How I Became An Atheist

I wasn’t born an Atheist; in fact I was a Catholic for the first 20 years of my life, only becoming an atheist 6 months ago. Like 99% of people my religion is down to the luck of my birth. Had I been born in the Middle East, I would have been a Muslims, had I been born in India, I would have been a Hindu, but I was born in Ireland, so I was a Catholic.

Like most young people I knew next to nothing about my religion. Growing up, I doubt a single one of my classmates could tell you what being Catholic meant. We were all (bar one, but we didn’t care) Catholic, but all that meant was the Pope was good and we got a wafer at the end of Mass. Religion was meaningless to us and something we never thought about.

Mass was one of those things you had to do whether you wanted to or not. It was like school. We didn’t know why we had to go, but our parents made us. You’d sit there and mumble along with everyone else. The readings were boring, irrelevant and never seemed to have a point. And they always seemed to be about sheep or shepherds or lambs.

Strangely enough, I was more religious than most. I was an altar boy for a year when I was 11, which was grand though I can’t say I got anything spiritual from it. I did go through a religious phase when I was 13 where I would say a decade of the rosary every night before going to bed. I‘m not sure why I did it, but I think I was afraid of what would happen if I died. I heard Muslims prayed 5 times a day so I felt I had to catch up. After about a year I decided I valued sleep more so I stopped.

Even in my most religious phase, I didn’t take the Bible that seriously. I was still pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-divorce and still thought the Church’s stance on condoms was ridiculous (as does everyone I know). I still knew evolution and the Big Bang were true but I somehow managed to fit this alongside believing the Bible stories. The way I did it was to not think about it. The only way anyone can believe the story of Noah’s Ark or Jonah getting eaten by a whale is to not think about them.

When I was 16 I stopped going to Mass. I considered myself a non-practicising Catholic. I just felt it was pointless. I wasn’t gaining a single thing from Mass; it was just a waste of time. I never got anything from it, the only good part was that I’d see people I knew. I felt you would better spend your time being a good person than sitting around talking about being good. I got sick of all the ritual nonsense of religion. I felt God didn’t care about how often you prayed; surely it was more important to be a good person. I did consider becoming a Quaker because their fundamental belief is just be a good person don’t bother with any of the rituals or features of a church. However, instead of Mass they sat in silence for an hour which nearly killed me with boredom.

The next big step was when I came to college. College is all about encouraging new thoughts, thinking in different ways and challenging conventional belief. That’s college graduates are the east religious group in society. College teaches you to think independently and not accept anything without evidence. This is in fundamental opposition to religion, which essentially teaches blind unquestioning faith.

What finally made me an Atheist was Christopher Hitchens’ death. It was all over the news and as I had no idea why he was famous, I looked up his videos on YouTube. They were brilliant and I found he made great points. I began to seriously think about God for the first time in my life. Why did he let millions starve? Why was he indifferent to the suffering of the world? Why did I believe God and Jesus without any evidence? I began thinking up all the possible atheist arguments that could be made and possible Christian responses. I began going back and forth in my mind, seriously debating both sides. I examined the Problem of Evil, Pascal’s Wager and the general absurdity of it all.

I eventually concluded that there was no God and I was an Atheist. I wasn’t filled with any sense of loss or emptiness; rather I was pleased at making the discovery. I had the sense of satisfaction you get when you solve a long and difficult maths problem.

Since then I’ve been really looking up religion and the more I look the most terrible and absurd things I find. The Bible is not the book of peace and love I thought it was, in fact it was full of hate, sexism, genocide, homophobia, racism and general nonsense. The more research I did, the more absurdities I found both in the Bible and in church teaching.

That’s pretty much my story.

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105 Comments

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105 responses to “How I Became An Atheist

  1. Thanks for sharing. I love reading about people’s journeys out of religion.

  2. Like you, I did not want to be blind when it came to my views. I believe that there is a mountain of evidence to say that Christ rose from the dead. I challenge you to make a list of all the evidence to support Christ’s resurrection and compare that list with evidence that goes against Christ’s resurrection. Watching the “lost tomb of Jesus” does not count either.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Evidence in favour: A book written 2,000 years ago by unknown authors that has been repeatedly translated and copied, with the possibility that some of it is lost along the way.

      Evidence Against: It is scientifically impossible for the dead to come back to life.

      The Bible account is incredibly brief, only a couple of lines, in which Jesus appears and then disappears (the exception is the Gospel of John, but it is strange the other Gospels he does not mention)

      The death and resurrection serves no purpose. How did it wash away sin? Especially as the sin had not even been committed? How exactly is Jesus the son of God? (This is probably a discussion for another time)

      The Romans never mention the fact one of their victims came back to life which seems unusual say the least

      None of the disciples actually saw the crucifixion

      There are several anachronistic points (which i mention here http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/crucifixion-contradictions-or-how-did-jesus-really-die/) such as blasphemy (the crime Jesus was accused of) was not punishable by death, but stoning. Jesus could not have had a trail as this was forbidden over Passover. Mary could not have been at the foot of the cross as the Romans did not allow friends and family near. Crucifixion victims were not buried, instead they were left on the cross to rot.

      • plasticpatrick

        “None of the disciples actually saw the crucifixion”
        What? Have you read the Bible?

        John 19:26 So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”

        John refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” (which isn’t meant to be taken sexually in case you are wondering) so he is an eye witness of the crucifixion and he said he was standing there.

        Yes, stoning was the penalty for blasphemy but the Jews had no authority to execute someone so they got the Romans to do it for them and the Roman form of execution is crucifixion, which fulfills multiple prophecies if you look into it that he would be hung on a tree, etc. which is something the prophets could not have anticipated as they had no knowledge of this form of execution.

        Of course the Romans never mentioned that one of their victims came back to life. That is covered in the Bible as well that the chief priests paid off the guards who fell asleep to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body.

        I think you need to do a bit more homework before you turf God and the Bible. You will find a recent resurgence of people that have picked up their Bible for the first time and actually understood that the traditional beliefs they had been raised with were not quite right. Everyone should pick it up and interpret it for themselves. I would also emphasize getting in touch with a church that believes in what the Bible says and that everyone should study it. It is not up to a pastor, priest or other “holy” man (or woman) to spoon feed you what the Bible says. That’s your job.

        I don’t know what part of the country you’re in but I would send you in the direction of St. Mark’s if you are in Dublin. I don’t represent them in any way nor am I a member or whatever, just heard good things about them.

        All the best.

        • That’s funny because none of the other Gospels record an apostle being there and scholars date the Gospel of John to have been written around 90-120 AD, far longer than people lived back then.

          Prophecies are a topic for another time. The New Testament refers to prophecies that do not exist being fulfilled, others are not fulfilled (one said Jesus would be called Immanuel), many are misinterpreted (the virgin birth) and Jesus said the world would end within the apostles lifetime.

          I need more homework before I can turf God and the Bible? I’ve written 24 posts, all of which (except this one) “turf” God and the Bible. If you tell me where I’m wrong in all/any of these, I’ll do some more homework.

          Hang on, you’re telling me to ask a Church about it, but not to believe anything a priest says, all in the one sentence? That’s as contradictory as the Bible!

          I actually am living in Dublin, but I prefer finding information online rather than face to face.

          • plasticpatrick

            So if it one Gospel records it, it can’t be true because it’s only in one place. If two Gospels record it they must have copied each other. If one is slightly different than the other one is an embellishment.

            Is sort of seems like you want it every way. If you’ve already made up your mind, why bother discussing?

            “I’ve written 24 posts, all of which (except this one) “turf” God and the Bible.”
            – Have you actually read the Bible cover to cover or have you just pulled your material from other sources that have quote mined it?

            “Hang on, you’re telling me to ask a Church about it, but not to believe anything a priest says, all in the one sentence? That’s as contradictory as the Bible!”
            – Most people (not necessarily you) do better being able to interact with a person that knows the material better than themselves. That’s why in primary school they didn’t just drop you into a room of books and say, “Best of luck. See you in 12 years”. Get advice from others. Make up your mind yourself. I thought you may be interested in a different point of view but if you’ve already made up your mind, there is no further help I can be to you.

            • “Have you actually read the Bible cover to cover”
              Like most of the world no I have not. Its a massive book that would take months to read. However seeing as hardly any Christians have read the bible cover to cover without being any less Christian I don’t see how this harms my argument.

              I regularly do hear other points of view but through the medium of the internet not face to face. The church you mentioned is simply too far out of my way. However I have no problem with you taking on the role of other point of view and discussing the issues I raised in my posts.

              At no pint did I say 2 Gospels repeating the same point means they copied each other. You must be confusing me with someone else

              • plasticpatrick

                This post: “Each of the four Gospels tells different versions often contradicting each other. They show clear signs of extra details being added later. “…”Luke tells a similar story but also adds details to make Jesus more confident and in control.”
                In order to embellish, you have to copy first.

