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About this week’s eSkeptic
Do We Need God?

On September 30, 2015, Michael Shermer and Larry Taunton debated the question “Do We Need God?”. The debate will eventually be posted online for viewing. In the meantime, in this week’s eSkeptic, we present Michael Shermer’s notes for the debate. Michael did not have time to cover the morality of the New Testament (compared to the Old) but we include his notes here nonetheless in case readers would like to use this material. Much of it comes from his book The Moral Arc.

The Battle in Seattle
Do We Need God?

by Michael Shermer

Do We Need God? No. Thank you. Okay, seriously, there are at least 10 reasons why we do not need God…

1. Ben Carson, or Religious Ignorance. Only belief in God could infect a brain as smart as the renowned neurosurgeon and prominent Presidential candidate Ben Carson to mangle the Big Bang theory and preposterously propose that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a trick of Satan.

2. Kim Davis, or Religious Bigotry. Only belief in God could convince an otherwise decent and loyal civil servant that her personal interpretation of the Bible trumps the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the law of the land.

3. ISIS, Al Qaeda, & Islamism, or Religious Extremism. Only belief in God could lead large groups of people to believe that the most moral thing they can do is to murder people in the most gruesome manner imaginable—beheading—anyone who does not believe their barbaric and primitive religious tenets, such as capital punishment for apostasy.

4. Crusades, Witch Hunts, and Wars, or Religious Violence. Only belief in God could lie behind these catastrophic moral blunders: the Crusades (the People’s Crusade, the Northern Crusade, the Albigensian Crusade, and Crusades One through Nine); the Inquisitions (Spanish, Portuguese, and Roman); witch hunts (the execution of tens of thousands of people, mostly women); Christian conquistadors (extermination of native peoples by the millions); the interminable European Wars of Religion (the Nine Years War, the Thirty Years War, the Eighty Years War, the French Wars of Religion, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the English Civil War); the American Civil War (in which Northern Christians and Southern Christians slaughtered one another over the issue of slavery); and the First World War (in which German Christians fought French, British, and American Christians, all of whom believed that God was on their side—German soldiers, for example, had Gott mit unsGod with us—embossed on their belt buckles.) And that’s just in the Western world. There are the seemingly endless religious conflicts in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, numerous countries in Africa, and of course Islamist terrorism.

5. Slavery and Civil Rights, or Religious Intolerance. Only belief in God kept the slave trade alive through religious and biblical arguments that blacks were inferior to whites, that slavery was good for black souls, that slavery gave blacks civilization, that blacks liked being enslaved, or, later, that blacks should not have the same civil rights as whites (such as equal treatment under the law—interracial marriage was illegal until 1967) simply because the pigment in their skin was darker.

6. Women’s Rights, or Religious Suppression. Only belief in God would lead otherwise good men to think that women should not have the same rights as they, which is what almost all Christians believed until the women’s rights movement of the 20th century (and many today still believe in wanting to control women’s sexuality and reproductive choices). Like the meddling Puritanical control freaks of the Early Modern Period there are still men today who think they should decide what women do with their vagina. Women flourish in societies that are either not very religious or those, like the United States, that have separation of church and state; i.e., less religion equals more rights and equality.

7. Gay Rights, or Religious Moralizing. Only belief in God could cause otherwise decent Christians to become perversely obsessed with what other people do with their genitals in the privacy of their bedrooms, and that if these people don’t insert their genitals into the biblically correct orifice, or if genitals are stimulated in a biblically unapproved manner, they should not have the same Constitutional rights as straights.

8. Tribalism, or Religious Xenophobia. The world’s religions are tribal and xenophobic by nature, serving to regulate moral rules within the community but not seeking to embrace humanity outside their circle. Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers. Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past. Change in religious beliefs and practices, when it happens at all, is slow and cumbersome, and it is almost always in response to the church or its leaders facing outside political or cultural forces (slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights).

9. Absolutism, or Religious Dogmatism. The foundation of the belief in an Absolute Morality is the belief in an Absolute Religion grounded in the One True God. This inexorably leads to the conclusion that anyone who believes differently has departed from The Truth and thus is unprotected by our moral obligations; even more, they must be forced to see the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Unlike science, religion has no systematic process and no empirical method to employ to determine the verisimilitude of its claims and beliefs, much less right and wrong, so it can never self-correct its mistakes, which are legion.

10. Preposterous Moral Rules, or Religious Immorality. The morality of holy books—most notably the Bible—is not the morality any of us would wish to live by. Put into historical context, the Bible’s moral prescriptions were for another time for another people and have little relevance for us today. In order to make the Bible relevant, believers must pick and choose biblical passages that suit their needs; thus the game of cherry picking from the Bible generally works to the advantage of the cherry pickers.

In the Old Testament, for example, the believer might find guidance in Deuteronomy 5:17, which says, “Thou shalt not kill”; or in Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” But the handful of positive moral commands are desultory and scattered among a sea of violent stories of murder, rape, torture, slavery, and all manner of violence, such as occurs in Deuteronomy 20:10–18, in which Yahweh instructs the Israelites on the precise etiquette of conquering another tribe:

When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves….

Nice. Or consider what Moses did with an army of 12,000 troops Numbers, 31:7–12:

They warred against Mid′ian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and slew every male. They slew the kings of Mid′ian … And the people of Israel took captive the women of Mid′ian and their little ones; and they took as booty all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. All their cities in the places where they dwelt, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, and took all the spoil and all the booty, both of man and of beast. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses.

That sounds like a good days pillaging, but when the troops got back, Moses was furious. “What do you mean you didn’t kill the women?” he asked, exasperated, since it was apparently the women who had enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful with another God. Moses then ordered them to kill all the women who had slept with a man. “But save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man,” he commanded, predictably, at which point one can imagine the thirty-two thousand virgins who’d been taken captive rolling their eyes and saying, “Oh, God told you to do that, did he? Right.” Was the instruction to “keep the virgins for yourselves” what God had in mind by the word “love” in the “love thy neighbor” command? I think not.

Of course, the Israelites knew exactly what God meant (this is the advantage of writing scripture yourself—you get to say what God meant) and they acted accordingly, fighting for the survival of their people. With a vengeance.

What about the New Testament? The angry, vengeful God Yahweh of the Old Testament, Christians claim, was displaced by the kinder, gentler New Testament God in the form of meek and mild Jesus, who two millennia ago introduced a new and improved moral code. Turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, forgiving sinners, and giving to the poor sounds like a great leap forward in moral progress.

Yet, nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus revoke God’s ludicrous laws. In fact, quite the opposite (Matthew 5:17–30 passim): “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Jesus doesn’t even try to edit the commandments or soften them up: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, if anything, Jesus’ morality is even more draconian than that of the Old Testament: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”

In other words, even thinking about killing someone is a capital offense. In fact, Jesus elevated thought crimes to an Orwellian new level (Matthew 9:28–29): “Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Though shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” And if you don’t think you can control your sexual impulses Jesus has a practical solution: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” May I see a show of hands of those who agree with this moral precept?

As for Jesus’s own family values, he never married, never had children, and he turned away his own mother time and again. For example, at a wedding feast Jesus says to her (John 2:4): “Woman, what have I to do with you?” One biblical anecdote recounts the time that Mary waited patiently off to the side for Jesus to finish speaking so that she could have a moment with him, but Jesus told his disciples, “Send her away, you are my family now,” adding (Luke 14:26): “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

Charming. This is what cultists do when they separate followers from their families in order to control both their thoughts and their actions, as when Jesus calls to his flock to follow him or else (John 15:4–7): “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” But if a believer abandons his family and gives away his belongings (Mark 10:30), “he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands.” In other passages Jesus also sounds like the tribal warlords of the Old Testament:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34–39)

Even sincere Christians cannot agree on Jesus’ morality and the moral codes in the New Testament, holding legitimate differences of opinion on a number of moral issues that remain unresolved based on biblical scripture alone. These include dietary restrictions and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; masturbation, pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortion; marriage, divorce, and sexuality; the role of women; capital punishment and voluntary euthanasia; gambling and other vices; international and civil wars; and many other matters of contention that were nowhere in sight when the Bible was written, such as stem-cell research, gay marriage, and the like. Indeed, the fact that Christians, as a community, keep arguing over their own contemporary question “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?) is evidence that the New Testament is silent on the answer.

