Here is the problem, as I see it, with “blind faith.” If someone came to me and said I must buy a house, I must live in this house for my whole life, but I can’t look it over too hard, and I can’t fix anything that is wrong with it, I just have to have “faith” that it is a sound house, that I can live with the things that are wrong with it – I would say “no way.” I’m going to have this thing inspected, I’m going to look in the basement, check out the roof, and if there are things wrong with it, I’m going to fix it. I would never buy a house on blind faith; I would expect proof that it was a good deal. Yet I am expected to give over my life and soul to some god based on faith, with no proof that he was really there. Sorry, no way.
You know those ridiculously sensationalist headlines that promise the world and don’t deliver? Post titles that make a claim, but end it in question marks so as to deny all liability?
This isn’t one of those posts.
Proving God is Evil
First we have to define our terms.
The triune god-head of mainline Christianity including Catholicism and most or all Protestant religions, consisting of Jesus (who is God), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (who is also God). This God is revealed in the Bible to be un-changing. See: Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 102:26; Malachi 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:17,18; and James 1:17. For example:
Malachi 3:6 – “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
God, in one manner or another, created the entire Universe, as implied by Genesis 1 (or described by it, if you take it literally).
God does not ever lie.
Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.”
This God is also all-powerful or omnipotent. The most cited verse is Matthew 19:26: “With God all things are possible.” We concede that logical impossibilities are not possible for God (e.g. making a rock so big he cannot move it), though since God created everything, including logic, that’s a debate for another day.
Lastly, God is all-knowing or omniscient. This is proclaimed in Deuteronomy 29:29 and elsewhere. We take this to mean he knows the past, present, and future, and furthermore knows the results of all his decisions before he makes them. (We ignore the likely truth that someone can not be both omniscient and omnipotent because they would not be able to change their future mind.)
The collection of writings Christians call the Bible. King James, NIV, Catholic? doesn’t really matter for our purposes. We shall take it mostly literally, except for parables and much of Genesis; this is what most Christian religions do. We also assume this is God’s primary or only means of reliable communication with humankind (ignoring forgeries and legitimate Bible scholars, not to mention intra-Biblical contradictions).
I am teasing you with definitions before the proof. But a definition of terms is important. The next one is perhaps more interesting, so bear with me.
Doing unto another as one would have the other do to them. This, the “Golden Rule,” is widely held as Jesus’ most important teaching. It can be found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.
Knowingly doing the opposite of good.
Sinners. Taken as a the most basic tenet of Christianity, Jesus’ supposed sacrifice makes no sense otherwise.
You can’t wait, can you? On to the good stuff.
Proof, version 1
God created everything (given).
God created humankind (by 1).
Humankind is composed of sinners (given).
Sinners create evil (given).
Humankind creates evil (by 3 and 4).
God created evil (by 2 and 5).
God knew the consequences of creating everything, including humans, before he did it (given).
God knew he was creating evil (by 5 and 6).
Thus, God sinned, himself, by definition, as a sinner knowingly commits evil acts.
I dare you to find a hole in that logic, given those definitions.
You want more? Okay. But let’s define another term or two.
The ability to choose between two or more options. This does NOT mean omnipotence.
Entities that have at least the illusion of free will. This includes humans.
Proof (version 2)
If I were to create a universe and conscious beings, I would create a universe where they cannot hurt each other.
In fact, I wish all humans had free will but could not hurt each other.
It is not logically impossible for conscious beings to have free will without being able to hurt each other. Proof by contradiction / counter-example:
Assume free will requires the ability to hurt other conscious beings.
Universe X is populated by beings whose only choice is to appear green or purple to observers. This does not inhibit others’ choices or harm them.
(Implied: Universe X denizens have no language, as communication involves choice of a message.)
Universe X denizens have free will, because they can make a choice; omnipotence is neither required nor granted.
This is a counter-example to our initial assumption.
Thus, free will does not require the ability to hurt other beings.
God did not do unto me as I would have done to another conscious being.
God defined evil through the Bible (from given).
God did evil according to his own definition.
Thus, God is evil.
I like this second proof a lot, though it did require a sub-proof. I double-dare you to poke a hole in this one, too!
Well, that was easy.
I hope you enjoyed these proofs as much as I did. For more, see this eloquent rebuttal of an apologist (which the apologist attempts to rebut, but has nothing solid to contribute); it illustrates how an omniscient God is necessarily evil. That “problem” is called theodicy. You may also be interested in this wonderful article on God’s immutability.
What’s that? The soft sound of Christian readers not being swayed? “Well, this post must be wrong, because of course God can’t be evil. He is benevolent!” they think. Yet they ignore the alternative: that He does not exist at all.
