What do Amish think about atheists?

Reader Stella shared some thoughts on the “Joining the Amish after 50” post:

Perhaps I’m an unusual atheist but I’ve always admired the Amish philosophy and lifestyle, despite lacking the necessary Faith Trigger to join them. However, I was brought up by atheist parents and taught to respect all genuine engagements with life’s questions, religious or not.

While I’m content with my atheism, as well as with my family and career, I thought I’d mention that you don’t have to be religious to lament today’s lack of ethics, close communities or awareness of life’s deeper significance, or to have serious reservations about the corruptive influence of technology.

Values based on compassion, humility and plain living are always admirable, not just for our individual psychological welfare but the health of societies and the planet. And, of course, whether there’s a God or not, it’s possible to live in a similarly plain life without joining the Amish.

I think Stella makes an interesting point.  The values she mentions are pretty important to society functioning, whether a society of atheists or believers. This seems particularly poignant with London, and other UK cities, burning this week.

Amish and atheists

Stella’s thoughts on Amish and plain values made me think about something else.  What do Amish think about atheists?

amish atheistsI guess that’s a question for the individual.  I’ve written a bit on Amish thoughts on other religions.  To generalize, Amish have a healthily humble view of other faiths.  The simplified version:  there are different ways of getting to Christ, and who are we to condemn yours.

As deep believers, I think Amish would hope that atheists would eventually find a way to God.  Most wouldn’t try too hard to convince the atheist though.  Amish don’t proselytize, for the most part.  At least not in the way we tend to think of it.

I’ve known some atheists, and had a couple as friends.  They aren’t too common.  Less than 2% of the US population call themselves atheists (much higher in Europe, though).

Some come across as contemptuous of religion.  Others, like Stella, are respectful of people of faith.  For their part I’ve found atheists are turned off when religious people try to “change their minds”.

Atheists among us

Atheism has entered the public square in recent years, with prominent atheists publishing books and speaking out about their non-faith.  It seems to be part of the greater discussion on religious tolerance which has emerged over the past decade.

I remember reading something on this during the last presidential elections.  It was regarding candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon.

The thrust of the piece was: yes, as a culture we could probably accept a Mormon president (we once asked the same thing about Catholic presidents, then elected JFK)–but could Americans accept an atheist one?

It’s an interesting question.  Whether we apply it to our presidents or our neighbors.

America is a Christian-majority nation.  I think most Christians pretty readily tolerate different strains of Christianity, even if they don’t agree with them.  We also accept most non-Christian faiths.  But I’m not so sure about atheism.

Actually, I don’t think people think about it much.  Since atheists are so uncommon, I think your average person finds them a bit “weird”, for lack of a better word.  And when I say atheist, I don’t mean people who simply don’t attend a church.   I mean those who hold the belief that there is no God.

I think people find something deeply unsettling about that.  Even though they might be upstanding citizens, full of the values that Stella shares above.

What do you think?

Photo credit: Billy Frank Alexander

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    1. Amish Stories

      I would think the percentage of Americans who are atheist is most likely higher than 2% because most of them wont admit it. Richard from http://www.Amishstorys.com

      1. Jan

        I was thinking the same thing. In fact, just last night, I posted in my Atheism group on a social network site about how frustrating and sad it is to me that many people who actually do fit the definition of atheism refuse to accept that term, thanks to the negative connotations it carries in American mainstream culture. The general public thinks all sorts of untrue and often unfair things about atheists, probably the most pernicious being that we are unethical or immoral (to which we would say, you don’t need to believe in a deity of some kind in order to know right from wrong, and we do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not to earn a reward or avoid a punishment in the afterlife, so perhaps our motivations are extra pure).

        I think the #1 most common misperception is one that the author of this post actually has: the very definition of atheism. It does NOT mean we believe there is no god. It means we don’t believe there is a god. It might sound like the same thing until you look closely. The difference is nuanced but important. If we believe there is no god, we are asserting a positive belief. We are saying, “I am really convinced, completely sure, that there is no god.” But if we DON’T believe there IS a god, we are professing a LACK of belief. We are saying, “I am not convinced there is a god.” To us, it’s like asking if there’s a purple unicorn dancing on the dark side of the moon. Well, sure, I guess there COULD be… I really don’t think it’s likely, and I have zero evidence of such a phenomenon, so I’m not going to say I believe it’s true. That’s how we feel about gods. And the distinction is important because people think that our perceived BELIEF in the absence of a god is a belief system itself, and an arrogant one at that.

        If you’re still confused, just look at the etymology of the word atheism. “ism” is a belief system or worldview. The “the” part of the word is from “theo,” Greek for God (hence the name Theodore means lover of God). And then the “a” prefix means “lack of,” in the same way “asymptomatic” means “without symptoms.” Literally, the word atheism means “lacking/absence of a belief in a god.”

        As for atheism and Amish, I fully agree with the person quoted in this article. I have a connection with the Amish from when I was just three years old. I often think about what my life would have been like if I had been raised there fully, and been baptized Amish. Even though my time with them was the happiest of my life by far, I think my proclivity toward intellectualism and expression would have caused a lot of unhappiness later on. I am an artist — a portrait artist, no less! — an aspect of myself I would have had to suffocate rather than nurture, to remain Amish. I like to ask questions, I love higher learning… I would not have been a very “good” Amish woman.

        And that’s too bad because I think their way of doing things in so many other aspects is SPOT ON. Seeing the way they care for their elderly, disabled, etc. is profoundly moving when contrasted with how we English care for (or don’t, as it were) our vulnerable individuals. How much different would our society be if we were pretty much guaranteed social and financial support, without having to go to bars to make friends or apply for government assistance when we can’t make ends meet? How about our massive environmental footprint?

        Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things I’m glad we do that the Amish don’t, such as continued education, gender rights, technologies that save lives, etc. But I think there is a lot we could learn from them. Yet, for the most part, we just admire them from afar, and our admiration never extends beyond conversations like we’re having right now, on our computers, saying, “Gee, that’s so nice,” and then going back to our cold world. I’ve often thought how amazing it would be to have a secular community or society that incorporates those beneficial aspects of Amish culture.

        And that Amish connection I mentioned? Well, I’m still in semi-regular contact with that friend I met when we were both three years old. She knows that I converted to Catholicism as an adult and that I left that church some time later. She knows I never joined another church, and I think she knows I am not religious at all, but I have never used the word atheist nor explicitly said, “I don’t believe in a god,” I guess because I don’t want to make her uncomfortable, and I know it would cause her unnecessary sadness.

        She continues to write things in her cards and notes like she did before — opening the letter with “Greetings in the name of our Holy Savior” or including a prettily-scripted Bible verse in the margin. Every so often, I see one that I suspect is a subtle hint, something along the lines of “Jesus is always waiting for us when we turn back to him” sort of thing. Not exactly that, and much more eloquent, but something to that effect anyway. I know she means well, and it doesn’t offend me. It only makes me sad that we can’t really talk about it. I never mention theology in our letters. I sometimes ask, “What does your church think about this?” or “Do you celebrate this holiday?” and she likewise asks about my “world.” But there is a mutual respect and unspoken understanding that there are some things we are not going to agree on and we just “don’t go there.”

        1. Thanks

          Jan, thanks for your thoughtful post, and for delving into how atheism is defined. I do see the distinction. What you are saying does seem to leave the door open to the possibility of a God, rather than positively asserting that there is no God. I’m not saying that to imply atheists have some secret hope that there is in fact a God, though perhaps there are some like that?

          Would it be fair to say though, that some atheists do actually assert that positive belief of no God? I have had the impression that, perhaps similar to some in conventional religion, that some who profess atheism are more aggressive in promoting this view.

          I do appreciate that you are sensitive towards your religious friend. It made me think about how I have certain differences, religious, political, etc with numbers of my friends, but thankfully that has not often interfered with our relationships. Though, the policy people often employ, myself included, is simply not to talk about it, and as you say that can be unfortunate in its own way.

          1. Jan

            Erik, thanks for the reply — and taking the time to read my lengthy comment. 😀

            You know, honestly, it’s a very fine line between agnosticism and atheism when it comes to the most technical terms. Because of the connotations of the word atheism, especially for people who want to make it clear that they DON’T feel 100% sure there is no god, the word agnosticism might be preferable. It basically means “I don’t know.” In ancient Christianity, Gnostics were ones who professed to know a good deal about God and spirituality. To say you’re agnostic is to say you really have no idea what’s out there, and you don’t lean one way or another, you reserve judgment. It’s a bit more “on the fence,” if you will. Given that, yes, there definitely ARE many atheists who profess to believe with certainty that there is no god.

            I used to call myself “atheist-leaning agnostic.” Now I’m more comfortable admitting I’m just flat out atheist. I think there’s more “out there” than we understand, but I find it extremely unlikely that whatever is out there in the universe is some sort of sentient, sapient entity (by which I mean a deity, not sentient extraterrestrial life).

            The atheists who are angry, aggressive, etc have unfortunately given a bad name to the rest of us. I read an interesting poll result from Pew just last night, which was published in 2014, showing that people tend to feel much warmer about religions they are more familiar with, either personally or through someone they know. So for example, if you don’t know a single Jewish person, you might feel lukewarm about Judaism, but if you have Jewish friends or you’ve attended a Synagogue, you’re more likely to view the religion favorably. And, unsurprisingly, atheism was at the bottom of the list alongside Islam for viewpoints that people weren’t familiar with OR approving of. In other words, lots of Americans don’t know Muslims or atheists (or don’t realize it, if they do). It’s the old case of the Unknown causing fear and hostility.

            That’s why I try to educate people about what atheism is and isn’t. Yes, there are angry atheists, but there are much angrier religious people, to be quite frank. The world has yet to see an atheist Inquisition or Jihad. Usually, you will find that atheists’ anger is based on what they perceive (to whatever degree of accuracy, though I’d venture to say quite a bit) to be restrictions on their freedoms. Yes, America is a -historically- Christian nation (as I noticed, with appreciation, you mentioned in your post), but we are not -legally- Christian. From the start, it was meant to be a place of religious tolerance. That’s why Amish and other anabaptists came here in the first place. Mr. Penn was offering Pennsylvania as a safe haven for Protestants who are being persecuted in Europe. He even went out in search of such people to populate his colony. From Catholics to Puritans to Jews, America was a land where we had some hope of practicing our beliefs in peace.

            And you know, most people appreciate that. What they don’t realize is, that same protection extends to non-believers just as much. We have freedom of AND FROM religion. But everywhere you look, Christianity is there. It wasn’t always so much. “In God We Trust” on our money, “Under God” in the pledge, those things which people use to justify this being an officially Christian nation (it’s not) didn’t even exist until the 1950s when both religiosity and patriotism were hyper-encouraged to protect us against the threat of Communism. And people will say, “well it doesn’t say WHICH god.” Yeah, that’s fine if you’re only talking about the diversity of Christians and Jews, but what about Hindus who believe in multiple gods? Or atheists who believe in none? And what book do we swear on when we take a legal oath? The Christian Bible.

            It’s hard for Christians to see this because they are so USED to seeing it, and it’s not contrary to their needs and views. And then when we point it out, we are seen as hostile. If we want creationism to remain in Sunday School or theology class, and evolution to remain in science class… or to say “happy holidays” to include all the holidays that happen (not randomly but that’s another story) to clump around the end of the calendar year instead of just the Christian one… then we are accused of “attacking”. How often we hear in certain news media about the “war on Christianity.” It’s similar to how white people felt threatened during the Civil Rights movement. I grew up in the south, and I remember a schoolmate saying, “The [n-word]s are trying to take over.” No, black people have never wanted to “take over.” They simply wanted equal rights. That’s exactly how it is for atheists. And remember the stereotype of the “angry black”? Same thing with the “angry atheist.” We’re only angry because we’re frustrated we don’t have the same respect and rights religious people — especially Christians — have. We don’t want to remove their rights, we just want to share in them.

            Sorry for the length and slightly tangential reply. I hope it clarifies a bit! And as for the Amish, well… Obviously the Pew survey doesn’t have anabaptists as a category. We could say the closest one might be Protestant or Evangelical Christians. Not the same, but closer than any other category. In that case, consider the fact that Evangelical/Protestant Christians in America are by FAR the least approving of atheists — and the group most unfamiliar with us. They are least accepting of other religions (except Judaism), too, but ESPECIALLY atheists. That might explain why we feel especially ostracized; Protestant Christians make up the vast majority of government officials — the guys who make and uphold laws, the presidents who make a big show of their religion, etc. And the fact that anabaptists are a Protestant branch might explain why they, too, have inherited an unfavorable view of atheism.

            Erik, I always feel a slight tinge of unease when I have close relationships with people that are maintained only because we must avoid certain subjects, especially when those subjects are so important. I really don’t care what your favorite baseball team is, but your view on morality will affect how I see you as a person. It’s hard for me to justify being friends with people once I find out they’re racist, for example. Sometimes it’s hard to “agree to disagree,” when it pricks your conscience. Fortunately, my Amish friends don’t judge my lack of belief enough to let it end our friendship, but I’m sure it causes them a great deal of sadness and concern. And on my part, I wish I could speak openly with them about it, try to allay their fears. Knowing that I probably never will be able to do that makes me feel like there’s a great divide between us, a distance that can probably never be closed.

    2. Al in Ky.

      I think it needs to be remembered that the Amish are people
      of both individual and communal faith. I think one of the main
      reasons that the Amish have been able for hundreds of years to continue to live their values in American society is because
      they are part of a communal faith.

      1. I agree, the Amish have mastered the art of communal/corporate worship, the encourage each other within their faith and that bond has kept their faith alive for a very long time.

    3. Atheism

      As a Christian I am deeply concerned for anyone who does not believe in God. We live in such a fallen world, a world where so many people are more concerned about the “things” they have, than the condition of their heart or destination of their soul.

      With all that is happening around us (i.e. tsunami’s,earth quakes, random tornadoes) we should be asking ourselves what is going on in our world, not wondering how we can get more credit to buy more stuff we don’t really need!

      Regarding the last comment about some Americans not admitting to being atheists. I am so grateful to have God in my life, and feel that is is a tremendous blessing to be a Christian, that I would gladly shout it from the roof tops. So…this begs the question: If people who are atheists are proud of it, why do they not admit to being it?? Make you think doesn’t it?

      1. Andrew

        Atheist Soldier

        Some are in positions where admitting it can lead to complications in jobs, families and friends.

        I was brought up in an LDS family. I grew up with good morals, but that’s all it was to me. learning to be a good person. Whether I believe in a god or not.

        Admitting I was atheist lost me my family and friends from church.

        As a soldier- I do more staff duty/cq, I clean more, get harassed. I was arrested/punished. for declining sundays worship in basic training and AIT. Though it shouldnt happen, and was reported, many others get that same treatment. I’m underexagerating.

        Makes you think why they don’t admit it huh?

      2. Jacob


        No, it doesn’t make me think when I see the fact atheists don’t admit it. We live in such a backwards world where unsubstantiated religious claims dictate our lives that to admit to being an atheist is akin to welcoming religious zealots to belittle your thoughts. Also, I am assuming most who are called ‘atheist’ are really agnostic. Furthermore, assuming that atheists are proud of a thought system they hold is relatively asinine, as you have no clue what these people think or feel. As an agnostic, I admire the Amish, yet despise other religions…

      3. James

        Atheist and proud!

        If you are hungry, I will offer food.
        If you are thirsty, I will offer water.
        If you are cold, I will offer warmth.
        If you are in need, ask and I will give.
        If you are in trouble, ask and I will help.

        I do not do these things in the hopes of being rewarded.
        I do not do these things out of fear of punishment.
        I do these things because I know them to be right.

        I set my own standards and I alone enforce them.
        I am an Atheist and proud to say it!

        1. Jim S

          Sorry, I know this is an old post, but

          ….I have never seen anyone that claims “no faith” to be anything close to your poem, really…..

          1. Lee Ann

            It doesn't take religion to create goodness

            In response to:

            Atheist and proud!

            If you are hungry, I will offer food.
            If you are thirsty, I will offer water.
            If you are cold, I will offer warmth.
            If you are in need, ask and I will give.
            If you are in trouble, ask and I will help.

            I do not do these things in the hopes of being rewarded.
            I do not do these things out of fear of punishment.
            I do these things because I know them to be right.

            I set my own standards and I alone enforce them.
            I am an Atheist and proud to say it!

            and Jim S’s response to it – I know several people who are atheist and live good, positive lives like the writing says. My mother is one – I was raised as an atheist, but with the Golden rule as a guideline for good living – the Golden Rule, by the way, is present in all major religions, with slight turns of phrase – long before Jesus, Confuscius said, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you”. I strongly believe that you don’t need religion for goodness, and religion is certainly no guarantee of goodness. Having been raised as an atheist, though, I was always a seeker, and my atheist parents respected that, along with my final decision to join the Baha’i Faith. I, personally, find relilgion helpful as a beacon in my life. But I speak from experience that it is not necessary.

    4. Atheists in the Family

      I have several dear relatives who are avowed atheists/agnostics. Fortunately, they tolerate me.

    5. Annette

      As a former Evangelical and Plain Christian, and a present atheist, there are a number of reasons why we won’t admit it. It doesn’t take much actual thought either, just some basic understanding of the influence of religion in the US.

      I, for one, don’t admit it to most people because I will certainly be excluded from my mostly Christian homeschooling community and my children will have no friends. They already get enough garbage for not being religious enough and for reading the wrong sorts of books–fantasy fiction. Even when my family was Christian, they were scorned for their reading habits.

      Also, atheists are considered evil and untrustworthy to most Christians, if not Americans in general. It’s nearly impossible to be elected to US office if you don’t claim a believe in a god/God, and most Americans see atheists as the least trustworthy group and the group they’d least like to see their child marry


      Lastly, I will likely lose my job if it’s known that I’m not a theist. (And my job doesn’t have any sort of faith requirement–but it’s a private school with a high Christian enrollment rate, and I bet the parents/administrators would throw me under the bus the first chance they got if they found I wasn’t a believer). I’d like to come out as an atheist in my larger life, as a writer, but if I do that it will certainly get back to my bosses.

