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The “Year without God”-project, and my thoughts

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a (former?) seventh day minister who has decided to live one year “without God”.

In his first post, posted December 31st, he said:

For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).

I’m all for living without any God(s), so basically I should be all for his experiment, but that last sentence makes me think he’s not going all in. Putting in that disclaimer, where he tries to comfort himself by saying that God might approve – if he exist, sounds like putting in a safety net to me.

Anyway, his blog has gotten a lot of attention, both from theists and atheists (afaik, more atheists are there cheering him on, than there are theists commenting).

Ryan Bell, the guy behind the blog, and the project, will

read atheist “sacred texts” — from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new ‘religious atheists’ (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible — scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers — to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.

Personally, I haven’t read most of these guys, nor have I been to any atheist gatherings. I’m an atheist though, and I have a great life. Of course, as a Christian “trying on” atheism, he will have to “read up” on atheist thoughts, because I recon he’s only heard the Christian explaination of what an atheist are. (Satanic baby-eaters!)

I hope to be able to have a chat with Ryan sometime during 2014, because even if I think he’s half-hearted (even though he thinks he’s going 100% for atheism), I think it’s possible to help him understand what atheism is all about, (Basically, there’s no evidence for any God(s), so we don’t believe in any.) and also to understand how it’s possible to live a full life without any religious guidelines. Morality is one of these issues I’d love to discuss, because you can be “Lawful Good” (kudos if you get the reference!) without basis in anything religious.

Anyway, I’m going to follow his blog, and hopefully find time to engage him in a discussion/chat.

Do you eat figs?

Ok, here’s one thing I just don’t get from Mark 11

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Jesus is hungry – OK, we all get peckish at times, so I get that.

He sees a fig tree in leaf – well, it might have fruit, I don’t know as I’m no fig farmer.

Ah, He went to see if it had any fruit – clever boy that Jesus!

He finds nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Not the season! They didn’t grow that time of the year!

So, he curses the tree!

Jesus is like, Fuck you tree, don’t you see I’m bloody hungry? Gimme some fucking figs right now, or you’ll regret this day for fucking eternity!!!

And… the diciples heard it all!

Jesus, grumpy when peckish! Does this story tell us that “Jesus was human” (because all human curses trees who doesn’t bear fruit outside the season!), and that he’s “just like” us? I’ve never cursed a tree for not growing fruit when I’m hungry, have you?

Does the story tell us why figs are so awful? “Jesus didn’t like the tree, so now the figs taste like ash. Before Jesus cursed the tree they tasted like rum and coke!”

[joke] Do you know why only heathens eat figs? Because we don’t care if they’re cursed by Christ! [/joke]

Could anyone please tell me what this story is all about? Why is it in the Bible in the first place?

He who is without sin can cast the first stone.

“Gay people should burn in Hell!” How many of you have heard something along these lines lately? I know I have. Several times a week, and even more often. “Homosexuality is an abomination!”, – you know, all the “slogans” WBC use when they picket funerals. (But, it’s not only WBC who uses language like this. People you’d think are quite normal also tend to lean this way, even here in Norway. “God hates fags!”

Well, if you (and by “you” I mean you that think this way) have read your Bible, you’d know that while Jesus never spoke against homosexuality, he spoke quite negatively about divorce. Funny then, how a lot of the people I know who are “against homosexualy because it’s in the Bible” also are divorced. Another funny thing – most of these people stuffed their face really good this Christmas. Here’s a list:

  • Philippians 3:19 (“their god is their belly”)
  • Psalm 78: 18 (“they tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved”)
  • Proverbs 23:20 (“be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat”)
  • Proverbs 23:2 (“put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite”)
  • Ezekiel 16:49 (“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”)

Why do we never see anyone picket fast food restaurants with “God hates Gluttony!”

Jesus, the guy these people believe is the son of God, told his followers that “He who is without sin can cast the first stone” when the religious leaders ganged up on the woman caught in adultery.