Thus, faith leads to incorrect conclusions. Science could basically win by default, but to be fair, it needs examined as well. I am not going to do that now, though. Since you are reading this online, I assume you have already conceded that science works.
The vast numbers of different religions and denominations (parodied here) in the world is possibly the strongest reason to deny any and all religions with any sort of interventionist, personal, or judgment-dealing God.
Deluded Christians and Muslims commonly skirt this accusation by rationalizing that other religions are corrupted by man or “the devil.” However, there is a terrific atheist response to this claim.
Atheist: “Can you explain the diversity of religion in the world?”
Theist: “The devil has caused corruption of the true religion.”
Atheist: “Then I have two challenges for you.
“One: How do you know your religion is correct? Couldn’t it be corrupted in the same way as you claim countless other peoples’ religion is corrupted? Don’t other believers of other religions have the same response to this question that you do?
“Two: Christians, Jews and Muslims pray to the same god, the Abraham’s god Yahweh. If God answers prayer or guides human understanding in any way, should we not expect God to consistently guide understanding for all these earnest believers, resulting in a mass conversion to the ‘correct’ religion and even denomination?”
This is the response that is so very strong. At this point there is nothing the theist apologist can say that holds up to reason without contradicting basic tenets of their religion. For example, saying that God does not actually shape human understanding is to deny all authority of the Pope, pastors, rabbis, imams, and ayatollahs and is more of a deist belief than a theist one; it also contradicts the idea that God plants faith in the hearts/minds of humans, which leads us to science and atheism. No matter the response, it is impossible for a God who is all-loving and all-powerful who cares about orthodoxy (right belief) to ignore the earnest prayers from confused beliefs whose “corrupted beliefs” may earn for them eternal damnation. It may also be pointed out that the theist will rationalize a response to fit the facts everyone knows are true about the variation of belief, despite the way their own beliefs should predict that most of the world (if not all) would have the same religious beliefs they do!
The day I came to terms with my budding atheism was the day I voiced my doubts of Christianity to a professor, asking for a bit of guidance. I will never forget the professor’s response. He said something to the effect of, “We should not worry too much about believing the right thing. People have so many different religious beliefs that, if there is a God, He is almost certainly nothing like what you have been told.”
Perhaps the argument discussed in this article is not so strong for everyone, but I found it extremely convincing.
A number of atheists and agnostics have opted for de-baptism, a symbolic event meant to formally renounce their usually non-voluntary baptism and conversion into a religion. Apparently this practice, which often includes a blow-dryer labeled “Reason,” is popular in America, Italy, Britain), and increasingly so in Ireland.
Read on to find out the purposes of such a ceremony.
Is de-baptism ironic?
Some observers, like The Young Turks, below, note the irony of “atheist rituals.” Is it ironic? The definition of irony is something that is incongruous or contradictory. (Alternatively, irony can be defined as something with two or more meanings, known to different people; in this case, the atheists know there is no transcendent or spiritual meaning to baptism or de-baptism, but believers put value on such customs.)
Atheist de-baptisms would indeed be a contradiction, if it weren’t for the following:
Atheists do not believe there is a metaphysical or eternal effect of baptism or de-baptism. This is the only element of irony, and atheists’ awareness of it (even calling de-baptisms “a bit of a joke” and a “mock ceremony”) ensures no genuine contradiction is made.
Unlike most churches, atheism (which is, of course, not an organization or authority in any sense) requires baptism of no one.
Atheists would not de-baptize infants or young children.
There are positive social effects of de-baptism, which we will discuss below.
Some individuals value the event as a symbolic renunciation of dogma they were taught earlier in life.
Because the reasons and beliefs surrounding de-baptism do not contradict the atheist’s rejection of theism and revealed mysticism, it’s unfair to ridicule de-baptism.
Reasons to be de-baptised
De-baptisms are not for everyone. Those who do opt for one do so for a number of reasons.
One motivation is to commit a formal act of apostasy, or the rejection of a religious belief. This decreases the number of people on churches’ official rosters, as these churches often use these numbers for political clout. (Of course, not even all active members agree with Church teachings.) In Ireland almost all public schools are actually run by the Catholic church, partially on the grounds that most Irish are Catholic; the formal apostasy of de-baptism is seen as a way to decrease this theocratic power. I expect this to become even more common now, in the wake of the Ryan Report on clerical abuse and after the absurdly backward anti-blasphemy law was passed.