      The fact that Christians can be so bold and proclaim their joy in their god but that atheists must cringe and fear for the well-beings of their families, jobs, and children is an excellent example of the privileging of religion in this country.

      (Think about it, wanna get out of jail, profess a sudden coming to a god! If you claimed that you had become an atheist in jail and that it had made you a better person, you’d be a laughing stock. And yet I know many atheists I’d rather trust over serious Christians.)

      Not a knock on Christians in general, but hopefully this answers Shelley’s question.

      1. Craig

        I wonder if there really are different ways of getting to Christ. Do all roads lead to salvation? If Jesus is the only way, then what about those who do not believe on Him but have another gospel?

        1. Craig, Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father by by me.
          This leaves us with two options: True or false?
          If it is true, Christianity is an “exclusive” religion-there are no other ways. If it is false, then either Jesus was a a false teacher or seriously mistaken in at least some of His teachings.
          In other words, either Jesus was the Son of God, and we must swallow His teachings “hook, line, and sinker,” or He is not to be trusted and is to be rejected. After all, if He was wrong about Himself being the only way back to God, then you cant really trust anything else He said either.
          So we are left with “take all or take none” option.
          Sure, we can pick and choose out of His teachings what we like, and reject what we don’t like. But in that case we are not a disciple of Jesus, but rather a disciple of our own mind (or maybe someone else’s mind).
          It is a decision we are all confronted with: to believe Jesus or not believe Him. Mike

          1. Craig

            Primitive Christianity: I completely agree, but there are some religious groups that believe its takes more than faith in Jesus. They also believe a lifetime of good works is necessary.

          2. Matt from CT

            Or whatever fallible man recorded his words, or transcribed them in later years and often to other languages, misquoted Jesus.

          3. ryan

            primitive christianinty

            Mike: Mithra was born of a virgin, said i am the way and the light, walked on water, was resurrected from the dead after 3 days, has a birthday of December 25, performed miracles, and preceded the Christ myth by 1200 years.

            Look at Horus, a similar myth.
            See also Dionysus, a similar myth.
            See also Krishna, a simlar myth.

            All three predate the Christ-myth by hundreds of years.

            1. MaryAnn Pepe

              Mirtha is totally not what you are saying about the virgin,walking on water etc.

              Mithra,god of cattle
              From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
              This article is about the Zoroastrian yazata. For other uses, see Mitra.
              It has been suggested that Mithras (name) be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2015.
              Part of a series on
              The Faravahar is a symbol of Zoroastrianism.
              The Faravahar, believed to be a depiction of a fravashi
              Primary topic

              Mithra (Avestan: Miθra, Old Persian: Miça) is the Zoroastrian angelic Divinity (yazata) of Covenant and Oath. In addition to being the Divinity of Contracts, Mithra is also a judicial figure, an all-seeing Protector of Truth, and the Guardian of Cattle, the Harvest and of The Waters.

              The Romans attributed their Mithraic Mysteries (the Mystery Religion known as Mithraism) to Persian or Zoroastrian sources relating to Mithra. However, since the early 1970s, the dominant scholarship has noted dissimilarities, and those Mysteries are now qualified as a distinct Roman product.[1]

              At peace being a Christian!

      2. Lissa Holder

        You will be held accountable for your children. Wouldn’t it be better to be a christian and be wrong than a non christian and be wrong? Only two ways! Heaven or hell. No in between. Lissa

    6. Annette

      Richard–please forgive my pedantry, but most atheists really don’t “hold a belief that there is no God”.

      “Atheists don’t believe in a god,” is a better way to say it: Let me explain why.

      If you use “hold a belief” for a non-belief, then almost all people would “hold” millions of beliefs. Now, I’m making assumptions here, but I think I could say, you don’t believe in leprechauns, pink attack-whales, or three-headed Elvis babies. However, we don’t say you “hold a belief that there are no: leprechauns, pink attack-whales, or three-headed Elvis babies” Then, everything you don’t believe in becomes a “belief you hold.”

      To “hold a belief” would be true for those who _do_ believe in those things. For instance, “Mark holds a belief in the pink attack-whales.” 🙂

      I don’t believe in gods is not the same thing as “I hold a belief that there is no gods.”

      I’m not trying to come down on you, but this is an issue that makes it hard for atheists. People claim “atheists have a belief” in a god, when they really don’t. It’s only a “belief” in the same way not believing in leprechauns is a “belief”.

    7. Athesis

      Thanks for share the interesting topic i like to give the comment here. I think god is everywhere whether it is small stone or it is our heart.I hope everyone will like to give comment here.

    8. Atheism and Ethics

      This is no the forum to try to explain that there is a difference between Christian ethics and other ethical systems. I beleive this is the topic Stella was addressing, rather than belief. This question, of pure ethics outside a faith system, goes back to the time of Socrates and before. Can we be moral people if there is no absolute authority on morality? Do ethics operate independently of faith?

      Yes, ethics can and do operate independently of faith; that is why I would have no issue with a national leader who was not of my faith or who held no tenets of theistic faith. (I refer you to the controversial philosopher Peter Singer.)

      A faith-based ethics,though, has more foundation as a community ethic. If it is thoughtful, Godly and is centred on peace, as is the Amish way, it will sustain a community much longer than ethics divorced from faith, or privately held codes of ethics.

    9. TomK

      The reason the Amish don’t push their belief on others I think stems from their own personal experience as a group from having lived through over 500+ centuries of torture from other christians, including here in America…

      1. Beckysue

        That’s not the entirely of it. It also has to do with passages in the bible about not worshiping out in the “open” for all to see. It might be in Corinthians 1 but don’t quote me on that. I’d have to look it up.

    10. Cathy

      lol…atheism is a belief system, whether the atheist thinks so or not!!!!

      1. Keith

        A lot of misunderstandings and assumptions

        Wow, in reading these comments I have seen Pascal’s Gambit (wrong, wrong, wrong. If a person professes to believe in a god just to hedge his/her bets to get into heaven even if they’re wrong, wouldn’t an omniscient god know that they were doing that?), a post saying that atheism IS a belief system (Possibly, depending on how you look at the statement. I believe that there is no magic god entity so that’s my belief. If you mean that atheism is a faith, it’s faith like not collecting stamps is a hobby.) and one that said that atheists just don’t like authority. I suppose that’s true, but then, what person who enjoys thinking for themselves does like authority. It wasn’t a conscious choice, I didn’t decide one day to become an atheist. I just realized one day that I didn’t believe in magic. It’s not the job of a non-believer to offer proof as to why they don’t believe in an incredible claim, it’s the job of the person making the incredible claim to prove why someone should believe in it if they want to convince people. Death threats aren’t going to do it. I have a teenaged child, I don’t scare easily.

    11. Atheism

      I strongly hold a belief that there are no leprechauns, pink-attack whales, or three-headed Elvis babies. The statement “I don’t believe in gods is not the same thing as “I hold a belief that there is no gods”” is absolute, utter nonsense!!!
      We may not be used to articulating it that way, but if I dont believe in pink attack-whales, then I hold a belief that there are no pink attack-whales. One either holds the belief that there are pink attack whales or he/she holds the belief that there are no pink attack whales. Or, they are agnostic in the matter and hold the belief that it cannot be known if pink attack-whales exist or not. In any case, we all fall into one of those three options, and we all hold one belief or another about pink attack-whales.
      We all hold to one of three beliefs about God: He exists, He doesn’t exist, or it cannot be ascertained if He exists or not.
      Ok, this site is not for drawn-out religious debates, so I will refrain.
      The difference between atheists who admire community, simple living, honesty, and moral integrity, and Plain churches that hold to the same values is that history has no record of a group of atheists who have banded together in a voluntary society to purposely live out those values. Non-resistance, no suing at law, no divorce/remarriage, no sexual activity outside of monogamous, lifetime marriage, mutual sharing of material wealth …
      Now I know that Plain churches are not the only churches that have lived out these things (and neither have they been perfect in doing so), but when the day comes that a group of atheists band together and live these things out for 500 years like the Anabaptists have …
      Well, when I see that happening I will begin to hold to a belief that it can be done outside of Christ. Meanwhile, I hold to a belief that without Christ, it will not happen.
      I am open to being proven wrong. In fact, I won’t even have to have 500 years of history to be proven wrong. Just let me see 10 years worth of a group of atheists living in a community with sexual purity, brotherhood, humility, and forgiveness to those who cruelly torture them, then I will be open to changing my belief system. 🙂
      I hold a belief in non-atheism. 🙂 🙂
      Peace, Mike

      1. Matt from CT

        >We all hold to one of three beliefs about God:
        >He exists, He doesn’t exist, or it cannot be
        >ascertained if He exists or not.

        Never read it put that way before, but I like it.

      2. Bill Rushby

        Thanks, Mike!

        Your argument is rather persuasive. The proof is in the pudding!

    12. Annette

      Cathy and Primative–
      So belief and non-belief are both beliefs! Surely then, everything is a belief! This is good to know.

      Unfortunately, what you’re saying is that there is no null-hypothesis.
      This is impossible.
      The null-hypothesis is non-belief. “I don’t believe in leprechauns”
      To believe is to create a hypothesis. “I believe in leprechauns”

      null-hypothesis is not the same as hypothesis.

      The two are not the same.

      Beliving in god is a religious belief. Not believing in god is a non-religious (not religious) belief.

      If both are religious beliefs, then there is no way to have a non-religious thought or belief (since both believing and non-believing are religious).

      Is this what you are claiming? Every thought, idea is religious? It must be, if you can’t distinguish between them.

      1. Annette: “I don’t believe in leprechauns” is the same as saying “I hold to the belief that leprechauns do not really exist, but are fairy tales.”
        Hypothesis vs null-hypothesis is a rabbit trail. It is a matter of believing one of three options:
        1. Leprechauns exist.
        2. Leprechauns are fairy tales.
        3. It cannot or has not been determined if leprechauns exist or not.

        Everyone one of us believes that one of the three statements above is the truth about leprechauns. We can rephrase the three options as follows, telling what each person believes about leprechauns.
        1. I believe leprechauns exist.
        2. I believe leprechauns do not exist.
        3. I believe it is impossible to determine (or, it has not been proven)if leprechauns exist.

        You (and I) believe one of the three above statements about leprechauns. You (and I) also hold a belief about God, with the same three options.
        Amish hold to the belief that God exists.
        Atheists hold to the belief that God does not exist.
        Agnostics hold to the belief that it cannot or has not been determined if God exists.
        It’s really that simple. 🙂
        (Ok, Erik, I will hold my peace now! This post could very shortly win the record of the most comments, I am sure. I will unsubscribe to the comments so that I dont get tempted to comment again. 🙂 )

    13. Tom

      Hornets Nest

      Erik- You have poked the hornets nest with this post. Remember the rule, Politics and Religion are bond to cause a stir. LOL

      1. Tom

        sorry i meant bound not bond

    14. Betsy

      Comment on What do Amish think about atheists?

      My Mother always taught us this saying and I still stand on it today. I would rather live my life as though there is a God and find out there isn’t, than to live my life as though there isn’t a God and find out there IS!!!!!! Can I get an AMEN! 🙂

      1. Amish Girl-Rebecca
      2. Jan

        Not quite an amen, sorry!

        Which God do you live in the hope of it existing? They all require different things of their followers, so hopefully you’re following the right one. 🙂

        This is known as “Pascal’s wager,” by the way.

        Personally, I choose to live my life according to my conscience, and I think if there did happen to be some kind of god, it would be omniscient and therefore, know that my actions have been based on a pure heart, regardless of whether I picked one of the world’s gods to believe in. Just my personal view.

      3. JulieAnn

        Will You Get An Amen?

        YES, AND AMEN!!!

    15. Jason

      Annette is correct. Non-believers make up 15-16% of the population. Very few are willing to call themselves atheists, as it’s a good way to cause a lot of trouble for yourself. But no religion is no religion. We are talking about a group three times the size of the largest single Christian denomination. (Southern Baptists.) We’re everywhere. And most Americans don’t even realize it.

      1. Matt from CT

        >We are talking about a group three times the
        >size of the largest single Christian denomination.
        >(Southern Baptists.)

        That would be the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., but it’s not the largest Christian denomination.

        There’s 16 million Southern Baptists, about 5% of the U.S. population.

        There’s 68 million Catholics, about 22% of the population.

    16. Stirring things up

      Yes, Mike, Tom, I may have to shut this one down 🙂 I guess I could say I didn’t mean to stir things up, but what was I thinking 🙂

      A number of things about Stella’s comment just piqued my interest so I thought it might be worth throwing out. I’ll just say that as a Christian I am going to try to love an atheist like I would any believing person. I have known people in that category and they are good people. As a citizen of the US I am going to accept that they have their own belief, or non-belief, even though we might not agree. I can hope that would change and can be a witness in different ways, but I find people who declare as atheists are usually pretty firm in it, hence the difficulty in “changing minds”–which probably isn’t so much the issue, hence the quotation marks.

      Thanks Annette for sharing your perspective. Annette you hit on some things that I was wondering about, in terms of how atheists are accepted in society. I think you are right, that as a populace we have trouble with it. I might not agree with atheism, but I don’t think it’s right or wise to condemn someone for it.

      And there are moral atheists and amoral Christians of course. On reading the original comment I wondered what a society of atheists alone would look like, which I think Magdalena touched on above. But I guess that’s a big nut to crack 🙂

      What triggered this post and its tangents was that on reading what Stella wrote I caught myself wondering what an Amish person might say when meeting an atheist. Of course that could be complicated but I think my description above is more or less what it would look like.

      1. Anonymous Atheist

        Religious Site

        This is a Religious Site, it is going to stir things no matter what…

      2. MaryAnn Pepe

        Amen Erik!

        You stated your reply perfectly. Christian or not…all should be respected and loved. THAT is the Christian way! 🙂

        1. Thanks, Mary Ann. Stating it is one thing and actually doing it is another, so it was a good reminder to myself to read this again.

    17. Stella

      Although I didn’t ask Erik to start this thread, I’m grateful to him for doing so and thank everyone for such interesting and heartfelt contributions. Aside from the debate about religion versus atheism (which, as a matter of individual conscience, is probably ever-unresolvable) the original questions that Magdalena summarised earlier were: Can we be moral people without an absolute (i.e. religious) authority on morality? Do ethics operate independently of faith? And is it necessarily so, as Magdalena suggests, that “a faith-based ethics has more foundation as a community ethic”?

    18. Betsy

      If I Was Going to be religious I would pick Amish

      I am an apathetic agnostic, which means I don’t know and I don’t care if there is a god or not. I find most religions full of hypocracy, hatred, judgementalism, intolerarance, the list goes on and on. The one religion that strikes me as free from most of these horrible traits is the Amish religion.

      While I am not religious, or spiritual, I do strive to be a moral and ethical person. Often I find myself looking to the Amish for guidance on such things as forgiveness, love, mutual aid, humility, simplicity, etc…. Honestly, I don’t know of any other group that models these behaviors so consistently.

      I think someone earlier did bring up a good point about how the Amish religion is a communal religion which is one of the things that seems to make it work so well. I don’t think it could be done so well outside the context of the Amish community.

      I don’t mean to put the Amish on a pedestool – I know everyone has their faults and the grass always looks greener from the other side. But I do think the rest of the country has a lot to learn from the Amish —– about family, simplicity, not trying to improve on nature, relying on simple technologies, etc…… I think in the post oil age we will be crawling at the doorstep of our Amish neighbors to relearn some of the skills we’ve lost because of our excessive reliance on technology. So good thing the Amish have lots of babies! Keep that Amish population growing —- the rest of us may depend on you some day!!!!

      (ok, so I’ve strayed from the atheist subject….. )

      1. Jillian Sanborn

        Betsy, are you aware that.....................

        Betsy, are you aware that the Amish treat their dogs as livestock? They breed and sell dogs in puppy mills. The Amish abuse and neglect the dogs. Please Google Amish puppy mills and learn. We must educate the Amish or they will continue to breed and sell dogs for profit. I am positive that the Amish will also continue to breed, as will every other group of people wether they are believers in god or not. Why stop at 7 billion people? And unfortunately the Amish will continue to breed and sell dogs which are also overpopulated unless we stop supporting them! I hope this doesn’t smear your perfect vision of the Amish. I am an athiest and I regard animals higher than people. The idea that god created the earth for humans and animals were put here so that we could hunt them and use animals for our benefit is such a selfish thought! Animals to me are equal to if not better than humans and should be treated as such.

        1. Bill Rushby

          Sweeping Generalizations

          Jilian Sanborn: Your post about the Amish and puppy mills includes some sweeping generalizations. You speak as if the Amish are an undifferentiated mass of animal abusers. Some of what you write is true, sometimes! But not always! I doubt that you could document the charges you make against “the Amish.” Anecdotal evidence is not a valid basis for generalizing about the whole group.

    19. Alice Mary

      Ther HAVE been organized groups of atheists...

      …under the Unitarian or Universalist (or as of 1961 when the two “affiliations” joined). Early Christianity allowed for differences in Christian beliefs. Then the Nicene Creed issued the dogma of the Trinity, which many could not find any biblical “proof” of—thus Unitarianism & Universalism arrived (independently)as a way to still follow Christian beliefs other than the “man-made” issue of the Trinity.

      For a much better understanding of this all-inclusive “faith”, go to this website http://www.uua.org/publications/pamphlets/introductions/151249.shtml

      This is certainly not to say all UU’s are atheists, but I know many who are atheists and are members of UU churches (there are many former Jews, Catholics, and those of other religious affiliations…even Wiccans… who are UU members.) UU’s were persecuted from the outset (approx. mid-16th century Europe) due to their radical non-trinitarian beliefs (which encompassed a belief in the humanity of Jesus, but not necessarily his deity). There were Unitarians in Poland, Transylvania, Romania, all of whom lived in fear of the other Christian groups (who burned them at the stake, among other things).

      Is it any wonder that atheists, NO MATTER WHEN OR WHERE they live/lived aren’t willing to “come out”? Stella, you are brave for broaching this subject here, as religious/non-religious persecution obviously exists to this day.

