Peace Pole Hell Hole

I was at a dedication ceremony recently when I ran into Christine, a refreshingly liberal friend of mine who teaches at the college here. The event marked the installation of a “Peace Pole” at the courthouse, and Christine made a short speech. She talked about diversity and tolerance, and mentioned that there were blacks, whites, gays and straights in the audience, and that our diversity was valuable.

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

After we were done and the guests dispersed, I pulled her aside and told her that I felt like I was standing on the final frontier in our little town in our little state, Atheism.

I talked about how people in this community pray to Jesus all the time. She added, “That must be hard for you.” It is, but maybe not for the reason she was implying (my rights.) Though there may be situations in which my rights are being violated, that’s not what makes it difficult to hear. What is really hard to hear is that the prayers are factually incorrect. They call to a being that doesn’t exist. The truth is being assaulted by these attitudes and beliefs, which are held in earnest by people who honestly have no interest in the truth.

Why am I saying this? It’s been said and said again. Why does it nag at me that so many people are so willing to believe the absurdity of theism? I’m not going to change any minds. If anything, talking about my atheism is either masturbation or an invitation into a mutual admiration society.

Then again, I Googled “Why are so many people becoming atheists?”…

From Yahoo! Answers… “Because education makes it obvious how stupid it is to believe that gods exist when that’s clearly ridiculous and impossible.

“The persistence of religion is a sad and unfortunate proof that the human race has a long way to evolve yet and that intelligence is still a scarce commodity.

“Religion should have been left in the past with the cavemen. It was the worst idea they ever had. It’s been the biggest killer throughout the history of the human race.”

Every contrary reply to that summary contained at least half a dozen glaringly obvious factual errors. None were able to refute it. None.

But it’s somehow more than an affront to the truth. It’s personal. It angers and hurts me to hear tomes like, “I don’t care what anybody says, I believe…”, in spite of the fact that what they’re being told is the truth.

Someone comment with some real wisdom, please.


  1. Okay, I’ll chime in. Hopefully, I won’t sound silly or cause an affront (which is a really interesting word choice BTW)

    There is no truth to god’s existence or non-existence. Since truth must be based on facts and reality. And since reality it subjective, truth cannot be defined without a personal bias. I accept that you believe there is no god as easily as I accept that others believe there is a god or God. I can never know because I am not you or any other. Hence, I am agnostic. It’s not that I don’t know if there is a god. I believe that it is impossible to provide evidence for or against a belief. There is no example that I know of that can prove the non-existence of god nor any miracle that proves the existence.

    But I will address the subject of prayer. If it makes people feel better about themselves to say aloud that they want to be better people and that they’re thankful for what they have. Then I say let them speak. If they want to start a football game by reminding the players and fans that it’s just a game. I’m down with that. If they want to proclaim that everything that they do is because they are being guided by their beliefs. Well, that’s kinda obvious, too.

    The slap in the face that I think you feel from them, is that they say all these things as prayer but they don’t live up to them. They pray for tolerance but are not themselves tolerant. They pray for a better life but reject change. They pray that they may see the light but they do it by closing their eyes.

    Am I close?

  2. I have studied and taught a religion course here at OU for many years. One of the things that I have found meaningful is that an awful lot of very smart people continue to have faith that there is a greater meaning, and a higher order of being, than this existence we have on earth. In the course I teach, I introduce students to a very rudimentary classification system, a way of religious thinking: exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Exclusivist religionists think that their way of believing is THE ONE RIGHT way of believing, that only they know the truth, and that all others will be damned. Inclusivists think they MAY know the right way, but they make allowance for the possibility that their way may be wrong. Pluralists believe that all religious belief systems have some measure of truth, or that all are equally valid beliefs. Of the three, of course, Oklahoma is overrun by those who have an exclusivist mind set: Southern Baptists think only Southern Baptists will go to heaven, for example. The exclusivist mind set is most problematic when it comes to achieving any kind of true ecumenism or inter-faith dialogue. It has been my experience that atheists are very exclusivistic in their own way. They are not nearly so condemning as exclusivist Christians in Oklahoma, but like exclusivists they often believe they know the absolute truth: that there is no god, and that anybody who believes otherwise is foolish or mistaken. (A recent study showed, however, that atheists are much more likely to be humanitarian than exclusivist Christians, which is a damning indictment on Christianity.) In this life, we get to choose whether we want to believe in a god or not. There are those who take a rationalistic approach, and conclude there is a god. There are those who take a rationalistic approach and conclude that there is not a god. The vast majority of people I know take an emotional approach, and believe there is a god. Too often — and I am guilty of this as well — they believe most strongly in god when they are at a personal or emotional crisis point. As your friend points out earlier, if that belief brings them comfort they might not otherwise have, then that belief is justified regardless of whether it is right or wrong. For me personally, I am agnostic, but I think there is a god, or a greater meaning, or a higher purpose behind all the absurdity that is existence in this world. I don’t feel like I need to KNOW for certain whether or not there really is a god. I think any kind of “certainty” based thought is prone to prideful arrogance that can lead readily to suppression of any other kind of belief. I often remind students that it is called a religious “faith” and not a religious “fact.” Unfortunately, and this is what bothers people like you, Richard, most people are confused about the difference between a statement of faith and a statement of fact. In fact, in Oklahoma most people seem convinced that if you don’t live your faith statement out as if it were a statement of fact, then you must be getting it wrong. My sense is that none of us can ever, nor will ever, know who is right in this debate. And in the ultimate outcome, it won’t matter. We will all be dead, and whatever we chose to believe in this life will be dust in the wind. I heard a comedian recently saying if there is a heaven, there are going to be a lot of surprised people in the after life:”Man, they let YOU in here? This place is going to the dogs!”

