Dangerous Thought #6 – “God Did Not Evolve and That is a Big Problem – for God”


EVOLUTION DESTROYS GOD FROM EVERY DIRECTION

If you don’t understand how evolution works
this may be a difficult post to follow. I’ll try to keep it simple.

1. Evolution eliminates Adam and Eve.
2. Evolution eliminates the possibility of the Fall of Man.
3. God did not evolve His own characteristics through adaptation. So how can he have any human characteristics or understand ours?
4.  Humans are still evolving so we must not be made in God’s unchanging image.
5. If evolution is God’s necessary method to create species why did he not use it to create Himself?

FIRST, WE KNOW EVOLUTION CAN’T GO BACKWARDS.
SO THE FALL OF MAN IS IMPOSSIBLE.

“And the LORD said, Behold….now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6)

Adam and Eve are claimed to have been flawless  – practically like god himself. But soon afterwards they ate of the tree of knowledge. So God demoted humanity to something so imperfect it was doomed to Hell. It was called The Fall of Man.

Later, God would supposedly try to save humanity from Original Sin
and God’s Hell by sending Jesus Christ to give people a route back to God’s good graces.

But Evolution explains that humans cannot have fallen from a more perfect
state in the first place. Evolution doesn’t go backwards. It never has. There never was a better version of humans. We have always adapted to our environments.

Similarly, all surviving species on earth; salamanders, sharks, lemurs, etc., are also well-adapted for their respective environments or they would not have survived to this point. Evolution in humans is still going on.

…SO THERE WAS NO ORIGINAL SIN

If there was no real Adam and Eve, there was no real ‘fall,’ no original sin.
Without Original Sin there is no reason for Jesus to ‘Save’ us. No Hell. And no reason for Christianity or its Gospels.Furthermore, Evolution required all the supposedly ‘sinful’ bits of the human condition for our survival: greed, avarice, lust, etc. These supposedly sinful qualities have always been in our species, Homo Sapiens. Our earliest ancestors must have needed these qualities or we would not have evolved them.

Yet religion tells us we are ‘fallen’ and we must repair ourselves.
This is a shame. Because it can only be wrong.

Humans have never been better than we are now.
Evolution confirms it.


SECOND, HOW COULD GOD UNDERSTAND HUMANS
IF GOD DIDN’T EVOLVE HUMAN TRAITS IN THE SAME WAY?

If God exists He did not arrive at his traits through evolution as Humans did.

I’ll explain.
God did not need to run from lions, so he did not develop the ability to stand. God did not need to procreate, so he did not acquire lust. God did not experience fear, so he did not develop goose bumps to raise the hair on the skin to look larger to intimidate a predator.

Importantly, God did not experience victimization, as humans did, so He cannot have evolved or acquired any sense of justice.

For these reasons and others, God could not have developed ANY human characteristics.

Think about that.
Our legs, arms, brains, eyes, fingernails, social skills and our ability to judge situations and so on – all of it comes from evolution – a process of constantly adapting over many generations to environmental changes and needs; to find our food, protect our babies, plan for our future, and so on.

But God would not have acquired any of these survival tools.
So how would God already have them?

It gets even more complicated!

God doesn’t need anything to sustain himself, so he would not have developed a keen vision as hunter gatherers did. God isn’t threatened so he would not have developed coping skills. So how would God know how to judge us without having evolved the social skills which make judgements possible?

In fact, why would God have evolved any ability to see, hear, develop intentions desires, or plans? These are created only by evolutionary means as far as we can tell.

Furthermore,

If Evolution is God’s perfect method of creation –  why isn’t it good enough for Himself?Why is God excusing himself from his own brilliant method of creation?

MAYBE GOD IS ALREADY FULLY EVOLVED?
BUT WAIT…. THAT DOESN’T WORK EITHER.

Let’s assume God was already perfectly evolved from the beginning.

Then which evolutionary traits does God NOT have?
Which ones does He not share with us?
Would God not have lust? Does God not have physical hunger?
These traits have been conclusively handed to humans – specifically through evolution and no other way.

So HOW did God get those same traits without evolution?
Without evolving in exactly the same way we humans did?

And…Why would God single out only certain traits as “sins” knowing they are just as necessary as all the other traits? Why would ‘LUST’ be a sin yet ‘EMPATHY’ not be a sin? Both are needed equally for survival.

It doesn’t make sense.

If God is perfectly evolved and Humans are made in God’s perfectly evolved image why is that image continually changing? And how then did God avoid acquiring the ‘sinful’ bits like lust and greed – evolution requires them in every other creature? How did God avoid them? And why would he?

And if God did not have these evolutionary traits (greed, avarice, gluttony) in Himself, why would God go out of his way to put those ‘non-god’ traits into Adam and Eve knowing it would only lead to their sin and ruin?

Such an act would not be a matter of making us in the image of God at all – this is making us in the image of something else. That would be a willfully evil thing for God to do.

It is not believable – is it?


THIRD, IS GOD JUST A ROCK?

This is a serious question.
It is looking like God is more like a rock than a person.

A rock doesn’t live, it has no needs or intentions. A rock doesn’t evolve.
Some rocks have not changed in a billion years. And when Humans are gone from earth, those rocks will still remain the same.

Rocks know how to roll down hills.
Rocks know how to sink. They know how to be ageless. Yet a rock doesn’t really ‘know’ anything, does it? Things just happen to rocks.

Wouldn’t a god have to be in the same situation as a rock? A bundle of naturally occurring inorganic phenomena? Unchanging? Non-living? A Rock of Ages?

Without living and adapting along side us, God could not develop any human-like qualities. Yet such an evolving God is not part of any theology or religion connected to the Bible.