      And a reading suggestion for anyone with an open mind as it pertains to human influence on the “divinely-inspired” Bible: Misquoting Jesus, by Bart D. Ehrman. I found, as I read it, that that’s what I, too, “worried” about as a child in Catholic school/Catholic family. If human hands and minds have “interfered”, how can its’ divinity NOT be questioned?

      I’m sure the Amish will pray for any and everyone, which to me as an individual is “positive thinking” and “good vibes”, which I am always open to!

      Alice Mary

    20. TomK

      Amazes me that in the year 2011 of the 21st century humans are still arguing over what other humans should or should not believe. Just from the comments alone show me that humans are a LONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG ways away from living peacefully on this Earth and that is a shame…

      We are all children of the same Universe and may the Universal Life Force be with you!

    21. Dena

      Hi Eric,
      In reality Atheism is also a faith based “religion”. My reasoning is this:
      Faith as defined by Merriman-Webster says: “belief that is not based on proof.”
      Using their own argument against them, Atheists can’t prove without a doubt that God does NOT exist!

      1. Dena

        sorry about the double post…was having trouble with the internet staying up and I thought the first post didn’t go thru. 🙁

    22. Dena

      Hi Eric,
      We tend to call Atheism a non-faith but that is actually erroneous.
      In reality Atheism is also a faith based “religion”. My reasoning is this:
      Faith as defined by Merriman-Webster says: “belief that is not based on proof.”
      Using their own argument against them, Atheists can’t prove without a doubt that God does NOT exist!

    23. Forest

      The Leprchuans have asked me to write and ask you all to please use another example in your discussion. It’s really cheesing them off…

      1. Bill Rushby

        Cheesed Leprechauns!

        Forest: To add insult to injury, you misspelled the poor, abused Leprechauns’ name! Ha, ha, ha!!

    24. Julie Turner

      We are already there

      In Australia we already have a few firsts when it comes to our new prime minister. 1. She is a woman
      2. She lives in adultery with her partner in our prime ministers lodge.
      3. She is an athiest and a former lesbian.
      4. She was voted in by default and most Aussies do not like her at all.

      So American people, be thankful you still have Christian leaders and it hasn’t come to this for you yet.

    25. Dena

      for Julie-OT

      Most Americans doubt that Obama is Christian. More and more are believing he is a muslim. No matter what he claims to be, he definitely doesn’t lead with any kind of moral or ethical boundaries. But this really is off topic!

    26. Annette

      Very few atheists consider themselves “hard atheists”.
      Most atheists don’t claim “God/gods absolutely do not exist.” This is called “hard atheism.” Most atheists claim they don’t see enough evidence to convince them of a god. These are different things.
      Some call this soft atheism or weak atheism–or even agnostic atheism.

      So, I’m one of the majority of atheists that thinks that there isn’t sufficient proof to believe in god/gods. I don’t claim that absolutely none exist, I claim that I don’t find adequate proof to believe in a god. In order for me to have a faith, I’d have to (by the definition you gave) believe in a god without proof. So, since I don’t believe since I don’t have proof, I must not have a religion

      Atheism is not a religion. Do you see buildings where people gather to . . . not-worship a deity? What common beliefs, apart from not believing in a god, do atheists have? This is easy to identify among religious people, they have binding beliefs, ceremonies, codes of conduct, etc that are in-group requirements of their religion. Atheists are Not religious. The only thing they have in common is lack of religion. What sorts of binding rituals do atheists have? Again, none. Atheism fails the “religion” test.

      Sorry, leprechaun man, but to use the leprechaun idea again ;), if you say that a statement of non-belief is a religion then you believe that not believing in leprechauns is a religion.

      According to your own post, Dena, any sort of belief or non-belief is a religion.

      Ergo: everything is a religion.

      I find this sort of thinking very frightening.

      1. Dena

        Actually I never said anything about a religion. You did. I referred to “faith” which is NOT religion. We have faith in many things – that our kids will remember what we’ve taught them, our spouses will be faithful (there’s that pesky word again) to us, whether you believe in creation or darwinism, you are taking that on faith as well. So, if religion frightens you, avoid it. I have faith in God, you have faith in nothingness.

        1. Dena

          Apologies Annette- I did use the word religion in the context it was being discussed as (religious vs. non-religious). Not in any abstract distortion of everything being religion but that we live much of our lives on FAITH.

      2. Bill Rushby

        Dear Frightened, I mean Annette:

        Annette: There are denominations that could be described as atheistic. The Unitarians and the Reconstructionist Jews are examples, but there are others that come close to being atheistic too. And they do indeed have local houses of non-worship!

    27. Bob the Quaker

      I have a son-in-law who is an atheist. He is a very good person, liked by all, good to his wife and son, everything you would ever want in a human being.

      So, perhaps it’s not so much what you believe, but how you behave. I think such a person can still end up in heaven.

    28. Annette

      Back to what the Amish would think. . . I was with some Amish friends of mine just last weekend. I didn’t tell them I was an atheist now because I was afraid of what they would say. I’m sure they would have been kind and loving as always, but it’s a very uncomfortable position to tell someone you don’t believe as you used to believe, especially when a non-believer is viewed so poorly in general. I know I should “come out” to show that non-believers can be good people, people you love and are friends with. It’s just not worth the risk to me right now.

      1. Betsy

        Annette, I encourage you to be honest about your non – religious life. I finally started opening up about it a few years ago when I realized that some religious people feel completely free to go on and on and on about their beliefs. Often I think they just assume I think the same way. Even if I kept silent , I felt like a liar because the other person walked away thinking I agreed. So if nothing else, it’s very freeing not to feel like a liar, and it usually puts an end to religious discussions pretty fast which is also very freeing!

        1. Craig

          As Christians we know that life does not end with this one. We know where the hope we have comes from and the peace that passes all understanding. I believe that every single human being has an innate sense of awareness that there is something higher than ourselves. The bible tells us that God has made Himself known through his creation,thus we are without excuse. I don’t think the problem is that people don’t believe there is a God, but rather, their refusal to submit to higher authority. Man has always wanted to be in control of his own destiny. Relinquishing that is difficult for some.

    29. I have been Christian, atheist and Christian again. I have seen both sides and I like to think that I have always been respectful of people’s faith regardless where I was on the scale. Religion isn’t the issue for me when it comes to if I like a person. I know what I believe and why so I have no problem with someone else thinking differently. I have great discussions with openminded Christians, Muslims and atheists and I have enjoyed them a lot but I have also met narrowminded people of said cathegories which have just been frustrating. Why? You can’t talk to a person who can’t see your perspective and only their own.

      Openness, willingness to listen and an understanding of people having different views can be found in people regardless of faith as can narrowmindedness, judgement and even hate.

    30. Dena

      I have to agree that there are some of various faiths who are hard to stop when they get started but I’ve also been around a number of those who’s faith is in the belief of atheism who also are hard to stop. Most people are generally nice folks, try to be kind, loving, helpful, etc., however, personally I do not believe that you can get to heaven just by being nice. Until the end of time, we won’t know beyond a doubt either way, although I am confident in my own faith as most of the other posters are in theirs.

      1. Betsy

        One of my favorite folks songs (lou peterman?) verse is “Others may be thankful that their beliefs are strong. But every night I’m praying that I’m wrong wrong wrong …” 🙂

    31. Jessica

      Just to throw this out there… I just finished reading a book called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. In his book, he suggests that the number of true Christ followers is actually very small. This is something that God began showing me over the last few months. There are many who call themselves Christians, but how many people actually demonstrate it in their lives? The Bible says that even the demons know who Jesus is. It’s not belief alone that matters, but rather living out your faith every day and in every situation; “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me.”

      1. Craig

        We seem to be forgetting that this is about the Amish.

        As for true Christian believers being small in number, I don’t believe that for a second! Yes, the word “christian” is a label used by some who are spirituality dead although they sit in the pews on Sundays.But there are many more who are born again bible believing followers of Jesus Christ.

    32. TomK

      Jesus was Jewish and taught Jewish law and lore that was easily recognized by all during his time… All he did was add his own twist to some of it as many, many other Rabbis did at the time also…

    33. Annette

      I don’t mean to hijack, but I wanted to share this because it came up today and it was related to this post.

      A group of atheists oppose a cross going up at the 9/11 memorial (I have no beef with this, plenty of atheists don’t care, but some do). An atheist went on Fox news to say why some atheists oppose this.

      Fox news’s facebook page then got over 8,000 death threats to atheists. Here are a few that were screen capped before Fox removed them.

      Death threats to atheists. Yes. From good Christians and other deists.


      Atheists are people, too. We’re good, decent people. We don’t deserve this.

    34. Betsy

      You’re right Annette, and I can see why you want to keep quiet about it. I thought this was a free country and free from religous or non-religous persecution.

    35. TomK

      If you are Faith-free, here is a support site for non-religious people grieving the death of a loved one. – – http://www.facebook.com/faithfreegriefsupport#!/faithfreegriefsupport?sk=info

    36. What Amish told me about atheists

      While on my Midwestern Amish trip this summer, I asked Amish on at least three occasions this very question–what do you think about atheists, how would you respond to them, etc.

      I got the impression that it was something they hadn’t dealt with a lot, or at least hadn’t thought about in concrete terms, which didn’t surprise me.

      One message I heard was to approach the person with love and hope they would somehow find a way to Christ.

      One or two respondees also expressed skepticism that atheists, deep down, really did not believe.

      So that’s what I heard from Amish, for whatever it’s worth.

    37. Lindsay

      Hmmm…the few Amish I have met I never brought it up. Its true never discuss politics and religion! Usually we have enough common ground in other areas to have a conversation about.

      As for being atheist (I prefer non-believer as I think atheist has negative connotations) I just really never believed. My family was nominally Catholic, but even from a young age I was skeptical of what I learned in catechism. Sister Mary Lou could never give me a straight answer on why we have fossils if the earth is only 6000 years old 😉 Church was not high on my family’s priority list, though I made several stabs at trying to learn more and involve myself in reading the Bible. I finally admitted to myself that I just didn’t have it in me to believe when I ironically, took a religion course at my Jesuit university and was encouraged to examine our belief or lack thereof.

      Coming out of the non believer closet has generally been positive for me. I’ve learned there are A LOT of people still in the closet, and are afraid to be open about it. I live in a place where people for the most part particlary religious. My family seems to be ok with it, and my husband and inlaws were already firm non-believers.

      I don’t care what others believe as well, as long as they follow the golden rule. That is one rule I abide by in my life!

    38. nelso

      amish and examish athiests

      In my travels and in meeting all kinds of interesting people ,I personally know an Amish man who adheres to Amish type lifestyle in a lot of ways,,but he has told the local Amish church there that he does not believe i God and does not go to church there even though his wife and children go there….
      on another note , A man who lived in Canada where the Pathway books were made,and later he went Mennonite,was a Mennonite Sunday School Teacher,,,says today that he does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah,,and that Mary was not a virgin.

    39. MaryAnn Pepe

      A Famous Atheist Actor

      I am a fan of a certain actor (no names here) who proclaimed to be an atheist since 8 years old even though his parents were Christian. On his Face Book page, he occasionally puts jokes about Jesus and magic etc. He is a very charitable and likeable person. However, I became tired of his criticism on all religion especially Christianity.If you understand Face Book when it comes to celebrities, you will know you cannot post on their pages. You can put a response on their pictures and statuses in which there are sometimes about a thousand and we know no one is going to read all responses. To me, by Divine intervention, I had written logically about Christianity and God and what I thought of as “proof” of God to me and was able to post it right on his page!!! It stayed there for a full day until he took it off. I prayed about this. And to my happiness and excitement, he just announced on Face book he is now a believer of God!!!! This happened within 2 weeks of my posting and praying! Which brings me to claim that pray works!!! Amen!

      1. Lee Ann

        As I am a religous person who was an athiest and still sometimes struggles with belief (but wants to deepen my faith), I would be really interested in what you view as proof of God.
        Lee Ann

        1. MaryAnn Pepe

          Lee Ann

          Hi Lee Ann! Even saints have had doubts including Martin Luther who started the Lutheran church struggles immensely.
          Anyway, all I could tell you is that I have experienced personal miracles that blew my family’s mind (they are very strong believers).EX: I was drowning in a large pool with no one around and had my young son with me. At the time, I was trying to teach him to swim (not that I was so great),and was in the deep end of the pool when my son jumped on me and I swallowed water and should have saved myself first but I remember holding him up while I was drowning to keep him alive and praying ,”God, I don’t want to die.” Suddenly, this force picked me up with my son and brought me to the end of the pool where I was saved. And that is just one miracle.
          Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”14 He claimed attributes belonging only to God: to be able to forgive people of their sin, free them from habits of sin, give people a more abundant life and give them eternal life in heaven. Unlike other teachers who focused people on their words, Jesus pointed people to himself. He did not say, “follow my words and you will find truth.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”15
          Why Jesus? Look throughout the major world religions and you’ll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others. I could go on but you would be reading a book rather than a comment! LOL God bless you!!!!

    40. Bill Rushby

      Allister McGrath

      Those interested in pursuing this topic as it is analyzed by a presently Christian, but formerly atheist, scientist and theologian, may wish to look at books by Allister McGrath. I have a stack of them here to read, if I could wean myself from the internet long enough to get it done! One title I have become aware of in the last few days is *Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith*. Take a look!

    41. Jan

      Yet another study recently showed that not only are atheism and ethics not mutually exclusive, they are in fact correlated:


      When people ask how I can have a moral compass as an atheist, I say: I do what’s right because I know deep down that it’s the right thing to do – not to earn a reward or avoid a punishment when I die. I don’t need a book full of Dos and Don’ts to know right from wrong. It’s common sense, treat others like you want to be treated (the Bible includes that as one of Jesus’ teachings, but it’s a pretty universal concept). Be an honest, compassionate, fair person. It’s not complicated and I see no reason to make it complicated.

      Just some food for thought.

      Right now I’m struggling a little because I think my dearest Amish friend doesn’t realize I’m atheist, and if she did, she’d probably A) not really understand what it means, and B) be offended. I wish I could tell her the above to alleviate A, without causing B. Her letters always include religious references. I just ignore those parts in my response, but sometimes I wonder if she notices that (well I’m sure she does), and maybe she keeps including them hoping they’ll “get through to me” and make me religiously-inclined or something. Or maybe I’m overthinking it.

      It’s easy enough to avoid in letters, but when I visit her for the first time since we were kids, I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what to say when she starts talking religious. I wouldn’t want to ruin the visit, but I know it would be awkward. I’m not going to lie and pretend to share her beliefs. So I kind of feel like it would be better if she knew where I stood ahead of time. I’m scared it would mean losing her friendship. But then as I type that… what kind of friendship is it, if they can’t tolerate you not sharing their religious beliefs? I’d HOPE our friendship is stronger than that. But then I look at shunning and think, if they can do that to their own family…

      I don’t know, anyone have thoughts on this?

      1. Geniene

        : )

        Hi Jan
        What a heart wrenching dilemma. I guess I’ll take the easy one first, you can’t be shunned since you’re not a baptized member. The next easy one is that Amish people are inclined to not push their religion on others, and frequently are more than happy to keep their relationships with outsiders non religiously oriented. In some contexts, they may not make all that much of a difference between an atheist and a non Amish believer, because, right or wrong, from their world view, they sometimes all get lumped together. This isn’t strictly about equating non Amish believers with atheists, but has to do with the emphasis the Amish place on letting their walk do the talk. Making these distinctions falls outside of their realm of responsibility.
        Of course, even within Amish culture, there are different interpretations over how their Christian responsibility should play out. Some Amish are more evangelical minded, some to the point where there is no difference between them and their fundamentalist Christian neighbors. In recent years, fundamentalism has made increasing inroads into Amish practice. I consider this unfortunate. There is an article on Mennoworld.org referencing a Chester Weaver who spoke out regarding this phenomenon. Fundamentalism tends to make the Amish more militant. It isn’t that the Amish aren’t inclined to take strong positions, but fundamentalism leads them to take strong positions over different issues. It is changing who they are. In part, fundamentalism is a mechanism to lure the Amish into taking sides in the culture wars. To me, this is a lamentable situation.
        If you and your Amish friend can enjoy each other’s company despite your differences, then (pardon the inherent religiosity in the expression) you are truly blessed.
        I’m not all that familiar with atheism, but I wonder sometimes whether even believers, especially believers in a highly regimented atmosphere, aren’t at certain times in their lives, natural atheists. Maybe I’m confusing doubt and cynicism with atheism, but wouldn’t it be human to, at some point, for whatever reason, not believe? Maybe the distinctions and labels we use are too compartmentalized. Maybe they alienate us far more than necessary. Maybe we are all more alike than we are different, and salvation, (oops, there I did it again) is about transcending those imaginary, self imposed, differences. Good luck!

        1. Jan


          Geniene, thank you so much for the wonderful response. It was encouraging and insightful.

          You hit on something important. Many people mistake atheism for mere doubt or cynicism. They are not the same thing. My view is not borne of a feeling of being “abandoned by God” and, therefore, bitter toward him. That would be emotional. My view is instead based on reason and logic, on careful consideration. When people assume it’s an emotional situation or mere temporary doubt, they trivialize my views, and that can be offending and off-putting. Just something for people to consider because surely that is not the effect anyone wants to have, but many people don’t think about it with the insight you have, Geniene.

          And I don’t mean that in any snarky way; it simply never occurs to most people. Such detached, objective reasoning is not what they were brought up to use much at all, especially regarding religion. Another article here contrasted Amish schooling with public schooling, and one of the points really struck me. It basically said Amish schools teach children to memorize the “correct” answers, whereas public English schools encourage children to use “critical thinking.” While I saw many of the things on the Amish list as favorable (like cooperation over competition), this is one point I feel very strongly in favor of the English way.

          But, I would think, if you are taught that critical or independent thinking is sinful, then your view of atheism would be accordingly affected. You might be more likely to have the misconception described above. My friend is currently going through a hard time, and as that tends to bring out religiosity more than usual in anyone, it has indeed with her. She described struggling with her emotions because she knew feelings of bitterness (toward the people causing her strife) were contrary to what Christ taught and expects from his followers. She thinks it could keep her from attaining heaven, and that she alone would be at fault if she were sent to hell instead. She then said, “It is as real as heaven, though many people don’t want to think about that.”

