Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Hitler were atheists, therefore all atheists are wrong/ evil"

This argument is one I have heard at least once or twice, although it appears to be less common than the popular "design argument," "argument from ignorance," and "argument from personal experience." However, it is no less filled with enormous logical fallacies than these more common arguments.

Unfortunately for theists, the "argument from evil" (which is what they are attemptiong to use) doesn't work for them. In fact, it works against their argument against atheists! Why?

Human beings are fallible and definitely not all good! This fact is recognized by theists and atheists alike. I have often met theists who deny that people of their faith who commit atrocities are "not real Christians/ Muslims/ Jews/ Hindus/ etc." However, I have yet to meet an atheist that denies that atheists who committed atrocities, ex. Moe Zedong and Stalin, were "not really atheists."
BUT! This is IRRELEVANT to the legitimacy of atheism!

So why does this argument from evil not work against atheists? We don't doubt the existence of evil, and the majority of us don't believe in an entity [natural or otherwise] that is "omni-benevolent" [i.e. All-good]. Nor do we deny that there are evil and/ or illogical atheists among us that occasionally stain our midst, there are.

Yet, the presence of evil among atheists does not destroy the legitimacy of atheism! REMEMBER! Atheism is simply a lack of belief in God/ Gods. Nothing else is universal among us. So, the argument that there are evil atheists is as harmless to the idea of atheism as being hit by a water balloon.

*Also, a little side note: Although Stalin and Mao were definitely atheists, the idea that Hitler was one is up for debate.

It is confirmed that Hitler was raised in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a young boy and that his mother was a highly religious Christian. I believe I heard that Hitler was raised as a Catholic, but whatever type of Christian he was, he was not an atheist. To my knowledge there is no documentation of Hitler renouncing his faith. [However, some have suggested that he had an interest in the occult - whih still doesn't prove that he wasn't a Christian, btw.]

Back to the argument from evil, we have covered the ground of the harmlessness of using the argument against evil against atheists, but why is that argument beneficial to atheists and detrimental to theists who believe in the Abrahamic God?

There is a simple answer to this:

The traditional and most commonly accepted idea of God is that he/ she is "all-powerful," "all-good," and "all-knowing." [At the same time] The essence of the argument from evil is that there is a TITANIC problem with this notion from the start!

I'll spell it out simply for you:

The three combating notions of the Judao-Christian-Islamic God with regards to evil:

1. God is all powerful

This means that he can do anything, including stop evil and create it.

2. God is All-Good

This means that God would never commit evil.

3. God is Omnicient

This means that God knows everything.

Are we on the same page here? I'm sure many of you Christians and Muslims, etc. would agree with these ideas.


To illustrate my point I will combine 2 at a time and show how the third cannot work with the existence of evil:

1. God is all powerful and God is all good:


Okay, no contradiction here, maybe this God DOESN'T KNOW that evil exists? Sure, that works.

2. God is all good and God knows everything:


Okay, this works too, assuming God can't do anything about the evil that exists.

3. God knows everything and God is all-powerful:


Sure! This works as well, maybe God desn't care about evil? Or maybe God IS evil himself? Evil Gods and Goddesses DID exist in past religions [esp. Polytheistic ones].

But! God is all Good + All Powerful + All Knowing?
Why would evil exist with a god like that?! No matter which way you turn you have to take away one of these qualities to make your god fit.

You don't think so?
Okay! I challenge you, theists, to present me with evidence for why a god with all three qualities could exist with evil! BUT! Be prepared for me to critique your argument and call you out if you omit one of the three qualities!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chronic Guilt Disorder - A Religious Psychiatric Pathology

I remember many things of being a young theist child. Some of these things are nice memories, others are not nice, and some I thought were nice at the time.

One of the memories that falls into the latter is my Chronic Guilt as a young Christian. I am a psychology undergraduate major, and I made up the term "Chronic Guilt Disorder" [You will not find it in any medical or psychiatric dictionary] to define a phenomena quite common among religious people, but especially prevalent and severe among Christians. Although, among Christians, the length they will go to make up for their Chronic Guilt, which in turn will often lead to an inferiority complex, varies in extremity.

With Easter coming up in just 2 days, I thought the timing for writing this blog post was perfect. Easter is a "holiday" which symbolizes the PINNACLE of Christian Chronic Guilt Disorder. In fact, the whole holiday is based on the idea that God was killed by a sinful world to take away their sins. And that because of God's perfection, no one is worthy of this salvation.

As a christian child I believed that I was an unworthy human being, a guilty evil sinner who deserved to be punished. In fact, unbeknownst to my parents, I would practice a mild form of self-injury [A REAL DOCUMENTED PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDER, more commonly known as "cutting yourself"] as a way to show my repentance to Jesus, and I always did it around Easter. The self-injury was light, I would merely scratch myself or pick at scabs, just to induce slight pain. Then I would feel "cleansed of sin." I look back now as an atheist and shake my head at the insanity of this. I was only a child, but I was already practicing self-destructive habits in the name of God!