God’s claimed characteristics (the ability to watch over us, listen to prayers, take sides in wars) would have been formed without any evolutionary process to create them. And how could God understand humanity without having the same abilities? Or sharing the same direct creation experience through Evolution?

WE EVOLVED
WE HAVE MADE OURSELVES THROUGH UNTOLD STRUGGLES

Our forebears did all the struggling for us.
That is how we became the amazing humans we are. These traits are hard won adaptations from the toil and trouble of millions of humans over hundreds of thousands of years. Why hand all the credit to a God who didn’t share in it?

And isn’t it more likely that God is just another expression of our own evolution? Isn’t it more likely we project our own character traits onto God?

Creating gods was a good way to adapt to trouble and suffering before humans had any better understandings. It was a way to deal with loneliness and unbearable tragedy. We made up myths to comfort us.

We clearly understand the myth far better than the myth could ever understand us.


MOST DIFFICULT OF ALL:
WHY DID GOD USE A DIFFERENT METHOD TO CREATE HUMANS

THAN WHATEVER METHOD HE USED TO CREATE HIMSELF?

Some say God used evolution to create humans.
But clearly God did not use evolution to create Himself. And that is a shocking thought.

One wonders why God wouldn’t have created humans using the same method he used to create himself. Was He unsure He could survive it?

Evolution is a chancy, cruel, long, wasteful method to arrive at any particular species – 99.99% of all species have already gone extinct. If one assumes God always had all human traits plus many others of His own, why would God not impart those basic traits immediately upon creating humans?

After all, if God can find us a parking spot when we ask Him to, shouldn’t it make sense
that he could also cut evolution short – or skip it altogether? Is that what he did for himself?


HUMANS ARE STILL EVOLVING.
BUT SOMEHOW GOD ISN’T?

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
(Genesis 1:27)

God is unchanging. So what part of us is made in the image of God?
There is no part of humanity which was ever perfect or unchanging.

If we are created in God’s image, why would God allow evolution to continue as it has – past the original image which was supposedly complete? Is God evolving along with us? How?

And why take a billion years to arrive at the first ape-like being
only to keep tinkering to create Homo Sapiens
hundreds of thousands of years later?

MORE PROBLEMS – REALLY – IS GOD JUST A ROCK?

Humans were close to extinction many times.
At one point according to scientists, humans numbered as few as 40,000 in Africa.
We almost didn’t make it!

So do we force god to evolve alongside us? Do we keep adding to his characteristics as we develop new ones of our own?

Or does God remain unchanged?

If God doesn’t change, God would increasingly look like an extinct species
as we continue to evolve further away from the image of humans today, let alone the differences we already have from the barbaric illiterates from ancient deserts thousands of years ago.

And science allows us to look 200,000 years in the future.
Humans of that era will not look at all like us, they will not sound like us or understand things as we do. Those future ‘humans’ will be as different from us
as we are from Homo Erectus.

Evolution guarantees humans will continue evolving.

This is something to really think about.

We humans obviously created many gods – perhaps every single one of them.
People of the future who evolve new traits will no doubt project onto the new gods
all of those new traits as well.

It is hard to love a rock.
And even more difficult is to see how a rock could love us – let alone judge us
for doing what it programmed into us and that which we had no choice about.

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About Atheist Max

I'm a former Christian who became Atheist in middle age. My blog is a journal of how I lost religion and discovered a better life. For Peace, Civility and the Separation of Church and State
This entry was posted in agnostic, Atheism, god, godless, Hell, Nonbelief, Positive Atheism, religion, Science, unbelief and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Dangerous Thought #6 – “God Did Not Evolve and That is a Big Problem – for God”

  1. Lauren Beck says:

    Religion isn’t static, it’s evolving. Each individual’s idea(s) about gods/G`d/god are evolving. Your post is effective at dismissing the fundamentalist and feudal concept of god. The ideas expressed are a derivation of this one, historically limited concept of a deity…showing how your ideas have evolved from the religious memes transmitted to you in earlier life. The claim that belief in any and all gods and the theory of evolution are completely incompatible is just that…a claim… one I trust believers have enough survival instinct (for themselves and for their dearly held memeplexes) to push back against.

    Because of this, I question the selective pressure you are exerting…it doesn’t seem to encourage the development of a more realistic and humane idea of god but rather draws a line of either immediate and complete atheism or a deeper, more fanatic defense of the fundamentalist / feudal god. Considering the cognitive pressures belief systems exert on followers, it’s more likely they will pursue deeper fundamentalist paths rather than de-convert. Since your goal is to curtail or eliminate the ill-effects of religion, I fail to see how your approach is a rational one.

    You have a strong voice and passion…traits which are dearly needed in times of apathy and cynicism. I’d love to read a post where you are reaching out to your former self (or others like you then), valuing their intellect and other strengths and empowering them to take whatever positives they’ve gleaned from religion into the future, allowing them the emotional stability which may enable them to rationally recognize the pitfalls of belief. Even if they do not leave their religion (which is an awful lot to ask of anyone) they may approach it more rationally, exerting selective pressure within faith communities for a larger, more science-friendly deity to evolve from their gods.

    It’s not about tempering a message or catching more flies with honey (who wants flies anyway?)…it’s about recognizing evolutionary principles within human cultures and beliefs, and developing an appropriate intervention strategy. Don’t limit evolution to biology.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Atheist Max says:

      But if God doesn’t exist, why should I pretend that he does?