Funny really, isn’t it how the pious tend to gang up on those that are different, but considerest not the beam that is in their own eye…

[Cherry] Christmas trees are “worth nothing”!

There’s supposedly a “War on Christmas”, where certain Christians tell us that the seculars, and the atheists are watering down, or even eradicating, the true meaning of Christmas. Well, stop wiith the trees you religious types! It’s in the Bible!

The customs of other people are worth nothing. Their idols are just wood cut from the forest, shaped by a worker with his chisel. (Jeremiah 10:3 NCV)

An idol of wood, cut from the forest – a Christmas tree! Worth nothing!!

Who is responsible for Evil?

Any Christian I’ve ever discussed “evil” with has told me that Satan is responsible for anything evil in the world. Murder? Satan. Eartquakes? Satan. Child abuse? Satan. War, famine, pestilence, hurricanes? Satan, every time!

Then I ask: “Who created Satan?” and I get an answer along the lines of: “He was an angel, but he didn’t want to follow the word of god, so he was cast from heaven. He now rule hell, and is a bad fellow indeed!”

Sounds legit, right? Not according to Isaiah 45:7.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

Holy cow! God tell everybody he’s responsible for both darkness and evil!!

I guess Christians don’t know their book well enough?

Do I hate Christians or Christianity?

As you’ve probalby figured out by now, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in any God(s), nor do I think that the Bible, The Quaran, the Torah, or other religious books are the word of some supreme beeing. I have tried to believe, and I have studied the various ‘holy’ scriptures to see if there is something there that makes me really believe that some God has dictated the book to mankind, but I haven’t found anything.

Some christians believe that atheists are people who hate God. (I say “some christians”, because they’re not all thinking this!) I don’t hate God. I don’t believe in God. Quite the difference if you ask me. I don’t hate Santa Claus, I don’t believe in Santa Claus. I don’t hate unicorns. I don’t believe in unicorns. I don’t hate Harry Potter. I don’t believe in Harry Potter.

You see, to me, all the people and animals I mentioned in the last paragraph are fictional. They don’t exist, and have never existed. I have read stories about all of them though, and some of the stories are quite good, funny, or interesting (or sad, depressing, etc…), but that doesn’t make them true. I have read stories about people I do believe in, who died before I was born: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, King Henry VIII. Historical people who are remembered for what they did, or said, or both. Of course you can say that since I “wasn’t there” at the time, how can I know that they have actually existed? To that I say; There is enough evidence, and enough sources to make it beyond reasonable doubt that these people lived. Thus I believe they did.

There is not enough evidence, nor source material (only one book, poorly written (yes, the Bible), and no other historical sources) to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the christian God exists. The same goes for the other Gods.

Still, I don’t hate God. How can you hate something that doesn’t exist?

But, do I hate the believers? People who believe in God, or Allah, or Jehova, or any of the other Gods people believe in?

Short answer: No!

Longer answer: I don’t hate people, but I do hate some of the things people do. And when people do bad things in the name of their God, I hate them for being brainwashed enough to actually commit the heineous acts. The crusades, Jihad, 9/11, bombings, hijacking of planes, murder, genocide, prosecution, witchburning, etc. It is actually in the Bible, in the chapter of the the Sermon on the Mount, I find the best phrase explaining how I feel:

Mathew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

This is often summed up into the sentence “Hate the sin, not the sinner” (a phrase that is actually not in the Bible!).

If you love your enemies (be it the tribe in the next valley, the country across the border, the homosexuals, the atheists, the christians, the whoever), you don’t kill them, maim them or bully them. You don’t prosecute them, and you don’t hate them. You love them.

Still, it is fun to mock people who are different. We all do that. Maybe to raise our status within our community (like people at school bullying someone to be able to stay with the “in-crowd”), or atheists mocking christians for believing that a burning bush can talk, or creationists mocking people believing in evolution for having an ape as a grandmother. We all do it, even though we really shouldn’t. It’s in our nature to try and place ourselves above the rest.

