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Challenge to Atheists 2

Printed below are responses to this challenge. (see part I) I present them as is with no comment. I only use first names, last initial and don't ask for e-mails, I don't release them. I present this page only to induce thought, not as an attack. Send in your response to lewis@sullivan-county.com. I will not post obscenities.

Now here is the challenge: Does becoming an atheist make a person a better human being? Does not believing in God prompt or inspire a person to positive actions. Christianity (and other religions) can point to many, many people whose lives were changed for the better by adopting the faith.

Can atheism make the same claim? Can atheists point to examples of people who have had their lives positively changed? Have any drug addicts given up their addictions as a result of discarding religion?

Have any thieves stopped stealing and started earning an honest living as a result of becoming infidels? Have any abusive husbands stopped beating their wives as a result of abandoning a belief in God? In short, if atheism is such a positive way to live what real good has it done?

Can it even be called a "belief-system"? (After all it is really about a lack of belief - isn't it?) If you would like to comment on the positive effects of atheism (if they indeed do exist) then E-mail me your views and I will post them below.

I took that from your website, and it seems to me that your logic is perhaps flawed. You cannot prove a negative. However, I might point you to the differences one could expect in world history if Religion did not exist. Namely, no crusades, no religious conflict in Ireland, no Kahsmir problems between Muslims and Hindus... and so on and so on.

So much of what has held man back and turned one man against another has been of God. I think that if we could stand on our own two feet and reason with one another without spouting religious hatred, we'd get on a lot better.

M.

This is one of the rare times I will respond. Communism and fascism are secular and are just as violent as Christianity and Islam. Hinduism, Unitarianism, and several other faiths have a long history of religious tolerance. Ridding the world of religion will not rid the world of evil. Evil people will always find an excuse.

In response to your Atheist Challenge, "Does becoming an atheist make a person a better human being?" My answer is an unqualified, enthusiastic, "Yes!" I grew up in a Christian home and was an active Christian until my 39th birthday. I was an ordained Deacon in a Baptist church and taught adult Sunday School classes for many years.

After a year of researching the historical basis for Christianity, I concluded there was no validity to it; likewise for other supernatural religions. After living for decades trying vainly to discern God's will for my life, it was enormously liberating to realize that I no longer needed to live with the burden of trying to know the unknowable, that my decisions about my life are up to me and that I do not have to live with the constant worry about whether or not I am following God's plan for my life.

Christianity taught me that I was an undeserving sinner and incapable of living successfully (happily) on my own. I found out that I am deserving of happiness and I am capable of achieving it (or not) all on my own. This is tremendously empowering!! As a Christian, my task was to "die to self" so that Christ could live through me. As an atheist, I am free to develop my mind and abilities to their fullest extent.

What is it that distinguishes homo sapiens from other animals? It is not our capacity to love, for we can observe the emotions of love and devotion in animals. It is not even our capacity for language or for abstract thought, for we can observe animals that also use language, tools, etc. What distinguishes us is our capacity to reason which, though observable in animals, we have developed to a much greater extent. The great evil of religion is that it directly attacks what makes us most human-our use of Reason to understand ourselves and our world, our use of Reason to answer the most fundamental questions about our existence.

Atheism is not an incomplete worldview. Atheism is a result of applying Reason to the question "Is it likely that a supernatural creator exists?" Is the worldview that results from applying Reason incomplete? If, by "incomplete worldview," you mean does a worldview provide definitive answers to Life, the Universe and Everything, then Yes, because we have not yet identified the cause(s) of the Big Bang and determined whether or not the observable Universe is likely to be the only universe or only one of many. If, however, by "worldview," you mean "a view (philosophy) of existence (life) that allows each person to arrive at a meaning and purpose for his/her life," then Reason does offer a worldview that is complete. Your life is up to you: make of it what you will.

There is an assumption in your Challenge underlying the term "better." What do you mean by a "better" human being? I would answer that a human being is "better" to the extent he or she attains a higher level of self-actualization and respects others' individual rights. Christians (some) might define "better" as someone who gives more to others and conforms to religious dogma (goes to mass, prays five times a day, doesn't use birth control, etc.).

Unfortunately, our society has allowed religion a near-monopoly on questions of ethics and the Christian creed of self-sacrifice dominates such discussions. You can try to persuade people to be "better" by telling them all morality comes from God (i.e., outside humankind) and they'd better behave or God will send them to Hell to be tortured forever in a future life, or you can try to persuade them that respecting individual rights is in their own best interests-in this life, on this Earth-because we can all live together peacefully if we do so (i.e., use Reason). The latter argument is better because it is simpler and does not require belief in the fantastic.

Keep up the good work,
Michael L.





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