      Like

      • Lauren Beck says:

        I see your concerns. If we don’t take a stand we (may) give support to theism (and some of its nasty forms) and (may) fail to support other atheists. Also, pretending, being two-faced or false gets into issues of personal integrity, deception and ulterior motives which can lead to a breakdown in trust & communication.

        I am not for pretending. I am for appropriate intervention tailored to the context. In a rational debate, stand tall and firm in your declaration. Debates are about logic, premises and conclusions, and are useful in persuading those who are able to look at both propositions with emotional distance. If you want to win, you must not mince words.

        However, the way (some) belief systems scaffold into human minds and trigger deep emotions & instincts prevents many from assessing their beliefs in a critical, dispassionate light. Rational debates are therefore often inappropriate. They create oppositional parties, winners and losers. Believers often feel obliged to participate, then feel alienated and oppressed when their beliefs are dismissed. In such an instance, rational debate against god becomes a predetermined ritual of intellectual slaughter. It reaches some, but it does not reach the party you are debating against, in fact it insists on their humiliation. This plays into the immune response of the religion, creating a divide, a breakdown in communication, isolating believers from stimuli and interactions which might cause them to think critically about their beliefs.

        Fanatic religion doesn’t simply prey on weak minds. It manipulates and castrates first-rate minds as well. Reaching the other party is crucial when we are trying to eliminate the ill-effects of religion and build a more humane society.

        I’ll compare the Hitchens/Dawkins model of atheism to the sterilization movement which developed after the discovery of germs and gained speed with the discovery of antibiotics. We thought all germs were bad and we invented antibiotics and chemical sprays to eradicate them. We did not consider the evolutionary consequences of massive antibiotic treatments (the death of symbiotic bacteria & the evolution of super-bugs). In the medical field we are now seeing the emphasis change to encouraging good bacteria in healthcare environments and saving sterilization for the surgical unit. We are seeing the development of phage therapies where viruses are used as natural predators of bad bacteria, removing the selective pressure for bad bacteria to become ever more aggressive. This is because evolutionary principles have been applied to the field of medicine.

        Similarly, if atheism (inadvertently) applies selective pressures on religions to become more virulent and destructive, we will accomplish the opposite of our intended goals.

        I don’t advocate deception. I advocate fostering dialogue & that means digging deep into belief, granting a few faulty premises in order to examine the larger picture. If you say to a Catholic, “There’s no God.” you turn them off. If you say, “I’m skeptical about the existence of God but I’m open to hearing your views”, you foster a dialogue, building trust and breaking down the barrier that the religion has created between you two. Later you’re able to say, “ok, say there is a God. I’m not so certain, but, let’s say I’ll give you that one. And that God founded the Catholic Church. And that women have separate roles than men in that Church, but they are equal spiritually. But the reality is that when a man is ordained, he’s supposed to get some extra Holy Spirit, like you got at confirmation. So a priest has more than a deacon and so he has more authority in the Church. And this goes up all the way to the pope. But then, no woman, no matter how wise or dedicated, ever has the temporal or spiritual authority of even a lowly deacon. She can’t have any more of the Holy Spirit because of her physical form. And that’s lead to inequality and abuse of power because women’s voices have been dismissed, because of this teaching. It doesn’t add up, in my book.”

        Bypass the immune response of the religion. Foster a human connection with the believer. Allow their independent mind a voice and foster it. Value their ability to think rationally, no matter how small it may seem. They will respond to that faith placed in them. Don’t force the outcome. Allow them to go on the journey of self-discovery, digging deeper into their religious tradition. This will give them a taste of real intellectual exchange and friendship across the divide. Share the results of the Ash Conformity experiments and Milgram’s experiment. Inform others about the limitations and flaws of human senses, and how we can mitigate them. Believers will think more rationally, they will respond allergically to unthinking fanatics, they may form the root of a less virulent religious tradition to emerge. They will gain the strength to walk away from faith if and when they feel safe enough to do so–but that is not for us to decide. We are not their masters, they are our equals. Give them real respect and they won’t settle for the counterfeit respect provided by religion.

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        • Atheist Max says:

          But Lauren, nothing will work if we are not honest.

          I am Atheist.

          I say this:
          “I do not believe in a god but I do not claim gods to be impossible – I have seen no good reason to believe in them”

          I cannot imagine a more diplomatic way to speak about Gods to those who believe in them.

          It may sound harsh to the unfeeling person – but it is honest and it leaves Catholics with two things:

          1. Atheists can be open minded.
          2. Atheists leave room for god to exist.
          3. Atheists can be rational.
          4. Atheism is a valid position.

          And that is all I can do. Christians should be grateful to Atheists like myself who have enough respect to be honest.

          Giving someone Honesty is a better sign of respect than any other argument.

          If my honesty isn’t persuasive enough then there is nothing else I can do about it. I question the claims of religion not to win a debate, but to force the Christian to question his own claims and answer for them.

          Like

        • Lauren Beck says:

          There are several flaws in your rationale, Max. If your writing doesn’t accomplish its goal, it’s because it isn’t constructed in a way which reaches the intended audience. Learning how to do that is a constant endeavor, no matter how strong a writer is.

          Religious readers sense your desire to force them to question. Force isn’t respect–whether you claim to do it in their interest or not. They have a psychological allergic reaction to you–created by the doctrine, aggravated by your approach.

          You create sketches of god easily refuted as straw-man idols believers don’t worship anyway. The G`d they are emotionally connected to easily survives your attacks.

          You’re preaching to the choir–mirroring the approach of fundamentalist bloggers. You stand boldly when others don’t have the courage to be honest. You declare truth to people because they need to hear it. If they turn away, it’s a problem with them and you pat yourself on the back, knowing you did right.