              • Sounds like, perhaps Robert, are trying to convince yourself that you made the right decision, becoming an Atheist. Catholic and Christian are not synonymous.
                Jesus came to earth to save His people from their sins. (See Matthew 1:21 in the Bible). The wages of sin is death and we have all earned that. But Jesus tasted death for us and rose again. Anyone who receives Jesus is given power to become a child of God. It is Christ in you the hope of glory. (Please read Acts 4:12; Romans chapters 6, 8 and 10;
                1 Corinthians chapter 15; and Colossians 1:27 in the Bible).
                Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ Jesus, do not belong to Him.
                (Please See 2 Corinthians 13:5 in the Bible).

                Hope that you will read those Scriptures and see if you really want to remain away from Jesus, Who loves you.
                Hope to meet you in Heaven someday later.
                Eternity will last forever.

                It is Christ in you the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27 in the Bible).

            • Andrew Williams

              I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series cover to cover. I don’t believe Lord Voldemort is trying to take over the world. Why would reading the entire bible make it any more true?

        • Dave Treleaen

          About the resurrection…..from the bible

          “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many”

          It seems rather odd that “many” saints got out of their graves and walked about …….yet this absolutely stunning event is mentioned no where except in a single bronze age book….and there is no other historical account of it…..an event such as this would surely be front page news in Rome…..dead people walking about in one of their provinces.

      • NYOB

        Robert,
        Do you at least believe that there lived a man named Jesus during the Roman Empire who claimed to be the Son of God and was eventually put to death by His religious leaders on accounts of blasphemy?

  3. Hi Robert, I enjoyed reading your article, even though I am a Catholic. Would you say that your main arguments against God’s existence are moral? Methaphysical?… Also, there are numerous instances of the dead “coming back to life” ie. when those who are clinically dead come back to life.

    You said: “The death and resurrection serves no purpose. How did it wash away sin? Especially as the sin had not even been committed?”
    Briefly put, Christ’s Immaculate blood, which was shed by an act of pure, infinite mercy (because as both God and man He died for us), is the only sacrifice capable of satisfying God’s infinite justice; the reason for this is that sin offends an infinitely perfect God, and therefore demands infinite satisfaction, which only an infinitely perfect God could make; hence, God becoming man (Jesus). God is outside time and therefore can apply the merits of His redemption to all times; they are super-abundant.

    That is more of a theological question, but I am happy to discuss philosophy if you are interested. Peace!

    • I’m not sure what the exact definition of the reason for my disbelief is. I would have said logiacal, but I suppose methaphysical is probably the proper word.

      I would love to hear examples of dead people coming back to life because I thought that was impossible. If there are “numerous instances” then what makes Jesus special?

      I don’t quite understand your explanations, there seems to be too many infinites. If God became man (Jesus) then did God just satisfy himself?

      But doesn’t sin still continue to this day? So is God still being offended? Does he need another sacrifice?

      I try to grapple with some of these questions in my next post

  4. Daz

    Just a small quibble about your first sentence. We’re all born atheist. Religion is taught.

    • I suppose technically your right, though I was baptised almost as soon as I left the hospital, so you could say I was officially a Catholic (almost) from birth

    • NYOB

      Correction, we are all born sinners–sinners made in the image of God.

      • Daz

        So God is a sinner?

        • NYOB

          God wasn’t born.

          • NYOB

            God created Adam perfect. Adam was good. He then formed Eve out of Adam’s rib. He gave Adam one commandment. Do not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Simple? I think so. All was fine in the beginning, but then Satan came and tempted Eve to eat of the fruit. Satan: Did God really say that you can’t eat of any tree of the garden? Eve: We can eat of some fruit but of the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we can’t even look at it or touch or we will die. (Wrong! God said eat.) Satan: You’re not going to die. You’re eyes will be open and you will be like God.
            He leaves her alone to ponder. She takes the bait. She eats then gives to her husband, Adam. The first sin….now, from that first sin, we are all born sinners.
            In the beginning, God created everything good, but sin came into the world and now there is death, famine, and destruction.

            • Daz

              If Adam was made perfect, then he should not have been capable of sin, as the capability to sin is an imperfection. If Adam was created with this imperfection, he cannot have been created perfect.

          • Daz

            If A is like B, then B is like A.

            If we’re sinners by nature, and we were made in the image of a god, then that god has to be, by definition, a sinner.

            • NYOB

              My exact words were God wasn’t born. We became sinners after Adam sinned. We have other attributes that show that we were made in the image of God. Our minds, love, kindness, justice, and our language are all perfect examples of attributes of God that we as humans possess.
              However, it must be understood that Adam is human. Adam wasn’t God. He had weaknesses. (As did Eve). The “capability to sin” is called humanity.
              Why don’t people believe that there is a God? I believe that they believe that there isn’t a God because they don’t want to be subject to a “loving” God who sends His creation to Hell. However, there are other reasons.
              I understand that most of you who read this comment do not believe that the Bible is God’s word, but if you are extremely confused with this whole “sin nature” concept please read Romans 5. I admit, it confuses me and it causes my arguments to become weak because I don’t understand it all. But, I trust God. I trust that what He says is truth. You may not believe it, but what happened to co-exist? Can you only co-exist with Muslims and atheists?

              • Daz

                What is it with you folks and an inability to follow simple logic?

                If we are made in the image of a perfect being (your god), and we have weaknesses, then either:
                1) those weaknesses are due to having been made in the image of a being which had the same weaknesses (but this would negate the claim of the creator being perfect)
                or
                2) we are an imperfect copy (but a being which produces an imperfect creation is not, by definition, itself perfect).

                In short, if we are imperfect then our putative creator must itself be imperfect. Nor can you get around this by claiming that the imperfection crept in later. Since your claim is that your god created everything which exists, then such imperfection still came from some part of that being’s creation.

                • kkfayeim

                  like I said, our weaknesses are just a result of our humanity

                  • Daz

                    And who created our humanity?

                    Related question: If I’m described to you as a perfect carpenter, but I build you a table which turns out to be wobbly, is that description correct?

                    • NYOB

                      God created man as human. Don’t you get it? God hasn’t been created. You can say all you want that there isn’t a God. Just like I can say that there aren’t words. It doesn’t make it not exist. Let me ask you this: when it comes to the end of time, would you rather be wrong and spend eternity in hell for your beliefs against God or would you rather be right and spend eternity worshipping and serving God who loved you enough to send Jesus Christ to die for your sins even after you deny His existence? Just saying…I would rather be right.

                    • Daz

                      Please leave Blaise pascal alone. He’s done nothing to you.

                      Back to the main point: You still haven’t explained to me why a creator who creates something which isn’t perfect should be considered to be a perfect creator.

            • NYOB

              You make a good point, Daz. It got me quite boggled…and I realize that my arguments are circular reasoning, but that’s probably because I’ve never debated anybody before. This is actually really exciting.
              You want to know how a “perfect creator” could have created something with weaknesses and still be called perfect. You also want to know how we can be sinners by nature and be made in the image of God.
              Following “logic”, God must be a sinner. You were right…I must follow logic. So, logically speaking, God created the whole world (and not by a random explosion some 3.85 billion years ago) in six literal days with the breath of His mouth–meaning, He spoke and “BANG!”, it happened. Now, forget the fact that you don’t believe a single thing you just read. Going to the next logical point, He created a man and woman and called them good (Note: not perfect…I meant to say good, not perfect…the Bible doesn’t say perfect…only God is perfect). He then gave them one commandment…”You cannot eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but any other tree you can eat from.” Pretty simple. Right?
              Before all this happened, though, there arose, in heaven, an angel named Lucifer who was one of the most beautiful angels in heaven. His beauty and desire for power got him kicked out of heaven and sent to the earth where he tempts Eve into believing that the fruit would make her like God. His entire plan was to take over the world.
              So, when I say that God created us in the image of God, I’m saying that our sinful nature is not of God–it’s of the world, it’s of the devil, it’s of our humanity. As humans, we have other characteristics that prove there is a God who created us in His image. However, the sinful nature comes because of temptation and we all get tempted…we all lust after something. This is our sinful nature. Jesus was tempted when He was on earth, but He overcame that temptation because He is God and God can’t be tempted by evil.
              As humans, we have other characteristics that prove there is a God who created us in His image. Suppose, I decided that I was going to go down to the liquor store, get drunk and then in my drunken state, I kill a little girl going to get ice cream with her daddy. You would say what? Put yourself into that daddy’s shoes. Because of one foolish act, he never gets to see his little girl walk down that aisle to get married, he never gets to see her graduate, he never gets to see how her life turned out. Would you say that what I did was wrong? When you make a moral affirmation, you are proving there is a God. Why? Well, who determines those morals? If we are all animals, who would care if a drunk guy killed a little girl? But we aren’t, we are humans made in the image of a loving, but just God–He’s also holy. We love. Do you love someone? You just proved there is a God. Do you believe in justice? You just proved there is a God. The list goes on….just because we sin doesn’t make God a sinner because God is holy and perfect. He’s only tolerating sin right now on earth because His time hasn’t come. But, when it does, I would rather be on the right side then the wrong side.

