June 24, 2019

Do Your Friends Think You're Going to Hell?

Buddhist hell

Here's a fun question to consider: Could you maintain a friendship with a Christian who thought you would end up in hell? I realize that you are an atheist and that you don't believe in hell. Maybe that makes it easier for you to set aside the beliefs of someone who did. Still, I am curious about whether you think you'd be able to stay friends with someone who not only believed in hell but also thought you were heading there. I am not sure whether I'd be able to maintain such a friendship, although I'd probably give it a try. Even if the Christian did not talk about it often, I would know that they believed I deserved to be tortured forever. I think that would be a problem, and I'm not sure I could get past it.

Hell is one part of Christian doctrine that few Christians like to discuss. I can't say I blame them. Reconciling a loving god with everlasting torture can't be easy. Why would anybody worship the monster who created hell? Those who describe themselves as liberal or progressive Christians often seem to ignore hell as much as they can, leaving it to the fundamentalists to celebrate. I suspect some Christians reject this part of their doctrine altogether. Good for them! It is certainly a start.

June 23, 2019

But Isn't Religion Good for People?

sculpture wood child

If you've been an atheist for more than 10 minutes, you've probably heard this one. "But isn't religion good for people?" I often hear it after pointing to the lack of evidence to support any claims of supernatural entities. In this context, it seems to be an appeal to ignore the truth because it feels better to believe a falsehood.

The idea seems to be that even if the foundation of religious belief (i.e., that some god or gods exist) is false, religion might still be worth keeping around. There are many variants of this line of thought, so I'll pick what I think is a particularly thought-provoking one for this post. Can you imagine a scenario where you would advocate maintaining a false belief simply because the belief provided some benefit to the believer?

Experiencing Hurricane Katrina

hurricane from space

This post was originally a series of 6 short posts that appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2005 right before and a few days after Hurricane Katrina. I reworked them into this post as we head into the 2019 hurricane season, mostly so I'd have a reminder of this experience and how it affected me. With that goal in mind, I refrained from doing any more editing than was necessary to correct some typos, eliminate redundant content linking the posts, and improve clarity. Finally, I couldn't resist adding a brief contemporary postscript.

The Arrival (written 8/29/2005)

Looking out my window, I can tell that this is going to be a bad one. The full force of the storm is not due to arrive here until this afternoon, but I'm already seeing fallen tree branches blowing down the street and trees bending in ways I haven't seen before. We have been told to plan on being without electricity for a while. There have been plenty of false alarms before, but something about this one feels different.

It is easy to see how our primitive ancestors believed that storms like this represented the wrath of various gods. Before meteorology, nobody understood what caused these storms. Their power is truly awesome to behold, and it makes sense that they would have been attributed to supernatural forces.

June 21, 2019

Vote For Me, I'm Christian

vote yes or no

I have to start this post by pointing out that I am aware that I live in the most religious state in the U.S., and that means I do not expect what I am writing about here to be something that everyone will be able to relate to. Still, I expect that most of you living in the U.S. probably live near many Christians. Even if you don't, you will have observed at least some of what I'll describe at the level of national politics.

With local and state elections nearing, I have been getting flooded with campaign material for local candidates for all sorts of positions (e.g., school board, state treasurer, secretary of state, lieutenant governor, various judgeships). One thing these materials have in common is that almost all of them flaunt the Christian credentials of the person running for office. That is, the fact that the candidate is Christian is presented as if it was a qualification for office. I suppose that is because it is, at least that seems to be the case here in Mississippi.

In most presidential elections, candidates seem to have some awareness that they need to appeal to more than just evangelical fundamentalist Christian voters. Even if those voters are their base, most will reach out beyond them to some degree. This is usually still true but to a lesser degree for Congressional elections. Not surprisingly, we see much more variability here. Some candidates for Congress in some states do focus on Christian voters almost exclusively. At least in Mississippi, much of this breaks down when it comes to local and state-level elections. Here it seems like focusing only on evangelical fundamentalist Christian voters is the norm.

June 20, 2019

God's Plan For Us

grass

You are heading out on a road trip with a new friend. You don't know them that well, but you will only be gone for a weekend and are hoping for the best. The two of you decided to rent a car since the cars both of you own are fairly old. Everything is going well until you hit your first snag. One of you must have managed not to lock the car doors when you both went into a gas station store. When you return to the car, both of your cell phones and a small travel bag were gone. Fortunately, the rental car has built-in navigation.

Neither of you have previously visited the area where you are heading, and that makes the next snag a bad one. Without warning, the navigation system in the rental car goes out. You could have fallen back on your phones, but that is no longer an option. You don't know where you are or how to get where you are going. And that's when your friend says it. "There's a map."