          But you’re not even preaching to the choir. As in churches, there are many in the audience who remain quiet and don’t confront, but they still dissent. Or, as is easier to do on the internet than in a social group, they quietly walk away. So you’re left with hearing only the supportive statements and get defensive and righteous when a little constructive criticism comes your way.

          Question how you can improve.

          “Atheist” doesn’t automatically translate to “elitist”, “cynic” or “tyrant”, but to read your blog, it should. I won’t stay silent because we’re on “the same team”. Your approach discourages open dialogue, exchange and personal growth, even if you intend to foster it. Sure you’re an atheist, but you’re still carrying a lot of christian baggage in your approach towards your neighbors.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Lauren Beck says:

          That critique being said…your blog does articulate your de-conversion experience eloquently and provides camaraderie for those emerging from the same tradition who may feel isolated. It boldly creates safe space for emerging ideas in a new USA-catholic atheist’s mind to gain confidence and find support. It challenges former faith creatively, improvising interesting counterpoints to prayer traditions and devotions. Frustrations over lost time/energy etc. devoted to religion as well as frustrations with how believers just don’t seem to “get it” and seem “irrational” is a normal part of striking out on your own intellectually. It’s good writing as a niche blog, serving a particular demographic of the atheist community. The challenge is with a blog platform which “represents” atheism, it is hard to target one audience or avoid others, so it provides fodder for fanatic theism. A second blog / a reconstruction of this one’s objective / a different marketing strategy / a book / (etc?) may be options which could further your goals.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Atheist Max says:

    Lauren, I understand.

    But I once was certain God exists. I was certain about Jesus.
    Now I am very doubtful and do not believe it at all.

    Many people want to know how a 50-year old could go through such a dramatic change. To go from devout believer to questioning Atheist.
    That is all my blog attempts to explain.

    Are you an Atheist? Meaning, do you doubt that a god exists?

    Like

    • Lauren Beck says:

      Even die-hard believers are atheist about some gods. If you’ve dedicated your life to Jesus, you’re an atheist about Krishna and Aphrodite. I go one god more–Jesus is a personality cult of a very flawed, self-absorbed individual and is based on human sacrifice, a concept abominable to the Jewish culture it claims to have emerged from. Early religions deified natural phenomena (sun, water, etc.), Christianity deified groupthink and other sociological phenomena. Because social phenomena aren’t physically tangible, the idea of the “spiritual realm” is conserved in a Christian and post-Christian society.

      I’ve heard some renditions of G`d however in which I observe few detrimental effects and which seem (somewhat) plausible given current human knowledge…(however I don’t personally see the point in calling it G`d).

      I recognize the idea/concept of G`d as a parenting motif. Any reasonable parent knows they aren’t going to live forever and they teach their children how to make it on their own when the time comes. Children come to the awareness their parent is fallible and mortal and learn what they can while they can. So, I don’t react allergically to everyone who says “there is a G`d”.

      Absolutely I’m an atheist. I’ve also had previous deep experience of religion, (both fundamentalist and “reasonable” belief with doubts). Yes, stories of emergence from religion to non-religion are complex, but they aren’t compelling for the true believer. Stories of personal de-conversion open up ad-homonym arguments , events in one’s own experience of a faith-tradition, even questions of brain chemistry / hormonal shifts / stroke, etc.

      Religions (especially Christianity & its derivatives) have highly evolved immune systems to counterbalance the testimonies of those who leave. If you want to reach a person, you have to give a damn about them first, focus on their experience over your own and find ways to stimulate their critical reasoning skills. It’s a long-term process. If you can’t invest that time and energy, make sure your brief interventions are appropriate and not read as hit-and-runs. And if they decide parts of religion still have deep meaning to them and they can deal with the side effects of belief that you find intolerable, then that is their right.

      If you have to shout, slander, make broad accusations or ignore the complexities of a tradition / personal experience, you can’t provide constructive criticism and you lack confidence in your position. If you truly believe reason is more beneficial and powerful than religion, you’ll demonstrate that to others by carefully considering what they have to say, even if you strongly dissent.

      The current trend in popular atheism is to act like fascists: “burn the books!” , “protect the children!” , “medicate the nutcases!”. It sells well, creating headlines that draw people from all positions in. But fascism isn’t confidence, it’s a battle cry of insecurity and fears. It’s similar to the abduction-deprograming approach towards cult members that existed in the ’70s & ’80s. The idea was that cults are so powerful over individuals they must be combated with extraordinary measures, even if that means violating a person’s rights. That approach backfired legally and emotionally. What evolved in the ’90s and early 2000s was an approach of strategic intervention and exit counseling which respects the individual and empowers them with mental tools to exit a high-control group when they decide they are ready to do so.

      Fascist insecurity drove me out of Evangelical fundamentalism and into mainstream Catholicism. The fascist insecurity of popular atheism is driving people into non-organized spirituality, alternative medicine or back into religion. It has a pernicious tendency to lock people into fundamentalism who would otherwise find their way out.

      We are capable of more, if we stick to basic respect and act with the confidence we claim, modeling the behavior we wish to see from others.

      Like

      • Atheist Max says:

        You seem to be saying “Calm down, don’t be such a angry Atheist”.

        But I believe the best way to respect a person is to tell them the truth, and to be honest with them on every level – and respect their ability to think intelligently.

        Religious people (the sort which I was) are victims of an intergenerational lie.
        We were taught that critical thinking when applied to religion would result in eternal pain and punishment. I was taught that critical thinking would literally kill my soul and send me to Hell if I applied it to Jesus. Think of the pain in that.