              • Chippa

                Really NYOB??? You believe all this was created in six days, literally??? I was fascinated by your exchange but when you believe the creation story literally I am inclined to toss all you have argued so far into the bin of lunacy.

      • Not everyone on this planet is catholic. Many of them believe-as fervently as you do-that their religion is correct, and yours is false. Neither they, nor you, have evidence for the existence of sin. Nor do you have evidence for the existence of Adam and Eve, which is essential to the concept of sin. Going back further than that, you’ve no evidence that *your* particular god exists. Before that, you’ve got to prove *any* god exists.
        You’re putting the cart before the horse. Before anyone should believe in sin, you should prove you’ve got your foundation correct.
        Thankfully, I’m unencumbered by notion of humans being innately sinful beings, bc I don’t believe in horrible concepts such as sin.

  5. “I would love to hear examples of dead people coming back to life because I thought that was impossible. If there are “numerous instances” then what makes Jesus special?”

    I’m sure you can find instances of this in scientific journals, medical websites, philosophy websites etc. What makes Jesus’ case special is that He did not die again; He was resurrected.

    “I don’t quite understand your explanations, there seems to be too many infinites. If God became man (Jesus) then did God just satisfy himself?”

    I’ll try and simplify it:
    God’s nature is infinite/unending/unlimited love. His very nature is to pour out His essence (Love) upon His creatures. Sin is a turning away from God/Love, and is therefore hated infinitely by God; that is why God warns us that if we die in serious sin, we will receive the JUST punishment of eternal suffering. If there were no Hell for those who die in serious sin, it would mean that God is not just. God does not want to punish us, but He cannot force His love upon us.

    It is obvious that no finite, imperfect human being can satisfy God’s justice by himself. It was therefore necessary that God become man in order to make a perfect, infinitely efficacious sacrifice on behalf of the human race. Because Jesus’ sacrifice was one of unlimited love, it has merited for us unlimited mercy. In other words, we can always ask for God to forgive us and pour His love into our hearts.

    Though you are free to disbelieve it, Jesus reportedly said to St. Faustina: “My daughter, write that the greater the misery [sin] of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all. On the Cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls- no one have I excluded!”

    “But doesn’t sin still continue to this day? So is God still being offended? Does he need another sacrifice?”

    Yes- sin still continues and God is still being (grievously) offended. We don’t need another sacrifice because God has already atoned for all sins: past, present and future. It is up to us to receive His love and forgiveness.

    We cannot look at sin from a human perspective. People complain that God is unjust for “sending people to Hell”, but that is nonsense; we choose Hell; God simply respects our free will, while doing everything He can to dissuade us from choosing sin over His love.

    • Daz

      Original sin, the punishment of all their descendants for Adam and Eve’s alleged sin, is not ‘just’. We don’t punish children for the mistakes of their parents or older ancestors. We would despise any court that attempted to do so. We would, in fact, call it unjust. How is it that your ‘perfect’ god is held to a lower standard than us ‘imperfect’ mortals.

      Nor is an infinitely long period of punishment for a finite crime ‘just’. In fact, the enlightened ideal that we’d wish for from our own justice system isn’t punishment at all, but is rather to recompense the victim and cure the perpetrator of his/her antisocial ways. Again, your god is held to a lower standard than are mortals.

      Your definition of love is quite unusual as well. “Do what I say, because I say it, or suffer eternal pain,” is not, by any standard I know of, a statement of love. More like a schoolyard bully, in fact, than a loving parent.

      • Chippa

        Daz, it would seem the “imperfect” copy has evolved into a better copy than the original. We treat our enemies better than the god of the old testament, who encouraged genocide, rape, murder, jealousy, hatefulness and vengeance. I can safely say our laws today, are much better than the laws of that homophobic god.

    • NYOB

      Also, why would an atheist want to spend eternity worshipping a God he doesn’t believe in? God is doing you a favour by sending you to Hell.

      • I know I wouldn’t want to spend an eternity worshipping god. Nor would I want to spend eternity in a realm of supposed peace, happiness, and joy while people I know and care for are in hell or limbo or purgatory. Heaven is a horrible concept once you examine it closely.

  6. “We don’t punish children for the mistakes of their parents or older ancestors. We would despise any court that attempted to do so. We would, in fact, call it unjust. How is it that your ‘perfect’ god is held to a lower standard than us ‘imperfect’ mortals.”

    Your argument presupposes a universal (in order to be meaningful) notion of justice which is incompatible with atheism. Atheism can only appeal to natural causes, and is therefore incapable of providing a reasonable foundation for morality.

    I’ll borrow someone else’s analogy to answer your objection to original sin: “Suppose your grandfather inherited great wealth that he himself had not earned. Unfortunately, he also had an unhealthy interest in gambling. Before he died, he went to Las Vegas and lost every penny. You, as a grandson, would have been rich, but instead, your inheritance is reduced. This is the case with original sin. God gave Adam a gift he did not earn, Adam lost it, and so his descendants did not inherit it. But God is still fair to us because he offers us not just the exalted state in which Adam was created, but a much higher state of union with him through Christ. What we have to do is accept the offer.” Sounds pretty fair to me, especially considering that sin is of infinite malice because of the One Whom it offends.

    “Nor is an infinitely long period of punishment for a finite crime ‘just’. In fact, the enlightened ideal that we’d wish for from our own justice system isn’t punishment at all, but is rather to recompense the victim and cure the perpetrator of his/her antisocial ways. Again, your god is held to a lower standard than are mortals.”

    To say it is unjust is to put a limit to God’s goodness- the flip-side of which is His justice. God hates injustice infinitely (something you and I are incapable of), therefore it deserves a fitting punishment. The victim of sin is God, the only truly innocent One; so I agree, we should offer recompense to God (sacrifice, thanksgiving etc.). God has provided us with an infallible and lasting cure for all evil (His love/grace/mercy); we cannot logically refuse the antidote and call God “unjust.”

    “Your definition of love is quite unusual as well. “Do what I say, because I say it, or suffer eternal pain,” is not, by any standard I know of, a statement of love. More like a schoolyard bully, in fact, than a loving parent.”

    That is your definition, not mine. If a mother said to her daughter, “Darling, don’t drink from that cup or you will get seriously ill”, then the daughter proceeded to drink from the cup and suffer severe pains, we could not blame her for being unloving. On the contrary, she would be unloving to NOT warn her child. Similarly, God has done everything that He can to prevent us from “drinking from the cup”, yet He loves us too much to prevent us from doing so. Jesus underwent cruel suffering as a result of our sin, though not because He had to, but because He loves us and wants to love us eternally. No mere human being would undergo such suffering to reconcile himself with his enemies. Would you? (If Hell does exist, the worst thing we could do for our children is to pretend that it doesn’t. I cannot prove its existence, but it is the most logical explanation I can think of for explaining our intrinsic sense of justice, particularly in relation to individuals who die without “suffering for their crimes” in this life.

    Also, if Jesus simply said, “Do what I say or… nothing”, it would mean He is NOT just, and therefore not loving. It is because He is just that He MUST punish those who die in serious sin. Hitler, for example, assuming that he died unrepentant, could not simply be annihilated. He HAD to be punished.

    • Two points. Firstly, you compare original sin to losing an inheritance. However it is not a lack of positive, but actually negative. A more suitable analogy would be to say a distant ancestor (so distant your not even sure they existed) commits a crime and so goes to jail, but so do you and all your family and it is debt that is never paid. Original sin is the punishment of the innocent for crimes they have not committed.

      On your analogy about children and drinking from a cup. The problem is you are depicting God as powerless, implying he does not do the punishing nor make the rules. A more appropriate rule would be lets say a mother hates Coke and declares no one is allowed drink it. To enforce this she poisons a glass of Coke and leaves it in front of a child before walking away. They get sick because God made and enforced the rule it wasn’t their own fault.

    • Daz

      What Robert said, plus…

      My argument presupposes nothing. By your standards, a universal system of justice prevails, yet God fails to reach the same level of fairness that his apparently flawed and imperfect creations reach.

      Also, I find myself wondering where you get your definition of original sin from? The way I understand it, and the way many Christians have used it to brand me a sinner merely because I’m not ‘saved’ or ‘born again in Christ’, is that we are all born as sinners because of the sin in Eden, and need to make up that deficit, so to speak. Should I believe those Christians, or should I believe you?