          First of all, it pains me to know she has to feel emotions like shame and fear on top of already struggling to overcome feelings of bitterness. I know at times when I have mentioned my depression and aloneness, she has said things like, “Jesus never abandons us” and whatnot. I know she is trying to help and be comforting, and she must be just as pained by my pain as I am by hers. But I would never dare to contradict her statements about heaven and hell because I feel like it would only cause distress. It’s not like she could change her views without abandoning her entire life, which is what I hate about the Shunning, though of course, again, I could never say so.

          So I guess if I tell her I don’t believe in God, she would probably feel very sad and think it was just depression or disillusionment or something, and try to change my mind. That is the last thing I want. I completely agree with you about evangelism. Its traditional absence in the Amish way is one thing I have long admired about them. But I think they still have the same motivations as evangelicals, which is genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of other people. That’s what drives my friend to write such things in her letters about how comforting it is to have a friend in Christ and so on and so forth.

          Anyway, enough rambling. I appreciate very much the open dialogue here. Thank you again.

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Jan & Geniene, maybe I’m wrong on the definition of critical thinking, but with over 20 years of teaching experience, I’d disagree that critical thinking is not encouraged in our schools. It’s fine to memorize that 3X5=15, but when teaching new facts I used a box of bright & varied buttons to have each child show & demonstrate WHY 3X5=15. The same with any subject. I always felt it was important to challenge my pupils; get THEM to explain to me why they gave the answer they did and defend it against my “challenges.” I asked a lot of “Why’s?” It’s one thing for them to know that, for example, William Penn invited the Mennonites to Pennsylvania, but I wanted them to explain why.

            You have both made some interesting & thought provoking comments. Jan, I don’t know your friend or what group she belongs to (which would make a big difference in her outlook) but I’m just going to share a thought… You might be over-thinking your friend’s reaction. In my line of work I meet people from other faiths and I can’t imagine trying to “sell” them my beliefs. I’ve had some good discussions with people and if they ask, I’m open to sharing my beliefs, but in my opinion Christ always invited — He never demanded. The facts that some of these business connections have turned into casual friendships even though we might have very different beliefs says as much about the other people as it does about me. Your friend might feel very sad to discover you don’t believe in God, but you say you feel sad for her feelings of struggling to forgive. I am not sure where I was going with this… just kind of “thinking out loud.” 🙂

            1. Geniene

              Come on Mark, take on the expert!

              I agree that some plain schools do well academically. At least at the elementary level. But I’m curious what your thoughts are on Dr. Kraybill’s passage in “The Riddle of Amish Culture” where he spells out the reasons the Amish rejected modern education.
              On Page 176 he is fairly articulate on this issue.
              “The intellectual climate-rational thought, critical thinking, scientific methods, symbolic abstractions-would breed impatience with the slow pace of Amish life and erode the authority of Amish tradition.”

              “Amish schools create cultural and social capital by controlling the flow of ideas and social interaction. The schools build upon ethnic ties and stifle relationships with outsiders-all which increases dependence on the church.”

              On the next page; “To Moderns, this is indeed a provincial education that restricts consciousness-and so it is.”


              1. Jan

                Mark, thank you for sharing your insights. Pardon my ignorance, as I’m still getting to know the regular commenters here, but are you an Amish teacher? Or an English person who teaches Amish children?

                When I said they do not encourage critical thinking, I was referring to an article on this very site where an Amish person – I want to say it was Rebecca – explicitly said that. (Besides, it “rings true” – it fits in with the rest of Amish culture, for the reasons Geniene just enumerated). Too much independent thinking would risk people questioning the authority of the church and thus straying from it. Same reason the Catholic church, and I’m sure other religions, have similar stances.

                I do hope you’re right that I’m overthinking. I guess I’m just very sensitive to others’ feelings, and I don’t want to hurt her or damage our friendship. I’ve known her since we were three. It’s not quite a casual friendship, to use your wording (I know you weren’t necessarily referring to mine, just saying). 🙂

                1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                  Jan, see my other comment on education & critical thinking. I was an Amish teacher, but retired from teaching a few years ago.

                  You’re right — I was not referring to your friendship as “casual,” just sharing my experience & opinion. (For what THAT’S worth! :)) I do respect your wish not to hurt your friend or damage your long friendship. That says a lot about you as a caring and considerate person. I’d be interested in hearing how it all works out for you two friends.

                  1. Jan

                    Thank you, Mark. I find your insights very valuable. I’m sorry if I missed your other comment. It’s hard for me to keep track of who’s who, as I’m still new here, but I am trying to remember. I will let you know how my friend responds. I think her affiliation, or at least when she was a child, is/was quite conservative, which is why I was so anxious about this. But I mentioned it as part of telling her briefly about the Unitarian Universalist church I had recently attended, saying how it was nice to be able to be part of a community, for someone like me who is “atheist humanist.” I hope that context will help. 🙂

                    P.S. Please don’t be too put off. From what I’ve seen, most people here are respectful and glad to learn from each other (and from Erik!). As you said, there -are- many differences among Amish groups, and sometimes it’s easy for English folks to forget that and lump them all together. There was an article here, which I can’t seem to find at the moment, in which Erik quite rightly said that we English should remember that “our” Amish (meaning the individuals who are our friends or neighbors) do not represent ALL Amish.

                    1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                      Hi, Jan. By other comment, I meant the one on this topic that I wrote earlier today.

                      I appreciate your comment on not being too put off and the reminder about Erik’s comment about not all Amish being alike. I’m all for learning and discussion, but there have been times these discussions turned pretty “warm” and I thought it was sad to see things turn unpleasant. I hope that makes sense.

                      1. Jan

                        Ah! Yes, I do understand. To me, it just makes me appreciate that much more what a good “community” we have here. If you ever see typical comment threads elsewhere on the internet, you know what I mean. 😉

                        Peace to you.

              2. Mark - Holmes Co.

                Oh my… these very debates were why I lost my taste for this website! BUT I recognize your interest & insight, Geniene. Let me just say that in our community a lot of Amish children DO attend public schools for all 8 grades or, in many cases, attend public schools in the lower grades then switch to private parochial schools for the remainder of their formal-schooling. The big debate over public schooling that affected some communities did not affect all communities. In our neighborhood we have Amish people who were educated only in public non-Amish schools (including myself), some who attended both public & parochial schools, and some who attended only private parochial schools. It works for us! Kraybill’s comments seem (to me) to be directed more towards PA Amish and/ or ultra-conservative groups like the Swartzentrubers, etc.
                As a parochial school teacher who taught pupils who attended only parochial schools as well as those who attended local public schools for part of their education, and through a lot of interaction with my peers in the public school system, (both those who teach/ taught in public schools and those who attended public schools) I am going to respectfully say I still stand behind my opinions. BUT keep in mind I am only talking about our particular group & setting.
                The Lancaster Co. type Amish would probably not approve of our school system & views on education, but that’s part of the diversity.

                1. Geniene

                  walk with me

                  Mark, I recognize that your approach to argumentation may differ from mine, but I ask, petition, beg, of you to walk with me for a mile. There may be plenty to lament about the lack of relevance and substance of internet comments, but weren’t the Anabaptists to society in their time, the equivalent of what is now referred to as a troll on the internet? All of the civilized world had this arrangement of how to function and be together, but the Anabaptists refused to play nice. Their obstinacy cost them dearly. But if this legacy is to remain viable and relevant, won’t its adherents need to engage beyond the cliched and propagandized conventional narrative? Do you think the early Anabaptists were averse to a little “warmth.” Weren’t they literally and figuratively willing to walk through flames for their values? Can you honestly say the cozy, commercialized, relationship today’s Amish have with the non Amish honors that legacy?
                  I’m not saying the Amish should be more like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, but, can we please keep the conversation going? Shouldn’t the flattery of the world be suspect?

                  1. Jan

                    I don’t think the early Anabaptists, nor current ones, tried to goad people into arguments. They were certainly not a 17th-century version of internet trolls, and the implication is a bit offensive. They wished to live their lives in peace, without being forced to conform to a national religion or explain themselves to anyone. I don’t see how it’s productive for anything other -than- trolling to antagonize people and try to pick fights. That’s clearly not what people on this site are interested in, so perhaps you could respect that?

                    Just my two cents. Not trying to speak for anyone else. I’m not the site owner or moderator, just someone who has enjoyed the respectful sharing of information and experiences here, and hopes to see this community continue to flourish in peace.

    42. Dirk

      Hi Jan and other atheists, I thought of something a while back and would like to get an atheists feedback on it, as a self proclaimed atheist yourself, I’m taking the opportunity to ask you. If you don’t mind.

      I was considering how children grow up and grow into faith and it occurred to me that all babies are basically born atheists.
      If we did not have the Bible, how would any of us know about God, Jesus, religion, etc. Hence we have to be taught about God and religion in the same manner we have to be taught about literacy, numeracy and table manners.

      I realized that in the same manner people can be illiterate and innumerate, never having been taught to read and write or any maths, people can be irreligious, never having been taught about religion and God.

      I then wondered about people who had been taught about religion and God, but rejected such to be atheists, who unlike the irreligious, often have a comprehensive knowledge of religion, the Bible and God.

      Which got me wondering if it is possible for people to be born with a spiritual disability like those with physical and mental disabilities, where no matter how much religious education about God and the Bible they receive, they can never quite understand nor grasp the spiritual side of religion they same way that those who believe seem to.

      The few self professed atheists I have ever met, seemed to be against God for emotional reasons, that somewhere in their past God failed to do their bidding and feeling rejected by God, they chose to reject God in turn. Generally their Bible/religious knowledge was pretty non-existent, so they should really be considered more irreligious than atheists.
      (where I use irreligious to define a person who never received a religious education in any form or manner (as in literate is to illiterate), thus their rejection of God and the Bible as valid, is akin to an illiterate person rejecting Shakespeare as valid).

      So do you think it is possible that some people are just born spiritually disabled?
      Are atheists from religious upbringings such people?

    43. Jan

      "Spiritual Disability"

      Hi, Dirk. Thanks for the questions. I certainly don’t represent all atheists, but I can give you my personal answer, for what it’s worth.

      Firstly, I would say you might want to be careful about calling atheists “spiritually disabled”, as I can see such wording causing offense to many. Aside from that, though, it might help to consider the flip side of that coin. Would it be fair or accurate to say someone is “logically disabled” because they were raised in a religious home and then, even when they finally do get exposure to science and reasonable thinking, they are unable to comprehend it? Such a phenomenon is extremely common, but I would avoid calling it some sort of disability. Keep in mind, using the word disability in this sense is especially touchy for me because I am partly disabled in the traditional sense of the word.

      I think we must understand that religion is a matter of a “worldview.” It’s more than just whether there’s a God or not (or a Goddess or multiple Gods or what have you), or what happens to us when we die. Those are philosophical questions. It’s also a matter of ethics – what it means to be a “good person”, how we should treat others, etc – as well as rules by which we live our lives. When we start saying “God wants” such-and-such, we start behaving according to that belief. This effect can vary, from the mild “God wants me to not use profanity” of a Christian in America, all the way up to the extreme “God wants me to stone this woman to death for going outside unescorted” of a Taliban Muslim in Afghanistan, as examples. So religion is about more than mere spirituality.

      The word spiritual is pretty vague, for that matter. I’d say it refers to anything beyond cold hard science and facts. Beliefs in things such as souls, some sort of afterlife, metaphysical “energies”, karma, divine being(s), angels or demons, magical talismans, omens, etc. are all examples of spirituality. And really, atheism refers to only one of those – divine beings. Atheism simply means lack of belief in a god, similar to how asymptomatic means lack of symptoms. It doesn’t preclude belief in other “spiritual” things. It most -certainly- doesn’t preclude an ethical or moral compass, contrary to popular myth.

      You mention God, Jesus, and the Bible, without reference to Buddha, the Q’ran, or anything like that, so I think you might benefit from remembering that Christianity is by far not the only religion out there. As an atheist, I reject belief in -all- the religions, many of which I have studied to a greater extent than most Christians have done. I own a copy of The Essential Q’ran, for example. My sister is formerly a Muslim convert (now she is spiritual, neither religious nor atheist). In my past, I have been Protestant, Catholic, and Wiccan. There are plenty of atheists out there who came from Jewish, Muslim, and various other religious backgrounds.

      Again contrary to popular misconception, the issue is not Atheism vs Christianity.

      Christians are pretty much the only “evangelical” religion on Earth, but for the purpose of this example, let’s say a Buddhist tried to convert you to their faith. You had been born and raised Christian, and your knowledge of Buddhism was just about nil. Would you be “spiritually disabled” because you didn’t understand *that* religion?

      I hope you can see why I think it’s unfair to use such wording or to view people in such a way. People make their own choices with what is available to them *and* within certain conditions. Even if other religious and non-religious ideas were freely available to my Amish friend, I doubt she would leave the Amish church because that religion is so complex. It rules *every* aspect of its members lives. I would never dream of trying to convert her because it would mean the loss of everything she has ever known, including her own family. So while it’s partly a matter of choice, that choice is not as easily available to some people as it is to others. I think we should be mindful not to judge others for their choices, to see them as somehow inferior or disabled because of their choices, but to respect that they have reasons which are very solid to them, whether or not you agree or are in the same situation yourself.

      I’m sorry that most of the atheists you’ve encountered are such because of emotional reasons. I would speculate that they probably know more about Christianity than you give them credit for. If they’d had no experience at all, they would not have reason to feel bitter, they’d be more neutral. I’ve found that the more bitter a person is toward “God” (usually the Christian God), the more likely they were raised Christian themselves. Also, how can you be angry at someone or something you don’t believe in? It’d be like saying, “Santa failed me, so I’m angry at him and no longer believe in him.” It jut doesn’t jive. If these people are angry at God, then they still believe in him, at least on some level.

      When I left the Catholic Church, I was bitter toward the *people* who drove me away from it, but I still believed in God and tried to follow Jesus’ teachings. Eventually, all of that faded – the emotions toward the people as well as the belief in the deity. I do still think Jesus had some great teachings, along with many other prophets and world leaders, but I don’t *worship* him. That’s where I ended up after the dust settled, after much reflection. My “faith” lies in logic and scientific reasoning, which has nothing to do with emotion. My life might be easier in many ways if I could force myself to believe in a god again, but I just can’t. I feel like it’d be lying to myself when I know better. So yeah, there’s lots of atheists out there who are emotional, but there’s also plenty who aren’t. You finally met one! 😉

      Sorry for the length of the reply, but I hope it helped!

      1. Dirk

        Hi Jan, I’ve given another comment below this one that is not attached to your one or this one, but reading through your comments again, I realized that I had not answered it adequately first time round.

        Just for clarification, you said “You had been born and raised Christian, and your knowledge of Buddhism was just about nil. Would you be “spiritually disabled” because you didn’t understand *that* religion?”

        Not at all. I would regard one without knowledge of a faith as irreligious in that faith, one could say ignorance of a faith results in irreligious attitudes and behavior towards a faith.
        Whereas knowledge results in religious behavior.
        As the Bible says, “My people perish due to a lack of knowledge.”

        My question regarding a possible spiritual disability, was directed more towards someone who has sufficient knowledge in that faith to practice it and be called religious, who for no apparent reason, be it emotional hang ups, mental questionings or physical conflict with said religion, finds them self unable to experience, grasp or follow that faith in the manner and depth that others at their level of knowledge and experience in that faith would be practicing it.

        I feel this realization perhaps leads to them experiencing internal conflict or a lack of interest, resulting in them eventually departing from the faith.

        Having worked with physically and mentally challenged youngsters, I have noticed the expression on their faces when they realize that they cannot do or perceive something due to their disability.
        When I was involved with church youth, I would notice similar types of expressions on some of the youths faces when they could not grasp a teaching or biblical insight that the others in the group had, that was making the others all emotional and bubbly, doing spiritual cartwheels so to speak.

        Even when I spent time with those youngsters afterwards going through the material/hymn/verses again at a expanded and slower pace, they still did not seem to get it. They could repeat it verbatim back to me, they could draw or make conclusions with the knowledge learnt, but they seemed absolutely unmoved by it. Like water off a ducks back. They also seemed unable to retain religious knowledge for very long, yet had no trouble retaining secular knowledge.

        Initially I told myself that biblical things are spiritually discerned and that they had just not yet reached the required spiritual level to grasp it or hold on to it.

        Even after I gave up working with the youth, there was one youth that lived real close to me with whom I kept in contact with and continued discussing biblical things with him when he would visit.
        When he stopped attending church regularly around 18 years of age, I took a personal interest in him and would fetch him every Sunday and take him to church. (his parents had decided to move to a charismatic church, he did not like it and didn’t go with them)

        He had the desire to be a Christian, he would attend church if fetched, dress in the correct manner for church, do all the churchy things without rebellion or protest. But he just never seemed to express that inner spiritual motivation or conviction that comes with being religious.

        And what a super person he is, don’t get me wrong, he is kind, polite, generous, considerate, everything a well raised decent person should be and more.
        It took me about a year and a half to admit that the only reason he was coming to church was because of the effort I was making in his life.
        The problem was that I should not have had to be making that effort at all. He came from a church going family, had attended church his whole life, yet he was like a weak sapling, that unless it is propped up, it falls over. At 20 years old he should have been more like a young sturdy solid fee standing oak.

        Having a conversation with him was like to speaking with someone who had never heard of God.
        For example. When I fetched him on a Sunday I would ask him how his week had been. He would say for example, “it has been very hard, I had to work double shifts all week to receive and pack goods sent from a warehouse that had closed down as well as do my ordinary workload.”
        A Christian would have said something like, “God threw me a curve ball this week, had to work double ……… ordinary workload. Please keep me in your prayers.”

        I went away for about two months during which time he stopped going to church. When I came back I did not follow up with him, that was perhaps a year ago and he has not been to church during that time.
        Now I have known him since he was young, we have had long deep conversations, so I know he has no emotional hang ups about religion, he has never raised any mental challenges about religion.
        He is not into anything that I know of that would set him at odds with the church. As I said, he was a model youth.
        A natural leader one could even say of him, intelligent, popular and well liked, not intimidated to speak up and have his say. Always seeking peaceful resolutions when there was conflict and always willing to go the extra mile for others.
        If any fault could be mentioned of him, it is that he is too willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. Whichever women gets him for a husband one day, she is going to be a very lucky lady.

