jesus", "Christ" or "Christian". And the Declaration is not a legal document of the USA; it was written before the USA was formed.
About.com's "Declaration of Independence & Christianity Myth"

If the Founders intended to establish a "Christian nation", wouldn't they have put that explicitly in the title, or right in the beginning, or somewhere, in one or more of those documents ? They didn't.

The Constitution doesn't actually say "separation of church and state"; 1st Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."
Ten Commandments in public buildings

Image about the Constitution

From televised interview on May 30, 1997:
David Frost: Say, is this still a Christian Country ?

Billy Graham: No! We're not a Christian Country. We've never been a Christian Country. We're a secular Country, by our constitution. In which Christians live and which many Christians have a voice. But we're not a Christian Country.

Reagan on religion
Founding fathers on Christianity
Andy Borowitz's "In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Strikes Down Main Reason Country Was Started"

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."
- Thomas Jefferson

Pledge of Allegiance
Pledge developed
Dr. John W. Baer's "The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History"



America should get back to biblical Christian principles











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