      But if that’s a tad complicated let’s substitute the much easier ‘Eve’s curse’, whereby all women give birth in pain and danger of their lives, as punishment for Eve’s part in the story. Or hey, what about the poor old snakes, cursed to be legless because of their ancestor’s part in it?

  7. Richard

    Interesting post and story you have, and Hitchins does raise important issues that Christians and atheists should address. Important but not insurmountable, since one can find any theological/secular/(ir)rational justification to back ones own view. I have one quibble that I want to alert you to: Being born in the Middle East does not, as you confidently assert, make one a Muslim. Take Egypt as but one example – the six million plus Christians born there would find your comment a little ignorant, which begs my next comment: Be careful about sweeping statements, be they cultural or religious.

    • I was speaking in general terms. On average, the odds are I would have been born Muslim. 95% of the population of Egypt are Muslim. The percentages are similar if not higher for most other Middle Eastern countires http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_by_country

      So if I was born in a Muslim country to Muslim parents I would have been raised a Muslim (you’re hardly suggesting I’d have been a Christian? Obviously those Christians you mentioned had Christian parents) The point still stands, the only reason 90% of Irish people are Catholic is because that is the religion their parents gave them

  8. Richard

    Thank you for your reply, but since you quote wikipedia, I rest my case!

  9. “…you compare original sin to losing an inheritance. However it is not a lack of positive, but actually negative… Original sin is the punishment of the innocent for crimes they have not committed.”

    Just a quick point: the analogy never specified the extent of the inheritance or the effects of its loss. Regardless, when something that was provided as a gift is taken away as a result of its misuse, this can hardly be called an injustice. The Catholic Catechism says this: “The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice… By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice.”

    If a man and his sister have a child, their child is going to suffer consequences for THEIR action. Is this unfair on the child? Yes, but the man and woman are to blame, not God. Sin is a far more detestable thing than earthly suffering because it merits greater punishment. Fortunately, God in His goodness has provided us ALL with the remedy for the forgiveness of all sins. It is Catholic teaching that only those guilty of (grave) VOLUNTARY sin can go to Hell. That excludes innocent infants, for example. I will add, however, that some Church documents refer to unbaptized infants going to Hell, but the word used for “Hell” refers to the Hell of loss ie. where there is neither positive suffering nor the joys of Heaven. Even then, God in His omnipotence could baptize these infants somehow. We really don’t know.

    “The problem is you are depicting God as powerless, implying he does not do the punishing nor make the rules. A more appropriate rule would be lets say a mother hates Coke and declares no one is allowed drink it. To enforce this she poisons a glass of Coke and leaves it in front of a child before walking away. They get sick because God made and enforced the rule it wasn’t their own fault.”

    God is “powerless” to violate people’s free will as it contradicts His loving nature. His rules reflect what is objectively right and wrong; He is the source of morality. God does not poison the drink- the drink is poison! Sin is not wrong in God’s ‘opinion’- it is intrinsically wrong. None of us have to choose what we know to be wrong. If we do not know what is wrong, we will be judged more leniently.

    In your analogy, they do get sick by their own fault, as it was their free choice. It’s a bit like saying, “Those who speed will go to jail, but they are not responsible; it is the government’s fault for making and enforcing the rule.”

    “My argument presupposes nothing. By your standards, a universal system of justice prevails, yet God fails to reach the same level of fairness that his apparently flawed and imperfect creations reach.”

    It comes down to this: do you believe in a purely material and therefore deterministic universe? If so, there can be no true right and wrong as all actions would be the by-product of arbitrary chemical reactions. Do you believe in objective right and wrong? If so, you contradict your materialistic view of the universe. If you believe that morality is subjective, then, like I said, your moral “arguments” would be meaningless- a bit like arguing about our perception of the taste of food. Only an objective moral order would allow us to make worthwhile moral arguments. Even then, we would be free to disagree with it, but wouldn’t that be a fatal assumption?

    “The way I understand it, and the way many Christians have used it to brand me a sinner merely because I’m not ‘saved’ or ‘born again in Christ’, is that we are all born as sinners because of the sin in Eden, and need to make up that deficit, so to speak. Should I believe those Christians, or should I believe you?”

    I don’t disagree with them if by deficit you are referring to what I said earlier (the deprivation of what justice does not entitle us to).

    “But if that’s a tad complicated let’s substitute the much easier ‘Eve’s curse’, whereby all women give birth in pain and danger of their lives, as punishment for Eve’s part in the story. Or hey, what about the poor old snakes, cursed to be legless because of their ancestor’s part in it?”

    It is not a “curse” but a just punishment, whether or not we can grasp how or why. If we truly understood the malice of sin we would not dare to complain about such light (by comparison) punishments. Don’t forget: God desires to save us all, but we must accept the gift of His love. No gift is a gift if we are obliged to accept it.

    Does a snake deserve legs? Did it ever have legs? If other creatures didn’t have legs, would we argue that this is a curse? I’m assuming that you’re being a bit sarcastic, by the way, but I might as well respond.

    • Daz

      do you believe in a purely material and therefore deterministic universe?

      We’re not talking about my beliefs, but about yours.

      It is not a “curse” but a just punishment

      Thank you for getting us back on track.

      Punishing women—’Eve’s descendants’—for a sin committed by their ancestor is not just. You (I sincerely hope) wouldn’t punish a women for something her grandmother did. You would see that as an unjust action. You are therefore, as I said before, holding your god to a lower moral standard than you would hold a human court.

      Yes, the snake comment was a tad snide, but only a tad. Genesis 3:14:

      And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life

      Your god certainly thought it was a curse. And, given that snakes, to this day, have no legs and crawl on their bellies, presumably he cursed the Eden-snakes’ descendants.

  10. “We’re not talking about my beliefs, but about yours.”

    We cannot talk about my moral beliefs until you have established your basis for morality. If you believe that morality is subjective (a conclusion that I don’t think any materialist can escape) then any moral argument you use against God is essentially meaningless.

    “Punishing women—’Eve’s descendants’—for a sin committed by their ancestor is not just. You (I sincerely hope) wouldn’t punish a women for something her grandmother did. You would see that as an unjust action. You are therefore, as I said before, holding your god to a lower moral standard than you would hold a human court.”

    It is not so much a punishment as a just and inevitable consequence of their decision, just as birth defects result from incest. God is not to be blamed, the parents are. God forbids their behaviour.

    “Your god certainly thought it was a curse. And, given that snakes, to this day, have no legs and crawl on their bellies, presumably he cursed the Eden-snakes’ descendants.”

    The effects of sin are a curse, in a sense.

    Remember this crucial Christian principle: “God hates sin infinitely but He loves the sinner infinitely.” His intense hatred of sin is evidence of His goodness. If unrepented sin went by unpunished it would mean that God is indifferent to evil.

    • Daz

      You believe in an absolute moral framework. Within that framework that you claim exists, God punishes descendants for the sins of their ancestors, yet human beings see such behaviour as unjust.

      Working within your framework, your god is held to a lower standard than are our own justice systems

      It is not so much a punishment as a just and inevitable consequence of their decision

      it is not their decision. It was, allegedly, Eve’s decision. They had nothing to do with that decision. See above. As for ‘not so much a punishment,’ I quote, again, your own words:

      It is not a “curse” but a just punishment

      Are you new at this? You’re going around in circles.

      “God hates sin infinitely but He loves the sinner infinitely.

      …Yet is perfectly happy to have the sinner tortured for infinity, with no chance of reprieve? You call that love?

      • LLOYD NJIKHO

        That sinners will be tortured for infinity is a misunderstanding of scripture. what the scripture means is that sinners will be no more, never to leave again, forever eradicated from the face of the earth.

      • JesusFreak101

        Oh course God hates the sin because He is holy. You have no idea what you are arguing against, do you? God is holy…such holiness that you and I can’t even comprehend it. It’s impossible to comprehend.

  11. “You believe in an absolute moral framework. Within that framework that you claim exists, God punishes descendants for the sins of their ancestors, yet human beings see such behaviour as unjust.”

    God provides the framework- He doesn’t exist within it. I believe that there are moral absolutes, such as, “rape is always wrong and evil.” I think that it is reasonable to infer the existence of objective right and wrong from human experience. If there is no real right and wrong, moral argumentation is redundant; all your moral arguments against God are reduced to subjective opinions. I’ve already explained original sin. Just as a child born with birth defects cannot blame God for their parents’ incest, nor can you blame God for the effects of sin. We take our nature from Adam and Eve. Because their nature was corrupted by sin, we inherit their corrupt nature. Fortunately, unlike in the case of children who are born with birth defects as a result of incest, God has offered us not only with a temporal remedy, but with a remedy of infinite value.

    “Working within your framework, your god is held to a lower standard than are our own justice systems.”

    So there is an objective moral order? If not, you cannot make such audacious claims.