        Yet when it came to being spiritual, that desire to pray, to worship God, to have fellowship with the brethren, to be a practicing Christian, it was like the lights are on but nobody is home. I guess what I am trying to explain here is total religious spiritual apathy. Unless told to do something, there is no personal initiative to do it. No spiritual pulling.

        He was not the only one. I know of a couple of others that fit this description. They have no animosity towards religion, the church or God, but they just don’t do religious things unless one asks them to do it. Left to their own devices they appear to be totally ignorant of religion and God.

        NB, they don’t self identify as atheists, they call themselves Christians and claim to believe in God if asked, but based on how they were raised and what they were taught, you would never guess it by their religionless lifestyles. But it would explain their kind, generous and giving natures, and the decent and clean lifestyles they live. Irreligious saints. Unbelievable.
        If I could be half as good a person as they are, I would consider myself an almost decent Christian. Compared to them I’m just plain evil.

        Guess that’s why I am in the church and they are not, Jesus did say that He was coming for the sinners and not the righteous.
        Guess that’s me and not them.

        The sad part is that they are not exactly happy being outside of the church. But they just cannot seem to find their way back to church. The world takes advantage of their good natures and they are often left feeling abused by people. Being who they are, they shrug it off and get abused in exactly the same manner all over again. And still they forgive the person who abused them.
        Inside the church they would be admired and considered true saints, examples to be looked up to, outside the church they are considered weak, unappreciated by those who walk all over them.

        I know this to be true, I have a brother who is one of these religionless saints. Five siblings all religious except him, and he is probably the best example of a Christian out of all of us with his forgiving and generous nature. That is if that was all there was to Christianity.
        I have two ex-church friends like him, I know firsthand how people take advantage of them and abuse them. Always promising to pay them back, to return the favor, to return what they borrowed, but they never do. How they get let down by people over and over again.
        I also see how those like them in the church with such beautiful natures are protected by the churchiness of Christianity from the wiles of certain immoral worldly folk always looking for those they can take advantage of next. And like flies to honey, they always seem to find these religionless saints to abuse.

        Now perhaps you understand why I considered that such people could be spiritually disabled. It is the only logical expatiation I could come up with.

        And if they are spiritually disabled, then forcing them to come to church by taking advantage of their good natures and live a religious lifestyle of no TV’s, smoking, drinking, dating non-church going women, etc., may well be a form of abuse. I still have to ponder this aspect of it.

        Wow this is long, Erik is gonna start charging me blogging rental.
        Sorry Erik, but Jan is such an interesting person, a non-aggressive atheist willing to cordially speak with religious folk. Awesome.

    44. Dirk

      Hi Jan, thank you kindly for your reply. I agree that calling someone disabled is never nice, but I was just wondering about it, so I thought to ask someone like yourself. I like to get both sides of an opinion and if I just asked it of Christians, they may well agree, however their agreement doesn’t make it so.
      It’s only when two opposing sides agree on something that perhaps we have the truth of the matter.
      I heard evangelistic Christians go with demon possessed to explain it, not sure which would be more offensive. Personally I feel demon possessed would be.

      Regarding the two religions you mention, Buddhism and Islam, I will answer below with some insights I have thought about on them.
      My passion would be the need to question everything, drives people nuts. One friend said I reminded him of that alien in the movie ET come home or something. So please don’t take my questions personally or as an attack, I ponder, I question, I’m answered, I’m enlightened. Sadly most people are afraid to look behind the looking glass. Anyway…

      I do question why people consider Buddhism to be a religion. I once asked a Buddhist I met if he considers Buddhism a religion or a philosophy. He said a religion, I asked him to give me the name of his god. He was stumped and could not.
      I asked him why he would consider Buddhism to be aligned with theistic religions if it did not have a Theos? Surely it should be aligned with other non-Theist philosophies like Taoism, Confuciusism, Fung Shwai, etc.
      He just looked at me and walked away. So I still don’t have an answer to that question. But I’m pretty convinced that one needs a Theos to be theistic and to be called a religion.

      Regarding Islam, I heard that the name of Mohamed’s father was Abdullah (servant of Allah). I asked a Muslim women at work if that was true, she said yes. So I asked how is it possible that Mohamed’s pagan worshiping grandfather could have named Mohamed’s father, Abdullah (servant of Allah), long before Mohamed was even born or told his family about Allah being the one and only true god?

      Personally I suspect that Mohamed’s family worshiped an idol called Allah (a moon god) and later when Mohamed met monotheistic Jews and Christians, he was inspired to turn his family’s idol god Allah into the only permissible idol deity to worship.
      That would make Islam a mono-idol or mono-pagan religion and not a mono-theistic religion.
      As you can imagine, my Muslim co-worker was not impressed by this line of questioning, so I don’t have an answer to this either and I fear pursuit of it with her will land me in hot water at work.
      Still I wonder about it though. I know the Arabian pagans practiced the Hajj, the annual 30 day fast, the throwing of stones at the two pillars, worship at the Kaaba in Mecca, etc.
      Seems nothing has changed except the whittling down of 360 idols to one. That black silver encased meteorite stone located in the one corner of the Kaaba that they all kiss after circuambulating the Kaaba six/seven? times when on Hajj, could well be the original Allah idol. (some anthropologists have postulated this)

      I notice you have mentioned or implied a couple of times that Christianity is incompatible with science and reasonable thinking.
      And I agree that there is a misconception out there that science and the Bible are at loggerheads, I would like to personally assure you that this is not true.
      I have found that the Bible and empirical science are in perfect harmony, as one would expect from a God who not only created the world but also wrote the Bible.
      However, the Bible and the theoretical science of man made hypotheses yet unproven, is often at loggerheads.

      To me it is utterly amazing how 21st century scientific knowledge supports the Bible.
      If you will permit me to provide a couple of examples.

      The Bible mentions that Sarah was 90 years old when she gave birth to Isaac, and that Mary was a virgin.
      Its really simple to do, with hormone injections and test tube babies, I can make every 90 year old women on planet earth pregnant, and with artificial insemination, every virgin.

      The Bible mentions that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, people scoff, yet doctors in thousands of hospitals around the world, routinely put their patients to death on the operation table and bring them back to life.
      We can even kill a person, remove their heart form their chest cavity, replace it with another person’s heart and bring them back to life.

      That God took a piece of Adam to create Eve, sounds like we can do a very similar thing with cloning, and once we learn how to separate and duplicate the X chromosome found in a man’s DNA, we can do the exact same thing and clone a Eve’s from an Adam’s DNA, just like God did.

      Truly the God who created man who invented the technology to do these things, is the self same God that can bypass man and his technology and do it Himself.

      Every single thing that people call myths or fairy tales in the Bible, are being replicated in the 21st century. Its natural that when people fail to read the Bible with a 21st century scientific mind, that they will fail to notice or understand this.
      If you have one and want me to give you the 21st century version of it, please ask.

      If I may leave you with one last thing, this for me is truly amazing. It still gives me goosebumps every time I ponder it.

      The very first verse of the Bible reads “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

      This very first verse in laying out what creation will be, God is informing us that His creation will be a three dimensional creation of Time, Space and Matter and what those three dimensions will consist of. A Trinity of Trinities.

      Where Beginning = Time (past, present, future)
      Where Heavens = Space (depth, breadth, width)
      Where Earth = Matter (gas, liquid, solid)

      The Bible also informs us in the same chapter that God created man in His own image and breathed within him a breath of His own spirit.
      Man is the only species that has the capacity for thought in the fourth dimension of the abstract. Like God man can imagine things that do not yet exist and like God bring such abstractions into reality.
      Unlike our non God breathed fellow earth species, we are not bound or limited to being forever just as God created us. A deer in the forest will always be a deer and nothing more.

      If you remember the science class when the teacher shone a light through a glass prism to produce the rainbow, likewise, when you shine the Godhead through the prism of our three dimensional creation, you get a Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
      All three equally and indivisibly part of the Godhead in the same manner the seven rays of the rainbow are equally present and indivisible in visible light. And just as we can perceive each ray differently as a color, we can perceive each of the personas of the Trinity as individually different and unique.

      Those who use maths to understand the Trinity are always stumped, but if we use science, it becomes understandable, as does the rest of the Bible.

      Even if we take the six day creation period. Very hard to understand how that could be possible, that was until the fast forward button was invented.
      Now its child’s play to understand how God could have pressed the fast forward button on the cosmic console to produce a 20 billion year old universe in six days.
      So when the scientist tells me that a rock is 50 million years old, I believe him, cos I know it is a 50 million year old rock that was created from nothing to a 50 million year old rock in one day, or hour, or second, whatever, by God pressing the fast forward cosmic button. I believe Einstein’s theory of relativity will provide the scientific insights into how this is possible.

      It seems that during those six days God fast-forwarded creation to a certain point in space and time before pressing the play button. Nearest we can figure out when God pressed the play button was around 6000 years ago. Which is why you often hear young earth creationist speaking of a six thousand year old universe.

      Can you imagine, all this and we haven’t even moved off the 1st chapter of the Bible yet, nor delved into all of it yet. Imagine what insights we will get into the rest of the Bible as science grows in knowledge and technological understandings advance.

      I have notice in recent years that more and more Christians have started to notice that empirical science and the Bible are in agreement and harmony, and more and more Christians are starting to embrace science to explain the Bible, the whole Intelligent Design movement and the Creationist movement are the results of such endeavors.

      Please Jan, if you have any questions or issues about the Bible or religion that you question or wonder about, please share them, I would love to ponder them.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Well, Dirk, I don’t know how Jan feels about this post, but I enjoyed reading it and it gave me some things to figure out or look into more deeply.
        Now I’m going to show just how ignorant I am… You mentioned Buddhism. I have not read a lot about Buddhism. Well, next to nothing — mostly just through the DK reference books (which are fascinating but mostly give an overview) but I was thinking the Buddha we see IS the God of Buddhism. Hmmm… It’s a good thing our local library is open late Thursday evenings!
        Back to the DK books… (Dorling Kindersley, I think) anyone looking for great books for children or young adults should take a look at their books. I’ve not read all of them and found things in some I disagreed with, but a great series overall.
        Enough rambling on — time to head home.

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          The DK series I had in mind is the “Eyewitness” series. They have done books on Judaism, Islam, Christianity, among others.

        2. Jan


          Mark, it’s a very common and understandable assumption that Buddha is the god of Buddhism. It’s not accurate, though. At least some of Buddha’s followers believe he was born of the virgin Maya, and that his father was a god. However, Buddha himself rejected the belief in a god, at least in our sense of the word (such as a Creator). Buddhism is about the teachings, rather than an individual entity. Buddha tried to “show the way” to enlightenment. He wasn’t so much interested in being worshipped.

          Likewise, many if not most pre-Judaic religions and philosophies of the world don’t have leaders/prophets/saviors who say that one MUST go through them, as an individual, in order to achieve harmony/heaven/whatever. Lao Tzu, father of Taoism, said it was like he was pointing at the moon. He didn’t want people to obsess over his pointing finger, but rather to follow its direction and find the moon with their own eyes.

          I hope this helps clarify a bit! 🙂

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Yes, Jan, it did. This is interesting. I liked the “pointing to the moon” idea! I’m glad I am not the only person to have thought Buddha was the god of the Buddhists. I did get a few library books that I am looking forward to digging in to, so that will be interesting & educational.

            1. Jan


              You are very welcome, Mark. I’m always glad to discuss these things with pe ople who are genuinely curious to learn.

              It’s too bad the other answer you got was pretty much more “everything else is false except my belief” rhetoric. Objectivity can take us very far in true understanding. Selfish agendas and “angles” only stunt understanding.

              Just want to say I appreciate that you are secure in your faith and respectful enough of other people’s that you don’t try to pick fights and trick or manipulate other people into a “right/wrong” situation. That’s one thing the general public greatly respects the Amish for.

              “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to accept and celebrate them.” – Audre Lorde

              1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                Thanks, Jan. Good quote! I’m fortunate to be able to meet people from all over the world through my work, from over 100 countries so far this year, and I really enjoy that. I love learning about other cultures & countries and it always interests me to learn about differences. I might not share a visitor’s view or faith, but I try to respect their right to live their lives as they see fit and hope they’ll show the same respect to me. They usually do. It fascinates me to find out how many things seem to be part of all mankind no matter what culture or religion and then also the things that can be very different.

                Now Jan, not to pick an argument or “start” something — please understand this is a genuine question — but everything I’ve read seems to say that all cultures have SOME form of religion. The only thing I’ve ever read about a large group of people who did not have a religion were the women in certain tribes in Papua New Guinea where only the men practiced any religion and women & uninitiated children did not even know the names of the gods they worshiped. One book I read spoke of a lot of depression and apathy among the women in those tribes. Are there cultures who do not have a religion and I’ve just not come across them?

                1. Jan

                  around the world

                  Wow, Mark, that is awesome that you get to meet people from around the world like that! I’m a little jealous! 😀 Seriously, though, good for you for keeping an open mind, and I’m glad that they reciprocate (at least most of the time). That is how it usually goes.

                  I know your question is sincere, and it’s a very good one. You’re right, religion in some shape or another is found around the globe, amongst all peoples. The reason for this is very simple – religion offers a lot of things people need:

                  • Answers to questions about the world around us (and about ourselves)
                  • Rules to keep society in harmony, from the family unit to the whole tribe/nation/”in-group,” along with punishments and rewards to keep people in adherence to these rules
                  • Moral values
                  • Comfort, hope, and other kinds of emotional fulfillment
                  • A unique identity, preserving the in-group as a separate people (particularly in the case of groups that do not also have a national identity to meet this need)

                  I’m sure there are others, but those are some off the top of my head. Some people see these things and say, “This is why we need religion,” or they see it as proof that, without religion, people would have no moral compass or that society would fall apart. Understandable conclusion to draw, except it assumes that nothing else can/will meet those needs. In the absence of something meeting those needs, then yes, society would not fare well, individuals would not fare well. But religion is not the only thing that can meet those needs.

                  Science can provide answers, although I think it’s extremely important that we realize, especially those of us in advanced societies where science has already provided some answers, that it’s okay to NOT have an answer for everything, too. Personally, I’m pretty excited by the idea that we don’t know what happens to matter that enters a black hole. I’m equally excited when we do find answers, but I don’t know if we ever will know the answer to every single question. I doubt it. That mystery is pretty cool, and I’m perfectly fine with there still being plenty to discover. I like that the answers we do get are based on something evidential, and that they’re flexible – we might discover something else later on that shifts our understanding of a previous answer, and that’s okay, it doesn’t mean I have to change my entire worldview to match our new understanding of reality – or to deny the new reality to make it fit my pre-defined worldview. It’s adaptable.

                  Social rules can easily be had without organized religion. I was just musing on this the other day… The philosophy that is pretty much the basis for any good social rules can be summed up – ironically – by Christ’s “golden rule” – Treat others like you want to be treated – or by the Wiccan Rede – An [as long as] ye harm none, do what ye will. In fact, the rest of the Rede says, “This shall be the whole of the law.” But really, any other laws could stem from that. When Christ was discussing the Ten Commandments with someone, he mentioned the first four. Many people have noticed this and seen it as evidence that he was more concerned with love and how we treat one another (and yes, God), than he was with the “do nots.” And why? Because if we love one another (and God), we naturally will not want to do things that hurt each other, like lie, cheat, and steal. In fact, didn’t he also say, “The greatest of these is love”? So even without religion – or even a god – people like me have a pretty good sense of right and wrong, and which social laws make sense and which don’t. The Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede (and I’m sure many similar guidelines in other religions) draw from the most basic source of ethics – our consciences.

                  An in-group identity (“in-group” being used in the anthropological sense) can be derived from anything, really. Race, gender, age, geographic location, nationality, political party affiliation, anything you please. As we have become an enlightened species, we have come to see that perhaps in-groups aren’t as necessary as we think. They can create an awful lot of division and hostility. Wars literally could not exist without in-groups.

                  Thomas Paine, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, said, “Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” It is more commonly misquoted as: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” Either way, the sentiment has resonated with generation after generation.

                  And lastly, regarding the emotional needs met by religion… In an ideal world, those needs would be met by other institutions such as the family, school, and society at large. This is one area Humanists especially try to provide an alternative to religion. They believe that we should focus on what humans can do in the here and now. If we believe in karma, for example, then there is an implicit belief that we deserve what misery we are getting right now, and I think that’s rubbish. The fact is, bad stuff happens, even to people who don’t in any way deserve it. And if we believe that we’ll get what we deserve in the NEXT life, then you get people like suicide-bombers, thinking that they’re earning a place in the afterlife, even while causing misery to people on earth now. I know that’s an extreme example, but it is a very real result of afterlife belief.

                  However, instead of hoping that a third party will make things better for us after we die, we focus on what we ourselves can do to uplift one another right here, right now. I’ve started going to a Unitarian Universalist church, which is quite Humanist. They’re involved in a local food pantry; their sermons are about ways in which we can be healthy and strong, both as individuals and as a community; in the beginning of each service, they have an opportunity for people to come up to the front and share a joy or sorrow, dropping a pebble into a vase of water and other pebbles, knowing that their joys and sorrows are shared amongst us all (and indeed, people will often go up to those individuals afterward and offer congratulations or condolences). As someone who has dealt with depression, it was powerful for me to hear the minister speak last week about his own experiences with depression and mental illness. Afterward, I thanked him for sharing so openly with things we too often keep hush-hush, and shared a bit of my struggle with him. He offered to make time this week to talk with me about it.

                  Yes, UU is technically a religion (although I wonder how much of that label is for the benefit of being more palatable for the average American and for things like tax exemption, which is a whole other rant), but it’s NON-DOGMATIC, and in that way, it differs from other organized religion. Whether you believe in a god, a goddess, multiple gods, spirits, or nothing – heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana, reincarnation, or nothing – angels, demons, fairies, devils, saints, ghosts, or nothing – none of that is as important as how we live our lives. That’s the UU belief, and mine.