Middle Statement

Empirically speaking we can see why we don’t need God:

  • Millions of Americans have no belief in God whatsoever, and 10s of millions have no religion and they’re doing just fine. There are no measures that believers are more moral than non-believers.
  • Tens of millions of people in many Northern European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Germany have no belief in God or religion and not only are they doing just fine, by any measure they are far healthier societies than the most religious nation in the Western world: America.
  • Gregory S. Paul study: 17 first-world prosperous democracies in the Successful Societies Scale database (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States). 25 indicators of social health and well being 1–9 scale: homicides, suicides, incarceration, life expectancy, gonorrhea and syphilis infections, abortions, teen births, fertility, marriage, divorce, alcohol consumption, life satisfaction, corruption rates, adjusted per capita income, income inequality, poverty, unemployment.
  • Religiosity 1–10 scale: belief in God, biblical literalism, church attendance, prayer frequency, belief in an afterlife, and belief in heaven and hell.
  • U.S. most religious by far & highest rates of homicides, suicides, incarceration rates, STD rates, teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, divorce rates, income inequality rates & poverty rates.
  • If belief in God & religion is such a powerful force for societal health, then why is America—the most religious nation in the Western world—also the unhealthiest on all of these social measures? If religion makes people more moral, then why is America seemingly so immoral in its lack of concern for its poorest, most troubled citizens, notably its children?
Concluding Statement (From Chapter 4 of The Moral Arc)

The Bible is one of the most immoral works in all literature. Woven throughout begats and chronicles, laws and customs, is a narrative of accounts written by, and about, a bunch of Middle Eastern tribal warlords who constantly fight over land and women, with the victors taking dominion over both. It features a jealous and vengeful God named Yahweh who decides to punish women for all eternity with the often intolerable pain of childbirth, and further condemns them to be little more than beasts of burden and sex slaves for the victorious warlords.

Why were women to be chastened this way? Why did they deserve an eternity of misery and submission? It was all for that one terrible sin, the first crime ever recorded in the history of humanity—a thought crime no less—when that audacious autodidact Eve dared to educate herself by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Worse, she inveigled the first man—the unsuspecting Adam—to join her in choosing knowledge over ignorance. For the appalling crime of hearkening unto the voice of his wife, Yahweh condemned Adam to toil in thorn and thistle-infested fields, and further condemned him to death, to return to the dust from whence he came.

Yahweh then cast his first two delinquent children out of paradise, setting a Cherubim and a flaming sword at the entrance to be certain that they could never return. Then, in one of the many foul moods he was wont to fall into, Yahweh committed an epic hemoclysm of genocidal proportions by killing every sentient being on Earth—including unsuspecting adults, innocent children, and all the land animals—in a massive flood. In order to repopulate the planet after he decimated it of all life save those spared in the ark, Yahweh commanded the survivors—numerous times—to “be fruitful and multiply,” and rewarded his favorite warlords with as many wives as they desired. Thus was born the practice of polygamy and the keeping of harems, fully embraced and endorsed—along with slavery—in the so-called “good book.”

As an exercise in moral casuistry, this perspective-taking question comes to mind: did anyone ask the women how they felt about this arrangement? What about the millions of people living in other parts of the world who had never heard of Yahweh? What about the animals and the innocent children who drowned in the flood? What did they do to deserve such a final solution to Yahweh’s anger problem?

Many Christians say that they get their morality from the Bible, but this cannot be true because as holy books go the Bible is possibly the most unhelpful guide ever written for determining right from wrong. It’s chockfull of bizarre stories about dysfunctional families, advice about how to beat your slaves, how to kill your headstrong kids, how to sell your virgin daughters, and other clearly outdated practices that most cultures gave up centuries ago. It’s time we all gave it up now. Won’t you join me? END


Issue 1.4: Witches, Heretics & Scientists

In this issue: The Price of Intolerance: Today’s Heretic, Tomorrow’s Saint; Spirits, Witches, and Science: Why the Rise of Science Encouraged Belief in the Supernatural in 17th-Century England; The Ideological Immune System: Resistance to New Ideas in Science; Skeptical News: Houdini; Millennium Watch; Newton; Haunted Hearing; Rational Sobriety; Scope of Skepticism; UFO Support Group; Psychics Fail; Skeptic’s Predictions; Skeptics TV; Tunguska; AIDS Dispute; A.R.E. You Sure? The Edgar Cayce Foundation Responds to a Skeptical Critique; Can Religion Be Rational?; The Day the Earth Moved: The Psychology of Resistance to the Heretical—Science of Copernicus; Jonestown: A CIA Medical Experiment?; On the Wild Side; Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests; Over Populated Areas; Missing Pieces; How To Investigate Ghosts; UFOs,Psychics, and Other Mysteries; E.T.; Top Ten Science Frauds; Ten Great Unanswered Questions of Science; Galileo; Newton; Weird Wonders: It’s Baaack: The Nature-Nurture Debate Again; Exons, Introns and Talking Genes: The Science Behind the Human Genome Project; Bionomics; The Inevitability of Capitalism; Sociobiology and the Preemption of Social Science; The Road to Equality: Evolution and Social Reality by Paul McDowell; Discovery and Creation—The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination; The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know Himself; The Discoverers: An Illustrated History of Man’s Search to Know Himself

Issue 4.2: Evolutionary Ethics

In this issue: Interview: Living Within Limits & Limits on Living: Garrett Hardin on Ecology, Economy, and Ethics; Toward a Science of Morality; In Our Own Self Image: The Evolution of Morality, Deception, and Religion; Prospects for Existence: Morality and Genetic Engineering; Plants, Property & People: Should Indigenous Peoples Be Compensated For Their Medicinal Plant Knowledge?; The Secular Sphinx: The Riddle of Ethics Without Religion; Why Creationists Fear Evolution: An Introduction to Bryan’s Last Speech; The Most Powerful Argument Against Evolution Ever Made: The Undelivered Speech to the Jury in the Scopes’ Trial; Save Fuel, the Nation, the Environment, Money … Sure; Whose is the Higher Superstition? Reflections on the Need for Skeptical Open-Mindedness in the Days to Come; Cosmythology: Was the Universe Designed to Produce Us?; The Question All Skeptics are Asking: What Was Adam’s IQ?; Skeptics Walk on Fire For Bill Nye “The Science Guy”; The Mysterious (and Profitable) Origins of Man; Millennium Mystery or Misinformation?; Patterson Bigfoot Hoax…


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  1. David Zohar says:

    Please note that God/Allah/Elohim/Jehovah etc was a very poor town planner. Instead of separating religious foci of pilgrimage we see the opposite.

    In the city of Jerusalem where I live, Jewish Moslem and Christian “Holy Places” are piled together in a mediaeval town in very close proximity leading to endless quarrels, fights and murders.

    Stabbings of pilgrims are commonplace.