    “It is not so much a punishment as a just and inevitable consequence of their decision

    it is not their decision. It was, allegedly, Eve’s decision.”

    By “their” I was referring to Adam and Eve.

    “As for ‘not so much a punishment,’ I quote, again, your own words:

    It is not a “curse” but a just punishment

    Are you new at this? You’re going around in circles.”

    I am not going around in circles. I am using the word “punishment” in two different senses. When I say, “not so much a punishment”, I am objecting to your implication that God’s actions are unjust. When I say “JUST punishment”, I am merely re-iterating this point. Of course Adam and Eve’s sin had to be punished, but it was just, and a necessary consequence of their decision. By the way, it is Catholic tradition that Adam and Eve are in Heaven. This can be inferred from a particular Scripture which I cannot recall.

    “…Yet is perfectly happy to have the sinner tortured for infinity, with no chance of reprieve? You call that love?”

    That God is happy with “torturing” those who reject Him is a hideous and false notion. He died to save everyone from such a terrible fate, but like I said, He cannot force His love on anyone. God is infinitely merciful towards those who repent. It is easy enough to avoid Hell.

    “With no chance of reprieve”, you say? Their whole life is comprised of a series of chances. But once they appear before God, that is it. He cannot postpone their judgement infinitely. Some souls become so hardened in sin this would only serve to increase their guilt. The sight of sin is so detestable in God’s eyes that when a (gravely) sinful soul appears before Him at the moment of death, He seems to have no choice but to punish them, though He is reluctant to do so. Would you be crucified for your enemies? Sure, you might not punish them inifinitely, but that is because like me, you are finite AND imperfect. God is neither of these things.

    • kkfayim

      I’ve been inside a Catholic church and I can tell you wholeheartedly that it is not a place of love. It doesn’t matter what Catholic tradition says, but rather what God said. God said that it is by faith a man can enter into heaven. Faith in what? What did Adam and Eve have faith in? They had faith in the promised Messiah. This is why they are in heaven not because the pope said they were (no disrespect to the pope). There are fallacies in your arguments Little St. Souls. You should iron them out before taking on a fool.

      • Chippa

        How do you know that Adam and Eve are actually in heaven? Where is heaven? Is it a physical location with actual GPS co-ordinates? Hahahahaaa!!!

  12. Daz

    God provides the framework- He doesn’t exist within it.

    Ah, so he’s a hypocrite. I get it now. What you call just punishment, I call immoral, and if this god existed I would happily call him immoral to his face. I don’t kowtow to bullies.

    So there is an objective moral order? If not, you cannot make such audacious claims.

    If I read a fantasy novel about magicians, I am justified in pointing out logical contradictions within the plot concerning a character performing some feat of magic, when it had previously been made clear that the feat in question is impossible according to the rules of magic-use that the author had written into the novel. At no point do I have to actually believe that magic really exists.

    Similarly, I can critique internal inconsistencies in your absolute-morals framework, without needing to believe that the framework exists.

    Of course Adam and Eve’s sin had to be punished, but it was just, and a necessary consequence of their decision.

    I’ve said nothing about whether their punishment was just or not. My claim is that the punishment of their descendants for a sin they didn’t commit and had no means of stopping, is unjust. You have completely, and repeatedly, skirted around the question of why the punishment of innocents for sins not of their doing should be considered just. If we discover that your great-great-great grandfather was a murderer, would you consider it justice if I were to punish you for his crime?

    That God is happy with “torturing” those who reject Him is a hideous and false notion.

    Hell is torture. infinite torture. He has the power to punish less severely, but doesn’t. He’s obviously happy with the situation.

    Their whole life is comprised of a series of chances.

    Their whole life, according to your ideas, being a mere eye-blink compared to their afterlife. Rather like punishing a 70 year old for something they did at the age of six months old.

  13. “Ah, so he’s a hypocrite. I get it now. What you call just punishment, I call immoral, and if this god existed I would happily call him immoral to his face. I don’t kowtow to bullies.”

    No- I mean that God provides the framework for morality because He is the source of morality. By saying that He doesn’t exist within it, I was responding to your claim that I believe God exists WITHIN my moral framework, when it is something like the opposite; I believe in moral absolutes (which you seem to also e.g. rape is always wrong), therefore God is a morally reasonable hypothesis for explaining these absolutes.

    God does not violate His own standards. If you think that He does, you are merely mistaken. Don’t forget that God’s judgements might seem to be “more harsh” than our judgements (and therefore ‘hyprocritical’), but that is because our standards, like us, are imperfect. It is also because God alone (Jesus) is offended infinitely by sin. Sin can never offend us to the same extent. It was sin that crucified Jesus (God). Doesn’t this tell you how grave it must be- that only God could expiate our sins? If we die unrepentant, God will reluctantly punish us for letting Him die in vain (for us).

    “If I read a fantasy novel about magicians, I am justified in pointing out logical contradictions within the plot concerning a character performing some feat of magic, when it had previously been made clear that the feat in question is impossible according to the rules of magic-use that the author had written into the novel. At no point do I have to actually believe that magic really exists.”

    (Please try not to take my responses out of context). That case is not at all analogous. I was responding to your claim that God’s standard of justice is “lower” than OUR OWN standard of justice, thus implying that our standard is more “right.” This implies an objective moral order, which you appear to reject. In other words, you are applying EXTERNAL standards.

    If it appears that God has violated His own standard, you are mistaken (both in principle and in fact). An in-depth study of Christian/Catholic theological tradition would confirm my statement. Only Biblical literalism/fundamentalism could lead to such conclusions.

    “Similarly, I can critique internal inconsistencies in your absolute-morals framework, without needing to believe that the framework exists.”

    Of course, but you are yet to do so. Your objection to Original Sin, for example, fails to negate my simple incest analogy. Also, it fails to consider the punishment that sin JUSTLY demands. You cannot reject the notion of sin (and its infinite malice) and then logically call God unjust. You are refuting a God that I don’t believe in.

    “I’ve said nothing about whether their punishment was just or not. My claim is that the punishment of their descendants for a sin they didn’t commit and had no means of stopping, is unjust. You have completely, and repeatedly, skirted around the question of why the punishment of innocents for sins not of their doing should be considered just. If we discover that your great-great-great grandfather was a murderer, would you consider it justice if I were to punish you for his crime?”

    I would not, but by what or whose standard do you say that doing so would be unjust? Your analogy differs vastly from my own. If a man has sex with his sister and they have a deformed child, the child suffers AS A RESULT OF SOMEONE ELSE’S ACTIONS, but we cannot blame God for something that is an abuse of His gift, and contrary to His will. It is not God’s fault. Similarly, sin affects our human nature, though at a much deeper level (and more profoundly). We inherit this corrupt human nature from our first ancestors. There is nothing unjust about this.

    “Hell is torture. infinite torture. He has the power to punish less severely, but doesn’t. He’s obviously happy with the situation.”

    You are mistaken. Again, if you understood what sin is, you would not say that Hell is an unjust punishment. If sin is punished infinitely, it is because it deserves it. To say that it deserves anything less is to say that God is not infinitely perfect. God is both both and just; it is BECAUSE He is INFINITELY perfect that His hatred of sin is INFINITE.

    “Their whole life, according to your ideas, being a mere eye-blink compared to their afterlife. Rather like punishing a 70 year old for something they did at the age of six months old.”

    It is not at all the same. Firstly, a six month old cannot sin because they lack the intellectual capacity to make informed moral judgements (granted: you might have merely been using your analogy to express the point about TIME) . Secondly, you are failing to consider a basic Christian doctrine: guilt. The longer we put off repentance, the more likely it is that we will become so blind and hardened to God’s goodness that we reject it and Him. More chances of repentance would therefore only serve to increase many individuals’ guilt and punishments.

    Even if God did increase our life-span, it would always be like an “eye-blink” compared to eternity. Would you like God to give us 100 years more? Would 1,000,000 years suffice? Your logic would still apply. Besides; who, knowing what’s good for them, would choose to obstinately reject it? We can hardly blame God for their decisions. He has died to prevent them from living and dying in such misery. If a man mutilated his own legs when he was 20, he would have to live the consequences of his decsion for the rest of his life. Sin is no different (if unrepented), FORTUNATELY, God provides us with the remedy for sin (something much worse than mutilation of limbs), yet we dare to call Him unjust?

    God is not “happy” with punishing anyone. He even forgave His executioners, but His justice demands that obstinate sinners are punished.

    • Daz

      Are you writing a novel? Your answers get longer each time.

      You claim that your god sets us rules to live by, yet doesn’t abide by those rules himself. “Do as I say, not as I do,” he says. QED, he’s a hypocrite, by definition.

      [Jesus dying for our sins etc]… Doesn’t this tell you how grave it must be- that only God could expiate our sins?