                  Well, that ended up being a MUCH longer answer than I had planned, but I hope it helps a little, Mark, in terms of why all societies have some kind of religion or another. I guess my point is, the fact that all societies have a religion doesn’t necessarily mean that religion is better than nonreligion, or that theism is better than nontheism. Oh, and in the example you gave, that society isn’t nontheistic or nonreligious, it’s just that some of the members don’t know the names of the gods. They still believe there ARE gods, and they probably live their lives accordingly (with the men acting as conduits, it sounds like, but still, religion is clearly part of their society). Their unhappiness could be due to a number of things. Many tribes in Papua were cannibals until very recently (although even after it was outlawed, some still practice it). I would not be so quick to conclude a causal relationship. As you said, pretty much all peoples of the world have some type of religion; I think the point is, what does religion offer them, and can anything else provide an alternative?

                  1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                    Thank you, Jan, for providing such a detailed answer to my questions. I hope you don’t think I was comparing cannibal women to atheists! 🙂 The cannibal part was not even in my mind when I wrote that. What WAS in my mind was a book I have called “The Birds of War” which has a large number of photos of New Guinea tribes (in the Balim ??? Valley?) and if I remember right, was part of the project Michael Rockefeller was involved with before he disappeared. I was so ??? captured? by the looks on the women’s faces at several large gatherings — a look of depression and despair I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else other than in news photos of major tragedies. I had not thought about the fact that these women obviously know their men have a religion and it controls their lives, but that was a very good point. I guess I was taking their looks of despair & depression as connected to the fact they are not just deprived of a god, they are forbidden to have any connection to a god. It’s like they’ve actually been rejected by the gods that supposedly rule their world.

                    I get what you are saying about a moral code and “doing the right thing.” I’m reminded of my surprise years ago to discover a non-Amish co-worker of mine who I really respected and thought was a good example did not believe in God or any form of after-life. At that age I was really confused by the fact that person lived such a good life but (in my eyes) really was not “obligated” to by any faith. I’d like to think I’ve grown up some since then and can recognize that there are people who live a “good life” even though they do not have the same beliefs as I do or even ANY beliefs.

                    Yet in my opinion — and do not think I am arguing — I would miss the connection with the God I serve. I try to live a good life but like many people, I fail in so many cases. I’m human enough to deal with envy, temper, and any other stumbling-block you care to name. (Well, maybe not ANY, but you likely get what I mean) but the connection I feel to god is not just keeping me on the straight & narrow, I love Him and I share my thoughts & struggles, joys & sorrows. I pray when I feel in need of strength, courage, guidance, protection, etc., but also when I’m happy, relieved, thankful, or feeling worshipful. The idea those women are deprived of that connection struck me as very sad. I’m not saying I feel you are depressed & apathetic, but I’ll be honest and say I’m sad you do not feel that connection. I’m not out to convert you — just giving my opinion. I am sure you could say you feel sorry I invest so much thought into a connection you don’t believe exists, but we might just have to agree to disagree.

                    You are right — I am so lucky to have an interesting job and meet so many interesting people! I can say I truly look forward to going to work every day (or MOST days, every job can have it’s down-side) and I never know who I’ll meet. I am fortunate to be able to learn a lot from the people I meet!

                    1. Mark - Holmes Co.


                      I see in my second paragraph I did not capitalize one place I used the word God. It was a mistake.

                    2. Jan

                      belief and well-being

                      Haha, no, Mark, I didn’t think you were connecting those women with cannibals. 😀 I just mean, there are lots of things that can cause unhappiness. I’m sure that being excluded from something that is integral to their society – and feeling rejected – could certainly contribute to unhappiness. No disagreement there.

                      I think that sense of connection you described is probably the biggest motivating factor for people to be theistic. Would my life be easier if I believed in a god who cares about me? Probably. But I can’t convince myself of that, make myself believe it, any more than I can make myself believe in the tooth fairy or a purple unicorn that lives on the dark side of the moon and grants wishes. I don’t mean to insult your god by comparing him to those things, though I realize that is the effect it has on many people, it’s just that that’s how unreal he is to me, and how impossible it is for me to believe in him, whether I want to or not. I’d much rather be able to share my joys and sorrows with real humans, and I get a do get a lot out of such relationships.

                      Earlier this year, when my life was better, I had a boyfriend, a best friend, and a new job that suited me perfectly (writing/editing from home). The happiest moments for me were when I was curled up with my coffee, diving into the day’s work, chatting with my best friend on Skype, getting texts from my boyfriend at work asking how my day was going. That was fulfillment. I had purpose and I could share my joys and sorrows. Unfortunately, my boyfriend cheated on me and left me for another girl, and the best friend, well, turned out not to be as good a friend as I had thought. And yeah right now I’m having a hard time trusting people, to put it mildly. (At least my job is still going well, yay for one good thing.)

                      But even in the darkest times, I can’t try to force a belief in something that just doesn’t make a bit of sense to me. And I don’t think I should have to do that, just to have a good life. I’m sure that at some point, my life will get better again. I’ll make new friends and all that. It’s hard to FEEL that right now, but life has sucked before and then turned around, so on a cognitive level, I know it will probably happen again.

                      In my early adulthood, I was in an abusive situation, living in a new place without a single friend. That’s when I converted from a general nontheistic paganism to the Roman Catholic religion. It gave me what I needed to get through that dark time. But now, I marvel that I was desperate enough to be able to convince myself of things that I had previously rejected. I know I can’t do it again. I’ve gained a lot of life skills since then, a lot of knowledge and perspective, and those things are carrying me through.

                      Am I depressed? Yes. Anyone in my situation would be. When people treat you like crap, it’s hard not to feel disillusioned and discouraged at the very least. And I have a history of clinical depression on top of that, predisposing me to it. However, I’m not depressed because I’m atheist, nor will theism cure me of depression. A better quality of life can do that. Humans are social creatures, we need social support to be whole and healthy and happy. The Amish are fortunate in having a strong social support system (in some ways, at least; it’s certainly not without condition). If life turns bad on them – they lose an important relationship, their house burns down, their crops fail, whatever – they know that a large group of people will be there to help them through it. No one’s going to let them starve, they’ve still got other relationships even after that lost one, etc. When a person doesn’t have that support network, whether they have God or not, they’re still going to be less happy and secure than someone who does have such a network.

                      Hope that makes sense… and no, I know you’re not trying to be argumentative. People like you and my friend Rachel say these things because you genuinely care and want other people to be as happy as you are. I appreciate that very much. I just wish it were that easy. 🙂

                      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                        Jan, I have just read your comment and my mind probably will not be able to keep up with my fingers in trying to put a reply together. I feel a lot of sorrow for the dark times you have gone through. I know what it feels like to have bitter disappointments & pain in life. I’m sure man y people can relate to that. I went through a period where I doubted God and felt maybe not angry at Him but more confused why it felt He had abandoned me. It was thankfully not a long period of time, but I would not want to go through that again for anything. I don’t really want to get into this in a public setting, but let me say I got down so far I felt not only my faith melting away like fog burning off in the morning sun, I questioned if life was worth living — not that I was hoping to END it, but the years I expected I might have left looked like a hard road to travel.
                        After talking it over with close friends, family, ministers, I felt relieved to be told it was not wrong to feel that way and not wrong to question God, but give it time and be “open” to His calling. It happened. It was not like I was out looking to reconnect with God, it was more like He called to me. Felling His presence in my life in a way that left no room for doubt felt like going home… it was a very emotional experience. Maybe having gone through that I am more sympathetic to others who have felt “cut off” from God or doubt His presence. Yes, it’s true — I do want others to feel that joy, but I am aware that accepting Christ needs to be a personal choice — it can’t be forced.
                        And you are also right — I am surrounded by a very strong community. Maybe I take that support too much for granted.
                        I feel like I could go on for hours but I’d just end up repeating myself and I do not want to seem to be trying to convert you or change your mind AND I have things that keep taking my attention away… but let me just say I am thinking of you and caring about you.

                      2. Jan

                        Mark, thank you for sharing that. I know these are not easy things to discuss. And thank you for caring. It is really touching. I’m glad that the experience you described didn’t last too long and that you’re much better off now. 🙂

                        I was thinking last night, but it was too late to get back on here and say so… I hoped I didn’t sound like I was belittling theism. The point I was attempting to get across is that there are multiple paths to the same ends, and so, as much as people like you are concerned, try not to be too worried because, even if I don’t end up on your path, I will find one that works for me.

                        Thank you for this amazing conversation. It will stick with me for sure!

        3. Dirk

          Hi Mark, from what I understand, Buddha was what we would call a prophet or messenger from God, except he wasn’t a prophet from a god or a spiritual power, he was a teacher that taught a method on how to achieve perfect happiness/enlightenment called Nirvana through following the eight fold path of enlightenment that he taught.

          He also taught that one needs to reach this level of Nirvana enlightenment to break free from the reincarnation cycle of death and rebirth.
          I still haven’t found out yet what occurs in this ultimate Nirvana state from which one is not reincarnated. Not sure if Buddha gave an explanation or not.

          Now in order to help a person achieve Nirvana, there are all sorts of rituals, meditations, exercises, mantras, etc. that a Buddhist performs or uses to help with the process and to eliminate past life karma. Karma can be understood to be sins committed in a past life that follow one into one’s present life.
          It is a catch 22 situation. One doesn’t know what sins one committed in past lifetimes in order to seek their absolvement in this lifetime. All one knows is, that being reincarnated means one still has past sins to absolve.
          It is assumed that the lower ones station is at birth, eg born to a slave women, or in poverty and to hardships, etc., is an indication of how sinful one was in their last lifetime and how much harder one has to work at absolution in this lifetime.

          The ideal is to become a celibate Buddhist monk owning nothing and having no contact with worldly contamination through worldly thoughts, actions, deeds, associations, marriages and the eating of meat and other forbidden foods.

          There are three main forms of Buddhism which emphasize certain things differently from each other, but overall they all have the same basic understandings or worldview on how one should live.

          The main thing that separates Buddhism from traditional theistic faiths, it that there is no worship of a deity, all actions performed are for self-enlightenment and self-realization and not for the worship or glorification of any deity.
          This is why I say it is not a religion.
          Buddhist may approach their beliefs with a religious fervor, but without a God to worship, it is merely a man made philosophy.

          One could say that Buddhism is a perfect system to keep those members of society most likely to rebel against the system, the underprivileged and disadvantaged, away from rebelling by keeping them so engaged in trying to redeem themselves in this lifetime that they have no time to think of rebellion, and certainly not a rebellion that will result in them being reincarnated into even greater hardships in the next lifetime.

          Yes, I’m being cynical, but when Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opium of the masses, meaning it keeps them stupefied and passive, I always imagine he had a religion like Buddhism in mind.
          I can’t imagine Marx meant Christianity, not after 300 hundred years of religious warfare between Christians in Europe, that ended just before he wrote Das Kapital.
          I think he would have considered Christianity the coffee or pcp of the masses.

          Had communist Russia introduced something like Buddhism as their state religion instead of atheism, history would not be today what it is.

          For some reason, the threat of a punishment or a reward in the next lifetime, is much more effective nowadays than the threat or reward of a heaven and hell. If Paul had not told us that it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgement, I think many denominations would have already incorporated reincarnation into their belief systems. It is the most widely accepted concept for an afterlife held by people in the world today.
          It is even held by many calling themselves Christians and certainly by most who do not.

          Thanks for the news about the DK series, I had not heard of them before. Personally I like Wikipedia and the links it provides, and google for some counter views and opinions.

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            This was very interesting & informative, Dirk. Thank you. I’ll look forward to learning & reading more.

            On the DK books, I should have added that enjoying many of their books does not mean I endorse all of their books, but they are still worth checking out.

            I have an interesting stack of books I’m looking forward to digging in to. Our local librarian is good and nothing seems to surprise him, not even a middle-aged Amish guy checking out a stack of books on Buddhism, etc. 🙂

      2. Jan


        Welp, let’s start with the basics. According to Dictionary.com, which has a much more thorough and inclusive definition than Mirriam-Webster, religion is:

        1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
        2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
        the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

        A named god is absolutely not a prerequisite for religion. Here in the west, we call god Elohim, Allah, Jehovah, etc… Romans and Greeks of course had a whole pantheon of gods, as did Norse… But tribal indigenous societies around the world were different. Pantheism involves myriad -spirits- existing in living things all around us, but which aren’t quite -gods-. If you asked a Dakota person the “name of their god,” they might give you a puzzled look, much like what you’d give them if they asked you what your name for Waken Tanka was. Just because a religion isn’t monotheistic with a clear named deity, doesn’t mean it’s not a religion.

        I can easily see how your encounters with a Buddhist and a Muslim resulted in them being baffled or offended. We all view things through the lens of our own experience and knowledge. However, if we want to expand that knowledge, we must try to see past the tint of our own lenses, and be prepared for the fact that we’ll be often comparing apples and oranges. You won’t get very far if you see my apple and compare it to your orange and say, “Well your orange is red or green, therefore it’s not really a fruit.” I’ll quote the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, one of my favorite shows. “If you wish to understand, you must first set aside your prejudices and listen.” I’d add, listen with an open mind, not a mindset of “I already know I’m right, regardless of what you’re about to say. I’m just waiting for you to answer so I can tell you why you’re wrong.” I’m not saying that’s necessarily your mindset, but it’s something we all should consider in our interactions with others, whether it’s about religion or a favorite sports team. 🙂

        You seem to think Islam merely copied Christianity, and merged pagan beliefs and practices into this new form, with a condensing of its “idols” being the only difference between pre- and post-Mohammed Islam – and that Islam is, therefore, inferior as a religion, or even not a true religion at all. I’m sure you are aware that that’s pretty much -exactly- what Christianity did. A few examples on a very long list:

        • The Christmas Tree. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.” Saturnalia was a Roman holiday held the third week of December, a time of revelry and celebration. Yule was a Norse-Celtic holiday held on the winter solstice, celebrating renewal of life and light (as the days finally started to lengthen). I would amend the Encyclopædia Britannica’s comment and say that those beliefs and practices didn’t “survive” so much as they were stolen and repurposed by early Christians to facilitate conversion. It’s a lot easier to accept this new “Christ God” if his birthday just so happens to fall on the same day as the god you currently worship, for example (see below for more about that).

        • Mithraism, probably the most universal of ancient religions, it was first mentioned in writing around 3,500 years ago in a Hindu text, and was the foremost religion in Rome for about 400 years before Christianity (and a few hundred afterward, too). The birthday of its god, Mithra, a Sun God, was on the winter solstice, the “Natalis Solis Invicti” – December 25th.
        [By the way, the Bible’s own telling of Jesus’ birth indicates it was not on Dec 25. This Christian site – http://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/biblical-evidence-shows-jesus-christ-wasnt-born-on-dec-25 – concludes it was in September, but modern scholarly consensus is that it was more like April, since Jesus’ parents were traveling to Bethlehem to register for a Roman census, which took place in March.]

        • More on Mithra: “His triumph and ascension was celebrated at Easter, and as being the god of light, he also preformed the usual assortment of miracles; such as raising the dead, healing the sick, and casting out devils. Before returning to heaven, he celebrated a last supper with his 12 disciples on the zodiac. In memory of this, his worshippers partook in a sacramental meal of bread marked with a cross. It was called mizd, Latin missa, Greek maza, English mass.” Easter and the rites including mass could be other items unto themselves if I had the time and inclination to delve into them.

        • Christians fancy their religion as being unique because of the virgin birth, among other things (such as the resurrection, which also is not unique by a long shot). Let’s see… there’s Buddha who was born of the virgin Maya after the Holy Ghost descended upon her; in Egypt, the god Horus was born of the virgin Isis (was visited by three kings as an infant); in Phrygia, Attis was born of the virgin Nama; in Tibet, Indra was born of a virgin and ascended into heaven after death; the Greek god Adonis was born of the virgin Myrrha (at Bethlehem, in the very same cave Christians later claim as the birthplace of Jesus, no less!); in Persia, Mithra -and- Zoaster were both born of virgins; in India (Hinduism), Krishna was sometimes said to have been born of the virgin Devaki (also said to be the second person within the Hindu Trinity). There are more.

        And yes, I have references for those facts. They are not just my “personal” theories. That’s one important part of rational thinking.

        You said God wrote the Bible… Yeah, no, sorry… God did not write the Bible, humans wrote the Bible -about- God, or perhaps for him. At best it was “divinely inspired,” as any theologian would tell you. “The Bible” is a collection of dozens of books written over thousands of years. Much of modern Christianity comes from the writings of St. Paul. Was he God? Sorry if it seems nitpicky to correct the “God wrote the Bible” thing, but again, an important part of rational thinking is being careful and accurate in claims.

        Your examples of Christianity being in “perfect harmony” with empirical science… oh dear. Jesus didn’t use a defibrillator, he used his magic/divine hands. God didn’t use IVF to impregnant Mary, he simply did it from sheer will (one would presume, being God, he wouldn’t need instruments like we do, yes?). And sorry but no, hormone injections and test tubes aren’t going to make a 90-year-old woman conceive and carry to term a healthy child – today or thousands of years ago. And God “pressed fast-forward”? That’s a very good example of trying to make reality fit within your religion’s pre-defined answers, which is exactly why I don’t ascribe to pre-defined answers about the world. I mean no offense, but your grasp of science is extremely weak. I won’t say you are scientifically disabled, but I will echo your offer – if you have any questions or issues about science or non-Christian religions, please share them – if you are willing to actually reconsider your stance, and not just looking for an opportunity to try to convert someone you see as disabled because they don’t agree with you. 😉

        Oh, and yes, I realize that some of my response makes it sound like I’m saying “you’re wrong.” Well, I kind of am, because you kind of are, at least in some respects. Or misguided and ignorant. It’s fine to have different opinions about subjective things like personal beliefs, but it’s -extremely- important to distinguish those from facts. That’s one reason religion and science -are- often incompatible. You have every right to say there’s a god and this is its nature because your holy book says so, but you must realize, a scientific-thinking person requires evidence and common sense. And the Bible is not evidence; such a claim is circular logic. I am not here to try to convert anyone to anything, and I’m truly sorry if my words offend anyone – desire not to offend is exactly why I don’t usually discuss this stuff. But you asked…

        1. Jan


          The purpose of my examples of similar religions predating Christianity is not to try to discredit or sling mud at Christianity. It’s simply to show that Christianity is not unique whatsoever, and that your implication, Dirk, that Islam is somehow less of a religion because it was based on Christianity is a house of cards. And yes, Islam -is- based on Christianity. They believe in the same God you do. However, they believe that Jesus was just one of many prophets, and that he wasn’t God himself. It’s kind of like how Christianity was based on Judaism. I think of it as a relay race. Anyway, my point is, if you want to insinuate that Islam – or anything else – is less of a religion because it wasn’t 100% unique… well, I just don’t think you want to go there. 😀

          1. Dirk

            Naw, not to worry, I understand where you are coming from, as that saying goes, this is not my first rodeo.