    It is not safe to visit the Old City where most of these traditional places are to be found, and of course the inter-religious arguments provide ample fuel for endless Arab hostility towards Israel

  2. Agabu Ndhlovu says:

    Michael Shermer’s 10 reasons of why we don’t need God allege that only belief in God lies behind the irrationality and immorality of people. The problem is, this is a misdiagnosis. It should be obvious that people exhibit irrationality or behave badly because there’s something wrong with them at the core of their being (read: the heart) that affects every aspect of their being. Biblical Christianity for one reveals within very reasonable parameters the fact that because people have turned away from God (not just any god but the only true God), which was the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden by the way, people predisposed to behave badly. As a matter of fact, all of us, including Michael, are. That is why we need a saviour. For Michael, reason is that saviour. Saving us from belief in God and from behaving badly as a consequence of that belief. Thing is there is clearly evil in every human heart that for worse mars even our reasoning and emoting faculties which in effect leads to people behaving badly. In other words, the problem isn’t God, the problem is with people and their hearts. People do bad things for all sorts of reasons. But at the end of the day people do bad things because there’s something bad about them at heart. I think Jesus Christ was right on the money in what he said in Matthew 12:35 about good people and bad people. A dark mind and its inexorable effect of behaving badly is a far more plausible explanation than using God as the boogeyman that allegedly licenses and legitimizes irrationality and immorality. Accusing God, even if one doesn’t believe in Him, for the evil that men do through what amounts to a guilt by association tactic amounts to a slandering of the divine. That is the case when we accuse one person for another person’s crimes simply because they may be friends or relations. This may rather seem superfluous to the skeptic committed to unbelief in God, but the humble thing to do is to treat other people’s beliefs in God respectfully especially if you claim to be committed to reason and civility. Michael’s 10 reasons are not good reasons at all because of their misdiagnosis of the human condition.

    • Miron says:

      “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
      ― Steven Weinberg

      • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

        Good people doing evil things because of religion is complete nonsense. You got to explain what you mean by ‘good people’ and how any person gets to be good in the first place. And who decides what a constitutes a good person? Furthermore, if evil people, as your quote suggests, can do evil things without religion, how did they even get evil to begin with? Biblical Christianity has some very solid answers to these matters, what’s yours? What I can say from my end as a Christian with a fairly good grasp of biblical teaching on the matter is, all of us people, irrespective of our beliefs-religious or nonreligious-are capable of doing evil things because there’s a propensity for evil in us all as human beings that got there somehow. This, my friend, isn’t religion, it is a simple existential reality. It demands a well considered philosophical and/or theological explanation that makes sense of it in a very down to earth sort of way. This fact of life greatly influences what people believe, how people believe and why they believe it. Evil isn’t a byproduct of religion, it comes from the heart of every person, because it’s already ‘living there’ as a corruption of the good. This makes sense of the oft quoted quip, “Nobody’s perfect.” Of course, we got to ask again, “How did it get there in the first place?” Evolutionary models just don’t do a good job of explaining this. No wonder, its advocates make religion the devil sitting on some people’s shoulders urging them to do evil. Yeah, right! Not!

        Some forms of religion may certainly give that propensity for evil a platform to express itself, but any belief system religious or otherwise is capable of urging it on depending on how it grounds its idea of morality. In this vein, I am suggesting that ideas do have consequences indeed. But that doesn’t make religion the source of evil, merely a sort of facilitator as anything else maybe.The evil that men do is, well, the evil that men do, because something about us all went very wrong. And we are having to deal with what’s wrong with all of us. We need a saviour pure and simple. And it can’t be any one of us, after all we are all screwed up in that respect. The only place, you will find any kind of saviour that addresses the evil that ails us all is in the Bible. It is only there, you’ll find a saviour that saves people from their sins. Reason, education while good things, aren’t capable of saving anyone. They can’t. They’re just as marred by the evil within us as we are, thus rendering them merely adequate and lacking in perfection. Perfection at this point is only in the realm of the divine. Reason, education and such are just tools we use to do human things, which of course also means we are going to be very inventive and sophisticated in the evils we perpetrate even while using what are really good things. This is one of the great dilemmas of the human condition. One which, I am persuaded biblical Christianity offers the best explanation for over and against other competing ideologies out there in the market place of ideas.

    • Yahya says:

      Sorry but you got it wrong.
      Yes, people can do evil things because they might be rotten from inside.

      But the point here is that, only religion and a firm belief in god can push a decent person to do evil things.

  3. Adrian says:

    This is a new low for Michael Shermer. First, this is not a rational argument. For one, most of them are statements without any support (one requires specific bias or ignorance in order for those statements to be obvious and don’t need any further support). Second, it is filled with languages that denotes an emotional argument: infect, preposterously, gruesome, barbaric, “insert their genitals into the biblically correct orifice”, xenophobic, etc. #1 Michael, you should spend more time reading your fellow atheist and learn about their ignorance. To give you some recent examples: Stalin was not an atheist, or atheists don’t say that theists are wrong (I can provide the links if needed). I don’t deny that these atheists were smart but you can’t deny their atheist ignorance. So, no it not only take “belief in God” but it can take “belief in atheism” as well to reach the same depths of ignorance.

    #2 says that Kim Davis “personal interpretation of the Bible trumps the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the law of the land.” Well, Michael, did it occur to you that some readers may take you for your word and be skeptical about statements without support? Michael, do you just assume that your faithful followers will exercise not skepticism regarding claims which lack support? In particular what is the law of the land? Is it the customary practice that had been in place? She certainly followed that. Was it instead the state law? She certainly followed that. See Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 402.005 and 402.010, .020, and .080. What about the Constitution? It turns out she upheld Amendment X and Amendment XI (1795). She was however in “contempt of federal court”. But why would anyone ignore facts such as Kentucky law when making such statements while, at the same time, accuse others of ignorance and bigotry? You’ve proved both ignorance and bigotry here and the whole article proves how intolerant you are of theists. And it takes atheism to prove even more bigotry. Take Dawkins claim that religious upbringing (or “indoctrination”) is worse than child abuse. Does that prove tolerance or bigotry (they are antonyms per New Oxford Thesaurus of English). Or take the recent shootings of Christians on Oregon. “Mercer then allegedly proceeded to ask the cowering students if they were Christians. ’And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’”” This seems to indicate that he didn’t believe in God and his statement was a mockery of their Christian faith (similar to what’s being done around here) before he would murder them. Further “Harper-Mercer’s social media profiles suggested he was fascinated by the Irish Republican Army and frustrated by traditional organized religion.” (and as a matter of fact, the tone of this post proves somebody else is frustrated with religion as well). So how tolerant was the shooter of Christians? Saying that only “belief in God” leads to bigotry is either an ignorant (#1) or bigot (#2) of the facts that “belief in atheism” can lead to extreme bigotry.

    Atheists emphasize tolerance except when it comes to those “intolerant Christians” – then they can sue them, fire them, defame them, deride them, lie about them, restrict their rights and influence, call them names, thrash them in the media, advertise against them on buses, etc. etc. all this while the atheist pretends that bigotry is only on the Christian’s side but they know nothing about it except from dictionary and being the victims of it.

    #3&#4 Further ignorance or disingenuous straw man. Michael forgets about atheistic regimes such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong in China, etc. that killed countless millions. These regimes had support of “large group of people”. Besides regular citizens, Hitler was supported by all major scientific organizations of the most scientifically elite country at the time: Germany. Or take eugenics – it had large support not only in Germany but in the US as well, 30 states had eugenic laws. These eugenic laws and their enforcement were not fueled by the belief in God but by the belief that some races are genetically and evolutionary inferior (in other words that they were not equally created by God but instead evolved and some are more primitive than others). Talking about moral blunders and stating that “it only take belief in God” to make them and not seeing the ones made by atheists and irreligious makes one wonder if Michael should (re)read what Jesus says about seeing the speck in other’s eyes but not seeing the log in one’s own eyes.

    #5 Michael says “biblical arguments that blacks were inferior to whites”. I’m not sure what Bible he’s reading (or not reading) but any good skeptic should expect a reference here. In fact, I’ve read the Bible many times and I found no such arguments. On the contrary, I found many arguments against slavery: Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”; Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1; Genesis 1:27; Exodus 21:16; Philemon 1:16; Colossians 4:1. Further it was Christians that fought and led the fight against slavery – for example William Wilberforce whose campaign against slavery led to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. It was exactly for his belief in God that he fought against slavery. In the US there were escape routes for fugitive slaves going to Canada that were organized by Christians because of their belief in God. Here Michael tries to score a point that’s not his. It is exactly those that believed that people were not created by God but evolved the ones that believed that some races were inferior and it’s therefore OK to dehumanize them – the ones that put other humans in Zoo as display of inferior races.

