Friday, November 18, 2011

Nonbelief In A Nutshell

A Work In Progress - I think this is a good rough draft, I'll refine it over time, add references, links, and citations. In the meantime, feel free to help me by pointing out any errors or defeating arguments (or even just linking to other resources in the comments).

But here are a few foundations for my Nonbelief:


If "objective moral values and duties exist" then the question of god is irrelevant because, being objective, they cannot depend upon god. They would have to exist as facts of the matter, independent from any god, or else they are not objective. This argument is the same as saying 'if matter objectively exists, then god". It is a non sequitur.

Nor do I grant that objective morals exist. All evidence is that we follow something closer to empirical consensualism (the proposition that, I and others have a say in the nonsense you try to pull on us which we can legitimately base on the facts of the matter). I believe that GIVEN THE HUMAN CONDITION (which by definition means we're not talking about the objective - a human who, for example, lacks a sense of empathy would not likely share our values) that there are moral imperatives that we can discern through observation. I believe there are good, empirical arguments to be made for such imperatives but ultimately they depend on shared values. If we cannot agree on a value position then we will not agree on the conclusions regarding ethics or morality. Nor does a morality existing necessarily imply that there is some arbiter of them. They are JUST principles of behavior. Some behaviors we don't always like, but we tolerate in others (belief in religion, free speech, non-belief in religion, blasphemy). Other behaviors we find so contrary to human existence that we're willing to enforce them upon others, even when we're not directly affected (murder, theft, assault, rape, fraud, child abuse, slavery, etc).


Slavery is one of the best arguments against the Bible as a source of moral authority. I will let Marvin Wheat make that point for me: "emancipationism [or] abolitionism is atheism" 'The progress and intelligence of Americans', Marvin T. Wheat. Bravo Mr. Wheat, I couldn't have said it better. The rejection of slavery is the rejection of the Judeo-Christian values that underlie it (neither group invented slavery, they merely codified as if it was the will of god). This Atheism is the claim that we have grown beyond the narrow-minded claims of iron age, theocratic despots asserting their power and exploiting the ignorant/uneducated/undereducated masses of the time. Yes, I Very Well understand the draw - for a finite payment today, and draw from infinite perfection tomorrow - you know, after you're dead so we don't have to actually prove anything. And the bad people will get punished (since we failed to hold them responsible) and the "good people" (defined invariably by EVERYONE as those on YOUR side, it's always the other guys who are evil) will be rewarded. Oh, and it's conveniently undetectable and unprovable (despite 1 Kings 18), so you'll just have to take their word for it. I mean, nobody would Die for a false belief would they? (*cough* 9/11 *cough*, Opps, deploy the Special Pleading police to clean that one up). And let's ignore the fact that it's not REALLY the bad people who are punished, they merely have to confess their sins and accept Jesus and get a Free Pass. It's those evil atheists who want to take responsibility for their OWN sins and not scapegoat them through a Human Sacrifice that will receive infinite punishment for their finite transgressions against the make-believe. What god really hates is someone who thinks for themselves, not the murderer, or the rapist, or the child abuser.

But a bare and unsupported assertion that ones moral claims are grounded in their god is fatuous and empty. You must provide and argument or demonstration as to why your claims of moral ground in YOUR God are substantial, whereas all the other tens of thousands of such claimants are in error.

The fact is that the religious methodology (be it revelation, gnosis, or otherwise) is wholly unreliable and demonstrably leads to mutually exclusive conclusions. I might as well be a Scientologist or Mormon or follower of Jim Jones or Sai Baba as all such claims rest on the same, deeply flawed, methodological footing (that of making things up and deciding to believe in them ON the absence of evidence and contrary to all rationality).

What Passes For Biblical 'Morality'

On Christianity, what one must accept is that commanding someone to murder their own child is a moral action (if not, then god is immoral; or if it's moral for god to do it and it's not moral for you then it is NOT an objective standard). And if you argue that it was ok because God stayed Abraham's hand then you fail to account for the thousands of infants murdered by and on account of God: The first born of Egypt; in the presupposed flood; by the Israeli soldiers against the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; or amongst the 100,000 Syrians; or the 1 million Ethiopians; etc (2,476,636 in total explicitly numbered in the Bible, which doesn't account for the flood or first born or many other mass murders and genocides in the bible). God doesn't care much about the lives of humans, infant or otherwise.