            My asking the Buddhist guy to name his god was a trick question. I already knew that Buddhism does not teach about a deity. That it was a question he could not answer, not ever. Well not so long as he remained a Buddhist.
            Perhaps I should be open with you and reveal as a disclaimer, that I have a post graduate diploma in a Geological degree, so I know i little about science things, and a separate BA Theological degree, so i little bit about religion. I also spent four years studying in a Yeshiva in Israel (a Jewish theological college), so a fair amount about Orthodox Judaism.
            Just in case it comes up later and you feel that maybe I was being dishonest by not revealing it sooner. Who knows where this will go. I just feel I need to tell you this about myself.

            It will also allow you to understand that I may make points as facts without going into long explanations to prove them, which if need be I could and will for your pleasure if requested by you.
            In other words, I’m asking kindly for a little bit of trust on your part that when I make a statement or claim a thing to be true, that I have the knowledge to back it up and prove it. If I do not I will be honest and tell you that I am unsure, but when I’m sure I’m sure. However if you want to know more about it, I will be over the moon with joy to tell you the why and how of it.

            And let us please agree if you don’t object, to stay within the confines of chapter and verse of the Bible for criticisms of Christianity after this, and not stray into whatever loony teaching some church may have invented to believe. I cannot argue in defense of crazy. Chapter and verse, I can sure do.

            Right to begin.

            I totally feel that Islam plagiarized Judaism and Christianity.
            This I can prove. I have read the Koran through twice and many of the Hadithes. What isn’t lifted directly from scripture, copy and paste, can be found in the Talmud or Gnostic writings.
            About one third of the Koran is directly plagiarized from Jewish or Christian sources.

            For example, I stated that God wrote the Bible, you felt this to be untrue.
            So it is simple, to prove that the Bible is a book written by men, all one has to do is produce another book like it.

            A book that contains a collection of a number of independent books (66) penned by different authors(40) in different languages (3), written over a long period of time (1600 years) that traces the historical family events of one couple (Adam and Eve) over the course of 4-5000 years until they are restored to full status citizens again in the kingdom they were cast out from.
            An epic many stories are based on, even Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Noble person – falls/disgraced – suffers – saved – restored. Yeah, celebration/glorification.
            The book of Job would be a great mini-version example of this.

            However, when the first authors wrote about the noble Adam and Eve, their fall and their descendants suffering.
            No one knew there would be a final chapter written some 1600 years later about the salvation and restoration of said Adam and Eve’s descendants by Jesus.
            A real live twist in the tale.
            Yet for 2500 years prior to Jesus, the Israelite’s circumcised themselves as a sign of the covenant made by God with Abraham, that a Savior would come to redeem the faithful.
            That’s why Christians do not circumcise, the covenant has been fulfilled, and why the Jews continue to circumcise, not been fulfilled according to them.

            The books must contain scientific and medical information that is far advanced and beyond the ken of the authors time period in history in which it was written. (I can prove this in every book of the Bible, basically)
            The books must contain foretelling of future events which can be independently verified. (again prove can be provided)
            This book must also be without error. (none yet presented by gainsayers)
            And so on, there is about another ten things or so that make the Bible absolutely unique. But others have written books detailing them and I merely hint at it. If interested, their books are available for a more detailed study.

            Despite the billions of books written by man and cataloged, the Bible remains unique. There is not one single other book in the world that is comparable to it. No, not one.

            Even the Koran which plagiarized large sections of the Bible, has errors. For example Mohamed calls Mary the mother of Jesus the sister of Moses and Aharon. The Koran also claims that Mary is one of the three that makes up the Trinity.
            The Koran also claims in one surah that the world was created in six days and in another surah in eight days.
            I could go on, but many authors have listed the errors in the Koran, proving it is man made book and not divine.

            It goes without saying that any religion founded on a man made book in not a divine religion. The book the religion is based on must be divine for the religion to be divine.
            From this aspect, only and I repeat only the Bible has been proven to be divine. A book without error and book with information that modern day scientists have yet to discover. A book that self claims to have been written by its god and has the stuffing to prove it.

            Only recently scientists have admitted that the universe had a beginning, Einstein initially denied it as they all did and later apologized and accepted it as fact.
            Remember the first verse of the Bible about in the beginning. 3500 years ago Moses wrote down that the universe had a beginning, modern science only admitted this about 60/70 years ago.
            So who told Moses, or was Moses really that smart 3500 years ago?

            If you think any other religion qualifies as divine, I will gladly point out the flaws in their own writings that discredit their divinity. Or the non-scientific claims and statements that expose their humanity.

            Judaism and Christianity are it. Baha’ism comes very close, but I personally found three flaws that discredit them for me.
            Others have others that work for them.
            Big one for me. Who did Abraham attempt to sacrifice, Isaac or Ismael.
            Two messengers of God (according to Baha’i terminology) claim it was Isaac. One indirectly claims Ismael, who does Baha’u’llah agree with?

            The Christmas Tree – chapter and verse to support it. None, so clearly it is not Christian. However God knew that people calling themselves His followers would copy this pagan custom, so God wrote:
            Jer 10:2 “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
            Jer 10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
            Jer 10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

            Regarding Mithraism and other pagan religions older than Christianity that seem to contain Christian teachings.
            Josh MacDowell in his book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, wrote that archaeologists have discovered that the writings of certain pagan religions changed after they encountered Christianity, evident by their incorporation of Christians thoughts and ideas into their belief system post Christian encounter.

            Christianity did not borrow ideas from the pagans, it is the pagans who borrowed ideas from Christianity, their before and after writings prove this.

            I see from the rest of your writtings that you have watched the documentary called Zeigist, but have you watched the documentary that challenges and disproves that tricksters statements?
            Or read the many books that do the same.
            Really it only fools and bewilders Christians with no biblical knowledge, whose religion is merely church traditions.
            When I first watched Zeigists, I laughed and thought, who would be stupid enough to believe this nonsense, this is like theological comedy hour.
            And then I met people who believed what were told in Zeigist as if it was gospel fact.

            But then again I have met people who believed what author Dan Brown wrote about Jesus being married and what not. Convinced it was the truth and that the Bible was wrong.
            Never mind that the first Bishop of Jerusalem was Jesus’s brother James, the second Bishop of Jerusalem was their first cousin and one of the seventy send out to witness by Jesus.
            The early Christian community was very small and related to each other. With the early persecutions by Paul, they basically only revealed themselves to trusted friends and family.
            It was only later that the church under Paul’s influence really grew.
            The history of the first century and a half of the church is pretty rock solid, it was only after about 150AD, once the students of the students of the Apostles started to die off that controversy started in the church, the result, the Gnostic writings.

            People even believe that Ashkenazi Jews come from Khuzar, a place northeast of Iraq. Despite the fact that Askenazi a word from the Bible that means German Jew, who also just happen to speak Yiddish a 1500 year old German dialect and not Khusari.

            Whenever a person makes a claim, please ask for the original chapter and verse source in that religions holy books to back it up. Not in some modern day theologians thumb suck paper written to meet the Universities minimum book submission and publication requirement for professors to retain their Chairs.

            None of those claims about rebirths, virgin births, dates of births, etc. will be found in any of those religions you mentioned original writings.
            I could go into more detail about each one to show you why it is not mentioned, but others have done this and their papers are available on the internet for downloads.
            As are many books for free download that deal with such ludicrous accusations against Christianity, the Bible and God.

            You should google how old the oldest women is to have been artificially impregnated and to have borne the child. Seems if you don’t believe that a 90 year old can do it, then you will not believe the answer I will give, so please google it for your own amazement.

            I think you missed this paragraph I wrote.
            ‘Truly the God who created man who invented the technology to do these things, is the self same God that can bypass man and his technology and do it Himself.’

            Man is copying God, and because man is not God, man needs technological assistance, God however does not.
            So Jonah was in the belly of a fish, modern man is in the belly of a submarine.
            God mentioned the concept first, God wins that point.
            Perhaps instead of showing how man is copying God, didn’t seem to impress you much, perhaps I should ask, what has man done that God hasn’t already done.
            Lets stick to concepts, like – fiery chariot into the clouds = fossil fuel planes into the clouds. Or Jesus turns wine into water = technology turns soya beans into milk and meat. Etc.
            Donkey talks = man discovers parrots can be trained to talk.

            How its done, the exact details, method and recipe, not important, its the concept that wins the point.

            Regarding the fast forward thing. Now that you understand the concept of fast forward, having been born this side of the invention, do you understand how the concept can be used to explain a six day creation.
            I’m not asking you to believe it nor accept it, I merely ask if it now allows you to comprehend how it could be possible for six days instead of six billion years.
            Logically speaking, against the back drop of eternity, six days, sixty million years, six billion years, they all have the same mathematical value of zero.
            Thus the argument really isn’t about a time frame, zero is zero is zero, but about how is it possible? I think the fast forward concept provides a perfectly comprehensible explanation.

            I will certainly take you up on your kind offer to inquire further into your field of expertise, atheism. Thank you.
            I have read the theological papers on it, I have pondered it, and now I get to ask someone who can give me a genuine opinion to my conclusions. That is exciting.

            And please, please believe me, I am not trying to convert you to Christianity. To be perfectly blunt and honest with you. But please do not be offended, but bluntness should drive away any such silly notion in your head.
            I couldn’t care less where you end up, be it heaven or hell, I don’t know you personally to have any sort of personally feelings or cares about it, I would be lying if I said I did, it is your choice and if you are happy with your choice, then so am I.
            So please don’t ever mention that again, and I promise never to give you a Bible bashing guilt trip of you being a sinner going to hell. Nor will I ever sing the song to you, ‘burn baby burn’. Agreed?
            Your salvation remains firmly in your own hands, use it, lose it, that’s your choice. Jesus took on the burdens of the world, He cares, please ask Him about it if the need arises. Thank you and good night. or as kids nowadays say, peace out.

    45. Jan

      Waste of time

      Sorry, I stopped reading at “the Bible has been proven to be divine,” though I should have stopped at “the question I asked the Buddhist was a trick question.”

      You are wasting your time if you go around asking people “trick” questions with the pretense of giving a crap about the answer, and yes, you have annoyed another non-Christian instead of converting them. Do you think maybe you’re doing something wrong?

      I hope you will not linger on these forums, where people prefer to have honest two-way exchanges and not try to “trick” others. You are the reason I don’t talk to most Christians about their religion.

      1. Dirk

        So I guess I wasted my time writing the last post. But never mind, you have done as expected.
        I have found that people like yourself who hate God get great pleasure in sowing confusion in the minds of Christians who are not so knowledgeable in the faith, but when challenged by one knowledgeable in the faith they turn tail and run.

        James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

        1. Jan

          I can’t hate what I don’t believe in. What I do hate is all too real – arrogance and desire for conflict. Those who actually know me, including many people here, know that “sowing seeds of confusion,” anger, hatred, and malice are far from my intentions. You see those things in me because you want to, and perhaps because you are projecting. I hope that someday soon your heart will soften and your mind will open, and perhaps then you will get the answers you claim to seek. Best of luck to you. I have nothing more to say.

          1. Jan

            one last thing

            Oh, I do have one other thing to say to you, sorry. Presenting “questions” as a “theological argument” is one of your obstacles. Perhaps you could try instead to adopt a mind of genuine curiosity and desire to learn, instead of simply seeking debate. I’m sure if you did, you would find a different response from people. I do wish you the best.

            1. Dirk

              Jan, It is interesting to note, that when you considered me to be naive and ignorant of science and theology, you were very happy to debate me.
              The moment you found out that I could hold my own in these disciplines and disprove your accusations that God doesn’t exist, that religion is evil, that the Bible isn’t from God but was plagiarized from other faiths, that Christians cannot think logically and have no scientific knowledge, etc. you did an about face.

              Instead of continuing to discuss your views, you did an ‘I’m so offended swoon’ and began to verbally attack me and disparage me in an attempt to cower me.

              You state you do not hate God, but your desire to blot out people’s belief in God by telling them that God doesn’t exist, supported by the presentation of false facts and assumptions to bolster your negative assertions regarding Christianity and religion, tells a different story.

              You state you are interested in an honest exchange of ideas, yet the moment I showed your ideas concerning God, religion and Christianity to be false and flawed, you turned ugly. I hardly call that an honest exchange of ideas. That’s more like, its my way or I’ll beat you up kind of exchange.

              The finger you point at me accusing me of having a closed mind, is attached to a hand that has three fingers pointing back at you.
              I am perfectly willing to discuss your ‘facts’ against Christianity, quite prepared to see them proven right, if indeed they are, yet when I challenge you on them and prove them wrong, you become all bombastic and hostile. Hardly the sign of an ‘open mind’, now is it?

              FYI – a “theological argument” is the official way one presents a defense of the Christian faith.

              You current hostile attitude towards me in light of what has transpired, allows me to draw two inferences.

              INFERENCE 1 – you have already read Christian apologetics that disprove your arguments against God, Christianity and religion, hence your desire to close me down through verbal disparagement, giving yourself free reign to present your atheist viewpoints unchallenged.
              OUTCOME 1 – Presenting your atheist opinions about religion which you know have been proven false and fraudulent by Christian apologetics, is both a malicious and devious action on your part. It must in all good conscience be opposed by the presentation of said apologetics.
              INFERENCE 2 – you fear that perhaps what you hold true about atheism will be proven to be as false and empty as I claim it to be. Something which you are not yet emotionally and mentally ready to face or accept. Hence the hostile reaction.
              OUTCOME 2- An emotional unwillingness to have your comfort zone of atheism shaken through the investigation and exposure of its false and fraudulent claims is something which must be respected.

              In future, if it seems that any claim you make about Christianity needs to be clarified or defended, I will address my reply with, Not For Jan (NFJ). Then you do not have to read it and upset yourself. This way both outcomes can be addressed. Your desire not to know will be respected and the biblical injunction to “expose the works of darkness” can be fulfilled.

              BTW – you state “you would find a different response from people”.
              I believe I got the response from you that I was expecting.
              Had you responded differently, with lets say a genuine desire to investigate and discuss if the accusations you have been told about Christianity were true or not, that would have surprised me.

              Atheist the world over have pretty much an identical list of accusations that they use to attack Christianity with. I doubt you have anything original or new on your list. But as you refuse to discuss the matter further, I guess I will never find out.

              Sadly most Christians have never studied apologetics to know that each and every accusation on the atheist’s list has been debunked.
              Each time you attack a Christian with something on your list that they cannot answer or defend, you become more convinced that your accusations must be true. Making it harder for you to accept opposition against what you believe to be true.
              This leads atheist to seek out theologically weak Christians to harass and to avoid those with theological training in apologetics. Nobody likes to have their ‘truths’ shattered, even if it is a false truth.

              So long as atheists think they have the upper hand and can dominant or intimidate Christians, they are happy to debate, but the moment their accusations are challenged and shredded, atheist begin a personality attack on the person doing the defending of Christianity.

              You behaved exactly in the manner of a text book example of an atheist from start to finish.
              First the invitation to ‘lets be friends’, ‘we can all be reasonable here’, ‘we are all mature adults seeking to understand the truth’, etc.
              Then the gentle presentation of your atheist ideas, hidden behind a silvery tongue of peace and honeyed words of friendship and cooperation.
              Eager and willing to gently answer any questions of confusion the Christian may have that have arisen from your presentation of atheistic beliefs, so that the Christian may be shown the errors of their religious ways and the errors of holding to biblical beliefs.
              People can read your first postings on this blog, the pattern is all there exactly as I just described it.

              When I saw your initial postings I recognized it for exactly what it was. A covert attempt to destroy peoples faith in Christianity.
              So I engaged with you, willing to accept that perhaps you may not be this type of devious atheist, that perhaps you genuinely were innocent and merely seeking to discuss ideas.

              But by your hostile reactions to my disagreement towards your atheist presentation and your accusations against Christianity, the text book example of an atheist intent on destroying Christian beliefs, exposed you for who you are.

              Even so, I am still willing to give you the benefit of doubt and provide the Inference 2 option. That your hostile reaction was due to personal emotional issues and not due to the typical reaction of an opposed atheist who has been challenged, proven false and now faces exposure as the deceptive agent of darkness that they are. Someone trying to destroy a Christians faith and hope in God.

              And you wonder why Christians are hostile towards atheists?

              For those who consider the Christians reaction of hostility towards atheists to be uncalled for, consider the following story.

              ‘Your dearly loved spouse leaves to go overseas and work with Doctors without Borders a week before you start at a new job.
              Your new work colleges ask if you are married, to which you answer yes I am. To the most wonderful and self sacrificing spouse one could ever wish for, who has sent me the most moving love letters from overseas of encouragement and guidance.
              One day a new person starts at you place of employment, who tells your work colleagues that you are delusional, that you have made up a fairy tale about having a spouse, lies about how wonderful your spouse is and what they do, that your love letters are not from your spouse, you wrote them yourself by plagiarizing other people’s love letters. And so on.

              How would you feel about having your spouse so besmirched and mocked, about being called delusional and a liar.
              I’m sure your reaction towards such a person will be cold and/or hostile.
              Why would you expect Christians to respond any differently towards an atheists attack on God, their Beloved, their one and only.

