The Antitheist Herald

Christopher HitchensEvery year since his death, I do something to celebrate and commemorate the life of Christopher Hitchens, one of the writers and polemicists who most influenced me in my skeptical inquiry of religion, Christianity and Islam in particular.

On December 15th, 2011 Christopher Hitchens died, and every year since I’ve done something to further one of his causes that I most identify with: To expose and criticize religious attitudes and ideologies that are not conducive to the well-being of humanity as well as the actions perpetrated by the religious adherents and officials under the influence or authority granted them by their religious institutions.

By far, my most outstanding effort in furthering this cause has been my Facebook page, “Antitheist Herald.” Every day this page posts evidence of Christopher Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything.” It’s in his memory that this page was started and it’s my ongoing respect for his work that inspires me to keep the page running. Yesterday, August 8th, 2014, marked the start of the 3rd year that Antitheist Herald has been maintained and I see no evidence of the page slowing down.

As a Christian, I grappled with various problems apologists grappled with for millennia and have invariably come up short on a reasonable, coherent, and satisfying explanation for many of the logical inconsistencies and lapses in reason that seem to be inherent in religious thought; though, the problem that has given me the most grief is theodicy, the problem of evil; a new example of which is highlighted at least once each day on my page.

In one of many of Christopher Hitchens’ assessment of religion he said,

Religion is the outcome of unresolved contradictions in the material world. If you make the assumption that it’s man-made then very few things are mysterious to you: It would be obvious to you why there are so many religions; You will understand why it is that religion has been such a disappointment to our species – that despite innumerable revivals, innumerable attempts again to preach the truth, innumerable attempts to convert the heathen, innumerable attempts to send missionaries all around the world – that the same problems remain with us. That nothing is resolved by this. If all religions died out, or were admitted to be false, all of our problems would be exactly what they are now: How do we live with one another? Where, indeed, do morals and ethics come from? What are our duties to one another? How shall we build the just city? How shall we practice love? All these questions would remain exactly the same. Emancipate yourself from the idea of a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to becoming free.

This is a point easily grasped by materialists, atheists, and skeptics alike — but one that is lost on many of our believing friends. One of my other intellectual heroes, Richard Dawkins described the materialistic world thus,

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

I believe Karl Marx was correct in writing that, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” We use religion as a drug to cope with our existential angst, but this opiate addiction is a serious problem and the side effects are grisly. Yes, an opiate has its uses, but only insofar as it aids recovery — I do not believe the analogy fails here.

God With Us

“The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo (left), the motto Gott mit uns, or “God with us” on a Nazi uniform Koppelschlösser.

Religious beliefs have inspired some of the greatest works of philanthropy and art and has alleviated the mental anguish of many of its adherents, but it has also been the cause and justification of many, if not most, of mankind’s evils towards his brothers and sisters; it vindicates the bloodthirsty, validates the bigoted, offers sanction and sanctuary to zealotry, enforces compulsory doctrine of the irrational, opposes intellectual honesty and humility, proliferates unfalsifiable, pseudo- and un-scientific claims, ideologies, and explanations, promotes unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of people, grants confirmation for believing the preposterous, and through all of this it manages to pervade every aspect of the human condition; from our diet and dress to how we raise our children and care for our partners to how we tend to our planet and understand our place on it — nothing remains untouched, I am tempted to say “uncorrupted,” by the influence of religion.

“Antitheism” is the active opposition to theism. This position goes beyond the understanding that theism is false to saying that it is also harmful — which is what my page attempts to demonstrate.

The Antitheist Herald is not a hate group and I make no financial profit from running it. It is a network of individuals who feel a moral obligation to share the everyday evidence of the dangers posed by religion and its negative effects on humanity and its institutions. I invite you to like it, contribute to it, and share it.

The Lord Thy God I: Jealous and Proud of It

"God Judging Adam" by William Blake

“God being a dick” by William Blake

As previously mentioned in my response to J. Lee Grady’s “7 Things That Prove God Is Real,” if we were to refer only to the Old Testament and not the New, I don’t think many people would think God was very good even if he did exist. The way I see it: The Bible is not very good proof of any god’s existence, much less a very good god. Just read the Old Testament, flip around a bit, and feel free to tell me what you think.