Even if you presume the Canaanite (et al.) adults deserved genocide (which is a prejudiced and abhorrent conclusion to begin with, and is baseless in fact), there is no argument by which you can convince me that it was thus a good and moral action for the poor Israeli soldiers to also slice open the children with a sword. Such murders (presuming they actually occurred, which also fails the factual history test) would be immoral. Period. Inexcusable. I DARE you to pick up a sword in your hands and hold it over an infant and even CONTEMPLATE bringing that sword down with force. If it doesn't make you ill just thinking about it then you need mental help because you are abnormal.


The Bible shows every evidence of being plagiarized from older mythologies and events from history (e.g., from Gilgamesh, Judas the Galilean, Egyptian sources, etc).

The utter lack of contemporaneous corroborating historical accounts is also devastating to the claims. Nobody else thought to mention the graves opening up and the dead walking among the living? Josephus was far too late (and either plagiarized or dishonestly modified), Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were TOO late, written anonymously, and we have every reason to suspect them (ask any Jewish scholar for their opinion of Christian re-interpretation of their own works). The Church's violent suppression of dissenting voices (just ask the Arian's) and destruction of contradictory evidence likewise condemns them. And then the Church, as further evidence of their systemic (commanded by the authority of the Church) immorality, for the next 1700 some-odd-years rules via murder, torture, and intimidation and destroys innumerable cultures around the globe under the pretense that it is God's Will (Manifest Destiny, Requerimiento, etc).

And please do not try to pretend like Protestants escape any of this, read Luther's 'On the Jews and their Lies' and 'In Bondage Of The Will' for starters. Then we can move to the Thomas More / William Tyndale screeds against each others respective religion. Calvin's vicious theocracy is likewise well documented (cf. Michael Servetus).

In the end it doesn't matter if there was a historical personage that the character of Jesus was based on or not. It is irrelevant to the question. I think the best evidence argues for an amalgamation (especially the evidence for Judas the Galilean). You can legitimately disagree because there is no conclusive evidence. Claiming the Biblical texts as prima facie evidence for Jesus buys you no more than the prima facie evidence for the gods in the Hellenistic texts. Once again, the religious methodological failure is fantastic and profound.

Scientific methodologies converge on answers while religious methodologies obfuscate, diverge, and bifurcate.


  1. Depending on your intended audience and purpose, my comments would change. If this is to be persuasive, it does come across as an attack, which, while a legitimate form of persuasion, usually causes the one you're trying to persuade to become defensive. If it is to be something along the lines of a credo, then a little more time spend on explaining the reasoning or results of the reasoning behind your choices (for example, I am amoral because morality tends to be black and white, one or the other without regard to the situation. I prefer to operate under an honour code, which allows consideration of the entire situation rather than just an action and takes into account that because one action is proper in one situation does not mean it is proper in another.) If it is to be informative, the tone is unfocused.

    As you did say this was a rough draft, unfocused is to be expected. I think you have valid points and some of them would do well to be expanded (there are several points where you mention something and move quickly onto the next thing) but which would be best to expand would depend partially on what your ultimate purpose is. You do say it is a statement of why you have chosen not to follow a religious belief system, but that doesn't fully define its target or purpose. Defining those would make it easier to improve.

  2. Honestly, I think I'll be lucky if anyone else every actually reads it. But generally I put pages up here for topics that come up frequently so I can just link someone to my position. So it will probably most be Christians with whom I am in a discussion with and they go "but morality proves god; your morality is baseless".

    So basically I want to attack the objective morality claims, and expose what the morality we're actually talking about really involves and why I reject it (and why that rejection is reasonable - as the usual counter offer is that the historicity of the Bible account is unquestionable).