              If atheist responded towards Christians in the same manner as they responded towards people who believe in UFO’s, garden fairies, big foot, etc. Then perhaps there would be no hostility.

              Go onto any atheist website and see if they give equal time and attention to disproving all other beliefs that people may have which they consider to be false and unscientific. Or is their attention and focus solely reserved for those who believe in God?
              Their attack is definitely personal, they have made it so.

              Jan, if you wish to discuss with me what is true and what is false about Christianity and the atheist accusations against Christianity, then by all means, feel welcome to do so.
              But I know this will not happen, you have convinced yourself that your atheistic beliefs are true, and like any religious fanatic you refuse to hear any argument of opposition against your beliefs.
              That is how I expect you to behave here on out.

              Now I can also say “Best of luck to you. I have nothing more to say.”

    46. Dirk

      Hi Jan, taking you up on your kind offer to answer my questions about atheism, here is what confuses me. I will present it as a theological argument. I love the complexity of weaving the individual questions into a tapestry of questions.

      The Bible teaches certain Christian ethics such as: the rich must give to the poor, the strong must help the weak, the enlightened must teach the unenlightened and so on.
      This however goes against the natural order of things where the strong will prosper and thrive and the weak will suffer and perish.
      Our human instinct for survival demands that we choose the option that will provide benefits and advantages and avoid the option that will result in sufferings and loss.

      When the rich give their money to the poor, they become poorer. Presenting an outcome of loss and of potential future financial sufferings for the giver. While this action of giving is in line with scriptural expectations, it certainly goes against the natural order of self preservation.

      The Bible further teaches that one may not steal, lie, cheat, murder, fornicate, commit adultery, etc. All the above actions are committed by people because they provide the doer with an advantage or benefit. Not obeying the Bible allows for actions that are in line with the human instinct for self preservation.

      Every day Christians are faced with the above temptations and many more, that require the Christian to choose between following what scripture demands, or following what their human instinct for self preservation demands.
      The Bible is fully aware that choosing the biblical option will result in hardships, sufferings and loss, hence scripture informs us:
      Luke 9:23 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?”

      The Christian is fully aware that choosing the biblical option will result in hardships, sufferings and loss. Having looked at both options, the Christian knows which one he is choosing and why.

      The atheist having discarded scripture has no such dilemma of having to choose between the scriptural path for which he feels no obligation or commitment towards, or the path of self preservation that the natural order demands he follows.
      For the atheist the choice is a no brainier, he is not torn between two conflicting choices that are diametrically opposed to each other. For the atheist, the only logical choice is the one of self preservation.
      Th biblical choice is illogical and seemingly done by Christians to merely pacify the dictatorial whims of some invisible sky monster that seems to enjoy watching his followers suffering hardships and loss by choosing the biblical path over the logical path of self preservation.
      What self respecting atheist would want to emulate Christians and choose sufferings and loss over benefits and advantages?

      Thus, it is very strange for Christians to hear atheists claim that they choose to follower the biblical path of sufferings, hardships and loss when they are faced with ethical and moral choices.
      Naturally atheists don’t admit to it being a biblical path that they are choosing, rather they will say that they are following the right moral and ethical path.

      Christians ask, is it possible that those who accept evolution as factual, will believe that evolution would allow morals and ethics to evolve that clash with, and challenge, the natural order of human self preservation? Surely such morals and ethics that cause people to make choices contrary to the need for self preservation, endanger the species with extinction by causing them to make choice that result in suffering, hardships and loss?
      How does this benefit the survival of the species?

      Humanists eager to prove that morals and ethics are instinctively part of the human psyche, sent anthropologists to remote tribal peoples that had not yet been exposed to Christian missionaries, to test if they naturally possessed human morals and ethics.

      The anthropologists asked these remote tribal peoples, If someone slept with you wife, would you be upset? They answered, affirmative.
      They asked if someone stole your belongings, would you be upset? Again an affirmative.
      They asked if someone tried to kill you, would you be upset? Again an affirmative. And so on.

      The anthropologist concluded that these remote tribal peoples instinctively knew that things like adultery, theft, murder, etc. were morally wrong. Proving that humans are born with morals and ethics.

      However a closer investigation will reveal that animals posses the very same morals as do humans.
      When another male tries to mate with the harem male’s females, the harem male becomes incensed with rage. Just like humans do.
      When other members of a species move into or try to take over the territory of the territory’s residents, they are viciously attacked for trying to steal it. Just as humans do.
      When predictors try to kill prey, they are often turned upon and attacked by their prey who refuses to be killed without a fight. Just as humans do.

      The moral values that the anthropologists claimed to exist in humans are nothing more than base animal instincts, shared by all living creatures on planet earth.

      What humanist and others have failed to understand, is that morals exist when someone is provided with an opportunity or need to commit adultery, to steal, to murder, etc., who suppresses that natural animal instinct and refuses to commit adultery, theft, murder, etc.
      That is what human morals are, not when we are offended when someone acts negatively towards us, but when we refuse to act negatively towards another when provoked to justifiably react with extreme prejudice, that is when we witness human morals and ethics in action.

      Such human morals of, ‘do no harm unto others when they harm us’, does not occur naturally in humans, these morals have to be taught. If they did occur naturally there would be no need to pass laws to enforce moral behavior in humans, with laws against stealing from others, or murdering others, or cheating others, etc.
      Every criminal when caught has an excuse that they felt justified them to react negatively against their victim/s.
      There would also be no need to punish transgressors in an attempt to dissuade others from breaking legally enforced moral values and ethics.

      Secular society passes moral laws designed to facilitate peaceful human coexistence, the Bible has the same motivation, but unlike secular moral enforcement, which is only effective when the perpetrator fears being caught for transgressing the legal moral code, the Christian upholds the biblical moral code out of love, for he knows that by doing so, it is pleasing to the One he loves.

      Christians who uphold biblical moral laws out of fear of being punished by God, have not yet broken free from the secular mindset that morals are kept out of fear of punishment and not out of love for God. As they spiritually mature, they should grow into doing it out of love and not obligation.

      When atheist claim that they are practicing moral values that benefit others to their personal loss, the Christian has to wonder what motivates a person with no love of God, with no fear of God, with no belief in the Bible, to accept suffering and loss in order to practice morals?

      When atheists give up their time, money and energy to say, teach underprivileged children to read and write, the Christian wonders what motivates such a person to go against the natural order to sacrifice their time, money and energy for a project that has no self preservation benefits or advantages, when they could rather be using their precious time, money and energy in the pursuit of personal wealth, health and fame, as the natural order demands of those not obligated to obeying God?

      A Christian willingly sacrifices their time, money and energy on such projects knowing that such a sacrifice is a sweet smelling offering to their Father in heaven.
      But if the atheist is not doing it to please God, then who are they doing it to please?
      Themselves perhaps? Are they addicted to that warm fuzzy glow that comes from selflessly helping others over oneself?
      Others perhaps? Is it perhaps to win the appreciation, acceptance and respect of other people?

      People perform actions due to motivational factors and forces.
      Every human action can be traced back to a motivating factor or force designed to fulfill an emotional, mental or physical need, that may be positive or negative in nature.

      People do not engage in an action for no apparent reason. At any one time, people are presented with multiple possible courses of action, their most dominant motivational need at that moment in time and space, will determine what course of action they will follow.

      As motivational needs underlie all our actions, this allows trained professional or con artists to both motivate and manipulate a person’s emotional, mental or physical motivational needs through reward and punishment, hope and fear, gain and loss, in order to cause the person to perform a desired action.
      This technique is employed in the military, sports, business, religion, schools, and even by ones peer group, friends and family.
      It may be as simple as disapproving look from a stranger on the street when one is about to litter that prevents one from following through with that course of action.

      The question arises, what motivational factors or forces cause an atheist to perform actions that result in suffering, sacrifice, hardships, or loss, in that atheist’s life that go against the natural order and self preservation and are not require by any secular moral laws.

      For the Christian the motivational factors can be traced back to the Bible, is this also the source for the atheist? Either through having been raised in a Christian family, or through (for want of a better description), osmosis of Christian values and morals caused by associating with Christians?

      Atheist may claim it is because it is the right moral thing to do, but as we have established, there are no inborn self-sacrificing morals in humans, and the natural order of self preservation demands an action opposed to Christian values and morals.
      Hence we are always brought back to the Bible as our source for moral actions that go contrary to the natural order.

      Whether atheist want to admit it or not, they may have discarded God and the Bible, but discarding the moral fruits of the Bible is something they have yet to do.
      Because even the most hardened atheist is forced to recognize that the Bible’s moral fruits of sacrificing oneself so that others may benefit, makes for a better society.

      God who created us, knows us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. Hence when God instructs us to perform certain actions, not matter how unacceptable it is to those living in darkness, we obey knowing that God knows best what we need and what we should do.

      This is proven by statistical evidence that shows that the dysfunctional social ills that plague secular society, decrease in direct correlation with how obedient a group is in observing and practicing scriptural commands. In other words, the more religious a group is, the less they are plagued by social ills.
      Christian values and morals are empirically proven to create better functioning, stable and secure societies.

      May God be praised.

    47. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Jan, I didn’t think you were trying to belittle anyone’s faith or religion. Glad we could have this conversation. Take care, okay? 🙂

      1. Jan

        Oh good. 🙂 You too!

    48. Non Believer

      Just stumbles across this thread randomly this evening. I can answer your question. I know first hand as a person who is both an Atheist and has lived Amish/flirted with joining (obviously a commitment to the faith was the deal breaker…I just couldn’t get there despite my and their best efforts) EXACTLY how the Amish feel about non-belief. It is hard to really get into in much detail in a comment like this, suffice to say that the reactions are widely varied. In some ways, I know how it feels to be shunned, to a minor degree as I have had people I was very close with for many, many years be reluctant to talk to me or do anything together with me. Others do not really show that they care. Others seem deeply concerned about my eternal fate more than anything and seemed like it was a very important thing for them that I would be obviously cast into the flames of hell for ever and ever. A lot of times, if it just doesn’t come up, no one knows either way and everything is fine as it ever was. One Amish man that was a very, very close friend did remark once about how he wouldn’t be able to talk with someone who didn’t believe in the Bible. I never expressed my view on the matter and it was never an issue. Perhaps my attempts at the time of going to church gave people the assumption that I saw the world just as they did and not that I have deep, deep reservations about the Bible as a literal truth. It was only in recent years that I have become outspoken in my atheism, but I never bring it up unprovoked or evangelically. It is my understanding of the world and unless there is direct question or discussion about it, I just don’t bring it up. As long as we all get along, and we aren’t having to tell each other what to do, it is all ok. That approach has generally worked well for my continuing relationships with Amish people. Knowing their beliefs and customs as well as I do, I just respect it all and go along with it. When a silent prayer is said before and after meals, I don’t try to be contrary and act like I don’t have to, I just put my hands under the table, lower my head with them and use it as a moment to reflect and feel happy for all we have. That has kept things perfectly peaceful between me and many Amish for years and years. But, like I said, for some, I am as shunned as someone who left the church. It is very individual…perhaps the most individually different aspect of any Amish I have ever know now that I think about it.

      1. Jan


        Thank you for sharing your unique insights.

    49. Amy

      Evidence That Demands a Verdict

      This thread sure did get off track, understandably. I must digress just a little bit in order for you to understand where I am coming from when I comment on the topic of the thread. First…

      Every belief requires faith. Believing in the Big Bang Theory, that all that exists today came from nothing and was caused by nothing takes great faith. Believing in biblical creation also takes great faith. None of us that are living today were there. We did not see this happen with our own eyes. We must examine the available evidence and decide upon that evidence which has the most credible, verifiable evidence. It is faith that we must draw upon to cover the gap of not being able to see it with our own eyes. Is there empirical evidence for Christianity? Absolutely! And I believe Dirk did a great job of highlighting some of that evidence. One can only do so much on a blog thread. I disagree with Dirk in one regard, though. I DO care where you go. I care what you choose to believe? Why? One, I believe that people owe it to their own intelligence to exhaust all resources before or while continuing to hold a certain belief. Two, I believe we owe it to Jesus. I believe he was tortured, suffered, and died on a cross for all mankind, and I believe that even if there were only a .2 % chance that this really happened, such a loving sacrifice requires respect at the very least. Have you researched what crucifixion was like? What it did to a body? Then, imagine the pain of a perfect individual suddenly having every sin heaped upon His shoulders, the darkness, the pain, the evil thoughts and deeds, of every person throughout history. That is why, on a cross where a person could survive for days, Christ lasted six hours. This is the very reason that Christians become upset (what you might interpret as hostile but I think is more a complete and utter sadness and anger to have Jesus Christ’s sacrifice thought so little of that most people don’t take the time to give him even a tiny bit of the same consideration we believe He gave to you. So, on that note, and before I get to the actual topic of this thread, here are a few investigative resources with carefully studied evidence for your perusal.

      Not a reader? “Is the Bible Really Real … Really?” is a concise, short book, smaller than a novella, that answers many of the objections people have about the Bible. Written by a former atheist, the same guy who wrote “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” A quick read.

      Want something with a lot of meat? “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” is a book that will challenge anybody who believes themselves to be of an intellectual bent. Written by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Frank Turek on YouTube. He’s a very intelligent man. There’s a great debate out there between Turek and Hitchens. You’ll likely start trying to debunk these guys right from the start. Even I, an affirmed Christian, had challenges to their statements, but as I found out as I continued to read, they do this on purpose and fully expect these challenges.

      Of course, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” I haven’t read this one yet, but my husband (who is a pastor) has, and he’s quite enthusiastic about it. It’s on my reading list.

      “Cold-Case Christianity” Written by a former homicide detective, the author uses his cold-case detective skills to determine for himself whether Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be.

      “Not God’s Type” by Holly Ordway, a former atheist professor turned Christian.

      So I was asking myself why atheists are checking out a website on the Amish. So I click on the blog tread and read the article and then I proceeded to check out the comments. And I was flummoxed. Why, I asked myself, do some atheists admire the Amish? In essence, you admire a group of people for following the dictates of a God you don’t believe in, whose very life and practices are centered around that God and the Bible, a book you believe isn’t true. Well, of course I see that the answers had to do with admiring them for their kindness, their charity, their moral character, etc. Yet all of these traits come directly from God. And you say, “A person can be moral without believing in God.” To that I ask, “According to whom?” “Whose morality?” Yes, I’m asking a question, and it’s completely valid to do so. How else can you answer me? And, it was a favorite tool of Jesus. Questions allow a person to look deeper within themselves and see whether their beliefs are simply reconstructed from someone else or if they’ve truly delved deep enough into the subject to really know WHY they believe what they believe.
      Oh, morality. If there is no God, then who defines morality? Society? Well, society’s idea of morality seems to hinge upon the law, and whatever is the law is right, even if it was wrong 50 years ago. There are atheists that believe abortion is wrong. How do they judge what is wrong? Whose opinion outweighs other people’s opinions on what is right and wrong? The only answer to that, being that atheists believe in no God, is that we do. But who can really decide what is right and wrong? No one person’s opinion is more important than someone else’s. If right and wrong are merely a product of popular opinion, something that can change with the wind, anyone can decide what is right or wrong. Essentially, Might Equals Right.

      Well, some say that inside, we all know what is right and what is wrong. To that I say, “How? Where does that knowledge come from?”

      And then, I will say, “If we, without knowledge from a higher power, all know the difference between right and wrong, why are we so at odds? Why is there war? Why are the elderly cared for in one society and shuffled into nursing homes in another? Why were blacks seen as having no soul while others believed that was wrong? Why did some think slavery was right and others thought it was wrong? Why did some ancient societies sacrifice their young to “gods” while others said it was wrong and modern society sacrifices unborn babies in the name of progress, “women’s health”, or fear, while others say that it is wrong, that the most vulnerable and weak should be the first protected by us. Why do some pedophiles think sex with children is healthy while others know it is wrong and those who are not pedophiles will tell you it is wrong, too. Who is actually right? Who makes the moral absolutes, because in our society, there are no moral absolutes, because morality changes. A woman’s morality was a far different thing 100 years ago versus today.
      So if you are to define morality, you must acknowledge a moral absolute. And a moral absolute is unchanging. Since the human species changes its ideas of absolute morality depending upon who is in power and who yells the loudest or who is popular at the time, whether these ideas are based on lies or truth, they cannot define moral absolutes. Therefore, moral absolutes can only be defined by God, something the Amish don’t argue. So if you admire the Amish for their dedication to a deity you believe has no existence and no power, why? You are defining their morality as right. Why? On whose opinion? Who decides that? If you decide their morality is wrong tomorrow, is their morality then evil? Questions for thought.

      What I think is that there is a God, and that God defines right and wrong, and in your soul you know that, and that is why you admire the Amish. Because you know that their morality, defined by God, is the right morality.

    50. An internet atheist.

      View from a millennial atheist.

      I am an agnostic atheist whose view is derived from a lack of faith applied to the belief in a higher power. With this said, I do look quite fondly upon the lifestyle of the Amish.

      My generation, the millennials, have unfortunately been subjected to public education. Rather than training children to participate in the modern society, primary education effectively serves as a government-mandated daycare to leave children in whilst parents work. Aside from basic literacy and arithmetic, students often graduate high school with few life skills or character-building experiences.

      The domestic life of many of my peers contains broken marriages, self-inflicted poverty(through inefficient budgeting), and parenting wherein children are left with idle hands either under constant coddling or alone(outside of school) for great lengths of time.

      With this said, it is no surprise that my generation as a whole lacks a series of crucial principles. Among these principles are community, discipline, responsibility, work ethic, ethical integrity, thriftiness, humility, minimalism, kindness toward strangers, sobriety, and inner-calmness. And yet, it would seem the Amish have these qualities in abundance. It is for this reason that I look to the Amish with admiration.

      Despite seeing the virtue of the Amish lifestyle, it is unfortunately a view that must be maintained from a distance. In my pursuit of knowledge I have come to value reason as the tool by which truth can be discerned, and to lose interest in faith, which I see as incompatible with evidence-based reasoning. I fear the result of this difference of philosophy would result in a great potential for my words and attitudes to inspire discomfort, offense, and fear.

      This is my perspective. Thank you for reading it.