I can’t say I truly love every christian, muslim, jew, or other theist, but I try not to hate them. (Then again, as I’m not a christian, I guess it’s ok not to follow the Bible, right?) I try to see the good in every person I meet, and I meet a lot of people through work, and through my hobbies. I try not to judge people before I know them, and I hope I don’t have to judge people after I get to know who they are, and what they believe. But sometimes I fail, like we all do. I’m only human.

So, basically: I don’t hate religion, I don’t hate religious people, and I try to keep the mocking of those of faith to a minimum.

Why am I an atheist?

In Norway, people don’t react when you say you’re an atheist, as most people are really relaxed when it comes to religion. We are one of the worlds most secular countries, and I think that’s a good thing. (Obviously, as I’m an atheist, right?) Still, most Norwegians haven’t really thought about where they stand when it comes to the church. “I am going to christen my child, because it’s tradition. It has to happen in church, right” is a common statement from people I know for a fact never enter a church (except on Christmas Eve, another tradition!). “Oh, and my wedding has to be in the church. You know, it’s tradition!” Or how about this? “I’m going to get confimated in the church, or my grandparents won’t give me a present.” More traditional thinking.

We go to church at selected times, Christmas Eve, to baptize our children, or to get married. And for funerals. The rest of the time we don’t think about church, God, or Jesus. (Of course, there are people who actually are religious in Norway too, but not as many as in other countries.)

My parents are among those people. They go to church almost every Sunday. (Well, my father really has to go, as he’s a lutheran minister, and I don’t think he’d last long in that job if he refused going to church.) My mother is, an this is only based on my observations, a lot more religious than my father, the minister, and she doesn’t only go to church, she is often helping out by reading from the Bible, and doing other tasks that needs to be done to get through the mass. (Can I say mass when they’re lutheran, or is that only catholic?) When I was a child, she was the teacher at the sunday school, where I had to go because she’s my mother and she told me to. I guess at first I thought it was nice, as we sang a few songs, heard a few stories from the Bible, and had lemonade or hot chocolate, but around the age of 9 I guess I started to really feel uncomfortable. (They dragged me there until I was almost 13, and at the end I really hated it!) You see, I had my own Bible, and I read it. From start to end. All of it, even the long lists of names. And I started wondering. Why do they always chat about the cozy parts, and never about the scary stuff? (OK, the exodus from Egypt is a bit “scary”, but not when told at sunday school.)

I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that’s not allowed, right? (Deuteronomy comes to mind.) And there’s a lot of war, and not to mention a lot of stuff that’s just weird. (Parts of the Book of Revelation seems to be written by someone high on LSD or something.) Why didn’t we talk about that? We had covered Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, the wedding of Cana, Jesus being born, Jesus being killed, and maybe a few other stories I’ve forgotten, but we never discussed them. We only sat there while it was read to us, and then we sang. I had a lot of unanswered questions.

So, I asked them at home. “If Adam and Eve, the two first humans got two sons, Cain and Abel, who did they make children with?” or “During the flood, why didn’t more than two of each bird sit on the boat?” I soon learned that asking my mother was daft, because she didn’t want to explain my questions, she just said something along the lines of “God works in mysterious ways.” That’s not discussing anything, that’s just another way of saying “Hush, you’re messing up my world view, and I don’t want you to!” Asking my father, now that wasn’t smart either. You ask the question about Cain and Abel and who they made children with, and you sit for two or three hours listening to a lecture about the Bible, Greek, Latin, theology, and a lot of different stuff, and when you just can’t take anymore, and excuse yourself, you realise you haven’t gotten the answer you were looking for.

That’s why I decided to go to other sources. First stop was the library. The librarian is looking at you as if you’re green and from Mars when you’re 14 years old and take home heavy tomes about religion, the Bible, and the Koran. I read them, but I guess they were a bit to advanced for me, because I more often than not had to look up words in the dictionary, and I hadn’t developed any good ways to study yet. Still, I had a project, and I did it in silence, because I didn’t want my parents to find out that I was questioning everything they believe in. (I still haven’t told them that I’m an atheist. I guess I’m a 38 years old child when it comes to speaking with them. I suppose they know though, as I’ve got my father on Facebook, and I post a lot of atheistic stuff there.)