    #6 “Only belief in God would lead otherwise good men to think that women should not have the same rights as they…” – really? I’ve already mentioned Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. On the other hand, here is what Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man in Relation to Sex: “[Man] attains a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can women—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, history, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive of both composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer, from the law of the deviation from averages… [that] the average mental power in man must be above that of women.” Further, Darwin disciple and father of social psychology Gustave Le Bon said: “[Even in] the most intelligent races [there] are large numbers of women whose brains are closer in size to those of gorillas than to the most developed male brains. This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment; only its degree is worth discussion.…Women represent the most inferior forms of human evolution and…are closer to children and savages than to an adult, civilized man. They excel in fickleness, inconstancy, absence of thought and logic, and incapacity to reason. Without a doubt, there exists some distinguished women, very superior to the average man, but they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as for example, of a gorilla with two heads. Consequently, we may neglect them entirely.” Many other counter examples can be brought up.

    #7 It not only takes belief in God to discriminate against homosexuality. American Psychiatric Association did it for many years, defining homosexuality as clinical mental disordered. Darwinian evolution has discriminated against homosexuality for much longer than that (and it still does!).

    Gay activists insist that the religious should not only accept homosexuality but also celebrate it (which is an employee was told by his boss). Homosexuals have this right to require (even by law) that the religious celebrate their minority view on marriage. However, the religious do not have the right to require that the homosexuals celebrate their ex-majority view (now in minority) on marriage. Bigotry is exclusively one sided, right?

    #8 Shermer says: “Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers.” Religion by definition and the Latin root of the word deals primarily with “relinking” people to God not with interactions between people. Organized religion does involve indeed significant interaction between people but still the main point of religion is one’s relation to God not to others people. And at least Christianity teaches to love one’s neighbor’s and even one’s enemies. The parable given by Jesus that illustrates the teaching to love one’s neighbor is about the good Samaritan – who is especially one that was different, from another race and another place, someone that would be looked upon and discriminated against. But even if one accepts the Shermer’s definition (the identity of people like us) when it comes to a-theists it is even worse since it bears a negative definition (the identity of people unlike people that believe in God). There are many examples of atheists who quickly become irrational when it comes to belief in God and resort to emotional arguments (hmm, does it ring a bell), name calling, anger, cursing, irrationally denying obvious facts even when they have little bearing on atheism (as I mentioned, denying that Stalin was an atheist or that Dawkins was stumped, etc.). So, is it really true that only “belief in God” can make one “xenophobic”? Atheism is just as good of a candidate and a skeptic should already know that.

    #9 There are plenty of examples for the open eyes to see that atheist can be very dogmatic as well (even admitted by some atheists on twitter). As one that grew up under an atheistic and communist regime I can assure you that communists were very dogmatic about their atheism. The fact that Shermer doesn’t see the other side (such as things I’ve mentioned here) is conclusive proof of his bias and it’s exactly bias that breeds dogmatism. Science, Shermer’s esacpe, is very dogmatic as well. See Kuhn on scientific revolutions – it takes a revolution to change a paradigm in science. If that’s not proof of dogmatism what is it? There is plenty to say (and outside of this post) about science being self-correcting and peer review and many complaints brought by secular scientists and many recent scandals in relation to frauds and bias in science and the mentality and pressure to “publish or perish”. In the end, science cannot establish what’s true but only what’s not yet false (as Einstein said: “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong”).

    #10 A plus, this point is more documented than the other points. But it must be very ill-meaning one who denies that Christianity is a religion of love. It takes a lot of blindness, bias and often lots of hurt by so called Christians to deny that. You can find online that even some atheists admit that Christians do much more in terms of helping out than atheists. See “Voice of the martyrs”. It was started by Richard Wurmbrand who spent many years in communist prison for his “belief in God”. He and his wife “welcomed into their home a Nazi officer who worked at the very concentration camp where all of [his wife’s] family had been exterminated” and extended him forgiveness. Does it take an atheist to love and forgive like that? Or does it take one who believes in God? Back to Voice of the Martyrs, you can see pictures of people in countries where Christians are persecuted whose hands or eyes were chopped off and who nevertheless forgave their persecutors. One was left for dead but his phone was taken and he later called his aggressors to tell them he forgives them. What does it take for such love? Can you give one example of such love inspired from one’s disbelief in God?

    Shermer is right about other things he says in other articles or books about how people believe. He cherry picked the data to confirm his prior belief to which he was already committed: that God is not needed. He displayed a confirmation bias. He built straw mans and then he patted himself on the back for destroying them. His God-is-not needed argument is a reductio at absurdum type an argument. He must first assume that God exists in order to show that he is not needed. A God that doesn’t exist is not needed by default – there is no need to proving it if the world went on just fine without him. So he must take the theistic assumptions in order to prove they lead to an inconsistent conclusion that God is not needed. But in doing that he makes up straw man versions of the theistic assumptions – things that theists don’t claim, arguments they don’t make. He does things what theists would not do: such as ignoring the historical and cultural context of biblical passages, cherry picking passages and interpreting them unlike theists would and would draw conclusions that theists wouldn’t. If he was to make the best case for Christianity his post would be very different and short of the best case for Christianity he’s making and fighting a straw man of his own making, not one of theist’s making.

    He’s pointing out weak arguments like the crusades but does he really believe that it was the teaching of Jesus that inspired them (if so then I expect a reference) and not some other motives while claiming that it was in Jesus’ name? Is it a possibility that not all the claim that they believe in God actually do that and not all that call themselves Christians actually follow Christ’s teaching? Is it possible that some use that claim as a pretext? If that’s a possibility then using them as examples of what “people who believe in God” do – isn’t that disingenuous? Isn’t making

    I admit, it’s pretty hard to say what God says in the Bible when you don’t believe in God or the Bible. When one tries to make theistic assumptions from an atheistic perspective and concludes they make no sense my response is “Duh!”. If Shermer took the theistic assumptions as though God existed and as though what he said it’s important it really is important then most of his arguments here would seem silly. The inability to see that your opponents view can make sense is always proof of your inability to properly take on his assumptions and paradigm and judge his claims through them. He comes to the Bible and interprets it as an atheist would but then still say that theists’ Bible is wrong. To illustrate, Shermer says: “Jesus has a practical solution: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” May I see a show of hands of those who agree with this moral precept?” Again, all his arguments here are “reductio at absurdum” – they assume God to show he’s not needed, they assume the Bible is God’s word to show that what God says in it doesn’t make sense. But if God is assumed to exist then afterlife is much more important than this life and if amputation can, in extreme cases, make medical sense then, given that assumption, amputation can make, in extreme cases, spiritual sense. Just as loosing life completely can make spiritual sense. But if one has no God and no spiritual sense this would make no sense. Shermer only pretends he assumes God and what he ends up proving is that his imaginary god doesn’t exist – which I, as everybody else, already know and this post would have not been needed.