However, my "scratching for Christ" is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to religious self-destructive behaviors due to Chronic Guilt Disorder.

In fact, it seems that not only does religion create self-destructive behaviors and attitudes, it PURPOSELY attempts to force them upon it's followers by using the weapon of SIN. In a VERY well done attack on the evils perpetuated by Christianity, George H. Smith hits this issue on the nail when he writes,

"The notion of the sin is perhaps the most effective sanction ever invented. For a Christian, to sin is the worst thing imaginable, and the thought of committing a sin can cause intense guilt. [...] Sin represents something metaphysically monstrous, something that directly undercuts a man's [or woman's] sense of self-esteem, and this adds to its effectiveness as a manipulative device." - p. 301 of "Atheism: The Case Agains God" - By George H. Smith.

I remember that as a Christian child I would feel horribly guilty for things that were completely out of porportion to the amount of guilt that should be displayed. When I would lie or backsass my parents one day, on Sunday in church, I would be silently crying and begging God for forgiveness, terrified of God's wrath.

You see... fear IS a powerful weapon of Christendom, but GUILT is MUCH MORE potent of a weapon!!
If you can make someone believe they are worthless, you can break them.

As I said, though, the examples of religious self-destruction go far beyond "scratching yourself." People harm their bodies and their psyches in the name of repentence to God. Sometimes they do very serious harm.

Although severe physical self-punishment was far more common in past centuries, it remains today!
The bible gives us GREAT role models as to how to act when God is "angry with you." Over and over it speaks of the people weeping and tearing their hair and putting on "sack cloth."

In the middle ages, a priest who wished to get on God's good side wore a "hair shirt" for a great portion of his life without ever taking it off. A hair shirt is a very uncomfortable and unsanitary garment made entirely of human hair.

When lice infested his hair shirt, you would have thought he would have taken it off, right? WRONG!! He took his suffering from the parasites to be an even greater way to show repentence to God. So he tortured himself for years wearing a dirty, uncomfortable, unsanitary, and infested garment to be "good for God." [What kind of insane god would sanction that?!]

Think extreme forms of self-punishment for God exist only in the past? You're wrong!

In some modern Christian sects it is common to go through the EXCRUCIATING practice of LITERALLY reinacting the crucifiction on a LIVING person!! The person who is the "crucified" is revered for his/ her "piousness."
This picture is from the Phillipines and is typical of such practices.

More common forms of Self-Punishment are, Fasting, Self-Mutilation or Self Beating, and the Self-Deprivation practices common during Lent among Catholics. ["What are you going to give up for Lent?"]

These may be seen on first glance as harmless, but they are not. The main problem with the self-deprivation practice of Lent, is that it causes emotional distress and temptation and possibly depression among those who fail to hold to their "vows." You may object that it is no worse than dieting. However, dieting is done out of medical NECESSITY!! Dieting has a progressive PURPOSE!! It is not simply about deprivation!! Dieting is about changing your lifestyle and becoming a healthy person! And, dieting should ALWAYS be done only under the supervision of a medical doctor!

Which brings us to the next "supposedly harmless" practice - Fasting. Fasting is the practice [for religious or other reasons] of depriving yourself of food for a certain amount of time [usually only a day]. In moderation, fasting CAN be harmless. However, if taken to an extreme, fasting is DANGEROUS!! Since a person is depriving themselves of all food, if fasting is done for more than a day, it becomes purposeful starvation. If you fast for more time than your doctor would recommend, you are risking PERMANENT damage to your body and your overall physical health!! Depriving yourself of food will wreck havoc with your electrolytes, essential chemicals in your blood that regulate hydration, and are critical for nerve and muscle function. You will set your blood sugar out of wack, causing weakness, nausea and fatigue. Prolonged deprivation [when your body goes into starvation mode] will cause your body to start [literally] EATING ITSELF!! Your body will attempt to keep you alive by first absorbing your muscles, and then absorbing your fats. Then your vital organs will start to shut down. [But if you get to that point, the point at which death can happen, you're a dumbass because you had more than enough time to save yourself from your PURPOSEFUL starvation]. You see, you may see it as a religious practice, but your body doesn't see that. It just sees you as starving and will act exactly as it does when you are starving of other causes.

Self- Beating - In the time of the Black Death, a group of zealot Christians [who were scorned by the organized church] would go from town to town in ragged clothing, beating themselves unmercifully with whips and sticks to try to get God to lift the plague from the "good Christian people." They were called, the Flagellants.
Even today some christians practice this archaic abuse on themselves!
An Image of Flagellant actors in a film about the Black Death:

Although all of this seems horrible... perhaps what is more horrible is the effect of EMOTIONAL self-punishment! What I mean by that is that Chronic Guilt [which is characterized by guilt that far exceeds the level of the crime or guilt without a crime] does emotional damage.

A person who believes that they constantly commit evil acts, will come to believe that they ARE evil, and [in the minds of any good person] thus they are worthless.

In this case the bully that lowers the victim's self-esteem, is not a person, but a poisonous ideology which is [in essense] a never-ending guilt trip.