        Perhaps you don’t see that religion is abusive? You don’t get that this pain is very real and constant – that I was robbed of critical thinking skills at an early age and it has been agonizing to unpack and reassemble these burdens.
        You don’t seem to understand the pain which believers are suffering. You don’t seem to get that part of it. To you, it seems, religion is an abstract, benign philosophical argument?

        You also seem to assume that if a person is against religion they must also be in favor of burning books and destroying churches and hurting people. I am not!
        I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t advocate burning books or other religious materials. I happen to like cathedrals and religious art.

        I advocate civility, culture, honesty, critical thinking and common decency.

        But it is important to mock religion itself (not the believers). Very important. That is NOT a fascist position – Fascism is guns, Fascism is Dogma and absolutist claims forced on others with weaponry!
        Atheists like me are not advocating anything like that. To challenge a claim about a god is not to be equated with shooting someone!

        Atheists like me are mocking religion (not its victims)
        because religion is insidious, uncivil, dishonest and indecent. Religion inflicts real pain and it must be challenged like any other abusive, coercive theory.

        I don’t see any other way.
        The difference between you and me
        is that I see the rise of secularism to be of vital importance to the survival of decent, honest civilization. We need Atheism to grow quickly or the world is going to be blown up over the clash of Islam and the West.

        By the way, why are you typing G’d instead of God?
        What is that about? You support my abuser when you respect that word so much.

        I hate religion because religion didn’t respect me, religion didn’t treat me with honesty and even now it still tells me to shut up and get with the program.

        I don’t have an agenda beyond being honest. I don’t plan on deconverting today’s Christians (I don’t even think that is mostly possible) – Instead I plan on challenging Christians openly so their kids can see Atheism is an alternative.

        That is all I hope to accomplish. The next generation must see Atheists challenging the church in the same way Hippies challenged Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. If you want to call that ‘fascist’ I think you are terribly mistaken.

        Like

        • Lauren Beck says:

          Max,

          I’m sorry you were hurt by the term ‘G`d’…that was not my intention. I use ‘G`d’ to refer to an individual’s personal experience & idea of a deity which transcends the sketches and strawmen theologians and atheists are prone to quibble over…It draws a visible linguistic line between exact doctrinal images and the personal ideas & experience of people (which I try to show respect for–ideas are often closely integrated with a person’s emotions and I will always foster rapport with others so we can share our ideas). It is respect for another’s human experience, rather than respect for a deity, that I am intending.

          Please don’t assume I don’t know about the pain and destruction some religion can create. I would not have dedicated my university studies to understanding sociology, cultic studies and memetics if I had not been thrown out of a high-control group for “refusing to submit” to the leader. I cannot begin to describe the daily torments, the longing to go back, the mental exhaustion of speaking a different English than everyone outside the group (and the resulting headaches and conflicts), or the hellish nightmares that deprived me of quality sleep in those rare moments when I rested. Nor can I begin to count the cost to my family who supported me through the trauma and the rebuilding of my mind. People who leave on their own or are counseled out of high control groups have it rough, but it’s even more difficult to regain trust of others and yourself when you’ve been thrown out. I should be flattered that you read my commentaries and take from them that I’ve only processed religion on a philosophical level.

          Anger isn’t bad…it’s a human emotion (though it is often misunderstood). Recognition of anger is good. Anger can fuel a passion and lead to advocating for change. I’m urging you to investigate that anger, process it and articulate it.

          You don’t believe your generation can change…even though you changed. Granted, the social narrative we have is that youngsters minds are more flexible than a mature mind, but we’re finding through neuroscience studies that even aged minds have more flexibility than the science first suggested.

          Few respond positively to ridicule. Mockery and distance are not conducive to growth. Mockery doesn’t teach younger people to think deeply and to encourage dialogue about how specific beliefs impact their family…it teaches them to ridicule their parents, to read their parents normative conformity as agreement, to believe their parents can’t change (even though we all do) and to throw their parents away if they don’t see eye to eye. Young people are vulnerable to persuasion, yes. But just as you’d be agitated by religious adults targeting your children, religious adults are agitated by your intent. Even I as an atheist am concerned about your goal. If you use dogmatic tactics to get youth to change their minds, they may magnify it ten times. I don’t want to live in a society where the next generation can just dismiss me for what I think.

          Fascism isn’t just weapons & violence. Dogmatic religion is fascism. Orwellian control of language is fascism. Atheists can be fascists towards themselves or others, though we don’t have to be. There are still moments when I have a gut response of “Thank God!” or even “God is Good!”…they’re psychological artifacts from my time within a belief system. I know this is how I’ve been linguistically programmed to express the complex emotional experience. It doesn’t make me a believer any more than a believer’s doubts make them an atheist. I don’t have to “be on guard” in how I express myself or when I listen to others. That is freedom. And in freedom there is dialogue and a chance for growth. I don’t even rule out the possibility that I may someday reclassify myself as a believer. I think the only way that will happen is if I get dementia…I hope my child will learn to work with it rather than ridicule and dismiss me for it.

          Religion is like race. It’s an illusion, but it’s still a powerful one.

          What is religion?

          Buddhism doesn’t have a god…is this religion?

          Hinduism and Judaism have atheist traditions…is this still religion?

          A strict constitutionalist argues with someone who supports modern interpretations of the constitution over a Supreme Court case. They’re arguing over an historical document and its political consequences. Both fervently believe in their positions due to philosophical convictions and personal experience. Both claim to be Atheist. In the end, either position still does not address the root of the social problem that led to the court case. They get up and argue their positions in a secular ritual designed to formally approve of one position or the other. This is labeled justice, law, democracy. We sing songs about it, tell ourselves this is the best system we can ever hope for. Is this religion?

