April 22, 2019

"If You Die Tonight..."

tree

"If you die tonight, do you know where you'll go?" This is a favorite opening of evangelical fundamentalist Christians attempting to convert someone to their particular brand of Christianity. There they stand, smug look and all, thinking they are going to reach you when nobody else could. Oh, and please do not waste my time with any drivel about how only some "holy ghost" can convert people. If you really believed that, you wouldn't have bothered to initiate the conversation in the first place!

If I die tonight, I'm not going anywhere. This question presupposes that there is some part of us that endures death. As a materialist (i.e., nothing but matter and energy), I don't buy this because I have no evidence to support the existence of anything outside of nature. In fact, the very concept of "supernatural" makes no sense to me.

Of course, this question is a poorly concealed attempt to get me to think about whether I'm "right with Jesus." This is equally nonsensical. Even though there is little evidence to suggest that the particular Jesus character to which you refer ever lived, I can acknowledge that it is at least possible that someone like this lived a couple thousand years ago. The thing is, I have no reason to "get right" with any dead people. Even if I had the pleasure to know them while they were living, they are no longer around.

April 21, 2019

The #AtheistsENGAGE Campaign

hashtag in the sand

American Atheists has launched a new campaign, AtheistsENGAGE, with the goal of "standing up for atheists' free speech online." What does that mean? From the information provided on the campaign website, it sounds like they are focused on elected officials blocking atheists on their social media accounts (mostly Twitter) for expressing disagreement with them. They want atheists to engage their elected officials respectfully and then report if they are blocked for doing so. Evidently, they are prepared to take legal action, if necessary.

On the surface, none of this strikes me as a bad idea. I do worry that some atheists will attempt to provoke their elected officials into blocking them so they can file complaints with American Atheists, but I assume the group has anticipated this. There is language on the campaign website encouraging atheists to be respectful, but it is not as prominent as it should be. I suppose my main concern is that this seems to have quite a bit of overlap with the AtheistVoter campaign, which mostly seems to have been abandoned by American Atheists. Are they starting a new campaign because that one never caught on? If so, what are they going to do differently with this one?

April 20, 2019

Easter Weekend: You Really Believe That?

dyed Easter eggs

Many atheists enjoy Easter weekend. And why not? We could all use some time off work and an excuse to get together with family. There are plenty of ways atheists can have fun on Easter. I have noticed that one increasingly common activity many atheists seem to enjoy during Easter weekend involves mocking various aspects of Christian belief. Obviously, this is not limited to Easter weekend. My point is that I have noticed more of it taking place on social media than I recall from past years. I think that's a good thing.

The story of Easter in which many Christians claim to believe is bizarre enough that mockery seems like an appropriate response. Social norms discourage even mild criticism of this and other religious belief systems, and this is unfortunate. Shielding these belief systems from criticism prevents believers from thinking too deeply about them, and this makes it easier for these belief systems to persist. Belief systems that are both irrational and harmful should be questioned, criticized, and even mocked. The hope is that this will help to stimulate some believers to question at least some of what they believe. I'm sure we have all had experiences of not questioning a long-held belief until we hear how it sounds to someone else.

April 19, 2019

Ridiculous Cross Parades Blocking Traffic

Jesus carrying the cross

I have the day off of work because the Christian majority couldn't possibly be expected to work on Dead Jesus Day. I got up at my usual time and worked from home for a couple hours before heading to the local home improvement store. I needed fertilizer, weed killer, and a few other things. Everything is growing this time of year, and I had recently discovered that I had used up almost all of my garden supplies last winter.

I made it to the store without incident, quickly found everything I needed, and started home. The traffic was unusually bad, but I figured it must be because everybody else had the day off too. Then I came upon an accident. It did not appear that anyone was hurt, but one of the vehicles appeared to be damaged to the point that I was not sure it was drivable. Strangely, the traffic did not improve after I had passed the accident. In fact, it got even worse. Even with many people having the day off, one does not expect bumper-to-bumper traffic at 10am where I live. I was puzzled.

Celebrating Human Sacrifice

crucifix

Suppose for a moment that there really was a historical Jesus. Also, suppose that the manner in which he is depicted in the book some Christians regard as "holy" is at least somewhat accurate. None of the miraculous things took place, of course, but the words and deeds attributed to the Jesus character were at least close to what really happened. If all of this was the case, wouldn't most people be able to agree that this Jesus person was a fairly decent guy? Even if he was fully human, not divine in any way, and never performed a single miracle, wouldn't we regard him as a generally good guy? Maybe not. But it seems very unlikely that we would label him evil.

Why would anyone celebrate the torture and murder of a good guy each year? I can understand why some Christians would choose to celebrate Easter if they think it was when the Jesus character came back to life. But why celebrate his brutal execution? Why glorify his torture? If the response is that it was necessary for the resurrection, I'd have to disagree. He could have been revived no matter how he died. He did not need to suffer as much as he allegedly did. "He died for your sins, bro!" Salvation could have been accomplished in many ways that did not involve his gruesome death. So why wasn't it?

When I see legions of Christians welcoming Good Friday, my first thought is often some variation of, "Man, you must really hate this Jesus person." I usually manage to keep that thought to myself, but it is there. Had Jesus been some sort of depraved monster, maybe it would make sense to honor his demise. But that does not appear to be the case here. Are people really selfish enough that they'll celebrate everything Jesus supposedly endured just because they think it was good for them?