    While many of his arguments (like Crusades, slavery) are obviously about Christians who did not follow Christ’s teaching and their belief in God, if they had any, was not taken seriously; many atheists I mentioned came to do horrible things because they took their disbelief in God and their materialist and evolutionary view seriously. For example, it is exactly because some people didn’t believe that humans were created by God and are equal that lead them to use artificial selection to use “eugenic hygiene” to improve the human species by removing the undesirables. It is them because of their belief who put other humans in Zoo (and eventually lead to their death) because they were evolutionary inferior. This is as obvious that even Dawkins admitted it, Darwinism offers no grounds for morality. Here are some quotes: “What we need is a truly anti-Darwinian society… in the sense that we don’t wish to live in a society where the weakest go to the wall, where the strongest suppress the weak, and even kill the weak. We — I, at least — do not wish to live in that kind of society. I want to live in the sort of society where we take care of the sick, where we take care of the weak, take care of the oppressed, which is a very anti-Darwinian society. (Richard Dawkins Lecture at Kennesaw State University, November 21, 2014)”. Or: “There have in the past been attempts to base a morality on evolution. I don’t want to have anything to do with that. The kind of world that a Darwinian, going back to survival of the fittest now, and nature red in tooth and claw, I think nature really is red in tooth and claw. I think if you look out at the way wild nature is, out there in the bush, in the prairie, it is extremely ruthless, extremely unpleasant, it’s exactly the kind of world that I would not wish to live in. And so any kind of politics that is based upon Darwinism for me would be bad politics, it would be immoral. Putting it another way, I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics. (Broadcast on The Science Show on ABC Radio National, Australia)”. And, at your own conference: “After all, [Dawkins] said, no one wants to live in a Darwinian world of morality; real morality is not Darwinian. (Skeptics Society’s conference, May 29–31, 2015)”. In other words, those that believe Darwinism as a base for morality can easily end up doing immoral things. Now could any atheists put Darwinism at the base of their morality? Certainly so (just look on twitter). Not only Darwin but famous atheist contemporary philosophers such as Parfait as well: “Parfit is an atheist, but when it comes to moral truth he believes what Ivan Karamazov believed about God: if it does not exist, then everything is permitted.” (see his On What Matters and the book review in New Yorker). Or see Bruce Sheiman’s “An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion Than Without It” – although an atheist he concluded that religion is unlike what you described here, religion is good. This is proof that it doesn’t take one who believes in God to come to that conclusion. It seems to me the ability or inability to see this is not related to belief in God but to honesty, bias, having an agenda and being dogmatic about it.

    • keith says:

      You write about bias while conveniently ignoring your own, all that just to convince yourself your belief is stronger than your non existent god. Dogmatic? atheist have every right to be uncompromising when there not a single shred of evidence of a god, yours or others. Atheist may or may not be ignorant of scriptures but so what, at the very least atheist are evidence based, which as it turns out through science, relieves atheist of the necessity of needing a god.
      You haven’t explained the contradictions of a loving god permitting barbarity in his name. All I detect is a worming around cherry picking as you accuse the writer of the same. The onus is on you to prove that god exists, not in a book, but in the real world, you have not done that.

      • Adrian says:

        Keith, you start saying: “You write about bias while conveniently ignoring your own”. While I do admit my own bias, your statement would makes one think that you do a better job than me at not ignoring your own bias. You end saying: “You haven’t explained the contradictions of a loving god permitting barbarity in his name. All I detect is a worming around cherry picking as you accuse the writer of the same. The onus is on you to prove that god exists, not in a book, but in the real world, you have not done that.”

        You made the discussion about God’s existence and the compatibility between a loving God and pain/suffering. I wonder if you made this by evidence or by bias? If I look at the facts this topic was not about God’s existence or the problem of suffering but about needing or not needing God. As a matter of fact, there are authors who don’t believe in God but still claim we need God, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post. So even if God didn’t exist that doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t need him (as you seem to assume). Many atheists believe that something so universal as religion must have had some advantage at least at some point in our history.

        So, ‘needing God?’ is Shermer’s topic not mine and I was on topic, you are not. You changed the subject. I wonder is it by accident your change of subject to the problem of suffering or is it by bias? You could have changed the subject to a topic that’s a problem for atheism (at least as seen by theists and agnostics). You changed it to what happens to be your favorite argument against God. Is it coincidence or is it bias? Is it inquiry or is it agenda?

        You say there is no “shred of evidence” for theism so there must be absolutely no topic that’s a problem for atheism, right? You must be very naive and blinded by bias if you believe that billions of people, including some very intelligent ones, believe in God without any “shred of evidence”. (And also many agnostics that emphatically reject atheism and give specific reasons and evidence for that.) You could leave theists aside if you want because they were biased but there are many ex-atheist who found convincing evidence while they were atheists (a good example is the notorious atheist Anthony Flew). If there is one thing that you can’t blame atheists for is their bias pro God. So the question is this: is it really no evidence that made these atheists become theists (and I am one of them) or is it that it’s not evidence because you already know there couldn’t possibly be any evidence? Many ex-atheists such as Flew or see “Persuaded by the Evidence” became theists specifically because of evidence and they wrote about what made them change their mind. We (and I include myself here) see what we want to see and don’t see what we don’t want to see and need to be very careful about our bias. We see what we expect to see and don’t see what we don’t. See the experiment with the invisible gorilla used on radiologists. 83% missed the very obvious gorilla on the radiology slides because they didn’t expect to see one even though they were the very experts at looking at radiology slides. We see what we expect and filter out, ignore or downplay what we don’t expect or don’t want to see. Here’s what big caliber atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel says in “The Last Word”: “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

        The difference is that he is honest atheist and acknowledges his bias. But here’s another example that maybe better suits you. In “No Intelligence Allowed”, Ben Stein interviews Dawkins and, towards the end he asks Dawkins what would he say if he dies and finds out there was a God. Dawkins responds using a quote that he would say that God hid so well. Well, interesting enough earlier in the interview when asked about the possibility of intelligent design in life Dawkins says there are indications that life was planted here from outer space and that there you can even find a signature in the cell. So, when Dawkins sees a potential evidence for God – a “signature” in the cell – what others did interpret that way (see for example “Signature in the Cell”) he immediately assumed it couldn’t have been God, it must have been ETs (about which he said that they must have evolved by some Darwinian means). So Dawkins automatically dismisses the potential evidence for God and then he complains that God hides too well and he sees no evidence for God! What makes you think you can do better than Dawkins in seeing what your ideology does not allow to be?

        You said that what I do is cherry picking. That’s a statement without proof. You provided no evidence that I actually did that. Thus you expected the reader to accept your statement by faith. But leaving that aside, is there anything that I could have said against Shermer’s claims that you would have not labeled at “cherry picking”? Anything at all? Can you give some examples? Or is any evidence against Shermer or atheism, by default, cherry picking?

        It doesn’t really matter what I believe and what I say but you do owe it to yourself to ask this question: “If I was biased, how likely would it be that I don’t see my bias?” What militant atheist biologist Kenneth Miller said about evolution that it concerns something fundamental, “where we’re from, what our status is as human beings” and it’s as controversial as “going into a bar and saying something about somebody’s mother”. The same is true, more generally, about the theistic or materialistic worldview. It defines who we are, we we come from, where we are going; it defines the measure of a man; values and morality, etc. It’s a whole lot of stake for both sides and there is a lot of motives to be biased. Here’s what Encyclopedia Britannica’s Syntopicon I says on the topic “God”: “With the exception of certain mathematicians and physicists, almost all the authors of the great books are represented in this chapter. In sheer quantity of references, as well as in variety, it is the largest chapter. The reason is obvious. More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question. They follow for those who regard the question as answerable only by faith or only by reason, and even for those who insist upon suspending judgment entirely.”