          Is football a religion?
          My point is, investigation is far more rewarding (& fun) than blanket dismissal. We can’t simply ‘win the war against god’ and then rest safely on our laurels.

          Humanity is conflict prone. Attributing war to religion when resource conflict and population density plays the major role is simply ill-informed (thanks to CNN and other mainstream media for spreading that myth). Religion justifies war—it motivates otherwise apathetic parts of the populace, it helps to coordinate collective emotion against the “enemy”…but let’s face it…humans are a species just clever enough to engineer our own extinction (chemical manufacturing, nuclear energy and bombs, etc). But every species has its survival limit. Even if we take out all life on earth (bacteria, cockroaches, and mycelium are pretty resilient, so I doubt) it’s likely there are many other forms of life in the universe. Who knows, maybe in another billion years Earth will evolve other complex ecosystems. And then, given another few billion years, the sun will explode and take it all into oblivion. (Pessimism, no—long term realism, yes).

          Yes, we can f—k things up, but only so far. We’re only human. Don’t let a fear of a potential end cause you to betray your values and demean another’s humanity.

          A liberal, intellectual form of Catholicism helped me regain my mind after I was thrown out of a cult. Humanists, skeptics, agnostics (atheists) who were tolerant of my superstition and who also encouraged the development of my analytical mind helped me to grow strong enough to leave religion. Angry atheists just scared the shit out of me and made me feel ignorant.

          Anger is part of the process, but it is not the most fruitful part. As such, there may be a time when you decide that anger is no longer the main focus of your outreach. Ursula K LeGuin’s book The Dispossessed may be an interesting read for you before that transition occurs. I’d recommend Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony too. Though she uses a lot of mythical imagery, it’s from a native tradition & isn’t seeking converts. It’s a great commentary on cynicism, anger and how human connection heals. These are both fiction, using imagery to capture the human experience. Of non-fiction note is the work by Steven Hassan, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults & Beliefs and Robert J. Lifton’s Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism (which is fascinating because it explores a political, purportedly atheist strand of high-control in China).

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  3. Atheist Max says:

    I was not personally ‘hurt’ when you used the word G’d. I was bothered that you were giving respect to my abuser – respect to a diety which is not earned.

    I did not say that my generation is hopeless. They CAN leave religion – and Mocking religion is an important part of that. Seeing people mock God was part of how I was freed of fear. You don’t seem to respect the value of mocking. Mocking shows that you have no fear of Gods.
    People who are caught in religion NEED to SEE their gods get mocked.

    The purpose of mocking religion is to mock the God – not the believer!
    You seem to have some trouble separating a God belief from the person who is victimized by the belief.

    Religion is not like race. Race, though an illusion, is not optional. Being born black or brown is NOT a choice one has – therefor it is unfair to be racist, to judge others by their skin, for example.
    To judge someone for the color of their skin, or the color of their hair, or their hometown – is disgusting and racist.

    But Religion is not inborn as these other things are – that is why it is not like race!
    Religion is just a very stupid, ancient, dangerously awful idea. Religion is a primitive way of seeing people and a despicable way of treating other people. Religion celebrates an insidious thing called ‘faith’.

    Faith is particularly despicable and immoral as it denies a person the clear evidence of their own observations. Faith denies science, our best hope for understanding reality.

    So I disagree about mocking. It is important to Mock religion – but never to mock the believer:

    For example:
    To a Christian I might ask, “Why do you believe the cracker of communion has turned into the flesh of Jesus?” and “have you given that some thought?”

    Some will say this is mocking. I don’t. It is simply an honest question and it will work to help people wake up to the immoral claims of religion.

    Nothing could be more respectful to a believer than to be shown an exit from their prison. As I said, I wish someone had saved me from Catholicism many years ago instead of ‘respecting’ me!
    I thank the Atheists in my life. I do not thank those who accommodated my prison wardens, who ‘respected’ my pastors, who ‘respected’ my right to be ignorant!

    No.
    But I do thank the people who showed me how to get away from religion. And that is what Mocking helps with. It helps people to knock down their fear!

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    • Lauren Beck says:

      Religion is exactly like race. We don’t choose the communities or families we are born into. We do not choose the society and the cultural ideas which form our minds, shaping the way we perceive the world, making some belief-systems more attractive to us than others.

      Even a pastor (who we’d hold more responsible for his actions & intent because of his leadership role) has no control over his former selves, the decisions made in the past, which have placed him in a current position. He may continue to preach sermons with a limited vision even if his faith has evolved to understanding the complex history of early Christianity or why Judaism rejected Jesus. He may have even lost faith entirely yet continues to fulfill the social role. Hence initiatives like the Clergy Project, to understand the complex psychology and sociology behind this behavior.

      People deserve to be met where they are, with an active respect which encourages them to trust their own minds and dig deep into the phenomena of religions. We need empowerment, not shaming.

      Condemnation and blanket dismissal of belief (as a monolithic evil to be expunged from humanity) just mirrors (fanatic) faith’s perception of atheism (note that pope Francis has opened dialogue with atheists and his perceptions and leadership have been impacted by this). Not only does moral contempt destroy dialogue, it seeks to eradicate a subject which deserves close study. Religion has been conserved within the human population because it has made positive contributions and given us survival advantage over the course of our history. It is still up for grabs whether or not religion can offer further benefits to humanity–I’m hedging my bets.

      I have a complex response to your claim that mocking demonstrates respect and is effective, but it will take a further 24 hours to compile as I am including some social science references. I would be grateful if you would grant me the time to assemble these before posting a response.