      It might, if I believed such fairy tales. There-again, I might point out that the sins Jesus apparently died do save us from are the very same sins that God is hypocritically punishing us for in the first place. Sorry, you’d get no kudos from me for rescuing a drowning baby, if it was you who’d thrown it in the water in the first place.

      [Referring to punishment of descendants] I would not, but by what or whose standard do you say that doing so would be unjust?

      The golden rule. Unnecessary harm is being done if we punish the innocent.

      If a man has sex with his sister and they have a deformed child, the child suffers AS A RESULT OF SOMEONE ELSE’S ACTIONS

      But that child is not being punished. The child is unlucky, yes. In a vague, karma-like sense, we could say that the parents are being punished. In fact, they are living with a natural consequence of an ill-conceived action. We do not require the introduction of a god to explain this. Make it simpler. If I throw brick straight up and fail to move aside, it is not punishment when the damn thing cracks my skull open. It is a consequence of my own action.

      Firstly, a six month old cannot sin because they lack the intellectual capacity to make informed moral judgements

      Really? Tell that to the thousands of grieving parents over the years who’ve been refused the right to bury a baby which died before baptism could be performed. That’s the whole disgustingly immoral point of original sin. We’re allegedly born sinners.

      For ‘happy’ substitute.’comfortable’. He seems perfect comfortable with punishing finite sins with infinite punishment.

  14. “You claim that your god sets us rules to live by, yet doesn’t abide by those rules himself. “Do as I say, not as I do,” he says. QED, he’s a hypocrite, by definition.”

    You keep saying that I made such a claim, when I haven’t, and I keep clarifying my point. I’ll summarise my point one last time using an analogy: A man is the essence of goodness. Anything done that is contrary to his essence is not good. He provides the framework for what is good. He is not a PART of the framework but ITS SOURCE. This is nothing like saying that he breaks his own “rules.”

    “It might, if I believed such fairy tales. There-again, I might point out that the sins Jesus apparently died do save us from are the very same sins that God is hypocritically punishing us for in the first place. Sorry, you’d get no kudos from me for rescuing a drowning baby, if it was you who’d thrown it in the water in the first place.”

    Either it is a fairy-tale, in which case you will never truly know because chemical impulses in your brain would produce your every thought and could therefore easily be deceiving you, OR you are incorrect and you are living in denial of the truth. In principle, you cannot make a reasonable case either way.

    “The golden rule. Unnecessary harm is being done if we punish the innocent.”

    God does not punish the innocent. I already explained this.

    “But that child is not being punished. The child is unlucky, yes. In a vague, karma-like sense, we could say that the parents are being punished. In fact, they are living with a natural consequence of an ill-conceived action. We do not require the introduction of a god to explain this. Make it simpler. If I throw brick straight up and fail to move aside, it is not punishment when the damn thing cracks my skull open. It is a consequence of my own action.”

    If that child is not being punished, then Original Sin is no different, since it is merely “bad spiritual genetics” so to speak. The sin of Adam and Eve contaminated human nature. We inherit this defective nature, just as that poor child inherits their parents’ mutated genes.

    I was not bringing in God to explain a natural phenomenon; I was using an analogy. Subsequently, I don’t understand the purpose for your brick analogy.

    “Really? Tell that to the thousands of grieving parents over the years who’ve been refused the right to bury a baby which died before baptism could be performed. That’s the whole disgustingly immoral point of original sin. We’re allegedly born sinners.”

    I differentiate between personal sin and original sin. My statement still stands. Also, remember: original sin is a bit like a spiritual parallel to birth defects. We weren’t created like this, but the abuse of free will on our ancestor’s part led to this sorry state. God’s justice in no way obliges Him to preserve our ancestor’s children from original sin, and something can only be considered immoral if it is unjust, so your claim holds no weight. On the contrary, out of His MERCY, God chose to die for us in order to reconcile us to HImself and restore our former privileges (freedom from suffering, perfect happiness etc.).

    “For ‘happy’ substitute.’comfortable’. He seems perfect comfortable with punishing finite sins with infinite punishment.”

    Your mistake is all too common. Sins are finite in time, yes, but they are infinite in malice because of the One whom they offend. That is a basic mathematical principle. Let’s say I stab someone. That is finite in the sense of time, but it is like darkness before God’s who is infinite light. Goodness and justice etc. are metaphysical principles. You cannot measure a just punishment by referring to time alone; it has no bearing on the MALICE of a crime.

    Also, Jesus has revealed to saints that the loss of each soul wounds Him greatly. His words: “The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness… you always console Me when you pray for the salvation of souls.”

  15. Only if you consider WHY Jesus died for our sins will you understand Christianity. He didn’t need to. He is perfectly self-sufficient. It was an act of Mercy. Our sins put Jesus to death. How can we be ungrateful?

  16. Daz

    A man is the essence of goodness.

    Not according to the doctrine of original sin, he isn’t. We are, to coin a phrase, born in sin, and need to wash away that sin.

    God does not punish the innocent. I already explained this.

    A woman giving birth in pain and at risk of both her life and the baby’s is ‘paying for Eve’s sin’. The woman had no part in Eve’s sin and is therefore innocent of that sin by any decent moral standard. She is, therefore, an innocent being punished.

    If that child is not being punished, then Original Sin is no different, since it is merely “bad spiritual genetics” so to speak.

    Dear oh dear. Genetic inheritance is a blind, natural ‘force’. Original sin is supposed to be the intentional, guided product of a thinking being. Natural forces cannot be moral or immoral. They just exist. Thinking beings can perform moral or immoral actions (defined by whether they cause unnecessary harm).

    One cannot be punished by one’s genetic inheritance, even though one may suffer as a result of it. Therefore morality does not apply to one’s inheritance (though it may apply, as in this incest analogy, to the actions of one’s parents).

    To punish or not to punish a person, however, is a moral decision. If the person one punishes is innocent of the action they are being punished for, then one is guilty of an immoral action.

    Please do not start inserting historical “facts” about what Jesus or other Biblical figures did or said. This conversation’s going around enough mulberry bushes as it is, without starting a side-debate about whether the Bible is trustworthy as a historical document. Which would be my logical reply to such arguments.

  17. “Not according to the doctrine of original sin, he isn’t. We are, to coin a phrase, born in sin, and need to wash away that sin.”

    I know. It was an analogy. Please read what I actually say.

    “A woman giving birth in pain and at risk of both her life and the baby’s is ‘paying for Eve’s sin’. The woman had no part in Eve’s sin and is therefore innocent of that sin by any decent moral standard. She is, therefore, an innocent being punished.”

    She is innocent of Eve’s sin, yes. But we all must suffer the consequences, just as the offspring of inbreds will inevitably suffer for their parents’ decision. Not only are we all implicated in sin by our own free will, but God is NOT OBLIGED to restore our former state of humanity that was a FREE GIFT. No one can claim the RIGHT to be born with perfect intelligence, looks etc.

    “Dear oh dear. Genetic inheritance is a blind, natural ‘force’. Original sin is supposed to be the intentional, guided product of a thinking being. Natural forces cannot be moral or immoral. They just exist. Thinking beings can perform moral or immoral actions (defined by whether they cause unnecessary harm).”

    Of course genetic inheritance is blind. Of course natural forces cannot be immoral or moral. My point was that INCEST is not blind and it IS immoral, and it DOES have real effects on offspring who had NOTHING TO DO with it. Similarly, ORIGINAL SIN is not blind and it IS immoral, and it DOES have real effects on offspring who had NOTHING TO DO with it. THE ONLY INJUSTICE HERE IS ON THE PART OF THE PARENTS, NOT GOD. I refuse to reiterate this point again.

    “One cannot be punished by one’s genetic inheritance, even though one may suffer as a result of it. Therefore morality does not apply to one’s inheritance (though it may apply, as in this incest analogy, to the actions of one’s parents).”

    Humans have both a physical and a moral/spiritual nature, which is what makes us human. Corrupt one and the other suffers.

    “To punish or not to punish a person, however, is a moral decision. If the person one punishes is innocent of the action they are being punished for, then one is guilty of an immoral action.”

    Allowing the consequences of someone’s actions take their course is not immoral. The sin of Adam and Eve corrupted their human nature; the “punishments” that followed were a result of their actions. They were not additional or artbitrary ‘punishments.’

    “Please do not start inserting historical “facts” about what Jesus or other Biblical figures did or said. This conversation’s going around enough mulberry bushes as it is, without starting a side-debate about whether the Bible is trustworthy as a historical document. Which would be my logical reply to such arguments.”

    Fair enough.

    I don’t have time to continue replying. Take care.

    • Daz

      I doubt you’ll respond, but…

      I was attempting to point out that birth defects which may result from incest are an invalid analogy to the deliberate punishment of an innocent.