        If I was in your shoes I would find it one of the most terrifying thoughts that I might be so wrong on such a large scale on such crucial matters and not even be able to see that – just blinded by bias. The God that doesn’t exist but it’s only a figment of imagination may very well indeed not exist and be a figment of you biased imagination (or lack thereof) – a straw-God you created so that you can then destroy and then pat yourself on the back for a what a God-killer hero you are. But if God exists, how would you know if the God of your bias, the one you trashed, is or isn’t the one that exists? Your argument is a reductio ad absurdum type of argument: “Let’s assume that a God exist and then conclude that a loving God that allows suffering can’t exist” – except that you only pretended that you assumed God. If you honestly assumed that God exists (for the sake of the argument) – then you would need to assume that God’s revelation (and not atheistic bias) is the best way to understand him. Everything short of that is not the best case for God that you are arguing and therefore it’s a straw man. You say “Atheist may or may not be ignorant of scriptures but so what”. So what? So this: that makes the God of your disbelief a straw-God and your atheism a straw-atheism. You continue: “but so what, at the very least atheist are evidence based, which as it turns out through science, relieves atheist of the necessity of needing a god.” With all respect for your mind, let me bring this to you: you have no evidence and not science whatsoever that proves that you have a mind – what has been traditionally understood by mind. It is an act of faith on your side and, given your materialistic worldview, it’s worse, it’s faith in supernatural. There is no proof for mind beyond what’s reducible to neurons. No proof for free will and many atheists claim there is no free will, no autonomous agent which they claim is as imaginary as gods and fairies. There is even one atheist philosopher, “the most original moral philosopher in the English-speaking world” who says there is not even such thing as ‘self’ or ‘identity’, “no “deep further fact” beyond the multitude of small psychological facts that make you who you are” (see Parfit’s “Reasons and Persons”). There are others that say there is no objective morality, all is relative. Other atheists say that even concepts as truth need to be redefined. Even distinctions between, “one marrying and behaving towards a spouse out of love” and “the same out of pity” cannot be made when all observations are the same. In this case there is no “shred of evidence” for a distinction but still almost everybody believes without proof in a distinction and a idealistic and “supernaturalistic” love beyond the mere acts and manifestation of “love” and whatever can overlap with “pity”. I’m convinced that all atheists are ultimately inconsistent, just some half baked theistic atheists that ultimately believe in one for or another of “supernatural” (things that cannot be reduced to natural explanations and proofs). For example Parfit doesn’t believe in self and identity but believes in objective morality: “Parfit is an atheist, but when it comes to moral truth he believes what Ivan Karamazov believed about God: if it does not exist, then everything is permitted.” About this morality he believes: “that there are true answers to moral questions, just as there are to mathematical ones. Humans can perceive these truths, through a combination of intuition and critical reasoning, but they remain true whether humans perceive them or not. He believes that there is nothing more urgent for him to do in his brief time on earth than discover what these truths are and persuade others of their reality.”

        So you can know by intuition, without a shred of evidence, and believe in supernaturals (in a sense which is not reducible to the material or provable by it) such as minds (including your own) and free will and objective morality and idealistic truth and love and so on but you can’t know about God by intuition, right? And that is because there is no shred of evidence, correct?

        What I’m saying that even if there was no evidence for God (which isn’t true, others have written on this and I also have novel arguments that I’m writing books about – it comes down to the bias that interprets the evidence and can ignore or downplay it) – it doesn’t mean one cannot have very good reasons for believing in God – just as one believes in his own mind, self and free will without scientific evidence. If one allows any non-scientific ways of knowledge (such as intuition) then an honest seeker will also pursue this path before declaring that God doesn’t exist.

        There is actually a way that you can find out if the Christian God exists or not. The Bible makes it very clear in many places that knowing God is primarily a matter of the heart not of the intellect. To an audience that was wondering if his words were human or divine, Jesus said: “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:15-17). Here are some other references to the role of heart and “seeing” God: Mat 5:8, 6:6; 1 Sam. 16:7; Isa 29:13, also Jer. 12:2, Ezek. 33:31; Jer. 29:13; John 14:5-10, 18-24; Rom 8:16, 23-25; James 1:2-4; Luke 16:27-31. So here Jesus promises that if you have an honest heart and are ready to do God’s will will know if his words (and the Bible) are human or divine. So here is my challenge to you (I actually intend to write a book on this): take 6 months where are are willing to do God’s will and here are some specifics: 1) read at least 1 chapter from the New Testament per day, at least 5 times per week; 2) after reading pray, talking to God about your interest in finding out if he exist and generally your concerns, questions and understanding of what you read; 3) find and attend a church at least 3 times per month; 4) donate 10% of your income to a non-profit that both an atheist and theist would donate to (such as for poverty, orphans, etc.). None of these require you to believe in God. Actually Jesus promise was intended for those that don’t believe. What is required is that you drop your bias and allow the possibility that God would intuitively reveal himself to you. It actually doesn’t matter how it happens. What matters is 1) your honesty and willingness (your part) and 2) that God convinces you by the end of that time (his part or lack of it). Now for an atheist like yourself who is not a sucker this shouldn’t be a problem or risk – if you are right and God doesn’t exist then there is nothing to convince you: God will do a “no show”. Further even if after that time you are uncertain you can still conclude that there is no God since Jesus promised you will know and doubts do not qualify. Further God promises that he will reward the generous ones so that you will be better off even financially. It’s hard to imagine finding out 90% (100% minus 10% tithing) to be more than 100%! So from the start there are very strong chances that atheism will win in this experiment. According to my calculations this will only take about 2 full 24-hour days worth of time. That’s a small token to find out for sure the answer to the biggest question – if God exists (at least as far as Christianity is concerned and AFAIK no other religion promises that). However if God exists you do want to know that! Except that, as Nagel put it, you don’t want to find that out – you don’t want a universe like that. Which is why it’s very hard to be honest about this “God experiment” and make it about honestly finding out as opposed to make it about proving what I already know; finding out how God describes and reveals himself as opposed to destroying your own straw-God (and by the way, many who call themselves Christians don’t know God – the God of the Bible [which is really not what one would expect] but what they believe in is their own straw-God).

        Based on my previous experience with militant atheists allow me to make a prediction (just like atheists I believe in science and love science and the scientific method and making predictions) that you will not take the challenge and do the God experiment and this will be evidence (since you love evidence) that you are not about finding out but only about confirming your bias (aptly called, confirmation bias). But I’d actually be pleased if you can prove me wrong.

  4. Ray Madison says:

    If logical analysis tells the more intelligent among us that there is no God in charge of the universe, then obviously no God has logically been needed to operate it, or to tell the humans that have had in the end to evolve themselves that they are required to believe in it – even though many of them have, with their limited ability for logical thought, illogically decided that since life is so mysterious, there must be some super mysterious entity in charge somewhere in the great beyond. How otherwise to explain this huge blast of irrational self-deluded rationalism just above telling us that the religions fomented by those mysterious gods are good, because the philosophies that must exist without them are still, for the most part, bad.
    But do Gods then make the bad ideas of humans less bad? Or if any actually do exist, are they simply lying to us? I’d rather trust in my own intelligence than something emanating from some alien entity in thee sky.

    • Adrian says:

      Ray, you say “If logical analysis tells the more intelligent among us that there is no God in charge of the universe, then obviously no God has logically been needed to operate it”. In other words, if logical analysis told the more intelligent among us that rocks cannot fall from the sky because there are no rocks in the sky (see Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry and the French Academy of Science) then obviously no rock could have logically fallen from the sky, right? Or if the intelligent ones determined that the universe is deterministic (see Laplace for example) then that must be it and logically there is no room left for quantum mechanics, correct? Or if they told us that time is absolute or that speed can increase indefinitely (Newton) then logically there is no place for relativity, right? Or if they told us that species are fixed (Linnaeus who established the classification system still in use in biology) then there is no place for evolution, right? Or if they said that evolution works by “use and habit” (Darwin, Lamarck) then that must be right, correct? Or if they said that all life shares the same genetic code and proves common ancestor then logically the discovery of over 20 different genetic codes (plus alternatives) must be an illusion, right? Or if it was determined that most DNA is junk then logically the ENCODE project cannot come later and overthrow that, right? Or if they said that geology is strictly uniformitarian (Lyell) then there is logically no room to later discover that catastrophism does play a role in geology. Or if palenotologists first determined that two fossils belong to 2 different species then they can’t later discover that they interbred (like Neanderthals and humans) or that they were just 2 stages of development in the same species (young and adult, as it happened with several dinosaurs).