I say that as if reading the Bible isn’t incredibly cumbersome — really, unless you were raised on it or you have a shitty new translation, you’re probably not going to dig it, so, in this series I am going to attempt to highlight at least some of the passages that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. (Full disclosure, I was raised listening to and reading the Bible throughout most of my formative years, so I’m going to jump around a bit rather than going from start to finish so we can keep to a central theme.)

Recently, I was reading the book of Amos and I began to draw parallels between the characteristics of his god and those of an obsessive, possessive, jealous, and, overall, abusive spouse. In the particular passage I was reading, the Lord is reprimanding the Israelites for the callous and uncharitable way they treat the poor, for their idleness, and for their arrogance — for such unseemly actions by the chosen people I could agree that they were in need of a stern talking to.

But this stern talking to revealed a few actions that the Lord was guilty of Himself — though I’m sure He wouldn’t see it as guilt on His part. But I’ll let Him speak for Himself:

I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me. I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me. Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me. I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me. I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire yet you have not returned to me. Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel prepare to meet your God. (Amos 4:6-12, NIVThe New International Version, or NIV, is one of the shitty new translations I was talking about earlier, but for our purposes, it’s good enough)

tl;dr? This can be summed up by saying, “I have hurt you in the past when you didn’t return to me and if you continue to turn from me, I’ll hurt you again.”

Remember this is God speaking; the same God whose mercy endures forever. In case you’re confused, I should point out that this isn’t merely the god of the Jews, this is the god of the Christians (of all flavors; Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Orthodox, etc.) and the Muslims (though they’re working from different source material that I would argue isn’t much better).

Imagine for a moment the contemptible position taken up by apologists who argue that man’s free will comes into play here. They might argue that it was the Israelites’ choice and they were being punished for this choice. Any debate on free will aside, this seems to be the same logic held by that of a foreman towards his slave on a plantation in the old south of the United States; “Sure, you’re free to run, but when I catch you I’m going to break your legs if I don’t kill you first.” You’re free to do as you wish, as long as it’s what the Lord wishes, because if it’s not then you’d better “prepare to meet your God.” Is the will free when being prompted by the threat of a lash, wrath, or hellfire?

The evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, commented in his book, “The God Delusion,” that,

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

This shotgun blast of criticism requires some unpacking. Many people I know simply do not understand how accurate this description is. It’s not merely a criticism, it’s a description that only someone incredibly ignorant of the scripture (or very foolish) would deny. In this series, The Lord Thy God, I will attempt to back up similar criticisms and descriptions of the god of the Bible and in this article I’ll be focusing on how God is jealous and proud of it.

Provided below are examples that I feel fit the description by professor Dawkins on the matter — I’ve provided the citation of the passages so you can read them in context. If you reach the conclusion that the Lord was justified in these actions I suggest you check out this website.

The Ten Commandments

Do you know the ten commandments? Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal… those seem to be the important ones, but do you remember the rest? How about the first few? (Spoiler: Those aforementioned are not the first few)

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
(Exodus 20: 2-7, KJV)

That’s 3 out of 10 commandments that regular jack-offs site as being the foundation of morality and law and they have nothing to do with morality. They’re entirely all about God flexing His muscles and reminding us that He’s the boss. (At least he gives us a day-off on the weekends as his 4th commandment – even if it’s primarily, again, a bit theocentric.)

Because having a set of mostly arbitrary rules in front of a courthouse is totally constitutional.

Because having a set of arbitrary religious injunctions in front of a secular courthouse is totally constitutional.

The rest of the commandments aren’t so bad, honoring mommy and daddy, not envying your neighbor’s ass (or his wife’s ass); but what about the kids? There’s no commandment not to rape, molest, or abuse children, no commandment to help the sick, poor, or hungry, nothing telling us not to enslave others, etc.