    One area I know I need to expound on (I've covered it elsewhere but need to incorporate that here) is why the 'religious methodology' is flawed.

    If you want to see the entire context of where these discussions & arguments came from:

    There is much more there than I have posted here.

    I really appreciate your comment & feedback. I absolutely agree with most of what you said.

    I'll have to think about the tone, I tend to be fairly acerbic - and I actually think I'm ok with that - it's not by accident. Defensive can mean more engaged in my experience. I want people to be engaged enough to want to try disprove me - but not so offended that they just blow it off. And no one piece of writing is going to "do it" for every person. I also think that as I flesh out the text the tone will naturally soften.

  3. I don't think most rational Christians (and there's another argument) would try to disprove it. Like you said, the inconvenient thing about theology is the God seems intent on not being tangibly proven. As for hyper-offense, generally anything written in blue font on black background past 10 PM feels pretty acidic. Also, it feels weird to try to "disprove" it because this is a belief. Or, in this case, a nonbelief. I know that the scientific, literary, and theological world would spit on me citing Kevin Smith, but, "You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. People die for it. People kill for it."

    I did appreciate the bit about moral relativism. It seems that there's not a terribly solidified code of morality from book to book in the Bible. Or sometimes even in the same book.

    Something I kind of get annoyed about, as a matter of personal preference, is when people cite offenses of the Catholic church as proof of God's stamp of approval on genocide or gross crimes against humanity, and therefore evidence of an amoral God. If we even dabble in the idea that God existed during the Crusades or Spanish Inquisition, where is the evidence that he was involved? Further, and somewhat apart, I'm not sure that any pope had more blood on his hands than Stalin or Mao or Kim. You can be a murderer with or without religion.

  4. I do make numerous specific claims that could be in error and there are ample apologetics on all of these issues that could potentially change my position in light of new information - I'm trying to bring a large number of arguments together in one location so someone could see a bigger picture forming. And it's not at all clear to me that most Christians understand the seriousness of the atrocities described in the Bible.

    I absolutely agree with you that you don't need religion to commit murder. I've written about that elsewhere (the real issues are things like tribalism and authoritarianism) and I need to incorporate it here. I think that section is one of the more 'unfocused' bits. However, the bit about "god's stamp of approval on genocide" comes Directly from the Bible, not the actions of the Catholic Church - the later actions of the Church only serve to reinforce the argument that this propensity for violence didn't go away with the New Testament; the violent interpretation is thus best explained as the original intent (I also argue that the destruction of early dissenting evidence obfuscates the facts which doesn't shine a favorable light on the Christian branch that survived those times). I mention there the Arian's, if you don't know their history you'll have to read up on it but basically they believed "the Son has a beginning", resulting in them being hunted down, slaughtered and virtually all of their writing destroyed.

    "In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offence, he shall be submitted for capital punishment" — Edict by Emperor Constantine

    What I hope a Christian might take away from this is that the message of the Bible is that god hates people who don't do what he commands of them, he wants them DEAD, and he will happily command soldiers to slice open suckling infants to achieve that goal. And I want Christian's who read this to understand that this really is the god they are accepting. If that doesn't square with their idea of god then perhaps they will begin to questions the foundations of their beliefs.

    Good feedback, thanks. I'll work to improve the text based on your comments, in the meantime hopefully this will help clarify some of the points.