      What you are saying is that you don’t need to think for yourself but should blindly accept the consensus of “the intelligent” because they must know what they are doing and they surely know what they are saying. So instead of finding out the truth you can just get busy defending “the elite” instead because they can’t possibly be wrong, right?

  5. Bob Pease says:

    Shermer’s rhetoric here appears to be strange . I.E. he should know that his argument contains majpr fallacies but continues to use them to persuade the gullible , or more likely , is Preaching to the choir.

    “ONLY Belief in GOD causes <> to happen ” does NOT imply

    that “belief in God could not cause good things to happen”
    ( not to mention that the statement itself is FALSE )


    Dr S

    • Miron says:

      you have to take the bad with the good. the question is whether ONLY religion can cause these good things (whatever you think they are) and the answer is an emphatic “no”. as I posted above: “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
      ― Steven Weinberg

  6. tpaine says:

    c’mon for Jesus sake,
    Technically flawed, but stirring.
    It’s a top ten list for entertainment purposes only.

    • Bob Pease says:

      It’s not entertaining to see Mike use Rhetoric that would get him kicked out of a Junior High debate club.

      Also , the Fundies will be presenting this as a convincing argument to support their madness, representing this as the best that Athiests can offer.

  7. Tzindaro says:

    Beheading is really one of the LEAST painful ways to kill someone. Calling it especially brutal is simply unfair to sincere executioners. In fact, the guillotine was invented to make executions more humane than hanging or other previous methods. Certainly it is less painful than being burned alive by American Christian napalm.

  8. mjones78 says:

    So if I’m understanding Agabu, if a religious person does bad things, it has nothing to do with religion but rather stems from them having a bad ‘heart’. Seems a little too convenient to me but, ok, religious gets an easy pass. However, if it’s true, then wouldn’t that explain all the evil things Yahweh did? He just had a bad heart it would seem.

    • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

      No Mjones78, I’m not saying that if a religious person does bad things, it has nothing to do with religion. What I’m saying is that all people irrespective of their beliefs-religious or nonreligious-do bad things fundamentally because of a propensity for evil within them. Yes, religion or irreligion may be the ‘formal cause’ for some of the evil that men do, but the ‘material cause’ remains the person them self, the ‘efficient cause’ is the desire and will of said person and the ‘final cause’ is said person’s actual doing of evil. All in all, the person is morally culpable for the evil he or she does, because it is him or her doing it. The point being the fundamental source of the evil that men do is always the men themselves. Bad religion has its problems in encouraging the doing of evil, but a blanket statement encompassing even pure andfaultless religion is disingenuous, machiavellian and lacking in a nuanced treatment of religion.

  9. kjames says:

    God is a construct created to ease our fears of death. All religion is just the story line. I don’t need to believe in God to live a principled life.

    • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

      I don’t know about other faiths but in Christianity God isn’t a construct to ease anyone’s fear of death. God is known through His own self disclosure. Your blanket statement about all religion being a story line is glib and ignorant. Religions are diverse with many distinct differences even though they may have some very peripheral features in common. That you don’t need God to live a principled life is all up to you. If God exists, and there’s good reason to think and believe He does exist and made everything, it therefore follows on this premise that you actually do need Him, to be, live and to will and to act according to your desires. That is the beauty of it. He made you a free moral agent who can choose to accept Him or reject Him, but of course not without consequence for either. It’s up to you man.

  10. tinyhands says:

    “God is known though His own self-disclosure” is just a convenient way of telling everyone that you’re in possession of factual knowledge that is impossible to prove to an impartial 3rd party. You get to decide which of those facts are inventions of your own mind and which of them are ‘imparted’ to you by the omnipotent “Him.” Since you are the conduit for both, and not perfect (for only He is) then I can only conclude that you have distorted at least some of His message. He would therefore want me to ignore everything you say, just in case you’ve distorted the important parts.

    So here’s my alternative to your myth: The true God revealed himself to me, explained that the Bible/Koran/Torah were not written nor inspired by him but were invented by people trying to control other people, that you are not his messenger either, then, as quickly as He revealed himself, He ceased to exist altogether.

    Oh yeah, he wants you to send me 10% of your money each week too. Almost forgot that bit.

    • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

      Tinyhands, if I had said God is known through my disclosure of Him, that would be a convenient way of telling everyone that i’m in possession of divine knowledge. “God is known through His own self disclosure” is an appeal to God Himself. This isn’t about I say or think about God but what He says about Himself (And no, I don’t want 10 percent of your money each week). Of course, it would be impossible to prove a god only known through my disclosure of Him because you’d only have me to go on, which, really, wouldn’t be much. But the God that takes it upon Himself to reveal Himself to people is another matter entirely. That is far more to go on than anything else. The Bible’s 66 collected writings were given over a span of over 1500 years of human history. Each writing while physically written by people like you and I, communicates words from God Himself. This is a bold claim no doubt. But it is a testable explanation within very reasonable parameters. Jesus offered one test among others which may gathered up that may be applied to the whole Bible, at least in some measure. See John 7:14-29.

      Obviously, I do make a note of the fact that you clearly have moral gripes against especially the God of the Bible. This is understandable to a point. With this in mind, I wont hide the fact that I am a Christian, which therefore means I believe in God. But believing in God for me is something I’m inclined towards because they’re good reasons to believe so. Biblical Christianity is an evidence based faith that adequately addresses intellectual, intuitive and emotional realities that are common to all people everywhere. In other words, the Christian message is addressed to the whole person in all his dimensions. There is a synthesis of natural explanations and supernatural explanations to God’s self disclosure that lend themselves to reason, sensibility and good judgment with the caveat that you may take it or leave it, but of course, not without consequence. So here are a few reasons to believe I submit to you that of course entail further study in becoming more sure in one’s belief.

      1. The universe exists as an ‘effect’ with a ’cause.’ It is postulated that the universe began in the event known as the big bang. This suggests at least philosophically that the universe had an efficient cause as well as an exemplary one. The Bible says in the beginning God created the universe (Genesis 1). This assessment is within reason because it is consistent with the fact that the universe had a beginning. It positions God as the exemplary cause i.e. the being that had in mind the very making of the universe and the efficient cause i.e. the necessary agent that actually made the universe.

      2. The universe has knowledge underwritten into it that is accessible to every person. It is the discovery and detection of this knowledge that’s enabled us to organize our understanding of the world around us into a variety of scientific disciplines. The Bible says the universe shares knowledge in a ‘language’ all its own that ‘speaks’ to everyone thereby testifying to God’s weight and significance (Psalm 19). That the universe communicates knowledge lends it all to testable explanations that follow the evidence wherever it leads even when that evidence should directly bring one to God’s doorstep so to speak.

      3. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is the central claim of biblical Christianity. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is attested to in eyewitness accounts crystallized in four gospels, the emergence of the Church as told in the book of Acts, and whose implications for humanity are explained in the epistles following the gospel accounts and the book of Acts. The thing is here, that all these things because they are set in the world of real human history, lend themself to research and analysis. This makes it possible to determine if all these extraordinary claims are so, so that faith is founded upon evidence and not a lack of it or appeals to some blind leap of faith. The gospels for instance, don’t candy coat the claim of Jesus resurrection with group hugs, Khumbaya sing alongs and Jesus merely living in people’s hearts. The accounts don’t shy away from making the extraordinary claim that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead and include doubters and dissenters of this fact while showing how belief came about in those that finally came around. When you examine the accounts very closely, you’ll see that faith in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection is evidence based. Jesus’ post resurrection appearances are never to isolated individuals but always to two or more people at any given time thus laying the foundation for corroboration that can be fact checked. In the gospels, Jesus not only lived a very public life during His ministry, but is crucified publicly as well before both the believing and the unbelieving. All in all the events surrounding Christ’s resurrection can easily be examined for everything they’re worth.