      The first is a consequence of an ill-conceived act, but the mechanism that produces the result of the action is blind. It has no choice but to produce the bad consequence which makes an innocent suffer.

      The mechanism in the second case is a conscience being (a god) who can choose not to make the innocent suffer. This being, by making the child suffer the consequence of her parent’s actions, instead of punishing the parents, is making an immoral choice.

      This is not rocket surgery.

  18. I had a similar experience, but losing my faith at first felt like just that: a huge loss. I wept at night, I no longer felt like I had a hold on the world, but I kept thinking about my Christian up-bringing, what the Bible said, and what I had heard in church. It made less and less sense, until finally I had to admit that my beliefs did not support an omniscient being overseeing all things in the universe. I had to conclude that I was not Christian, which was weird at first. After a while I felt better. A while later, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. I was free to explore the world with fresh eyes instead of through the lens of someone who thought they had the great mysteries in life already figured out. It was a hard, but ultimately extremely rewarding experience. I’m happy to have found you, too :)
    I wrote a post today about how hard it is to have a discussion about religion with religious (Christian) people, and some Christian blogger commented. Yikes.

    http://tigerlilytoph.com/2012/05/25/everyone-play-nice/

    Anyway, good job :)

    • That’s really interesting. I honestly found it quite easy losing my faith. There was no sense of loss or grief. I did have the sense of a weight lifting off my shoulders and a great sense of relief. I know what you mean when you say it was weird at first

  19. It comforting to know, of another who has recently de-converted

  20. Really well written, always interesting too see how someone has “seen the light” so to speak

  21. Interesting discussion.

    I (almost) agree with “littlestsouls” .

    In short: The problem of evil has to do with free will. God does not abuse the free-will-rights even of “evil” people (but He talks to them in the form of conscience but He can’t force them to listen), nor does He disrespect your right to have your opinions as atheists (and neither do I). But He doesn’t believe in you since you don’t believe in Him :-) He never stops loving us, which is why He came to us in the form of Jesus Christ to show us how much He loves us. He is ready to die for us, and there is no greater love than that. But He rose again, so that we may rise again. He defeated the evil (aka death) in the world by rising from the dead, and He did it so that we may be free. But we still have the choice to commit evil. So the difference now is that evil abounds but we have the chance to be free from it.

    If you have the time, watch a few episodes of this tv-serial, it explains the above about free will and Gods love and its worth it : http://www.fastpasstv.ms/tv/touched-by-an-angel/ (choose gorillavid, and know that I have nothing to do with the ads)

    By the way, who triggered the Big Bang?

    Peace,
    suri

    • Okay you lose me in the second half of your first paragraph. If he never stops loving us, does that include people in Hell? Why would you send people you love to Hell? You clearly don’t love them if you torture them for eternity.

      How can he die for ‘us’ when we weren’t even born? How can you claim he died for us and then say he didn’t really die? Either it was a sacrifice or it wasn’t? Since when are death and evil the same thing? Clearly people still die so he didn’t defeat death.

      We don’t have any choice. Religion is a collection of rules that limit and prevent of actions. It has as much to do with free will as a dictatorship

      I discuss the big bang and religion and God here http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/god-and-the-creation-of-the-universe/

  22. About the original sin I have a point to add:
    We inherit a lot from our parents and ancestors, both biological and social. If one individual in a species starts having birth pains or an inheritable disease or becomes a chain smoker, the bilogical/social logic is that her offspring will too. So we are born with the PROPENSITY TO COMMIT SIN as a biological inheritance (lika a disease) on one hand, and as a social inheritance (like a drug addiction) on the other hand.
    I wouldn’t call that a curse, but a 1+1=2 situation.
    But it is very important to state that it is our choice. We can work against our inheritance with the proper help, lifestyle and medicine, and Jesus comes to tell us that He is ready to give us what we need. The only thing we have to do is ask.

    Peace
    suri

    • It is true that we inherit things from our parents but not from relatives thousands of years ago. We cannot control disease, however God is deliberatively giving us original sin and then saying he can cure it.

      Its as though I infected you with a disease and then offer to sell you the cure. I’m not doing you a favour. It would be easier if I didn’t give you the disease in the first place.

  23. Again I have a recommendation for you, the documentary The Atheism Tapes by Jonathon Miller.

  24. I really enjoyed this blog, I think it’s so interesting that you were one of the more devoted ones in your youth. Your change into becoming an Atheist seems to be one which spanned a huge part of your life and which came about through thought and research which I think is absolutely great! I think mine started significantly earlier but my parents weren’t really religious and we didn’t go to mass- I think my first thoughts towards Christianity as a child was a confusion as to why we were ‘Christians’ but never went to church, prayer or read the bible. After I read your article I too looked up Hitchens as I wasn’t aware of who he was, he seems to be an interesting man and I think I may read up on him a bit more (I was hooked by his saying that Christianity, Judaism and Islam were the axis’ of evil). It’s strange that after I became an Atheist I actually became a lot more interested in religion, read the Bible and the Qu’ran; attended a few church and synagogue sessions and am even focusing my university education towards religion (I study History so that’s not too difficult I guess).
    The sense of loss you felt, I have read, is actually very common as of course you are loosing something you have had all your life.
    Amazing post!

  25. LittleStSouls said: “Atheism can only appeal to natural causes, and is therefore incapable of providing a reasonable foundation for morality. ”
    Does this make sense? LittleSt.Souls, Can you expound on that? And as for a reasonable foundation for morality, doesn’t “reasonable” mean based on reason?

  26. Pingback: 10 Questions For Atheists | Robert Nielsen

  27. I recommend the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

  28. Very interesting, I was baptized a catholic. But to secular parents who just did it as a formality. I am not working on my RCIA, I feel like I want to have a relationship with God and learn more about him and myself. So we sort of have opposite stories!

    • NYOB

      If you want a relationship with God to learn about Him and yourself, then seek Him. He wants a relationship with you. God want you. It’s a beautiful thought. It really is. :)

      • Which god are you talking about? There are thousands upon thousand of gods that humanity has created. You need to narrow it down and not assume that people know the specific god you’re talking about.

        How do you know if this deity has a gender and how do you know what that gender is? You referred to god as “him”, which indicates a male gender.

        How do you know “he” wants a relationship with anyone?

        What makes it such a beautiful thought? That’s an assertion that *you* believe is true, but that’s hardly convincing to others.

  29. Sam

    You would think. But there’s an answer to that as well

    John8:47
    “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

    Since we’re are on the subject of seeing or understanding, this one is pretty clear but yet not follows it. Let me know if you SEE it

    Thou shalt NOT make unto thee any GRAVEN IMAGES, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt NOT BOW down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

    • Huh? What are you talking about or are these just random Bible quotes? As I discussed in the post I used to be a practicising Catholic and still didn’t hear God, so your quote is wrong. As is your belief that just because the Bible says something it must be true.

  30. sinead the apoplectic

    Actually, Robert, we are all born atheists. Then we are converted by our parents or society. Some of us return to our birthroots.

  31. Pingback: The Problem With Forgiveness |

  32. Pingback: Why I Am Not A Christian |

  33. Great article. I don’t believe in the God that you don’t believe in either. However, I’m a pastor (of the Protestant variety) and I’ve wrestled through the issues you name here (both out of the Christian faith and back into it again). Currently I’m in a preaching series at Glenkirk Church addressing one of these issues each week. Sad to see you give up, but I sympathize with the questions and the frustrations.

  34. Very interesting indeed, I’m inclined to agree with you on a lot of what you have said. My days of attending church are well and truly over! But I wouldn’t call myself an atheist though, because a true atheist believes in another collection of beliefs, and I don’t wish to exchange mine for another set, only to find 20 years later I disagree with those too! Although I’m sure as with Christianity those beliefs will vary from one atheist to another. I’m enjoying sitting on that fence and observing all, because I think it’s the best view of this world, and how any of us can prove to ourselves or to others that either God exists or he doesn’t, I really can’t imagine – it’s impossible for any human to do that!

    • What beliefs do you mean? To me, the whole point of being an Atheist is that we don’t have any shared beliefs or views. No one can speak on your behalf, you are free to believe whatever you want.

    • quantblog

      I think there is an unfair stigma to the word Atheist .. the word simply means non-God. But it tends to be said in a way that is derogatory, with a flavor something like ‘Anachist’. The word Agnostic has less of that apparent extremism.. but many would argue it really means the same thing. Unless you really think that the odds of God existing are 50% or more, I would say its fine to call yourself an Atheist.