      I also have a response to your perception that faith and science are diametrically opposed, which I will post before I complete the response to “mocking” as an intervention strategy.

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    • Lauren Beck says:

      Many public, secular figures (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Susan Blackmore) promote the perception (intentionally or unintentionally) that while religion is an illegitimate authority, science is a legitimate authority. There is this myth that science is a story of progress, strewn with saints who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth and that if we practice it we too can be counted among the elect and reach the stars.

      Reality is much more complex. While science provides us with processes to test our perceptions and investigate our world, it is detrimental to treat it as an entity from which we receive unerring insight.

      Science is a participatory process, in constant need of refinement, recalibration & revolutions. Analyzing its memetic structure, its immune system is closely related to religions in that it scrutinizes innovations and tests their compatibility with the existing cannon before approving of the innovation. It however has the ability to actively and publically re-evaluate the existing cannon when evidence and social pressure demands a reworking of scientific understanding (this makes it more adaptable than religion–in a modern, fast-changing world, this is an advantage).

      However, science also has the nasty side-effect of indoctrinating would-be-scientists with the existing cannon of information and current interpretations, obscuring their ability to perceive flaws in current understanding. Professional scientists are prone to assume if an experiment does not produce the desired results it is a flaw in the method or materials, not the paradigm. In this, they share a similarity with religious leaders. But this conservative approach, as Khun notes, allows scientists to conserve a paradigm and thoroughly vet the methods of testing it instead of jumping into another, equally or even more flawed paradigm. The professional indoctrination coupled with the assumption that it is the method & materials at fault, empowers normal science to progress exponentially (given the economic / political / social factors are favorable).

      But indoctrination becomes a problem in education, when students run “experiments” with predetermined outcomes and methods already designed for them. They gain the impression that science is streamlined success instead of stumbling and fumbling from wrong answer to less-wrong answer. The inherent curiosity of the student is thwarted by memorizations of facts, mythic histories and predetermined questions and outcomes. When they come into contact with the real labor of science, they are unprepared and frustrated.

      Those who do persevere through basic and professional scientific indoctrination gain the perception that normal science is the only type of legitimate science. They often fall into the mistake of focusing more on professional reputations of colleagues or the ritual of the journal review process than actual evaluation of an investigation’s biases, methods and outcomes. Their research faces political and economic restraints and they become disillusioned with the popular myths about the scientific process. They often become defensive of their reputation and their small professional specialization, reluctant to consider a paradigm revolution which might come their way. And the larger a revolution (the more toes it steps on) the more resistant the scientific community is to adopting that paradigm shift.

      However, the scientific process is also imbued with the tendency to hurtle itself forward in search of improvements and clarifications. It will continue to run experiments with outcomes which challenge the existing paradigm until the conflicts are resolved. As the flaws in a paradigm become more obvious, disciplines fracture into camps (denominations, if you will) of how to best interpret the results. These camps stick conservatively close to the existing paradigm and retain the label “science” or they become increasingly radical and risk the label of “pseudoscience”.

      The competing ideas and confusion which results in times of paradigm crisis leads critics to believe that science is nothing but opinions and philosophy.

      And this is where it gets interesting. A scientific revolution often emerges not from the practice of regular science, but often from an unprofessional interloper using the scientific method, able to perceive existing data and organize it within a different framework than the one which professional scientists must adopt through their formal education. These individuals are often open to hearing, considering and scrutinizing the pseudoscience and traditional cultures that professional scientists are psychologically allergic to.

      Take Newton for example. The Principia and the Theory of Gravity originated in a mind willing to entertain the occult. In fact, skeptics of the day flat out rejected Newtonian Physics because they seemed to be a derivative of an occult belief that items may possess an untestable energy or “tendency to fall”. It seemed to be a simple reworking of an ancient Greek idea which had long been out of fashion as well as emerging occult beliefs. It was the fact that physicist could not properly conduct further work without Newton’s formulas that forced them to gradually change their mind.

      Skip forward a few generations and you get the Einstein-ian Revolution with a form of physics which is incompatible with Newtonian Physics. But then…why do high school physics teachers teach Newton’s formulas? Was your teacher deceiving you? Lying to you? Of course not. These formulas are still the most straightforward way of describing and measuring phenomena on Earth and in observations of a planet’s trajectory. But don’t claim that Newton or Einstein discovered the truth. They assembled and refined knowledge. They pursued more detailed knowledge and predictions. But they did not distill truth.

      I understand why some people equate science to religion…because the way it’s taught in the States, science is religion. It takes trust of authority, suspension of disbelief and regurgitation of materials to make it through a standard science class. It takes the suppression of inquisitive thoughts, not their investigation.

      Science is a more productive memeplex than religions…but it also is very costly and risky. Religions allowed us to encode survival practices in ritual and taboo, allowing the elderly to transmit knowledge crucial for survival to the extremely young and/or stressed. Cooking was a chemical experiment with our bodies and our minds, not just the cooking pot. We taught generations there were spirits in certain plants that you could taste which would treat ailments. And the knowledge stuck. When we were contending against the elements on a seasonal basis, religion was the only sensible way to organize information and spread knowledge. It was highly conservative and taped our compulsive behaviors that are triggered by intense stress and threats.

      This form of transmission assembled without premeditated scheming…it arose from the ways our minds interact with other minds and the environment. Religion functions as a way of preserving social structures and works in the interests of power…but that does not mean it was consciously designed to do so. Like the intricacies of a cephalopod eye or the human brain, complexity and function does not imply an intelligent or benevolent/malevolent maker. It is a product of the evolutionary algorithm. Our tendency to see malicious or benevolent design is a product of the quirky human brain.