  3. An example of faith that hinders us?

    “Why is NASA spending $1.1 million to send a probe to Jupiter when all they have to do is open up their Bible to see how all that was created.” ~Citizen at town hall meeting, Ada, Oklahoma, August 2011

  4. Frank, I am not saying there is one “right way” to believe. I am saying that there are some wrong ways to believe. Magic. Unicorns. Flying Spaghetti Monster. The God of the Bible. All wrong. Demonstrably wrong.

  5. Perhaps there can be solace in listening and caring.

    For me respect for life as a unique and limited occurence is in chosen practice virtually identical to respect for life as a given occurence.

    I just have to listen and care.

  6. Hey Richard,

    I hope I do not offend you with my comment, but here it goes…

    I must say I was a little surprised by this blog entry. To me, standing in a fog of uncertainty, to say with absolute certainty that there is no God, is the same as someone who tells me they are certain, without a doubt, there is a God.
    We live in a town where Christianity is the dominant religion. If we lived 14,000 miles east, Islam would be the dominant religion. Either way, you would face religion. I know I have spoken to you about this, but I believe Atheism is the newest religion.
    I don’t believe that religion is what causes wars, etc. I believe trying to impose a certain religion on someone else is what causes wars. I spoke with a man Thursday who is Hindu. His beliefs do not bother me, why do Christians’ beliefs bother you?
    You wrote, “They call to a being that doesn’t exist.”
    They’re probably 5 billion people on this earth who pray to a being who doesn’t exist. Who is to say who is correct? I certainly can’t.
    I believe what I believe and I ask that others respect my right to believe what I believe. I do not look down on others for their beliefs. I have my beliefs and opinions. Am I a hypocrite? Yes, I am. The people who say they are not hypocrites are the biggest hypocrites of all.
    I guess I’m trying to say don’t worry about Christians. They might keep you from buying booze on Sundays and holidays, but they will not kill you.
    Again, you said, “She talked about diversity and tolerance, and mentioned that there were blacks, whites, gays and straights in the audience, and that our diversity was valuable.”
    It’s true, our diversity is valuable. That includes peoples’ belief in Christianity, or Islam, or Atheism, or whatever. My religion is that people should let others live and let live. Don’t push your crap on me and I will not push my crap on you.

    “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.” (Charles Caleb Colton)

  7. “Exclusivist religionists think that their way of believing is THE ONE RIGHT way of believing”

    The scientific method uses a technique that, unlike religion, teaches that it is almost certain that we will continue to revise and update our knowledge about the universe forever. Maybe religion #1 teaches that unicorns are blue, while religion #2 teaches they are pink. Science says, “we have looked and have never found a unicorn. In the mean time, we will develop a measles vaccine and send 18 humans to the moon.”

  8. Unicorns are white!!! Everybody knows that!!!

    It is true, we sent 18 humans to he moon??, but what good has it done us??? Liberals would ask, If we sent 18 humans to the moon for a cost of ?????????????, then how much of that ???????????? could we have used to feed ????????? for a year. Science is a waste of money? This money could be used to feed the children of 1000 worthless humans! Go, humans!!!!!

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