Anton LeVay, founder of the Church of Satan, saw a problem with the 10 Commandments and issued the 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth and included, “9. Do not harm little children.” Sure, the book was written in the 1960’s and it had the original 10 to respond to, but these give us a bit more to work off of than YHWH’s did (who is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, etc.).

I’m convinced that God is less concerned with the well-being of his people and more concerned with his reputation — even when he’s giving his followers a code to live by.

Serious Jealousy Issues

I’m not just inserting my, or Dawkins’ view, into the text here. The Bible says ad nauseam how jealous God is. Read it for yourself!

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV)

In Deuteronomy it’s repeated again and again (e.g. 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21). And in the book of Joshua, the main protagonist goes so far as to say “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”  (Joshua 24:19, NIV)

At one point in Exodus the writer even says:

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14, NIV)

Granted, the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were supposedly written by Moses and Joshua (whose book follows the first 5) was Moses’ successor, perhaps their view of God was slightly skewed.

Or maybe not. We see Judah stir up God’s jealousy in 1 Kings 14:22 and in Chapter 8 of Ezekiel the prophet attempts to give a justification for the wrath that God has allowed to fall upon the Jews. What was it that moved God to his actions? Guess. God’s jealousy is mentioned again and again throughout Ezekiel.

In the book of Psalms, the psalmist speaks about how there were those who had “angered him with their high places” and “aroused his jealousy with their idols” (Psalm 78:58, NIV). The psalmist is moved in his next psalm to ask, “How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?”

Perhaps in answer to that question the minor prophets remind us,

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies… Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:2, 6, NIV)

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth. (Zephaniah 1:18, NIV)

OC because I'm awesome and proud of it.

(Exodus 34:14)

God is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and all sorts of other long o-words — but jealous? That’s not an o-word and it’s an incredibly petty emotion; it’s so human. Maybe, just maybe, we make gods in our image and not the other way around.

If God is so great, I am left wondering: y so jelly tho?

Have We Forgotten?

Have We Forgotten 1

When the World Trade Center was attacked eleven years ago on this day, the media was buzzing with visuals from ground zero. The most popular clip I had seen was of the second plane hitting a tower, in which you can hear the newscasters saying, “Oh my God.” On a rarer video tape I had seen years later of the first tower being hit you can hear a man behind the camera crying, “Holy shit.” It is obvious that the problem is best identified as more the latter than the former.

Religious moderates and political liberals have characterized the actions of the terrorists as having to do with socio-economic problems due to oppression, poverty, occupation by foreign powers, etc. The people who actually orchestrated the attacks beg to differ. In the aftermath of September 11th, it was a religious organization that claimed responsibility.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a spokesman for Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group, gave a statement declaring that this is nothing less than a holy war:

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies.

I would like to touch on one important point in this address. The actions by these young men who destroyed the United States and launched the storm of planes against it have done a good deed.

They transferred the battle into the US heartland. Let the United States know that with God’s permission, the battle will continue to be waged on its territory until it leaves our lands, stops its support for the Jews, and lifts the unjust embargo on the Iraqi people who have lost more than one million children.

The Americans should know that the storm of plane attacks will not abate, with God’s permission. There are thousands of the Islamic nation’s youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live.

When a religion is founded on conquest and military strength, the fruits of its actions will not be those of peace. September the 11th was not the first attack and has not been the last. According to the (obviously biased) website thereligionofpeace.com:

Have We Forgotten 2

Facts, however, are not biasedand I encourage you to do research on these numbers for yourself. In my view, the 2,977 victims of 9/11 are fact enough  to support my point.

A counter-crusade is not necessary and should not be an action that crosses the mind of good people — but reason is. For any civilized people, reason is key to their success. It is unreasonable to ignore this problem. Simply type, “Islamist” into Google News every morning for another glimpse into this problem. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not a punctuation mark in a statement of one religion’s turmoil nor was it just a brutal chapter in international, political history; it was a restatement of one religion’s thesis. My thesis is that you should never forget this.

We should and will move on (most of us already have) because that is what reasonable people dobut we should never forget the day that the epitome of unreason was expressed in our lifetime.