      Most importantly, science is a derivative of this human religious tendency. Religions have placed selective pressures on sciences, not all of them bad. If a tree doesn’t have to contend against gravity and the wind, it grows as a weak tree. Ecosystems are not just competitive for resources, they are inter-dependent. I’m not certain science is ready to stand on its own—we’re still spinning too many myths about it.

      My emotions are triggered by the stories of people caught in-between the evolutionary interplay of religions and sciences, but I know this is not the end of the story. I won’t settle for getting hung up on the human elements. There’s a bigger picture to uncover. Science is a memeplex, just like religion, politics and economics. It deserves careful study, not mythic reverence or dismissal.

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    • Lauren Beck says:

      Hi Max,
      Sorry for the delay in sending this. Life gets interesting and it takes me away from the computer, at times. = ) At first I set out to write a literature review…that got way to complicated as I wasn’t overviewing one concept or discipline but multiple ones. So instead I’m including websites with interesting references which you can peruse on your own time, instead of listening to a boring & rambling treatise.

      It’s not just that I have trouble in separating a person from the ideas they hold. The more invested any human is in their ideas, the more we attach our identities, our “selves” with those ideas. To atheists, the idea of “god” is a concept we can distantly reflect on. For someone who has sacrificed and dedicated themselves to a particular version of god, their belief and the attributes of that god are crucially important to their self perception.

      Big ideas which govern our lives and our perceptions of reality are tied to our self-perceptions, personal relationships, trust of others and community connections.

      Atheists do this too. We preserve the moral-self concept that many people in religions experience. We can easily assume atheism is more moral, more honest and more humane than religious adherence. It’s a survival advantage for atheism (and religions) to attach itself to a positive self-perspective. (Who wants to join or spread anything that’s immoral / negative / unhealthy?) But this can have the consequence of evaluating the out-group as less honest, less moral, less humane. So, just as you fear the immorality of religious people, religious folk fear the immorality of atheists. Both sides ignore that there are a ton of social norms and expectations as well as shared brain structures to permit both “sides” to interact without screwing each other over.

      The moral-self concept is part of the self-serving bias, and you can find some great intro. videos to this and other topics in ethics here [http://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/video/self-serving-bias]

      At some point, our word choices matter. There’s an almost undistinguishable line between “what you’re saying is racist” and the assumption of the accusation “therefore, you are racist”. But, we can train ourselves to limit our emotional commitment to our ideas and thoroughly reconsider our assumptions…given evidence, time and a low-stress environment. The more critical and immediate the demand for a decision, the more likely we are to stick to our previous assumptions, no matter how wrong.

      (Ok, so I just made a bunch of assumptions / claims about human cognition and behavior. Check out Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases] for short introductions to them. Don’t take it on my authority or Wikipedia’s (they aren’t a great academic resource but they do have academic citations, vocabulary and introductions to get your search and verification started)—check them out & see what you think about them. The important thing to note is that all human minds, no matter how skeptical and rational, still fall prey to these biases. It’s in our neural pathways—evolution has selected for these traits.

      Also, negative expectations and appraisals in interactions with other people can lead to them performing at a lower level than they would otherwise. This impact is known as “stereotype threat” and more info can be found on that at: [http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/definition.html]

      Hemant Mehta had an interesting presentation at Skepticon 7
      [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v11-ZtsUcs4&index=4&list=PLDyZC8lflYBujgWWiw5rAVUEOlbrIEe-h] which addresses how our perceptions and actions are impacted by our human biases.

      Just because mocking worked to give you courage to leave your religion doesn’t mean it works for others. It seems you were rather divested by the time the mocking “worked”.

      When you say religion is stupid, what are religious people supposed to think about how you appraise their abilities?

      If they’re heavily invested, do you really think a few uncomfortable direct questions will alter their belief? Your question about the communion cracker would have been answered by most Catholics I knew/know with a “Sheesh. You think I believe that? Hon, if you believe that go live in a monastery. I’m a “cafeteria catholic”, as they say. If you’re allergic to peanuts, you don’t take the PB&J!”

      Your question would have been answered by a certain liberal nun with, “You know, Gandhi said that there are some people on earth who are so hungry, god can only appear to them in the form of bread. I think that is what god is trying to teach us, in asking us to believe. He’s asking us to give up our privilege and humble ourselves and quiet our critical minds for just that moment, so that we’re in the shoes of the poorest in our human family…So that we know what it means to have nothing and to need something so desperately to keep going. It’s beyond “true” or “false”. It’s a practice that makes me a stronger, better person.”

      When mocking does work with someone who is heavily invested, they can feel sudden, overwhelming cognitive dissonance (look that one up—it’s a fun one), and feel obligated to shift their perspectives, even if they aren’t emotionally ready for that change. It leaves anger, frustration, anxiety and social distance in interactions which were once so rewarding. It’s like going through PTSD.

      Sometimes, someone who is persuaded by mocking comes into contact with someone who is sincere in their religious devotion and who has thought deeply about their beliefs and after this interaction, they reconvert…often with significant resentment towards atheism as well as new-found fervor for their new faith. This is where we’ll see some “former atheists” testifying to the “horrors” of atheism to other believers…because the mocking and moral/intellectual superiority was less rewarding than the religious communities they left.

      Finally, mocking provides an inaccurate “testimony” (sorry, but that’s such a fun word to use in this context!) to the atheist experience. Critical thinking and investigation is about discovery and personal and community improvement, not about personal superiority. There’s more beauty in this life than that. If people see an existence they don’t want, they will actively choose to be cozened with illusions for the sake of their own happiness and the happiness of those they love.

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