The second common reason is personal or symbolic meaning. One of the de-baptized, Jennifer Gray, called her experience “very therapeutic.” In a sense, a comparison could be made to New Year’s Resolutions, a custom that has absolutely no mystical meaning, but which can nonetheless be a decisive step and a statement of intention.
Lastly, some (such as myself) may view the ceremony as an assertion of children’s rights. Why, they ask, should parents be able to decide what a child will believe? (Not all religions practice infant baptism, so this doesn’t always apply.)
Is baptism irreversible?
Some churchesrefuse to take the de-baptized off their rosters, claiming that baptism lasts forever in the eyes of God and/or the Church. I call baloney. Should God exist, He could keep His records just fine without a mortally run organization helping him out by artificially swelling their numbers.
While Christians are free to believe that baptism is permanent, common sense and modern Western law suggests that, on paper and in practice, no one can be forced to remain a part of a group to which they do not wish to belong. That’s what cults do.1 That is almost the definition of slavery.
The way that these same churches welcome converts from other religions, even if such converts were baptized into another religion. (As if they would refuse. Those collection plates don’t fill themselves!) If baptism lasted forever, church-hoppers could end up being permanent members of multiple faiths. How absurd would that be? (Yes, a lot of churches see other denominations’ baptisms as equivalent to their own, but the point stands: the convert has left a church.)
To summarize: Dogma is within the church’s domain, but the roster should be composed entirely of those who wish to be on it.
What about those who want to be removed from church records, but are denied the right to do so by their church? Is there hope? Barring legal action, there may be! Since churches generally allow conversions between denominations, a possible loophole may be able to switch to a less retentive church, inform the old church and request to be expunged, and then get that new church to remove them from the roster. Sounds like a lot of effort, but it may be worth it as a last resort.
Personal attitude toward de-baptism
Before I heard that other atheists enjoyed de-baptism, I had hoped to experience one someday. While others I expressed this wish to could not see any reason to it — after all, if I believed baptism had no meaning, what need had I for de-baptism? — I wanted to undergo it for more practical reasons. I wanted to make a statement about children’s rights, to formally end my relationship with the Church, and to show myself and others I was serious about my atheism.
Unlike the accounts I have linked to here, I did not envision my de-baptism taking place with a blow-dryer. I hoped to honor the legacy of Douglas Adams and use a towel.
General tips: I couldn’t find a definitive resource for those looking to officially leave churches, but in most cases a letter to the Bishop stating your intent to commit apostasy, like Irish Catholic one above, should suffice. Consider sending your letter via registered mail or with delivery confirmation.
Photo credits: Baptism used with implicit permission
Update: If you live in the Phoenix or Chicago area and have been de-baptized, please contact me.
Using this as a definition of cults, Scientology and Christian Science easily qualify, as do Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as do fundamentalists like Pat Robertson who advocate not speaking to family members who left the church. (Yes, I am aware there is precious little difference between cults and religions.) ↩
This page attempts to reduce the use of this rhetoric, which is neither effective nor accurate, by making atheists and heathens aware of some responses to it and by asking Christians to avoid it.
I remember sitting on the balcony of a highrise apartment down in Miami watching the boats go by and trying to win a relative to [C]hrist.
He made a comment that he “wasn’t very into religion,” followed by my canned comment of, “Oh, but it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
Most Christians who claim they aren’t religious consider their sacred holy text, the Bible, inerrant or at least divinely inspired and they often insist that you must believe … in the Trinity. … This is far and away enough to qualify [their beliefs] as religion by definition.
Indeed, where would one even get the idea to begin a prayerful relationship with Jesus if not ultimately from the Bible or clergy? It goes without saying both sources are clearly religious in nature.
Saying that your Christ-centered beliefs are not a religion, but rather a relationship, also opens up those who use the line to attack. If there is “no religion” involved, that would seem to imply no scriptures or dogma are serious contributors to one’s beliefs; if revelation comes directly through this relationship, then the lack of agreement that followers of Christ have on even the most basic doctrines of how salvation is attained would suggest that the relationship is entirely imaginary.
If one’s beliefs regarding Jesus are “not religious,” then a skeptic may wonder if one may maintain a relationship with Jesus while becoming a Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist. After all, religions are generally held to be mutually exclusive, but a relationship won’t preclude one from converting to a particular religion.
Even more light-heartedly, one may inquire as to the comparative benefits of a relationship with Christ versus a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The “relationship” is certainly not as friendly as Christians would like to assert; after all, Jesus is the only “person” who claims to torture us for eternity should we reject his “friendship.”
Dave urges Christians to avoid this rhetoric and instead use more sincerity in their attempts at conversion and apologetics.