Fast forward to when I was 19 and went to a Christian boarding school (folkehøgskole – it’s kind of like a year where you study what you’re interested in, and looks quite like a summer camp, but it lasts a school year. Let’s just say it’s a Norwegian thing…) where I had classes in Religion, New Religions, and Christianity (and a lot more classes in Band, Drums, and Music in general!) My 19 year old me remembered a lot of what my 14 year old me had read, and I finally found a place to discuss my thoughts. The problem was, it being a Christian school, I was among the very few who questioned religion. And I was among the very few who had read the entire Bible! Needless to say, the discussions had a way to turn into “discussions” where the entire class tried to convice me I was wrong, or worse, they turned into “let’s help him accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour”. Thankfully, there was a minority at school who had the same questions as I did, but I was the only one who asked them openly. The school year almost ended early when two others and I almost got 14 days suspension for “blasphemy, satanism, atheism and nazism”! Our “crime”? We had turned one of the traditional Norwegian religious songs into a hardcore, industial punk song, and preformed it as the band “Cyberchrist”. (I’m still not sure where the nazism part came from, but whatever.)

At the university, I finally got what I was looking for. It’s called Sociology. (In short: How did our society end up as it is. What happened before our society, and before that?) When we discussed the hunter-gatherer societies transformation into a hortocultural soceity (hortocultural: the cultivation of a garden, orchard, or nursery; the cultivation of flowers, fruits, vegetables, or ornamental plants.) the lecturer said something along the lines of: “Before, as hunter-gatherers, people worshipped the Sun, the Wind, plants, a huge stone, anything that they could say had a ‘spirit’. When they started cultivating the lands, they got a surplus of food, and we saw the rise of specialists. With enough food, you can be a carpenter, mason, or a fletcher, and still be able to eat, because you trade your work for food. And with specialists you’ll get someone who’s richer than others, a ruling class. And what’s a better way to explain why you rule than by religion? So we move from spirit worship to more defined religions and gods. How do you explain that we should go to war against the neighbour? God said it!”

To me, this made absolute sense! People invented religion in order to protect what they had. The Bible is written in what we call the Bronze Age, when some people were hortocultural, while others had gathered in tribes and cities.

Exodus 35:30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

The Lord has decided that these guys are the ones making artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze. It’s in the Bible. Doesn’t this look like what I spoke of earlier? “Why can’t I make designs in gold, silver and bronze?” Read the Bible bronze age man, it’s the job of Bezalel!

See? And what about being fit to rule?

Ruth 4:18 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

If you’re an average Joe in the Bronze Age, who are you to oppose this? David is the king because his lineage is written in the Bible – nine generations back! So don’t come here and think you know better than David, or than God, who has been watching over Davids family line since the days of Perez! Oh, you don’t know who Perez is? Well, he’s the ancestor of David! It’s in the scripture you silly pesant, now go back to the fields or we’ll flog you for fun!

After this relevation (pun intended!), I read the Bible again, but this time with the eye of a Sociologist. (I’m not a sociologist, but I’m close!) It all made sense! The entire Old Testament is written as a means to rule the masses. Holy crap, Karl Marx was right!

After that, I found the Internet (I’m 38 years old, remember!) where I could read the various atheist blogs, and where I found that I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. I’ve read books by Richard Dawkins, and the others, and I’ve discussed with my religious friends. But, in short – this is why I’m an atheist. Religion is made up to help the ruling class, just like Marx said (he said a lot of things I don’t agree with though, I’m not a marxist!). And today it’s even worse! People use their religious views to kill and maim others, to prosecute people with different thoughts, to ban quite normal things, and to undermine society. In my book, religon is dangerous!