      So..you dont need proof that God _doesnt_ exist.. you merely need the absence of proof that he does exist, to decide to be Atheist. I don’t believe in Alien Abductions, but I would if there was better physical evidence of that happening. Similarly I don’t believe in God, despite the fact a lot of people I otherwise trust, do believe that [ they tend not to quote physical evidence :-]

      You also don’t need to subscribe to any other set of beliefs .. there are Atheists who have quite ‘Christian’ cultural and moral ‘values’.. others who derive their moral code from science with guiding principles like ‘preserve life, reduce pain, increase collective good, be nice without undue lying’

      You also don’t need to be vocally opposed to other religions to be an Atheist.. there are tolerant Atheists and rampant Atheists.. it depends on the day of the week for me. Sometimes a quiet word can be a lot more reassuring than an passionate call to arms.

  35. quantblog

    Thanks for your great post ..

    I was raised Catholic, was quite a solemn follower in my younger years, then thankfully discovered math science early and slowly weaned myself off the cool aid.

    I do perversely respect some of the ideas Jesus had.. but I haven’t seen anyone who practices these very well in real life. Forgiveness is very hard to achieve.. the human race may not be ready for such a radical concept for another couple thousand years !

    I suppose I try to teach my son to be tolerant of religious views, so that we can all get along… after all, I was quite religious for the longest time : when people grow up they are extremely likely to accept the beliefs of those around them.

    My reason for replying is just to say a quiet “thankyou, yes” amidst the torrent of fanatics posting argumentative rants : ]

    • Thank you for your comment. A lot of Christian views sound nice in theory but are not practical to follow. I thinking giving children a neutral tolerant view is the best way to go.

  36. Savannah Milone

    I am 16 and I’ve been in catholic school since the 5th grade.
    I always felt I took more time to learn about religion because I was never the most religious person and transferring to a catholic school was a strange change. I wanted to understand the theories being told to me everyday. I guess I was never a great catholic person ( like you said you had your years ) but I did want to try to understand it like everyone else supposedly did.
    We once had a man come in to talk to us in the 7th grade. He was suppose to tell us about what the Church expects from us but I felt he wasn’t going to be the inspiring help I needed to decide what I believed in. Being Pro gay marriage, Pro choice, etc ( basically everything you said ) I had a hard time relating to his words.
    The thing that got to me the most was not that he was telling us to be against the very things I believed in ( because I was quite aware that most everyone I would meet in that school wouldn’t have the same views as me ) but in fact the way he said it. The way he hinted at how sick non believers are or how hard he would be on the women while protesting abortion clinics or the way he ( not as hinted ) bashed gays and having sex before marriage would leave us empty and disowned by God, we wouldn’t be perfect to him. I’m sure he was brought in to show us what God calls us to do ( or maybe scare us because , if that was his intention, a job well done for him ) he opened my eyes to how close minded the catholic church is. I tried to talk to my friends about it, trying to grasp the last bits of faith I had. Wondering why they believed in what they did, what he did. The answers were always pointless and empty of meaning. Just ” God wants it so we do it” type answers.
    ( So in hopes to not bore you to death I’ll summarize the following years) 8th grade I started researching and questioning, 9th grade I started identifying with agnostics and now 10th grade year I’m …. well… I’m not sure. That’s maybe why I stumbled upon your amazing blog. You seem so like me in how you became an atheist but the thing is: I believe in a higher power, just not any that we would know of. Not some all powerful God who tells us how to live our life or what is wrong and right but maybe something in the universe guiding. ( I believe in Karma and fate in different variations )
    If you understand where I’m coming from here I would be ecstatic to hear what you think about that. Do you ever get the feeling there is something there? Did you ever before you came out and decided you were Atheist? I come from a very very Catholic family so I don’t know if my belief in a higher power comes from my thoughts or what I was told to think still trying to seep into my brain. And I know you can’t just tell me how I think and view God but I sure would love to hear your thoughts. ( sorry if this was all over the place I tried to just give you the main event that started my serious research and questioning. Also I’m not the best writer but non the less I hope you understand what I was trying to say. If you can I would love to email you about it : Savannahnmilone@gmail.com but if you cannot email then just a short reply would really help. Thank you and have a great day)

    • JesusFreak101

      I don’t enjoy (more like hate) the way the Catholic church puts judgments on people who practice idolatry. I don’t believe that it is my right to judge you just because you are gay or are sixteen and pregnant (God does that perfectly fine….but that’s okay because He’s God and we aren’t.) I love people who are gay. I love that girl who is broken and alone. No one should be judged. People who judge are just reaping judgments onto themselves (Matthew 7:1). At the same time, I can’t love the sin. It’s called loving the sinner, hating the sin. I hate homosexuality because it is perverse and because my Saviour hates it. I hate sexual immortality. However, I’m not going to condemn you because you “love” your same sex. I’m not going to judge you because you got carried away in a moment of passion and fell. I love you.
      I understand that most people look at Christians as hypocrites and I completely understand. A dad can tell his not to ever pick up a cigarette and be puffing on one himself. Or an older brother can tell his sibling not to listen to that type of music while listening to it. Christians are hypocrites! But so is everybody else. “For all have sinned…” we are all sinners…we all deserve to die…even the “Christian” deserves to die. It’s only by God’s grace and love that we can have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The truth is that we are all going to die. And after death, all of our actions on earth will be accounted for. What will you say you come before the throne of God? Look God! Here’s my money. or Look God! Here’s my blog site. Look God! Look at all the good things that I did. It isn’t going to work because all of our righteousness is as filthy rags. It’s disgusting compared to God’s righteousness. He’s so perfect and so holy that we can be the best person on earth and still go to hell. The only thing that makes us perfect in His eyes is His Son. All you have to do is believe in your heart that He died for you and confess with your mouth that you are a sinner and ask for His eternal life. It’s as easy as A-B-C.

  37. Keith Nisbet

    If you are interested in a coherent intelligent Reason to Believe then put some open minded effort into listening/studying ADR. William Lane Craig’s books and Defenders podcast.

    • Or he could write William Lane Craig off as a fool who seeks to find justification for genocide. Which does make some sort of wacky sense. God committed genocide. People claim god is good. So genocide must somehow be good. Of course that’s for WLC to work out (and he’s done a horrible job of it). I don’t believe in god, and I *do* believe genocide is deeply immoral and unethical. I would never try to justify it.

  38. Robert:
    I stumbled upon your blog because of the list of 10 questions that are ever so difficult for atheists to answer* that I found here: http://todaychristian.net/10-questions-every-atheist/

    I’ve been poking around your blog a bit and decided to read the ‘about’ page. The first thing that caught my eye was this:

    >I wasn’t born an Atheist; in fact I was a Catholic for the first 20 years of my life, only becoming an atheist 6 months ago.

    I’ve seen people make similar statements, and it’s bizarre to me, bc babies, infants, and young children don’t have religious beliefs (or really any beliefs for that matter). They’re born into the religious institutions of their parents, something they have no say in. Babies have to be indoctrinated into a belief system to hold that belief. Hence, your former catholicism (I don’t usually capitalize religions bc I hold them all in great disdain). Indoctrination is a key reason religions continue to exist. If children weren’t brought up in the beliefs of their parents…if they didn’t have these beliefs forced in subtle and overt ways…if those beliefs weren’t reinforced by the society they grow up in…it stands to reason many people wouldn’t be religious.
    Did you ever actually *choose* to be catholic? Did you ever analyse the world’s religions and decide based on the evidence that catholicism was the best bet? At a guess, I’m thinking no. Would it make more sense to say you were ‘catholic by default’? Or is that perhaps what you mean to begin with?

  39. Sebastian Karwowski

    It’s not very hard to leave catholicism, if you would ever read some church fathers, 44 of most important ones never even considered pope as anything more than a bishop, only 6 thought of him as “peter” (same goes for most roman dogmas).
    It’s pretty clear also when you read the bible in “original”, not silly catholic translations where they put their own words here and there to make arguments based on them later. Contraception ban is another funny stuff coming from catholic ‘church’, idea of sex only for procreation was always around for ultra-ascetic guys, but it was never supported by the church, untill sudden brain-fart from some pope, top kek.

  40. I have no problem with Atheism and I’m a Christian. Reason why? I’ve heard it said that most Atheist are more Christian than most Christians. Why? Because they have to argue that He doesn’t exist. C.S. Lewis himself was an Atheist. So with that said, I will stated that I enjoy your blog. Know I will come back and explore more. It’s better to take a stand than no stand at all.

  41. Dave Treleaen

    “I wasn’t born an Atheist;”
    Actually you were born as an non believer…..you were taught….most likely by your patents to become a Catholic…..no one emerges from the womb with a pre programmed faith…..all faith is imparted from one individual to another.

    By the way I have just happened upon your site and find it quite interesting.

  42. Dave Treleaen

    Me again
    Just for some sort of off topic comment I found the following article about Martin Luther that actually floored me when one thinks that this man was the initiator of the protestant movement.
    It is a very surprising read…and his views on god’s chosen are quite startling…….for the position he holds in history.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Jews_and_Their_Lies

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