  5. "God seems intent on not being tangibly proven" - that's why I bring out 1 King 18 :) Have you read it? Elijah confronts Ahab and challenges him to prove Ba'al is a real God, the challenge is to sacrifice a bull and have each prophet pray to their respective god and see which one answers the prayer and alights the Bull's flesh on fire. The priests of Ba'al try and fail (duh), so Elijah cleverly says ok look, I'll up the stakes for myself and soak my Bull flesh with water and voilà Elijah's Bull lights up light Christmas. Sound like an old magicians trick yet? Note how Elijah doesn't stick to the original challenge, he modifies it for himself making it appear even more difficult (classic redirection) but which actually allows him some trickery - for example, perhaps he knew of sodium or something similar that would react with the water. Such a trick may have even not been known except as an Alchemical well-kept secret at that time. We don't know for certain - it's not like they would ADMIT to it in the text - but it sure smells like fish to me. And then, of course, Elijah orders the 500 or so priests of Ba'al murdered - because that's just what God wants. Now imagine if we had the same scenario today? I challenge any Christian denomination to sacrifice a Bull and then pray and have their god light the flesh on fire (under the watchful eye of JREF or some similar group). And if they fail, would it then be the righteous and glorious thing to do if we murdered every priest of that denomination as a false priest? That would seemingly be the Christian thing to do, we would be doing God a favor. Is that the morality we propose to follow? Do you think any Christian's have enough faith to stand up for that challenge if it meant their death upon failure? Why can't we demand this level of proof? If it was good enough for Elijah, it should be good enough for us. Doesn't Jesus say that "Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:19 ~ Douay-Rheims)? What better way to get two Christians to agree than having their life at risk of forfeit?

  6. That would be an interesting argument to present to somebody who professed strict literalism or infallibility of the Bible. I find it interesting that you'd find it more likely that Elijah had access to large quantities of pure phosphorous, potassium, or sodium (which somehow failed to ignite when touched by the blood of the bull) than that the whole thing simply never happened ;)

    I've read the Bible, but certainly wouldn't consider myself a learn'd scholar. I don't think I'd be qualified to talk about anthropology of Palestine or pre-Vatican II theology. However, if one permits the idea that God, who refers to himself as the Father, has regard for those he calls his children, it stands to reason that perhaps the immediate fate of 500 sliced Baalic prophets is not to be poked in the eye with a pitchfork for all eternity.

    "But what about all the stuff in the Bible about fire and endless torment?" Yeah I'm not sure, but I don't think the Bible is infallible or intended for perfectly literal interpretation.

    My point is just that I don't think I accept the claim that the acceptance of the Abrahamic God is automatically submission to the murderous whims of some jealous tyrant.

    But this opens up another can of nastiness- which Abrahamic God? Surely the guy who said "turn the other cheek" is not same one who destroyed the house of Saul because he didn't kill absolutely EVERYTHING he could?

    Here is where the difference may, perhaps, be irreconcilable. Your claim is that God, or the arraignment of superstitions surrounding the god-myth, requires unquestioned fealty before any sort of moral uprightness. To the extent, even, that God would require the slaughter of infants. I think some Christians would refer to a belief that God has purpose in all his actions, and that death isn't such a huge deal in the view of eternity. So even if the claim that God wants all dissidents dead is true (and could it be) there's no reason to suppose that death is the worst thing that could happen to them.

    What's frustrating for either side of this argument is that it hinges on whether or not there is a God in the first place, and what he does with the souls of men. Without any ability to prove either side conclusively (it's just about impossible to prove a negative, about as much so as it is impossible to prove the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient being who doesn't want to have his existence proven) it's a philosophic debate.

  7. Speaking of philosophic debates!

    I wouldn't presume to try to convince anybody. I didn't post any evidence or even any strongly held feelings. For the sake of intellectual discourse (about religion? laffo) I offer the minimally crazy view that if there is a God, perhaps he's not quite as hell bent on hell... bending... as we've always supposed him to be.

  8. I didn't say it was MORE likely, I merely give it as a suspicious possibility (based on the story reading exactly like a magicians trick) incidental to my point - which is that, according to the Bible itself, God didn't really have a problem demonstrating his existence.

    I could give you 100 different ways such a feat could be accomplished by trickery and I bet Penn & Teller could give you 1000.

    Given the 30,000+ sects of Christianity I can't hope to smash them all with one hammer. If someone wants to subscribe to the "babies are better off dead" theory then we have the next discussion.

  9. As long as there are David Kato's, Dick Button's, Harvey Milk's, Tennessee Williams', Steven Charles', Thomas Moore's, ... and Christian groups who are attacking women's rights, gay rights, legalization, sex education, science eduction, ... then I will be in the debate :)