  11. tinyhands says:

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t read my testimony: Immediately before completely ceasing to exist, God disavowed all connections with the Bible. Therefore, you cannot use it as a reference unless we’re talking about science fiction. This is no less credible than your book of scriptures or any other ancient work you wish to cite.

    1. I’m also amused that you use ancient Greek tenets of philosophy to try to prove the existence of a supernatural being. You’re aware that the average ancient Greek person could have died from an infected papyrus cut? They would have blamed that on having displeased Asclepius, but if you think it’s a good basis for your faith I’m not sure I can convince you otherwise.

    2. What “evidence” of god’s doorstep have you provided, other than a poem by an murderous, adulterous polygamist?

    3. If, as you say, these things “lend themself to research and analysis” why is there no corroborating evidence that is less than 1500 years old? Testimony from people who thought the sun revolved around the earth and that diseases were caused by humors simply doesn’t cut it. Those things, along with everything else your mystics wrote, have long since been disproved. Try to grasp that something being written in the Bible is not proof that the Bible is full of facts.

    • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

      Hey tinyhands,


      I did read your testimony. The problem with it is you’re asking me to believe you with no one else to corroborate your alleged revelation from God. So why should I take your word for it? Who is this God that so clearly revealed himself to you who went on to disavow all connections to the Bible that anybody should listen to him? Your God ceased to exist after revealing himself to you. So you say. How did that happen? How can he appear to you and then not be there at all the next moment? Please don’t cop out of answering these questions by saying that is the point you’re trying to make about the God of the Bible. You have the burden of proving the God you claim appeared to you and then ceased to exist is real… and then not?!!! Reason seems to suggest that the god from your testimony is really a figment of your imagination. Remember I don’t worship the God of your imaginings but the God who is revealed in Scripture. Going with you isn’t much. Going with the Biblical record is a lot. It is far more credible than your alleged revelation. The biblical writings don’t depend on mere personal claims or private interpretations like your testimony appears to be. The biblical writings emerged in specific cultural contexts that reasonable people assessed for everything they’re worth and then preserved for the benefit of all subsequent generations of people everywhere. Contrary to what you are suggesting, the Bible isn’t a book that fell from the sky with glowing fiery letters communicated in some high minded heavenly language that only an elite few could or can decipher. God chose the ordinary course of human history to reveal His word. This is far more organic, natural and honouring of human experience and the human condition. It is a good thing that God involved people like you and me in giving His word. It shows that God is concerned with human affairs, and would rather work with us and through us to speak to us than just speak above us with no proper cultural or historical moorings to anchor His revelation in. Many things in it are written so plainly that even a child can understand them. But some things there are so profound that the most intelligent among us will be kept quite busy working through its truth for some time. There is a wealth of background information out there for every single one of the 66 writings of the Bible that you can check for yourself. How each of these writings came about; claims they make; primary audience; considered applications to subsequent situations while keeping an eye on right interpretation. God using ordinary people from all walks of life to communicate His word further shows that God cares about the shape of human culture and civilisation. This makes the Bible accessible to anyone anywhere. This explains why Christianity has such global appeal and reach that atheism can only dream about. Every continent on earth has a sizeable chunk of Christians on it. I’m not saying Christianity is true because of numbers. But it does possess a worldview and sociological strength that atheism appears to lack cross-culturally. Modern day atheism tends to be a western innovation than a genuinely cross-cultural concern. The majority of Africans for instance find atheism absolutely unappealing and unconvincing. This isn’t to say that there are no atheists in Africa. But there are so few of them that there percentages are almost nil. The curious thing is that almost all avowed atheists in Africa tend to be educated in Western style secular educational institutions.


      With regard to the use of ancient Greek philosophy, it is useful insofar as it helps you make sense of the evidence for God. The fact that Greeks may have had kooky beliefs in other things is irrelevant. Not everything they believed was irrational. Greek philosophy has a basic rationality that is commendable and useful for us today. You seem to be suffering from cultural and intellectual snobbery here, dismissing the ancients simply because they are ancient. What gives man?


      You ask what evidence of God I give. I gave the observable universe, the information underwritten into it, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as evidence. All these things lend themselves to research and analysis. I said nothing here about you taking my word for it. Look into these things yourself if you really want to know the truth. Don’t hide behind ad hominem attacks such as accusing me (or God?) of being a murderous, adulterous polygamist.


      I do grasp the fact that something written in the Bible is not necessarily proof that it is true. That is why we look into these things to find out if they are so. Can you give me an example of anything that archaeologists dug up that has proven the Bible to be false about a certain historical event? Give me something here, anything. And no, saying there’s no evidence for such and such an event doesn’t qualify. This is more an absence of evidence than evidence of absence type thing. The fact that so many things have been proven right means that we can reasonably accept those things for which we have no formal evidence as theoretically reliable until proven otherwise. Once again defaulting to intellectual and cultural snobbery to dismiss the cultures in which the Bible was written doesn’t cut it. It is really rather silly, and lacking in grace, good sense and solid intellectual analysis. Where does the Bible teach that the sun revolved around the earth?

  12. Mysticlady says:

    Have you ever noticed that those who claim to be so religious always tend to overwhelm you with rhetoric? It is as if they think if they pour out enough words it will prove them right. The original article was very interesting, but the rebuttals got so convoluted it was impossible to read!

    • Agabu Ndhlovu says:

      Mysticlady I’ve noticed that that you’re copping out of this discussion with insinuations that the religious are all rhetoric and nothing else. This isn’t about how much anyone says, but simply what they say and if squares with the facts. Somethings require far more to say than quick sound bites and catchy couplets. In case you didn’t notice, Michael wrote a long winded article that purports to ‘prove’ the fact that we don’t need God. He meanders into problems he has with the biblical text, with religions in general, with particular religious individuals perspectives on some theories in science, social evils committed by some religious people. His case is hardly satisfying because it relies on caricatures and strawman arguments rather than treating opposing views with their best available formulations. This is rather disappointing coming from someone with his level of education and alleged commitment to reason. The evil that people do in the name of religion historically or presently nor certain religious people’s misunderstanding of certain aspects of science isn’t proof that we don’t we don’t need God. It’s at best proof that we need to get our heads and hearts straight concerning what we believe. Reality and not mere rhetoric is the issue here. I don’t think any religiously inclined persons here want to overwhelm anyone here with mere rhetoric. Truth is or should be our main concern. We’re just simply expressing our case within given reasonable parameters as you also are entitled to. Please deal with the issues at hand and not making unwarranted assumptions about someone’s motives. Nobody here can read anyone’s heart or mind, the only thing we can deal with is what they say, that’s all.

  13. Yahya says:

    I personally don’t believe in any form of god, but I want to say that people believe in many different sorts of gods, but only the type of god described and defined in religions can lead to believe in preposterous things and stubborn rejection of evolution and big bang. I know some people who only believe in god based on philosophical arguments and they consider the doctrines of the religions totally nonsense. They describe god and ascribe attributes to god based on reasoning and not based on the so called sacred manuscripts that have fallen to our hands by some prophets.
    I still personally don’t believe in that god also, but I’ve found those people very reasonable and rational.

  14. Yahya says:

    To further support part 8, I should say in Islam, Muslims are more dignified than others. According to Islamic law, non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims, they cannot testify against a Muslim in court, their blood money is much less than a Muslim (less than one tenth), they are deemed “untouchable” and “unclean”, they are not allowed to advertise their religion inside an Islamic nation otherwise they will be severely punished, they have to pay higher taxes than a Muslim to the Islamic government, they are not allowed to marry a Muslim, if they are murdered by a Muslim the murderer won’t be punished by death but the opposite would happen.
    And the most absurd of all is that even the dead body of a Muslim must not be subjected to autopsy, and medical students here in Iran have to practice autopsy on the body of a non-Muslim! Why? Because even the corpse of a Muslim is considered to be more respected and precious than a non-Muslim!!!

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